Category Archives: the lamplighters
Time to welcome fellow Samhain Horror author Jonathan Janz back to the blog. His debut The Sorrows marked the arrival of a striking new voice in horror fiction. Read on for the (ahem) Skin-ny on his new novel House of Skin and more! Let’s flay!
1.Your 2nd Samhain novel House of Skin just released, congrats! What’s the Skinny on this book?
First of all, thanks so much for having me on today, Frazer! You know I’m a fan, and hopefully those readers who enjoyed the exploits of The Skin Mechanic in your excellent The Lamplighters will also enjoy my monstrous villain Annabel in House of Skin.
To answer your first question…I’m not saying I’m the equal of these writers, but those who love horror will know the names Peter Straub and Richard Laymon. House of Skin is the kind of story that would have occurred had Straub and Laymon collaborated. First of all, the pace of House of Skin is very brisk, and pacing was one of Laymon’s best attributes as a writer. There are also real-life villains who bring about some nastily violent sequences, which was another staple of Laymon’s books.
But the overall story and structure of House of Skin harkens back to the early books of Peter Straub. Ghost Story, Julia, and Shadowland influenced this book in many important ways, so if you enjoy the Gothic framework (where the past ultimately meets and influences the present), you’ll love this novel.
2. How does it differ from The Sorrows? Or are both books similar in style?
Stylistically, they have several similarities (Gothic structure, fast pace, etc.); there are, however, some important differences. The Sorrows contained six main points of view, as well as the flashback sequences. House of Skin only really uses three main points of view in addition to its flashbacks, which means you get into these characters’ heads to an even greater degree (though, of course, I felt like you got to know my characters in The Sorrows quite intimately as well).
Another difference between The Sorrows and House of Skin is the nature of the villain. In The Sorrows, I think the audience comes to feel some sympathy for the main villain, although they ultimately despise and fear him in the end. In House of Skin, I doubt that anyone will feel anything but horror at Annabel and the terrible events she brings about. Of course, there is a strong element of eroticism with Annabel, which might make readers desire her the way the characters do…but readers will hate her even more than they’ll desire her.
3. How did House of Skin evolve & become your 2nd Samhain book?
Well, it was the second book I submitted to Don D’Auria, the editor you and I (thankfully) share at Samhain, but it was also the first book I ever tried to write. I say “tried” because when I first attempted to capture the basic story (which had been with me since my early twenties), I didn’t have the chops to pull it off. I wrote and threw out seven drafts of the novel, which went by a few different names. After I wrote The Sorrows, I felt like I had grown enough as an author to take another stab (hah!) at this book. What resulted was House of Skin, and I’m extremely proud of the way it turned out.
4. Say you could wear another’s Skin for a day… Who – or what – and why?
Whoa…that’s a weird, wonderful question, Frazer. I think I’d wear Alexander Payne’s skin; he’s the screenwriter and the director of Sideways, The Descendants, and other great films. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how he tells a story. If I could wear his skin, I assume I could also share his brain, and in doing so I could take with me his abilities and amazing traits as a storyteller.
5. What’s up next for Jonathan Janz?
My third book will be published by Samhain Horror in early 2013. It’s called The Darkest Lullaby and has a bit of Paranormal Activity and Rosemary’s Baby in it, which I find to be very cool. After that I’ve got something very strange and wonderful planned, but since I’m still editing it right now, I don’t want to jinx myself by talking about it.
In addition to novel #3 (and hopefully novel #4) coming out in 2013, my first three novels are likely going to be published in audio form next year as well, which I’m really jazzed about.
I’m currently working on my fifth novel, which will likely turn out to be the first book in a trilogy. I’ve never done a sequel before, so if this one keeps going as well as it has thus far, following it up will also pose a new and exciting challenge.
Thanks muchly for dropping by and sharing your thoughts, here’s wishing you all the very best for your new releases and projects, can’t wait to read ‘em!
Thank you so much for having me back on your blog, Frazer! I can’t wait to read Panic Button and anything else you cook up!
Keep up on all the latest Jonathan Janz-based goodness at his official site: www.jonathanjanz.com
Celebrating an exciting announcement about the Bram Stoker Awards today at the Samhain Publishing blog – check it out!
It’s been a helluva couple of days here at Lee Towers. Hallowe’en was a blast as always and I am now only just removing the last of the pumpkin soup from my hair… those pesky trick or treaters. The Lamplighters ebook launch went off with a cauldron-sized bang. I had fun giving away Samhain Book Vouchers on Facebook & Twitter, and answering probing questions & posting excerpts at the Samhain Cafe.
The dollop of cream on top of the pumpkin pie was the news that The Lamplighters hit the #1 spot in Samhain Publishing’s Horror Bestsellers list, thanks to all those purchasing the ebook. I made the screengrab (below) as I’m fully aware that these things are only fleeting ~ and The Lamplighters sure as hell can’t hold off all that amazing Samhain Horror talent for long!
Talking of which, I traded interviews with fellow Samhain author Hunter Shea (if you missed it, you can check out his insightful interview here) and you can read my musings on all things horror, The Lamplighters and my fishiest secrets at Hunter’s official website.
Yup, it’s Hallowe’en all week here… so here’s wishing you a Happy Hallowe’ek!
Today’s Lamplighters Countdown post is… well, a bit of a rant about HALLOWE’EN.
What inspired this post was a trip to my local library last week, where I spotted this poster on my way out:
What really blows about the message of the poster is the assumption that trick or treating is somehow “anti-social behaviour waiting to happen”.
Give me a break. Really.
Now I understand that costumed freaks knocking on the door for sweets* might be intimidating if you’re a little old lady (*candy if you’re reading this in the good ol’ U.S. of A.). I get that, I really do. I’ve lived in some of the roughest areas of the sprawling metropolis in my time, and I admit that a couple of times I was bricking it when I answered the door on Hallowe’en night. But I have always, always opened my door to trick or treaters.
In fact the day I don’t answer the door, to a bunch of kids dressed up in their Hallowe’en finest, with a ceramic Jack Skellington head filled with treats is the exact same day I’m officially no longer useful. I mean it, it’s proof-positive that I’ve become an old fart (oh, okay that happened already). But if that day really does happen, go ahead and ship me out to Resyk. Turn me into Soylent Green (“…is people!”). The day I don’t open my door to trick or treaters is the day I succumb to the fears that the cretins at the Daily Mail would have me losing sleep over. It’s the day I lose my optimism that the Great Unknown, the Big What If might offer something fun, something different, maybe something challenging and – yes – scary.
Hallowe’en (and its origins) is all about us facing up to perhaps our greatest fear of all – that of our own mortality. Samhain rites around the world have resonated with the simple, common core idea that we should honour our dead on one day of the year – stare death in the face and celebrate it – laugh at it. Celebrate death? How queer. Think about it, if we can do that then we are no longer afraid – and we might even be inclined to give ourselves over to some optimism and fun for at least some of the days and nights that we are still on the planet.
And we might even be inclined to open that door and make a child’s day by joining in with the fun.
I say save the bah humbug for Christmastime, and here’s wishing everyone – young and old – A HAPPY HALLOWE’EN!
Today’s Lamplighters Countdown post is the opening chapter from my novel.
Dim the lights, grab a flagon of pumpkin juice and read on if you dare
And if after that your bloodlust isn’t sated, why not head on over to the Samhain Horror store, where you can read excerpts from all the currently available and upcoming titles.
Cheers for reading. ‘Til next slime, take scare!
Excerpt from ‘The Lamplighters’:
Copyright © 2011 Frazer Lee
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
“It’s the greatest job in the world.”
Vera smiled as she said the words.
“All I have to do is turn on the damn lights, water the plants; a few chores…”
Static crackled in her ear — the phone line was lousy tonight.
“Are you still there?”
“Yes,” came the reply, “but I can hardly hear you. There’s a weird kind of… echo.”
“It’s Jessie’s uplink,” Vera chuckled, “We’re not really allowed to call anyone from the island…”
“Sorry… how… calling me?”
Christ, the line was getting choppy. Vera pressed the cordless handset closer to her ear, then checked herself.
“As if that’ll make any difference,” she said. Probably talking to herself now.
The crackling grew louder. She could still hear her friend’s voice, buried beneath layers of digital cacophony. A faint echo smothered by an avalanche of noise.
There was something else in the mix too; an ominous growling hum like the electricity pylons near her home. Berlin, so far away now. Even as she thought it, the hum grew; drowning out what little was left of her friend’s staccato tones.
And with a click, silence.
“Scheiße,” she cursed, stabbing the redial button. The phone was completely dead. Hacking an outside line was a fine art, she appreciated that, but Jessie clearly needed some new software. And she’d be giving that little bag of smoke back too.
First things first. Vera put the handset in its cradle and headed for the kitchen. She walked over to the huge range in the centre of the room and ignited all four of the gas taps. Then, crouching on her haunches, she turned the oven on full blast. The expensive smoked glass oven door afforded her a look at her own reflection. Only a month on Meditrine Island and already she looked five years younger. Amazing. Gone were the dark grey shadows around her eyes – even her signature brittle dry hair had a new luster. Berlin could take care of itself, thanks very much. The island really was like a fountain of youth, she thought as she rose and crossed to the patio door.
Unclipping the latch, Vera had to use two hands to slide the glass behemoth open. Whoever owned this house had a serious heavy glass fetish. Stepping out into the night, her senses were flooded. The island’s fresh air was like no other; an intoxicating blend of jasmine and ocean spray. When she went back to the city, she’d have to remember to bottle and sell it.
Her quiet moment was suddenly blasted with fifteen hundred watts of raw security lighting as she stepped in front of the infrared sensors. She cursed the light for blinding her as she picked up the watering can, blinking away the white-hot glare. The light had brought the mosquitoes a-calling too. They whizzed around her as she dashed back into the kitchen.
Vera filled the watering can with cool, clear water at the bath-sized sink. This was the least tedious of her tasks – the plants were going to drink their fill tonight. Amidst such fabulous wealth, such meticulous order, it felt good that a mere backpacker could decide the fate of items so precious to their millionaire owners.
Millionaires? Billionaires, more likely.
She remembered Jessie’s sardonic voice from the first time they’d hung out together, gossiping about who owned these mansions; this island. But Vera didn’t really care who the owners were. That they were paying her handsomely to do a few chores was all she cared about. And the most strenuous chore was watering the plants. Easy money. “The job’s a doozy,” Jessie had giggled. ‘Doozy Jessie’ been working on the island longer than Vera and seemed to be going a little stir crazy…
As the water rose closer to the brim of the watering can, the security lights clicked off suddenly. Like everything else on the island they ran to a tight schedule, thought Vera. As she did so, milliseconds before the light bulbs faded, Vera saw something outside.
She blinked twice, slow and firm. The ghost imprint of the blinding bulbs still there, forming crescent shaped black holes in her mind’s eye. Was there someone out there?
Vera blinked again, then swore furiously as liquid spilled onto her feet. Soaked, she closed the faucet and let the watering can rest in the sink unit. Shouldn’t have smoked that joint before coming up to the house, she thought, sounding for all the world like her mother. Scatterbrain, she used to call Vera whenever she lost the power to function normally; everyday tasks becoming impossibly hilarious missions. She still wondered if her mother had known her daughter was stoned, or if she simply believed her child was missing a neuron or two million.
The old clumsiness was really kicking in now, as she left little pools of water on the tiled floor on her way to the patio. Putting the can down (yet more spills) she grabbed the door handle and pulled with all her might.
The glass giant slid open easier this time. Vera bent down to pick up the can — then the smell hit her.
Something had invaded the envelope of jasmine and surf, corrupting the very night air with its presence. A hospital smell, harsh and synthetic, like the way her dentist smelled. She’d hated the dentist since she was a kid. Had he followed her here, to paradise, tracking her down after all these years to do all that work she had chickened out of? To tut and frown disapprovingly through his paper mask, noting her cannabis-stained enamel and ugly overbite?
She leaned out into the night air, her nostrils searching for the source of the stifling smell. It was mixed with something else now, like ripe leather.
He was standing right next to her, impossibly close. Vera’s heart blasted into her mouth, choking her scream. The source of the smell regarded her idly, his black eyes like camera lenses. Cold. Unforgiving.
Before she could react, Vera heard a swooshing sound. The smell of rubber gloves perversely filled her nostrils, pushing all the way back into her throat as if someone really had jammed two fingers up her nose. The intruder’s dark form was a monolith, burned into her eyes by the security lights.
The bulbs faded once more. Vera’s senses imploded as the sliding door crushed her skull against the alloy doorframe.
Swoosh, as the door slid back again.
Vera’s body jerked uselessly then fell still; her brains spattered across the cool, thick glass.
Today’s Lamplighters Countdown post is all about a fun Hallowe’en contest:
Light a lamp for The Lamplighters and WIN a FREE “VACATION”** ON “MEDITRINE ISLAND”**
**well, a copy of The Lamplighters ebook that will transport you there!
1. change your Facebook profile photo to The Lamplighters image you see on your left anytime between now and 1st November
2. post on the Wall at The Lamplighters Facebook Page in the comments box under the post about this contest
It’s easy as that!
3 lucky winners will be drawn at random through the day on 1st Nov, when the ebook launches.
**the actual prize is a $5 Gift Certificate to use in the Samhain Store on a copy of The Lamplighters (or any other book that takes your fancy!)
Good luck, and don’t forget to pack your sunSCREAM – it gets rather hot & SCARY on Meditrine Island this time of year (or any time of year for that matter)…
‘Til next slime, take scare,
About The Lamplighters:
Life on Meditrine Island is luxurious…but brief.
Marla Neuborn has found the best post-grad job in the world – as a ‘Lamplighter’ working on Meditrine Island, an exclusive idyllic paradise owned and operated by a consortium of billionaires. All Lamplighters have to do is tend to the mansions, cook and clean, and turn on lights to make it appear the owners are home. But the job comes with conditions. Marla will not know the exact location of the island, and she will have no contact with the outside world for the duration of her stay.
Once on the island, Marla quickly learns the billionaire lifestyle is not all it is made out to be. The chief of security rules Meditrine with an iron fist. His private police force patrols the shores night and day, and CCTV cameras watch the Lamplighters relentlessly. Soon Marla will also discover first-hand that the island hides a terrible secret. She’ll meet the resident known as the Skin Mechanic. And she’ll find out why so few Lamplighters ever leave the island alive.
This amazing festival has an embarrassment of treats on offer; everything from costume parties, live music, thru zombie walks and screenings of dozens of short films and features to give you goosebumps and set your teeth On Edge with fright.
Hee, that’s right trick or treaters, my own horror short ‘On Edge‘ screens on Thursday 4th November, along with dark delights including ‘The Theatre Bizarre’ and a prize draw that will see one lucky winner staggering away with 40+ DVDs.
‘On Edge‘ (adapted from the story by Christopher Fowler) stars Doug Bradley (perhaps best known as ‘Pinhead’ from the Hellraiser movies 1-8) and Charley Boorman (The Emerald Forest, Excalibur) and tells the wicked tale of impatient businessman Peter Thurlow (Boorman) who jumps the queue at the dentist’s surgery… and gets a little more than he bargained for when he meets enigmatic dentist Dr. Matthews (Bradley). The film has played festivals around the world and has garnered several awards along the way (including Best Horror Short, 1st Place at Dragon*Con USA 2009). Horrorfest marks the film’s South African debut.