Sunday 1 November 2015

GUEST POST: Confessions of my Past, Present and Future #16 - Jonathan Janz

Confessions of my Past, Present and Future


Jonathan Janz

The Past

A transformative moment in my life occurred when I was fourteen. I’d gone to a Hallmark gift shop to buy a card for my mom (or some girl, I can’t really remember, and it doesn’t really matter) and was passing by a rotating rack of paperback novels. Up until that point, I wasn’t a reader. I’d become skilled at pretending to read while in school, but I never actually processed the words in the open book in front of me.

This time, though, something about one book grabbed my attention. It was either the eerie green-and-black cover (which looked like the aurora borealis on a really creepy night) or the weird title, The Tommyknockers. I knew the author’s name, had heard of Stephen King, and had idly wondered about him from time to time. I knew he was supposed to be scary, and scary was good. Horror movies were my favorites back then.

I took the book home, sat out on our dock, and began to read it. It was the summer before my freshman year in high school, and though I didn’t realize it at the time, my life was being changed by the thick paperback in my hands.

Most folks rate The Tommyknockers as one of King’s minor works. If I remember aright, King himself didn’t think that much of it. But for me it was a revelation. Here were interesting characters, but even more, I got to experience their interior lives, their secrets, their darkest yearnings and their most passionate hopes. King has always been a master of characterization, and despite the fact that I wouldn’t actually get serious as a writer for another twenty years, the urge to tell people stories had begun to grow in me. I wanted to make others feel the way that I was feeling, wanted to transport them, engage them, and yes, frighten them.

It doesn’t really matter to me that The Tommyknockers isn’t King’s best work. In truth, I’ve never revisited it. And while I’ve re-read and studied a great many of King’s books (especially Salem’s Lot and The Stand), I don’t know if I’ll ever do that with The Tommyknockers. You see, in that tale a character unearths an object in a forest. King himself argues that stories aren’t created, they’re discovered. Like objects in the ground.

And perhaps the desire to write was always in me, along with my stories and characters. If that’s the case, that mysterious object in The Tommyknockers might be viewed as my passion for writing, with King himself being the one who unearthed it. Or maybe I was like the protagonist and King was merely my sixth sense, guiding me toward something incredible.

Regardless, I’ll forever love that book and forever be indebted to Stephen King for showing me the way.

And in case you’re wondering, I’m pretty sure I forgot to buy the card that day. Sorry about that, Mom. Or Random-Fourteen-Year-Old-Girl-on-Whom-I-Had-a-Crush-That-Day.

The Present

I’ve been a published novelist for only three-and-a-half years, and in no way has the thrill worn off. The experience remains shiny and new to me, and I doubt that’ll change anytime soon.

I get the impression that folks sometimes find me too wide-eyed, too enthusiastic about the whole thing. Maybe that’s my own paranoia. But for a moment, place yourself in my size-fourteen shoes:

You’ve been a horror fiction fan for your entire adolescent and adult life. You’ve read voraciously. You’ve been profoundly influenced by many writers, and you’re starting to actually meet, to talk to, and to become friends with some of those writers.

One of the most recent is Edward Lee.

See, you reacted, didn’t you? In one way or another, you reacted to the name Edward Lee. For some, he’s an entertaining writer, a guy who, like Richard Laymon, knows how to pace a novel. For others, he’s an extreme horror author who’s either amazing or appalling, depending on where your tastes lie. For some of you, maybe he’s both.

Let me tell you what he is to me.

I’ve now read four Edward Lee novels—Coven, City Infernal, Header, and The Bighead—and I’ve come to a conclusion.

The man is an absolute genius.

Now before you rave and splutter and rant about the sex and violence in his books, the colostomy bag scene in The Bighead, or the definition of a header, let’s get something out of the way.

Um, yeah. I get all that. I understand your reaction. You done flipping out? The spittle removed from your lips?

Here’s my opinion of Edward Lee’s writing. Unlike some authors, Edward Lee is constantly working on multiple levels. I’m not disparaging one-level authors, by the way—working on any level takes skill, and some writers’ stuff doesn’t work on even the most basic level.

But Edward Lee can keep six plates spinning while he steps outside for a smoke.

And the fact that he’s also an extremely cool dude makes it all even better.

The Future

Since I haven’t talked about my stuff yet, I’ll go ahead and do that now. Because, you know, people love egocentric writers.

In the year 2045, I’ll suspect I’ll be tenaciously trying to improve myself. And that’ll be whether I’m a bestseller, a complete nobody, or one of the two billion or so authors in between. But since that answer’s so boring even my eyes are starting to glaze, how about this?

I want to have written in just about every genre there is.

I’ve been examining my tastes in films, books, and television lately, and I’m finding that there is no real pattern. Oh, I’ll read more horror than anything else, but I read suspense, adventure, classics, western, crime, romance, literary, YA, plays, poems, short stories…pretty much everything. With movies there isn’t even a preferred genre—I’m no more likely to watch a horror movie than I am a comedy or a sci-fi film.

I want my body of work to reflect that. In a way, it’s already beginning to. Bloodshot: Kingdom Of Shadows is a balls-to-the-wall action novel. Dust Devils, though definitely horror, is also very much a western. The Nightmare Girl is a horror novel, but it could just as easily be called horror/suspense or horror/thriller. I’m planning a sci-fi/horror novel called The Lucifer, as well as a half-dozen other books that aren’t strictly horror.

So I’d like for my ultimate body of work to reflect my diverse interests. All that matters to me is that it’s all great stuff. I never want to cheat the reader. My readers are my friends, and I want them to feel satisfied and to feel as though their time with my characters has been well spent.

Thanks for having me on your wonderful blog, Nev. I’ve really enjoyed it!

You can read my review of The Nightmare Girl here.

You can buy The Nightmare Girl here:

Also watch out for Jonathan’s new book, Wolf Land coming out this week. My review of it will be posted on 3rd November.

If you would like to help support Confessions of a Reviewer then please consider using the links below to buy any of the books mentioned in this feature or indeed anything at all from Amazon. This not only supports me but also lets me know how many people actually like to buy books after reading my reviews. 


Jonathan Janz grew up between a dark forest and a graveyard, and 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."

In 2013 Samhain Horror published his novel of vampirism and demonic possession The Darkest Lullaby, as well as his serialized horror novel Savage Species. Of Savage Species Publishers Weekly said, "Fans of old-school splatterpunk horror--Janz cites Richard Laymon as an influence, and it shows--will find much to relish." Jonathan's Kindle Worlds novel Bloodshot: Kingdom of Shadows marked his first foray into the superhero/action genre.

Jack Ketchum called his vampire western Dust Devils a "Rousing-good weird western," and his sequel to The Sorrows (Castle of Sorrows) was selected one of 2014's top three novels by Pod of Horror. His newest release is called The Nightmare Girl. He has also written four novellas (Exorcist Road, 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.

And for more about Jonathan, visit his site or find him on social media:

1 comment:

  1. I read The Tommyknockers for the first time just this year. I loved it. Terrific novel. the end goes on a but too long, but overall, like you aid, it's those characters and their stories. It also brought back the fear I had in the mid-eighties as a kid about Nuclear power and nuclear plants. Here in Maine, Maine Yankee, the nuclear plant in Wiscasset (now defunct) was a hot topic on the news on a daily basis. So many fears with what happened in Pripyat and at Three Mile Island. Reading King's pieces about Gard's fears and fight against nuclear power... it brought all of my old fears back to life. A lot of people talk about it being King's sci-fi piece (it is) or about it being about King's battle with addiction (I'm sure), but I relate most to the nuclear fears. That's the scariest organ The Tommyknockers. Fantastic stuff.

    Keep up the great work, Jonathan!