Jack Ketchum Talks ‘Offspring’ Sequel ‘The Woman’

Principal photography has come to a close on Lucky McKee’s sequel to Offspring: The Woman, and has entered the editing phase with a due date sometime during festivals of 2011. Bloody-Disgusting’s John Marrone recently caught up with author Jack Ketchum who has just returned from the set, and tried to get more on what we can expect from this highly anticipated follow up starring Angela Bettis (May) and Pollyanna McIntosh (Offspring). He also discusses the distressed state of the literary market today – and the next project in line for Ketchum and McKee. Yes, there’ll be more to come.

SYNOPSIS: “The Woman is the last surviving member of a feral clan that has roamed the Northeast Coast for decades. When the last of her family is killed in a battle with the police, The Woman finds herself alone, severely wounded and vulnerable. Unfortunately, she is now a far too easy prey for local hunter, successful country lawyer and seriously disturbed family man Christopher Cleek. With his twisted set of ideals, Cleek decides to embark upon a deranged project – to capture her and “break” The Woman – a decision that will soon threaten the lives of Cleek, his family and The Woman.

Q: Can you talk about THE WOMAN – expand a bit perhaps on the plot?

A: Lucky McKee and I created it together. We conceived it together after we saw Pollyanna McIntosh’s performance in OFFSPRING. Even though at the end of my screenplay for OFFSPRING, and the end of my book for OFFSPRING, she’s dead, dead, dead – when Andrew (van den Houten), the director, got a look at what she was doing, he decided to let her live. We saw the screening together here in New York City, Lucky and I, and we said, “This woman deserves a movie all to herself.” So that’s what we did.

Q: She held OFFSPRING up. Pollyanna was one of the best things to come from that film.

A: She was amazing, and she’s even more amazing in this. I was up there for almost the entire month of August watching them shoot – I think sparing four or five days I was up there for the entire shoot – and watching her work… man… This is a much more sophisticated and much more complex character than simply “the cannibal woman in OFFSPRING”. We gave her a lot of depth – gave her a pretty full life. She’s not just a vicious cannibal – she’s got some tenderness and some interesting displays of emotion. I’m thinking that Pollyanna is going to be on the cover of damn near every horror magazine in the world – if this performance turns out as powerful as it looked while I was there. It’s in the editing stage now – Lucky is still up in Massachusetts editing it with his editor. I guess they just finished a rough on it, and they’re really pleased. I think everybody was terrific. Sean Bridgers (CHILDREN OF THE CORN II) plays the lead guy, who is arguably more evil than she is. And he is just amazing. His work had a great sense of black humor to it.

What we decided we wanted to do – we wanted to make a horror movie out of character – not out of situation. So – it’s really heavily character driven. And his family – Angela Bettis plays his wife – and he’s got three kids. One is a teenage boy – the other is a teenage girl – and a small child. It’s basically a six character drama. And I think everybody kicked the shit out of it, from what I could see.

Q: OFFSPRING received mixed reviews, but just from the team that’s come together around this – I think it’s kind of surprised a lot of people and has them looking at it. Lucky is such a great female character director.

A: He’s got two really strong artists to work with – Angela and Pollyanna. And Lucky said, “I found a male actor!” (we laugh) I wanna work with Sean again – he was really fun. Everybody was having a ball on the set. Lucky did a very smart thing. It was a six day a week shoot, so it was kinda grueling, as opposed to a five day a week shoot. But on Sunday, instead of resting, Lucky and editor Zach Passero got together and they’d piece together takes of all the stuff that they had shot the week before. They scored it, and showed it to cast and crew. So every Monday morning, these guys would get up and see what they’d actually filmed the week before, and the morale that that installed into them to just keep on shooting and keep on truckin’, was just incredible to watch. They were having fun, because they knew they were shooting a good movie – they weren’t just shooting “a movie”. They could see the results of their labors at the end of the week, and I thought that was really smart.

Q: That’s a good idea. Lights a fresh fire every Monday.

A: Absolutely. Monday’s the day you need the fire, because you only had one day to recuperate.

Q: All the way back to the first time I saw you in person, a few years ago – you’ve always spoken highly of Lucky, and expressed your interest in working with him. When OFFSPRING was released, you’d mentioned a different ending, where Woman survives – leaving it open for a sequel. When did the green light appear to do this – I assume you’re writing the screenplay, correct?

A: Lucky and I both did the screenplay and the novel together. What basically happened was, we IM’d each other and got down the basic plot that we wanted. The characters that we wanted. The situations that we wanted. We got it into a structured form. While Lucky was doing the heavy lifting on the screenplay version, and I was editing that and sending it back and forth to him, we were also working on the prose version of it, and I was doing the heavy lifting on the prose.

Q: So there is going to be a novel that comes out with it?

A: Yes. Leisure Books is tied up in some sort of strange situation now – they’re my publisher. I don’t really know what’s gonna happen with them, or what – I can’t really predict that. It was supposed to come out pretty much in December 2010 – originally it was supposed to come out as a mass market – and Bloodletting Press are putting it out in a limited edition hardcover. I just did the signature sheets as we speak, and sent them on to Lucky. So that’s going to be a signed limited edition. That is due out at the end of October.

Q: Where would people be able to get a hold of that?

A: Bloodletting Press – go to their website. So that’s definitely coming out. When the paperback will see the light of day, I don’t know because Leisure Books has since dropped their entire mass market line. They’re not doing mass market anymore, they’re gonna do E-Books and hopefully somewhere down the line they’re gonna be doing trade paper. But we don’t know what’s going on. All of the Leisure authors are sort of scrambling to find out what the hell the story is. My agent’s working on it – Brain Keene (A Gathering of Crows / City of the Dead), Richard Laymon (Night in the Lonesome October / The Woods are Dark), Edward Lee (Infernal Angel / Pages Torn From A Travel Journal) – we’re all sort of wondering where this is gonna go.

Q: It seems like the book business is changing hardcore because of internet availability of writing.

A: Yeah – I think everybody is running scared from E-Books and shit, and I think it’ll shake out eventually quite nicely in general, the way magazines did. A lot of magazines folded way back when, but then a lot of them picked up the slack, and there were new magazines on the stands, and the panic didn’t really last. But my agent tells me even publishers like Random House and Doubleday are late paying people. That’s just what’s going on in the business right now.

Q: I know Barnes and Noble too quite a big hit.

A: Yeah – our (NYC’s) Barnes and Noble which is the flagship store – the biggest one in the country as far as I know – is closing.

Q: Amazing. Now with THE WOMAN – are Lucky and you both credited on the screenplay?

A: Yeah. We’re sharing the credit on the screenplay, and on the book.

Q: I know things have been pretty tight-lipped regarding the plot. Can you reveal anything along the lines of what type of film this will be? Does like Woman make it out of the caves and to a civilized area, and try to integrate with society, or —

A: No. No. Nothing like that at all.

(we both laugh)

Q: Good because I’m not much of a writer, so the fact that it has nothing to do with what Im thinking is a plus for you. (laughs)

A: THE WOMAN (OFFSPRING 2) picks up right where the last one left off. She’s wounded. She’s gotten away from that particular area. She’s alone – and she’s seen by a guy who is a country lawyer, Christopher Cleek. He’s out hunting one day, he sees her there, and he’s never seen anything quite like her. He decided he kind of wants to interact with her. That’s about all I can say at this point. So, that’s a hint. He’s not a nice man. It’s a pretty rich character. He’s got a lot of stuff going on. He’s a lawyer. He’s a quiet, soft spoken kind of guy. And he’s also got a little bit of a twist. Actually a major twist.

Q: So, is screenwriting a future for you that you’re going to focus on, or will it be back to the books from here?

A: Well, the next thing we sort of have going – Lucky and I want to do my script for THE PASSENGER, which I wrote some time ago. It’s a novella – it appeared in the back of RED – which was a bonus piece from Leisure Books. I had originally done it as a screenplay. I was asked to do a novella version of it, so I did that. Interestingly enough, when you do a screenplay, there are a lot of holes in a screenplay that you patch simply by the fact that its visual and its sound, and there’s nothing else going on. There are holes that happen in a screenplay that shouldn’t happen in a novel – or a novella. So what I did was, I did the novella, patched the holes in the screenplay – then went back and rewrote the screenplay, patching the holes in the screenplay – if that makes any sense. So it was a much tighter piece when Lucky saw it – and he said, “Yeah, I wanna do this.” So he’s had an option on that for some years now. And it looks like Moderncine’ is going to produce it. We’re not sure, – nothing’s in ink – but it looks that way.

Q: Book wise – are you working on anything?

A: At the moment I’m thinking. I don’t know if you know mystery writer John D. MacDonald (The Green Ripper) – his character Travis McGee – he used to take a score, and then retire a little bit. You know, think it through, relax on the houseboat – well, I don’t have a houseboat, but – I’ve been sort of relaxing and basically I spent the summer up there with them in Massachusetts – standing out the hot and nasty weather in NY. Beautiful weather up there. Just hanging loose.

Q: So – principal photography is wrapped, and THE WOMAN is in editing right now?

A: Oh yeah. It wrapped on the 30th of last month, and it’s in editing now. Lucky actually had an editor up there as the film was being shot, so the process is faster that way.

Those of you who would like to try and purchase a limited edition hardcover of THE WOMAN, signed by both Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee, you can watch for its release at Horror Mall or through Bloodletting Press direct. THE WOMAN is on schedule to be finished in time for major festivals in the first half of 2011. Fans of Jack Ketchum in the Massachusetts area can catch him in person at the 3rd Annual Rock and Shock Festival this October 15 – 17 – along with the likes of Rob Zombie, George Romero, and other horror greats.

You can also visit the newly posted official website for THE WOMAN which just went online at the end of August.