“One of the best writers in modern horror to come along in the last decade. Janz is one of my new favorites.” –Brian Keene, best-selling author
Thank you so much for hosting me today! I’m a husband, dad, teacher, and writer. My wife and three kids are extraordinary, and I love both of my professions. That might be a dull answer, but it’s the truth.
Sierra: When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I took my first crack at writing after I got into a near-fatal car crash during my senior year in high school. The book was horrid. I took my second shot at it when I was twenty-six. That book was less awful, but it still wasn’t good. About seven years ago, I got serious about writing, and though I finished the book (it was called STARLIGHT), no one wanted to publish it. That’s because even though it was better than anything I’d written at that point, it still wasn’t good. So I rewrote it seven more times. In the mean time, I wrote another book called THE SORROWS, which sold in 2011. Then, the one first one sold, as well, this time under the name HOUSE OF SKIN. Since then, things have been growing steadily.
Sierra: Tell us a little bit about your first book or the first book in the series.
THE SORROWS was a Gothic horror novel that showed both the influence of Peter Straub and Richard Laymon. Though that’s a strange combination, I think it worked really well for the book. The novel is about a pair of horror movie music composers who travel to a haunted island in the Pacific to find inspiration for the horror film they’re scoring. Readers seemed to dig it at any rate, so I wrote a sequel called CASTLE OF SORROWS of which I’m also very proud.
I also have another pseudo-series called SAVAGE SPECIES. That book is one of my most popular ones; it’s a brutal survival thriller along the lines of the film THE DESCENT. Since people enjoyed it so much, I wrote a prequel of sorts called CHILDREN OF THE DARK that’ll be published in early 2016 by Sinister Grin Press.
Sierra: How did you choose the genre you write in?
This will undoubtedly sound cheesy, but I’d say that horror chose me. I grew up between an old graveyard and a deep, dark woods, and I spent my childhood terrified of the spirits and monsters that I was convinced resided in those shadowy realms. I write in other genres, but horror will always be my favorite.
Sierra: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write?
In my most recent novel WOLF LAND, I loved writing the werewolf transformation scenes because they were uniquely compatible with my “approach.” Essentially, I love to subside into the background and allow my characters to seize control of the story, which means the books kind of write themselves. What more natural a scene to write then, than a transformation scene in which an irresistible impulse grabs hold of a character and changes him/her into something else? As liberating as most of my writing feels, those transformation scenes flowed so rapidly out of my fingertips that I could scarcely keep up with the words. There’s one scene in particular in the bathroom of a drive-in movie theatre that exploded onto the keyboard as violently as the blood exploded onto the cinderblock walls of the bathroom. WOLF LAND was a total blast to write.
Sierra: Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Tons of both. I forget who said this, but someone once called a writer “a person on whom nothing is lost.” I like to think I’m that way, watching the world closely, storing away details, and then allowing them to gush forth onto the page. At the same time, there are things I write that have no connection to anything I’ve ever done, seen, or heard. So yeah…both.
Sierra: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
Stephen King’s THE TOMMYKNOCKERS made of me a reader and a writer back when I was an adolescent, so that one will always have a special place in my heart. A recent book that influenced me was Gillian Flynn’s DARK PLACES. I loved how bold she was and how willing she was to follow her characters into their most depraved thoughts and behaviors. She has a great deal of guts, and I deeply admire that.
Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?
Not yet, though I’ve heard enough about it to know how real it is for some writers. Personally, my only problem is having so many ideas and so little time to write them that I get frustrated at having to place wonderful projects on the backburner.
Sierra: Is there an author that you would really like to meet?
Stephen King. I would kill to meet Stephen King. Okay, maybe not kill, but I’d at least maim. I’ve met many of my writing heroes, but King is the one who showed me the way and is the single most important influence on my writing life. He can have no idea how much influence he’s had on the world, nor could I ever repay the debt I owe him. But I’d still love to meet him.
Sierra: Will you have a new book coming out soon? If so, can you tell us about it?
I have three coming out in 2016 (and maybe more). The first will be CHILDREN OF THE DARK in March. I’m really jazzed about that one because it’s my first “coming of age” book, and one that I think blends tenderness and savagery really interestingly. The second is EXORCIST FALLS, which is a novel-length sequel to an extremely successful novella called EXORCIST ROAD. The third will be an updated, improved version of a novella called WITCHING HOUR THEATRE, which was the first thing I ever got published.
Sierra: If you could go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your first novel or getting it published that you would change?
Not really, because I’m thankful for the way it has all happened. If I did go back and change anything it would be spending less time on query letters and worrying about breaking arbitrary writing rules, and spending more time on studying books the way I do now. Reading and examining a story by one of my favorite writers teaches me far more than any other method I’ve tried.
Sierra: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Yes. While talent matters, and while there are a great many factors involved in writing, nothing is as important as persistence. I met F. Paul Wilson this summer, and one thing he said really resonated with me. He had a great quote about it, but rather than butchering it, I’ll just paraphrase him: “Everybody wants to succeed, but most writers don’t have the discipline to actually do it and stick to it.” I think that’s the biggest divider; there are tens of thousands—maybe even millions—of people with the talent to write. But the vast majority of those will never succeed because they simply don’t have the discipline, the humility, and the stomach to do it. If I could give any advice, I’d say to disabuse yourself of the notion that you’re owed anything by editors, agents, or readers and that you have to work your tail off consistently for a long time to earn your success. That might not be sexy advice, but I believe it’s true, and knowing that, you can buckle down and do the work. For me, it’s a reassuring thought because I love working for what I get. It makes success that much more rewarding.
Sierra: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Jonathan: I am truly grateful for your support, and it means the world to me that you take the time to read my books. I work tirelessly to craft the best stories I can, but that effort wouldn’t matter without readers. So thank you. I deeply appreciate you!
Barnes & Noble
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