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UDH Presents Icons & Legends 
2022 Summer Series

Join us as we meet some incredible authors that have become icons & legends in their field.

By definition, a legend is an “extremely famous or notorious person, especially in a particular field”. An icon is defined as “a person worthy of veneration, reverence or great respect”. For this series of interviews, I am deeply honored to present more than a dozen incredible authors who fit one or both terms, for myself and for many others, in the world of horror and dark fiction.


Many of these authors have been around the industry for a few years, some have decades of experience, all are widely known, have multiples books published, and have or have had their hands in multiple aspects of the industry. Whether they branched out into different genres, got into editing, publishing, film or television, they all have stories to tell and wisdom to share. Join us as these worthy individuals share their interviews, their stories, and their experiences.

 
Crumpled Fabric

05/21/2022

Hailey Piper

Bram Stoker Award Winning Author

Hailey Piper is a new Bram Stoker Award Winner, having been nominated twice before. She is a prolific author of short stories and novels, and currently resides in Maryland. I had the extreme honor of meeting Hailey in person at AuthorCon in March and she is just delightful to speak with, with a brilliant smile and welcoming attitude.  When I decided to run this series, I knew I wanted Hailey to be a part of this as she is the epitome of a modern Icon in this industry. Her career is exploding by the minute, her fan base adores her, and she loves this community.


I am thrilled to present her full interview below.

Did you always want to be an author? 

I always wanted to tell stories for sure. There was a time when I wanted to be a movie director, but I was very little and had no idea exactly what went into it. After I read Stephen King’s IT as an adolescent though, I knew I wanted to write.

Have you always been a horror fan?

Absolutely! I’ve loved monsters since at least when I was 3, and I slowly grew into horrors of all kinds the older I got. Horror is a broad genre with a little something for everyone, and a lot of it is just right for me.

What defines “horror” for you?  As compared to suspense, thriller, or action?

I’d say atmosphere is one of the horror’s defining aspects, but really the answer is complicated beyond category, because horror can absorb or invade any other genre. Take a movie like Star Wars that’s generally considered either sci-fi or space opera, and yet the trash compactor scene is undoubtedly horror. Likewise horror can absorb a genre like comedy or romance. Maybe it’s the emotion of fear mixed with atmosphere mixed with something visceral mixed with the mysterious. Maybe it eludes easy categorization because its borders are fuzzy and defy definition. Horror can always find you; you’re never safe from it. For me personally though, horror is the genre of honesty.

From the early 90’s publishing submissions via snail mail to the current trends of self-publishing, digital, ebooks, audible, Vella, and godless, how have you had to adjust your writing style and/or knowledge to keep up with trends in the publishing & social media crazy world?

I was a little kid back in the 90s, so I don’t really have a good comparison. When I wrote over the past many years, I focused on the writing itself and didn’t really try to understand much of the publishing side like I should have. Coming into things in 2018, it’s a much more involved world than the media presentation of some writer sitting in a cabin pecking at a typewriter. There’s a community, and it matters. I think that’s beautiful.

You have had an extensive writing career, including short stories, novels, novellas, and collections, all with various publications and publishers. Of all of those, can you pick one that was the most impactful for your career and what was the impact?

With the Stoker awards looming at the time of this interview, this answer could end up being wrong in the long run? But right now I would say The Worm and His Kings from Off Limits Press had the biggest impact. The book spread like sunshine; there was a huge clamor, and I still get asked questions about it today. It continues to draw in new readers who then find my other books. There was magic to that book, and I’m so fortunate for all the work Samantha Kolesnik and the whole horror community put into helping it reach readers’ eyes.

Tell us a bit about your new latest book or WIP.  Where did the idea come from and did your process for this story differ from any other?

My last book, also out from Off Limits Press, is Your Mind Is a Terrible Thing. It had a totally bizarre genesis, in that I was working on something else when Samantha Kolesnik messaged me saying “You should write a space horror novella.” At first, I was not onboard. When would I have the time? But then I thought, “If I were to write that, it would have X element, and Y element” and so on, and within an hour I had a rough outline. That outline completely changed soon enough, but the book poured out of me from then.


What has been your favorite character or favorite novel to write and why?

It’s hard to say, I really love all my characters. Desiree from Benny Rose the Cannibal King is my hero, Monique from The Worm and His Kings is my heart, but Yaya from Queen of Teeth has probably been the most fun to write. She’s a gay disaster, sarcastic in a way to hide her vulnerability, honestly not too bright yet endearing, and her journey of romance, transformation, and coming into her power let me drop my feelings all over the book.


What has been your proudest moment thus far in your career and why?   

I can’t pinpoint a moment exactly, but when other queer folk have reached out and told me how much The Worm and His Kings meant to them, each time that fills up my heart.

What is your favorite thing about being in the Horror industry?

I think the community. Horror touches a lot of souls, and we’ve all found a place within the genre where those of us who love monsters can enjoy each other and our stories.

What legacy would you like to leave behind, or rather, what is it that you want to be known for? Simply as a great author, a leader in the field or something more defined?

I’d like to leave a legacy that made people feel unexpectedly, or for unexpected things, and for being unapologetically queer and imaginative through it all. If I’ve touched readers’ hearts, that’s what matters.

Which authors or horror creatives (male or female) have most inspired you, living or dead, and what was it that inspired you?

I’ll throw in non-binary too with Caitlin Kiernan! But Stephen King and Neil Gaiman when I was younger in showing me the breadth of emotion and imagination, later with Ramsey Campbell’s sense of unreliable reality, Sara Tantlinger’s beautiful prose, Stephen Graham Jones’s unflinching dedication to the story, and Christa Carmen’s openness with experience.

What one piece of advice would you give to new and emerging authors in the industry?

Don’t turn down ideas you get. Jot them down like you have all the intent in the world to use them, because if you reject them yourself, you’re only teaching your brain that you don’t want them.


Hailey Piper Bio's:

Hailey Piper is the 2x Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of The Worm and His Kings, Queen of Teeth, Your Mind Is a Terrible Thing, Unfortunate Elements of My Anatomy, and Benny Rose the Cannibal King. She is an active member of the Horror Writers Association, with over eighty short stories appearing in Vastarien, Pseudopod, Dark Matter Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, and other publications. She lives with her wife in Maryland, where their paranormal research is classified. Find Hailey at www.haileypiper.com or on Twitter via @HaileyPiperSays.

 
 
Flaming Sword

May 14, 2022

Ronald Kelly

Southern-Fried Horror! 

Ronald Kelly has been writing horror fiction since the 80's, and has published 15 novels, 12 short story collections, and has a Grammy-nominated audio collection.  His stories take place in the American South, amid the hills, hollows, and rural darkness of the small towns that thrive there.  When approached for this interview, Ronald was delighted and graciously agreed.  Continue reading below to learn about our first incredible author in this series! 

Did you always want to be an author?  Was this your dream growing up?

RK: No, actually I wanted to be an artist. I loved to draw and paint from the time I was three years old and throughout school I was always known as “the little boy who could draw”. During my junior year in high-school I had very strong aspirations of being a comic book artist. I even collaborated with a fellow classmate named Lowell Cunningham, who went on to create Men in Black, and corresponded with EC Horror artist Jack Davis for several months. Then, in my senior year, I began to read a lot of horror and science fiction, and my interest shifted to writing fiction. After I read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, I knew, without a doubt, that I wanted to be a published author.


Have you always been a horror fan?

RK: Yes, from a young age I’ve pretty much always had an intense interest in horror and the macabre. You could say I’m just hardwired that way. I always like to tell folks that it began before I was even born. When my mother was pregnant with me in 1959, she explored an attic in the rental house she was living in while my father was away in the Army and discovered a huge stack of EC Horror comics. The entire time during her pregnancy, she read issues of Tales From the Crypt, Vault of Horror, and Haunt of Fear. So, while other unborn babies were being read Dr. Suess or Curious George, I was being fed a subconscious diet of decaying corpses and flesh-eating monsters.  


What was your earliest experience with horror? Movies, books, or a real-life moment or nightmare?

RK: The first horror movie I ever saw was Creature from the Black Lagoon at the age of six. It both horrified and captivated me. The opening scene where the Creature attacks the men in the tent alone was enough to hook me. After that, I watched every scary flick I could on the local creature feature, from the Universal Monster movies to Godzilla. When I was eleven or twelve, my mother would take me to the theater to see movies like Willard, Frogs, House of Dark Shadows, The Legend of Boggy Creek, and Let’s Scare Jessica to Death… mostly because my dad didn’t like horror and wouldn’t go with her. I attribute much of my love for horror cinema and fiction to my mom. I think the last movie we saw together before her passing was John Carpenter’s The Thing.


What defines “horror” for you?  As compared to suspense, thriller, or action?

RK: I reckon the difference, in my opinion, would be the genuine sensation of uneasiness and dread a good horror story or movie conveys. It doesn’t have to be blood and guts gore or even a monster with fangs and claws. A lonesome country road in the dead of night or a potentially haunted house can generate those feeling just as easily. Sure, thriller and suspense possess many of those elements, but horror goes a little deeper, striking a nerve that triggers the jump scare or conjures goose bumps. A skillfully executed novel or movie can completely accomplish the suspension of disbelief in the reader or viewer, making the implausible and fantastic a palatable reality in the individual’s mind… and, in turn, their emotions react accordingly.


From the early 90’s paperbacks to the current trends of eBooks, audible, Vella, and Godless, how have you had to adjust your writing style and/or knowledge to keep up with trends in the publishing world?

RK: Actually, the changes I’ve seen since I first wrote in the 80s and 90s have all been for the good, both genre-wise, as well the actual process of writing and creating. When I started out, and even well into my career, when you had a story or book published, that particular publication was it. That was how it was presented and how it remained, be it in book form, or a contribution to a magazine or anthology. Now, your work has so many more opportunities to reach the reading public. E-books, paperbacks, hardcovers, audiobooks… your fiction can be distributed in so many more ways than it was possible back then, even if you’re not a Big-5 author. The potential for a larger audience is available, as well as increased royalties from various digital, print, and audio formats. Plus, the mere mechanics of writing and preparing manuscripts has advanced so much further. When I began writing, you wrote the first draft by longhand, then typed up several copies using carbon sheets, and submitted it by snail mail. A response could take months or even a year. Now, you can write and edit as you go, do research from countless sources on line, and submit your story or novel via email and, in some cases, receive an acceptance or rejection within hours or even minutes.


You have had an extensive writing career, including short stories, novels, novellas, and collections, all with various publications and publishers. Of all of those, can you pick one that was the most impactful for your career?

RK: I have two, actually. My first novel, Hindsight, and my short story collection, The Essential Sick Stuff.


What was that impact and tell us about your reaction to it?

RK: Well, each had an important impact during different times in my career. The publication of  Hindsight in 1990 transitioned me from small press short story writer to mass market author and made a hobby into a full-time job for six years, until the horror industry imploded in 1996. After returning to writing  in 2006 after a long hiatus of ten years, I struggled to reestablish myself in the genre. Silver Shamrock’s acceptance and publication of The Essential Sick Stuff in 2020 opened the door for me again and even won me a Splatterpunk Award for Best Collection. In turn, it’s publication renewed my career and creativity and it really hasn’t slowed down since. So, I’m thankful for both those books and what they did for me at crucial times in my career.


Tell us a bit about your new latest book, Haunt of Southern-Fried Fear.  Where did the idea come from and did your process for this story differ from any other?

RK: Growing up, I always had a great love for horror comics like House of Mystery, Swamp Thing, Man Thing, Tomb of Dracula, and Werewolf by Night. But my favorites have always been the old E.C. Horror comics of the 1950s: Tales from the Crypt, Haunt of Fear, and Vault of Horror. There’s no denying that my style of storytelling was definitely influenced by those old horror comics. So, I thought I would combine my tales of Southern-Fried horror with some of my own art throughout the pages; you know, present it as a respectful homage to the old EC comics. Artist Alex McVey did the incredible comic book-style cover and I did comic book-like illustrations throughout and created a host, the Old Storyteller, to introduce the book. I even put a couple of pages of comic book advertisements in the back of the book. I decided to pick a ghost story theme for Haunt. The Southern-Fried series will continue with Tales from the Southern-Fried Crypt in October, which will be all swamp, bayou, and voodoo stories. I’m planning a third volume for 2023, which will be gruesome tales about murderers and serial killers.


What has been your favorite character or favorite novel to write and why?

RK: I would have to say my favorite character would be Jeb Sweeny from my novel Fear. I drew heavily on myself as child when I created Jeb. I would say my favorite novel to write was also Fear. It was one of those rare writing experiences when the story practically writes itself. The plot and characters seemed to evolve on their own and the writing process was effortless. Creating the evil territory of Fear County, with all its monsters and villains,  was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had as author. I’m hoping to feel the same way when I begin work on the sequel, Fear Eternal, later this year.


What has been your proudest moment thus far in your career and why?  

RK: I guess it was winning the Splatterpunk Award for The Essential Sick Stuff in 2021. I’d never won a single award in the 36 years I’d been in the horror business. So, it was nice to be recognized and honored in that way.


What is your favorite thing about being in the Horror industry?

RK: I guess that would be having the freedom to be myself and write the type of dark fiction that I was meant to write. Just to tell a good story and have folks enjoy it. It’s also very gratifying to see the genre grow and evolve the way it has over the years. It’s exciting and encouraging watching a genre I love progress in the positive way it has in the past few years.  

Can you tell us one of your favorite experiences from your career and why did that experience stand out so much for you?

RK: I haven’t attended many conventions over the years, but the last few I’ve appeared at have really been a blast. Last year, it was Scares That Care in Williamsburg. I hadn’t attended a convention in thirteen years, but everyone made he feel at home and the fans seemed genuinely happy to see me.


With such a long career behind you, can you tell us a bit about what being an icon in this industry means to you?

RK: Well, really it’s kind of hard for me to wrap my head around the idea of being an icon or legend in this business. I’d rather see myself as an elder statesman of sorts. If I can give advice or encouragement to today’s authors, I’ll go out of my way to do so. Most know they can contact me anytime, just to talk or simply to listen if they have a problem.  It’s always puzzling to me to see some of the great writers of past generations just sit idly by and neglect to interact with today’s readers and writers.


What legacy would you like to leave behind, or rather, what is it that you want to be known for? Simply as a great author, a leader in the field or something more defined?

RK: When the name Ronald Kelly is mentioned years from now, I’d like folks to smile and say, “He could tell a damn good story.” That’s the reason I’ve been plugging away at the keyboard for so long… the storytelling and that alone. Making a few bucks to pay the water and electric bills is always nice, but my reward has always been entertaining folks… making them feel and laugh, and maybe shudder and shiver every now and then.


Which authors or horror creatives (male or female) have most inspired you, living or dead, and what was it that inspired you?

RK: I have several that are no longer around who inspired me to give writing a shot and make it my life’s work. Ray Bradbury, Harper Lee, Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson, and Manly Wade Wellman are a few. Of course, Stephen King… he’s the one who provided us with the motivation to shoot for the brass ring and try to make a name for ourselves and add our individual voices to the bookshelf. These days, my literary heroes are Joe Lansdale, Robert McCammon, Brian Keene, and Jonathan Janz.


 What one piece of advice would you give to new and emerging authors in the industry?

RK: If you want to make it in the writing business, prepare for the long haul. Success may come swift and easily, but it rarely happens that way. It took me twelve years of trial and error, honing my craft and finding my individual voice, before my work saw publication. It may not take you that long, but then it again it might take longer. Also, don’t let rejection get you down. I know it’s a bummer, but unfortunately, it’s an essential part of the process. Develop a thick skin and focus on the end result. And reach out to the horror community and fellow writers for support and encouragement. We’re all in this together, even us older-than-dirt horror hacks that have seen tropes and trends come and go several times over.

Ronald's Bio:

Born and bred in Tennessee, Ronald Kelly has been an author of Southern-fried horror fiction for 35 years, with fifteen novels, twelve short story collections, and a Grammy-nominated audio collection to his credit. Influenced by such writers as Stephen King, Robert McCammon, Joe R. Lansdale, and Manly Wade Wellman, Kelly sets his tales of rural darkness in the hills and hollows of his native state and other locales of the American South. His published works include Fear, Undertaker’s Moon, Blood Kin, Hell Hollow, Hindsight, The Buzzard Zone, Midnight Grinding & Other Twilight Terrors, Mister Glow-Bones & Other Halloween Tales, Season’s Creepings: Tales of Holiday Horror, The Halloween Store & Other Tales of All Hallows’ Eve, Irish Gothic, and The Web of La Sanguinaire & Other Arachnid Horrors. His collection of extreme horror tales, The Essential Sick Stuff, won the 2021 Splatterpunk Award for Best Collection.  He lives in a backwoods hollow in Brush Creek, Tennessee with his wife and young’uns.

 
 

2022 Icons & Legends Series