Jack Ketchum is an icon among horror writers and a living dichotomy. It’s hard to believe the author of such relentless, hardcore novels as OFF SEASON, THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, and Bram Stoker finalist RIGHT TO LIFE could be such a nice guy. Friendly even. The kind of guy you’d share a drink with at the neighborhood tavern. Or in a cyberchat.

But that's exactly what I did. And why don't you join us for a few? The more, the merrier, right?

So grab a drink, pull up a chair, and let's get literary, baby.

DP: I presume you're drinking scotch? I understand that's your drink.

JK: Yes, Grants. As good as Dewars and the basic scotch of Scotland. Bar scotch there, almost unknown here. So what are you drinking?

DP: I'm a Bush Mills girl myself. I would have just had a beer or two, but I would have had to run to the bathroom every five minutes.

JK: I hate it when that happens. So what do you want of me?

DP: I want all your deepest, darkest secrets. If you have any that aren't already in your fiction.

JK: You better be more specific.

DP: I just read on your website that you had screenplays for LADIES NIGHT and THE PASSENGER. How are the prospects on actually seeing those make it to film?

JK: Duh. I've had five options on OFF SEASON alone. You take the option money and say thank you.

DP: Hey, if you can make a living writing without doing some 9-5 job to support it, I suppose that should keep you happy, even if you never make the big screen.

JK: You're absolutely right. I get to write the next book, the next story, that's utterly fine. I'd love to hit something big enough to not have to worry about health-care anymore, but I'm lucky to be doing this at all.

DP: I had been reading a lot of your newer books, but just finished OFF SEASON and THE GIRL NEXT DOOR yesterday. TGND was really disturbing to me, and I don't disturb easily. How on earth do you find the energy to write something that heavy?

JK: That was hard to write. I knew I was treading dangerous ground, that if I didn't do it right it was going to be pornography. I walked the walk and the main thing was the characters, the two girls, the sisters. If I got them right and didn't exploit them, it made the difference. I hope I do victims pretty well. Because I proceed from them.

DP: I think you do victims frighteningly well. When I first started reading your work, it made me wonder what kind of traumatic childhood you had.

JK: I was the only child of an unhappy marriage but I can't say I had a particularly traumatic childhood beyond that. Once my parents divorced they were fine one-on-one. And I grew up semi-rural, streams, woods, places to go to be alone and dream. If was a good thing.

DP: How do you do victims so well? Do you think that's part of your acting background--getting into character, so to speak?

JK: For me the victim makes the story. Sometimes you victimize yourself, sometimes somebody does it to you, but it's that almost universal sense we have--we've all been hurt, and I like to open doors to those feelings.

DP: I think your ability to do that is one of the greatest strengths of your writing. You have an amazing ability to zero in on the broken parts of a character, as well as their strengths.

JK: My cat is now trying to type. Help!

DP: That's okay, let the kitty type. I'm sure mine will be up here soon...

JK: Everybody's broken. Some rise above it. These are the people I want to write about. A lot of my stuff is thinly-veiled wishes for empowerment for people I care about. INCLUDING kitties!

DP: I know Henry Miller was an early influence, but you've also mentioned JUSTINE (by the Marquis de Sade) as a book you got a hold of at an early age. As I was reading TGND, I was wondering if that might have been part of what attracted you to that story in the first place. I also wondered if you might have drawn on your impression of JUSTINE as a young boy when writing the narrator's reaction to seeing this poor girl stripped and humiliated.

JK: As a kid I was a mess. I had body-issues--I was a major fat-kid when Hollywood was everything gorgeous. I wanted to be Elvis and I was five feet tall and 140 pounds. I turned against myself early on. I had security-issues, parent-issues, the whole nasty '50s bit. My dad had a store where I could pick up state-of-the-art books. I don't think he even knew what he had. But I read Freud, Jung, Stekel (Sadism and Masochism) precociously. Also read de Sade. And yeah, his glee and his brains turned me on. I know I didn't think about JUSTINE or any of his work when I was writing RIGHT TO LIFE but it probably informed it. Because later on I learned the difference between consensual sex and the nasty stuff. I don't like the nasty stuff one bit. But de Sade's legacy's entered into a new age, more responsible. And there's something there. I like to write about the edge of that. What's okay and what's not. There's plenty that's not.

DP: Have you gotten any flack from the SM community about the nonconsensual elements of RIGHT TO LIFE?

JK: Not yet, thank god. I hope that's because I'm handling it responsibly. The first thing I ever did about the subject was back in the seventies, when I did an article for GENESIS on this new club, Chateau something. I forget which now. But their major bouncer/master/whatever, Sir George, called me and said, you got it. You didn't cheapen us, you didn't exploit us. And I was very proud of that.

DP: Your description of the head box was quite vivid--great imagination or personal experience?

JK: Neither. Look for a book called PERFECT VICTIM. It's true-crime. I don't remember the writer. RTL was loosely based on that true story. The headbox is in there. Scared the fuck out of me.

DP: Your description did the same for me. I'm claustrophobic as hell.

JK: Yeah, then think about living in a coffin/box under somebody's bed.

DP: I'd rather not. For some reason the head box freaked me out more.

JK: Sensory deprivation will do that every time. And if I got it right, the smell of your own stale breath, your own sweat.

DP: Oh, you got it right, alright. MASKS (with Edward Lee) had a hint of SM in it also, but was more erotic. Elegant even. How did you and Lee collaborate on that one?

JK: I did about two-thirds of a story, then I couldn't figure out what the final mask w