|Posted by Jane Bled on April 7, 2010 at 8:44 AM|
Jane Bled's Author Spotlight
Guest: Ray Garton, Award-Winning Horror Author
Ray Garton: Stories to Tell
Greetings, all! Today, I'm very excited to welcome Ray Garton, world-renowned horror author, to my brand-new blog.
In addition to being a best-selling author, Ray Garton is also the recipient of the 2006 World Horror Convention Grand Master Award, an honor shared with the likes of Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Anne Rice, to name a few. Naturally, I'm pleased as punch that someone as ubiquitous as Mr. Garton would deign to visit my humble blog for a little Q & A.
Ray, it's an honor to have you here. Let's get this ball rolling!
You've written almost 60 books in less than 30 years, which is quite an accomplishment. Has the hunger of the pen grown slowly over time, or has it been it all-consuming from the start?
It's always been that way. From the time I was able to write, I've been writing. It's never been something I chose to do, it was something I had to do. It's always come naturally and has always been a part of my day. At times when I've been unable to write every single day, for whatever reason, I don't feel right. I feel ... wobbly, off balance, sometimes even cranky. I wrote my first novel in the sixth or seventh grade. I didn't set out to write a novel, I was just writing another story -- I was always working on a story -- and it ended up being such a long story that it was a novel. I can't imagine not writing. I'd go insane, I'd have to be committed. In the last ten years, I've slowed down somewhat. Part of that is because I was laid up and in pain for eight years, but it's also because I'm pickier, more particular. And because I've gotten to a point where I want to enjoy my life more than I have in the past. Most of my life has been spent holed up in a room constantly writing. It was an escape in a lot of ways, because I was a pretty miserable person for a long time. That's not the case anymore. Now writing is just pure pleasure and I love it more than ever. But I take time to spend with my wife, with friends -- something I never used to do. Somehow that's made the writing even sweeter.
Happy to hear that you're living life to the max these days! That's what it's all about, yeah?
It's often said that people are their own worst critics. Do you ever re-read books you've written and feel tempted to change them; or is it possible to feel completely satisfied by your own creations?
I don't reread stuff I've written after it's been published unless I absolutely have to, and it is always an excruciating experience. When I reread stuff later, I just want to crawl into a hole and pull it in after me. And the farther back I go, the worse it gets. Reading any passage from my first novel, Seductions, is enough to make me scream. I always want to tear the whole thing up and rewrite it from the beginning. The day I feel completely satisfied with my work you can stick a fork in me because I'll be done.
So, it's clear that feeling complete satisfaction about your own work is an elusive beast. Nevertheless, are there ever times when you re-read your books, discover a detail or a clever phrasing that you don't remember writing, and think, "Hey! This is pretty smart/neat/genius. Did I write that?"
I spent most of the 1980s in a state of inebriation, and from 1999 to the end of 2007, I had three hip operations (including two replacements) and took copious amounts of narcotic painkillers, so it's not at all uncommon for me to find things I've written -- particular short stories -- that I have no memory of writing. It happened again near the end of last year. I found a story I had no memory of writing, a chapbook called Captivity. And it was a pretty good story. So, yes, that does happen at times. I'll stumble on a story, or a bit of description in a novel, or maybe the pacing in a particular stretch of a novel, and with some surprise -- genuine surprise -- I might mutter to myself, "That's not bad." I've always thought my strength was storytelling and not necessarily writing. I so often find my writing clumsy. I do think it's gotten better with time, though -- at least, I certainly like to think so.
Of your contemporaries, whose writing style do you most admire? With whom have you received the most comparisons?
That's a tough one. I admire the work of so many. I love Peter Straub's elegant prose -- it's so vivid that he can disturb and frighten me simply by mentioning something unsettling, he doesn't even have to describe it in detail. I love Stephen King's familiar, sympathetic characters. I love John Irving's eye for everyday weirdness. I'm crazy about Christopher Moore's sense of humor, his ability to get laughs out of just about anything. I've never been able to pick favorites. Whenever I'm asked for my favorite writer or favorite book, I can't give a direct answer because I honestly can't decide. I adore too many.
I can't recall being compared directly to any other writers. When someone asks what I write and I say horror, they usually say, "You mean like Stephen King?" And I always want to say, Well, if I were like Stephen King, I wouldn't be standing here talking to you, I'd be living in my castle in Ireland, which I would then be able to afford. But no one has ever said, "Your work reminds me of _____." Although Publishers Weekly did compare my novella Serpent Girl to Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, which led me to wonder what drugs that critic was using. It was a very generous and kind comparison, but a little crazy.
Or maybe true! At any rate, it's an awesome compliment.
I'd love to meet your alter-egos, Joseph Locke and Arthur Darknell. How are they different from Ray Garton? Any similarities?
I've never given that any thought. I came up with Joseph Locke for practical reasons. I had a chance to write young adult fiction and I jumped at it. But I was worried that if my young readers liked the work, they would go out and find other Ray Garton books, and those definitely are not written for young readers. So I decided to use a pseudonym to keep that from happening. I was very protective of it, too. For years, I emphatically denied that I was Joseph Locke. I just whipped up the name with no thought to who he was.
Arthur Darknell (my middle name and my paternal grandmother's maiden name) was kind of an accident. At first, I thought I'd write noirish crime fiction under a pseudonym and I made the deal with Cemetery Dance to do the Darknell Double, a book that included two novels, Loveless and Murder Was My Alibi. Not long after that, I changed my mind and decided to do that book under my name. But I stupidly neglected to inform the publisher of this decision, and by the time I finally did, it was too late. So the book was published under the name Arthur Darknell, which I doubt I'll ever use again. I desperately need a personal assistant.
Tell me about it! Though I'm sure that your need for a personal assistant is MUCH more pressing than mine. After all, I've only written 2 books so far. Got a long way to go before I catch up with you!
Obviously you're a man of the arts, and very in touch with pop culture. Please name a few of your favorite fictional characters (from books, movies, tv, etc), and explain why they are so dear to you.
I have a lot of favorites, but at the top of the list would be Rob Petrie -- which really dates me. Rob Petrie was the character played by Dick Van Dyke on The Dick Van Dyke Show in the 1960s. He was the head writer for the fictional Alan Brady Show (which was sort of based on Ceasar's Hour with Sid Ceasar, for which the show's creator, Carl Reiner, was a writer). The show ran from 1961 to 1966, and to this day, it remains one of the funniest TV shows ever. I watched it in syndication as a boy, and it was my dream to be Rob Petrie when I grew up. I wanted to write jokes for The Alan Brady Show and work in an office with a piano with Sally Rodgers and Buddy Sorrell (played by Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam), and make fun of Mel Cooley's (Richard Deacon) baldness, and of course, I wanted to be married to Mary Tyler Moore in those hot capri pants she used to wear. I wanted to be a comedy writer like Petrie and Reiner and Mel Brooks and Neil Simon. Or maybe I just wanted to be Jewish, I'm not sure. But instead, I became a horror writer. When I told that to comedian Emo Philips, he said, "Thank you for taking comedy writing to its logical conclusion."
Other favorite fictional characters include Charles Foster Kane, because characters just don't come any more complex, fascinating and larger than life; Johnny Smith in Stephen King's The Dead Zone because he was such a strong and decent man; Max Bialystock, the desperate, crooked Broadway producer in Mel Brooks's The Producers, originally played by the great Zero Mostel in the 1968 movie and then again by the also great Nathan Lane in the 2005 musical version, because Bialystock was so delightfully bombastic and pathetic and determined to better his situation at any cost; Captain John Yossarian in Joseph Heller's Catch-22; God from the bible, because he's the only character ever to pull of the trick of being a contradictory, egomaniacal, illogical, tantrum-throwing, sex-obsessed, sadistic, bloodthirsty psychopath and still managing to convince a significant number of people that he's loving, merciful and perfect; Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes, the bitter, crazy, egomaniacal radio and television personality played by Andy Griffith in Elia Kazan's 1957 movie A Face in the Crowd (written by Bud Schulberg), a character who prophetically predated his modern-day brothers Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and most similarly, Michael Savage; Ignatius J. Reilly from John Kennedy Toole's novel A Confederacy of Dunces; Harry Powell, the scary-as-hell psychopath played by Robert Mitchum in Charles Laughton's 1955 film The Night of the Hunter; Glenn Quagmire on Family Guy -- giggity!
Those are some of my faves, too! Though I personally would throw a few more great female characters in there to balance things out.
Over the years, you've authored books in several different genres, including movie novelizations and TV tie-ins. Which do prefer? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
I love doing both. Writing novelizations and tie-ins isn't seen as very respectable work for a writer, but I think it's a blast and I'd do it a lot more often if I could. They aren't as common as they used to be, and I miss writing them. I probably have a preference for movie novelizations. When I was a kid, I wasn't able to go to movies (Seventh-day Adventists think that entering a movie theater is a sin), but I loved movies. So to make up for my inability to see them at the theater, I collected movie novelizations. I still have a lot of them. So movie novelizations were a big part of my childhood and teen years. When I got the chance to write them, I was thrilled! I've often fantasized that somewhere out there, some movie-loving Sadventist kid unable to go to a movie theater has tried to make up for it by reading my movie novelizations. That possibility makes me smile.
Entering a movie theatre is a sin? Wow, glad I missed out on that upbringing.:wink:
Tell me a crazy story about your past shenanigans that might alarm me.
I can't think of anything that might alarm you because I'm just not a very alarming guy. But I can think of something that might make you laugh.
I was educated entirely in the Seventh-day Adventist school system and spent my last two years of high school at a coed boarding school in Healdsburg, California called Rio Lindo Academy. All through school, the faculty loved me. I was seen as a golden boy who could do no wrong, because if I learned nothing else from being raised a Sadventist, I learned how to be sneaky and deceptive. In truth, I was getting away with all kinds of shit and was never under suspicion for any of it. One of those things was something I did with a couple of friends of mine.
We had a chapel service every Friday night -- actually, it seemed like we had a chapel service every couple of hours, but Friday night was the beginning of the Sabbath (Sadventists observe the Old Testament Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday), so that one was important. For the Friday night service, the boys had to sit in the left-hand column of seats, the girls in the right-hand column. During all the other services, we could sit together, but for some reason we were separated on Friday nights. Maybe they thought we'd be hornier on Friday nights, or something, I don't know. The chapel had two gigantic speakers built into the wall at the front, behind the dais. My friends and I had access to one of those speakers. We hooked up to that speaker a cassette tape player with a timer attached. It was set to go off halfway through the Friday night service.
That Friday night, we had guest speakers -- a couple of missionaries who presented a slideshow of their activities in the mission fields. Even to students who were accustomed to boredom, whose boredom threshhold was pretty high, the mission fields were pretty fucking boring, and these two missionaries had all the public speaking skills of a someone in a coma. We couldn't have chosen a better night. The service started at 7:00 p.m. At 7:30, loud, pounding rock music exploded from those gigantic speakers. You could feel it in the floor. All hell broke loose.
The faculty members present shot to their feet and looked around frantically for someone to punish. Half of the girls in the right-hand column of seats got up and ran for the exits, some of them screaming, "Demons! Demons!" Many of the guys in the left-hand column of seats laughed and bobbed their heads to the beat. Our janitor, Mr. Edgerly, began running around unplugging everything he could get his hands on. They had no idea where the music was coming from or how to make it stop and sort of stumbled around in panicky confusion for a while. My friends and I looked around with wide-eyed mystification, as if to say, "Oh, my, where on earth could that be coming from?" The music seemed to go on and on forever. You have no idea what a thrill it was for us to hear loud rock music pounding in a chapel where we were usually preached at, warned, chastised, condemned and bored to tears. It finally stopped. But what a great night that was.
The tape player and timer were found, but despite their efforts, the faculty was never able to figure out who had done it. Of course, we were never suspected, not for a moment. We were good boys. And if you enjoyed that story, you can read a lot more like it in Dismissed From the Front and Center, my almost-finished book about those two years at the Sadventist gulag of Rio Lindo Academy.
LMAO! What a naughty boy you were. Still, it's a great story. I'll be looking for Dismissed's release date in the future.
You jokingly mentioned demons, but I wonder...do you have any true belief in ghosts?
I'm not much of a believer. My mind is wide open to all kinds of things, but I need more than a story -- especially second- or third-hand, which so many "true" ghost stories are -- to convince me. I've always been a skeptic, but the experience I had writing In A Dark Place: The Story of A True Haunting did nothing to dispel my doubt. That book was published in 1992, and I've been denouncing it ever since. I know for a fact that it was a complete and total fraud. My story hasn't changed in almost 18 years, but the story told by those involved has changed so much that Carmen Reed (formerly Snedeker), the wife and mother in the family allegedly anally raped by invisible demons in the former funeral home in which they lived, is writing a new book to incorporate those changes. So far, she's gotten one book deal (mine), one TV show (on the Discovery Channel) and one movie out of her ever-changing story, and now she wants another book. Every time some true believer gets all squirmy and pissy about the facts and says, "Why would she lie?" I point to all of those things. Those are the only reasons that story exists, and Carmen was pretty clear about that from the beginning.
I haven't seen anything to convince me that there are ghosts or demons or anything supernatural. I've seen no evidence of it. I am not saying that nothing supernatural exists, I'm just saying that without the strong desire to believe in the supernatural to influence my thinking, I've seen nothing remotely convincing. I think if legitimate, respected scientific investigators ever discovered such evidence, we all would hear about it. But a couple of dudes with a spectospookometer and a video camera, or a couple of creaky religious frauds like Ed and Lorraine Warren do not qualify as legitimate, respected, scientific, or investigators. So I remain unconvinced. And don't get me started on all those goddamned paranormal "reality" shows that take up so much airtime on TV. I spent time with the Warrens, I saw how they worked, what they did, how they manipulated people who were already believers and already eager to hear, see and feel things that weren't there, how they got them worked up into an emotional state of anxiety and fear, and I see nothing different in those idiotic TV shows. Those shows are popular not because they provide any convincing evidence -- or any evidence at all. They're popular because the people who watch them want to believe in that stuff. I just wish they'd corral all those shows onto one cable channel so they'd be easier to avoid.
Gee. I'm pretty much speechless! Especially after the demonic anal rape mention...
Switching gears to clear my mind of these disturbing images...let's talk about the cover art for your books instead (some of which is still slightly disturbing, but much less so than Carmen Reed's claims).
How much influence do you have in choosing these covers (which, by the way, are visually arresting and extremely marketable)? Do you think some books have sold better than others due to their appearance alone, or are novel blurbs more important than cover images?
I have some involvement with small press publishers. Cemetery Dance and Subterranean and other small press publishers have always asked for my input when it comes to cover art and I've always been very grateful for that. With the bigger publishers, not so much. They usually ask for my opinion, but I don't think it carries a lot of weight.
Covers are extremely important. For the most part, I've been very fortunate with covers. My books have benefited from the work of some incredibly talented artists. Cover copy is important and it's always nice to have some blurbs on the book, but the cover is the first thing everyone sees. That's what catches the eye and moves someone to take a closer look at a book.
What about sales? Do numbers matter to you? How often do you check them?
I'm not much of a numbers person. I never have been. Numbers make my hair clench. When I'm writing a book, I give it everything I've got. Then I do all I can to promote the book. But checking the sales numbers -- I've never seen the benefit in that. Is it selling enough? By what standard? What if it's not selling enough? What do I do? Drink? Binge and purge? The only thing that will result from following those numbers -- in my case, anyway -- is anxiety. By the time those numbers are available, I'm involved in the next novel. Obsessing over the numbers does nothing productive. I feel that way not only when it comes to book sales, but in most other aspects of my life. But I know I'm in the minority on this.
These days, writers seem obsessed with numbers. It goes beyond book sales. Hardly a day goes by without some writer posting on Facebook or Twitter the number of words written that day. It drives me crazy. It makes me want to stick a pencil in my ear and stab my brain. "3,750 words written today!" So fucking what? There's a reason writing is a solitary activity -- nobody cares how many words you wrote today! Is this information being compiled somewhere? Are there people out there actually keeping track? Besides the writer, I mean. And why is the writer keeping track? Is it a race? Is this a competition? Are there prizes? Nobody told me about prizes. Who do I talk to about the prizes? There seems to be some confusion between quantity and quality. How many words written a day isn't as important as whether or not the words are any good. Before telling the word that you wrote 3,750 words today, maybe you should ask yourself if you'd want the world to read those words. In 26 years of full-time writing, I can count on one hand the number of times I've paid any attention to word count while I was writing something and still have enough fingers left over to use my phone. You write. When you've told your story, you stop. Then if it's too long, you trim. When did writers start feeling the need to give word count updates? But that's just me. It's a different process for everyone, I guess.
I admit, I am guilty of checking my Amazon sales rankings more than once a day. However, I don't feel the need to share how many words I have or haven't written. I'm with you on that part.:cool:
Please share a brief synopsis from the novel of your choice, and tell me why you choose this book to share.
This is from my novel Sex and Violence in Hollywood, which has recently become available in paperback and e-book and can be found at Amazon.com.
Adam Julian, a guy in his early twenties, is the son of a wildly successful Hollywood screenwriter who specializes in loud, dumb, moneymaking action movies. He hates his father, he hates Hollywood, and he's having an affair with Dad's new wife.Gwen. The only good things in his life are his best friend Carter and his new girlfriend Alyssa. When Gwen's daughter Rain comes to live in the Julian household, everything changes. She forces Adam into illegal sex, crime and lots of trouble. When Adam plots to kill all of them -- his dad, Gwen and Rain -- he ends up in the middle of a big high-profile trial complete with Hollywood celebrities, celebrity attorneys, and circus-like media coverage. Along the way, he encounters movies stars, drug addicts, pornographers, a pyromaniac, a nymphomaniac, and a powerful legal force in the tiny body of a woman named Rona Horowitz, who is the attorney equivalent of a tsunami.
It was a toss up between my new book, Scissors (available everywhere now) -- because I've been promoting the hell out of that book lately -- and Sex and Violence in Hollywood, which is my personal favorite of all my novels. I chose the latter because it doesn't get a lot of promotion, and it's not a horror novel. It's a dark comedy-thriller that was also the best writing experience I've ever had. That book just flowed out of me. It was more like taking dictation than writing a book. I'd like to see Sex and Violence in Hollywood get as much exposure as possible because (and this is something I don't often say about my work because I don't want to come off like an arrogant jerk) I think it's a really good read and until recently, it's only been available as an expensive limited edition hardcover that was published in 2001.
I've just read the Kindle sample of Sex and Violence in Hollywood, and all I can say is...oh, my. Sexy--and funny--as hell.
In your bio, it mentions that you live with your wife, Dawn. How does she feel about your career choice? Has she always been supportive of your work?
Dawn has always been very supportive. She's never complained during the financial dry spells that all writers have. She enjoys going to signings and conventions and meeting my readers and other writers. She loves it all. My novel Live Girls kind of brought us together. She was the night manager in the gift shop at an all-night truck stop that I used to go to every night. I'd sit at the coffee counter and write. I lived with my parents at the time (not ideal circumstances), and I'm a night person, so every night I'd go to some 24-hour place to write at night. I mustered the courage to talk to Dawn and we started spending her breaks together. When I learned that she was a lover of all things vampire, I mentioned that she might like my novel Live Girls. Her eyes widened and she said, "You wrote that? I just read that! I loved it! But I didn't know you wrote it!" It turned out she was one of those voracious readers who never paid attention to the name of the author of what she's reading. (She's gotten a little better about that over the years ... but only a little.) A couple of weeks later, she asked me to move in with her. That was in the summer of 1988. We were married in 1990, and our 20th wedding anniversary will be in May.
What a sweet story! It's so Hollywood, but I mean that in the best possible way. Romantic!
One last question before you have to return to your busy schedule...how would you spend your last day on Earth? If you were reborn, how would you spend the first day of your second life?
My last day on earth? Sex. Lots and lots of sex. If I were reborn, I would probably spend the first day of my second life crying, sleeping, and wetting myself.
LOL! Your sense of humor is right up my alley. Though I'm pretty sure you weren't joking about the sex part...:wink:
Anyway, thank you so, so much for joining me today. I have thoroughly enjoyed our Q&A, and I hope to see that bibliography of yours turn hit the 60 mark someday soon! Best of luck with your future endeavors, though I'm sure at this point in your career, you don't even need it.
-Interview conducted by Jane Bled. For previous Author Spotlight segments, please visit her livejournal.
Ray Garton is an American author, well known for his work in horror fiction. He has written over fifty books, and in 2006 was presented with the World Horror Convention Grand Master Award. He currently resides in California with his wife Dawn.
Novels and Novellas
Dr. Krusadian’s Method
The New Neighbor
A Gift From Above
Sex and Violence in Hollywood
The Loveliest Dead
The Folks 2: No Place Like Home
Murder Was My Alibi
Trailer Park Noir (forthcoming)
Short Story Collections
Methods of Madness
Pieces of Hate
Slivers of Bone
The Girl in the Basement and Other Stories
‘Nids and Other Stories
Young Adult Novels (as Joseph Locke)
Kill the Teacher’s Pet
Kiss of Death
Blood and Lace 1: Vampire Heart
Blood and Lace 2: Deadly Relations
Invaders From Mars
The Nightmares on Elm Street (movies 4 and 5)
Can’t Hardly Wait
The Secret World of Alex Mack: Hocus Pocus (original novel)
The Secret World of Alex Mack: Lights, Camera, Action! (original novel)
Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Ben There, Done That (original novel)
Sabrina the Teenage Witch: All That Glitters (original novel)
Sabrina the Teenage Witch: The Troll Bride
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Resurrecting Ravana (original novel)
Categories: Author Spotlight