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Interview with Ray Garton

by Rhonda Wilson

Photo: Ray Garton


Ray Garton is the author of 50+ horror books including numerous titles that were released through Leisure Books.  Some of his most known titles include:  The Loveliest Dead, Live Girls, and Ravenous.  His most recent release through Leisure is the novel, Scissors.  Garton has also written some young adult horror books under the pseudonym Joseph Locke.

RW:  Hello Ray and thank you for agreeing to do an interview for Monster Librarian.  We're glad to have you. 

RG:  It's great to be had.

RW:  Can you tell our viewers a bit about yourself and how you got your start in the writing industry?

RG:  I've always written.  Even before I could write, I wrote stories by drawing pictures.  It's always been a part of my day-to-day life.  I met an agent through an ex-girlfriend's family (he was a friend of theirs).  I showed him a few short stories, but he said he didn't handle short fiction and wanted to know if I had a novel he could see.  I had a couple, but I knew they were both awful and wasn't about to send either of them to him.  I lied and said I was working on one and should be done soon.  Then I frantically tried to come up with an idea that was commercial enough to interest him in representing me.  I'd read an interview with Stephen King in Playboy in which he said he'd always wanted to use vagina dentata in a story but hadn't come up with a way to make it work.  I latched onto that and decided to build a novel around it.  The result was SEDUCTIONS, which I quickly wrote in about three months and sent to the agent.  He sold it very quickly.  I was spoiled by that.  It seemed so easy.  But the fact was, I was very lucky and I was in the right place at the right time.  Horror was VERY hot in the early '80s and all of this happened at the right time.  If we knew what a huge part luck played in all of our lives -- if we knew how little control we have over our lives -- I don't think we'd ever get out of bed in the morning.  I was very lucky.  After that, I never looked back.

RW:  Who have been your writing inspirations throughout the years?

RG:  They're so numerous that it would be impossible to list them all.  L. Frank Baum and J. M. Barrie were early influences.  I loved THE WIZARD OF OZ and PETER PAN, both of which had their share of scares in them.  Poe, Lovecraft, Edgar Rice Burroughs.  The bible was a BIG influence, as was Ellen G. White, the founder and "prophet" of the Seventh-day Adventist cult.  I was raised on both of them and they both scared the piss out of me.  Although I didn't know it at the time, an enormous amount of White's material was plagiarized, but it was still horror fiction, as was the bible.  Richard Matheson was an incalculable influence -- not only his fiction but his movie and TV scripts.  Stephen King, Peter Straub, Richard Matheson.  And those are just the horror-related influences.  My reading has never been limited to horror and I've had input from all directions.

RW:  What kind of setting do you like to write in and do you have a set schedule you go by when writing?

RG:  I used to be able to write anywhere -- coffee shops, waiting rooms.  But now I'm pretty set in my ways.  I write in my home office surrounded by shelves and shelves of books, lots of movie posters, a wide variety of toys.  I usually have music playing or a movie running in the DVD player.  If it's a movie, it's something with which I'm very familiar, something I love, and it serves as comfortable white noise.  Just today I was working while SUNSET BOULEVARD played ("I am big.  It's the PICTURES that got small!")  I've been writing every day with such regularity for so long -- my entire life, really -- that I've never found it necessary to set a schedule.  I just do it.  If for some reason I go a few days without writing, I get antsy and cranky.

RW:  Your latest release from Leisure Books is titled SCISSORS, can you tell us a bit about this book and where you got the idea for it?

RG:  I'm not always sure where ideas come from.  Sometimes I just sit down and start writing and things happen.  SCISSORS is a story about how our memories effect our emotions, and how our emotions effect our memories.  It centers around a man named Stuart who is haunted by his abusive childhood in general -- abuse that was both physical and mental -- and in particular by a very unpleasant medical procedure that was performed on him.  It was supposed to be done while he was on the operating table for an unrelated surgery, but the doctor forgot, and instead, it was done in the doctor's office with no anesthesia.  It was extremely painful and traumatic (it involves his penis) and his mother smilingly held him down while it was being performed.  In the first chapter, the doctor -- Dr. Ferguson -- shows up in Stuart's life again at a time when things aren't going well for Stuart.  But even though decades have passed, Dr. Ferguson hasn't aged a day, and he wants to perform that same procedure on Stuart's son.  The book is about the way Stuart remembers his childhood and the way his mother remembers it -- very differently -- and about how those memories influence him as a father.

RW:  The main character in SCISSORS, Stuart, is a bit obsessed with comics and drawing.  Are these characteristics that you also have? 

RG:  I used to draw constantly when I was a kid, and I was passionately in love with comic books.  As I mentioned earlier, that was how I started writing.  But as I got older, I grew away from both drawing and comics.  I haven't done any drawing in ages and it's been awhile since I've read any comic books.  I miss them both -- especially the comic books.

RW:  If not the comics and drawings aspect (or in addition to), are there other ways you feel you can relate to Stuart or any of the other characters in the novel?

RG:  There's some of me in everything I write, usually a lot more than I think I'm putting in, stuff I don't notice until much later.  But SCISSORS is one of the most personal of all my horror novels.  There are a lot of similarities between my childhood and Stuart's.  Like Stuart's mother, my parents remember it all very differently.  When I was a kid, my dad routinely dragged me around by the hair kicking me when the mood struck him.  But years later, after I was grown up, Dad insisted he'd never pulled anyone's hair in his life because his parents had done it to him and he'd always hated it.  Mom looks at me like I'm a crazy person when I bring it up and tells me Dad has only loved me, that he's a good man.  Like Stuart's mother, mine was very religious and I was always a terrible disappointment because I wasn't, and like all the other human beings on the face of the earth, I could not live up to the standards of her religion.  The things I enjoyed and appreciated and sought out -- movies, comic books, novels -- were, to her, symptoms that there was something deeply wrong with me and that Satan was working through me.  When you're told that from as far back as you remember by your parent, you come to believe it.  That's a kind of abuse.  It's not physical, but it's definitely mental, and the wounds take a lot longer to heal.  Stuart and I share those aspects of our childhood.

RW:  You have numerous other books released through Leisure as well as other publishers.  Is there any one of your titles that stands out as your favorite and if so, why?

RG:  My favorite, hands down, is SEX AND VIOLENCE IN HOLLYWOOD.  It was a wonderful writing experience.  The book flowed as if I were taking dictation.  As I wrote it, I was in suspense because I honestly didn't know what was going to happen next.  It surprised me, it made me laugh, it horrified me.  It was more fun than I've ever had writing a book.  And I was thrilled with the finished product.

RW:  Both BESTIAL and NIGHT LIFE are sequels to previous releases you have had.  Do you think you'll ever write more books in either of these series?

RG:  Yes, absolutely.  Right now, I'm preparing to do the next one.  LIVE GIRLS, NIGHT LIFE, RAVENOUS and BESTIAL are tenuously connected, but the next book will begin a definite series involving those characters and others from those books.  It will bring together the vampires of the first pair of books and the werewolves from the second pair.  I usually don't do a lot of planning before I sit down to write a book.  I'm not an outliner.  I can't write -- I mean, I can't create characters and a story -- unless I'm actually involved in the act of writing the book.  But a series requires a little more preparation.

RW:  Regarding the two series I just mentioned... one series is about werewolves and the other is about vampires.  Those are two large sub-genres in the horror industry (along with zombies).  Do you like any one of these kinds of "creatures" more than the others?

RG:  I'm not a zombie fan.  I've always felt that everything that could be done with zombies had been done by the time the closing credits rolled on the first showing of George Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD.  I find zombies pretty boring.  I've always loved vampires and werewolves, but I'm not too fond of the direction they've taken in fiction in recent years.  I like my vampires and werewolves mean, nasty and menacing.  If they have great hair and abs and brood a lot and are concerned about other people's feelings, I'm not interested.  And if they sparkle, I'm offended.  I've said it before and I'll say it again -- if you're a vampire and you have to sparkle, get a room.  George Waggner's 1941 film THE WOLF MAN, starring Lon Chaney, has always been a big favorite of mine, and I think I have always had great affection for the werewolf because of that tragic and creepy story.  I've never understood why the werewolf has gotten so little attention over the years.  That seems to be changing, though.  Joe Johnston's remake, THE WOLFMAN, is in theaters right now, and there's quite a list of werewolf movies in the works.  I wish RAVENOUS and BESTIAL were among them.

RW:  In addition to all of your full-length novel release, you also have numerous short stories released in various anthologies.  Which do you prefer to write, short stories or full-length novels?

RG:  I'm much more comfortable with the novel, both as a reader and a writer.  Don't get me wrong, I love to read a good short story.  But I prefer the greater investment of time and emotion that comes with a novel.  I like to relax and get comfortable with a story.  Even a good short story is over too soon.  Just as I'm really sinking into it, it ends -- like Daylight Savings Time.  As a writer, I'm never quite comfortable with short stories.  I always feel vaguely claustrophobic when I write them, and I'm never terribly satisfied with my short stories.

RW:  Many of your novels have some erotic elements to them and you have also written for the erotic horror HOT BLOOD series.  Do you consider any of your novels to be of the "erotic horror" sub-genre and if not, would you consider ever writing anything in this sub-genre?

RG:  In a review of RAVENOUS, one critic credited me for INVENTING the erotic horror genre.  That's not true, of course.  In my opinion, Bram Stoker did that.  But I've written a lot in that subgenre.  SEDUCTIONS, LIVE GIRLS, THE NEW NEIGHBOR, SERPENT GIRL -- even in the books that aren't exactly erotic horror, there's usually a good deal of sex.  I'm of the opinion that it's a writer's job to write about life as vividly and accurately as possible and to create characters who are as developed and well-rounded as possible, and I don't think you can do that if you ignore a character's sex life.  It's a big part of all of our lives.  I want my characters to be recognizable -- I want the readers to give a familiar nod as they read my characters because they see themselves or someone they know in that person.  How a character feels about sex, has sex, what kind of sex a character has (or doesn't have), a character's sexual insecurities and/or sexual hubris -- all of that helps to reveal a character's personality and attitudes toward other people.  Leaving a character's sexuality out of a book is the same as concealing an aspect of that character from the reader.  Sometimes a plot will require that kind of concealment, but if not, I think it's important information.

RW:  In the past you have written young adult horror titles under the pseudonym Joseph Locke, do you have any future plans to write more YA titles?

RG:  I don't have plans to write any more YA novels, but I'd like to.  I kind of fell into it accidentally in the first place.  I wish that would happen again.

RW:  What upcoming projects are you working on or are coming out soon that our readers should keep an eye out for?

RG:  Right now, I'm writing a novella called THREESOME that will be published by Sideshow Press -- and it's very erotic, by the way, although it gets pretty sick and twisted.  I'm also preparing the follow-up to BESTIAL.  And I'm trying to prepare DISMISSED FROM THE FRONT AND CENTER to be submitted to publishers.  It's not horror.  It's a comedy about my two years at a Seventh-day Adventist boarding academy.

RW:  Where is the best spot on the internet for our viewers to find up-to-date information on Ray Garton?

RG:  I'm on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace (under my name).  I have a blog at and I hope to have a website up very soon.  Yes, I know I'm probably the last person on earth who doesn't have a website.  I don't have a cell phone, either.

RW:  Thanks again for doing this interview!  We'll look forward to future titles being released by you.

RG:  Thanks for asking me, Rhonda!


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