Today, I am pleased to bring you an interview with horror author J.H. Moncrieff, author of The Bear Who Wouldn't Leave, part of Samhain Horror's Childhood Fears collection. J.H. not only writes horror books, she is also a widely recognized freelance journalist and editor. I am proud to call her a friend and am happy to introduce her to the Ginger Nuts audience.
Hi, J.H.! Thank you for visiting The Ginger Nuts of Horror and happy New Year. Why don't you start by telling us a little about yourself?
Happy New Year to you as well, Dawn! It’s a dream come true to be featured on Ginger Nuts of Horror, so thanks for the interview.
A few facts about me: I’m a long-time muay thai kickboxer; I’m planning a move to a tropical island next year (yes, I’m serious), and I’ve had a sushi roll named after me. Some of the things I’m passionate about include unsolved mysteries, true crime, animals of all kinds, world travel, the ocean, and reading—I’m a ridiculously voracious reader. It’s rare to see me without a book in hand.
When did you first know you were meant to be a writer?
I first started writing “novels” when I was five years old—they chronicled the life of a fish family who were terrified of a bear stalking them under the ocean. (Prophetic, as it turned out.) But I remember telling people stories even before that. My first published story was printed in the local paper when I was in Grade Four. Writing is something I strongly believe I was born to do.
Who have been the strongest influences on your career so far?
A high school writing teacher who hated what he called “Disney endings” was one of the reasons I started writing horror. Stephen King, Elizabeth Berg, and Charles Dickens are strong influences as well – they may seem to have little in common, but they all tell incredible stories. I also had a beta reader in my early twenties who really pushed me – he never let me get lazy with my craft. We had a lot of arguments, but he was usually right.
Many authors have a routine they follow when sitting down to write. What's your routine?
I have a rebellious personality; calling something a routine is often the kiss of death. I write everyday except weekends…unless I don’t feel like it or I need a break. Scented candles are a must, and I used to give myself a sticker whenever I wrote, but I’ve fallen out of the habit. For the past three years, I’ve completed NaNoWriMo, and I enjoy the challenge. But I don’t write when I travel, other than journaling, and I don’t write over the holidays. I don’t want my fiction to feel like work, even though it is.
How did you come up with the idea for The Bear Who Wouldn't Leave?
Samhain had an open call for a collection of novellas dealing with Childhood Fears, and I was excited about writing something purely for fun—most of my novels deal with intensely dark subject matter and require quite a bit of research. My blog posts are often about unsolved mysteries, terrible crimes, and hauntings, so they can be draining as well, even though I’m interested in that sort of thing.
I wanted to explore a classic horror trope—the possessed toy—but do it with a twist. I remembered an ugly teddy bear that used to be my dad’s, and I was off and running. However, The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave got a lot darker than I expected. At first I was afraid Samhain would never publish it, but I told my inner critic to shut up and kept going.
You write under the name J.H. Moncrieff. Is there a reason for that?
It’s mostly to separate my fiction career from my life as a journalist, but it’s also common knowledge that some men think women can’t write horror. I really hope that’s changing. A lot of my close friends are men, a lot of my protagonists are men, and I’d hate to think men won’t give my books a chance simply because I’m a woman.
If you don’t think women can be dark, you haven’t really known any. Women are diabolical! Present company excluded, of course.
Now that you're a successful published author, what advice can you offer aspiring writers?
Please don’t listen to advice from other authors! Seriously. There’s so much crap being spread around out there, and as writers, we’re always searching for that magic bullet that will make this life easier and result in a million bestsellers. It doesn’t exist. The only advice that has always been true is this – do what works for you.
Not what works for Stephen King, or Anne Rice, or Chuck Wendig, or that guy in your writers’ group who seems to have it all figured out. It may take time to find what works for you – in fact, it almost certainly will. And it will probably change too – people aren’t static, and neither is writing. But as soon as you hit upon one writing “rule” that absolutely has to be true, someone will break it to great acclaim. Do what works for you and you can’t go wrong. Don’t bother paying some other writer money to find out what works for her, because you’re not her and you won’t get the same results.
What is some of the worst advice you were given regarding writing when you first started out?
I’ve been given a lot of terrible advice. Thankfully I managed to ignore most of it. One of the worst things I did was learn a writing trade – I thought it would be wonderful to be a working writer while I tried to get published. Um, no. No matter how much you love writing, there’s only so much creative energy to go around, and if you’ve spent eight hours writing at the office, the last thing you want to do when you get home is write some more. I’ve loved being a journalist, but did it impede my progress as a novelist? Most definitely. It still does sometimes.
Also, I was urged to think small a lot. People would see me querying agents and getting rejected, and tell me to go to a tiny local press who wouldn’t have published my kind of stories in a million years. I’m so glad I didn’t listen to them!
What are you working on now?
Ever since The Bear was released, I’ve been repeatedly asked about other books. And the truth is, I have many of them. So my goal this year is to polish those manuscripts and submit them. I’m between agents right now, but I’d really like to work with someone on that level again. Great agents can be amazing beta readers.
I also have three different novels on the go right now – one is another horror, one is more of a psychological suspense, and the other is a secret project (she says mysteriously). I’d love to finish all three this year, but the editing work definitely comes first…for a change.
When you're not writing, what do you like to do for fun?
I love to cook, bake, and garden when I have time –when I’m not reading, traveling, or kickboxing. I also love to dance, but I don’t go dancing as often as I should. Traveling, taking photos of my travels, and reading about traveling are some of my most favorite things in the world, but I always love coming home again. I’ve got a fantastic group of family and friends, and I miss them when I’m away.
What is one thing your fans and readers may not know about you?
I have a huge soft spot for Hello Kitty. I usually receive at least one Hello Kitty-inspired gift every holiday. There. I bet that’s something most horror writers don’t say. And I’ve been known to write in the bathtub. On a laptop. (Don’t ask.)
Where can your readers connect with you online?
At all participating social-media outlets ;) :
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/jhmoncrieff/
The Twitter - https://twitter.com/JH_Moncrieff
Website - http://www.jhmoncrieff.com
Pinterest - https://www.pinterest.com/jhmoncrieff/
Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13616030.J_H_Moncrieff
I blog about unsolved mysteries, haunted places, supernatural stuff, and scary true stories on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. Sometimes I even talk about writing.
Sometimes evil looks like a fuzzy teddy bear.
Still grieving the untimely death of his dad, ten-year-old Josh Leary is reluctant to accept a well-worn stuffed teddy bear from his new stepfather. He soon learns he was right to be wary. Edgar is no ordinary toy...and he doesn’t like being rejected. When Josh banishes him to the closet, terrible things begin to happen.
Desperate to be rid of the bear, Josh engages the help of a friend. As the boys’ efforts rebound on them with horrifying results, Josh is forced to accept the truth—Edgar will always get even.
Purchase a copy here