Thursday, August 12, 2010

Guest Author: Ronald Kelly

Ronald Kelly, author of Hell Hollow, has been kind enough to stop by Reading with Tequila to tell us about the long road to publication.

The Long Road to Hell Hollow


Ronald Kelly

Have you ever taken a construction detour and found yourself traveling unfamiliar ground? Or maybe you took a short cut to save time and ended up lost and way off the beaten track?

That was sort of how it felt for me, concerning my newest novel, Hell Hollow, which, incidentally, isn’t all that new after all. Let me explain…

In 1996, my horror-writing career was in full-swing. I’d had seven novels published by Zebra Books and another, Blood Kin, was on the verge of being released. Plus I had a couple more in the wings; Hell Hollow and Restless Shadows, a sequel to my first novel, Hindsight. Things seemed to be moving forward in a brisk and positive manner. But then, sometimes things aren’t exactly how they seem to be.

There was trouble brewing in the horror world at that time… something we old-timers call the Big Horror Bust. What it all amounted to was an oversaturation of horror literature in the mass market publishing field. The good novels were being totally drowned out by the white noise of too many novels that were mediocre to downright bad. Horror was immensely popular between the mid-80’s and mid-90’s, and the publishers had all jumped on the bandwagon in a big way. But then they started over-doing it, releasing too many books that just weren’t up to horror readers’ standards, and eventually sales began to suffer. By ’95 and 96’ most of the larger paperback horror publishers were cutting their losses by ditching their horror lines completely. It was an uneasy time for horror authors back then; watching their peers lose their publishers left and right. I never thought it would ever happen to me… I reckon I was simply naive. Then, in October of ’96, my agent gives me a call. My hopes for another multi-book deal from Zebra were dashed when I was informed that Zebra was shutting down their entire horror line and that I was basically out of business as far as they were concerned. Blood Kin would be released, but the other two, Hell Hollow and Restless Shadows would not.

Needless to say, I was devastated. I tried to pick up the pieces and find a new publisher, but it was impossible. No publishers were taking on new authors – even established ones – and especially not if horror was their forte. Eventually, I tired of butting my head against the wall and simply gave up writing altogether. I stuck Hell Hollow and the other novel in a drawer and returned to the normal world; one without deadlines, release dates, and hours behind the keyboard.

For ten years I existed in a non-writing limbo, resigned to the fact that I’d had my shot at the writing life and lost it due to no fault of my own. Then, in 2006, something peculiar happened. Folks started asking about me on the internet horror forums and buying my old books off eBay and Amazon. Some very good friends and loyal fans contacted me and convinced me to come back to the horror arena. Is it possible? I asked myself. Do I really have a second chance? After much soul-searching, I decided to try my hand at it again. Believe me, there was a generous amount of doubt and fear involved. I wondered if I still had what it took to write good, effective horror… or if I could even write at all, being out of practice for so very long. But as I began to write and submit new work, I found that my worries were unfounded. If anything, I seemed to be more prolific and actually write better than I had a decade before.

One of my first big deals was with Cemetery Dance Publications. Richard Chizmar gave me a call and suggested we do a short story collection and novel. My story collection would be Midnight Grinding & Other Twilight Terrors (published in 2009), while my comeback novel would be the long-unpublished Hell Hollow.

The deal was done and I waited. And waited… and waited. Due to Cemetery Dance’s huge backlog of unpublished titles, Hell Hollow was in the pipeline for nearly four years. But, finally, my coming-of-age novel about four summertime friends and their battle against an evil medicine-show man incarnated from a serial killer will be released in August. It’s a whopper of a tale – nearly five hundred pages in length – with a wicked cover by horror artist Alex McVey. The folks at Cemetery Dance have done an incredible job with this book and I’m happy that it’ll finally be available to my fans, both old and new.

So Hell Hollow’s unforeseen detour – one that spanned fifteen long years from conception to release – is nearly at its end. Now I can let out a sigh of relief… and hope that needless detours – at least in my horror-writing career – are a thing of the past.

About the Author

RONALD KELLY is an author of Southern-fried horror. His novels include Hindsight, Pitfall, The Possession, Fear, and Blood Kin. His audio collection, Dark Dixie: Tales of Southern Horror, was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1992. His upcoming publications include After the Burn, Cumberland Furnace & Other Fear-Forged Fables, Timber Gray, and Undertaker’s Moon, the first in the Essential Ronald Kelly Collection.

He lives in a backwoods hollow in Brush Creek, Tennessee with his wife and three young’uns.

About the Book

From out of a shadowy backwoods hollow, echoes a dark threat from the past, nearly a century lost and forgotten.

The rural town of Harmony, Tennessee possessed a disturbing secret; a secret so ancient that most of its residents were completely unaware of it. Even the last survivors of a vigilante raid long ago have filed the tragic events of that autumn night away, totally unaware of the evil that remains, dormant, but forever patient, among the tall pines and thick-leaved kudzu of a place known only as Hell Hollow.

There it would have remained, unrevealed, if not for a handful of unknowing participants. Four kids, bored for excitement during one of the hottest summers on record. A killer on the run, dodging his latest atrocity. And a rape victim on a deadly mission – scarred in both body and mind. All have a hand in bringing forth an unspeakable evil from the dark woods of Hell Hollow.

He is a skeletal figure in top hat and tails, brandishing a handful of magical cards and a patented elixir that was brewed in the very depths of Purgatory.

Check out Ron’s official website at and his blog at

Hell Hollow can be ordered at

Reading with Tequila's review of Hell Hollow


  1. I love guest posts where the author tells you about the journey to getting the book out there. This is no exception! It is amazing how you think the world leads one way then smack you start on another course all together! Great Highlight of a new author to me :)

  2. I remember that time of horror over-saturation. I read some REALLY bad horror novels back then! I'm glad that publishers have wised up to that kind of problem. Otherwise, we might be missing out on some really great horror writing. I will definitely be checking out Mr. Kelly's work! Thanks for sharing this great guest post, Jennifer! Now, I'm off to read your review of Hell Hollow and to visit Ronald's website. =O)

  3. Me again! Just realized that Ronald lives in Tennessee! I live in Nashville. Any chance he will be at the Southern Festival of Books this year?