Weird West Author Spotlight: Ronald Kelly

Welcome, Ronald!

Born and bred in Tennessee, Ronald Kelly has been an author of Southern-fried horror and western fiction for 36 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, After the Burn, Midnight Grinding, Mister Glow-Bones, The Halloween Store, Season’s Creepings, 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 is currently writing a horror western series, The Saga of Dead-Eye.  Kelly lives in a backwoods hollow in Brush Creek, Tennessee with his wife and young’uns. 

Learn more about Ronald at his website: https://ronaldkelly.com.

About The Saga of Dead-Eye (Five book series)

This series follows the adventures of zombie gunfighter, Dead-Eye, and Louisiana mojo man, Job, as they journey across the post-Civil War South and the Western territories beyond the Mississippi River to pursue the vampire Jules Holland and his band of demonic outlaws, who have abducted Dead-Eye’s only son, Daniel. Accompanying Holland is the dark enchantress, Evangeline, who possesses the hellish book, Necronomicon, and has control of a cosmic portal known as the Hole Out of Nowhere, with which she recruits evil entities and creatures from other worlds and dimensions to thwart Dead-Eye and Job during their quest. 

Interview with Ronald Kelly

Ronald Kelly
Tell us about yourself – what is something readers would be surprised to find out? 

I’m a native Tennessean and have done blue-collar work most of my life. Happily, I’m only a few months from retirement and looking forward to finally writing full-time. I’m a Civil War and Old West aficionado, and wrote and ghost-wrote a few traditional western novels back in the early 1990s. One, called Timber Gray, was a novel about a wilderness hunter on the trail of fifty timber wolves. I was also an amateur gunsmith and knife-maker in my younger days. I like to take long road trips out West and hike the deserts of New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. A couple of years ago, before the pandemic hit, my family and I drove clear to California and back. As for a surprising fact, I collect Pez dispensers. I have 478 of them.

What is it about the Weird West genre that draws you to it? What are your favorite aspects or examples of this Under-appreciated genre? 

The biggest appeal of writing and reading Weird Western fiction for me is the way it can totally twist and alter the boundaries of traditional western tropes and allow the bland and expectable known become the intriguing and entertaining unknown. Currently, Weird West fiction is also more gender inclusive than the traditional, male-anchored western fiction of the past. I personally know several women writers who write in this genre and write very effectively and powerfully. 

What inspired you to write this story?

The Saga of Dead-Eye has a long history. I came up with the idea way back in 1976, when I was a junior in high school. Several times during my journey toward publication, I resurrected him; first as a gunfighter seeking revenge when I attempted break into the traditional Western genre without success. Then, when I wrote for Zebra Books in the early 1990s, I pitched Dead-Eye as a weird western series to Berkley Books. It would be about a zombie gunfighter wandering through the West, battling supernatural creatures. It was almost accepted, but they had reservations about whether or not I could sustain a “monster-a-book” for a long-running series. Finally, a year ago, I pitched the idea of a five-book series to Thunderstorm Books as a limited edition hardcover. The first book was released late last year and Book Two should be out sometime in the fall of this year. The ebook, paperback, and affordable hardcover was released by Silver Shamrock Publishing, then moved on to Crossroad Press when Silver Shamrock shut their doors.

If you were living in the Weird West, what kind of character would you be?

If I were a younger man, I’d probably say a saddle tramp gunfighter forged from tragic circumstances, hungry for vengeance. Either that, or a riverboat gambler. Now that I’m in my sixties, I’d more than likely be a seasoned sheriff with a passel of younger deputies to help me keep order, or the town mayor. Some folks say I resemble a frontier banker, but I don’t hold to that since I’ve always had trust issues with most in that profession. 

Are there any other writing projects you’re working on?

I’m about to begin work on the sequel to my coming-of-age novel, Fear, which was published in 1994. It will be called Fear Eternal. After that, I’ll continue with Dead-Eye, as well as several short story collections. 

What are you reading right now? 

I’m currently reading Kristopher Triana’s Ballad of the Werevixens, the sequel to his splatterwestern, The Thirteenth Koyote. Triana is a wonderful writer and has made quite a name for himself as a Weird Western and extreme horror author over the past few years.  

Favorite weird west movie/book/comic/etc. and why?

I would say my favorite weird western movie is Bone Tomahawk. A very terrifying and visceral film, and Kurt Russell was great in it. My favorite weird western book will always be Joe R. Lansdale’s The Magic Wagon, which pretty much started my interest in this genre nearly 36 years ago. In my teenage years, I was always a big fan of the Jonah Hex comics, which always had a bizarre and horrific feel to them. 

Anything else you’d like to add about writing or the Weird West?

To writers who’d like to try their hand at the Weird West genre I would probably say “make it as authentic as possible.” Do your research and, even though there might be supernatural or cosmic horror elements, convey a definite feeling of the Old West and its people. Write it where your readers can smell the bitter stench of burnt gunpowder, the odor of aged leather and tired horses who have ridden the trail near exhaustion. Conjure the taste of desert dust, cheap rotgut from a dirty saloon glass, and the tepid warmth of a canteen’s last drop of water. Putting your reader there, riding beside the protagonist or facing the antagonist with the butt of a Peacemaker inches from a rock-steady hand, is what will solidify their confidence in your storytelling ability and keep them coming back for more. 

Learn more about Ronald Kelly and His Weird West Tales:

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