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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!)

Mother’sDay (original)

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


Sample Chapter from Author Kristopher Rufty’s Book, Angel Board

Kristopher’s debut horror novel, Angel Board, is part of Samhain Publishing’s new horror lineup that unleashed on the world yesterday. Here’s a sample chapter from his book. Enjoy it…then pick up your copy!

Tonight David Barker planned to kill himself.
 As he stood in the bathroom, gawking into the fingerprint-smudged, toothpaste-dotted mirror, his reflection gazed back through eyes a vacant shell of white. He didn’t recognize this person. The haggard, soundless face inside the glass showed signs of a soul suffering, and not the wholesome thirty-year-old man he was—or used to be.
 That wasn’t David in there, not anymore.
 Who was that guy?
 The October wind gusted outside, causing the old apartment to creak and pop. He slowly exhaled through his nostrils, fogging up a small patch on the mirror. He wiped it away with a finger.
 A few months earlier, he couldn’t have been happier. Things changed drastically in a short span of time. He’d gone from being in love with life, and a special girl like Samantha Corben, to hating everything affiliated with all of it. Being stuck in the same miserable routine day in and day out, not doing anything about it, had only made his condition worse. Drained him. Put him in front of this mirror, giving himself once last look at the pathetic inflammation he’d become before cashing in his chips.
 David Barker is clocking out for the last time.
 He glanced up at the brown splotches sprinkled across the ceiling and shook his head. Sam had been right all along. The bathroom really was in desperate need of a makeover. The paint that hadn’t peeled was fading fast. The floor was warped; the boards were loose and springy and sunk under each step. He often imagined himself one day crashing through the rotting wood and landing somewhere in the apartment below.
 Sam had been after him for months to either fix up the place or move. She tried convincing him he could do much better. As she would sheepishly say—shack up with her, but when she’d discovered he wasn’t ready for that obligation just yet, she’d argued that if he was going to remain in that clammy apartment, he should at least make it livable. Sam had even gotten the landlord’s permission to do just that. The old man had agreed with all her grievances, going so far as to promise that if she kept the receipts he’d deduct it from the rent and also added an extra bit of news. He was planning to remodel the entire structure anyhow. So David had more than just his permission to revamp the apartment, he had his blessing.
 What had stopped him?
 Everything. And nothing. He’d never seen the point in fixing the place up because he hadn’t planned to be there long enough to enjoy the refashion. At the time, he was planning to move on to a better job, a bigger place, and a healthier life for the two of them. Now he realized it was a form of premonition, foreshadowing what he was meant to do.
 Die, he thought, and felt the misting in his eyes.
 David stepped away from the mirror and over to the bathtub. Much like the rest of the place, a cleaning was in order. Mildew lined the tile of the shower walls, and mold caked in the corners. It wasn’t quite an infestation yet, but was getting close. Leaning over the tub, he gripped the knob labeled Hot. It felt cold and clammy in his palm. He turned it. Water erupted from the faucet, the pipes groaning from inside the walls as they heated.
 Almost immediately, the water was scorching. He twisted the Cold dial to help adjust the temperature to his liking. Why he was taking these extra measures, he had no idea, but it felt like the right thing to do. Finding the right balance, he stoppered the drain. Briskly, the water began to rise.
 He stood up, flicking the excess water off his fingers. On his way back to the mirror, he removed his jacket and winced at the haggard appearance he saw in the reflective glass.
 “That is the mug of a looker, ladies and gentlemen,” he muttered.
 Dangling his jacket in front of him, he searched the pockets for his cigarettes. He found them in the left pocket, then tossed the jacket on the toilet. It slid across the lid, falling on the floor between the commode and wall. He cringed. His favorite jacket, a black, zippered hood, had landed in the dreaded pee spot. The area his streams would wildly spray while he tried to find the bowl in his groggy, middle of the night bathroom trips.
 Not like he’d ever wear it again.
 Hope to God I’m not buried in it, he thought. Buried in a jacket that smells like old piss.
 Someone would wash it first, they’d have to. Then he realized how ridiculous it was to consider he could actually be buried in that old jacket, anyway. It is my favorite. He’d heard of people being buried in sports-themed coffins, old school jerseys, so the idea he could be buried in a jacket he liked to wear wasn’t too farfetched. Oh well, someone would surely smell that stench and toss it in a washer first.

Kristopher Rufty has written and directed the independent horror movies: Psycho Holocaust, Rags, and Wicked Wood. Angel Board is his first horror novel. He is married to his high school sweetheart and is the father of two maniacal children. He resides in North Carolina, where he is at work on his next novel. 

 “A powerhouse debut novel. Rufty’s prose will suck you in and hold you prisoner!”
–Ronald Malfi, author of Floating Staircase and Snow
“A creepy, gripping tale of horror. And it’s got one of the best death scenes I’ve read in a long time!”
–Jeff Strand, author of Pressure and Dweller

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