A Writer’s Journey: Part 9

A WRITER’S JOURNEY: Part 9 – Exorcising Demons

An Interview with Ray Garton

The World Horror Convention presented him with the Grand Master Award in 2006 and he’s written over fifty fiction and non-fiction books between his own name and his two pseudonyms; Joseph Locke and Arthur Darknell. SEDUCTIONS, was his first novel, hitting the shelves at the age of twenty-one and his 1987 novel, LIVE GIRLS, was nominated for a Bram Stoker award. He is Ray Garton, the writer F. Paul Wilson has called, “one of horror fiction’s great innovators.” I’m putting aside my awe for the moment because he has been kind enough to take the time to submit to an interview with me for A Writer’s Journey’s newest installment; Exorcising Demons. I have no doubt that anyone reading this with an itch to write powerful horror fiction will find what this incredibly talented and open writer has to say, both enlightening and a learning experience to be remembered the next time you sit at your keyboards.

BL: Firstly I want to say thank you for sharing your experiences with us in this interview. Some of your books have included novelizations of two of my favourite Nightmare on Elm St. movies (written as Joseph Locke) and a controversial “non-fiction” book co-authored with the infamous Warrens regarding a certain house in Connecticut. Your work has carried with it a certain expectation of shock, sex and violence. How has this viewpoint by the general reading public affected how you write? When you sit at the computer or typewriter do you think, “how can I disturb people this time?” Or are you concerned that some readers miss the dynamics of your character’s relationships, i.e. the Kellar family’s struggles for a new start in THE LOVELIEST DEAD?

RG: I started writing when I was just a little kid. Even back then, when I wrote, what came out was pretty dark. Since I began writing professionally, yes, I’m aware of certain expectations of my work, and I don’t want to disappoint my readers. But at the same time, I’ve never really had to make much of an effort for my stories to take dark turns – that’s just the way they come out of me, and that’s always been the case. I recently wrote a very mainstream non-horror novel under a pseudonym. When I submitted the completed manuscript to my agent, he read it and immediately responded with a note that said, “This book has a classic gruesome Ray Garton ending. It doesn’t fit here. It has to go.” He was right. I had to rewrite the ending. So even when I’m trying to do something different, my work tends to go down dark alleys I’d rather avoid.

I suppose there are readers who may miss my attempts to develop characters and relationships in favor of focusing on the sex and violence. And there may be those who ignore the sex and violence to focus on the characters. All I can do is write what I write. Once I do that, it’s out of my hands. How it’s read, what’s focused on, what’s taken away from it – all that is beyond my control.

Most of the writers I know claim that writing is not something they choose to do, it’s something they have to do. I’m sure not all writers are like that, but I am. Not only is writing something I have to do, I usually don’t have a lot of choice in what comes out once I start to write. I can control it once it’s on the page, but in that first stage in which it actually comes out of me and goes onto the page, it’s kind of out of my hands. It’s a very strange process that’s different for every writer.

 

BL: Many new writers have tried to emulate this shock tactic style of writing much the way that the current horror movie genre has done. Taking old ideas, throwing in excessive blood and guts violence with only the barest thread of a storyline to tie it together. Or they turn horror themes into pretty fantasies full of romance and teenage angst. But when it comes to your own writing you’ve been called an innovator because of your ability to “[take] veteran horror themes and twisting them to evocative or entertaining effect.” (Publishers Weekly). Two of your most popular titles, LIVE GIRLS and RAVENOUS, have taken the vampire and werewolf sub-genres and turned them on their heads by adding a dirty and gritty sexual slant to the mythos. You’ve made these creatures monstrous again by infusing them with the most base human sins but not without fighting to maintain what goodness remains in them. How have you managed to keep that balance while so many others tend to become either too hard or too soft?

RG: I grew up on the traditional icons of horror, particularly those portrayed in the old Universal movies – Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man – and the Hammer films that came later. I loved them. Those movies always took place in some distant past, in some foreign land. Long before I started writing professionally, I was very fond of the idea of dropping those monsters in present-day America. Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot was a revelation to me. It made me see that I wasn’t crazy, that I wasn’t just fantasizing, that it could be done and it could work beautifully.

Horror is a genre that sets out to inject the real world we all know with the supernatural, with monsters and psychopaths and strange phenomena. I’ve always thought that the best way to make that genre work is to firmly ground it in that real world, the one we all live in where there are no vampires or werewolves. Populate that world with people we all recognize in some way, people who are like us even if their particular occupations or situations in life are unusual. Once the reader has settled into that real-world situation populated by people they recognize and can, in some way, identify with, then I toss in the weird stuff. For me, a good horror story is grounded in reality first.

In some horror – or in genres that are tenuously related, like urban fantasy – the weird stuff is there from the beginning. The world in which the story is set is not only populated by familiar people, but by vampires or werewolves who are a given from the beginning. The characters are often aware of the existence of these creatures from the very start of the story. These books are extremely popular, so obviously they work for a lot of people, but they aren’t typically what I look for. And they’re not what I’ve been writing over the years.

Having said that, I should point out that that’s starting to change in my writing. Bestial featured two characters from Night Life, the sequel to Live Girls, and linked the two vampire novels and the two werewolf novels into a kind of loosely connected series. In the follow-up to Bestial, I’m going to make that link stronger and this will become a series of books in which the characters and vampires from Live Girls and Night Life interact with the characters and werewolves from Ravenous and Bestial, and new characters will be added. It’s impossible to do this without the supernatural creatures being a constant part of the story. It’s new territory for me and is requiring a slight adjustment, but I’m enjoying the idea of developing stories and characters over multiple books. However, that’s the only difference. The writing and tone will remain the same.

You mentioned sex. There are certain things we all have in common – people we love, dreams and desires we have, personal weaknesses we want to overcome. Those things differ from person to person. But the one thing we all have in common is sex. We all want it, we all need it, we all love it – even those who claim otherwise. Part of the function of horror is to unsettle, disturb and frighten. We are no more vulnerable than in the area of sexuality. It’s always been a sensitive subject. And when are we more vulnerable than when we’re actually engaged in sex? I’ve always thought that sex was a perfect target for the horror genre for that reason. It’s always been a big part of my work. Frankly, I think sex should be a part of any honest fiction. It’s a big part of all of our lives and to present a character whose sexuality and sex life are left out, completely ignored, is to present an incomplete character. I’ve found that sex can be just as revealing of a character – and used just as effectively to develop a character – as background, dialogue, physical description, any of the more common details of a character’s life and personality. And there are two other reasons my books usually have an emphasis on sex: I enjoy writing sex and sex sells because people enjoy reading sex. It would be dishonest to say that I use sex in my writing only for artistic purposes. That’s like saying you read Playboy for the articles.

BL: Religion. You had to know this one was going to come up. It comes up in many interviews you’ve done because it formed a large part of your attraction to horror. You were raised a Seventh-Day Adventist by your parents and your critical views on this religious belief has been applauded and criticized. Both readers and reviewers are split on their opinions of how much emphasis is put on religion in books you’ve written. A recent review of BESTIAL said the only negative aspect of the novel was the dark portrayal of the Seventh-Day Adventist church. I think it would help other writers to know how you decide what parts from your own background to put into the story and if you ever worry that you may have put too much of yourself into your work.

RG: Some people came down hard on Bestial because of the subplot involving Bob Berens and his Seventh-day Adventist family. They accused me of having a vendetta, of being bitter. But the fact is, they know nothing about the Seventh-day Adventist cult and assume that it’s just another Christian denomination. There was a time when I was very bitter, but that’s behind me. Religion is a weird subject in America. We have freedom of religion here, which is one of the things that has always made America so great. This should include freedom from religion if that’s what you want, but that’s not the case so much. If you have a problem with religion, or if you’ve had a bad experience with religion, and you voice any of that, there are a lot of people who bristle and immediately accuse you of being bitter and angry and vindictive. The problem, they say, is with you, not with religion. The religious expect, and even demand, the freedom to criticize and condemn others for all kinds of reasons – their lifestyles, the people they love, their politics, their choices. But if you say anything that suggests criticism of religion, the problem is with you. You’re bitter, you’re angry, you have a vendetta. This comes even from people who claim not to be religious. By the way, isn’t it amazing how many people try to distance themselves from religion – even a lot of the religious. “I’m spiritual, but I’m not religious,” they say. “I believe in god, but I’m not religious. I go to church, but I’m not religious.” For something that’s supposed to be so good, so healthy, so positive and loving, there certainly are a lot of people who want to make sure you know they have nothing to do with it – even many of the people who believe in it.

I do not have a vendetta against the Seventh-day Adventist sect, and I have made no attempt to smear it or make it look bad in any way. I have simply depicted life within the world of Seventh-day Adventism the way it is. Most people don’t know that because Adventism does a very good job of presenting itself to the world in a way that looks conventional and mainstream. But life inside the cult is very different. I’ve written nothing about Adventism that is inaccurate – in fact, I rigidly stuck to the facts about the sect in Bestial – and I have made no attempt to slant my depiction in a way that would defame or smear it. Just the facts, ma’am. Bob Berens, a character in Bestial, is a real person. I changed his name and his age, a few other minor details about him, but his situation, his fears, the incredible dysfunction and pain and loneliness that make up his life – all of that was lifted directly and in one whole piece from an old friend of mine, someone I grew up with and have known all my life. His situation is not uncommon in the cult. The Adventist beliefs and teachings I depicted in the book, the facts about its founder and “prophet” Ellen G. White, are all very, very real. I can understand readers being appalled by what they read about Adventism in Bestial, but it’s a mistake to blame me for it. I didn’t make it up, and I didn’t manipulate it with an eye toward making the sect look weird. The sect is weird.

Most Adventists are born and raised in the cult, and their worldview – including their view of themselves, of others, and their relationships with others – is warped from infancy onward. They are raised to fear the Catholic church; to expect that church to take over the country at any moment and try to force everyone to worship on Sunday; to believe that there are active conspiracies going on behind closed doors in Washington, D.C. right now to pass a “national Sunday law” making Sunday worship mandatory; to prepare for the day when they – the Adventists – will be hunted down and tortured and executed for worshipping on Saturday instead of Sunday; to believe that worshipping on Sunday is the mark of the beast (which makes all of mainstream Christianity “the enemy”); that every word written by a paranoid, fanatical, masturbation-obsessed Victorian-era woman (Ellen G. White) came directly from god and that the fact that she plagiarized much of her copious writings is nothing more than a lie planted by Satan, and anyone who claims it’s true is an agent of Satan – I could go on and on. When I point out any part of this, when I discuss these things, there are people who immediately – before I’m even finished – claim that I’m bitter, disgruntled, and that I have a grudge against Seventh-day Adventism, an ax to grind. Over the years, I’ve talked at length about what happened to me when my first novel was published while I was living in an Adventist community in the Napa Valley. I’m not going to rehash it here, but when I tell some people about the threats and the vandalism and the other things that were done to me in reaction to the fact that I’d written a horror novel, they say that I am the one with the problem.

I recently reconnected with a woman from my past. We went to the same Adventist boarding academy and college. I didn’t know her well back then – I was more acquainted with her older sister, who was very religious. Like me (and unlike her older sister), she has managed to break free of the cult – something that is much harder to do than anyone who hasn’t experienced it can possibly know – and has made a great life for herself free of all the fear and paranoia that made up her earlier life (if you’re ever in West Hollywood, you should visit her fantastic shop, The Yogurt Stop!). She and I have been discussing our past and we’ve discovered that the older we get, the more life we live out here in the real world, the more clearly we see how truly bizarre our lives were back then and how much we’ve had to overcome. One of my dearest friends in the world is the novelist Steven Spruill, a great writer, the author of the vampire novels Daughter of Darkness and Rulers of Darkness, as well as a lot of medical thrillers and science fiction novels. He’s 15 years older than I, and he, too, was raised a Seventh-day Adventist. As far as I know, Steve and I are the only two former Adventists on the planet who write horror. Despite our age difference, we feel like brothers because our background – our experiences, terrors and the things we were taught – are identical. Even now – I’m 47, he’s 62 – we are still dealing with problems left over from our upbringing, things indoctrinated in us from the earliest ages that have effected our self-image, the way we deal with other people. What some people see as anger and bitterness and some kind of vendetta is actually very typical of people who, like myself, were raised Adventists. You’d be amazed by how many people there are out there who’ve had nearly identical experiences growing up Adventist and who feel exactly the same as I – I’ve met a lot of them, some have written to me. The difference between us is that sometimes I write about. And I write about it even when I’m not trying to write about it. The only difference in Bestial is that I specifically identified the sect.

I was raised in this cult and for a good-sized chunk of my life, it was my entire world. Like all Adventists, I was taught that my oddness, my inability to fit in with the rest of the world – which is something Adventism fosters – was a sign of righteousness, a positive thing and something to be nurtured. I know this cult inside and out. It helped shape me, to make me who I am today. When people ask why I write horror, I say it’s because I was raised a Seventh-day Adventist. I’m not complaining. That’s my life, that was my situation, it was out of my hands, I dealt with it as best I could, and I’m still dealing with it. Like every writer, when I write, a good deal of myself goes on the page. In fact, a lot more of me goes on the page than I’m aware of, I’ve found. A friend recently pointed out to me just how much autobiographical material is in all of my fiction, and I was so shocked I had to lift my chin off my lap. I knew there were bits and pieces of me and my life in there, but I had no idea how much. I’m sure that’s the case with most writers. To answer your question, even when I thought I was making a conscious decision on how much of myself and my experience to put in my fiction, I’ve always been putting in more than I thought.

As for those who have a problem with the way I write or talk about religion – I don’t know what to tell them. I don’t see religion – and by religion, I’m not referring specifically to Christianity, but to any religion, all religion – as a very positive or productive thing, and there’s a whole lot of history out there that backs me up on that. In the United States, you are free to believe what you want, to worship as you please, and to belong to the religion of your choice. But this country has a real problem dealing with people who choose not to believe, worship, or belong to a religion. The whole world seems to have a problem with that. And if those people express this – if they say out loud they don’t believe in god, or that they don’t think religion is a positive, productive thing – people absolutely come to pieces. I mean, the reaction is astonishing. It really is angry and bitter. All over a difference of opinion. Richard Dawkins has written about his experiences with the religious on his book tours. Before he made one particular appearance in England, a local Vicar went on the radio and called for Dawkins’s execution. His execution! I get chills just thinking about the hate mail and death threats that people like Dawkins and Christopher Hitchins and Sam Harris get – and it comes from people who claim to worship Jesus Christ, the so-called “Prince of Peace.” If all that happens to me is that some people accuse me of being bitter and having a vendetta against the Seventh-day Adventist cult, then I have nothing to complain about and consider myself lucky.

BL: A Haunting in Connecticut was released in theatres a while back and I know you’ve been quite vocal regarding your views of this particular “story” or rather the varying accounts of what happened. There’s no love for Ed and Lorraine Warren when you’re asked about them, and often you’ve stated that when you noticed the accounts of the people involved didn’t mesh you wanted to back out of the book deal. But what were your feelings and first impressions when the offer to co-write a book with the Warrens first appeared across your desk?

RG: My first thought was that it might be fun to work with Ed and Lorraine Warren. I’d read about them in tabloids and had followed their paranormal adventures over the years. I’m not a believer in ghosts and demons, but I assumed the Snedekers would be people who honestly believed that they’d encountered ghosts or demons. I assumed that that was how they had interpreted the events of their life. I thought there might be a good story there. So I signed on. As it turned out, I was wrong on all counts.

BL: Is there a warning to other writers somewhere in your experiences with the Warrens?

RG: Don’t sign a contract to do anything until you’ve had the opportunity to investigate every aspect of that job. Don’t put yourself in a situation in which others can tell you what you must write unless you have the resources to get out of that situation should you find that you’re uncomfortable with what’s being required of you. I was very naive and I backed myself into a corner. I regret it.

BL: You’ve dealt with both mass market publishers and small press publishers in your career. What has been the difference for you as a writer (in terms of both style and content) between works like DARK CHANNEL published by Bantam Falcon and NIGHT LIFE published by Leisure Books? Or in the small press realm, like the Bloodletting Press editions of your books? Has one publisher let you get away with more than another when it came to more extreme scenes?

RG: Honestly, there’s been no difference. I write what I write. Different publishers end up publishing my work at different times and for different reasons. I’m not aware of ever tailoring my writing to a publisher other than, say, writing a short story for an anthology that has a particular theme or writing movie novelizations or TV tie-ins, which are specific assignments.

BL: Some more mainstream readers may find your fiction goes too far. Personally, scenes like the gang-bang porn scene from NIGHT LIFE made me angry, but I have to say that I wasn’t angry with you. I had grown to care for the characters and reading about them suffering that kind of abuse upset me because you had made me care for them. Do you think a lot of people lose sight of the story when that happens and blame the author for letting it happen? That they say, “you didn’t have to write it that way”?

RG: I’m glad that scene made you angry, because it was supposed to. If you had felt nothing, then I would feel I had failed because I wanted you to care about that character.

I know there are plenty of people who don’t like the directions my novels go in and once they’ve discovered that, it’s perfectly understandable if they don’t pick up any more of my books. I’m not sure I understand those who get angry at me for what I write. Some do, though. I guess I should be gratified that they are responding to my work, even though it’s in a way I didn’t intend.

BL: Has writing about your personal demons been cathartic? Are there anymore left that we can count on seeing showing up in future novels?

RG: I often joke that, given the bizarre nature of my upbringing, I’ll never be able to afford the amount of therapy I need. But the truth is, writing has been my therapy. I shudder to think of the shape I’d be in if I didn’t have that outlet. Now, I’m sure there are some who will look at that last sentence and assume that, without writing, I’d be some slobbering, greasy-haired psycho with one hand in my pants and the other clutching a blood-dripping knife. But that’s not what I mean. I wouldn’t be dangerous without writing – not to anyone but myself. Growing up, I was told by everyone around me – my parents, my pastors, my teachers, my “friends” – that there was something wrong with me because I enjoyed movies and novels and comic books and TV shows (especially in the horror genre), that Satan was working in me, that I was bad. When you’re a child, and you’re told these things all the time by everyone in your life, you believe them. And I grew up thinking I was a pretty horrible person, unworthy of love, deserving of punishment. It’s that self-hatred, more than anything else, that writing has allowed me to release, and the ability to do that has probably saved me from turning it on myself. If my writing has changed at all in recent years – I’m too close to it to know if it has or not – it’s because that attitude in me has finally begun to change in a real way.

BL: I noticed that in some of your acknowledgements at the beginning of a few of your books you’ve thanked your parents. Have you reconciled your past with them and the part they played in making you the writer you are? How big was their part, in your opinion?

RG: First of all, I don’t want to give the impression that my parents were absolute monsters and my childhood was one long agonizing nightmare. That’s not the case. In fact, I was a lot better off than many of the other Adventist kids I knew. If my parents were just horrible people with no redeeming qualities, things would be much easier – I could simply hate them. But I don’t, not at all. My parents provided for me, took good care of me (if you don’t count my dad’s habit of kicking me as he dragged me through the house by my hair or flogging me with his belt), and they gave me a lot of happiness. Mom and Dad hated the fact that I liked horror movies and TV shows like Night Gallery and Dark Shadows and Twilight Zone. (I wasn’t allowed to go to movies because “movie houses” were off limits to Adventists back then, but I understand there’s been some loosening in this area in the intervening years.) But they were open-minded in some very odd ways – especially for Adventists. They saw how happy those movies and TV shows made me, so they let me watch them. But they never missed an opportunity to express their intense disapproval. They were constantly telling me how much I was hurting Jesus, how I was letting Satan enter me and work through me, and that if Jesus came in the clouds with trumpeting angels while I was planted in front of the TV watching Creatures Features, I would be lost. (Personally, I always kind of figured that any guy who would keep a wedding party rocking by turning water into wine would probably get a kick out of Attack of the Mushroom People or Invasion of the Saucer Men.) Sometimes I got the feeling they let me watch that stuff specifically for the opportunity to tell me, over and over, how bad it was, how bad I was for watching it, and how it was going to ruin my chances for salvation. But at least I was able to watch it, even though I was always being condemned for it. I think if it hadn’t been for horror on TV, I would have gone insane. It was an outlet. Horror was a relief to me, a fun little vacation from the terrors of my life. And just as much as my parents and their religion, those wonderful old movies and TV shows contributed to the person I became – and to the writer I became.

We had a friend who visited occasionally, a guy who was probably in his late twenties when I was just boy. His name was Phil and I always enjoyed his visits because he was hilarious and made me laugh until I had tears running down my cheeks. But Phil was different. He was very effeminate – although at that age, I was unable to describe it that way because I had so little frame of reference. I once asked my dad why Phil was the way he was. Dad explained that Phil was gay – I don’t remember if he actually used the word “gay,” but whatever word he used, I don’t think it was in any way derogatory. He explained that most guys liked girls, and most girls liked guys, but there were some guys who liked other guys and some girls who liked other girls. His theory was simply that they were born that way. “Some people don’t like them and think they’re sinning,” he said. “But it’s not our place to judge.” This was at the end of the 1960s, maybe 1970. Looking back on it now, I think what Dad said was astonishingly progressive. Even loving. In fact, that is the kind of love I’ve always seen in the words of Jesus Christ from the bible, and it’s the kind of love you almost never see in the people who claim to worship him! My parents also had friends of all colors from our church – black, Filipino, hispanic – who frequently spent time at our house. I grew up around these people and honestly paid no attention to the color difference. I remember how baffled I was when I encountered the concept of racism – it made no sense to me. I’ve always been grateful for those healthy attitudes they passed on to me.

But I picked up some things that weren’t so good. The primary emotions in my family were always anger, fear, and guilt. As I got older and occasionally began to mix with people outside our Seventh-day Adventist community – which is a very tightly closed circle, by the way – I started to see that things were extremely different on the outside. Once I had something to compare my life to, I began to think that maybe I wasn’t crazy for being so miserable. Maybe – just maybe – the problem, contrary to everything I was told by everyone in my life, wasn’t me.

I’ve tried so hard in my adult life to make my relationship with my parents work. I acknowledged them in my books, I gave them a copy of each book. I knew they wouldn’t read them, but I inscribed each one with a note thanking them for everything they’d done for me and telling them I loved them. I’ve tried to excuse the constant disapproval and judgment I’ve always received from them. I’ve tried to ignore their endless talk about the “signs of the end” and how close the “time of trouble” is, when the Sunday law will pass and we’ll have to flee to the mountains and live in caves to stay alive. I’ve tried to remind myself that my dad – who scared me even more than the “time of trouble” when I was growing up – physically abused me and treated me cruelly because he had been so horribly abused and cruelly treated by his parents. I’ve tried to remind myself that, no matter how weird their religion was or how much damage was done by the things they taught me, they always honestly believed they were doing the right thing. Then two things happened within weeks of each other.

A few years ago, my mother boxed up my books, said they no longer had room for them, and thought I’d want them back. I knew immediately that they simply didn’t want them in the house anymore. I don’t know for a fact but strongly suspect that they’d seen something on the Seventh-day Adventist TV channel, 3ABN, that had brought them to their decision – some sermon, or a series of programs that included the evils of fiction or discussed the nearness of The End. I pointed out to Mom that all the books were inscribed to them. She said, “Oh … they are?” She didn’t know. They hadn’t looked.

Shortly after that, I was sitting in our kitchen with my wife Dawn. We were at the table reading and the radio was on. An old song Dawn liked began to play. She got up, grabbed my hand and said, “Dance with me!” I’d never danced. There’s no dancing among Adventists. In the Adventist schools I’d attended, they held banquets instead of dances. I’d never learned to dance. Didn’t know how. But I gave it a try with Dawn that day. It was very brief, quickly aborted. My attempt to dance resulted in a rush of unpleasant feelings in me. I was embarassed because I was no good, I didn’t know what I was doing. But far worse were the feelings of shame and guilt. I was dancing – I wasn’t supposed to dance! Dancing was a bad thing! This reaction was instantaneous and involuntary. Then I was hit hard with the daunting realization that I was a man in my mid-forties, and I was unable to dance with my wife in my own kitchen without feeling bad about it. I realized I had to do something, make some changes in my life.

That month, I wrote a letter to my parents (who live only a few miles from me) and spilled my guts. I tried to explain to them the damage they and their religion had done to me, how it had made me feel about myself and my life, and how difficult it had been to recover from it. I wrote it down because I knew if I tried to tell them in person, I would never be allowed to finish. And even as I wrote the letter, I knew they would read it and see none of the words as I had written them. They would see only what they were conditioned to see, what they were indoctrinated to see. But I didn’t care. I was writing the letter more for my own sake than theirs. I sent it to them the next day. It put some much-needed distance between myself and my parents – if not geographical then certainly emotional. It was sad and it wasn’t something I enjoyed doing, but it was necessary for the sake of my own peace of mind. And it has brought a lot of peace to my life.

BL: I’m a dog person, but I have to know; do the cats ever whisper ideas to you while you’re writing? I’ve seen many a writer’s bio with the mention of owning cats. Is that the secret?

RG: They’ve never whispered to me, but they often paw me for attention and meow at length while I’m writing. And occasionally they fart in my office and throw up on my shoes.

BL: Okay, I think I harassed you enough as it is. Now is the part of the interview where you toot your own horn and we all get to salivate in anticipation for the next craziness brought to us by the delightfully disturbed imagination of Ray Garton. I know you have a few books optioned for film, any word on their state of production? What new works are set to come out?

RG: I am unable to toot my own horn, but I understand kundalini yoga makes that possible so I’m thinking of taking it up, and if what I’ve heard is true, I’ll probably never leave the house again.

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten any updates on the movie projects. I’m not involved in any of them and I’m kind of out of the loop. Last I heard, Live Girls will star Ray Winstone and is supposed to shoot in Detroit. I’m not sure what’s happening with Graven Image or Lot Lizards. Sex and Violence in Hollywood has hit a wall, which I’ve found is a pretty standard state of affairs in the process of getting a movie off the ground.

My novel Scissors has just been released in paperback. At the moment, I’m working on a few things. I’m writing a novella that has no title yet but will be published by Sideshow Press. I’m working on the follow-up to Bestial. And I’m trying to put the finishing touches on Dismissed From the Front and Center, my humorous novel about my two years at a Seventh-day Adventist boarding academy so my agent can sell it.

BL: I’d like thank you once again for joining me on the journey, Mr. Garton. Readers can find out more about his vast body of work at the links below. Amazing writing and long hours of some of the best entertainment you’ll find between the pages are a guarantee with this man. In addition, he’s also one of the funniest people in horror, make sure to follow him on Twitter.

RG: Thanks for thinking of me, Brandon.

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/RayGarton

Website:  http://preposteroustwaddlecock.blogspot.com/

Wiki Page:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Garton

MySpace: www.myspace.com/raygarton

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/people/Ray-Garton/1134782857

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9 Responses to “A Writer’s Journey: Part 9”

  1. Excellent timing! I finished “Scissors” yesterday : ) Now I can’t wait to read “Ravenous.”

  2. Natalie, you will love Ravenous! It scared the shit out of me like I haven’t been scared since I was 9 and watched The Howling for the first time. It’s good stuff.

    I’m picking up Scissors today and I’ve already blocked some time this evening just for me to read!!

    Great interview, Ray. Very honest and compelling!

  3. What a fascinating and revealing interview. I can attest to everything Ray said about the experience of growing up Seventh-day Adventist. It is part of the warp and woof of both Ray and me, and I would not change any of it if I could, because of the law of unintended consequences. (What if changing my past made me into a guy who tows illegally parked cars instead of a novelist?) And it is true, I believe, that neither Ray nor I would have become novelists were it not for the combination of the horrifying end-times fantasies of Adventism with our own overheated imaginations, with which we seem to have been born. The wonder, to me, is that there aren’t more of us out there — more novelists whose imaginations were set on fire by tales of the beast with ten horns and the times of trouble. Apparently, it takes both that SDA environment AND an exceptionally vivid and active imagination to end up where Ray and I have. Thanks, Ray, for coming so clean with us, and thank you. Brandon Layng, for your probing and insightful questions.

    • Thank you for giving it a read, Steven. Actually, I came close to being raised SDA. My father was a member of that faith for 7 or 8 years before he met my mother and only left it a year before meeting her. He went to the SDA college and everything. It was a close one.

      Ray is an awesome guy and a dream come true for an interviewer. He’s very open and honest. I learned a great deal during this interview, not just about him, but the writing and I came away with a better understanding of what inspires his words.

      I see you are a cat person too (I checked out your site). You have to tell me what it is about cats. I’ve had several during my life but I’ve lost several short stories due to little paws jumping on the keyboard because kitty demanded attention. My dog lies at my feet and I like that. My work feels safer that way.

      I wish you the best with “Ice Men” by the way and I encourage everyone reading this to go to Steven Spruill’s website and order a copy. While you’re at it, get over to Amazon and order a copy of Ray Garton’s “Scissors”.

      Thank you everyone that has stopped in to read so far. The response has been fantastic. Feel free to add your own two-cents while you’re here and comment on what you’ve read.

  4. Thanks for the nice plug, Brandon. I’m not sure what it is about cats, but they seem to have an affinity for writers, and vice versa. When I was in training as a psychologist, I wanted to do a study to correlate “dog” or “cat” person with other personality variables, but ended up doing my dissertation on creativity. If anyone reading this knows of such Cat v Dog studies, please give us a heads up. I know that many people love cats AND dogs, which would be a confounding variable to any study. I love ’em both, but we live in town, so cats are more practical, but I do confess to a preference for them, as well, and. . . .

    Erm, you’re saying your question was rhetorical?

  5. I love both cats and dogs. I haven’t had a dog in many years. I miss it and hope to have a dog again at some point, but right now, we’re all full up with cats. They’re very different animals, dogs and cats. But I find that most of our cats behave very much like dogs. Especially Mina and Buddy and Boris. They come running when they’re called and hop in my lap. Mina gets right in my face, stares at me adoringly, TALKS to me a LOT, and expresses affection more effusively than any other cat I’ve ever known. Buddy is almost the SIZE of a dog — he weighs over 20 pounds but thinks he’s still a kitten. When HE jumps in my lap, I know my lap has been jumped into. Our late beloved cat Oscar was very dog-like, too. They follow me around the house like dogs, always wanting to stay close, as if they’re being protective. I don’t know what I’d do without them. We don’t have kids, but it’s almost like having kids. Of course, knowing kids these days, I’m sure if we had one he wouldn’t be nearly as appreciative as the cats of things like the litter box and Friskies.

    • You know, this has inspired me to do a Cats & Dogs AWJ article. My dog, Mickey, is a Boston Terrier and in a lot of ways he acts like a cat but still retains many of the qualities I love about dogs. I don’t think he helps with my writing other than to remind me to stop and have fun sometimes.

  6. Just this morning I had the thought that, if my cat Bebop’s ears were smaller and rounded she would look exactly like the stunning black jaguar in “Apocalypto” (only smaller, of course–a comforting thought). Like most of the great cats except for Cheetahs, Bebop, and her sister Lula, for that matter, have longer faces than your typical house cat. Also unlike most house cats, Bebop has not so much a fur coat as a glossy, black pelt, short and thick, that shines after we brush her each morning. It’s a very fortunate thing for cats that they do not work as fur stoles (the fur falls out in short order). I think imagination, which binds writers and readers together, is a factor in the love of cats we see in creative types. For us, they evoke the magnificent great cats of this world in how they carry themselves, their sense of their own unimpeachable royalty. A dog would do all it could to save you from a burning building, giving up its own life if necessary. You’ve gotta love that, and I do. Cat’s do not have that reputation — although I did write a story for one of Ellen Datlow’s anthologies (Twists of the Tail, available on Amazon.com) in which a cat rescues her mistress from a horrible death in a fashion that is totally cat-like. We of the homo sapiens clan are enriched, I think, by all of the other clans of life on this planet. I don’t make the distinction many do between humans and “animals” (as if humans were NOT animals). A cat will teach you how to have a good and loyal friend without smothering or being smothered. That, alone, is a pretty big gift from one animal to another. For any who still doubt my obsession with cats, you can find my final painting here (after which I switched to writing novels): http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=30463505&id=1047574960

  7. If the above URL doesn’t work (Facebook seems to be having problems right now) you can see the painting in the “Photos” section of my Facebook page (Steven Spruill), which is open and accessible to all.

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