Interview with Todd Keisling
What made you start writing?
I’m not sure. Some of my earliest memories entail drawing pictures and creating stories to go along with them. The story side of things always seemed like a natural extension of my creativity, but I didn’t start taking the writing seriously until high school when I discovered I could do and say a lot more with words than I ever could with a sketch. The written version of a drawing captured more of what I saw in my head versus what I could capture with a few pencil strokes. All that said, I really didn’t start writing for fun until my senior year of high school, when I wrote my first novel. That novel placed in my university’s writing contest the following year, netting me my first official payment as a writer, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Why horror and suspense versus the other genres?
I was raised on a steady diet of Stephen King and Dean Koontz. My mom was always reading one of their novels when I was a kid, so I had an extensive library of their work at my disposal by the time I got curious about them. I think it’s the speculative nature of both genres that pique my interest as a writer and a reader. There’s nothing like a well-written horror novel that can connect with your most basic fears by presenting something so familiar and then turning it on its head, even just a few degrees sideways. That presentation of familiar things in a different light can really unsettle you, keep you rooted to your seat, make your heart race, make your stomach churn, and make you hold your breath. Authors who can do that are like dark magicians, and I aspire to achieve the same effect with my work.
Who is your favorite character in Ugly Little Things and why?
That’s a tough one. I’m fond of all of them, but if I had to narrow it down, I’d have to say it’s a tie between Harvey J. Winterbell from “Saving Granny from the Devil,” Karen Singleton from “When Karen Met Her Mountain,” and Aidan Cross from “The Final Reconciliation.”
Harvey gets a vote because he’s the Devil, and because he’s morally ambiguous. I went into that story expecting him to be an evil depiction of Lucifer and finished with a character who left me questioning if he was truly the antagonist at all.
Karen gets a vote because she surprised the hell out of me. She’s an utterly damaged character, psychologically and emotionally, but her heart keeps her going. As a writer and storyteller, I long for characters who defy my expectations and come to life on the page, and Karen was one such person, going farther than I ever intended to push her, and coming out beautifully scarred on the other side.
Finally, Aidan gets a vote because he’s the best lead guitarist I’ve ever heard. Unfortunately, his band The Yellow Kings only exist in my head and on paper, but once he started telling his story and recounting the recording of his band’s only album, I started to hear his music. It’s visceral and raw and agonizing—just like him.
What are your plans for the next writing project?
I’m currently about a third of the way into a novel I’m calling Devil’s Creek. It’s about an old urban legend from my hometown in Kentucky. The story’s full of dark rituals, curses, buried gods, and plenty of other blasphemies that are sure to get me excommunicated everywhere. If I had to compare it to anything, I’d say it takes the cosmic horror of Lovecraft, combines it with the small-town horror of King’s ‘Salem’s Lot, and plants it squarely in the southeastern region of Kentucky.
What question do you wish I had asked you and what is the answer to that question?
You didn’t ask about my writing process! I listen to music. A lot of music. I can’t write without music, and I usually try to find something that fits the tone of what I’m working on. Lately, I’ve created Spotify playlists for each project. Here’s the one I made for UGLY LITTLE THINGS: https://open.spotify.com/user/wordmachine/playlist/0CpM5TqsjBKlrB3XnPKz0y
Dogs or Cats?
Definitely cats. I have three of them: a tuxedo named Tsar (short for Balthazar), a ginger named Obie (short for Oberon), and a Turkish Angora named Ophelia (short for White Demon from Hell).
Thank you Todd for taking the time to do this interview. It was great getting to know you and I can't wait for the book release.
TODD KEISLING is the author of A Life Transparent, The Liminal Man (a 2013 Indie Book Award Finalist), and the critically-acclaimed novella, The Final Reconciliation. He lives somewhere in the wilds of Pennsylvania with his wife, son, and trio of unruly cats.
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THIS IS GOING TO HURT.
The eleven stories in Ugly Little Things explore the depths of human suffering and ugliness, charting a course to the dark, horrific heart of the human condition. The terrors of everyday existence are laid bare in this eerie collection of short fiction from the twisted mind of Todd Keisling, author of the critically-acclaimed novels A Life Transparent and The Liminal Man.
Travel between the highways of America in “The Otherland Express,” where a tribe of the forsaken and forlorn meet to exchange identities. Witness the cold vacuum of space manifest in the flesh in “The Darkness Between Dead Stars.” Step into the scrub of rural Arizona and join Karen Singleton’s struggle to save her husband from a cult of religious fanatics in “When Karen Met Her Mountain.” Visit the small town of Dalton in “The Harbinger” and join Felix Proust as he uncovers the vile secrets rooted at the heart of Dalton Dollworks. And in the critically-acclaimed novella “The Final Reconciliation,” learn the horrifying truth behind the demise of the rock band The Yellow Kings.
With an introduction by Bram Stoker Award-winner Mercedes M. Yardley and illustrations by Luke Spooner, Ugly Little Things will be your atlas, guiding you along a lonely road of sorrow, loss, and regret. This is going to hurt—and you’re going to like it.
- “Keisling writes in the shadows, his words like that first long drag on a cigarette after work. I couldn't help coming back for more, and before I knew it, that one story, that one cigarette, turned into the whole pack.”—Stephanie M. Wytovich, Bram Stoker award-nominated author of The Eighth.
- “In Ugly Little Things, Todd Keisling ventures deep into the dark abyss of cosmic horror. What he finds there—or what’s found him—will terrify you. This varied collection is tailor-made for fans of existential dread. Prepare to face the void. Try not to scream.” —Brian Kirk, Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of We Are Monsters.
- “Todd Keisling's promise delivers with Ugly Little Things. The only time you will dare to look away from the page is when you stop to look over your shoulder. He's earned his right to sit on the shelf alongside King, Koontz, and Ketchum.” –Eryk Pruitt, author of Dirtbags and What We Reckon.
- “Keisling always gets down to the essence of good storytelling. His no-nonsense approach arrests us, showing us worlds and characters that expand our imagination, leaving it tainted with horrors only the author can deliver. These stories are a testament to one of the bravest and scariest new voices in horror fiction.” —Ben Eads, author of Cracked Sky.
- "Herein lie stories told in the traditional manner of spooky tales told round the campfire. Read this collection on a dark and stormy night and don't answer the door if someone knocks." —Kristi DeMeester, author of Beneath.
UGLY LITTLE THINGS: COLLECTED HORRORS
On Sale Date: 9/15/17
The Daily Ten-Minute Writing Prompt ChallengeWrite every day, even if it's just a little bit. Keep the creative momentum moving. The rules are simple. Set your timer ten minutes. Begin to write and include the prompt somewhere in your mini-story. The noun or pronoun can be changed to your requirement. The tense can also be changed. Feel free to share the results of your writing prompt in the comments below.
Today's writing prompt is:
A light flickered from the basement window.
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