KillerCon4 Interview—Founders of KillerCon:
Wrath James White and Monica O'Rourke
Wrath James White is a former World Class Heavyweight Kickboxer, a professional Kickboxing and Mixed Martial Arts trainer, distance runner, performance artist, and former street brawler, who is now known for creating some of the most disturbing works of fiction in print.
Wrath's two most recent novels are The Resurrectionist and Yaccub's Curse. He is also the author of Succulent Prey, Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town, The Book of a Thousand Sins, His Pain, and Population Zero. He is the co-author of Teratologist (with Edward Lee), co-author of Orgy of Souls (with Maurice Broaddus), co-author of Hero (with J.F. Gonzales), and co-author of Poisoning Eros (with KillerCon co-founder Monica J. O'Rourke).
Wrath lives and works in Austin, Texas with his two daughters, Isis and Nala, his son Sultan, and his wife Christie.
Monica O'Rourke has published more than one hundred short stories in magazines such as Postscripts, Nasty Piece of Work, Fangoria, Nemonymous, and Brutarian and anthologies including The Mammoth Book of the Kama Sutra and These Guns for Hire. She is the author of Poisoning Eros I and II with Wrath James White, Suffer the Flesh, and the collection Experiments in Human Nature. She works as a freelance editor, proofreader, and book coach.
KC: How did the first KillerCon come about?
WJW: We were both attending the Northeastern Writer’s Conference (or NECON, as it is more popularly known). It was a great time. For me, however, it’s pretty far to travel. I was speaking to a group of people one night during the convention, I believe it was actually on my birthday, and I was lamenting that there wasn’t a writer’s conference like this on the West Coast. I started telling everyone how I’d been trying to talk someone into bringing World Horror to Vegas, but that no one was interested because they thought everyone would get lost in the strip clubs and casinos and no one would go to the readings and panels. Then everyone asked me why I didn’t just start my own convention. Monica offered to help me if I did and thus KillerCon was born.
MO: Wrath made me do it.
KC: It must have involved quite a lot of work spreading the word about the con and getting people to attend the first time. How did you let people know about KillerCon?
WJW: We posted on message boards like Shocklines and Bloody Disgusting. We bought ads on Horror World and Horror Mall. We even bought Facebook ads. Then we went to other conventions and handed out fliers. It was a lot of work.
KC: How did you two first meet?
WJW: Monica and I met at the very first Horrorfind. I was a new writer still trying to make a name for myself and so was Monica, but she seemed to know everyone, so Monica, Teri Jacobs, and Brian Keene sort of took me under their wing. A couple years later we collaborated on Poisoning Eros and shocked the hell out of everyone.
MO: Wrath and I met in 1957 while working as missionaries in Cambodia. It was harrowing! We decided to collaborate and wrote Harrowing Missionary Work in Cambodia. Poisoning Eros was better received in 2004. It was also less disgusting.
KC: Poisoning Eros received many accolades. Did you bring some elements of this writing collaboration to working together with organizing KillerCon, or was it completely different experience?
WJW: Organizing a convention and writing have few parallels. As writers we were equals, but Monica clearly knew more about organizing a convention then I did at that time. She was only a few years removed from organizing World Horror NY in 2005, which, in my opinion, was the last truly great World Horror until they brought it to Austin in 2011. So I picked her brain a lot for the small details that are essential to a successful convention.
MO: What is this “KillerCon” you keep asking about?
KC: Why was it so important for you to establish KillerCon?
WJW: Because there was nothing close to a horror writer’s convention on the West Coast. All the conventions in the west focused on film, which is fine, but I’m not really interested in getting an autograph from the guy who did the voice for "Chucky" or some aging scream-queen charging twenty dollars for an autographed picture. That’s just not my idea of fun. I’m a writer and I want to be around other writers, editors, and publishers. I was sure there were others like me who were sick of the literary representatives of horror being pushed aside in favor of B-movie stars.
MO: I wanted to make buckets of money.
WJW: If that’s the case, it was a dismal failure. I like to think of Killercon as a non-profit venture. Otherwise, I’d cry.
KC: KillerCon is known for its unique and daring events, including Forensic Blood Splatter with Pat MacEwan, writing contests, and being held at the famous Las Vegas Stratosphere, which is almost like an amusement park of a hotel that boasts death-defying roller coasters, but the first and second KillerCon conventions were held at the Palace Station Hotel. How did you go about securing the Stratosphere starting with KillerCon 2?
WJW: My wife suggested it. We were having problems with our original venue. I was having a meltdown over it, and my wife sort of took the reins, called the hotel, and set the whole thing up. She saved KillerCon, truth be told.
KC: What’s the best part about every KillerCon convention for both of you? What has been your favorite part about every KillerCon convention so far? Any famous moments or great anecdotes?
WJW: Pat MacEwan’s blood spatter demo last year was a highlight. Seeing a bunch of horror authors playing with green blood, bashing a stuffed rabbit with a hammer; that was amazing. Deadite’s Gross-Out contest was probably one of the best contests ever. They really know how to host an event.
MO: Winning $500 in the casino was a highlight. Watching Ed Lee and Pat MacEwan fistfight in the lobby was a plus.
KC: Can you talk a bit about who the first guests of honor were for the first KillerCon and how you went about getting them?
WJW: We made a list of our top ten “Most Wanted” and just started tracking down emails. That was the hardest part. It was not easy getting contact info for some of the people on our list and others we had to go through agents. We didn’t do so well dealing with agents and I just avoid them now. If I can’t speak to the author directly, I move on. In the end, we wound up with Heather Graham, L. A. Banks, Brian Keene, Edward Lee, and Joe Lansdale. It was a great representation of the genre in all facets. We were quite pleased.
MO: Stephen King was unavailable.
KC: There are plenty of “fan conventions” on the sci-fi, fantasy, and horror circuits, but KillerCon seems to be designed exclusively for writers. Was this always the plan from the beginning, or did it generally evolve into a horror writers’ convention?
WJW: It was always meant to be a convention for writers and readers. Fans are definitely welcome. We just never wanted it to be Horrorfind West or Fangoria Las Vegas. Those conventions are great and there’s no need for us to imitate them. We wanted to do something unique and treat the authors, who make many of those movies possible, like rock stars. Usually, writer’s conventions are in dingy little hotels in the middle of nowhere with hotel staff that treat the convention-goers like an inconvenience. It’s so common we’ve all grown accustomed to it and it’s even a bit of a cliché. We joke about the terrible hotels we’ve attended conventions in. But we knew it didn’t have to be that way. Monica and I wanted to throw a convention at a world-class hotel, in a fun, vibrant city, with an attentive staff that was happy to have us there. We had some bumps that first year, but the Stratosphere was the perfect fit.
MO: What Wrath said.
KC: Besides fan favorites like the Deadite Books Gross-out contest, what can attendees expect from KillerCon this year?
WJW: We’ve got Pat MacEwan back with an alien autopsy. We’re organizing a zip-lining event on Fremont Street for people who get in early on Thursday night. We’ve got parties every night sponsored by Samhain Books, Shock Totem, Cutting Block Press, and Deadite Press. On Sunday, we have a former psychologist for the Utah State Prison giving a talk on the Psychology of Serial Killers. The Creative Fiction Contest is back, sponsored by Sinister Grin Press along with the Erotic Horror Flash Fiction Contest. And then we have an amazing group of special guests: F. Paul Wilson, Jack Ketchum, William Nolan, “Grammar Girl” Mignon Fogarty, Editor Guest of Honor, Don D’Auria, and Special Guests Brian Keene and Eric Red. This is going to be one amazing year.
MO: I have no idea. They fired me.
KillerConLV would like to thank Wrath and Monica for taking the time out of their jam-packed schedules to stop by for this interview! :-)
For more information on panels and events during KillerCon4, please visit the Schedule/Events page.