1. Who is Duncan Ralston?
Duncan Ralston is the author of the horror collections Gristle & Bone, Video Nasties and In Every Dark Corner, the novellas Wildfire, Woom and Ebenezer, and the novels Salvage, The Method, The Midwives and the Ghostland Trilogy. When not working behind the scenes in television, he enjoys the great outdoors, escape rooms and survival horror video games.
2. What was the first thing you wrote that made you think ‘I’m a writer’?
I’ve considered myself a writer since I was fifteen and decided that I wanted to do it for the rest of my life, whether as a hobby or paid. Even before then I loved to write, I just hadn’t buckled down until my mid-teens. The first thing I wrote that made me feel like a writer was the first 100 pages of a novel called The Magisphere, inspired by Clive Barker’s Imajica.
3. Describe your writing style as if it were the demonic love child of 2 or more of your favourite authors, genetically spliced together in a lab and growing in a vat of green goo.
If I had to pick anyone, probably Stephen King meets Golden Era Chuck Palahniuk.
Dan: Oow! That’s an interesting combination. I love it.
4. I think you grew up in a small town and then moved to the Big City. So did I, from small English cathedral town to Glasgow and now back in the countryside of Northern Ireland. Do you find where you grew up shaped your imaginative landscape?
Actually, it was the reverse: born in a city (Toronto), teens in a small town (Millbrook, Ontario), and returned to the city. It definitely shaped my imagination. A lot of my writing in those first few years was centered around the home we left behind, urban horror-fantasy often set in Toronto and imaginary worlds. Now I write a lot of small-town horror.
5. You write everything from short stories and novellas through to novels and screenplays. Do you have a favourite medium? What are the pros and cons of each?
I prefer novels these days. I love writing short stories but I’ve found in recent years the shorter stuff hasn’t seemed to flow as well, and I have far more ideas for longer works. I do enjoy writing screenplays but I don’t think I’ll ever write another one unless I’m being paid. It’s just too much work for little to no reward, if there’s no production involved.
6. Your novel SALVAGE deals with grief and a flooded town. Where did the idea for the story come from?
The initial seed for the idea was the video for Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song,” back in 2002. In the video a person dives into a body of water with an entire city below the surface and eventually swims into a house and sits down in a comfortable-looking chair. That image stuck with me. I’ve always been fascinated by ghost towns, and the idea of a ghost town underwater really struck a chord. I’d seen O Brother, Where Art Thou? around the same time, so the concept of flooding towns to build reservoirs was fresh in mind. I had no idea back then it would take me over ten years to finally get around to writing and publishing it.
7. Tell us about your biggest achievement or proudest writing moment to date?
That’s a tough one. The success of my Ghostland books has been a pretty big achievement for me. Everything about it has surprised me. The fact that people responded so well to my original posts about the main villain, Rex Garrote, a fictional horror author, that over two-thousand people have visited the website connected with the books, and that so many readers have messaged me about how much they enjoyed them and considered what I’d done with it innovative, especially the Ghost Index in the first book. I was talking to my wife the other day about achievements and how they’re framed by perspective. She reminded me of a time when I was excited that 100 people had downloaded and possibly even read a book I’d given away for free. These days I would be disappointed if a freebie giveaway resulted in 100 downloads but back then I was amazed.
8. Now tell us about your lowest moment and how you overcame it?
Man, so many low moments it would be almost unfair to choose just one! I’ll mention one though. After several of my books had done pretty well, I launched a collection I thought would do well based on the cover alone (Video Nasties – see below), which people really responded to… and it just tanked. Hard. That was a big low for me. And in fact that entire year (2017) was a bummer. I was lucky enough to score a Bookbub Featured Deal near the end of that year and things picked up from there, fortunately.
Dan: I have to say the cover for Video Nasties is great, as is the concept. I think short story collections are hard to make work commercially. But as an author you’ve got to love a Bookbub Featured Deal. I got one at the start of Dec 2020 and it was still giving me income through Kindle Unlimited page reads six months later.
9. Have you got any strange writing habits?
Not really, no. Only that I need to write in near-complete silence.
10. What are you currently reading?
At the moment I’m reading through the previous two books of my own Ghostland Trilogy, to make sure the third book is as good as it can be. Prior to that I read Caroline Kepnes’s You Love Me, which was fantastic.
11. What’s your all-time favourite horror movie and why?
Aw, see that’s not fair. That’s like asking me to pick my favorite kid. (I have no children.) I’ll say it’s a three-way tie between Jacob’s Ladder, In the Mouth of Madness and Candyman.
12. What’s your favourite horror TV show and why?
My most recent favorites were Haunting of Hill House, Twin Peaks: The Return, and What We Do in the Shadows. The latter took some time to grow on me but it’s become one of my favorite shows in general.
13. What’s the first horror novel you remember reading?
What impression did it make on you? I can’t recall the first horror novel I read, but I can recall the first adult horror book. It was Stephen King’s Night Shift. The cover – the one with the eyes in the bandaged hand – had always both frightened and intrigued me when I was younger. When I finally decided to read it, it opened up a whole another world of dark imagination for me. His nonfiction book, Danse Macabre, later became my Bible.
14. What does the next year of writing and publishing look like for you?
Currently, I’m finishing the last book in the Ghostland Trilogy, I’ll be writing a short story for an extreme horror anthology from Matt Shaw, and after that, I’m not too sure. I’ve got a lot of ideas for novels on the back-burner.
15. Which monster from fiction – books, TV or film – would you most like to be and why? Is it cheating to pick one of my own characters?
My wife said I’m writing myself into my own books with Rex Garrote, the “famous” horror writer from the Ghostland series. He’s sort of Vincent Price/carnival barker with a mean streak and a love of old references and quick quips. If I had to pick another, I’d say Lelund Gaunt from Stephen King’s Needful Things. He’s one of my all-time favorite characters.
16. What book of yours should people start with?
If you’re into fun, horror thrill-ride stuff, I’d suggest Ghostland. If you want something a little darker, The Midwives seems to be my most well-received standalone horror novel so far.
19. I know you’ve got outstanding freebies for readers who sign up for your newsletter. Tell us all about them?
My most popular free ebook is the dark revenge thriller Where the Monsters Live. It’s the story of a man whose young daughter was molested and left for dead. He goes undercover in the sex offender’s colony under the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami to find the culprit and take revenge. I’ve also got a short story that’s a prequel to the Ghostland Trilogy that’s been pretty well in both ebook and audiobook. There are a handful of others, available on Amazon as well as my website.
20. Where can people stalk you online like a serial killer?
You can find me on Twitter (@userbits), my website (duncanralston.com) and on Facebook (facebook.com/duncanralstonf). I love to interact with readers and fans of horror in general!
Dan: Thanks Duncan for your time. I hope people rush and check out the worlds you are creating.