Ginger Nuts of Horror
Jared Sandman was born in Canton, Ohio, in 1985. He began selling his first stories professionally while in high school and wrote his first novel upon graduation. (That book, BLOOD MONEY, sits in a desk drawer where it will never see the light of day.)
LEVIATHAN was his second attempt at the long form, which he wrote two years later. This was followed up by THE WILD HUNT, DREAMLAND and THE SHADOW WOLVES. His next novel, BLACKSTONE, will be released in 2012. He's currently working on his seventh book.
Jared lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida and can be reached through his website, www.jaredsandman.com, where he keeps a blog. Follow him on Twitter @JaredSandman.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in Ohio, pretty much Amish country, then I moved to Florida after school. I started writing sixteen years ago, and I'm currently working on my eighth novel.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Usually gathering information for writing. Other people call that "life." Travel, reading, research, learning new skills, anything I can raid for fiction somewhere down the line.
What's your favorite food?
I'm partial to Mexican food. Or Swiss steak and mashed potatoes.
What would be on the soundtrack to your life story?
Billy Idol's "Dancing with Myself" and Billy Joel's "You May Be Right."
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
Horror with a capital H. Anything else comes off like an excuse for the genre, dressing it up in fancy clothes to make it more palatable for "outside" readers. I also believe Horror needs to have a supernatural element, or else it belongs to the Thriller/Suspense genre.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont. In terms of living authors, Harlan Ellison and Robert McCammon top the list.
What is your all-time favorite horror novel and film?
My all-time favorite novel is McCammon's Boy's Life. Since that's not technically Horror, however, I'll have to go with Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. As for the movie, a sentimental favorite -- The Monster Squad. It's worth watching for the end-credits rap song alone.
If you could erase one horror cliché, what would be your choice?
Jump scares in scary movies. Get rid of 'em all. I hate when characters walk . . . slowly . . . down a long . . . dark corridor . . . only to get to a door at the end . . . then a black cat JUMPS OUT and startles them.
Or dream sequences. They're a giant middle finger to your audience. That goes double for the dream-within-a-dream routine.
Which fictional character would be your perfect neighbor, and who would be your nightmare neighbor?
The Bates make great neighbors. Norman's such a quiet young lad, and so good with his mother. Come to think of it, I haven't seen her in a while. I hope she's doing okay.
Unlike that pain in the ass, Jerry Dandrige, who lives across the street. Always up at all hours of the night, bringing home loud women, making such a racket over there. What's he up to, anyway? Maybe I should invite him over and find out.
What do you think of the current state of the genre?
Honestly, I think it's doing fairly well. At least compared to when I first came to the genre fifteen years ago. Mass market publishers still largely ignore Horror (big H). A lot of the supernatural stuff has been co-opted by the "paranormal" genre, to lesser (but more profitable) effect. A lit agent told me not long ago, "People love monsters. They just don't like being scared." Silly me, I thought that was the whole damn point.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
The last great book was Patrick Ness's A Monster Calls. It's a YA book, which I didn't realize until I checked it out at the library. The illustrations are topnotch, the writing is brilliant, and the story is heartbreaking. I read it cover to cover in one sitting and finished the final pages in tears.
For disappointment, I gave up on Bentley Little's new book, The Influence. I tried to read another of his novels years ago, The Walking, and couldn't finish that one either. Which is strange because I generally like Little's short fiction.
How would you describe your writing style?
Minimalist and sardonic. My style derives more from the Richard Matheson/Elmore Leonard side of the spectrum than the florid, purple prose of the Lovecraft-Faulkner end. Reading should be a pleasure, first and foremost, not feel like homework.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative, that have stayed with you?
Not really. The thing about reviews is that the door's either open or it's closed. You can't let in praise while keeping out criticism. It doesn't work that way, so artists must choose whether to open that door to their psyche. For me, it's a lot easier to keep it shut. And locked.
What aspects of writing do you find the most difficult?
After a while you figure out what works for you, and much of the difficulty dissipates. Writing never gets easy, mind you, but it does get easier. Experience helps a lot. In truth, marketing a book is much harder than writing it. It's challenging to build a brand from scratch, while simultaneously separating oneself from so many other conflicting voices in the marketplace.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
No, nothing's off limits. Especially in this genre. There's a discriminating way to broach any topic, no matter how offensive; it's the writer's duty to exploit that angle. Readers form their own opinions, of course.
If you could kill off any character from any other book, who would you choose and how would he or she die?
Did I mention how much I hate my neighbor, Jerry Dandrige? We should murder him. Y'know, together. I won't tell no one, I swear. We can do it now, before that annoying Brewster kid gets home from school. You bring the garlic; I'll bring the wooden stakes.
What do you think makes a good story?
A good story is like a flavorful stew that requires the right blend of ingredients. Start with engaging characters, add an exciting subculture or location and season with monsters to taste.
How important are names in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way they sound, or their meaning?
Names are critical, at least for your protagonist and antagonist. I'll usually write a rough draft with spacer names (Tom, Dick and Harry, etc.), then go back and change them to something more thematically resonant before the book goes to print. Sometimes this causes confusion at booksignings, when readers say they loved So-And-So and I have no idea who they're talking about, because I wrote that character with an entirely different persona.
How do you think you've evolved creatively?
I certainly write more nowadays. My productivity has nearly quadrupled over the years. Most of that is due to a stricter writing regimen. When I'm working on a book, I won't take a day off until that novel is published. Then I crash and burn for a couple months until the writing itch comes back.
I think all artists are inherently manic-depressive. The key is to lengthen those periods of mania and try to minimize the ensuing bouts of depression.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Self-discipline. Passion. A thick Godzilla hide. There's something to be said for sheer tenacity. Someone will eventually give you a shot if you just hang around long enough.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Ray Garton says, "School isn't someplace you go to learn how to write. It's someplace you drop out of to write."
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found work best for your genre?
One inexpensive thing I do is print up postcards for each book. Publishers do the same thing, printing cover flats to give out to booksellers and reviewers. Readers love them at booksignings, plus they're easy to ship and slip readily into goodie bags at your genre convention of choice. On the front of the card is the book cover, and the reverse has the synopsis and purchasing information.
Who is your favorite character from any of your books and why?
I have a favorite character for each novel, and I've killed off that individual in every single story. Being my favorite character is as good as a death sentence. I must have this weird compulsion to destroy the things I love. My shrink, Dr. Lecter, would have a field day with that.
What about the least favorite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
I don't really have a least favorite character. Each one is based in part on some piece of myself, so there are some who possess qualities reflected in me that I know are less appealing. Often a character like that becomes a book's chief antagonist. (Notice how I didn't say villain, because I don't write villains.)
Fame, fortune, or respect?
Fortune, definitely. I can't pay my bills with fame, and my landlord doesn't accept "respect" as a form of payment. Nor butterfly kisses, much to my chagrin.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
Artists are typically bad judges of their own work. I won't single out a specific story, but I can point to moments within a book or script that make me proud. Sometimes it's a joke, or a particularly well written passage, or something I cribbed straight from my life and slipped into the narrative.
Readers don't remember stories so much as certain moments within those stories.
And are there any that you would like to forget?
Probably the first quarter-million words I wrote, very little of which is worth keeping. That includes my first (and only) trunk novel, Blood Money. Every writer must cycle through a lot of trash to find treasure. That hard work wasn't wasted, however, because it gave me the tools necessary to write better stories.
For those who haven't read any of your books, which one do you think best represents your work and why?
Maybe Blackstone, my haunted prison novel. Ghost stories are the cornerstone of the genre, with the added benefit that they're considered the most legitimate form of horror. Even non-genre writers are forgiven for penning the occasional ghost story.
I love books in the Hill House/Hell House tradition and wanted to add my take on the trope, so I created Blackstone Penitentiary. It's a fictionalized version of a real prison located not far from my hometown, the Ohio State Reformatory, where Frank Darabont shot The Shawshank Redemption.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
My most recent novel is Flashback, a mystery. While it doesn't contain any supernatural elements, it should appeal to my usual readers because the main character is a B-movie star. Picture an elderly Vincent Price in a wheelchair and you'll get the idea. So the book is tangentially related to the genre.
I'm currently working on a sequel to one of my previous books (I won't say which). And next up is likely a vampire novel. With hobos.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
No, Officer, I haven't seen Mr. Dandrige in weeks. Maybe he's on vacation? Last time I spoke with him, he mentioned wanting to travel someplace exotic. Hawaii, I think. Or the Cayman Islands. Somewhere with sunny beaches. Sorry I can't be more helpful. If I hear from him, I'll certainly get in touch.
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