Interviewing The Scariest Guy in America: Jack Ketchum

Jack Ketchum is the author of such books as RedOff SeasonThe Girl Next Door, and many others, most of which were adapted to film. His latest novel The Woman is now available.

Need more Ketchum? Check out his official website!

SYW: What is your writing process in its brevity? By that I mean, is your inspiration fueled by caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and music when you write?

Jack Ketchum: A cup of coffee in the morning and regrettably, still nicotine. Though I’m trying to dump that. I wouldn’t dream of trying to write stoned or drinking. I tried that as a kid and got nowhere fast. And no music either. I have to hear the sound of the prose in my head, and I’m easily distracted. I can’t even look out a window when I’m working. It might be fun sometime to try to write in a sensory deprivation tank. I might just take to that.

SYW: You have a considerable amount of blurbs from Stephen King. What is your relationship with him?

JK: Stephen is far and away the busiest writer I know, so I try not to bother him with trivia. But I’ve visited him in Maine and Florida several times and we e-mail now and then. He’s very open to me asking about stuff — like, if you were me, what would you do about this damn stalker? I consider him a friend and a constant supporter. And as a writer he continues to amaze me.

SYW: Do you have a preference to writing short stories over novels and vice versa?

JK: No preference. Each feeds the other aesthetically and each is fun to do. Short fiction or even nonfiction is a welcome break from the more arduous longer stuff. And mixing the two is a good way to keep your writing fresh, so you’re not doing the same old same old every day.

SYW: What has been your favorite novel to write so far?

JK: Tough choice. OFF SEASON was a lot of fun because it was my first and I figured, anything goes.THE GIRL NEXT DOOR came to me like it was dictation, and it was part memory-play of when I was growing up. RED gave me the feeling that I was flexing some thus-far unused muscles. As I say, tough choice, so I’m not gonna make one.

SYW: Which authors have inspired your prose?

JK: Which authors didn’t? I’m like a sponge. I soak up licks from every good writer I read. And I’ve been doing so since I was a kid. Even some of the bad ones have helped my identify clearly what I don’t want to do. I can say that HemingwayChandler and James M. Cain taught me how to write tight.

SYW: You have taught an intensive at and your class is showing up again at The Cult‘s sister site: LitReactor. What motivates you to teach and share your techniques?

JK: I really like teaching. I taught high school for two years just out of college and if it weren’t for the school board and having to deal with parents I might still be doing it. Thank you, parents. But I like to dip back into it now and then, be it a live seminar or on the net. There’s also the aspect of giving it back. I had some great teachers in college and one in particular in high school without whom there is no question in my mind that I wouldn’t be here today. She knows who she is. Thanks again, Dorothy.

SYW: If you weren’t a professional author, what could you see yourself doing instead?

JK: Twenty to life for capital murder.



Dive further into the dark mind of Jack Ketchum in his interview with the Books & Booze podcast!

(This interview was a guest feature and originally appeared on a co-editor’s (Dakota Taylor) blog.)


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