Samhain Guest Author: Jonathan Janz
Fellow Samhain Horror author Jonathan Janz just published his modern-gothic nightmare ‘The Sorrows‘ in ebook (the trade paperback follows in 2012) and has already announced his next, the sublimely-titled and cover-illustrated ‘House of Skin‘. Mr Janz took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for my blog and I’m very glad he did as the answers are very insightful indeed. So, without further ado, take it away Mr Janz!
1. Your novel ‘The Sorrows’ debuts as part of the Samhain Horror line this December. Can you tell us about the novel and the inspiration behind it?
Absolutely! The synopsis, of course, can be found at the Samhain Horror website and just about anywhere else books are sold, but I don’t want to give you a canned answer. Therefore, I’ll say that The Sorrows, while completely original and unique, is essentially a fresh take on the themes covered in several famous horror novels. Arthur Machen and Brian Keene, to name just two, have examined the legend of the god Pan and how a Pan-like antagonist might behave in contemporary society–particularly in a milieu where his bestial powers would be the most potent. In my novel the Pan-like creature is given what I think is a unique origin story and then unleashed on several sympathetic and unsympathetic characters.
Stephen King explored the concept of an edifice or a locale existing as a sort of psychic battery in The Shining; I explore that concept in The Sorrows because the entire island is a magnet for vengeful spirits.
And answering your question from a third perspective, I’ve long been fascinated by the art of movie music composition. How did Bernard Herrmann write the scores for Psycho and Vertigo? What about John Williams and his numerous masterpieces? My protagonists are movie music composers, and they’re scoring a big budget horror film by a director so evil he seems to be straight out of a horror movie. And, of course, by the end of the novel, the composers and the director are both pitted against an evil so diabolical that there’s no escaping it.
2. Care to reveal more about your clear fascination with gothic horror?
I love the gothic structure for a number of reasons, but above all I’m enthralled by the idea that evil is a living, breathing entity. Sin never really dies, at least sin for which there has been no atonement or remorse. All of us are fallible and all of us make mistakes. But there are human monsters in our midst all the time even if we don’t recognize them as such. People can perform unspeakable acts and appear perfectly normal to their peers. I explore that idea in The Sorrows, and further, through the gothic structure I can dramatize the sin that left such an indelible stain before I depict the manner in which that individual faces his or her reckoning. Only the gothic sub genre, I believe, allows the storyteller that specific angle of dread and horror.
3. Samhain Publishing is a new player in the horror literature field. What drew you to them as a publisher and how has it been working with them?
Don D’Auria. Simple answer, I know, but it’s the truth. Because of Don, I became familiar with Jack Ketchum and Richard Laymon, who’ve both been incredibly important in my walk as an author. Additionally, Don has discovered or published other authors (like Brian Keene) who continue to influence me. Working with Don and Samhain has been amazing. He’s grounded yet incredibly skilled, patient yet very driven, and he never makes me feel stupid even when the questions I ask could be characterized by that adjective. I’m very thankful for Don, and working with him has been even better than I thought it would be.
4. Winter has descended over Castle Blackwood and you are snowed in. Luckily there is plenty of food to keep The Sorrows at bay. Around the banqueting table are 6 chairs. Who’s dining with you, and why?
This will be incredibly cheesy, but to quote John Mellencamp, that’s the kind of fella I am. I would choose my wife, my four-year-old daughter (gotta put her first to ward off middle-child syndrome), my six-year-old son, and my baby daughter. Assuming I take one of the remaining two chairs, that leaves one place. And though my conscience tells me I should choose another family member or a friend to inhabit that chair, let me instead say at least one interesting thing in this answer and choose Stephen King. I doubt I’ll ever get the chance to meet him, but if I did, I’d likely be a blithering idiot, and dinner would be a disaster. But I’d still get to break bread with him, which would make my embarrassment worth it.
5. Where do you feel the horror genre stands nowadays and what does your crystal ball predict for the genre’s future?
There’s a writer named James Macdonald (I think) who’s referred to as Uncle Jim on the AbsoluteWrite website. He makes an awesome analogy about the attitude of some literary fiction writers versus the attitude of most commercial fiction writers. He imagines the former standing around cupping single grains of sand in their hands, cherishing those grains, and jealously (and perhaps haughtily) guarding them from the rest of the world. Then he imagines himself (as a stand-in, I assume, for all commercial fiction writers) in an ice-cream stand on the beach inviting anyone within shouting distance to come enjoy a cone. That, in my opinion, is how we as a genre need to grow. Horror is a universal emotion, and it should be a universal genre. We should welcome writers who write horror but don’t call it that (Cormac McCarthy, for instance) just as much as we should welcome writers who deal in werewolves and zombies. The more inclusive we are, the larger readership we’ll eventually reach. So blow up the gates, I say, and make it one huge party.
6. What is your favorite work of fiction (horror or otherwise) and why?
My favorite horror novel is Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. My favorite novel overall is Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. I love the Straub book because it showed me that much of what I’d often dreamed about and felt could be expressed in a novel. I love Dandelion Wine because, as cheesy as this sounds, it’s love on paper. I cherish that book and can’t wait to read it with my children. Ghost Story, too, of course, but that one will have to wait until they’re at least seven-years-old. :-)
7. What next from Jonathan Janz? What are your hopes, dreams…and nightmares for the future?
This summer will see my second Samhain Horror release, a gothic novel titled House of Skin. I’m very proud of it and anxious for the world to read it. After that, hopefully, will come the novel I’m just about done editing (Loving Demons) and the novel I’m about eighty-percent finished with (Native). My career dream is to write full-time, but as long as my family and I are healthy and happy and together, I’ll have all I need.
8. As many people will know, Samhain Publishing is named for the ancient tradition that became every horrorhead’s favorite festival of Halloween. What would make for your best ever Samhain celebration?
I won’t give you a boring answer about my kids here, so how about this: Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Peter Straub, Richard Matheson, and Joe R. Lansdale journey to a haunted castle with the Samhain Horror writers (including you, of course*), and we stage our own Lake Geneva Lord Byron/Mary Shelley all-night ghost story session in front of a fire while the storm and the winds outside rage. That’d make for one fine Samhain!
My thanks to Jonathan Janz for the awesome and insightful Q&A!
Be sure to check out a spine-tingling excerpt & pick up a copy of ‘The Sorrows’ at the Samhain Horror Store.
And to keep up-to-date on all things Jonathan Janz, visit his website: http://jonathanjanz.com
*Cheers! See you there dude…i’ll bring the ‘Transylvanian Red’ :)