Friday, August 13, 2010

Dishing it up with horror writer John Everson. . .

Hi folks, welcome to the Friday the Thirteenth edition of my blog. Today I have the pleasure of talking with horror writer John Everson about his books, his journey and a little trivia in the form of the quick ten. Enjoy the ride . . .

JET: Your new book - Siren just came out at the end of July. Can you tell us a little about the book and why readers should add this to their must have collection?

John: Siren is the story of Evan, a guy who lives on the California coast who’s really at the end of his rope – he is an aquaphobe who literally can’t go near the water – and a year before he watched his son drown in the ocean because that fear paralyzed him. He walks the beach every night wrestling with his grief when he hears the beautiful sound of music from the rocks ahead… and then sees a gorgeous naked woman dive into the water. He’s entranced by her and returns to the spot again and again until he finds her once more, and so begins a deadly affair; because when Evan realizes that he wants to break things off with his new lust…well… a woman scorned is one thing. A Siren scorned is mythologically bad.

JET: Was writing horror a conscious choice or was it just a natural affinity? Why do you think that is?

John: I grew up a voracious reader, and was always really skilled with words. My love of reading definitely set my course for life, I think. I loved the way my favorite writers could tell a story and absolutely suck you into it so deep that your own world disappeared. And I wanted to be able to do that to other people! In school, I could “essay test” my way out of anything. I knew that somehow my future career had to be in writing and I worked as soon as I could on my high school, college and community newspapers. I earned a journalism degree in college from the University of Illinois and did a lot of basic reporting for newspapers and magazines as well as feature interviews with stars like Jay Leno and Gwen Stefani. It was clear early on that enjoyed doing those “fun” pieces a lot more than the news stuff. I just wasn’t cut out to be an investigative reporter – I was more interested in creative writing. I started placing short fiction in various small magazines in my 20s, and ten years later, my first novel, Covenant, was released from Delirium Books. Four years after that, it was picked up and released in mass market paperback by Leisure Books, along with the sequel, Sacrifice. Along the way, I also had three short fiction collections published – Cage of Bones & Other Deadly Obsessions, Vigilantes of Love and Needles & Sins.

JET: Have you ever seen a dead body? How has that influenced your writing?

John: I have only seen dead bodies at wakes… but I have seen several, and still remember the first – my great-great uncle, back when I was about five years old. I think the first sight of a dead person remains with you all your life, because it’s such a horrible reality. That’s the first concrete evidence that you have to face that saying “someday, you too will be lying out cold on a slab, never to move, never again to eat a juicy cheeseburger, never to feel the sun warming your face again.” I don’t know that seeing dead people at wakes has had a direct influence on my writing, but it certainly informs that “morbid” side from which all horror springs.

JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?

John: Finding an editor who liked my work? Seriously, that’s what it’s all about… if you can find an editor or two that really like your style, then you can publish, and hopefully build a reputation with readers. But first you have to convince someone to publish you and give you the backing and the shot. And then you have to repeat that again to move to the next level… and the next. I was lucky to have Delirium Books and Necro Publications both champion my work in the small press, and that translated ultimately to a 5-book deal with Leisure Books for mass market distribution.

JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?

John: There are two key moments. When Covenant won the Bram Stoker Award, I was there to receive it, though I honestly didn’t think I’d win when I made the trip to Los Angeles. I was going just to “make connections.” And I did get to meet my idol Richard Matheson that trip. I also got to chat again with Clive Barker, who I’d interviewed for my newspaper many years before. David Morrell and Chuck Palahniuk were also there. It was a surreal weekend.

The second moment was when Covenant was released by Leisure Books in paperback, and I walked into bookstore after bookstore around the country and found it in the front of stores, its little lighthouse beaming out of countless promotional racks. That was cool, to be able to walk into a store almost anywhere, point to a rack of books and say “yeah, that’s mine, I’m John.” The way book distribution and the economy have both spiraled into the toilet over the past two years… I may never get the chance to do that again, actually! But it was cool while the moment lasted.

JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?

John: Richard Matheson was a huge influence on me. Which is why meeting him the weekend I won a Stoker award was such an amazing thing. I grew up reading a ton of science fiction, and he wrote a lot of crossover science fiction / dark twist horror stories. He wrote a lot for “The Twilight Zone” TV show; the creepy weird plots with good twist endings which were the trademark of that show really influenced me in my writing. I remember reading his story “Born of Man and Woman” in an anthology over and over again when I was a kid. It was sort of a sci-fi / alien / monster story, really brief, but really powerful. One of the first fiction stories I ever finished writing was a completely transparent homage to that tale.

JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?

John: Well… when I was in 3rd grade I was writing fan-fiction based on Isaac Asimov’s galactic empire series so… I guess I have always known, really!

JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?

John: When I was in Seattle a few years ago, I decided to go to a strip club and interview some of the dancers because I was thinking of writing a novel about a man who lost his wife to the lure of a weird dark sex club. I wanted to make sure I understood how strippers were paid – what the business model was for their craft behind the scenes and how they thought of their customers. So… there I was, with the strobe lights all over, a beer in hand, and this half nude girl sitting next to me, and instead of trying to slip her a $20 bill for a lapdance, I’m having a serious conversation and asking her “so now, you’re telling me that if you’re 15 minutes late to work, they dock you $100???” There was no sexual overtone at all to our talk about working in the sex trade!

JET: Of all the novels and stories you’ve written - which one is your favorite? Why?

John: I can’t list just one, because I like many of them for different reasons. Nothing stands hands-down above the others. In my short fiction, I love “Pumpkin Head” because I think it’s the best erotic horror piece I’ve done, and it’s been a fan favorite for years. But I think “Bloodroses” may be one of my most starkly powerful pieces. And I really feel strongly about “Letting Go,” because it’s a really personal story for me, and it was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award a couple years ago. As far as the novels, I like Covenant because it was my first novel, and in so many ways, made everything else in the past six years possible. At the same time, I don’t necessarily think it’s necessarily my best work. I like Sacrifice because in some ways, it takes what I learned with Covenant and does it so much better… and it has two of my favorite characters that I’ve written as antagonists – the sexy serial killer Ariana and the teenage “witch” Alex. I love my 3rd novel The 13th because it’s just ridiculously over-the-top… a complete homage to grindhouse and ‘70s Euro-horror, with the whole “rituals in the basement” thing taken to the extreme. And then there’s Siren, the latest… which to me in some ways is the most personal of my first four books, because part of the backstory deals with the fears that every parent has for their children. So I love the books all for very different reasons.

JET: Any advice for the novices out there?

John: Write. Write some more – you’ll improve your craft the more you do. But most of all, write for yourself. Publishers come and go. Fans come and go. If you tell the stories that YOU want to hear… in the end, all of the change around you becomes irrelevant. If you entertain yourself, it doesn’t really matter how broad or restrictive your audience becomes. You’ll have pleased the one audience member that really matters in the end. If you tell a story that you really in your heart are born to tell, and you tell it to the best of your ability… that’s the best reward there is, whether you have 1 reader, or 1 million.

JET: All right - now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten. . . starting with Paper or Plastic?

John: Paper. It burns faster.

JET: Steak or Tofu?

John: Steak. It’s really good as long as you don’t burn it.

JET: Beach or Mountains?

John: Beach. It’s a great place to get burned. (do you sense a theme here?)

JET: LOL - yes I sensed a theme back on Steak and Tofu . . . Country or Rock-n-Roll?

John: Rock ‘n’ Roll. With a blisteringly hot guitar solo.

JET: Classics or Modern?

John: Modern. Antiques are for old people. And they burn up really quick.

JET: Vamps or Wolves?

John: Vamps. I’m allergic to dogs. And Vamps burn better.

JET: Zombies or Demons?

John: Demons. Please see my novels Covenant, Sacrifice, The 13th……… Plus… demons are always around fire, so they have the best barbeques.

JET: Horror or Comedy?

John: Horror. I like my adrenaline at fever pitch.

JET: Salty or Sweet?

John: Salty. Like the ocean. Where the sun is. Where you can burn………

JET: Coffee or Tea?

John: Coffee…. But I do switch to Peppermint Tea in the afternoons…

JET: Thank you for indulging me, that fire theme was quite fun! Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you're working on now? What's next?

John: I just turned in my fifth novel to Leisure Books, The Pumpkin Man, a couple weeks ago. As for what’s next… well… I have to figure that out now! I have a novelette due to my translation publisher in Poland in a few weeks which I haven’t started on, and a handful of novel ideas that I need to dig in, look at, and decide on what to pitch for my next U.S. project. Whatever it is, I’m betting there will be skulls and creep factor.

JET: I can’t wait! John, thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog.

Folks, you can find out more about John Everson and his work at the following places:

Next week - swing by for my next installment of dishing it up with guest Mia Natasha talking about her debut novel Cinderella Club.

Thanks for stopping by!

No comments: