Slashers Have Heart : An Interview With Kristopher Rufty
I’m so glad I can finally take a break from talking about myself and shine the spotlight on a tremendous new talent, Kristopher Rufty. I’m proud to say that we’re Samhain Horror brothers (his first book, Angel Board is not to be missed), and was blown away by his latest novel, Pillowface. This dude is the goods and he has a ton in store for us. So strap yourself in, turn on the Halloween soundtrack, tuck your favorite butcher knife by your side and read on…
HS. I have to say, Pillowface grabbed me by the short hairs from teh get-go and never let up. Why don’t youtell folks a little about the book and why they absolutely must read it!
KR. The book is about Joel Olsen, a twelve year old horror fan and aspiring special effects artist who spends way too much time alone. He is now being raised by his sister Haley, who is only twenty-three years old. They lost their parents in a car accident a few months prior to where the story begins. Joel has an active imagination and is so enthralled with horror movie scenarios that he doesn’t even flinch when he discovers a wounded slasher straight from the movies he loves in his backyard. Joel becomes obsessed with Pillowface, and looks at this situation as a big game, or a movie he’s seen adozen times. It isn’t long before Joel realizes this isn’t as much fun as he’d expected it to be. Soon into the book people around him start being brutally murdered, and with Buddy and Carp on the hunt for Pillowface, their missing ally, even more blood is shed.
Anyone with a love for horror on any avenue will probably find something to enjoy in this book. As dark and twisted as it turned out to be, it’s actually a good time. I had a blast writing about the launch of summer vacation. It was fun tapping into that part of my own childhood and remembering how it felt knowing that after Sunday ended on that first weekend of summer vacation, there were still a couple months left beforeI had to go back to school. The sky was the limit! Much like Joel does in the book; I’d formulate a summer to-do list and make sure I completed every task on it. Whether it was watching a certain number of movies, or finishing the Stephen King, Bentley Little, or John Saul book I had purchased for a summer read, or adventures I planned to have in the woods around my house, I did it all, because if summer was nearing its end andI hadn’t completed them, I would feel depressed. As if I’d wasted my summer break.
HS. Being a Richard Laymon fan, I felt his presence throughout the book. Are you a big fan as well and how has he inspired you?
KR. Laymon is my favorite author. Not just my favorite horror author, but my favorite period. Whenever someone learns I write horror fiction they usually say something along the lines of: “Oh like Stephen King?” And I’ll nod and say: “Sort of. More like Richard Laymon.” Then I get a confused look because they obviously don’t know who I’m talking about and that’s a shame.
Trent Haaga (the writer of the movies Deadgirl and American Maniacs) recommended I read The Cellar by Richard Laymon one day while we were in a book store together. I had confided in him that I was growing tired of reading books by the same handful of authors and wanted to branch out. He took me to the L’s and searched the selection until finding Leisure’s reprint of The Cellar. He went on to tell me how great of an author Laymon is and how once I read this book, I wouldn’tbe able to stop. And he was right. Laymon’s books became a hunger that I neededto feed. It was also what made me join the Leisure Horror Book Club; the possibilities of several authors I’d yet to discover were at my fingertips! Trent’s suggestion morphed me into a completely different horror fan, reader, andwriter.
Laymon’swork has been heavily influential on my own. I never wanted to mimic his style or anything like that, but I wanted to incorporate into my own writing Laymon’s sense of sentence and paragraph structure and detail. And also I wanted to freely use the word rump just as he had. I started off writing screenplays and making indie horror movies, and in the scripts whenever a female had to fall down, I could never think of a delicate way of putting it. So, I took my Dad’s term, rump, and used that. When I read it in Laymon’s novels I smiled with glee.
Years later I learned Don D’Auria (the same who’d edited Laymon and countless other legends) would be my editor as well, and it was a dream come true.
HS. I don’t know who’s more twisted, Joel, the young boy in need of a father figure, or the murderous Pillowface with a soft spot for the boy. Which would you rather go camping withfor a week?
KR. Pillowface, easily. I don’t trust Joel in the slightest.
HS. You managed to do what so many have tried and failed at, which is create a classic slasher/monster and make him genuinely sympathetic. I mean, I was actually rooting for Pillowface towards the end. How difficult a task was that for you?
KR. It wasn’t as difficult as making David (the main character from Angel Board) sympathetic. Pillowface is a complex guy and underneath the mask and behind the chainsaw he’s human. In an earlier draft I wrote him a bit differently and to me he just didn’t come across as a real person. That was my mistake, not writing him realistically. When I set out to do a fresh write on Pillowface, I delved more into his point of view instead of learning about him through Joel’s eyes, and instead I thought it would be neat if we learned who Joel was through Pillowface’s eyes. But not just Joel, some of the other characters as well. Especially Joel’s sister, Haley. Pillowface crushes on her like any man would, but whenever a normal person thinks flowers, candy, and a night on the town, Pillowface thinks of swooning her by dismemberment, destruction, and pain.
HS.Which is harder to do, direct a movie or write a novel? What are the best and most difficult parts of each?
KR. They’re each their own obstacle. I’d have to say that, personally, writing a novel is easier and sometimes more gratifying than making a movie. There are a lot elements going into directing, especially low budget movies, which interfere with your vision, so to speak. I learned early on in moviemaking that it’s best to leave what you pictured in your head while writing the script at the door because chances are you will have to improvise on the spot for a variety of reasons, which also means working away from the script, or changing something last minute or like I had to in PsychoHolocaust, and cut a character completely out of the movie two days before we started filming because the actor cast to play them dropped out.
Budget can be your best friend and worst enemy. When there’s plenty to give she’s wonderful to have on your side, a great go-to source that can solve almost any problem. But when there’s not enough to give, the budget can be an evil she-bitch that constantly takes and takes and when you wantjust a little more to spend on your movie you realize that she’s dried up after spending herself on name actors, plane tickets, and food. When writing a screenplay, you always have to be cognizant of the budget and write within its means which can make for some great creativity but can also kill it quickly. My favorite parts of the movie process are the writing and editing, usually after a year or so goes by I realize that I actually enjoyed aspects of the shooting. Ha-Ha. However, I do enjoy working with talented actors and crews and watching what I wrote come to life whether it was how I had originally imagined it or not.
When writing a novel there is no budget restriction, and you’re pretty much free todo whatever you want. When the characters want to have sex, they can, and there are no worries on my part whether or not they will take off their clothes, because I’m pretty confident that they will! Also, if something blows up in the story, I don’t have to go back and cut it because there is no way I can afford an explosives expert, or I can have a legion of demons pour out of someone’s rump and not fret over how we can do the effect (I’m not big on horror CGI). I can just write it and it is. That is amazing to me. Writing is amazing to me. Making movies is amazingto me. I love them both. They are a partof who I am.
HS. You’re obviously a horror movie buff (not to mention director). What are your 5 favorite horror films.
KR. Wow, that’s a tough question. I’ll name fiveI like a lot, in no particular order.
TexasChainsaw Massacre (original)
Nightof the Living Dead (b&w and the remake from the early nineties)
Fridaythe 13th (original)
Okay, so that was five of the more popular horror classics. Here are five that aren’t so popular.
Motel Hell (HS. One of my all time faves!)
BasketCase (anything really by Frank Hennenlotter)
SilverBullet (Busey at his finest)
Nightof the Creeps
HS. OK, in 25 words or less, describe your current work in progress.
KR. I’m working on a few things simultaneously. Finishing up a novel and doing a polish on one that’s already completed, completed a novella, and started another novel. The Lurkers is my next book through Samhain Publishing and will be out in August, which is about tiny goblin-like creatures invading a small town and the group of people driving through who get caught in the middle. We’re also doing a promotion with the release. My short story The Night Everything Changed will be available for free soon and leading up to the release of The Lurkers. It takes place in The Lurkers universeand is definitely worth checking out, and for a price tag of zero, you can’tbeat it. After that, I’m not sure what order the next few will follow.
But a current work in progress is PlainfieldGothic and here’s a 25 words or less rundown:
Robbing graves in the early 1950’s, Ed Gein inadvertentlyunearths a genuine vampire and sets it loose on the unsuspecting town of Plainfield, Wisconsin.
And there you have it. See, I told you there was a lot more awesomeness to come! You can check Kristopher and his work out at www.lastkristontheleft.blogspot.com
Tags: angel board, Author interview, directing, kristopher rufty, Pillowface, Psycho Holocaust, Richard Laymon, samhain horror, Top Horror Movies, writing
About Hunter SheaHunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. Hunter’s novels can even be found on display at the International Cryptozoology Museum. His video podcast, Monster Men, is one of the most watched horror podcasts in the world. You’ll also find him every week on the Final Guys podcast, available everywhere. He’s a bestselling author of over 30 books, all of them written with the express desire to quicken heartbeats and make spines tingle. Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he’s happy to be close enough to New York City to gobble down Gray’s Papaya hotdogs when the craving hits.
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I eat this interview right up!!! (I wanted to use the word eat, not ate and now I sound like a strange cookie monsta) eat is way more intense than ate;) Richard Laymon fan here too!! I am so spoilt by his writing and was hoping to find someone out there that could write like my Legend. You have convinced me to gnaw on your book. Thank you….
I’m telling you, if you’re a Laymon fan, you will be hooked by Pillowface (and I hear The Lurkers will be phenomenal).
This interview convinced me to give his first Samhain release, ‘Angel Board’ a try. ‘Pillowface’ and ‘The Lurkers’ both sound awesome.
Dude, you definitely have to. I’m pretty sure both are available as ebooks, too.
I read this yesterday and didn’t have time to comment, but awesome interview. Thanks for bringing this author and his work to our attention, Hunter. The title alone was enough to draw me in. I do so love me a good slasher, and damn if I don’t have an affinity for those crazed masked men. Great stuff!
Great interview, Hunter. I absolutely LOVE the concept of Plainfield Gothic, Kristopher. Have either of you been to Plainfield?
Thank you, Renae! I’ve been to Wisconsin several times, but have never actually made it over to Plainfield. A close friend of mine was raised there and still has family residing there that he visits for the holidays.