Interview with Author Jonathan Janz
Jonathan Janz is new to the horror scene, just like Tim Tebow is to the NFL, only JJ is a hell of a lot better at what he does. Now, I’m not saying we’re lifelong buds or neighbors, but from getting to know him over the past 6 months, I’m pretty secure in saying they invented the phrase “he’s the salt of the earth” to describe this guy. His debut novel with Samhain Publishing, The Sorrows, is the real deal. Think The Haunting meets the early work of Phil Rickman (and if you have never read a Phil Rickman novel, you can return your Official Horror Fan Membership Card). This book has the iron jaws of a pit bull, except this is one angry dog you’ll be happy to cross.
Jonathan was nice enough to answer my sometimes bizarre questions. Here they be, in all their gory…glory.
1.Your debut novel, The Sorrows, is now out through Samhain Publishings new horror line. Tell us a little about your book, you know, something that will compel us to buy it as much as terrify us to sleep with the lights off.
To borrow a question from my favorite horror novel (Peter Straub’s Ghost Story), “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” If you’re imagining it, I now want you to imagine the face of the person you wronged. Then imagine that face growing dark with rage and pursuing you…even after death. That dread is at the heart of The Sorrows.
The novel is set on an island, and this island (called the Sorrows by its long-dead inhabitants) is haunted by events nearly a century old, as well as a bestial creature that might or might not be a Greek god. If you travel to the island, you better hope your slate is clean because any soul you’ve ever wronged will find you there…for violent and unholy retribution.
Also, The Sorrows is about two composers (and two female companions) traveling to one of the most haunted places in the world (the island) to find inspiration for a big-budget horror movie being shot by the most demanding director in film.
2.If you were guaranteed to be an overnight sensation writing in another genre, what would it be and why?
Whoa, great question. I think I’d write readable literary fiction. By that, I mean stories that people can actually understand without having to squint at the page for an hour trying to figure out what the hell the author’s laboring to say. I think of writers like Cormac McCarthy and Ian McEwan…man, I love those guys, and I’ve heard them called all sorts of things, but to me they’re both deeply literary and fantastically skilled. So I’d like to write stuff that exhibits both those qualities. In fact, I’m already working on a couple of things…
3.OK, you’re invited to spend the night in a haunted castle, say Leap Castle in Ireland, with the stipulation that you must be alone and have no source of light. Do you go? If you do, what do you expect to happen?
Truth? Or something that will make me sound manly and virile? The truth is, I’d never spend a night away from my kids (I’ve got three of them under the age of six) because I’d miss them and worry about them.
But let’s say, for the fun of it, that I’m ten years older, and my wife and kids and I are vacationing in Ireland. Some guy says, “Hey, Lad, I’ll put a thousand bucks each in your children’s college funds if you spend the night alone at Leap Castle.” I’d do it then, and I’d spend the rest of the night scared out of my mind imagining all sorts of things.
Do I think I’d really see something? Other than the puddle of urine pooling around my feet? I don’t know, and that’s what makes the prospect of spending the night in a place like that so frightening. I might see nothing, though my imagination would conjure all sorts of awful things. I might also see something real, which is truly terrifying.
4.For the aspiring writers out there, can you describe your road to publication? Also, do you have an agent and how did you connect with him or her?
My road was very Beatlesesque—long and winding. I’ve been rejected so many times I’ve come to tense my stomach muscles like Houdini every time I open my inbox because a gut punch is always on the way. That sounds cynical, but it’s the truth. You’ve got to be determined, you’ve got to accept that you don’t know everything, and you’ve got to have enough stubbornness and confidence to stay with something that most days brings you nothing but negative feedback. And silence.
I don’t have an agent at the moment, though I’m about to start shopping again. I once had one, but that’s a long, dull story that I’ll spare you for today. Having said that, I fully believe an agent is necessary to maximize a writer’s success, and I’d very much like to find one. The key, though, is compatibility. She/he has to like your work, and you have to have faith in her/his abilities. So yes, I do want an agent and believe I’ll get one when the time is right.
5. Quick, in 30 words or less, describe your current work in progress.
What if the two traditional depictions of vampires—the romantic, haunted loner, and the monstrous, insatiable beast—were only phases in the transformation into something far more terrible? And infinitely more powerful?
That was thirty-two words, and you still don’t know the title (Loving Demons), or who my protagonist is (Ellie Crane) or how her husband Chris becomes obsessed with a beautiful woman who lives in the forest where he and Ellie move, or how Ellie conceives a child but soon learns she can’t leave because the forest and the spirits that live there won’t let her leave, or how a demonic cult once sacrificed—
Okay, I cheated a little, but that’s a start. (Hunter : Dude, you cheated a little??)
6.What is your favorite horror movie and novel? Aaaaand, whenyou were a kid, what was your all time favorite cartoon?
Movie: Jaws or The Exorcist. The former is better-made, but the latter is scarier.
Novel: Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. The gothic structure of that book changed my writing forever, even though I didn’t even try to write until five years after I read the book.
Cartoon: Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry. No wonder my stories are so violent!
7.Last one. Whats the weirdest thing you’ve ever written and did you ever let it see the light of day?
The weirdest thing is probably a novel called Blood Country that I actually reference in my debut novel The Sorrows. It’s a bizarre hybrid of a crime novel a la Elmore Leonard and a bloody horror novel by someone like Richard Laymon. Actually, it’s far bloodier than most of even Laymon’s stuff, so I guess the title is apt.
I did indeed let it see the light of day about three years ago when I finished it and began querying agents about it. The responses went something like this: “I really like your writing, and there’s no doubt you can do suspense very well. And I know I stated in my guidelines that I wanted dark. But…well…not this dark.”
I plan on reworking it after my next three novels are done (the aforementioned Loving Demons, another I’m about eighty-percent done with called Native, and the novel I’m going to write this coming summer). Blood Country is weird, dark, and disturbing. But I like it, and I think readers will, too, once I get it right.
Thank you so much, Hunter, for having me on your blog and for asking such awesome questions. Forest of Shadows was OUTSTANDING, and I’m proud to be published alongside you!
**If you want to read a truly insightful, sometimes hilarious, but always honest blog, check out Jonathan Janz, the Blog!
About Hunter SheaI’m the product of a childhood weened on The Night Stalker, The Twilight Zone and In Search Of. I don’t just write about the paranormal. I actively seek out the things that scare the hell out of people and experience them for myself. My novels, Forest of Shadows, Evil Eternal , Swamp Monster Massacre and Sinister Entity are published through Samhain Publishing’s horror line. I live with my family and untrainable cat close enough to New York City to get Gray’s Papaya hotdogs when the craving hits. I’m also proud to be be one half of the Monster Men video podcast, along with my partner in crime, Jack Campisi. Our show is a light hearted approach to dark subjects. We explore real life hauntings, monsters, movies, books and everything under the horror sun.
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