Keith Rommel is an award winning author of 13 novels, and award winning screenwriter of upcoming films The Cursed Man, The Lurking Man and The Sinful Man. His writing had been called “horror for the curious mind,” and “thinking mans horror.” It has garnished awards such as best novel of the year to 5 star Readers Favorite awards.
Interview with Susan Kiskis
The film version of his novel, The Cursed Man, has already won two awards, semi-finalist in Cinefest and finalist at the Terror Film Festival for Best Screenplay. It releases this month. We had the opportunity to ask Rommel some questions about his writing inspiration, his upcoming film and what’s next on his to-do list.
The first book in your Thanatology Series, The Cursed Man, has been adapted into a movie and set to premier on Halloween. What drew you to write The Cursed Man and when doing so, did you know it would be part of a series?
I actually had no idea. Upon completion of writing the novel The Cursed Man, I had decided I wanted the story to continue. Without any clear direction of what was next, I spent many nights staying up late, searching for a series name. As one might notice, without clear direction, naming something that has not yet been created was quite difficult. Thanatology, the series name, merely came to me after I decided that I should describe the series by its theme.
You co-wrote the screenplay for The Cursed Man. Was that your first time writing for screen? What was the process like for you and how did it differ from writing a novel?
I had dabbled in screenwriting and comic book script writing in the late 90’s as merely an interest. Unfortunately, none of my original writings exist, but thankfully some of my know-how remained.
The process of writing a screenplay can be a simple one, or complex, depending on the text it’s being adapted from. In the case of The Cursed Man, or most any of my novels, I write from a theatrical point of view. Short punchy dialogue with brief descriptions to keep the stories moving quickly. This makes adaptation a little easier. Where I ran into trouble was shrinking the story down to fit onto screen. This means some of the things people are familiar with in The Cursed Man novel, will not be on screen, due to timing and pace. When writing a novel, you have the freedom to explain and express without limitations. In screenwriting, you have 90-110 pages with a lot of centered, confined margins. Movie dialogue eats up a lot of those precious pages.
Thanatology is a study of death, death practices and the terminally ill. Was that a guiding post for this series?
Absolutely. I’ve always had a fascination with death. I would probably consider it to be more of a fear than a hankering to see a corpse; that kind of grosses me out. This fear has allowed me to write magnificent stories throughout the Thanatology Series that send a very powerful message about life. Yes. Life is hard. And there is so much drama around us. But, if you were given a chance… a second chance, or a way to show others that what you did in your life leads to something that might be tragic, horrific, have a long-lasting impact on everyone around you, wouldn’t you like to receive that message?
Also, a small tidbit about the Thanatology Series, that most people might not know, is that every story in the series, that is currently available, is based off of someone’s real life events.
When did you start writing and was the goal always to write books?
I started writing when I was in my early 20’s. To be blatantly honest, I was in modified classes in school and struggled with a reading comprehension disability. I couldn’t string a sentence together to save my life.
I’m an avid reader of comic books and that helped me with my comprehension problem. I loved Stephen King and Anne Rice stories and always found myself nose deep in one of their novels.
I think, in a strange sort of way, that was the beginning of my training to learn how to write. When I began to think about publication, I wanted a pulse to find out what others thought of my writing. I joined the Critique Circle online where other writers comment on your story and help guide you. There were two big things I had to learn about other writers while I was there. 1) Most writers really want to help. 2) The advice you get is not always good.
What drew you to writing horror, or more specifically, about death?
It is purely driven by my fascination and fear. I actually don’t categorize my writing within the Thanatology Series as horror. I like to classify it as psychological suspense, thrillers. I think people have pigeonholed it as horror because of the psychological torment my characters go through. I’d classify my other novels, White River Monster and The Devil Tree, as horror. Ice Canyon Monster is an educational thriller suspense. I write in these other categories to give myself a brain break from the complexity of the Thanatology Series.
Since we are in October, and it revolves around all things haunted, is Halloween your favorite holiday?
Halloween is a fun holiday to me. I love to see the kids dressed up and creating a sense of neighborhood friendliness that has changed much since I was a kid. I would have to say though that Christmas is my favorite holiday. It reminds me of my father who passed away 7 years ago.
O.K. I have to ask. What is your favorite horror film and what makes a good horror story?
My favorite horror film would have to be JAWS. Is that even horror? If it’s not, when I was a kid and saw that, I didn’t want to go anywhere near the ocean. I kind of still have the image of a stinking shark biting me and dragging me out to sea.
And what makes a good horror story? Suspense! Lots of it. Not cheap scares, but genuine suspense. Capture that, like in the movie The Sixth Sense, and you’ve hit a home run.
Is there anything overdone in this genre?
Cheap scares. I definitely try to avoid that at all costs. I also feel it is extremely important to come up with unique ideas. I feel when people learn of Alister’s plight in The Cursed Man, or Sariel in The Lurking Man, or even Leo in The Sinful Man, they’re going to find out these situations are unique. I refuse to put something out that doesn’t offer something to the reader.
When does your film release and how can people see the film?
The film releases this Halloween at the Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills, CA. The film will be shown in the other Laemmle Theaters and showtimes and dates will be announced soon. I’ll post those announcements on my website.
Any other news you’d like to share with fans?
That they can expect to see The Devil Tree on the big screen, too. I’ll also be co-writing another movie with James L. Perry, the producer and director of The Cursed Man, based off of one of his ideas. He’s looking to film sometime in 2017. I’ll announce more as things become more solidified.
The filming of his 3rd novel, The Sinful Man, is set to begin early 2017.
The Cursed Man, The Lurking Man, and other novels by Keith Rommel, along with tickets to the premier of The Cursed Man, are available at sunburypress.com
You can find out more about Keith Rommel on his website keithrommel.com