Rocky Wood - Welcome to the Kingdom

Rocky Wood is a kiwi currently residing in Melbourne, Australia where he continues to shed light onto the Stephen King phenomenon. The Writer has co-authored four major books on the work of King - The Complete Guide to the Works of Stephen King (2003; 2004) - see HorrorKing; Stephen King: Unpublished, Uncollected (2006) published in Australia and available via Kanrock Publishing and in a US edition from Cemetery Dance; The Stephen King Collector's Guide (2007) - see HorrorKing; and Stephen King: The Non-Fiction available from Cemetery Dance.

To say that Rocky Wood is one of the World's leading experts on Stephen King would be like saying Ricky Ponting is okay at batting. Rocky has spoken at numerious conventions, both within Australia and in the United States, including the 2nd Annual Stephen King Dollar Baby Festival in Bangor, Maine (2005) and the World Horror Convention in Salt Lake City (2008), and has on occasion provided details to King's own research unit during regular research trips to Maine, USA. Rocky has been nominated by the Horror Writers Association for a Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Non-Fiction for Stephen King: Unpublished, Uncollected.

Rocky is a member in good standing of the Horror Writers Assocation and the Australian Horror Writers Association.

ScaryMinds - When did you parachute into the Kingdom and what caused your adoption of Maine 's most well known horror writer as a subject for study?

Rocky - I was recently in my hometown of Wellington, New Zealand and walked past the Embassy Theatre - I saw Carrie there one night and decided to get the book the next day. The bookshop didn't have it but did have Salem's Lot and I was off exploring the Kingdom - an exploration that will probably never end. I was a freelance journo at Uni but gave that up when I got a corporate job and it wasn't until 2002 I decided to take up writing again - it's one of the most relaxing things I know how to do. But, still, to me I want to get paid when I write so my consideration was to have both a market and something I was passionate about - with King I get both, a clear market of fans who can't get enough and something I know a lot (probably way too much) about and can translate my passion about that to the readers.

ScaryMinds - Recently Cemetery Dance has published your book Stephen King: The Non-Fiction, what lead you to compile a study of King's non-fiction work?

Rocky - This was an area of King's work about which no-one had written in much detail. It was also an area I knew I could add value by 'rediscovering' pieces that were completely unknown to even hard-core King fanatics. In fact I discovered 40 odd 'new' pieces, including stuff King had written in his teens that not only did he not have copies of, he appeared to have forgotten ever having written. I think King has a legacy and its important that original sources be found and revealed - this will make it a lot easier for critics and biographers of the future. And I knew I'd have fun, which I did. A couple of research trips to Maine are never a bad thing.

ScaryMinds - What would you attribute as King's greatest strengths as a writer and why does he seemingly influence a whole generation of dark genre writers?

Rocky - Story first - King is all about a great story, because he doesn't plot we find ourselves carried down a wild river towards an end neither the author nor his characters can perceive. Character - he creates simply brilliant characters, believable, true to themselves (whether good or evil or just everyday). He's great at setting this characters against each other or against outside events. He's a brilliant exponent of geography (particularly small towns) and tone. He has a great ear for dialogue. Above all he's an absolute craftsman - he emerged in the 1970s from countless hours of practice as one of the great writers but every day nearly four decades later he works on honing his skills. I don't know if I totally buy the 'influence' argument - I think a lot of horror and dark writers would like to be like King as a storyteller and some are influenced by him, but they are just as influenced by their own lives and literary legends, as was King.

ScaryMinds - Is there a Stephen King book you don't like, and if so why?

Rocky - Rose Madder - its unnecessary complicated, the two storylines don't gel and I felt no passion for the characters. Having said that I am well aware it may have done more good than most King books in that it has given many, many women the strength to break away from abusive relationships.

ScaryMinds - What would be your favourite work by Stephen King and why does that one in particularly stand out?

Rocky - 'Stand?' Yep, The Stand. That is one of the great novels of all time. The story of good and evil - the need to 'stand', which is integral to almost every King story of significance; the host of characters you can love and hate; the pure sweep and grandeur. I do love The Dark Tower story and it probably is King's magnum opus but I'm a 'Stand-fan' first and last.

ScaryMinds - Do the movies do full justice to the writing of Stephen King?

Rocky - Some do, some even add - The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me. Others are top-class in their own right - Dolores Claiborne, Kubrick's The Shining. Others are fair, others of course are pure crap. With such a large body of top quality writing converted to the screen any author will suffer. I tend to think movies are movies and books are books and never the twain shall meet. Only a few screenwriters and directors 'get' King - Frank Darabont and Mick Garris are the best examples.

ScaryMinds - During your time at University in New Zealand you wrote a national newspaper column on UFOs, talk us through it, why UFOs of all things?

Rocky - So I was interested in the whole UFO phenomenon from the moment I and some friends saw something when I was about 12-13 I've never been able to explain. I got into reading about it as well as von Daniken and so on and it touched a chord with me. How arrogant can we be to think we are the only intelligent species in the universe? But the UFO phenomenon is more than just extraterrestrials. There are probably a number of phenomena we don't yet understand that make up what we call UFOs. To get to your question again it was a case of what can I write that has a market and I am knowledgeable and passionate about (well, was then) - The Truth sure had that type of readership and the editor was happy to pay what was good money for a uni student at the time. As a result I got to meet von Daniken (I even stayed with him on my honeymoon), J Allen Hynek (who coined the Close Encounters term) and many other people, a lot of whom became lifelong friends. It was a good experience. By the way I was also writing about the security industry at the time - writers will write if editors will pay!

ScaryMinds - Do you have aspirations of publishing your own fiction or are you too busy researching for non-fiction works?

Rocky - Not so much. I have a contracted graphic novel due out next year and had a short story published in an obscure venue last year. The graphic novel has been a great learning experience but I don't know how strongly fiction can capture my interest. Plus it's hard work! Non-fiction for me is very simple indeed - research and write something interesting. Plus I have a day job and other outside interests so my writing time is fairly constrained and I like it to be focussed, so non-fiction it is, at least for now.

ScaryMinds - Your four books to date have been published in the United States, is that the best market for non-fiction horror, and is there a market closer to home?

Rocky - The US is the best market for any form of non-fiction - it's big enough that even obscure areas will get a run and big markets like say the Civil War can justify hundreds of titles per year. Plus the publishers are on more solid financial footings and are more commercial in their outlook. There is no market for non-fiction horror in Australasia - true crime yes, horror no.

ScaryMinds - Are there additional pressures on co-authoring a book that you don't face as a solo author or is the job made easier with a partner in crime?

Rocky - It has positive and negatives. On the positive side two creative minds come up with better ideas; you can split the research - but you must trust your partner; when you hit a brick wall you've got someone to help and vice versa; and with a really big subject it just speeds things up. On the negative side you have to learn how to work together (wasn't a problem with my fellow authors but I can see how it would be); and you have the big issue of having one rewrite to get the voice right.

ScaryMinds - Have you considered working on a book covering another Author, James Herbert or Robert Hood for example?

Rocky - James who? Seriously, no - I don't have the time to get myself as deep into another author as King - plus King keeps me going every week just keeping up with him. I'd rather do a book on another subject such as politics.

ScaryMinds - You are acknowledge both Down Under and Overseas as a leading Stephen King expert, does this bring additional pressures to bare with publications and in public at conventions?

Rocky - Not really - the initial expectations of an audience, or even of a publisher are generally lower than what I can bring to bear. In July for instance I spoke in the town Stephen King's went to high school about the influence of it and the neighboring community he grew up in on his fiction. That intimidated me! But they loved it and asked me back the following week to give the same presentation to a different audience. It turns out that the passion counts again - knowing the facts and really knowing King's fictions and his inspirations comes across to even the most knowledgeable audience. I used to reject the 'leading expert' line, it seemed a bit arrogant but I came to realise that it was true and that actually means a lot to the audience/readers.

ScaryMinds - What's the writing day like, do you have a set target of pages each week or work to some other plan?

Rockey - For me it's a week rather than a day - I often have workdays when nothing can get written. When I have a project in front of me I plan out (budget if you like) how long it will take and what milestones I must reach each week. I might get some research or writing done of a weekday night but that's cream - the bulk of the work is done on Saturdays and Sundays. Having learned to work to deadlines as a freelance journo and having to work to big deadlines all my business life helps. And I never get writer's block as such - the great thing about non-fiction is if you are struggling a little with how to express say a piece about John Coffey you can just leave it aside and work on some other section of the book and come back to it later. That never fails me as a technique. Like any writing its about discipline I guess.

ScaryMinds would like to once again thank Rocky Wood for sparing us some of his valuable time to answer the above question. We look forward to reading future books from the Author.

Internet References for Rocky Wood

MySpace - Rocky's myspace haunt, a regularly undated Rocky-a-thon of information and cool stuff.

AHWA Page - Rocky's Association Page.

Cemetery Dance Book - Limited Edition, go buy now.

HorrorKing - Go talk Stephen King with Rocky and other Kingdom folk from around the world