An Interview With Kristopher Rufty On His Dog Gone Bad Novel – JAGGER
I love being a horror writer. Sometimes, it afford little perks, like not only getting to know an awesome writer (and human being) like Kristopher Rufty, but also getting a sneak peek at his latest book.
The book in question this time is JAGGER, a tale about an enormous dog who goes from cuddly to bat crap crazy. When I was done, I actually said, “Cujo who?” out loud. This is one you’ll want to devour in one sitting.
Let me start off by saying I loved your new book, Jagger. Why don’t you tell folks what this nail biter is about?
Thank you so much! I’m happy you enjoyed it. Coming from you, that means a lot. I’m a huge fan of your work as well. Jagger is about a scumbag named Clayton who takes Amy Snider’s mastiff to use in some dogfights. His showpiece pit was killed in a fight and cost some very bad people a lot money. He knows if he doesn’t come up with something quick, he’ll suffer the same fate as others before him. But the problem is Jagger is a domesticated canine, and his size wouldn’t be the only thing that could keep him alive in the fights. So Clayton enlists the help of an old friend named Stan, a medical school graduate who’s turned to developing meth and experimental drugs in his basement for help. Stan has whipped up a special kind of steroid that he sells to beef farmers and they try it out on Jagger. It works. But the side-effects are disastrous. Jagger can no longer feel pain, and he suffers from violent outbursts, rage, and insanity. Take that, and add in an abusive dog trainer, Jagger becomes the Jason Voorhees of dogs. Once he breaks loose from his captors, he goes on a bloody killing spree as he tries to find his way home.
I wrote the first draft of this book in less than six weeks. In the revision process, I changed very little. Though it got a little intense writing certain scenes, I had a good time with this one. It was one of those books I couldn’t stay away from. Being a lover of nature-gone-wrong books and movies, I tried to incorporate some of that with some classic exploitation-style characters and situations. Hopefully I succeeded.
I know you’re a dog owner. Is there a particular dog you had that inspired Jagger?
I based a lot of Jagger’s traits and mannerisms before he goes mad on our dog, Thor. The personality, the huffing and puffing and sagging jowls that make propeller sounds, the unlimited supply of drool, the crawling into bed with you and nuzzling his wet nose into the nook of your neck—all of that came from Thor.
Jagger’s appearance was inspired by a dog I saw at the vet’s office one day. Sitting in the waiting area with Thor, I watched as he took pride in being the biggest dog around. Thor ways close to 135 pounds, so there aren’t many dogs bigger than him at any vet visit. On this day, that changed. A guy entered with this beast of a dog. He had thick brown and black fur, a scrunched up face that sort of resemble a Chow. Thor went to greet this dog and looked like a puppy standing next to its mother in this dog’s presence. I got to talking to with the owner and he told me his dog was a fuzzy mastiff, a form of bullmastiff but with longer hair. I found it slightly humorous how much the dog resembled Mick Jagger. On the way home that day, I kept thinking what would happen if that dog turned on its owner and the seeds for Jagger was planted.
I read up about mastiffs. They’re very gentle in nature, loving, and overly affectionate. So I had to work a bit at coming up with something that might make such a tender animal turn violent.
You’re not just a horror writer, you’re a director, too. Which hat is more difficult to wear? Do you have any future movie making plans?
They can be difficult in their own ways. In movies, I have to be a leader of a team and it’s my duty to make sure the movie is made with this team the best way it possibly can be. I have budgets to adhere to, actors to instruct and care for, and a certain number of scenes have to be filmed on a particular day or I’ll get behind schedule and risk throwing a wrench into all the aforementioned duties. But when it’s over and filming has wrapped, I get to take my footage and cut it together into my creation. That is the best part, seeing the fruit of everyone’s labors. The stress and bad moods of filming become a distant memory as I watch what we worked so hard to accomplish in a finished form. It’s a wonderful feeling that makes the entire process a wonderful experience.
Writing can bring its own stresses at times, but there is something therapeutic about writing stories that can’t be topped by film-making, at least not the kind of film-making I’m used to. Writing is magic, not only are you creating a world to play in, but there’s no budget sheets to worry about, nobody will throw a temper tantrum, nobody can get hurt (other than the characters) and you are completely limitless as to what you can do. It’s amazing. One of the greatest blessings I’ve been given is the chance to write stories.
For future movies, I wish I could say there are things lined up. I’ve been writing book after book, and haven’t had much time to pursue movies since we finished Rags (which will be released this year from Wild Eye Releasing). My dream was to be like Clive Barker—somebody who dabbles in both. And one day I hope that will happen again. But for now, I’m very happy with just writing fiction.
Some of my books have received interest from film-makers and producers. And I have a script that I wrote based on my novella Last One Alive. That movie might be my return to the director’s chair in the near future.
But nothing can take my love away from movies. The passion is still there, a burning sensation in my heart. I still watch all the movies I’ve loved since I was a kid on a regular basis. Roger Corman, H.G. Lewis, AIP classics, and the exploitation greats. Plus the splatter movies that set me on this path to begin with.
You’ve written quite a few books in just several years. How do you keep the writing wheels going?
I keep those wheels lubed! Seriously. There’s material all over that I can find influence in. Like with Jagger, the dog at the vet that day inspired an entire novel with the help of our dog Thor. My son inspired Proud Parents. My stepsister inspired Tracey in Oak Hollow. A close call at my old job inspired Angel Board. I’m sure this happens to you as well, something will just trigger your brain and these massive mortal shells start exploding ideas. Sometimes it can be a conversation you have with someone that just stays with you. My personal fears have inspired a good bit of my writing and still do. I just do a lot of people watching, read a lot of books, magazines, newspapers. I watch a lot of true crime and monster mysteries on TV. Material is everywhere. You know as well as I do that we never take a day off. Sure, we don’t sit down and write once in a while, but our gears are always cranking, always spinning possibilities for stories in our minds, even when we’re sleeping.
What’s one thing you’d like to check off your bucket list this year?
I want to finally read some of King’s The Dark Tower series. I know what you’re thinking, but please don’t beat me! I haven’t read any of those books yet.(We’re both in the same boat. They are some of the only King books I haven’t read!)
My wife swears they’re some of his best. I promised her I would read the first three this year. I’m actually about to start on The Gunslinger here soon and plan to read the following two this summer and fall. We have them all in both paperback and hardback, so they’re waiting on me and I’m excited to start.
I’m going to go opposite on this question – what’s your least favorite horror movie franchise and why?
Probably either the Paranormal Activity series or Zombie’s Halloween movies. I watched the first Paranormal and thought it was pretty well done, but the sequels were just mundane and repetitive. The fourth one was silly.
Zombie’s Halloween saga was just bad for all the wrong reasons. He did something you shouldn’t—tried to explain evil. It can’t be explained. That was what made Myers so scary in the first place. There was no method to his madness, no reason for it. Myers was just evil on two legs as Dr. Loomis stated in the original series. An unstoppable force that slaughtered anything in front of him without provocation, a wildfire that can’t be extinguished as it scorches everything in its wake. But I do give him credit for trying. He has a brass pair for tackling a classic character like Michael Myers and trying to make him his own.
Do you think you could beat Stephen King in an arm wrestling match?
Probably not. I’d be so distracted by being in his company that he’d use it to his advantage for the win. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed I’d lost until he’d left the room and I came down from my King-induced high.
Tell the world what’s coming next and where to find you and your books.
The Lurking Season just came out. It’s a sequel to The Lurkers. Jagger will be released in a couple weeks, with Bigfoot Beach following. The Vampire of Plainfield comes out this summer, and Desolation follows that. Thunderstorm Books are doing limited edition hardcovers of Bigfoot Beach and The Vampire of Plainfield, but they’ll also be available in e-book with a paperback following soon after.
My books can be found in a lot of the usual places, sometimes books stores too. I recently heard that some of my titles are in a few libraries, which I think is amazing. I love libraries and even now I get that same kind of nervous excitement whenever I’m scouring the shelves for something I haven’t read. It’s a feeling we should all get to experience as much as possible.
Thanks a lot, Hunter! I appreciate the chance to visit your blog. It’s always a fun time. Can’t wait to get together again and talk about writing, monsters, and horror movies.
You can follow Krist’s amazing journey at lastkristontheleft.blogspot.com . And if you crave some Jagger, click on the cover copy above.
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 25 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.
Follow Hunter on Twitter!
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