Jack Ketchum: „What we’re sometimes willing to do to one another scares me a whole lot more than vampires and werewolves ever will”

Articol publicat in:English | Aparut in:Nr. 7 ( decembrie, 2010 )
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Mircea PRICĂJAN talks to Jack KETCHUM

Jack KETCHUM is the pseudonym of American author Dallas Mayr. Born in 1946, he grew up in Livingston, New Jersey. He is the author of eleven novels, four collections of short stories, and several novellas. He is a four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award. Four of his books have been made into films (Offspring, Red, The Girl Nex Door and The Lost).

In his acceptance speech, when receiving the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award, Stephen King said: “Jack Ketchum’s first novel, Off Season published in 1980, set off a furor in my supposed field, that of horror, that was unequaled until the advent of Clive Barker. It is not too much to say that these two gentlemen remade the face of American popular fiction.”

Official Website: Jack Ketchum.

Mircea PRICĂJAN: How come you started writing under a pseudonym?

Jack KETCHUM: My first novel, OFF SEASON, was intensely, over-the-top violent.  I wasn’t sure how my mom and dad and their families were going to react, so I hid behind a pseudonym.  Turned out they were fine with it.  And then the book sold so well I decided to keep it.

M.P.: Was it crucial or „just” important for your writing career the fact that Stephen King praised your book from the first?

J.K.: Steve’s been an amazing supporter, and has been extremely helpful in terms of sales.  But I’d already sold four books before Steve got on board with JOYRIDE aka ROAD KILL.  So I wasn’t wholly unknown.  What I didn’t know was that he’d read all the previous books and would have been happy to have praised them too.  Glad as hell I finally got in touch with him.

M.P.: What was the starting point for your writing?

J.K.: Playing with toy soldiers, dinosaurs, cowboys and Indians down by the brook when I was just a little kid.  Then, being a teenager, trying to work out my problems on paper – and trying to impress the girls.

M.P.: The horror in your writing is mostly the human variety. Do you find it scarier than the supernatural one?

J.K.: Absolutely.  What we’re sometimes willing to do to one another scares me a whole lot more than vampires and werewolves ever will.

M.P.: What scares us in this day and age?

J.K.: The usual.  Murder, war, poverty, cruelty, loss of control…

M.P.: Do you begin your book with an idea or a message? Do you know where you’re going when you start?

J.K.: I have an idea in mind I want to explore, yes.  And I know roughly where I want to take the reader.  But I don’t begin until I have the characters down, and sometimes they take me places I never expected to go.

M.P.: Do you have a subject you want to write about but you don’t feel prepared to tackle yet?

J.K.: Class B dog dealers, who mass-market dogs for research labs and veterinary schools, and often steal and then mistreat the hell out of them.  I don’t know if I can live with that subject in my mind and heart long enough to do a book about it.

M.P.: Which one of your books would you advise a reader new to your work to read first? Why?

J.K.: Either do what I like to do and begin and the beginning of a writer’s career and go from there, which in my case would be OFF SEASON, or start with my short story collection PEACEABLE KINGDOM, which shows my range.

M.P.: What is the thing about writing that you love the most?

J.K.: Not having to put on a tie and jacket to go to work in the morning.  Seriously?  I get to live in the imagination.  I get to play like a little kid for a living.  That makes me a lucky guy.

M.P.: Are you happy with the film version of your books?

J.K.: Very.  They’ve all had flaws but they’ve all tried very hard to be faithful to the source material, the books.

M.P.: A final word for your Romanian readers? (Future readers, mostly, but let’s hope they won’t have to wait too long for your books to be translated here too.)

J.K.: Keep reading.  We need you!

M.P.: Thank you very much for doing this interview, and the best of look with all future projects.

November 2010

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