Jonathan Janz grew up between a dark forest and a graveyard. In a way, that explains everything. Brian Keene named his debut novel The Sorrows “the best horror novel of 2012.” The Library Journal deemed his follow-up, House of Skin, “reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Peter Straub’s Ghost Story.”
Samhain Horror will also publish his third novel, The Darkest Lullaby, in April. Look for his fourth novel, an action-packed survival horror thriller called Savage Species, this summer. His fifth novel Dust Devils, a vampire western set in 1885 New Mexico, will be published in February of 2014. He has also written three novellas (The Clearing of Travis Coble, Old Order, and Witching Hour Theatre) and several short stories.
His primary interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children, and though he realizes that every author’s wife and children are wonderful and amazing, in this case the cliché happens to be true. You can learn more about Jonathan atwww.jonathanjanz.com. You can also find him on Facebook, via @jonathanjanz on Twitter, or on his Goodreads and Amazon author pages.
One of Jonathan’s wishes is to someday get Stephen King, Peter Jackson, Jack Ketchumand Joe R. Lansdale together for an all-night zombie movie marathon. Of course, that can only happen if all four drop their restraining orders against him.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I’m a father, a husband, a teacher, and a writer. I spend every waking moment I can with my family, and when I’m not with them, I’m doing one of my jobs (teaching or writing). Now that I read that back, it sounds boring, but believe me, it’s an incredibly happy and fulfilling life. I’m very thankful.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
Horror is the one I use, though I’ve nothing against the other two. Weird Fiction reminds me of Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. Dark Fiction, for whatever reason, makes me think of Dennis Etchison’s The Dark Country. Both of those are positive associations, so I’d use ‘em if I didn’t like the word Horror so much. It’s an emotion, a genre, and the word a hillbilly uses for a woman of low virtue. How can you go wrong?
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Stephen King is the reason I became not only a writer, but a reader as well. I’ll forever love him and venerate him above all other writers. Next comes Elmore Leonard, whose dialogue makes me more jealous than a penguin at a falconry competition. Some other favorites are Joe R. Lansdale, Jack Ketchum, Richard Matheson, Richard Laymon, Ramsey Campbell, Peter Straub, Ray Bradbury, and Edgar Allan Poe. My favourite newer writer is Brian Keene, though I’m the only one he’s new to. I don’t get out much.
What are you reading now?
Keene’s Dead Sea, Tom Monteleone’s Night Things, King’s Desperation, Midnight’s Lair by Richard Laymon, some Shirley Jackson short stories, and I’m re-reading “The White People” by Arthur Machen.
Which book do you wish you had written?
Hm, I don’t think anyone’s asked me that yet. Well played, Jim! I read something like King’s The Stand and think, I could never have done that. Then I read T.E.D. Klein’s Petey and think, You know, I couldn’t have done that either. Then I read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and after suffering from a month or so of depression, I think, Dang it, there’s another book I couldn’t have written. Actually, I’m slipping into another depression thinking about all these awesome books. Next question!
If you could use any other author’s creation in your own work, who or what would you use?
I wouldn’t mind letting Richard Matheson’s Emeric Belasco (Hell House) make a cameo in one of my stories. Roland Deschain, Stephen King’s Dark Tower gunslinger, is my favourite character of all time. I’d like to use quite a few of the Harry Potter characters, because they feel like old friends.
Describe typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
My normal schedule involves writing in the afternoons. Essentially, I make sure I spend time with my family before I write. That way I’ll be able to concentrate on the story knowing my wife and kids feel loved. Or sick of me. Either way, I go into writing with a happy, excited mindset. As for unusual habits…well, I listen to classical music whenever I write, particularly Yo-Yo Ma’s versions of the baroque masterpieces. I sit in a comfortable chair in my second story library/study, position my feet on the matching and just as comfortable ottoman, and strategically place my coffee and my water within easy reach. Then I just go. All that might sound unusual, it might not. But it works for me.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
Right now? Probably Savage Species. I love all my stories, but that one has some characters that I truly loved, as well as some really heart-pounding suspense. There were some characters—several, actually—who died in the novel even though I didn’t want them to. In fact, someone who has already read the whole piece is already clamouring for a sequel, and though I’m certainly planning one, as I thought of it I became pretty bummed out about the fact that a certain character wouldn’t be returning. I’m also very proud of Dust Devils, a vampire western that Samhain Horror will publish in February 2014. But I’ll talk about that another time.
What is the hardest lesson you have learned with regards to your writing?
Don’t focus on don’t. The world is full of writing advice, and an uncanny amount of it focuses on what a writer isn’t supposed to do. You know, “Don’t ever do this!” Or “You’ll be struck down by the writing gods if you do that!” And “Oh my GOODNESS, don’t you ever, EVER think about including THAT in a story!” There was a point several years ago where I’d read so many books on writing and listened to so many pieces of online advice that I began falling prey to what I call landmine writing. That’s my phrase for being so worried that you’re going to make a mistake that you tiptoe around like a trembling mouse instead of writing the damned story. So now I focus on do instead of don’t. I focus on what can work rather than what can’t. And that works for me.
What do you like to do to relax?
It’s funny, but I simply forget to relax. It’s like I’m psychologically and physiologically wired to be intense. So the first thing I do to relax is remember that I need to relax. Then I have to force myself to relax. Okay, once I’m in that better place—and I don’t get there nearly often enough—I try to be in the moment and enjoy whatever it is I’m doing. Usually it’s hanging out with my wife and kids. Sometimes writing and reading can be relaxing. I love nature and being outdoors, particularly in the forest. I lift weights and watch The Walking Dead, Downton Abbey, a movie, or sports while I lift. Those can be relaxing times too. Thanks for reminding me about relaxing, Jim. I’m beginning to relax now…
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
Well, the one coming out in bi-weekly installments right now is called Savage Species, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. It’s a big, fearsome horror novel that, to sum things up not-so-neatly, combines the film The Descent, the Native American myth of the Wendigo, some of the sensibility of Richard Laymon, the movie Aliens, and a whole lot of other influences into one fast-paced beast of a book. I’m also jazzed about my 2014 releases, Dust Devils (in February) and Castle of Sorrows (in July), the sequel to my debut novel The Sorrows. After those I’ve got about a bunch of big projects brewing, including a werewolf story set in the 1930s, a trilogy of novels, and a YA book.
Peaceful Valley is about to become a slaughterhouse!
For the first time ever, Samhain Publishing will serialize a terrifying original novel, Savage Species, in five installments, with new installments coming every two weeks. Here, as a special introduction to the fear that awaits you in Savage Species, is the first section, Night Terrors, absolutely free!
Jesse thinks he’s caught a break when he, the girl of his dreams, and her friend are assigned by their newspaper to cover the opening weekend of the Peaceful Valley Nature Preserve, a sprawling, isolated state park. But the construction of the park has stirred an evil that has lain dormant for nearly a century, and the three young people—as well as every man, woman, and child unlucky enough to be attending the grand opening—are about to encounter the most horrific creatures to ever walk the earth. A species so ferocious that Peaceful Valley is about to be plunged into a nightmare of bloodshed and damnation.