Interview with Jack Ketchum

Here’s our interview with author Jack Ketchum in the english version…

Thrill&Kill: Your first novel was published in the USA in 1980, but your first translated book came out in Germany in 2006 (THE GIRL NEXT DOOR).
What took you so long?

Jack Ketchum: It wasn’t for lack of trying. My sub-agent in Europe had been trying to crack those markets for years with no luck. Keep in mind that back in the 80s I was selling consistently over here, but the print runs were very small — only 40,000 copies or so spread out over 50 States. So I wasn’t all that well known here either. Then along comes Stephen King, who asks to do the introduction the THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, cites me at the National Book Awards and mentions me in two issues of Enertainment Weekly. Suddenly people worldwide are asking, who is this guy King likes so much, who he calls „the scariest guy in America.“ We better find out!

Thrill&Kill: THE GIRL NEXT DOR was hard to swallow und very disturbing. A lot of authors, even in the horror genre, seem to be afraid to kill their heroes.
Was it hard for you to hurt a likeable girl like Meg the way it happened?
JK: I had no choice. The events in THE GIRL NEXT DOOR are based on a real case, the murder of sixteen-year-old Sylvia Likens back in 1965. To have allowed my character to live would have been to dishonor the real girl. I wasn’t about to do that. But yes, it was as hard to write as it is to read.

Thrill&Kill: THE GIRL NEXT DOOR came out in Germany with a foreword by Stephen King, so a lot of people expected a story similar to what he usually does, which is obviously not the case. While his books have vampires, werewolves or ghosts, you mostly rely on human „monsters“ but had some supernatural elements in some short-stories.
Will there ever be a Jack Ketchum book full of zombies and demons?
JK: Never say never, but I doubt it. My only supernatural novel is SHE WAKES, a kind of wicked love letter to Greece. People scare me more than ghoulies and ghosties and things that go bump in the night.

Thrill&Kill: One thing you did extremely well in books like RED, THE LOST or THE GIRL NEXT DOOR is to show the development of violence. Is this something you miss in today’s so called torture-porn-movies, which are full of gore and splatter but come without a realistic background?
JK: Thank you. I try to keep my stuff realistic and to use violence to make a point. But I think some — though certainly not all — of the „torture porn“ movies are actually pretty good. If you want to see real torture porn just go on the net, though even here most of it is consensual. I hate easy labels. These are just horror movies, folks, not a whole lot different than FRIDAY THE 13TH when you look beneath the admittedly nasty surface.

Thrill&Kill: Let’s talk about THE WOMAN. First thing I heard about it, was that there were people going crazy at the Sundance Film Festival.
Are you used to this and taking it as free promotion or did you ever think you really went too far?
JK: Ha! That guy’s five-minute rant got us the kind of publicity money can’t buy! And no, I absolutely do not think we went too far. I think this movie has a lot on its mind about relationships — man to woman, woman to woman, the nuclear family. It wants to be subversive, to make you look at really uncomfortable subject matter. If it didn’t, Lucky and I wouldn’t be doing our jobs. That it’s disturbing to some people is exactly as it should be.

Thrill&Kill: THE WOMAN seems to be a typical Ketchum-book, but different from OFFSPRING/OFF SEASON. What made you change the course you had in the former novels?
JK: Two words: Pollyanna McIntosh. Andrew — the producer and director of OFFSPRING — Lucky and I took one look at her performance in that movie and said to ourselves, this lady deserves a movie all her own. She’s terrific. So we set down to write one for her, one that would give her a much wider range than OFFSPRING did. The idea of the hunter being captured by the game just seemed a natural, and as we went along planning the book and movie the family she encounters grew and grew until they got just as three-dimensional as she did.

Thrill&Kill: Some of your stories are based on true events, others could easily be true at least. How much truth is there behind the OF FSEASON / OFFSPRING / THE WOMAN trilogy?
JK: Very little. OFF SEASON was an update of the old Sawney Beane story about three generations of cannibals on the coast of 16th Century Scotland, which may or may not be legend. Some of the characters are loosely based on people I know, thrust into these outlandish situations. But that’s about it.

Thrill&Kill: You and Lucky McKee wrote both the script and the novel of THE WOMAN together. How much does it affect you to write with a partner?
JK: It was great fun. Lucky and I are very much on the same page both in terms of the kind of horror we like and what our thematic concerns are. And we respect each other’s work very much. So it was easy.

Thrill&Kill: Can you tell us something about your next project? I hope you are not going to retire anytime soon!?
JK: I can’t say much about it at this point, but Lucky and I have begun outlining a new project together. A very different kind of project from THE WOMAN.

Mick: Last one: What is your favorite horror movie and/or horror book?
JK: That’s a tough one. Probably the movie that most influenced me, especially early on, was THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Certainly it scared the shit out of me. But I can’t even begin to pick a book. There are too many, and I love this book for one reason and that one for another. I’ve borrowed ideas and styles from dozens of ‚em!

Mick: Thank you for doing the interview with us. Keep up the good work!
JK: Thank you.

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