(Interview) Share the Horror Prepares to Play the Dark Game with Jonathan Janz

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I set out to become a writer the same year Samhain Publishing launched. When I saw the Leisure Horror Books head acquisition man, Don D’Auria, was at the head of this new horror line, I knew good things were on the horizon. And I was right. Don, introduced us to Kristopher Rufty, Hunter Shea, Russell James, and  a guy named, Jonathan Janz.

The books from Janz came one after another–The Sorrows, The Darkest Lullaby, The House of Skin, Savage Species, Castle of Sorrows, Dust Devils, The Nightmare Girl, Wolf Land, and Exorcist Road before we all got the news that Samhain was a sinking ship.

Janz put out the excellent and much acclaimed, Children of the Dark, and also the much anticipated, Exorcist Falls with Sinister Grin Press before Don D’Auria landed with Flame Tree Press and called one of his favorite sons home. The-Siren-and-The-Specter-ISBN-9781787580053.0

Following Janz’s recent release with Flame Tree Press, THE SIREN AND THE SPECTER from this past September, we prepare for his next new release, THE DARK GAME (Catch my brief review of this awesome book after the interview).

I called on Janz to join us here at Share the Horror and he obliged.

Share the Horror: Let’s go back a few years. You were one of the first Samhain authors and had built quite a catalog in a relative short amount of time. When the news that Samhain had a) fired Don D’Auria and then shortly afterwards 2) folding up shop, what were your thoughts and emotions at hearing those two things?

Jonathan Janz: The news about Don was really a shock. He’s a great editor and a great person, so mainly I just felt really bad for him. After that, the news of the publisher going under wasn’t too shocking. I figured if they were letting Don go, they were probably hurting for money, so while it was sad for the employees—many of whom remain my friends—that second piece of news wasn’t as surprising.
As far as emotions go, in addition to feeling terrible for those more directly impacted, I did experience a lot of uncertainty about the future. Everything has worked out really well, but at the time it was a giant unknown.

STHWhat did you do in the space between Samhain and then the start up of Flame Tree Press?

JJ: This sounds simplistic, but I just wrote. Even though I didn’t know where the books I was working on would end up, I knew I needed to keep writing. Fretting about events out of my control wasn’t going to be productive, so I threw myself into my work. So in the years between Samhain and Flame Tree, I wrote THE SIREN AND THE SPECTER, NIGHTMARE WORLD, THE DARK GAME, THE DISMEMBERED, and I began CHILDREN OF THE DARK 2.

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STH: Let’s talk Children of the Dark for a second. This was a very well received book. It’s a part of your Savage Species (one of my personal favorites) world. I know your King influence bleeds through with this one, especially with Will Burgess. Whereas with Savage Species there was gore galore like a dark Ketchum novel or something from Richard Laymon, with COTD I get a lot of that THE BODY vibe. More about the characters and the heart of this kid rather than the all-out blitz style of its predecessor. Would you say that’s an accurate take? If so, was that intentional or did it just come out that way?
JJ: I’d say that’s very accurate. With SAVAGE SPECIES, I wanted a no-holds-barred, bloody, grueling epic. With CHILDREN OF THE DARK, the story was largely, as you allude to with your reference to THE BODY, about the pain of growing up and the difficulties this kid was experiencing. So like you said, even though the stories are in the same universe, they’re very different animals. I realized this when writing the sequel to COTD. My initial idea was to combine the worlds of SAVAGE SPECIES and CHILDREN OF THE DARK, but that changed as I wrote the sequel. So while there are some intersections, the story really remained a COTD story and true to the tone of the first book.81hj+mlkx0l
STH: So, Don and Flame Tree Press happens. Did he come to you, or were you guys in constant contact and it sort of just happened?
JJ: We kept in contact. Not constantly, but I’d say every couple of months we’d email, and a few times we spoke by phone. The one thing we knew was that, wherever we landed, we wanted to work on more projects together. I got the news about Flame Tree when my family and I were in Virginia for Scares That Care in 2017. We were walking from a beach on the James River to our van when I checked my email and found out about Don’s new gig. I think I emailed him within a half hour or so, and we started talking about THE SIREN AND THE SPECTER. Since that story was set in Virginia, and I’d just wrapped it up, it was fresh in my mind and a natural first project to do with Don and Flame Tree.

STH: THE SIREN AND THE SPECTER, like COTD, feels like another step forward in your writing. As someone that has read almost all your published works, I feel like your growing more and more comfortable with each release, and with that becoming even more fearless as a writer. Does it feel that way to you?
JJ: Thank you so much, Glenn! I truly appreciate that. Yes, it does feel like I’m progressing, but it’s an incredibly subtle and gradual progress. I’m fond of all my books, but I really noticed it a couple months ago when reading through HOUSE OF SKIN, which is the first novel I wrote (and the second one published). I really like the story, but I’m a very different writer now than I was then. It feels good, but I know I’m nowhere near a finished product and will never be finished in my writerly walk. I have to constantly strive to improve, to grow, and to learn. I’m too self-critical to ever be satisfied.
STHSIREN is landing on a lot of Top 10 lists right now, I know that’s gratifying. Do you let that good feeling linger and use it going  forward, or are you more the type that is focused on that next release and coming at it with the need to prove yourself again?

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JJ: Like you say, it is gratifying, and it feels wonderful to have one’s work acknowledged, but I don’t bask in that glow for too long. That need to create is too strong. And I also always want to make my next book better than my last. Hopefully, I did that with THE DARK GAME, and I hope to do it again with the titles coming in late 2019 and 2020.
STHTHE DARK GAME comes out in April. I’m reading an ARC now, and I believe this is my favorite book of yours so far. How much fun did you have crafting the antagonist in this one? Without giving anything away, what were your favorite aspects of Roderick Wells to create and play around with?
JJ: That’s so great to hear! I worked very hard on THE DARK GAME, so it’s awesome to hear you’re enjoying it. I had a lot of fun with it. The Roderick Wells character was at the center of the story, so I needed him to be all sorts of things: strong, elusive…incisive yet cryptic. He had to represent both writers and critics, both nurturing teachers and cruel taskmasters. Plus (and here, like you said, I’m trying not to give anything away), there are elements of his character that aren’t revealed until later. That means I have to play fair with the reader by hinting at those unexpressed character elements without completely revealing the character’s secrets. Walking that tightrope was a challenge, but it was a rewarding one. I think the aspect of Wells’s character I enjoyed the most was his love of power and how he reacted when that supremacy was threatened. There are some exchanges between him and a character named Sherilyn that were a blast to write.
STH: There’s a lot of writers in here. I’m imagining that there are aspects of your own strengths and self-perceived weaknesses in each of these characters. At this stage in your career, with regards to your writing skills, what do you see as your best assets and what areas are your constantly targeting to improve upon?
JJ: Wow, that’s extremely insightful! Yes, you do get some of that in the novel. Rick Forrester, for example, is a lot like me before I got anything published. He’s been rejected, told he’s not good enough, and basically dismissed. Like Rick, I once received a very chilly reaction from the head of a collegiate writing program, so that experience made its way directly into the novel.
Regarding the second part of your question, this doesn’t sound sexy, but I think my best assets as a writer are my support network, my willingness to learn, and my work ethic. My wife and kids always provide me with a bedrock, so I know that when a story isn’t going well or I face some other kind of adversity, what really matters—my family—will remain intact. I’ve been teaching for twenty-three years and teaching Creative Writing for seventeen of those, and I believe these experiences help me to remain grounded and focused on growing. Just as I’m helping my students evolve, I’m evolving too. I also never quit. Because that option is never on the table, I concentrate on ways to solve problems rather than allowing them to defeat me.
With regard to areas of improvement, I want to keep getting better at blazing new trails. Horror is a vast realm, and there are many untouched or rarely-trod areas in the genre. Therefore, I want to constantly aim to examine those and maximize their potential.

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STHOne last thing, before we go. Looking back on THE CLEARING OF TRAVIS COBLE, which has remained one of my very favorite stories you wrote, what are your thoughts and memories on that story and its release?
JJ: I’m so glad you liked that one! That story was a major moment of growth for me because it forced me to use dialogue to carry a story. Yes, there’s description; yes, there are the other essentials of storytelling. But it’s the dialogue that reveals character, that unveils plot twists, that adds mystery and depth. I had to develop my dialogue-writing skills in “The Clearing of Travis Coble,” and looking back, I view that exercise as a moment of profound growth for me. Thanks again for mentioning it! 

STH:I love it and THE DARK GAME, so I will keep praising them from the mountains! Thanks for taking the time, good sir.

JJ: Thank you, Glenn. I had a blast!

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Don’t let our smiling faces fool you…
Jonathan Janz is the author of more than a dozen novels and numerous short stories. His work has been championed by authors like Joe R. Lansdale, Brian Keene, and Jack Ketchum; he has also been lauded by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and School Library Journal.
His ghost story The Siren and the Specter was selected as a Goodreads Choice Awards nominee for Best Horror. Additionally, his novel Children of the Dark was chosen by Booklist as a Top Ten Horror Book of the Year. Jonathan’s main interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children.
You can sign up for his newsletter, and you can follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads.
Flame Tree Press is re-releasing Jonathan Janz’s entire Samhain Publishing catalog.
This month sees the re-release of SAVAGE SPECIES. You can also grab his debut novel,
THE SORROWS.
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MY REVIEW of THE DARK GAME

The Dark GameThe Dark Game by Jonathan Janz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Quite possibly Janz’s best work yet. His skills continue to sharpen, and it really feels like he’s comfortable as hell behind that keyboard now. There’s a piece about fearlessness in this book, and I think it’s safe to say Janz is feeling just that-fearless. This was by far my favorite cast of characters in any of his books, and the story read like something straight out of the Leisure Books Horror Club heyday!
THE DARK GAME is a horror gem.

 

(Interview): Share the Horror Dives the Depths with Chad Lutzke

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Chad Lutzke is a name you should make yourself familiar with. His style is all his own, and it’s one filled with two of my favorite things: horror and, more importantly, heart.

Hot on the heals of his 2018 releases OUT BEHIND THE BARN (co-written with John Boden), SKULLFACE BOY, and STIRRING THE SHEETS, this man is dropping a new novel titled, THE SAME DEEP WATER AS YOU (which releases today, January 11th).

I invited him over for a quick chat.

SHARE THE HORROR :  You’ve had quite a year. I’ve seen three titles of yours popping up on the Best Of lists–SKULLFACE BOY, STIRRING THE SHEETS and the one that I absolutely loved, OUT BEHIND THE BARN co-written with John Boden. How long did each of these books take to complete?

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CHAD LUTZKE: I think a few months for each one. I can’t remember exactly, but I think SKULLFACE BOY, though it’s twice as long as the others, took the shortest amount of time. It was just really easy to write because I was so into it, and while I pants everything I write, that one even more so. I had no idea where I was going with it other than eventually getting the protagonist to the beach. SHEETS felt like it took much longer because it was depressing being in that mindset of losing loved ones and being alone. As far as OUT BEHIND THE BARN goes, once John and I actually started working on it, it went pretty fast. Maybe 4 to 6 weeks? Plus we already had Boden’s short that we were using as a skeleton.

STH: Which one are you most proud of?
CL: SKULLFACE BOY because it was kind of experimental and it turned out to be a lot of people’s favorites, even surpassing OF FOSTER HOMES & FLIES, which I wasn’t sure I could do.

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STH. You have yet another new book. Tell us a little about it.
CL: The book is called THE SAME DEEP WATER AS YOU. For that one, the reader is basically a fly on the wall, watching a group of kids in their late teens go through love, let downs, tragedy, drugs and alcohol. I’ve been comparing it to the films KIDS, RIVER’S EDGE and DAZED & CONFUSED. It definitely gets dark. And in a very personal way the book is heavily influenced by The Cure’s Disintegration album.

STH: Your style is unique. Of Foster Homes and Flies was brilliant. It was one of the most original coming-of-age stories I’ve ever read. Do you ever see yourself going for a straight forward horror story, or is it just not appealing to you?

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CL: I really appreciate that. Thank you! I really don’t have any interest in doing anything I feel has been done before. I really try and come up with concepts I feel are original and fresh. Sometimes I just want to write some silly slasher that is outlandishly absurd, but I don’t know if I could make it entertaining enough to not have it feel like everything else that’s already been done, and if I can’t then I won’t bother. I prefer to write about things that have to do with the human condition, things we can all relate to. The horrors of the heart and mind.

STH: Who are some of your favorite horror authors past and current.
CL: The usual suspects like King, Koontz, McCammon, Poe, Matheson, Serling. For some of the newer guys, I’m a big fan of Stephen Graham Jones and Joe Hill. But I think my style more reflects my sincere love for Ketchum and Lansdale.

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STH: I know Jack Ketchum read Of Foster Homes and Flies. What was the interaction like with him? I know when he read my book, Things We Fear, I saved every email from him. What were those interactions like with you guys and what would you say was Jack’s number one strength as a writer?
CL: This may be a long answer because I really miss Dallas and think the world of him and his ability to write. I’ve told this story before, maybe a few times, so some may be tired of hearing it but I don’t care. I love sharing how awesome Dallas was. My communication with him was short, only over the course of a year, and it started by a friend of mine congratulating me on Jack Ketchum tweeting about my book. I had no idea what he was talking about so he sent me a link and I kind of never left the cloud I found myself on that day. I reached out to Kevin, the guy who run the Ketchum website, and asked if he’d forward an email to Dallas for me. I think it was within an hour Dallas contacted me. Now, I keep in contact with a few “famous” people in the music world and I’m very careful about making sure I don’t get all fanboy on them and I keep things to a minimum and that’s how I played it with Dallas and I wished I hadn’t. I wished I would have gotten closer with him, reached out more, because I now know he was that kind of guy. He wouldn’t have minded. Months went by and he tweeted about an anthology I was in, calling the two stories I contributed as standouts. By this time, I had already had Dallas’ home address and I had sent him a book (WALLFLOWER). Then when I was doing the final draft on STIRRING THE SHEETS for my publisher, I reached out to Dallas and asked him for a blurb. He told me that he doesn’t just hand them out, that he would have to love the book. And then he told me “But since it’s you, I’d love to read it.” He was dying at the time and I had no idea. I scrambled to get the cover together for SHEETS and we were having issues because I wasn’t using a template because we were creating a custom-sized book, so the cover kept getting rejected. Finally, all the files were accepted and I had spoken with Dallas again, he was looking forward to the book. He didn’t know this, but he even had a little cameo in it as Dallas Doud, “the neighbor who maybe smokes too much.” The day we were to send the book to Dallas I got a message on Facebook from a friend that Dallas had passed. I had no idea he was sick. No idea. And all I kept thinking was “Who does that? Who agrees two weeks before their death, while their sick with cancer, to read someone’s book?” That told me everything I needed to know about the man and wished I would have reached out more than I did. Within minutes I contacted my publisher and had him dedicate the book to Dallas.

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As far as his strengths as a writer, he just had this way of putting words together in a sentence that completely floor you. When you’re reading Ketchum you’re never safe because you know at any moment he’ll go straight for the dark, and when he does it’s worded in a way that is profoundly disturbing. Nobody does that like him. He also shares my love for human horror, fictionalizing things that either did happen or could absolutely happen. Or maybe is happening somewhere right now. In a nutshell, the way the man crafted a sentence was like no other. He knew exactly what to say to get under the reader’s skin, and with few words.

 

 

 

STH: He is certainly missed.  I’m right there with you.  we definitely lost , not just a great writer, but one of the most amazing people in our business. 

What’s up ahead for you this year?
Lutzke: THE SAME DEEP WATER AS YOU will be out January 11th. Unfortunately, you caught me at a time where a lot of the cool stuff I can’t even talk about yet. There are a handful of anthologies I’m in that will be out in spring and summer that I can’t name yet. I’ve gotten a few anthology invites I still need to write for and I assume those will also be out this year. I have a huge deal coming sometime this summer that I can’t talk about yet. I signed the contract but haven’t been given the go-ahead. I’ll be in another Corpus Press anthology due out this summer. July, I believe. This spring/early summer I will be putting out a collection of stories that are all Patreon exclusives. The paperback will only be available to my patrons, but the Kindle will be available to everyone else. Also, I’m part of the editorial team that is resurrecting Shock Totem Magazine and we’ve got some great surprises with that one and we’re all neck deep in reading slush right now from the open call, but the first return issue should be out late spring/early summer. And Boden and I are going to see what we can do about releasing another novella before the year is up. Overall, the plan is to be even more prolific than I was last year and with some other things I’ve got in the works I hope to have that happen.

STH: Well, I think I have a story in that Corpus Press anthology with you and a few of our friends. That should be rad.  Also, I cannot wait to dive into THE SAME DEEP WATER AS YOU. 

CL: Thanks, Glenn!

 

Grab your copy of THE SAME DEEP WATER AS YOU HERE 

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chad-lutzke

Chad Luztke lives in Michigan with his wife and children. For over two decades, he has been a contributor to several different outlets in the independent music and film scene, offering articles, reviews, and artwork. He has written for Famous Monsters of Filmland, Rue Morgue, Cemetery Dance, and Scream magazine. He’s had a few dozen stories published, and some of his books include: OF FOSTER HOMES & FLIES, WALLFLOWER, STIRRING THE SHEETS, SKULLFACE BOY, and THE SAME DEEP WATER AS YOU.

 

 

 

 

JOHN EVERSON AND THE ART OF SEX, GUTS, KE$HA, BEER, AND THE HORROR WRITING BUSINESS.

“As he joined the captain, she shuddered, and the red glistening mess that had once been her belly opened wider. Too wide.

The rookie turned away, his gorge rising as the woman’s insides turned out.”– from The 13th by John Everson,

The 13th was my introduction to John Everson. I remember receiving the paperback in the mail as part of the Leisure Horror Book Club. Like many of the authors, John was new, and like the majority of the Leisure titles at the time, John was fucking good. I instantly logged him in with Brian Keene and Richard Laymon. When I got Siren a bit later, I knew I had found another horror author who was terrific at messing with every one of my emotions throughout a single novel.

Now with Samhain’s Horror line, John continues to play the dark arts over every tender nerve in our minds and bodies. But after digging into his world a little further, I’ve discovered he’s so much more than a great writer. Now, so will you.

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Let’s start at the beginning. When did you get started in writing, was it always horror, and who were the first authors who lit the fire for you?

The first story I remember writing was when I was probably in about 4th grade. All I can recall is that it had some connection to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series… so I guess I started out by writing Sci-Fi Fan Fiction! Growing up, it was really golden age SF that I read, along with the occasional ghost story and Edgar Allan Poe tale… so the first stories I wrote in grade school and high school were science fiction. Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Clifford D. Simak, Hal Clement, Robert Heinlein, J. T. McIntosh… those were my first influences. They told stories that kept me absolutely enraptured… and made me want to tell stories to do the same thing to other readers.  Richard Matheson is probably the SF writer who really showed me the way, because he was the bridge between SF stories and horror. All of the tales I’ve ever come up with seem to have a bit of a macabre twist to them… and his ability to do that – and cross genres – was amazing.

I wrote some stories and poetry in high school, and more in college, but it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I submitted anything. It was 1993, and it had been a few years since I’d written any fiction. Just for fun, I was putting together a chapbook of some of my college stories, since my day job was desktop publishing, and in doing that, I realized some of the old tales weren’t too bad. I submitted them to a couple magazines and then wrote a couple new pieces. Once my first story appeared, at the start of 1994, I kept writing and submitting and never looked back. So this year has marked my 20th anniversary as a published fiction author.

Leisure Book Horror Club is where I discovered you. I remember reading The 13th and being floored. It was just a great story. I followed that up with Siren. Another great one. Talk to me about those Dorchester days. How did you hook up with Don?

The first time I met Don D’Auria was at World Horror Convention 2000 in Denver. I was there promoting my first short fiction collection, Cage of Bones and Other Deadly Obsessions, which was coming out later that year from Delirium Books. I had just finished an early draft of Covenant, called The Cliff, at the time, and described it to Don at one of the pitch sessions they hold for authors to meet editors at those conventions.  He said to go ahead and send him the manuscript, and I did, but then I never heard anything back… so I pitched him the same novel at World Horror Con 2001. And then again at World Horror 2002…..It was probably around that time that I finally got the formal rejection notice! I remember it took a couple years. But at the time, it seemed like anyone who was anyone in horror (outside of King, Barker and Rice) had a book with Leisure, so I was determined to “break in.” At World Horror Con 2003, I had a sequel begun – Sacrifice. So I pitched him both novels as well as a couple other ideas. He said very supportive things… but didn’t buy the books. Despairing, I gave up on my mass market dreams and contracted and published both novels in limited hardcover editions with the small press – Delirium Books — in 2004 and 2007. But I still pitched those books and other ideas to Don at every World Horror Con — 2004, 2005, 2006…. finally in 2007, after Covenant had won the Bram Stoker Award for a First Novel from the Delirium release, and Sacrifice had also come out in hardback, I pitched to him once more and he said “I want to have you on the imprint, it’s just a question of a slot. I might have something… soon.” I thought he was just being kind to a stupidly persistent kid, but then, literally 24 hours later, he came to me during the Mass Autograph signing where all the authors sit in a room and sign books for convention attendees and he said “can I talk to you?” I left my table and he offered me a two-book deal there in a coat check hallway at the World Horror Convention 2007 in Toronto. I can’t tell you how excited I was over the next 48 hours of that con!!!

Shortly after signing with Leisure, I was in New York on day job business and had the chance to stop in at Leisure’s offices to say hi to Don… and then I saw why it had taken so long for me to get a rejection letter years before. The wall on one side of his office was stacked from window to doorway four feet high with manuscript submissions! Talk about being lost in the slush pile! I can’t imagine the number of aspiring authors that sent books to him in the ‘90s and 2000s. Immense competition.

Once Covenant came out, Don bought three more books from me for Leisure after that. The 13th was the first original novel I did for Leisure (published in 2009), followed by Siren and The Pumpkin Man. As soon as Don landed at Samhain after Leisure imploded, I offered him NightWhere and he accepted it. The irony there was… my original idea for NightWhere was sketched out over a decade before – while I was still finishing Covenant. So Covenant launched me at Leisure and NightWhere, a book hatched in the same period, launched me with Samhain. And both “starts” were Bram Stoker Award finalists!

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That’s so rad! So, Covenant won the Stoker for best 1st novel, but you were crafting short fiction prior to that. Is short fiction where you started, do you still do it on a regular basis and which do you prefer: shorts, novellas, or novels?

Short fiction is what I did almost exclusively my first 10 years of writing. I still write short stories, just not as often since I’m focused on novels. But I’ve always felt that in many ways horror is best served by the short form – Poe’s stories were always the epitome of the perfect horror tales for me… and he never wrote a novel.

As for me… I’ve actually never written a novella. I’ve written well over 100 short stories, and a few novelettes (longish short stories). And now eight novels. But the one time I tried to write a horror novella… it went and turned into a short novel – The Family Tree, my latest. I still love writing short fiction, but it’s a different approach than novels. So now that I’ve gotten used to writing “long”… I find it harder to get in and get out quickly to write short fiction anymore. When I started writing 20 years ago, most of my short pieces were 2,000 – 3,000 words. Now I can’t seem to write a short story that’s less than 6,000 words! Novels train you to describe things more, do more character-building. You don’t have time for that in a short piece.

Covenant’s win. Was that intimidating for you? Or did you just accept with a smile and go back to work?

It was a crazy thing. I went to that award ceremony when my wife was 3 weeks from her delivery due date with our son – we asked the doctor  if he thought it was safe enough for me to go and he said yes… but what if she went into labor early and I was hours away?  I knew I wasn’t going to win… but I wanted to be there, to make the most of the nomination by meeting people there. And then I won!?!  I was so unprepared to win… I hadn’t even worn a suit jacket, just a shirt and tie to the ceremony.  It was an amazing night, and an amazing weekend… and then yeah… I went home and wondered, OK, how do I top that?  There was pressure. But eventually… you just do what you do and hope it’s good. Over the years, I’ve finished a couple books and thought to myself, “OK, well, that’s as good as it’s going to get. That’s your best.” You feel like you should just stop… but then you write something else that you’re proud of and think the same thing again.

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Your stories definitely go willingly into the erotica territory. Is this it a case of the story taking you there, or is there something funny happening when you sit down to write.   

I don’t know why sex and horror have always been a tag team for me… but they just seem to naturally go together. Most of the story ideas I come up with have an erotic element that, at least to me, seems integral to the plot. Hell, in NightWhere, there would be no story at all without it – the story is about a couple drawn to an underground sex club that is much more than the house of kink it seems to be on the surface. And Siren is patently about the temptation of forbidden sex – what does a Siren do but lead men to their deaths with song and sensual allure?  But there are stories that also have very little sexual element to them too. The Pumpkin Man has virtually no sex in it at all. The story didn’t call for it, so it’s not there.

Are there any monsters you leave to others or are you willing to write about any of them? Also, what is one story you want to write but haven’t yet?

There are a lot of horror novels written about serial killers and torture artists and cannibals and the like. People being imprisoned by some sadistic nutjob and trying to escape. That kind of horror is just not my area of interest. I’ve always said, if I wanted to read about evil human beings, I can pick up the newspaper. Me? I like to read about demons and otherworldly creatures breaking down the doors to our world. Stuff that extends beyond our current reality. That’s the stuff that I like to read…and thus write.

I have a few story ideas outlined that I’d like to write; most have a demonic element to them. I’ve always been attracted by the intersection of amoral demons and unethical humans allying and causing havoc… The latest novel that I’ve started working on is a sequel to Covenant and Sacrifice. I’ve started on it a couple times… this year, I’m hoping to finally follow it all the way through!

Are you writing full-time? And what is your writing schedule/routine (if you have one)?

My best year writing fiction brought in less than a fifth of what I make at my dayjob. So no… I don’t and never have written fiction full-time (unless you count the years I was a newspaper journalist. But that wasn’t fiction-writing). I honestly don’t foresee ever writing fiction full-time. It’s just not in the cards for 95% of writers, unless they have a spouse that can bring in the medical insurance and guarantee a regular income that pays the mortgage.  But that’s OK. That means I’m free to write what I want, when I want, since I don’t have to feed myself with it. There’s no pressure to write what I KNOW will sell and pay the bills, vs. what I feel like writing. Would I LIKE to have more time to dedicate to my novels? Sure. But I like knowing that I for sure am going to be able to pay the mortgage next month a whole lot more.

As for my schedule? It honestly changes with every book. There are books that have been done by getting up an hour early every day before work for three-six months (Siren). And there are books that I relied on pulling marathon sessions one night a week after the day job for a few months at a favorite pub (The Pumpkin Man, NightWhere). Most have been a combination of those methods. I tend to be a “binge” writer. I’ll write like crazy for a few days or weeks in a row and then not write at all for weeks. Depends what life is bringing at the time!

With three kids at home, I totally understand that!  When it comes to sitting down and getting to work are you typically a plotter or a seat of the pants guy?

I like to be entertained, so when I write, I am telling myself stories. Which means…seat of the pants. While I’ve outlined most of my books (a necessity to selling them before they’ve been actually written), I have had the most fun flying blind and just making it up as I went along (Sacrifice and The Family Tree). And even with outlines, there’s a lot of stuff that happens in a novel that you had no idea was going to happen until the moment you write it. The entire parallel plot of Siren following Ligeia’s imprisonment 100 years before the main thread of the novel? That wasn’t in the outline that sold the book to Leisure. And some readers have said that’s the best element of the story!

So you kept in contact with Don when he got the gig at Samhain?  I was so happy to see that Ronald Malfi (among others) was there to get the new line going. As a fan, I was hoping to see you there, as well. And then you popped up! How did that transfer go for you?

I had stayed in touch with Don after he left Leisure, and he let me know as soon as he landed. We were talking about what my first book for Samhain might be almost immediately afterward!  However, since I hadn’t actually written the book yet, there was almost a year of Samhain novels that came out ahead of mine — because he bought a lot of completed novels at the same time as he contracted my outline for NightWhere.

JOHN E FT

The Family Tree. A Samhain October release! I know there’s a Megadeth song by that name….what are we in for with this new novel?

I’m not much of a metalhead, so I didn’t know that!

Violet Eyes, my follow-up to NightWhere, focused far more on spiders than on sex. After the crazy “50 Shades meets Hellraiser” reviews of NightWhere, I kind of went off in the other direction for Violet Eyes. But The Family Tree is a return to horror with a lot of erotic overtones. It follows a loner, Scott Belvedere, who inherits an old inn in Appalachia. When he goes to check it out and decide whether to sell it or keep it, he soon finds himself the object of obsessive sexual affection of the innkeeper’s daughter, as well as a couple other “friends” of the inn. Not a bad gig… but why? And are the stories of the curative powers of the sap of the tree that the inn is literally built around, true?  Scott finds that sometimes it’s better to leave your family roots… buried.

I love any horror stories wrapped around hotels, inn, and bed n’ breakfasts! This sounds amazing! I can’t wait.

Switching creative gears a bit…I ‘ve been to your site a number of times, but usually only look at the book info. I only recently noticed the art and music sections!  These are early passions for you? Was it art, music , or writing first and which did you feel you had the most talent in?

Music has always been my first love. I was playing the organ at five years old, and wrote songs all the time in grade school. There is no more fulfilling experience in the world to me than writing and recording a song. Don’t get me wrong – I love writing fiction. But a good song? I can put that on the stereo and play it over and over and over again and enjoy both the song and the feeling of accomplishment of having created it. I have no desire to read my stories over and over again! But ultimately, music is for the young, and itinerant. I think I had talent and could have gone somewhere… but only if I was willing to cash in everything else to go for it. And I wasn’t willing. Nevertheless, I need to be creative, whether it is writing music, writing stories, or creating digital art for books. I figured that I could continue a career as a writer long after any “pop band” career would be over… so that’s what I stuck with and focused on. You really can’t do it all… as much as I wanted to!

I know exactly what you mean. I’ve played in original bands for years, and have always been the main songwriter. Personally, I’ve written hundreds of horrible songs, but when I get to that “good one”, it makes all the flubs worth it. But it is nearly impossible to commit to both writing and music, and as you said, it’s a young person’s game.

Do you do book tours with each release? What is it typically like for you? Do you tag along with a fellow author (and if yes to that one, can you give us any great stories?)

From where I stand, book tours are a luxury of the past.  I used to do book tours throughout the Midwest when my Leisure novels were released. I’d schedule a couple dozen signings, and hit every Borders and Barnes & Nobles that I could in Chicagoland, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis… and wherever my day job happened to take me (I have gotten to do book signings in Dallas, San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angels, Santa Fe, Albuquerque and more thanks to dayjob trips!) I stayed in a lot of fleabags to sign books around the Midwest for a few years.

But for a mid-list author, book signings are far more about attracting a store’s existing foot traffic to buy your books that are in the store, then about having a legion of fans turn up specifically to see you. So the prerequisite is to actually have the stores carrying your books both before and after you appear. With the death of the Borders chain, there now IS no chain store that has a horror section. Barnes & Noble barely stocks any horror novels. So if you’re going to do a book signing, it’s going to be at a store that likely doesn’t normally carry your novels. That, for me, just isn’t worth the time. Because the reality is, if the store doesn’t already devote shelf space to your books, as soon as your book signing gig is over? They will return all your books to the publisher and not keep any in the store. That’s the cold hard truth of bookstore inventory management. In the old days, I could go to a Borders Store, sell 20 books at a signing, and leave 20 more at the store with “autographed by” stickers on the covers… and those books would be displayed and sell after I was gone. And then the store would order more. That was worth doing – because you built a sales track record thanks to your appearance. Now? I sell more books via Amazon and at conventions than I do through the Barnes & Noble chain, because they won’t keep most horror books available in their stores. So… what’s the point of doing signings there?  There’s no “tail” after the event.

I can’t let you go without discussing beer and pub food. In my mind, you and I have a Food Network show where I tag along with you across America and consume copious amounts of beer and burgers.  I like the idea of that Food Network Show. If we could do a few specials spotlighting the best chili pepper recipes in restaurants in the Southwest … it would be perfect!

That’s it; I’m going to the network! 

Back to the beer….I crawled out of my PBR phase in New Orleans at the WHC and discovered the magnificence of IPA’s. What are some of your favorite beers?

As for beer… at this very moment, I am wearing a Revolution Brewing t-shirt (I was in their Chicago brewpub last night after guesting at the Chicago Horror Film Festival) and sitting in a hotel room in Springfield (family trip). We just got back from a great dinner at Engrained, a brewery/restaurant down here.  I do try to check out the local microbrews in whatever town I’m in. Favorite IPA? Definitely Revolution Anti-Hero. Great name. Great beer. I’m also a huge fan of the Deschutes Brewery roster. Mirror Pond Pale Ale is great, as is Red Chair North West Pale Ale. I have been more of a fan of English brown ales than IPAs for years – Newcastle has been my drink of choice for probably 15 years… so my enjoyment of hoppier beers is still fairly recent… and so I demand that it be a smooth assault on the taste buds, rather than a murderous one. Goose Island has some nice easy-drinking ales – I like their Green Line and the new Rambler IPA (which replaced their nice Harvest Ale of year’s past). And Santa Fe Brewing’s Happy Camper IPA is a great session ale.

For German beer, I’m a big fan of Hofbrauhaus Dunkel and Ayinger’s Maibock. And Ayinger’s Doppelbock is great for a winter beer. Speaking of which… winter is coming, and every year I host a Winter Ale and Chili fest in my basement – I brew up some chili of various heat levels and a group of us share our favorite Winter Ales. Mine over the last few years have included Deschutes’ Jubelale, Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale, New Holland’s Cabin Fever and Great Divide’s Hibernation. Not surprisingly, I like the other beer varieties from all of those breweries as well.

For dessert? If you can find Tanilla Porter from Knee Deep Brewing… buy a case. And send me a couple bottles! Hands down the best vanilla porter I’ve had. Failing that… look up Southern Tier’s Crème Brulee. Mmm mmm Sweet Imperial Milk Stout.

JOhns food

What are a few of the places someone who loves great beer and good food need to go to across the country?

Wow… that’s a question that could frame a book chapter!  If you’re in Chicago… go to Revolution Brewing. Great food, amazing beer. And the bar is held up by giant fists carved out of wood. Or drive out to the far south burbs and visit Flossmoor Station – one of the original brewpubs in a crazy nationwide explosion over the past few years of breweries with good food. This one was built in an old train station not far from where I went to high school.

In Denver, you have to stop at Breckenridge’s brewpub by the ballpark, and the less obvious Pint’s Pub, which cask brews the best English Ale I have ever tasted brewed in America.

In New Orleans, seek out NOLA Brown Ale – one of the best American browns brewed… and not distributed very widely. I have had it at Turtle Bay on Decatur a few times.

There are some great brewery/brewpubs in Michigan: Holland, Michigan’s  New Holland Brewing has an amazing bar and great beer. Founders in Grand Rapids is an impressive place to sample a lot of craft beer, some of which is only available on premises. And the place that introduced me to sours – Jolly Pumpkin, in Ann Arbor, is worth pulling up at a table for a night (I’ve done some writing there while on business trips.).  I’ve blogged about Ann Arbor’s brewpubs as well as Calgary, Canada’s here: http://www.johneverson.com/wordplay/?p=4786

In Vancouver, you want to head over to Granville Island and eat at The Sandbar (awesome food) while enjoying some of the ales from Granville Island Brewing, located just a couple blocks away.

In Seattle, head down near the ballpark and have a burger while sampling the many ales at Pyramid Breweries – my favorite was the Weiss Cream (with a tap in the shape of an ice cream cone). Elysian Fields has a couple brewpubs there as well and you have to stop at The Pike Brewing Company down at Pike’s Market. I could go on and on here… I’ve travelled a lot for work over the past few years, and been lucky enough to sample a long list of cool places!

These days? One of the best places for me is in the comfortable oak home bar I built (board by board!) this spring in my basement. (sadly, no, the taps on the ornamental tap display I created of my favorite beers don’t work. But the fridge is full!)

JOHNS BAR

I usually do a couple rapid fire bits so here you go:

Last novel you read?

Johns satan

Satan’s Fan Club by Mark Kirkbride. He asked me to blurb it and I loved it!  Before that? Fifty Shades of Grey. And you know what? I enjoyed the hell of out if. A refreshing lightweight change after all the horror I typically read!

Your guilty pleasure song?

Ke$ha. “Gold Trans Am.” Or really anything by her. And you know what? I don’t feel guilty at all.

No shame in the Ke$ha love. I’m right there with you.

Favorite non-horror film?

There are non-horror films?  Ha! There are many answers to that question because there are so many genres… and I love film. Things that have stuck with me? Goofy comedies like Johnny Dangerously and Better Off Dead. Feel-good dramedies like Steel Magnolias and Fried Green Tomatoes. Or It’s A Wonderful Life – which I’ve watched nearly every Christmas for 40 years. Sci-fi genius like Bladerunner, Forbidden Planet, Brazil, Star Trek IV, Terminator and Star Wars. I list Alien as my favorite movie of all time, but I always have felt that skews more horror than sci-fi. How about The Incredibles? Or Monsters, Inc or Fifth Element? Crazy action movies like Machete and offbeat erotica like The Image or Salo? And what about strangely unforgettable excursions like Barbarella? What about the entire Hitchcock catalogue (some horror, but most thriller/mystery)? What about Akira Kurosawa, Orson Welles, John Ford, Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski and Ingmar Bergman?  Lucas, DePalma, Spielberg, Cameron, Lee, Zemeckis… I can’t pick a favorite film. I can’t pick a favorite director.  I love too many films too much for that.

Love a lot of those, as well.

Grossest beer you ever tasted?

Stone Brewing Arrogant Bastard.  Kind of what I imagine licking a wet, old dog would be like.

John, thank you so very much for doing this with me. We must grab that drink sometime.

I have a pint waiting for you!

Find John and his wicked ways in these places:

John’s Website (For his books, blog, music, art): http://www.johneverson.com/

John’s Amazon Library: http://www.amazon.com/John-Everson/e/B002BMHL52

PRETTY LITTLE AWESOME: MERCEDES M. YARDLEY TALKS THE BONE ANGEL TRILOGY, PRETTY LITTLE DEAD GIRLS, AND THE POWER OF HEARTBREAK AND OPENNESS

mmy

She’s an amazing woman who has been faced with more heartache and challenges than anyone I’ve ever known and come through life’s shit-storm to pound out some of the most unique, beautiful , and bloody little stories I’ve read this year. Her debut novel, NAMELESS: THE DARKNESS COMES, has garnered mad acclaim and landed her a sweet deal with its publisher Ragnarok Publications  (two more Bone Angel books).

On September 29th, Mercedes M. Yardley and Ragnarok Publications will release her next novel, PRETTY LITTLE DEAD GIRLS. I got a chance to talk with Mercedes about her whirlwind 2014 and a whole lot more.

First off, Nameless  66 Amazon reviews—40 5 stars, 24 4 stars (2 meat-heads that didn’t get it). Congrats on the success. One of the reviews I saw called it “Buffy meets Odd Thomas”. To quote Dylan: How does it feel?

MMY: It feels surreal. I can’t believe that many people have read it! And to take the time to review? That’s just awesome. It seems to be hitting people in different ways, too. Some say they laughed out loud. Some love Luna, some hate her. Some people identified with the mental illness aspect. Others ask me how I feel about the demonic personally. It’s been a ride.

But a fun one, I’m sure. How are the follow-up books coming along?

MMY: They’re coming. I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to continue a series. Do I pick up where I left off? Assume (arrogantly) that everybody has read Book One? Reintroduce characters and risk sounding like I’m talking down to the audience? These are things I hadn’t considered before, and quite frankly, I dig it. The sequels are challenges, and I thrive on challenges.

Any idea when we can expect #2?

MMY: Book Two is slated to release in January of 2015. So just a few more months! Book Three is set to release in January 2016. Things are coming along smoothly, and I’m excited. Book Two will be exceptionally dark. I’m pushing Luna to her breaking point, trying to see if I can shatter her psyche. It’s terribly fun.

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In August you announced the upcoming release of Pretty Little Dead Girls. (I FUCKING LOVE that title!)  You said, “…my favorite thing I ever wrote will be coming out this fall…” Is this still true and why is it your favorite?

MMY: Oh, it’s true! I love all of my books. Each character becomes important to me. But this particular story, and the way it’s written…it was a joy.  I wrote this story in three weeks, Glenn. I couldn’t get it out of my head. Everything spilled out onto the page in this great flurry of happiness.

I abandoned the project I felt I was “supposed” to do, and wrote something devastating joyful and unique. It’s a fairy tale with a high body count. It has lyrical language. It breaks the fourth wall. It’s magical realism sprinkled with horror. I love the characters with my whole heart and soul.  Bryony, the protagonist, is all about seizing the moment, about living life as hard as she can before she’s murdered. She’s soft and ephemeral and chats with flowers and stars. She wears fluffy mittens and wears every emotion on her face. When I started writing Nameless, I called Luna the “Anti-Bryony.” They’re both aspects of my personality, but to an extreme. Bryony is open and exceptionally naive. Luna is spiny and sarcastic. These two ladies are Yin and Yang, and I love them fiercely.

There are also several little Easter Eggs in this story. The places she lives. The names of some of the characters, including a shout-out to the Shock Totem boys. The detective is named after members of my writer’s group. If you have read Beautiful Sorrows, there’s a story in there that’s the killer’s origin story. Things like that. Shiny things that tie into other places.

I had the most fun writing PLDG than any other project. I’ll always remember that.

Give us the gist of the story.

MMY: Bryony Adams is destined to be murdered, but fortunately Fate has terrible marksmanship. In order to survive, she must run as far and as fast as she can. After arriving in Seattle, Bryony befriends a tortured musician, a market fish-thrower, and a starry-eyed hero who is secretly a serial killer bent on fulfilling Bryony’s dark destiny.

Sounds so cool! And there will be a limited run of a hardcover edition?

MMY: Yes! Ragnarok Publications is putting out a special signed limited edition hardcover. It’ll have a beautiful piece of art created exclusively for the hardcover by Orion Zangara, who is a phenomenal artist. I mean, I saw his stuff and commissioned him that day, if that tells you how stunning his work is. And Hugo Award Winner and all-around wonderful lady Galen Dara did the cover. It’s exquisite. Dark, ephemeral, and perfectly captures the terrible beauty of the story. The LE hardcover is limited to 100 copies, and they’re currently available for preorder on the Ragnarok site. When they’re gone, they’re gone. You can still purchase paperbacks and hardcovers, I believe, but without the extra bells and whistles.

Awesome. Check that out people!

Some of your works have been audio-ized. Which ones are available and  which ones are coming?

MMY: NAMELESS and APOCALYPTIC MONTESSA AND NUCLEAR LULU: A TALE OF ATOMIC LOVE are both available right now! I adore the narrators they chose. They did a wonderful job. BEAUTIFUL SORROWS will be available fairly soon, I believe. Perhaps in the new year. I’m narrating it with my fellow writer Mason Bundschuh recording, and we still need to do a few overdubs. The problem is that we have 6 ½ children between us, so it’s difficult to find a time when we can get together and record while the kids are quiet. Ha. Those darn kids, playing and having fun. What trouble. 😉

I also caught the “in the closet” photo of you doing the Beautiful Sorrows audio. That’s how I did the vocals for the Never Nudes EP. There’s nothing like getting in there and going for it is there?

closet

MMY: Did you? I didn’t know that! Yep, that’s Mason and his wife’s closet. His wife had the most beautiful pair of boots in there. I fell in love with them during recording. It was strange and fun lurking in their closet. My house doesn’t have a single closet that big. What a shame.

That’s a damn shame.

Let’s talk shop for a minute….

I recently finished up a couple of pieces and found myself leaning heavily on a couple friends of mine. They really kicked my ass and wouldn’t allow me to cut corners or write anything stupid. Do you have someone or someones like that? If so, who? And what makes you trust them ?

MMY: I do. I rely on my writer’s group, The Illiterati. It consists of Mason, Billie the girl, Ryan, Matt, and myself. I ran into Mason at a city writer’s group, and he brought me into the fold, so to speak. We’ve all been working together for five or six years now, and we’ve become family. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. If one of them tells me something, I’m going to listen. It doesn’t mean I always agree with the critique or the advice, but I know it’s coming from a place of love and skill. They’ve helped me improve so much.

In fact, The Desert Companion had journalist and photographer hang out with us last week at an Illiterati meeting! It was so awesome. They’re doing a write-up on us for the October issue, which I think is pretty cool. The group is amazing. We travel to conventions together. We go to each other’s birthday parties. We play ukuleles and banjos and guitars together. I love these cats.

I told you not too long ago that two of my pieces from last year were heavily influenced by Beautiful Sorrows, or at least, I tried to soften my edges and slip into more whimsical/magical realms (even if only for bits here and there). Thank you for that.  What’s the last couple of things you read that you feel really inspired your latest works?

MMY: Glenn, you don’t know how much that pleases me. Thank you! I can’t wait to pick up your newest. Coming from Samhain, right?

Absolutely.

I read this utterly breathtaking book titled THE MOON SISTERS by Therese Walsh. It’s about a mother who may or may not have committed suicide, and how her family deals with the aftermath. Heartbreakingly lovely. Quite frankly, I wish I had written it.

moon

My debut novel, NAMELESS, has a sort of Dean Koontz feel. It’s been compared to both TICK TOCK, which I loved, and his ODD THOMAS. That’s pretty flattering. I suppose I did borrow some of the tone from TICK TOCK, because I loved it so much. They have this fun banter back and forth that really amused me, and I think the dialogue is one of NAMELESS’ strong points.

Another one of your strong points is your heart, your openness.

Real life’s cheap shots often fuel the artist. In light of some of the hardships in your personal life, do you let your pain in, and how do you use it. Do you lash out with a harder edge, or do you let it lend that extra weight to your more melancholy pieces?

MMY: I have to let my pain in. As an artist, I tend to feel things especially deeply. I was never good at letting things roll off my back or walking by somebody who was suffering. I always manage to get right down there in the trenches with them, to see if I can help. Sometimes a little kindness is all I can offer, but you can’t underestimate the value of kindness when it seems like the world is dark.

Sometimes I lash out. In Luna’s case, she deals with things in a very ferocious, biting manner. I finished the second half of that book after losing two babies, so it was a cleansing and safe way for me to scream at the world using her voice. And sometimes I allow sorrow and loss to drift into some of the softer things I do. That melancholy is always there. It always has been. Melancholy runs under my skin like a thin vein of sorrow, and I don’t think that will ever change. But I try to use it instead of letting it weigh me down to the point where I can’t get back up.

My wife is a children’s case manager. She deals with special needs kids on a daily basis. She was looking over my shoulder while I was going through some of your blog posts. When I read some of your posts, I was like ‘ damn.’ . My wife says, “Some people are dealt a shitty hand because the lessons that they can learn can help others.”  And I feel like with your openness and willingness to share your heartbreak and challenges, that’s exactly what you’ve done and continue to do. Can you touch on that?

MMY: Your wife put it beautifully. Please thank her for me.

Heartbreak and challenges. It isn’t something that most people want to share. We’re taught not to show our weakness, and that’s damaging. We all struggle. We all suffer. To put on a happy face when you’re really falling apart inside is insane. It only hurts us. I’ve found being open about some of our challenges allows others to open up as well. To say, “Oh, thank goodness! I thought I was the only one.” You’re not. Whatever you’re going through, somebody has struggled through it, or is currently there.

My oldest son has Williams Syndrome, a rare genetic disease that turned our world inside out. He was abused by a teacher. I had post-partum preeclampsia with my middle child, which the doctors said didn’t technically exist. My organs were shutting down and they called my husband in to say goodbye. My last pregnancy were three beautiful triplets. Two passed away with a rare genetic disease called alobar holoprosencephaly. Be very careful if you research that. It isn’t for the faint of heart.

So we have things that come up and they feel like too much weight to handle. But I’ve found that when I say, “Help,” others are there to reach out and help. When Niko was diagnosed with Williams Syndrome, I didn’t know one other person who had it. I started my Williams blog (www.williamssyndrome.blogpost.com) and I was simply screaming into the universe. Now I’m in a support group with over a thousand members, all who understand the syndrome.

There are strong, sensitive people out there who understand you and whatever you’re going through. The Internet makes it especially easy to reach these people. I hope that by talking about things I used to feel ashamed about, like having a bad day with a special needs child, or grief, or anger, or depression, that others will see that they’re not alone. That’s what I think the purpose of life is. Relationships. Giving each other a hand or a hug or a pillow fort when needed. Protecting those you care about. Realizing that there is dignity in all things, even suffering.

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I also saw that earlier this year you were in a book called, Three Minus One. How did that come about? And have you heard back from any of its readers?

MMY: I have heard back from some readers on that one. Three Minus One is a book dealing with the death of a child. I was still processing my feelings about it and I saw the submissions call. I wrote about the conflict of losing two of my three triplets. Celebrating birthdays and death days, and how difficult that is. I was shopping for a stroller and a casket on the simultaneously, and it was so conflicting and surreal. But the readers seem to find comfort in the book, in knowing they aren’t alone. That’s what I hoped to do by contributing my story along with the others.

It is an amazing ability to be able to accept what comes our way, and an even more admirable gift to be able to put yourself out there and be that someone for those who think no one else gets it.

I want to switch gears back to writing and inspiration.

A couple months ago i watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (great flick). It really inspired me to sit down and write.     Give me the one or two movies that when you watch them they make you want to sit down and craft a new story.

MMY: Stranger Than Fiction made me want to write. I enjoyed it through and through. Also, watching the series LOST made me want to write, too. They dealt with such a huge cast and all of these intricately woven plot lines! I want to do that! Challenge myself by dealing with a large cast of crazy characters. That would be very cool.

What is the scariest novel you ever read?

MMY: Stephen King’s IT scared me. I was eight years old and snuck out to the big, comfy chair in the living room to read it in the middle of the night. Pure terror. We had a gutter and grate right by my house. I was sure Pennywise lived down there. I was also scared by The Amityville Horror. Some of my mom’s romancing were pretty frightening, as well. I thought, “Ewwww! I don’t know what’s going on, but that seems disgusting!”

What’s one novel you haven’t read yet that you’ve TOTALLY been meaning to?

MMY: Oh, geeze. There are so many. I’ve always wanted to read MEIN KAMPF to figure out how a person with such vile views could, with a straight face, explain them. I’ve heard he was a passionate, convincing speaker, and I’m interested in that from a sociological standpoint. I also have so many books from my friends that are on my To Be Read pile. I have three piles, actually. One on my son’s shelf, one in the linen closet, and one by my bed.

I want to read anything that Lee Thompson puts out. Oh, and Gillian Flynn’s SHARP OBJECTS. Armand Rosamilia’s CHELSEA AVENUE. And James Walley’s THE FORTY FIRST WINK. These are all books in my TBR pile or currently on my Kindle.

What about you? What novel have you TOTALLY been meaning to read?

I’ve been meaning to dig into Robert McCammon’s catalog. I read BOY’S LIFE and was dizzied by the magic on the pages. Ronald Malfi’s DECEMBER PARK is also on my very soon list. I also have that friend’s To-be-read collection.

food

Now, everybody loves food. I know you dabble in the kitchen quite a bit.

Personally, I’ve been barbecuing like a mad dog since the beginning of May (I make some pretty tasty BBQ chicken these days). What is the latest kitchen masterpiece from the Yardley home?

MMY: I can’t barbeque to save my life. That’s awesome you do it. I hereby invite myself over to dinner with your family! I’ll bring dessert

We’ve been trying to eat a little healthier. The other day I made potato quinoa patties with curried chickpeas. It sounds bizarre, but it really was delicious and filling. It tasted like comfort food. I’m always making new treats! I made my first full-sized trifle not too long ago. Lemon raspberry, and it was a success. I’m really into making soups right now. Potato, or split pea. Even cauliflower. I pair them with homemade bread sticks or cheddar biscuits with flax and kale added to it. It sounds like it would be dry, but it’s really good.

My biggest achievement right now was putting together freezer meals. I went shopping, cut everything up, and assembled twenty different meals that I can freeze. Pork chops and sweet potatoes, sausage and peppers, rosemary chicken, etc. Then I throw those suckers in a crock pot. Voila, dinner. Because I have three kids, three chickens, a bunny, a turtle, and a fish. Oh, and some insane, brain-exploding deadlines. I just gave myself twenty nights where I don’t have to cook, and that hour and a half will be put toward writing to knock these projects out. It’s crunch time and I’ll use every trick in the book to get things done.

If you guys ever want to come all the way over to the east coast, you are more than welcome.

Thank you so very much for making the time for me. Best of luck with the new book!

MMY: Thanks, Glenn! It’s absolutely a pleasure. And good luck with yours! I’m excited to pick it up.

Find Mercedes and her blog, books, and stories here:

A BROKEN LAPTOP

MERCEDES’S AMAZON PAGE

RAGNAROK PUBLICATIONS

Castle of Ambition: Walking the Halls of Darkness with Author Jonathan Janz

I got a chance to interview one of the most fun and prolific horror writers from the Samhain family, Mr. Jonathan Janz. His debut, The Sorrows, brought him high praise from Brian Keene and a rabid following. He’s tackled ghosts, vampire westerns (Dust Devils), serial novels (Savage Species), and soon, exorcisms (yikes!). I admire his style, his effortless ability to churn out one quality piece after another, and his accessibility. He doesn’t shy away from his fans. You can find him responding on a daily basis to his faithful followers on Facebook or his blog.

This month, Janz returned with his latest effort, Castle of Sorrows, the sequel to his highly praised debut.  He took a few moments out of his hectic writing/family schedule to chat with me.

JANZ

Thanks for taking the time, man.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me!

What was your main profession prior to writing? Do you still work, or is it full-time writing for you?

I’m a high school and junior high English, Film Literature, and Creative Writing teacher. I write during summers, before school, and after my family has gone to sleep.

What really kick started your interest in this gig?

Stephen King and a car crash. When I discovered King when I was fourteen, I discovered the joy of reading. When I crashed my car during my eighteenth year and nearly died, I spent several weeks in bed with nothing to do but read and write. I realized I loved to write, even though I wasn’t any good at it back then. 

Your talent seems so natural. What really helped your writing early on? When did you think ‘I can do this’?

Thanks, Glenn! I had several people who encouraged me. My family, some teachers…but I still doubted myself until some people I really trusted to be objective—Don D’Auria, Louise Fury, and Brian Keene, to name three—said positive things about my work.

Those are some pretty nice people to listen to.

Your vocabulary is off the charts. I find myself looking up words pretty regularly in your novels. Where did this come from and where can I get some?

Hah! Thanks again, Glenn. It’s all organic for me from my reading. Like you, I’m in love with the language, and when I read a word I really like, it sort of sticks in my brain and germinates and awaits the right moment to be called into action. But it has to fit; otherwise, it’s just pretentiousness. Most of the words I find myself writing down in my daily life are normal words that I’ve simply neglected to use. Words like indicated or slashed.

When did your serious writing begin?

I didn’t really get serious about writing until I quit coaching basketball (I was a varsity basketball coach for a decade, as well as a varsity track coach and a coach of several other sports and levels). So that would have been about seven years ago. I didn’t know what it would take at that point, but I did begin to take the craft more seriously and begin to develop more self-discipline, which I think is one of the primary ingredients of success in any endeavor.

Do you have an agent?

I do. Louise Fury represents me, and she has been incredible for me and my career. An agent isn’t for everyone, but for me, it has been indispensable.

What’s a day in the writing life for you look like? Any routines/rituals?

During the summer, I spend the morning and early afternoon with my wife and kids. Then I write from 1:15 until 4:45. I listen to baroque music and sit in my chair by an upstairs window. I drink coffee, water, and munch on almonds. Oh, and invariably, my three-year-old will wake up from her nap and come in to visit me. On some afternoons this happens about fifteen or twenty times.

I have three, too. I hear ya. I know my at home writing schedule is constantly changing. Sometimes I have a few hours before the clan wakes up, sometimes I sneak in a midnight scribbling session, but usually someone wakes up and pulls me from the “writing zone”. How do you find the time to write?

I basically cut out everything else that most people enjoy doing. I don’t watch movies unless I’m with my wife, my kids, or working out. I almost never hang out with friends. I almost never watch sports or television (unless I’m sharing the experience with a family member). So basically, I’m either with my family, teaching, or writing for the majority of my life. It sounds dull, but I’m incredibly happy.

Samhain….

What’s the best thing about being a part of the Samhain family?

Working with Don is great. Another thing I love is developing relationships with my fellow authors. I’ve met some great people both on the writing side of things and the business side of Samhain. 

I’m right there with you. Don and the other authors I’ve had a chance to meet so far have been amazing and welcoming.

keene-janz

Let’s dive into some of your Samhain novels. Starting with The Sorrows. I thought there were a lot of hugely impressive pieces in there. From the building of your characters– Ben, Claire, Eddie, and even Chris, and even Daniel’s journal–to the way you weaved back and forth through the past to the present. The novel was praised as ‘the best of 2012’ by Brian Keene. How did you not let that go to your head? Did it at any point paralyze you? Or was it motivation?

The Brian Keene mention, as you have guessed, was very important to me. It did feel incredibly validating to have this awesome writer who I admire say such positive things about my work. But it didn’t go to my head or make me relax. Like you said in your question, it really motivated me to do even better. For me, everything is motivation—from the soul-crushing disappointments to the breathtaking highs. It all motivates me to improve.

JANZ

Obviously, you know I enjoyed Savage Species…loved the Laymon and Ketchum vibes you had going in there.  How did you like the serial experience? Would you do it again?

Thank you! I loved the serial experience and would love to do it again. It wouldn’t work for every book, but for the right one, like Savage Species, I think it’s ideal.

 

 

You have some new works coming. Let’s talk about Exorcist Road. Is this going to scare the hair off of my nuts? Can you tell us a little about it?

Hah! Well, I hope it scares you that badly. It’s inspired by several sources, most recently John Farris’s Son of the Endless Night and the novels of William Peter Blatty. As you’d imagine, there are demonic/spiritual overtones in the book, but what I really like about it is the mystery/suspense angle. It’s kind of a horror whodunit. And I really love the characters in this one. It’s also the first story I’ve written entirely in the first-person, which was a blast to do.

COS JANZ

 

Sounds awesome. Can’t wait to read that one. Next, we have Castle of Sorrows. Beautiful cover!  For me, the best part of The Sorrows was that it pushed on every emotional button I have. What can we expect to be put through this time around, and (without giving too much away) how is it going to be different?

Castle of Sorrows is the darkest thing I’ve ever written. It’s bleaker and more violent than my other stuff, but again, there’s a real emotional core there that anchors the book. Ben Shadeland is a lot like me in that he’ll do anything he can to protect his family. But like most dads, he sometimes questions his ability to do that. In Castle, he faces just about every horror imaginable.  

What made you want to write a sequel?

The story really lent itself to that. I love the setting, the premise, the main villain, and the protagonist. There’s a great deal of growth potential there, even after two books. I’m probably going to write a third book to complete the trilogy, but that won’t be for a couple of years.

Any timetable on book 3?

Yep! It will likely be written in 2016 and will hopefully be published in 2017. But those are just guesses.

There are some classical references in The Sorrows. What bands or artists do you crank when you ride alone to the store?

Boring answer, but I almost have a kid with me. If I don’t, it’s a book on tape or silent time to think and develop my ideas. But musically, my favorites are George Strait, Metallica, The Doors, and anything classical.

I like the variance in artists. I’m the same way.

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For me, The Exorcist is the scariest move all-time; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre the best horror film all-time. How about for you? Scariest all-time, and best horror all-time?

Great choices! I’ve gotta agree on The Exorcist. For me, the best horror film would be Jaws because of what it did to be psychologically and because it’s simply a perfect movie.

LOVE Jaws! Give me a personal favorite from each of these greats. Doesn’t have to be your favorite, but maybe one that holds a special place in your heart:

King‘Salem’s Lot or The Stand

LaymonThe Woods Are Dark

KetchumRed or The Girl Next Door

Rapid Fire:

What’s in your DVD player right now?

 The second Percy Jackson movie (I just watched it with my son for his birthday).

Burger or Pizza?

Beer or Wine?

Does your wife ever read your work? (Mine refuses to)

Sorry to hear that! My wife has read a couple of my books, but she doesn’t usually get into horror, so she’s got some catching up to do.

Thank you for talking with me!

Thank you so much for talking to me, Glenn! 

 

Find Jonathan Here!

His Amazon Page: Jonathan Janz

His Blog: Jonathanjanz.com

His Samhain Horror Page: Samhain-Jonathan Janz

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Interview with Kevin Lucia: Teacher, Student, Devouer of All things Horror

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Today, I’m talking with author, Kevin Lucia.  This year, I’ve had the pleasure of discovering the talents of Mr. Lucia (as he’s known to his students–Kevin’s a high school English teacher). His collection, Things Slip Through, introduced us to the town bizarre town of Clifton Heights. Strange tales of the house on Bassler Road, people who seem to vanish out of thin air, and a doctor’s wicked promise fulfilled are weaved together to shed light on some this town’s  darker corners. Kevin brings us back to Clifton Heights (and it’s northern cousin) in his latest release, Devourer of Souls.

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Hi Kevin. Let’s talk about this teacher deal. You are a high school English teacher. First off, thank you for doing what I consider to be one of the most important jobs in America. How much of your dark side do you impart upon your students, and how much do they influence your work?

Well, there is the running joke that “Mr. Lucia only assigns us depressing books with death in them” but that’s a total fabrication, I promise. Only HALF the books I assign are depressing with death in them. The rest are just depressing.

They and their parents (albeit unknowingly) are big influences. As I’m sure you know, writers are watchers, observers, walking notebooks. We soak in everything from the world around us. I think I’ve learned more about how to write teens and their parents in the last twelve years as a teacher than I ever could’ve on my own: their mannerism, how they treat each other, and their cultural quirks.

Is there a piece of work one of your students has passed in that made you go, “whoa!”?

I had a Creative Writing student once hand in a piece about a girl being abused by her father, being told from her younger sister’s perspective. The “whoa!” part came from this student’s excellent instinct that she could simply stop the story with the door closing and leaving us with the squeak of the bedsprings as the father sits on the edge of the bed, passing up on the chance to shock us with explicit details. She must’ve been listening in class when I covered subtly, I guess.

 

Subtly seems to be undervalued sometimes in our field.

Let’s talk about the podcast you’ve been involved in, Tales to Terrify/ Horror 101. How did you get involved in the project, and is it still an ongoing thing for you?

About two years ago, Lawrence Santoro approached me about doing an analytical series on Tales to Terrify, because he’d liked some blogs I’d posted about post-modern horror and the history of the horror genre. I accepted, and really loved doing it. Right now it’s kinda on hiatus, and I’m not sure if/when I’ll pick it back up. This is a “good” kind of busy that happens to all writers eventually, I suppose…when things start picking up and you have more writing opportunities, you have less time for non-writing things. I finally “retired” from writing regular reviews a few years ago because of this, and it may be that Horror 101 will follow the same fate.

What’s one of your favorite parts of doing the Horror 101 podcast?

The reading, of course, but also the study of it. As an English teacher with an BA in English/Literature and an MA in English/Creative Writing, I love to gab about books and the evolution of writing in general, so it was fascinating to me on a personal level to delve into this stuff. I do truly hope to offer a few guest spots this summer, if time permits.

Great, man. That sounds like a lot of fun. Let’s move on to Lucia the writer!

Things Slip Through is an awesome collection of connected short stories. I now that you are a short novel fanatic. Talk about your love of short stories.  What is their appeal for you?

I love short stories for their impact. Novels are longer, they require time investment (which I’m more than happy to invest), and I’ll can be honest and admit: “I like BIG books and I cannot lie…” Last summer I read Grapes of Wrath and loved it, and currently I’m reading David Copperfield and also loving it.

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But short stories – the best ones – can leave you gasping for air. They’re like quick rabbit punches, or brief snapshots of something either wonderful or horrible. I’m terribly, terribly envious of folks who can crank out excellent short stories. I’m much more comfortable writing the novella/novel form.  I’m committed to attacking the short form, however, and this summer I have the crazy goal of writing one a week, if possible.

What are some of your favorites?

I’ve read so many short stories, I’m not sure I can pick just one. I love shorts by Ray Bradbury, Charles Grant and Stephen King, especially.

Is it a ritual/routine for you to read one or more daily?

I began following the “Bradbury Formula” several years ago. He recommends that in addition to reading novels, aspiring writers read a poem, a short story, and a nonfiction essay a day.  I’ve kinda not been able to make the nonfiction essay part work (though I’ve read several writers’ biographies in the last few year) but at least one short story a day has become the norm, yes. I definitely think it’s had an impact on the quality of my writing.

I want to talk about Clifton Heights. Where did this come from? 

That’s one of those things in which I thought I was being very, very clever about seven years ago, inventing this thing I thought was so “original.” I tried writing this gigantic IT/THE STAND hybrid about seven years ago. It completely feel apart, but in the ruins I realized I had about seven or eight serviceable character vignettes that could be turned into short stories. I thought: “This would be neat to write all these short stories about the town, before writing a novel about this town. How original! Nobody’s ever done that!”

Of course, in the interim, I discovered Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes and other “Greentown” storiesby Ray Bradbury, Stephen King’s Castle Rock stories, Charles Grants’ Oxrun Station stories and Gary Braunbeck’s Cedar Hill cycle. But, seeing as how I LOVE those kinds of stories, I plunged on into the creation of Clifton Heights. The challenge now, of course, is to make it mine, and not rehashing of other small town mythos stories.

Is there an end game developing for the town, or is it still wide open?

Still wide open.  I’m walking a fine line there, I know. Leave everything unresolved, folks might be upset. Over a pat solution, and folks might be upset. Knowing me, I’ll offer a solution that probably only open more questions…

The new novella, Devourer of Souls, offers us another slice of the Clifton Heights pie by way of the excellent story, Sophan. Is this an actual game? Or is it straight from your demented mind?

“Sophan” I made up, but the idea of the game I’ve seen in several other mediums – a short story I can’t remember the title of right now, and an X-Files episode had something similar.  The mythology came from research into Vietnamese mythology, which I of course adapted and twisted to my own ends.

The second story included here is, The Man in Yellow. My mind automatically goes to King’s short, “The Man in the Black Suit.”  I really related to the main character, Stuart Evan. I was a huge 80’s hard rock fan. I had really bad scoliosis going into jr. high, and within a year and a half, after wearing a awkward back brace, I had a metal rod put in my back. Therefore, I’m limited. I’m wondering how much of the young Kevin Lucia is in the young Stuart Evans.

Far as the physical limitations, I never suffered from something like that, but I had a close friend who did (and here comes the anxious part wherein I wonder if said friend is reading this, and hope he doesn’t mind me using him as inspiration), and I remember having a lot of those same discussions with him about his disability and how it affected him. The part about doubting faith: we’ve all been there, regardless of our backgrounds. Even as someone who has faith NOW, I’ve been there, and I’ve asked those same kinds of painful questions, despairing of ever finding an answer.

There’s also a lot of broken/single parent families in your stories. My parents split up when I was 14. Seeing this in your work, I looked at my own writing and said, “hey, this has totally slipped into my “families””.  Is this where you came from, too? Or is it that storyteller trying to reach out and bring in that large faction of readers who have been through these kind of challenges?

Definitely the storyteller, the person who looks at all aspects of life and tries to report back as faithfully as possible. I was very fortunate not to come from a broken home – though my relationship with my parents was certainly never perfect, often tumultuous (rest assured, plenty of stories to tell there), they were always there.

However, lots of my friends experienced divorce, and I see so many of students suffer through it. Plus, before teaching, I worked with “at risk” youth. As an adult, I’ve had friends go through divorce, so while I haven’t experienced it first hand, I’ve seen so much of it.

On the business end, how did Devourer of Souls and Ragnarok Publications find each other?

People had said good things about Ragnarok (and they were totally on the money) so I decided to test the waters and pitch them Sophan. Originally, they were going to release that as a standalone eBook only. However, a short story turned into a novella (which happens to me a LOT) and when I presented them with The Man in Yellow, they were delighted to publish it as a paperback, also.

Cool, man. What’s next? I know when you sent me Devourer of Souls I was initially disappointed to find out it was another Clifton Heights set, but as soon as I started Sophan, I was hooked back in. The disappointment is actually meant to be a compliment. Let me explain. Things Slip Through is so good, and I love short stories, but it made me want to see what Lucia delivers in a standalone novel, or novella.  When can we expect this?

Yeah, this is another tricky line to balance. Tying everything into a mythos is fun as a writer, and other mythos-freaks like myself will probably enjoy reading those kinds of stories…but when does it become old hat? Or needlessly indulgent? Also, I’m very much of a “go with the flow” kind of writer, and right now, the words are flowing in Clifton Heights.

I can tell you a standalone novella (in that, there’s no framing device) will be released some time in future from Ragnarok. It’s really a reprint of a serial novella I sold to Lamplight Magazine a few years ago, but I’m still not sure how many folks actually read it. Originally entitled And I Watered It In Tears, it will come out retitled simply as Drowning. It’s one of the most personal things I’ve ever written, and though it takes place in Clifton Heights, it doesn’t have a framing device of any kind.

And of course, there’s my Weird Western series featuring Billy the Kid and flesh-eating monsters. That made it all the way to the Quarter Finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, and while it did well in preliminary voting, it – ah – got kinda beat up in its Publisher’s Weekly review. Of course, a weird western in which Billy the Kid is gunning down monsters is probably not the type of novel that would receive a lot of critical praise. I’ve tossed the idea around with Ragnarok, because they seem open to weird westerns, and I’ve some leads elsewhere, but right now I’m going to let Billy rest for a bit.

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With Young Guns being one of favorite movies ever, I’d be interested to see that one.

I like to do rapid fire at the end here so here we go. Give me three of your favorite Hard rock albums from Stuart Evans era.

Metallica’s Metallica, Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood, Guns’n Roses Use Your Illusion 1 &2

I love all of those! Th Illusion records are totally underrated. Best thing you learned at Writer’s Boot Camp ?

Proper use of POV. You have NO idea how much this changed and tightened my writing.

Your favorite non-horror movie?

Stand By Me

Absolutely one of my all-time favorites, as well. For me, an example of the perfect short story is McCammon’s Nightcrawlers. For other writers out there that need to know how a short story is done properly, can you give me two or three short stories that you consider to be perfect? The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman; The Jar, by Ray Brabdury and Second Chance, by Jack Finney.

 

Kevin, Mr. Lucia, thank you so much for taking the time.

Thanks. And thanks for all of the support. It’s mucho appreciated.

No problem, it’s my pleasure.

 

 Find Kevin at KevinLucia.com

Discover Clifton Heights for yourself:

Devourer of Souls

Things Slip Through

 

Stay tuned for my late-July interview with Samhain’s Jonathan Janz!

Here’s to the madness.

Cheers

 

High Body Count Fairytails: My HNR interview with Mercedes M. Yardley (re-post)

 

 

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(This interview originally appeared on HorrorNovelReviews.com in January 2014)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014 sees the release of the first full-length novel from one of the horror writing communities secret darlings, Mercedes M. Yardley, Nameless: The Darkness Comes. Yardley is not so much a secret among our community (with two releases already under her belt–2012’s excellent collection of short fiction, Beautiful Sorrows and last year’s novella, Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love), just a more of a hoarded treasure. Kind of like that up and coming band that you love and don’t want the mainstream media to get their fat, nasty, write-me-a-hit-or-you’re-back-on-the-streets hands on.

I had the pleasure of meeting her at the World Horror Con in New Orleans last summer. She is as cool as she is talented. I spoke with her last week about her career, her voice, her works and, of course, Nameless: The Darkness Comes. I think you’ll come to see the light side of the dark side once you open that cold, cold horror heart of yours. Come join us…

 

HORROR NOVEL REVIEWS: Let’s start at the start. How long have you been writing?

MERCEDES M.  YARDLEY: I’ve been writing forever. Always. I don’t remember a time that I wasn’t reading or writing. Those annoying Sam and Ann workbooks we used in school? I blew through all of them until the elementary school didn’t have anymore. Then I wrote about how much I hated Sam and Ann, their dog, Nip, and their cat, Fluff. My first grade teacher congratulated my reading and advised me to work on my attitude.

HNR: Was there a story or novel in particular that made you want to write?

MERCEDES: Kafka’s “The Hunger Artist” really resonated with me. The cruelty, the beauty. I read it and thought, “I can never write like that.”  Then I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and I despised it, but it awoke something in me. It shook something loose in my soul and I opened my eyes to magical realism.

HNR: I love it when a writer has that kind of impact. It’s powerful.

You worked for Shock Totem? How did that come about?

MERCEDES: I had a story in their first issue. It was a cool little mag with an amazing staff. I hung out on the forums and got to know everybody. We just rocked together. One day they asked if I wanted to join the magazine as their nonfiction writer. Later on, they promoted me to contributing editor. It was an incredible experience. It definitely accelerated my learning curve. It was a great decision to join staff.

HNR: Will you continue on with them?

MERCEDES: Funny you should ask that. I stepped away from the magazine a few months ago. I found that I wasn’t able to keep my head above water. If I was writing, I’d feel badly that I wasn’t reading ST slush or doing interviews or articles. When I was doing those things, I was torn because I wasn’t writing. Finally I decided that I needed to devote myself to writing full time and focusing on novels. It was scary. It was also sad. But it was the right thing to do, and I still get to see the ST staff around. They were the best part of the gig.

HNR: Your first collection really showcases your unique style and voice. Beautiful Sorrows was next to brilliant. I found it impressive that you had your own style developed right from the get-go. To me, it’s like a terrifying, bizarre fairytale…with sprinkles. How would you describe your style?

MERCEDES: Glenn, thank you! That’s so nice to hear! A terrifying, bizarre fairytale…with sprinkles. Now that’s a blurb!

I have two distinct styles. I call the lyrical style “whimsical horror.” Fairytales with a high body count. The other is more smart aleck swagger. Nameless, the novel that is coming out this month, lands firmly on the swagger side. But the whimsical, starry style…I’d say that shows up more. It’s the way my brain works.

HNR: Where do you think it comes from?

MERCEDES: It comes from getting out of my own way. From reading fairytales and fantasies, and gorging on the exquisite beauty of things. It’s a style that people either love or hate, and I spent a lot of time being afraid of that. I tried to write the way I thought I was “supposed” to. Now I realize there isn’t any such thing. You write happy and hard and see what emerges when the worry stops. It’s lovely.

HNR: And I sense that’s just what you did in your novella,Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love. The work had your signature style, and it felt like you got to open it up a little more and really let it breathe. Was that liberating, to write a larger piece? Or did you find it more intimidating?

MERCEDES: It was intimidating, in a way. It was a darker piece with blood and pain, and I didn’t know how my style would lend itself to that. I ended up immensely happy with it, but there were periods of worry and concern. Their tale was so important. The terrible experiences that I touched upon are real to many people, and I wanted to deal with it in a sensitive yet fiercely truthful manner. And I naturally write shorter stories. I write flash fiction quite a bit. Yes, the longer was different, but immensely satisfying.

HNR: And this was put out through Ragnarok Publications. How are they to write for?

MERCEDES: Fantastic. They’re talented, timely, and enthusiastic. Genuinely good and fun people. They’re one of the best decisions I’ve made of late, and that’s really exciting.

They also put out my first novella Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love, so I know their coolness isn’t a fluke. They’re actually this great to write for.

Are your ears burning, Ragnarok? I’m saying good things about you!


HNR: And that brings us to the upcoming new Novel,Nameless. It’s coming out this week. What are your readers in for?

MERCEDESNameless!  It’s not only my debut novel, but it’s the first book in The Bone Angel Trilogy. I’m over the moon about it! It’s a dark and scary book about Luna, a sarcastic girl who can see demons. There’s a lot of humor in it. People who were scared to pick up a demon novel are telling me that they’re really enjoying Luna’s voice and that they think it’s funny. So it softens the whole “We Are Legion; Give Us Your Soul” thing. It’s been compared to Dean Koontz Tick Tock and David Wong’s John Dies at the End, which are both books that I enjoyed.

These are some of my favorite characters. They’re just fun to roll around with.

HNR: How was writing this compared to the other works you’ve released?

MERCEDES: Nameless is a different labor of love. I was zipping along with it at lightning speed, literally writing a chapter a night. It was a break from the other things I was working on, and written purely for fun. Meanwhile, I was put on bed rest because I was having triplets. Then we lost two of the triplets, and it took me a while to get my mojo back. The ending was a struggle, and I put it aside for a while. When I came back with fresh eyes, I fell in love with the characters all over again. So this novel represents the best of times and the worst of times, quite literally.

HNR: Do you feel pressure leading up to the release?

MERCEDES: Yeeeeeees. It’s my debut novel and the first of a trilogy. I hope it will go well and people like it. But as I was reminded, I mostly write for myself and I’m pleased with it. Still, I think an author always hopes their work will be well-received.

HNR: You just unveiled on your blog, A Broken Laptop, that Ragnarok Publications picked up the next two in this trilogy? How did this come about? And how does that make you feel?

MERCEDES: Oh, I’m pumped! I was nervous at first. “Can I pull this off? Will somebody want to read three of my books?”  But the characters. They’re fascinating. I love them. I’ll follow them through Hell, literally, and in fact we kinda do. They have things to say, and I’m going to let them.

Nameless is set up for a sequel. I didn’t expect that, actually. I planned it to be a standalone book. Then I realized there was something much bigger behind it, and more to the story. So I set it up as a duology. But then I kept thinking a little more…

Hey, Ragnarok. How about a trilogy?

Hey, Mercedes. How about yes.

It’s perfect. It fits. It’s awesome.

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HNR: Switching gears a little, you went through some agent issues recently. How did that affect your writing, if at all, and how is the new agent relationship going?

MERCEDES: I’ve been with my agent for about three years, and we just couldn’t market my work. It doesn’t fit into any of the traditional publishing genres, per se. They want traditional fantasy, or straight noir, or women’s fiction. I do dark fantastic thrillers (or women’s fiction) with strong horror and magical realism elements. Oh yeah, and nonfiction. So I understand being hard to place.

I’m currently sans agent right now. I have a novel titledStormlight that I want to polish up and sub to agents who would be prepared to deal with the eclectic delight that is my screwy work. I still aspire to somebody who thinks they can market me. But I’m very happy where I am right now, too. Giddy happy.

HNR: I want to touch on some things outside of the books. Sort of a quick hits line of questioning.

As a mother and a wife, what are some tricks you use to squeeze in some writing time? Or do you just wait until the house is asleep?

MERCEDES: The house is never asleep. Having three kiddos, and two that are medically fragile, means that somebody is always awake. Someone is always sick and needs the nebulizer. I always leave the computer up so I run to it whenever I have a spare minute. It’s a laptop so I carry it with me from room to room to wherever the kids are. Every spare second is spent darting to the computer. It takes a lot of tenacity and devotion, but the end result is that I get to build a novel. In fact, I’m teaching an online course on that very subject this February for ANWACon. It’s something I think we all struggle with. Using our time wisely and building a novel sentence by sentence, word by word.

HNR: You’re part of a writing group, the Illiterati. Cool name. How do you guys help each other?

MERCEDES: Thanks! We do everything. We travel together to cons, when we go. We critique each other’s work with fangs and claws and then we lick each other’s wounds. The Illiterati is a huge support group. We’re each other’s best cheerleaders. We spread the word about each other’s work and celebrate birthdays together. Mason helped me get an invite to the Tales of Jack the Ripperanthology and helped me record the Beautiful Sorrowsaudiobook. Ryan Bridger and I are writing a very cool trilogy together. Billie is my go-to for the relationships inNameless. She has beautiful ideas. Matt was the perfect traveling companion in New Orleans and didn’t let me get lost. We have THE ILLITERATI: THE WRITERS GROUP and soon we’ll be doing ILLITERATI: THE BAND. One day we’d love to have THE ILLITERATI: THE COMMUNE.

HNR: You guys live where it’s warm, so count me in! Would you suggest a writing group to all writers?

MERCEDES: It works for me, but I like running in a pack. I don’t have that “Oh, I need betas!” problem that a lot of writers have. Mine are built in. I know I’ll be seeing them every Tuesday. I know they’re my first readers. I say everybody should try a writer’s group and see if it works for them. In person, online, it doesn’t matter. But it’s something worthwhile and I think everybody should give it a go.

HNR: All right, let’s get a couple quick ones in here. Favorite treat you’ve brought to a book related event?

MERCEDES: Frozen Junior Mints and Cherry Coke. Mmm!

HNR: Favorite character in a book you read in the last 6 months and why?

MERCEDES: This is horrible. Probably Reed Taylor in my book Nameless. I’ve been reading mostly nonfiction for the past six months. Writing books, enrichment books, true crime books. I can’t very well pick a criminal as my favorite person. But I’ve read and reread Nameless so many times while editing. I’ve gotta go with Reed.

HNR: TV show (old or new) that you secretly love?

MERCEDES: I’m open about my love for The X-Files, so my secret love must be Murder, She Wrote. That squirrely Jessica and her pastel collared shirts! She’s so sassy.

HNR: You play the ukulele. Would you write and record a record with Eddie Vedder if he asked you to?

MERCEDES: In a heartbeat, especially now that he’s softened his style. Our music would be a thing of tragic beauty. Set that up for me, would you, Glenn?

HNR: I agree, and I will see what I can do. Any parting promo or tip for the peeps?

MERCEDES: Yes! This writing thing is awesome, but it’s a business. All of those hurt feelings? Those “I was rejected so I’ll never write again” moments? Let them go. Learn how to breathe through it. If you want to write, then don’t let anything stop you. You have it in you, my darlings. Don’t let anybody tell you anything different.

I also want to say that Nameless: The Darkness Comes is slated for a January 21 release. I’ll also be doing a Reddit AMA on February 11, and I invite everybody to come play with me and ask questions! I’m really looking forward to it.

HNR: Thank you for being rad and taking the time.

MERCEDES: It was a pleasure, Glenn! I was totally digging on some Never Nudes jams while answering the questions. Great sound.

HNR: Thank you, Mercedes. And just so everyone knows, I did not add that last part post-script! Go buy Nameless: The Darkness Calls, and pick up the rest of her work while you’re at it!

 

Buy Nameless: TheDarknesss Comes 

and visit Mercedes blog:  A Broken Laptop

 

Read this interview and others, along with weekly reviews at Horror Novel Reviews

 

Come back next week. I’ll have a brand new interview with Hunter Shea, author of The Montauk Monster