#OTGYpsi: Several horror fiction writers are based in Ypsilanti
Just in time for Halloween, we meet one of several horror fiction writers who live in the Ypsilanti area. In this week’s "On the Ground Ypsi," WEMU’s Lisa Barry and Concentrate Media’s Sarah Rigg talk to Ypsilanti horror fiction writer Ken MacGregor about his scary stories and writing career.
Sarah Rigg's Feature Article: For these Ypsi horror authors, Halloween is "24/7"
Lisa Barry: You're listening to 89-1 WEMU. This is On the Ground Ypsi, our weekly conversation with Concentrate Media's Sarah Rigg about this week's online story about the Ypsilanti area. I'm Lisa Barry. Sarah joins us now to tell us what she wrote about this week and who else is joining our conversation.
Sarah Rigg: I wrote a story this week. We thought it was fitting for October to explore the idea of horror, and I found three writers living in Ypsilanti who write in the horror genre, and I brought with me one of those authors, Ken MacGregor.
Lisa Barry: Hi, Ken, how cool to know that you live in our community and this is the talent that you share with everyone.
Ken MacGregor: Well, thank you. I'm delighted to be here and share a little bit of my darkness with you all.
Lisa Barry: I'm scared already. So you're a horror book writer. Is that the right way to even say it?
Ken MacGregor: Yeah, horror writers is fine. I've written a couple of books and a lot of short stories. That's kind of my forte. But, you know, I have a couple of books out there too.
Lisa Barry: Can you tell us about some of them?
Ken MacGregor: Sure, of course. I'm happy to. I've had 150 short stories published in about 10 years, and I co-wrote a novel, which is less horror and more sort of what we call it vulgar urban fantasy. It's a action-adventure, sort of like a buddy cop movie with a lot of death and monsters and sex in it. I have two story collections of my shorts that I have put together in book form, and I've also edited two anthologies. Oh, and I forgot I wrote a young adult novella too, which is about a kid who fights monsters and that one's called "Devil's Bane: Tales of a Fourth Grade Warrior," which actually won a Readers Choice award last year, which was really exciting.
Lisa Barry: Where do you get your ideas from?
Ken MacGregor: Oh, everywhere. Things I read, overheard snatches of conversation, just things that popped into my head out of nowhere and demand to be written down sometimes, which I adore. I mean, really, everything is grist for the mill, you know.
Lisa Barry: How scary are your writings?
Ken MacGregor: Well, I guess it depends on who you ask and your tolerance, really. And I've written some stuff that's pretty intense and pretty dark and also brutal. But I also write kids' stuff and I write, like, fantasy sometimes. So, it really just runs the gamut from not scary at all to probably nightmare-inducing.
Lisa Barry: And, Sarah, when putting together this week's story, did you find numerous authors of horror stories in the Ypsilanti area?
Sarah Rigg: I have a suspicion. I didn't track down all the ones that are here, but the other two people I spoke to were really fun. There were a husband-and-wife team called Crysta Coburn and Greg Pizzino, and not only do they write horror, short stories, and some steampunk horror overlap, but Greg wrote a horror musical for to be performed by the Neighborhood Theater Group, except it got interrupted by COVID, and he's still hoping to have that produced someday. And his wife, also acts as co-founder of a podcast called The Haunted Mitten. So they were really a lot of fun to talk to. I just pulled it up after I talked to them to get a sense of what it's like, and they are supposedly having an upcoming segment that's going to be set in Ypsilanti that's going to focus on the Starkweather family.
Lisa Barry: Can we find your books in bookstores, Ken, or just online?
Ken MacGregor: Yeah, you can. You can find them online. And also there are bookstores and other stores locally to carry it. The Book Suite is a new place on Plymouth Road in Ann Arbor. Carries all my titles. Nicola's carries Stitched lips, Black Stone in Ypsi carries Stitched Lips as well. And Twisted Things and Stardust both carry all my books in downtown Ypsi. So, yeah. And it's also some of them on the shelves at major chains as well, too.
Lisa Barry: There is a Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers as well.
Ken MacGregor: Yeah, I'm part of that.
Lisa Barry: Tell us about that.
Ken MacGregor: It's a group of people, and the only qualification to get in is that you have to live in a state that borders a great lake. And a lot of them are in Michigan. But there are people in Pennsylvania and, I believe, Canada. I've been with them since 2014, and, actually, they got me started writing and publishing because I was writing screenplays and doing movies with a group in Ann Arbor. And I kept sending them script after script after script. And, finally, the guy running the show was like, "Okay, knock it off. I can't make all of these. You turn them into short stories and get in touch with these people." And I've been publishing since. It's pretty, pretty cool.
Lisa Barry: Have any of your stories been turned into movies yet?
Ken MacGregor: Yes. One story I wrote, actually, with that group of people was it's called "The Quirk and the Dead." It's a zombie comedy horror romance, I guess.
Lisa Barry: You have to say that one more time, because that..it's a what?
Ken MacGregor: Zombie comedy horror romance.
Lisa Barry: Wow.
Ken MacGregor: Yeah, it's a lot, and it's only 16 minutes long, so you know, it's a lot to pack into a very tiny, tiny framework.
Lisa Barry: Not a happy ending.
Ken MacGregor: Yes-ish? Kind of?
Lisa Barry: OK. I mean, it's a love story, right? So...
Ken MacGregor: It's a love story. It has a happy ending for the antagonist. I guess I would say. I don't want to give anything away because it's available to watch on YouTube, but it's fun, but it does not have a happy ending for my character. I'll tell you that.
Lisa Barry: So you're in it, too?
Ken MacGregor: Yeah, I mean it. I did a lot of acting. I wrote it, co-directed it, co-produced it, and acted in it. And it was a huge fun project.
Lisa Barry: And even though you write horror books, you are involved in the arts in the Ypsilanti area, and at least one of your covers was done by a local artist?
Ken MacGregor: Yeah. The cover of--actually two of them were. Devil's Bane was done by a friend of mine who is the artist, and she works at World of Rocks and Ypsi. And her name's Aurora, and she's really super cool. Her dad and I have been friends for decades, so she's kind of like a niece to me. And Stitched Lips was done by Holly Schoenfield, who owns Stardust, which is an art gallery downtown, and she's also spearheading Holy Bones, which is this festival this Saturday.
Lisa Barry: So if we see you, Ken MacGregor walking down the street, a horror author in Ypsilanti, would we look at you and go "Hmm.." or do you just fit in with the rest of us?
Ken MacGregor: I don't think that I'm particularly horrifying to behold in person.
Lisa Barry: Maybe that was not a great question to ask.
Ken MacGregor: I think most people, when they see me, they probably recognize me from the library because I drive the bookmobile for the Ypsi Library. So, locally, I have that reputation rather than, you know, that guy who wrote scary things.
Lisa Barry: Hmm. Anything else we need to know about this week's story, Sarah?
Sarah Rigg: The other thing that was cool from that is that Ken is donating, after he recoups his cost, much of the proceeds from that to the Southern Poverty Law Center. So, I thought that was pretty cool.
Ken MacGregor: I fronted the money to make to have the book made initially, which was probably spread around $4,700. So I'm I'm taking 50 percent of what the book earns to repay that, and the other 50 percent is going straight to the Southern Poverty Law Center. And once it's paid off completely, then I'll donate everything to them.
Lisa Barry: Ypsilanti horror author Ken McGregor. We look forward to reading more about you and your work in this week's On the Ground Ypsi story written by Sarah Rigg. Thanks to both of you for talking to us here on WEMU.
Ken MacGregor: It's my pleasure.
Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support. Make your donation to WEMU today to keep your community NPR station thriving.