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High Noon with the Dust Devils – An Interview With Jonathan Janz

Jonathan Janz is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. If you’ve never read his books, you might assume the mind behind the man is as unassuming as a Norman Rockwell painting. Thankfully, you’d be wrong. Dead wrong. This is a man who knows how to spin a twisted, pulse-pounding yarn. He’s been one busy dude since making his Samhain Horror debut a couple of years ago.

I’m both thrilled and honored to interview the man who conjures some of the finest books in the genre. His latest, Dust Devils, is a terrifying tale of Vampires in the old west. Grab a stake, crucifix and some garlic and read on, my children of the night….

 

Speaking as a fellow author who was writing his own western horror the same time as you, what made you decide to set Dust Devils in the old, wild west?

I think—at least at this point in my career—I view most stories through a pretty dark lens. So basically, since I was already a huge fan of western books and films, and I’d been reading a ton of westerns in the past few years, the seeds of the tale began to germinate as those two elements fused together (my dark lens and my western love). Like with most stories, the genesis of Dust Devils was very natural and organic; it was just sort of there in my mind. I wrote the first version of the opening scene maybe six years ago, and then I didn’t do anything with it. But as it is with the best ideas (I’ve heard Stephen King speak about this), the scene stuck with me. Eventually, the characters formed in my mind, and the tale was too powerful to ignore anymore. And Dust Devils was born.

dust devils

 

Knowing you, the vampires in Dust Devils don’t sparkle. How would you best describe your horrific creations and the new twist they give to vampire lore.

In their ferocity, they’re every bit as monstrous as the creatures in 30 Days of Night, so that’s a pretty decent starting place for a modern reader. But the best analogue to my vampires—in fact, the main inspiration for my vampires—is the original Fright Night movie. Chris Sarandon as the lead vampire Jerry Dandridge really terrified me as a child. But he was also the kind of guy you’d want to be friends with (if you didn’t know about his vampirism), or in the case of a woman, he was probably the kind of guy a woman would find attractive and seductive. And those two sides—the bestial and the seductive—weren’t at all mutually exclusive in that character. In fact, one kind of relied on the other for survival. Adam Price, my main vampire, isn’t exactly like Jerry Dandridge, but he’s pretty closely related to him, which shows how impactful Fright Night and Sarandon’s performance were on me.

Do you see western horror as an up-and-coming sub-genre, now that we’ve seemingly exhausted the whole zombie thing?

I do. I think horror can coalesce with the western as well as any other genre (including action and/or romance). In fact, I think the western works best when it’s an amalgam of all the aforementioned genres. The western is such an amazing kind of story, yet it’s really been marginalized for the better part of what, four decades? I think horror novels can help revive the western, and I think the western can help legitimize horror in the minds of many readers who tend to smirk or scoff at horror. But the fact is, in many ways, western stories and horror stories are kindred spirits. They’re both morality tales that stare unflinchingly into the abyss of man’s tendency to do evil, as well as man’s ability to behave nobly.

As for the second part of your question, I agree that zombies as a subgenre have been used a great deal in the past decade and that most of the traditional zombie treatments seem a bit tired at this point. But what I also see—and I’m really excited about this—is that zombies have begun to permeate the realms of horror previously uninfluenced by zombies. And this is a really good thing. I love zombie stories, but I’ve never written a zombie book. However, if you look at my last two novels—both Savage Species and Dust Devils—the creatures in both of those books are influenced by zombies and have zombie-like traits. In Savage Species, the “Children” are firmly entrenched in the tradition of the Wendigo, yet they can return from the dead and are hungry for human flesh. In Dust Devils, a crossbow plays a major role (a nod to Daryl Dixon/Norman Reedus in The Walking Dead), you have a cuckolded husband at the forefront (a Rick Grimes/Andrew Lincoln connection), and a father/son relationship that’s tested in a war with seemingly implacable foes (Rick and Carl vs. the zombies). So even though my novels aren’t zombie novels, they owe a huge debt to the zombie films, books, and television shows I’ve absorbed. Brian Keene’s The Rising is another huge part of what I’ve been doing and thinking. And in that one you have a powerful father-son bond at the heart of the story, just like the father-son bonds at the heart of Dust Devils.

Savage Species

 

If you were living in the wild west, do you see yourself as a white hat or black hat? Or would you be a shade of gray, like Clint Eastwood’s character in Unforgiven? And what would be your cowboy name?

Clint Eastwood, absolutely. The white hats and black hats aren’t as interesting as the grays, because I think most of us, when you get down to it, are a bit gray. At least I am. Would I hurt an innocent person for any reason? No way. But would I bat an eyelash in defending my wife or my children? Would I be willing to fight fire with fire if need be? I’d like to think I would be. And I think many people would be as well. Now, that sounds good, but what about those situations in which there is no easy or obviously right path? Cody Wilson, my protagonist, finds himself in situations like that in Dust Devils. Does he kill a bad person to save himself even though the bad person might not really deserve to die? Does Cody save his new girlfriend or his stepmother? And how does he make that decision? Those are gray situations, and I think Cody responds the way I would to most of them. And he’s definitely a gray guy—good down deep, but certainly not perfect. Light gray, maybe. Oh, and my cowboy name would be Jack Wilson, just like the father in Dust Devils. I love the name Jack.

clint

What would be your top 3 western movies and western novels?

Ooooh, that’s a great one. Here we go (I only cheated a little)…

Novels: 1. Last Stand at Saber River, Elmore Leonard 2. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry 3. All the Pretty Horses/Cities of the Plain/Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy Movies: 1. 3:10 to Yuma (the remake) 2. The Outlaw Josey Wales 3. Unforgiven

OK, hypothetical, you’re called to a high noon shoot-out with a rogue cowboy vampire (who does some acting on the side). You have a holy water infused bullet with a crucifix carved on the side, so you know it will only take one shot to put him down. You see him an hour before the big event, his back turned to you. Do you draw on him and shoot him in the back?

If it means I’d save my wife or my kids? Absolutely. I guess that makes me a darker gray, but at least I’m honest. Now…if it would just be to save myself? Maybe. I mean, it would be tougher to live with, so I’d definitely have to pause and think. But in the end I think I’d still shoot him. Because he’s a vampire, and vampires kill. I’d be saving others, as well as myself, so I’d kill him and live with what guilt resulted.

Dust Devils is so unlike all of your previous books. Why don’t you tell everyone why they need to read it.

It is different, Hunter; you’re right about that. But maybe more than I ever have in a book, I show my heart in this one. I reveal some of my deeper fears, as well as some of my deepest longings. I mean, on the surface, the tale is a tense thriller with all the elements of great storytelling—strong dialogue, internal conflict, fierce action, life-or-death stakes, romance, friendship, and deep familial bonds. But it also contains a man with many regrets, a severed father-son relationship, a woman who’s been abused and who longs for something better. There’s a very powerful heart in this book that I think readers will respond to. But as I said earlier, there’s also a fast pace and an electricity that’ll sweep the reader along. The three major action set pieces in the story (the opening scene in the valley, the bloodbath in the saloon, and the final shootout/fight at the ranch) offer more action than you’ll find in almost any western I can think of. So I think it’s a crowd-pleaser that’ll stick with audiences long after they’ve read it.

What’s next for you, since I assume you never sleep.

 

Well, if all goes as planned, I’ll have both a novel (my first-ever sequel, Castle of Sorrows) and an unannounced novella coming this summer. In January of 2015, I’ll have The Nightmare Girl, a Joe R. Lansdale-influenced suspense/horror novel that delves into the ancient Irish fire myths. This summer I plan on writing at least two novels, but I can’t talk about those yet for various reasons—I mean, I can talk to you about them, Hunter, but I can’t talk publicly about them.

 

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, my friend. You are without question one of my dearest friends in the business, and a writer whose work I love and deeply admire (even though it makes me jealous sometimes).

Your dudeness, you have nothing to be jealous about. :)

I Made The Reading and Writing Podcast!

I’ve been an avid listener of Jeff Rutherford’s Reading and Writing Podcast for quite a while. One of my goals when I was just getting my first book deal was to be a guest on his show. I’m happy to check that off my bucket list.

reading-and-writing-podcast

Jeff has interviewed some of the best authors out there, like James Lee Burke, Joe R. Lansdale, Nate Kenyon and Jonathan Mayberry.

In our interview, I read from the first chapter of Sinister Entity, explain why I write about ghosts and why, out of all things paranormal, this particular phenomenon has the ability to terrify people right to their core. And I get a chance to thank Brian Keene and Jack Ketchum for saving my sanity a couple of years ago. Oh, and we talk a little Monster Men, too.

You can click here to listen to the interview or download the podcast on iTunes. Definitely the best interview I’ve been a part of to date and I hope I get a chance to be on the show again.

A SEPS Paranormal Interview

Over the last year, I’ve become a huge fan of the SEPS Paranormal podcast. Host Paul Cagle has a very similar sensibility to my own when it comes to the paranormal, plus he’s a funny dude.

I was thrilled to be on  his show. The episode is now up. We talk about the ghost experiences I’ve had, my books and the Monster Men podcast. Come join the fun! If you catch it on iTunes, I hope you subscribe (it’s free) and drop some reviews/comments.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST.

SEPS-new-188X70

 

New Appearances and Signings

I know it’s still summer, but horror season is fast approaching. I just added 4 new events where you can find me either hawking my wares or talking about the paranormal. Check out the latest on the Signings & Appearances tab. And if you know of an event or location that you would like me to come to, let me know.

Live Radio Show Tonight!

For those of you interested in my ramblings, I’ll be co-hosting the Working Things Out radio show tonight with Tony Ventarola, one of my oldest friends in this scary world. The show goes from 6-7pm ET. You can listen live by clicking the Listen Live link or come back another day and check out the archive. Lord knows what we’ll talk about, but knowing us, UFOs, ghosts, baseball and politics will probably rear their heads.

If you missed it live, you can access the archive here on YouTube. A big thank you to Diana Navarro for lending us her air time.

New Contest, Mothman and Soggy Book Fairs

Before I share what it was like to be at an outdoor book fair where rain played peek-a-boo all day, I figured I’d start with the fun stuff. I have a new contest starting today for my book, Evil Eternal. Right now, there are 2 very nice reviews on Amazon for my demon-ass-kicking novel.

Father Michael has an Amazon card just for you!

When the review # hits 10, I’m going to pick one reviewer to win a $25 Amazon gift card plus some signed stuff, or as I like to call it, paraphenalia. Love that word! So, if you’ve read the book, pop on over to Amazon, and be in it to win it.

For all you Monster Men fans, our latest episode is alive! This time we talk about the high-strangeness of The Mothman. There is so much involved in this story in terms of the paranormal, it’s mind boggling! Check it out on the Monster Men tab right here.

OK, now on to the book fair. Last Saturday, I attended the Books Without Borders event at the scenic Yonkers waterfront. To me, this was a perfect locale. It’s right on the Hudson River looking across at the Palisades, and there are tons of restaurants right on the boardwalk, not to mention new apartment buildings loaded with potential attendees.

A nice morning to take the boat out!

We got there nice and early. I think we were the second table to set up. Everyone in charge of the fair was incredibly helpful and optimistic. Why optimistic and not just plan old thrilled? Well, you see, there were a lot of clouds up in the thing we call a sky and the air was heavy with the smell of oncoming rain.

Oh sure, they look nice now!

No matter. With the help of my lovely wife and daughter, they had the table set up in no time while I drove my car to the assigned lot and made the mile walk back to the author area. Gotta say, I was impressed. I may hire them out for other authors.

Hunter and Ivy, ready for the crowds to descend.

We had to wait almost an hour and a half before the fair officially started, but that gave me time to meet my fellow authors and talk like writers.

“Here here, my good man. I’m having the devil of a time getting my syntax correct with my latest novel. Dare say you have any suggestions?”

“You are in a bit of a pickle. Mayhaps we should retire to the parlor for a good brandy. The muse always seems to come to me when my belly is warm and the cigars are tightly rolled.”

Or something like that.

Anyway, it didn’t take long for the first tiny droplets of rain to patter down upon our paper babies. Needless to say, we were all concerned. The rain would stop, then start again, never too hard, but enough to do damage to hundreds of books. So, what do you do when it rains at a book fair and you have a table full of books? You run to the store and get Ziploks!

Books should always wear protection.

Big thanks to wifey who thought of that one. So, we had saved the books, but now we had another problem. The bad weather was keeping the people away. It kept them away in droves. In packs. In, well, you get the point. Instead of crying over spilled storm clouds, we made the best of it. So while some authors packed up early, we tarried on. And I’m glad I did. I got to meet some awesome people (that means you, Nina, Shai, Gary, Ariel and Jackie), and despite having to move the table to a dry zone when the rain really decided to kick ass, I did pretty well in terms of sales.

And wouldn’t you know it, with a little over an hour left to go, the sun came out and the day turned beautiful. My oldest daughter came back from a Broadway show and joined us and all was right with the world.

Happy Sheas!

So it wasn’t the greatest book fair ever. Big deal. Despite the rain and low turnout, I still had a great time. I got to meet fans, new authors, had a great chicken parm at the restaurant behind the table, did a radio interview (finishing it just before the band roared to life…you can listen to it here, and stay with it when the connection gets lost for a minute) and spent an entire day with my family. I’ll trade books in Ziploks for that any day.

Big Saturday (and no Bay City Rollers)

Just a quickie this time around after hitting you all with the heavy stuff last post. This Saturday, I’ll be at the Books Without Borders event in Yonkers, NY. The weather is going to be wonderful and they’re expecting well over 1,00o attendees. I’ll be there to meet folks and sign and sell my books, of course, but you can also meet with agents, editors and publishers. Plus, there will be tons of entertainment for the kids. Really great stuff. Click here to learn more.

Also on Saturday, at 11am ET, I’ll be interviewed on A Book and a Chat radio show. Barry, the host, is one of my favorite interviewers. We had a great time last go around when Forest of Shadows came out.

So, if you can’t make it to the event (and I hope many of you do so we can meet!), you can still hear me on the radio show.

Have a bitchin’ weekend and thank you all for your support and kind words.

P.S. : For a teaser, I just went to the famed Whaley House in San Diego. Very interesting. Lots of pics to share next time!

Dreadful Tales Samhain Celebration Wrap-Up

The wonderful folks at Dreadful Tales were nice enough to dedicate an entire week to Samhain Horror, with interviews, reviews and articles with authors (such as myself) and editor Don D’Auria. If you’re a fan of horror, this is a treasure trove of insight and hopefully a reason to add to your “to read” pile. You can catch up on everything right here! Dreadful Tales Samhain Celebration Wrap-Up.

Winner, Winner, Free Book Dinner & Radio Interviews

A big thank you to everyone who entered this weekend’s contest (and so many of the nice things y’all said). Well, I pulled out the little post-it pad, wrote all the names and put them in a basket. My daughters each drew a name and we have our 2 winners. Congratulations to Ahsley Applebee and Cate Gardner! You each win a signed copy of Forest of Shadows.

For those who didn’t win, I’d like to send you a signed promo card for the book. There aren’t many left and who knows, if the book ever becomes a classic, you’ll have something valuable to pawn off on eBay! Please send your mailing address to me at huntershea1@gmail.com and I’ll send them all out ASAP. And don’t despair. I plan to give away more books and other fun stuff over the next few months.

On another note, I’ll be interviewed on a couple of radio shows this week. Hopefully, I can censor myself. If you’d like to hear me ramble on about whatever flies into my head, please stop by.

Tuesday, 1/17/12 @ 6:30pm ET : A Book and a Chat

Thursday, 1/19/12 @ 9:00pm ET : Live Paranormal

Radio Interview With Samhain Horror Authors

A few days ago, I took part in a radio interview for Diabolical Radio with several other Samhain Horror authors. We talked about our roads to getting published, why we love and write horror and of course, our current releases and upcoming books. I believe we were all sober and no one can be heard cheering or cursing in the background, since Game 1 of the World Series was on at the time. If you’ve ever wondered what makes a horror writer tick, you definitely want to check this out. Click here to listen to the interview.

Roll call of those who were part of the interview:

Kristopher Rufty, author of Angel Board.

Ronald Malfi, author of Borealis.

Brian Moreland, author of Dead of Winter.

Jonathan Janz, author of The Sorrows.

And of course, me, The Forest of Shadows guy.

Don’t forget to check out my fan page on FB where I run a new contest every Saturday with lots of cool giveaways. OK, have to get ready to go see Paranormal Activity 3 so us Monster Men can post a new review. Remember, if a vampire knocks on your door, DO NOT let him in. The bastard will think he owns the place.

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