[Interview] Jonathan Janz Talks Earliest Writings, Horror Favorites and the Future
Jonathan Janz has been getting plenty of coverage on the site as of late. There’s good reason for that, you see, as Janz’s series, Savage Species kicks serious tail, and Janz is fast emerging a heavy hitter in the horror genre. His work is gripping, and his fanbase is growing as a direct result.
Why not have a quick little chat with the man?
John Wisniewski had the chance to pick Janz’s brain, and I’ve got to say: the experience garnered some awfully intriguing info! Check out the full Q&A below:
John Wisniewski: Could you tell us about the first short stories that you wrote? Were they in the horror genre?
Jonathan Janz: The first short story I wrote was called “Father’s Fury.” It was more of a suspense story, but it was dark suspense as all three characters in it died. It shows my inexperience, but I still really like it and am proud of it. The second short story I wrote got rejected several places and was trunked. But I still love the idea and will eventually dust it off and have another go at it. It’s called “The Follower,” and it would probably be considered horror. Definitely speculative fiction.
JW: Could you name a few of your favorite horror authors?
JJ: Some of my favorite horror authors are Stephen King, Joe R. Lansdale, Jack Ketchum, Richard Matheson, Richard Laymon, Peter Straub, Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, Ramsey Campbell, Edgar Allan Poe, John Farris, M.R. James, and most recently, Brian Keene. But Stephen King will always be my very favorite. No one can weave a spell the way he can. I’m currently reading “Desperation” and am just enthralled. His characterization, his word choice, his sheer creativity…I love Stephen King and am very thankful I discovered his work when I was fourteen. He’s the one that got me into reading, and more than any other author he’s why I became a writer.
JW: Are readers and audiences afraid of looking into the human psyche, perhaps into the areas of human nature that are disturbing?
JJ: I think some audience members are afraid of it, but subconsciously they yearn to understand. We’re curious creatures by nature, and whether we want to or not consciously, our deeper selves want to know more. Horror helps shine a light on those secret wants, desires, and shadowy regions. Sometimes what is revealed is horrifying; at other times, however, horror can be incredibly reassuring, as crazy as that sounds. Jack Ketchum is a guy who excels at achieving that reaction. He doesn’t allow his readers to remain comfortable. In books like The Woman and The Girl Next Door, he doesn’t flinch. We might but he doesn’t. And the disturbance the audience experiences as a result is truly memorable.
JW: What scares readers and audience members?
JJ: We all have different triggers, but there are some universals. I’d say we’re all afraid of losing control, both of ourselves and of our circumstances. We all want to hold the remote control. Think how annoyed some folks get when they can’t hold it. Then multiply that by infinity and you’ve got the loss of control being dramatized in good horror stories. Another universal is the fear of losing a loved one. My own fear of having one of my children abducted has popped up in just about every story I’ve written in the past seven years. Sometimes it’s subtle, as in House of Skin. Other times it’s right there on the surface, like in Savage Species or The Darkest Lullaby.
JW: Could you tell us about “Dust Devils”, Jonathan? Why did you decide to combine 2 genres on this book?
JJ: I love westerns, first of all. I’ve loved western films for a long time but only in the last ten years or so have I begun to experience some of the incredible western classics in the genre. Elmore Leonard, Cormac McCarthy, and Larry McMurtry are my favorite western writers, but there have been others too.
I find that what I read tends to permeate what I write. So because I’ve been reading all these great westerns I began to get a hankering to write one myself. All I needed was a great idea. Well, with Dust Devils I finally found that. I suppose the reason I married vampires to the western genre was because there’s something deliciously old-fashioned about vampires. And in the Old West, word often traveled slowly; technology wasn’t what it is now. So I began to realize that the very lawlessness that made the Old West such a frightening place for some to live is what could make it a fabulous setting for a horror novel. And even though Dust Devils will likely never get a sequel (of all my novels, it’s the most self-contained), I would be shocked if I didn’t return to the western again for more books later on, whether they’re horror, straight western, or some other kind of genre hybrid.
JW: Could you tell us about some of your projects you have lined up for the future, Jonathan?
JJ: My next three releases will be a) the complete edition of Savage Species, which launches in trade paperback and ebook on September 3rd, b) my vampire western Dust Devils (February 2014), and c) next summer will see the release of Castle of Sorrows, my first-ever sequel (to my debut novel The Sorrows). Somewhere in there you’ll also get another top-secret novel, but I’m not allowed to talk about that one yet. My Samhain Horror editor Don D’Auria and I have talked about another novel that’ll have an early 2015 release. In addition to all of those things I’ll hopefully be finishing my first YA book this fall/winter and will continue work on the first novel of a planned trilogy. I’d love to do sequels for Savage Species, The Darkest Lullaby, and House of Skin, but those projects will have to wait until the ones mentioned above get done. I’m busy, but it’s the best kind of busy!
Huge thanks go out to both Jonathan Janz and John Wisniewski for piecing together this enjoyable little discussion!
Great interview! I just finished up Savage Species and will be getting into other works soon! For the record…despite what you told me Jonathan…I still hate you. LOL
Really enjoyed your interview here…and that is so much a Hoe Hempel remark…vitina