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Genres: Crime, Dark Fantasy, Dark Fiction, Extreme Horror, Horror, Occult & Supernatural, Supernatural, Thriller
We at Horror After Dark are very excited to interview Mr. Jonathan Janz! With several novels, novellas and short stories under his belt, and his latest, Wolf Land, just released on November 3rd, we thought this would be a good time to learn more about Jonathan and his work. So without further adieu, welcome to HAD, Jonathan!
HAD: I see this listed before just about every interview and/or author bio: “Jonathan Janz grew up between a dark forest and a graveyard, and in a way, that explains everything.” Excuse me, but no it doesn’t! Where did you grow up?
JONATHAN: Hah! Great question. Essentially, I had the perfect childhood for a horror writer’s imagination. The setting mentioned in my bio, of course, was a big part of that. The graveyard had me constantly thinking of death, of resurrection, of the pants-filling terror that a rotting hand would emerge from the dirt and drag me screaming toward my demise. The forest was deep and dark and creepy. The trees were old-growth, but there was also a lot of underbrush, which made the woods both shadowy and well-nigh impenetrable. Of course, I still managed to penetrate it, an act I inevitably regretted when I found myself alone and unable to see my house.
Add to this the fact that I was an only child living with a single mother who had to work long hours, and you have a little boy who spent much of his time isolated and alone and who had a great deal of time to imagine all sorts of horrible things. At the time it was pretty disturbing. Now, I’m deeply thankful I grew up like that.
HAD: What were the first books you remember reading in the horror genre?
JONATHAN: The first book I read in any genre (at least, read on my own) was Stephen King’s THE TOMMYKNOCKERS. I’ve written about this experience elsewhere, but that book was really a revelation for me. After that I read every King book I could find. In fact, out of the first thirty or so books I read, I believe about twenty-nine of them were by Stephen King. And when I did branch off, I did so with King’s invaluable book list from DANSE MACABRE. Richard Matheson, Robert Marasco, Shirley Jackson, Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell. Those writers accompanied me through my first month as a college student at Purdue. But they wouldn’t have been with me if King hadn’t pointed the way.
HAD: When or how did you come to the realization that horror was what you wanted to write?
JONATHAN: Hmmm…the first stories I ever told were a series of movie posters I made back when I was about nine. I had roughly sixty movies planned out and plotted (skeleton plots, of course), and the posters for them all drawn. Maybe half of those were horror, though there were also adventure, action, sports, sci-fi, romantic comedy (yep), suspense, and crime. So looking back at my nine-year-old self, I’d say the signs were there then. That old affinity probably directed my fourteen-year-old self to pick up a Stephen King book rather than a Danielle Steel or a James Michener. I’ve always been attracted to the darkness, at least in fiction. As a very young child, I loved listening to creepy tales on records. Charles Dickens’s “The Signal-man” scared the pants off me as a child, as did an all-marionette version of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” I watched in the elementary school auditorium. I guess you could say that the darkness always spoke to me, and it continues to today.
HAD: (A question out of the blue after looking at your blog:) Wasn’t Michael McDowell a BADASS? The Elementals was a masterpiece, don’t you think?
JONATHAN: He was a total beast. I read a couple of his books a decade-and-a-half ago and enjoyed them (especially THE AMULET), but I had no idea how awesome he truly was until I read THE ELEMENTALS, which is one of the best books I’ve read in ages. First off, I love Valancourt Books for bringing McDowell’s work back to prominence. Secondly, yes, McDowell is an incredible writer. Like a horror version of Tennessee Williams or Flannery O’Connor (though O’Connor could get pretty darn dark too). McDowell’s works deserve to be mentioned right alongside those names and others in the Southern Gothic pantheon.
HAD: Apropos of nothing: I just saw a picture with you and Glenn Rolfe. You are so skinny! Eat a cheeseburger or something!
JONATHAN: Hah! My wife is always trying to help me keep weight on. I’m about 6’4” and weigh around one-hundred-and-ninety pounds, but if I don’t eat enough, I drop to one-eighty pretty rapidly. I’ll tell her you commented on this—she’ll be happy she has an ally.
HAD: Some questions from my HAD teammates: (From Nikki): (Regarding Wolf Land)-What inspired this book and how deep did you have to dig to pull out the horrors described within the novel?
JONATHAN: Nikki, as your question implies, there are some pretty horrible things contained in the pages of WOLF LAND. I know that evil has no gender, but I’m frequently enraged at how I see men mistreat women (particularly on a global level). There are so many instances of women being enslaved,exploited, and mistreated, and I suspect my fury about that boiled over into the Melody Bridwell portion of the book. I also detest how judgmental people can be, how quickly they dismiss others rather than trying to understand them. Having read the book, you probably know how this problem also applies to the Melody character.
With regard to the other horrors, I have known people like Weezer. Scary, but true. Unfortunately, I have also, at times, behaved like Glenn and Mike, at least in my younger days. Sometimes the things you feel terrible about get worked out on the page, and this is definitely a case of that happening with me.
HAD: (From me and Paul): You seem rather eclectic in your horror. Do you prefer writing a certain type of it, over another? Meaning supernatural horror, straight horror, (the horrors mankind perpetrates on itself), or perhaps creature-feature type stories- such as werewolves?
JONATHAN: Thank you so much for noticing that! I am extremely eclectic both within horror and outside the genre. I’m even that way with music. But with regard to horror, I think my existing works and future works attest to my varying tastes. THE NIGHTMARE GIRL was a supernatural thriller dealing with an ancient fire cult. WOLF LAND, of course, is a bloody, dark werewolf novel. In the next couple of years, there will be CHILDREN OF THE DARK, which is a prequel to SAVAGE SPECIES told through a young adult’s point-of-view; it’s adult horror, but like Brian Keene’s GHOUL, its main characters are young. After that, EXORCIST FALLS will be released; it’s a demonic possession/serial killer sequel to EXORCIST ROAD. The next three books after that will be an old-fashioned ghost story in the vein of M.R. James, a “big” horror novel like Straub or King would have written in the eighties, and a winter book inspired in part by Tim Lebbon’s WHITE.
Essentially, I love exploring different types of horror and leaning on the extensive reading I’ve done in and out of the genre to help influence the vibe I’m going for in a given tale. And I really hope that’s reflected in my stories.
HAD: Kimberly would like to know if you’re writing a sequel to Exorcist Road? If so, when can we expect to see it, will it be with the same publisher and will there be a physical version of the book? (Damn, Kimberly, stop hogging up all the questions!)
JONATHAN: Absolutely! EXORCIST FALLS will be coming in 2016. As far as the same publisher…that might have changed with the news about Don D’Auria at Samhain. Time will tell. I can tell you that the day the news hit, several publishers came forward to see what I had, and when I mentioned EXORCIST FALLS, they all expressed a strong desire to publish it. We’ll see, but I’m confident it will end up in the right place. And this time, there will be a physical version as well as an e-version. It will also be part of my eleven-book deal with Thunderstorm, and will very likely be published in the same volume with EXORCIST ROAD (which will be the first time that story will be printed in tangible form).
HAD: Since you’ve had children yourself, has that changed your views on horror or how you write about or in the genre?
JONATHAN: Man, having kids changed me in every way possible (for the better, I hope). I’d like to think that whatever empathy I possessed for my fellow man deepened profoundly when I had children, and I don’t think I was an unfeeling person before. When I look at my children, I know they have flaws like anyone else, but my love for them is overwhelming.I see their secret hearts and the amazing love they possess, and it reminds me that everyone was a child once, that almost everyone was adored and cherished at one point in their lives (and if they weren’t, they should have been). Yes, I judge others and grow irate when I see or hear certain behaviors, but I also think I’m slower to hate and quicker to love because of my experiences as a father.
So, in short, my children changed me completely.
Jonathan, thanks SO much for taking the time to chat with us today! Your answers gave us some insight as to your background and how you came to be the author that you are today. Best of luck with Wolf Land!
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About Jonathan Janz
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, Jack Ketchum, and Brian Keene; he has also been lauded by Publishers Weekly, the Library Journal, and the School Library Journal. 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 (http://jonathanjanz.us12.list-manage….), and you can follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads.