Interview with Horror writer Rocky Alexander

Interview with Rocky Alexander by James Ward Kirk via

Hello, Rocky. Tell us a little about who you are.

I live on a farm in the middle of the woods in North Carolina with my darling wife and various critters. I began writing horror stories at the age of seven, after watching the 1976 William Girdler film, “Grizzly.” I sold my first short story when I was nineteen, then took a hiatus from writing to pursue a music career. Later I became a personal trainer and boxing coach, which I still am today. In early 2012 I returned to horror writing and have since been published in several anthologies and magazines.

The characters in your stories were once described as having “heartbeats that pulsate through sentences which bleed terror, pulling us into captivating worlds where innocence and humanity are challenged by vein-freezing horrors.” Describe the methods you use for character development.

I don’t consciously create any of my characters; they already exist somewhere deep in my mind, in some shadowy alcove from which I can summon them at will. I don’t know why they are there, or where they came from, but some of them have some very interesting stories to tell.

When I was a kid, we had a neighbor named Kenneth Sparks who kept a small herd of cows on ten acres. Every night about an hour before dusk I would hear him calling his cows into the barn for the night, “Heeeeeere cow.” My brothers and I would make fun of him behind his back because his voice was so high-pitched that he sounded like an old woman sometimes. He was a very obese man–huge, easily weighing over four hundred pounds. He had diabetes, and the toes of his right foot had been amputated due to resulting circulatory problems. He walked with a cane that he carved himself from the branch of a big black walnut tree on the hill. Mr. Sparks liked to bake pies. His diabetes prohibited him from eating them himself, so he would bring his pies to my mother, who I’m pretty sure he was secretly in love with, even though he was about thirty years older than she was. My brothers and I would eat his pie and listen to him talk to Mom about nothing for hours in his high-pitched Missouri drawl, always sweating like a nun in a porn shop and gasping for breath when the simple act of conversing became too much for him. I felt sorry for the guy. His wife had died years earlier, and you could see the loneliness in his eyes. He seemed like a nice old dude though. At least until the cops discovered three women chained in his basement. One had been dead for quite some time, and Mr. Sparks hadn’t bothered to dispose of the body. The other two were still alive, but had been subjected to tortures beyond what my young mind could even begin to comprehend. They found the remains of other women buried around his property, but I never learned exactly how many.

None of this is true of course, but Mr. Sparks does reside in that dark niche in my head. I met him just now.

How did you find that place within yourself that allows you to write horror?

I’ve been fascinated with horror for as long as I can remember. I grew up during the Cold War, and as anyone else alive during that period can attest, it was a very fearful time. What is more frightening than the thought–and real possibility–of a large portion of mankind being consumed by fire without warning, leaving the survivors to die a slow, agonizing death from radiation poisoning and starvation? The concept, to me, was terrifying. Back then, the chance of such a thing actually occurring was high enough that I questioned if I would live to adulthood. I think that fictional horror allowed me to confront fear on my own terms, to face it head-on and enjoy the rush of it and know that, regardless of the atrocities being inflicted on the characters in a book or film, I still get to walk away at the end, unscathed and in control and feeling more alive than ever. I get to experience the relief that is so elusive when you live with the day-to-day horrors of real life. Writing horror offers the same benefits as reading or watching. I generally start out knowing how my story will begin and how it will end. What my characters do in between is up to them. How they progress through the frightening world in which I have placed them is anyone’s guess, but I am with them every step of the way. Their fear is my fear, as is the relief that comes at the end of their journey. And if none of them should make it out alive, I still know that I will.  

As a writer, how important to you is research?

Research is extremely important to me. If you’re going to ask a reader to suspend disbelief and buy into your zombie apocalypse or resurrection of ancient vampires, at least make sure you’re honest and accurate in regard to mundane details. Nothing takes me out of a story like the character who fires thirty rounds from his seven-shot handgun without reloading. It’s only fair to the reader to get these things right. Most won’t notice the inaccuracy of a vehicle exploding in a massive fireball after careening off a forty-foot cliff, but those who understand the fuel/air mixture in a car’s gas tank will know that such a thing cannot happen, unless, of course, the car is packed with Hollywood explosives. Unless you wish to insult a reader’s intelligence, research is invaluable. To me, it’s one of the more exciting aspects of being an author. It allows me to experience things I likely wouldn’t have otherwise, such as firing a fully automatic submachine gun through a sound suppressor, or visiting a body farm to see firsthand how a human body decays, or hanging out with a street gang, or going on a ride-along in a police car. There is a host of interesting things in the world that most people will never experience, simply because there isn’t a reason to. Writing gives me a reason.

What do your friends and family think of your choice of genre?

My wife is one of the very best writers and editors I’ve ever known. Her command of language is beyond what I can hope to match in my lifetime. She has been extremely supportive of my work, as well as inspiring. She’s also brutally honest; she won’t hesitate to let me know when my writing isn’t up to par, or when it has her on the edge of her seat. She can be tough (as nails) to impress, so when she uses words like “beautiful” and “riveting,” then I know I have a good thing going. But when she says things such as “disjointed” and “crap,” then I know I have some rewriting to do. Unfortunately, my writing scares the hell out of her, so she isn’t able to review every story I churn out. I suspect some of my stuff has permanently traumatized her. I do hope she recovers one day.

My mother has a copy of every book and magazine that contains my work.  I don’t think she’s read any of it. Thank God.

What writers influenced you the most?

The usual culprits: Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Robert McCammon. I started reading Cormac McCarthy about a year ago and, holy Pulitzer Prize, Batman! I’m blown away by this man’s work. Increasingly, I’m noticing itsy bitsy fragments of him in my writing. His style is simply absorbing. He takes the traditional rules of grammar and bends them and breaks them and rebuilds them until he is no longer writing, but speaking–actually vocalizing–from the page. He is sitting at the campfire and telling me stories directly from his mouth, with disregard for the nuisances of commas and quotations, and I am mesmerized, hanging on his every word. Genius.

What is your favorite among the stories you’ve written?  Why this one?

I wrote a novelette recently called “The Him.” This story stands out to me probably because of the gamut of emotions it dragged me through as I wrote it.  It’s about a small group of family and friends on a camping trip in Arkansas when they are thrust into a situation more horrifying than their worst nightmares. I've written some pretty disturbing stories, but I really took the gloves off for this one. The things that happen to these people are some of the most sadistic acts of violence I can imagine being inflicted on anyone. It sickened me to write it, but I wanted to give myself the freedom to explore the brutality that mankind perpetrates against itself entirely without cause or explanation. I don’t necessarily believe in evil, in terms of an asomatous, compelling force, but it’s hard not to when I consider that right now, in this very moment, someone out there in the world is committing some unfathomable act of savagery against another human being without guilt or remorse or any inhibition whatsoever. Real horror is waking up in the middle of the night with an axe-wielding sociopath standing over you, unsure of why he wants to chop you to bits but wanting to nonetheless. These people exist, and in “The Him,” I introduce you to a few.

What are your future plans?

I’m currently building an army of robots that I plan to use to take over the world. I’m also editing my novel of the apocalypse, “The Twitchy Things,” which was inspired by my short story of the same title. Look for it soon. I plan to write many more novels and short stories in the coming months and years.  

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Thank you for your time, Rocky!

It’s been a pleasure.

Rocky Alexander is an author of horror and dark fiction who lives with his wife in central North Carolina. He spends his days as a professional boxing coach, but at night, from the acres of woods surrounding his house, he can hear the sounds of the zombies, cannibals, serial killers, and a host of other magnificently loathsome things that hide among the trees, and every so often, he catches a glimpse...Contact him at or connect with him on Facebook

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