Shells Chats with author Ken Goldman

What's your background with writing?

I was a high school English teacher, so teaching creative writing was my “thing.” But if you want to get technical, I was writing BEFORE I even learned to write. Before entering school I was drawing pictures and later telling stories at camp that I made up on the spot, and through grades K-12 I wrote a cartoon strip that I used to sell to gullible classmates. I edited my high school newspaper and won a writing contest, yada yada yada. Eventually I realized my artwork sucked so I deep sixed the cartooning. I majored in English in college and took a load of literature courses. But the Horror genre would have to wait another 30 years before I got to it. When I came in second in The Rod Serling Memorial Foundation’s 2nd Writing Contest in 1992 I thought ‘Hey, I can do this.’ Turned out, I could.

Who are your inspirations/influences?

It’s required by law for a horror writer to mention Stephen King, right? Okay, him. I pretty much devour everything the man writes. But I have to mention my obsession with Hitchcock, especially after seeing “Psycho.” And I loved the original Twilight Zone with Rod Serling’s “Submitted for your approval . . .” introductions. I read books based on his screenplays and admired the way he managed to sneak in contemporary messages wrapped inside surreal plots. As a teacher I discovered Ray Bradbury, another writer whose deceptively simple plots revealed layers of meaning. I hooked countless students on his books, so he owes me big time.

What is it about writing you feel is the most challenging?

I only have a paragraph for this? I think getting the idea for a new story is more difficult than writing the story itself. A teacher once told me that all the ideas for stories have already been taken, that a writer has to find a new slant on an old idea. So Melville’s “Moby Dick” becomes “Jaws”; the boy-and-his dog story becomes “E.T.”; the old haunted house tale becomes “The Shining” . . . and on and on. So I get my ideas from just about everywhere : the news, classic literary tales, the writing on bathroom walls -- ANYTHING that gets the muse off her butt.

You have written several short stories, where can they be found and how does it compare to writing longer works?

Several? Okay, horn tooting time. I’ve written over 160 short stories since 1992, and (loud toot here) almost all of them have seen publication somewhere, most of them more than once. If you go online to your trusty search engine and tap “Ken Goldman, Horror” you’ll find a few stories either online or available in print. My book of short stories, “You Had Me At ARRGH!!” is available at The Genre Mall online in the All-Time Best Sellers section. (Okay, end of toot.)

I find writing short stories much easier than the longer works. I like the instant gratification of being published shortly after I’ve written a story. It feeds the ego much faster, and I must have a very hungry ego because I keep churning the suckers out.

When it comes to the Horror genre, how do you feel about gore/slasher stories compared to the more psychological Horror out there?

I’m not a big fan of gore, either on the screen or on the printed page. Disgust does not equal horror. Not that I haven’t occasionally gone that route to make my point, but it’s not as easy to ‘scare’ a reader with blood and guts as it is to have that effect on a viewer. Blood-and-guts horror is obviously visual and may work to some extent on film. No writer can make his reader jump out of his seat. But psychological horror can take a reader out of his comfort zone and that can be very effective.

How important do you feel it is to be an affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association and what do you suggest for new writers about this organization?

I’ve been an affiliate member for about ten years and I’m just about ready for active membership if I can get my butt in gear to send the organization the paperwork. I like reading the HWA bulletin boards and recently found someone there who recommended my novella “Desiree” for a 2010 Stoker. It’s not quite a final nomintion, but it’s a step in the right direction. New writers can find sections of the HWA bulletin board that will answer important questions about the craft and the markets, so I think anyone serious about horror writing should ante up the $65 for dues.

Can you tell us a bit about your book "Desiree?"

Sure thing. We’re talking about a femme fatale who gives her lovers a literal kiss of death. Here’s the back cover blurb :


Yes, Desirée is beyond beautiful. Seductive even as a child, she seems every man’s erotic dream, a fantasy woman possessing charms that no man can resist. And therein lies the problem.

Because if you are a young man with bubbling testosterone you had better resist her. In fact, you should run like hell.

Whether it’s an innocent kids’ game of Spin The Bottle or a grope fest in the back of an old van, you would be wise to keep repeating... DON’T KISS DESIREE CHAPPELLE!

But someone is wise to Desirée. Someone who knows her secrets and who has a very personal reason to uncover the truth no matter what it will take, no matter what it will cost.

Someone who knows she has to destroy her...

Where did the idea for "Desiree" come from and why did you pick that title for the book?

In my other life as an English teacher I used to assign Nathanial Hawthorne’s short story “Rappacini’s Daughter.” The idea of a girl whose very nearness can kill fascinated me, so I built my story around a young woman’s killer kiss. The title plays on the word “Desire” which every male in the story has for the main character. And it’s that desire that does them in.

How was it to work with Damnation Books?

Editor Heather Williams has been easy to work with and I was very pleased with the finished product. The book is professionally done and well edited, but also impressive is the promotion of the book. It’s advertised on a load of sites. If you search online for “Ken Goldman, Desiree” you can see for yourself.

Who did the cover art for "Desiree?"

Julie D’Arcy did the cover. I was blown away when I saw it! Here’s what she says about her work on her Facebook page :

I am an artist, wife, step-Mom, dog-Mom, proofreader/editor-for-hire and housewife with a Ph.D. in biochemistry. My artwork is a bit of science, a bit surreal, a bit of humor, and a skosh of actual talent. I rarely create two pieces that look as if they were created by the same person.

Where can I find "Desiree?"

Print and Kindle copies can be found at (“Ken Goldman, Desiree” will get you there); .pdf download copies can be found at Damnation Books’ web site at : Go to the Horror section and bring money.

What are you doing in terms of marketing/publicity?

I’m doing everything but stopping traffic. I’ve written some active HWA members for reviews and/or recommendations, and I’ve tried to get some mention of the book in my biographies included with my stories in whatever publcations have come out this year.

Do you have any stories from book signings/radio interviews/etc.?

I haven’t done any book signings, but that’s not out of the question. Can’t say there has been anything out of the ordinary with interviews I’ve given. Maybe I’ll show up for the next one in my underwear.

What projects do you have planned for the future?

One project has been on the fire for over two years, so I don’t know if it’s happening any time soon. Australia’s Precision Pictures has contracted the film rights to one of my short stories, “The Keeper.” Simon Smithers, who runs the production there, tells me the project is a ‘go’ so I’m hopeful that maybe I’ll see some movement on the film during 2011. Meanwhile, I currently have over 20 short stories awaiting publication in 2011 including the anthologies Fearology : Terrifying Tales of Phobias (Library of The Living Dead Press), Seahorse Review (UK/Black Seahorse Press), Strange Tales of Horror (NorGus Press), The Psyche Corrupted (Shade City Press), and eight stories due in Static Movement Imprint publications.

What is one thing you would tell new writers about getting into the publishing world?

Don’t expect to get rich. But it’s great seeing your first byline.

Where can people find out more about you?

I have a Facebook page, and I’m a member of Masters of Horror which you can find online at : Of course you can also ask any woman I’m dating to tell you something about me . . . but that’s a whole other story.

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