Jack Ketchum needs little introduction, he is an author who has arguably redefined horror. Jack has a new novel out, ‘The Woman’ which he co-wrote with Lucky McKee. It is a primal novel that explores the line between law and the forces it tries to contain. Jack met me at The Slaughterhouse where we talked about his new release and the role of the primitive within horror fiction.
Tell us about The Woman.
I wrote THE WOMAN with filmmaker Lucky McKee. We’d seen Pollyanna McIntosh’s ferocious performance in OFFSPRING and decided she needed a film all to herself, so we decided to do both screenplay and book at the same time, with Lucky doing the heavy lifting on the script and me doing it on the novel, going back and forth with pages on both. I’d killed her character off in my screenplay for OFFSPRING but Polly was so good that the director, Andrew Van den Houten, wouldn’t let her die, and I’m glad of his decision. She’s the last of a tribe of cannibals along the coast of Maine and she’s wounded. One day a shady country lawyer’s out hunting. He sees her, comes back and captures her and introduces her to his family by chaining her up in the root cellar. He figures it will be very interesting to tame her. The question then becomes who’s worse? This feral woman or this “civilized” gentleman? And how does his family take it? His wife, teenage son and daughter and his little girl?
To what extent do you think fear of the primal or the primitive evokes that thing called horror and why?
The primal’s very horrific. For two reasons. First, there’s the “otherness” of someone or something that appears utterly untamed and is thus wholly unpredictable. Ever see a wolf up close and personal? Those beautiful, scary eyes? But maybe more importantly, there’s the deep down recognition that without scruples, ethics, the “laws” of civilization, we might just go the same way ourselves — and like it. We’re horrified at what men and women are capable of doing when let off the leash. And rightly so.
You have said that your love for Elvis helped you through your formative years, have you ever thought of incorporating him into one of your fictions?
He already got a mention in my novel THE GIRL NEXT DOOR. But I think BUBBA HO-TEP pretty much said it all.
What else is on the cards for you this year?
A collection of essays on other people’s writing and a book of poetry. I’m working my way down the ladder of financial success, see? That’s the plan. But I’m having fun. After that I’ll try to pull myself up by my own bootstraps again with a new book of stories and maybe next year, a novel.
Thanks Jack for a great interview.
Find everything Jack Ketchum at his website: all his novels, novels adapted to film, awards, social media links, the whole nine.
All editions and covers for The Woman are here.