Daniel W. Kelly is the author of the LGBTQ themed horror outings “Closet Monsters,” “Horny Devils,” “Combustion” and his latest “No Place For Little Ones.” He also maintains an impressive online presence with his website The Dan Zone (danielwkelly.com) where he addresses all that is the dark realm of horror and the cheeky fun Facebook page Boys, Bears, and Scares focusing on his passion, LGBTQ themed terror treats. From his own writing, to his tongue-in-cheek Youtube videos, Kelly is an energetic force who is as compulsively entertaining as he is candid. He is an extremely approachable, friendly, unassuming writer clearly out to have a good time with his readership. I recently sat down with Mr. Kelly and bombarded him with a barrage of questions and he was gracious enough to humor me.
JS: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. How’s the hectic life of an indie author treating you these days?
DK: Having a new book coming out around the holidays has been insane. Like, invigorating insane, though. I’m doing what I love. The only thing that would make it better is if, you know, I was getting paid good money to do it!
JS: If you could tell us a little bit about you. What’s it like being Daniel W. Kelly?
DK: It’s the most fun I could possibly have because I just immerse myself in the things I love and block out all the B.S. I spend time with my hubby and my dogs in my house, I read horror novels and watch horror movies, I listen to and collect music, I blog about horror and music, and about once a month, I have a friend visit for the weekend and we spend the whole time watching horror movies and playing horror video games. I just surrounded myself in a bubble of DAN.
JS: Have you always been a writer? Has it always been a lifelong passion?
DK: I’ve always been “artistic.” I was drawing, dancing, and singing from when I was a young kid. I became obsessed with reading at a young age as well, and I think that just ignited my imagination more and made it easy for me to tell stories.
JS: I can still remember the first piece of fiction I wrote. It was a really bad play on Star Wars that took place in a baby’s crib. I was in the third grade. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
DK: Awesome! I’ve been a total Star Wars geek since the beginning, too. My first story was also sparked by my childhood fandom. I was obsessed with Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. It started with the TV show in 1977—same year Star Wars came out! I immediately began reading the books and soon decided to write my own story. I wrote a story about Nancy Drew solving a mystery of a haunted lighthouse. I don’t remember the plot now but I do remember it was really good!
I also actually wrote an “oral story” in second grade, if that counts. At Halloween time, I drew a picture in art class of a ghost floating up from a graveyard, and on the spot, I told all the kids at my art table that I lived next to a graveyard and spun this fricking yarn about the ghost rising from the grave every night. Next day, one girl came in and scolded me, saying she told her mother and her mother said I was lying and that there were no such things as ghosts. I got the last laugh because, although my story was bullshit, our house actually was haunted as fuck.
JS: Who are your inspirations? Who’s your favorite mainstream author, your favorite indie author? What is your very favorite book?
DK: Because I was entering adolescence just as Stephen King’s books were becoming movies, I was hugely influenced by his horror novels. But I also love Ray Bradbury.
It’s impossible for me to narrow anything down to a single “favorite,” whether it is movies, songs, or anything else I love, but as far as books, I’d say that if I was forced to reread one book from my library, it would be either The Stand or Something Wicked This Way Comes.
As for indie authors, I’ve never really locked on to any single one in particular—although, in the 90s when I worked at Barnes & Noble, I read everything by gay author Robert Rodi. He was writing campy comedies back then, but in the last few years, he’s written some Hitchcock homage novels with more of a thriller/horror edge, so I’m psyched. They’re on my “to read” pile. So I guess he might be my favorite indie author.
JS: I know when I write, it can almost be described as a compulsion. I have to do it, exorcising the monsters in my head (or the closet), so to speak. Is it the same for you? What is your drive, and when you write is there a process you go through?
DK: Funny you should say that. I actually wrote a whole blog about that last year. I feel like I don’t control it—almost like it’s coming through a Ouija board and I’m just typing it out. The stories pop into my head and are pretty well outlined, so I start writing and it unfolds almost like I’m watching a movie. I don’t usually get stumped on what happens next—my bigger problem is making sure I don’t forget to leave out any of the details that are floating round in my head. It’s pretty wild.
JS: If you could write for any television horror series past or present, what would it be, what would you write about, and why?
DK: You know, it would probably be something like The Munsters. But I would bring it into the new millennium and introduce dirtier jokes and darker, more morbid humor. I’d also make Grandpa realize after centuries that he’s gay and load the show with jokes about him being a dirty old man who wants to suck and bite younger men.
JS: You’ve had your work featured in a number of tantalizing anthologies from Cleis Press, Alyson Books, Grand Central Publishing among others. I can remember getting my very first acceptance letter. What was it like for you?
DK: My first submissions were to a jerk-off magazine called Firsthand. I was pretty psyched because the editor raved about what good sex stories I wrote and accepted three submissions in one…um…shot. But that left me wondering if it was just really easy to get sex stories accepted. Because it seemed really easy.
JS: What about your first published novel? There’s nothing quite like having a copy of your book in your hands for the very first time. How did it feel to finally see your name on the glossy, beautifully suggestive cover of your own book?
DK: When Closet Monsters was printed up, I seriously felt like if I never had another book published, I’d be fine with it. Closet Monsters was so special to me. Zombied Out, the novella in it, is still one of my favorite stories that I’ve written, and the book was really personal to me because I came up with a cover concept, executed it with my friends, submitted it to the publisher, and they loved it and used it.
JS: As genre fans, we’re very much aware that mainstream horror hasn’t always been a very LGBTQ friendly genre. In fact, it’s one of the last ones to feature LGBTQ people in a positive light. Your work is, of course, LGBTQ oriented. With your online presence, you seem committed to making such community-friendly fare more well-known and accessible. How important is that for you?
DK: It’s hugely important because I know there are guys who want to consume more gay horror, and I know there are guys like myself who make gay horror. I was having a hard time making gay horror fans aware of my books and it was hard for me to find gay horror books by other authors. Just typing “gay horror” into Amazon for instance, none of my books come up! Why is that? I have them “tagged” as gay horror. I began researching gay horror fiction on the internet and found dozens and dozens of books and authors that don’t come up in general gay horror searches. So I wanted to create a place where guys could go to learn what’s out there and share with me what they know is out there so I can then let everyone else know.
JS: In general, what is your favorite horror film? More specifically, what is your favorite LGBTQ-friendly horror movie?
DK: Again, it’s so hard for me to pick a favorite. While I wouldn’t say it’s my “favorite,” I will tell you which movie succeeded the most in terrifying me as an adult. I had not seen and I purposely don’t watch trailers or read reviews for new movies because I don’t want to know anything about them going in, so I was pretty clueless about what to expect from the American remake Quarantine. It was on cable and I watch every mainstream horror movie that comes out at some point, so I turned out the lights and sat down to watch what I assumed was going to be another crappy Hollywood horror flick. By the end of the movie, I could barely breathe, my heart was racing overtime, and I was seriously saying out loud, “I can’t take this anymore. This needs to end.” It is so claustrophobic and Jennifer Carpenter nailed the exact kind of meltdown I would have under those circumstances.
As for gay horror films, I like so many of them, even the ones that get trashed. I’m big into indie horror films regardless of the budget and flaws, because you can usually see the passion of the filmmakers. These are guys who love the horror genre, and it often shows despite limitations in production. But most definitely at the top of my list of gay horror flicks as of now is Bite Marks, directed by Mark Bessenger. It’s scary, funny, sexy, has a charismatic cast that can act, and features an appearance by Evil Ed from the original Fright Night. It really has everything I love in a good, fun horror comedy.
JS: You have a new book out, “No Place For Little Ones.” Tell us about it.
DK: Combustion was the first book in this series I’m writing about a bunch of men living in a strictly gay male city that’s also loaded with monsters. So in each book, they have to take on some sort of new threat. I think of it as a gay Buffy. Combustion was like the introduction to the main characters and the city. It was a bit campy, filled with whacky sex, and played out more like a mystery until the reveal of the horror closer to the end.
No Place for Little Ones is much darker. There are still laughs and plenty of sex because I’m a fan of both, but it’s a much grittier, gruesome, supernatural story. The main characters are all living in this renovated apartment building, and it soon becomes obvious they’re not alone. Things get pretty vicious and tragic in this one. And it turned out that it’s really a springboard for so much of what’s coming in future novels in the series.
JS: “No Place For Little Ones” from Bold Strokes Books is available now. I want to thank you for taking the time to sit down with me. Do you have any last words for readers out there?
DK: Support gay and indie horror, whether it’s books, movies, or both. And get in touch with me through my facebook page Boys, Bears & Scares to let me know what gay horror books and movies you’ve seen that I might have missed. And if you’re involved in horror from the gay perspective, whether you write, make movies, create art, do photography, have a podcast, a blog, whatever, let me know, and I’ll post about it on the page. My books are on there, Joshua’s books are on there. A lot of other gay horror authors, directors, actors, and whatnot follow the page, so it’s also a fun place to get connected with other fans and horror creators.
That’s it. I just want to thank you, Joshua, for being as into all this horror stuff as I am.