with Ray Garton
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.
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: Can you tell our viewers a bit about yourself and how you got your
start in the writing industry?
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: Who have been your writing inspirations throughout the years?
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: What kind of setting do you like to write in and do you have a set
schedule you go by when writing?
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: 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 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: The main character in SCISSORS, Stuart, is a bit obsessed with comics
and drawing. Are these characteristics that you also have?
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: 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: 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: 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: 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
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: 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: 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 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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
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: What upcoming projects are you working on or are coming out soon that
our readers should keep an eye out for?
RG: I'm on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace (under my name). I
have a blog at
http://www.preposteroustwaddlecock.blogspot.com 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: Where is the best spot on the internet for our viewers to find
up-to-date information on Ray Garton?
RG: Thanks for asking me, Rhonda!
RW: Thanks again for doing this interview! We'll look forward to future
titles being released by you.