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Nerding Out with Jonathan Janz

Jonathan Janz

This is a big one for me, folks. When I started brewing the idea of the interview series that you are currently reading, Jonathan Janz was one of the first names that popped in my head. I really wanted to throw some of my oddball questions (and some serious ones) at him. The kind of questions I’d like to ask people more often in casual conversation. I knew he would get it.

Jonathan Janz is one of the top talents writing horror fiction today. I don’t hand out praise of that caliber to just anyone. Janz has chops. And heart.

Janz is also one of the few modern authors that I actually “study” while reading. I pay attention to the structures and rhythms of the sentences. I analyze the dialogue exchanges, trying to figure out the magic, all while allowing myself to be enveloped in the story.

I do this with writers like King and Lansdale.

With his latest novel Wolf Land, Jonathan once again managed to slay my expectations with his burgeoning talent. I found myself thinking about the characters during separations from the book. That’s always a good sign. You know you are in the hands of a master storyteller.

Wolf Land synopsis and purchase links follow the interview. Enjoy.

Duane: Biographically speaking, we share some distinct similarities from our childhood and adolescence. We were both raised by single mothers, and discovered Stephen King at age 14. Also, as with you, the first thirty or so adult novels I read were dominated by Stephen King. He could have been the only writer in the world for all I cared. It’s an interesting connection. How do you think this distinct set of circumstances helped to shape your future creative ventures?

Jonathan: We do share many similarities, Duane, which is probably part of the reason why it always seems like we’ve known each other longer than we actually have. But as you say, we were both raised by single moms, and that’s a unique situation that might be tough for others to understand. Basically, it was my mom, my cat, and I alone in a house nestled between a graveyard and a deep, dark woods. Men would often leer through our windows to catch a glimpse of my mom, who was young and pretty and had been an Indiana Pacers’ cheerleader before she had me. And when my biological father was in the picture, it was never pleasant. So basically I lived the first part of my life in utter terror and still suffer severe sleep issues because of it. I don’t think I chose horror; as clichéd as it sounds, horror chose me.

About Stephen King…for all his fame and awards, can’t possibly fathom the impact he has had on people’s lives. Whenever I hear people criticize him, I just listen, nod politely, and remain secure in the knowledge that a) he will always be my favorite writer, and b) he has impacted my life as much as any non-family member in the world.

When I was fourteen, I thought I was stupid. For many reasons I won’t go into here, I was convinced I had an inferior intellect, and my greatest fear was having that flaw revealed to others. I hadn’t discovered books, mainly because I was intimidated by them. Also, I’d never read the right books. The only written story I had enjoyed was one I read on a whim in seventh grade called “The Lonesome Place” by August Derleth. Even though that was only a short story, it just might have set the stage for Stephen King’s entry into my life. More than a year later, during the summer before I started high school, I picked up (again on a whim) The Tommyknockers from a Hallmark Gift Card store. I took that book home, sat in a folding chair on my dock, and within minutes my life was changed. For the first time, I understood the allure of books. For the first time, I was transported.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had begun to figure out, on a subconscious level, what I wanted to do with my professional life.

Duane: I believe one of your strongest talents lies in your character work. Your novels contain some of the best developed and fleshed-out characters in modern horror fiction. This is the single most important component that encompasses great storytelling across all mediums. Good characters that we can emphasize with, or loathe depending on the situation presented. I see you as a writer who could easily work outside of the horror genre. Do you have any non-genre novel or story ideas lingering around in your head?

Jonathan: Man, Duane, I can’t tell you how much that means to me. As we both know, everything matters in storytelling. Everything. But if there is one facet of writing that trumps all in importance, it’s characterization. No amount of wordsmithing, no snappy dialogue, not even the most fascinating setting can counteract bad characterization. So to hear you say you enjoy my characterization makes me feel wonderful.

To answer your question, I see myself tackling all sorts of genres, many of them non-horror. I’d love to do historical fiction, an adventure story, a suspense thriller, and all sorts of other things.

In the near future, however, I’m getting closer to announcing something really big that’s horror, but not only horror. Like some of my other work (Dust Devils, Bloodshot: Kingdom of Shadows, etc.), it will be a hybrid project. Only much bigger than anything I’ve ever done.

I think horror, because it is an emotion as well as a genre, blends splendidly with just about every other genre imaginable. Horror can occur in a nineteenth century drawing room drama or a contemporary romance. And it will figure heavily in the project to which I’m alluding as well.

Duane: Who is the second greatest player to play the game of basketball? We already know MJ is number one, so we can get that out of the way.

Jonathan: Wow, great question, but a tough one. Many candidates are way before my time (Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, etc.), and several others were playing when I was just a little kid (Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, etc.). So I’ll go with Magic because he was my favorite player when I was a kid. I don’t think the NBA has seen another player like him. That combination of size, skill, savvy, and competitiveness was and is unprecedented, though I do think Lebron is a very unique player as well. So…Magic. But like you said, MJ trumps them all, and for me, it’s not even close.

Duane: Social media is a weird thing, but it’s also kind of amazing. At times. I tweeted Stephen King not too long ago, because I know he sometimes answers fan questions. Why the hell not, right? I don’t remember the exact tweet but it was something along the lines of “What would happen if Roland Deschain opened a door and entered the mind of Henry Bowers, circa Derry Summer ’58?”. You only have 142 characters to work with and 12 of them are “@stephenking”. Anyway, I’d like to think he never responded because it would have led to a new novel and he simply didn’t have time for that shit. But what if, Sai Janz? Care to nerd out with this hypothetical King-a-verse scenario?

Jonathan: Whoa. What a scenario! Well, considering the way Roland interacted with the serial killer Jack Mort in The Drawing of the Three, I suspect Roland would have a heck of a mental battle with Bowers before threatening the young man into submission (the way he ultimately did Mort). Then, Bowers’s friends would get a taste of their own medicine, as Roland is not the type to condone bullying. But the real kicker would be what would happen when Roland/Henry encounters Pennywise. Talk about a clash of titans! I’d like to think Roland would come out on top in that battle, but man, it’d be a sight to behold.

Duane: A grand event is being thrown in your honor. It’s the party of the century. The band/artist of your choosing will play an entire concert at this gala affair. All expenses and logistical factors have been handled. Who do you pick to play, and what song do you have them dedicate to the person of your choosing?

Jonathan: This might raise some eyebrows, but though I love Metallica, I would have to go with George Strait. First off, he’s my favorite singer of all time. Secondly, he’d be perfect for an event like this. Even though many don’t like country music, the energy in his songs and his infectious personality would permeate the event and put everyone in a great mood. Then, I’d have him sing “I Cross My Heart” and dedicate it to my wife. It was the song we danced to at our wedding reception, and I’d love to revisit that moment.

Duane: Will there be another Sorrows novel?

Jonathan: There will be. The only problem is, I want there to be some time between Castle of Sorrows and the final installment of the trilogy (both time in the world of the novel and time in our world). Practically speaking, I just don’t have time to work on it until maybe 2018 at the earliest, with 2019 or 2020 more likely possibilities. I have so many ideas and so much urgency to write them that the third Sorrows book will have to wait. When I write it, though, I think it’s going to be powerful. I have much of the story in my head, and I love the way it will take the tale back to its Greek roots. I think the wait will be worth it.

Duane: Zombie Apocalypse Team: You get to pick 3 fictional characters from ANY universe to be part of your zombie apocalypse team of survivors. The only stipulation is that they have to be human, without any supernatural powers or abilities in the paranormal, psychic, or magical arts. Who do you pick?

Jonathan: Cool question, Duane. Well played. The first name that popped into my head will surprise absolutely no one, least of all you: Stephen King’s gunslinger Roland Deschain. He would be extraordinarily useful in that sort of world, and he could teach me to be a gunslinger too.

My second choice would be a major cheat, but since I can’t separate the two, I’d take Hap Collins and Leonard Pine. Not only are Joe R. Lansdale’s creations butt-kickers of the first order, they’re absolutely hilarious. They would keep me and Roland entertained in a bleak, hopeless world.

Lastly, I’d go with Edmond Dantes from The Count of Monte Cristo. He went through terrible things but made the best of the situation. You’d need someone with that kind of unconquerable stubbornness in a world gone bad, as well as a man willing to use his intellect in a hostile environment.

Duane: Thanks for your time.

Jonathan: Thank you so much for hosting me, Duane. It was an absolute blast, my friend!______________________________________________________________

“A 10-year high school reunion is the catalyst for lots of furry, toothy scares in this gruesome yet entertaining gorefest.” –Publishers Weekly on Wolf Land

Wolf Land, Synopsis

An unholy predator on the prowl!

The small town of Lakeview offers little excitement for Duane, Savannah, and their friends. They’re about to endure their ten-year high school reunion when their lives are shattered by the arrival of an ancient, vengeful evil. 

The werewolf.

The first attack leaves seven dead and four wounded. And though the beast remains on the loose and eager to spill more blood, the sleepy town is about to face an even greater terror. Because the four victims of the werewolf’s fury are changing. They’re experiencing unholy desires and unimaginable cravings. They’ll prey on the innocent. They’ll act on their basest desires. Soon, they’ll plunge the entire town into a nightmare. Lakeview is about to become Wolf Land. 

Biography, Jonathan Janz

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."

2013 saw the publication of 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. 2015 saw the release of The Nightmare Girl, which prompted Pod of Horror to call Jonathan "Horror's Next Big Thing." His newest release is Wolf Land, which Publishers Weekly called “gruesome yet entertaining gorefest” with “an impressive and bloody climax.” 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. You can learn more about Jonathan at You can also find him on Facebook, via @jonathanjanz on Twitter, or on his Goodreads and Amazon author pages.

Praise for Wolf Land and Janz

"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

“It’s the best of its kind I’ve read in years, such that I’d call it “The Quintessential Haunted House Novel.” You’ve taken the old school traditions of the form which readers want and then have injected modern style, characters, and macabre, hard-edged mayhem into the guts of the story. THAT’S the way to do it, my friend!”-Author Edward Lee on HOUSE OF SKIN

“Jonathan Janz is one of the rare horror novelists who can touch your heart while chilling your spine. His work offers incisive characters, sharp dialogue, and more scares than a deserted graveyard after midnight. If you haven’t read his fiction, you’re missing out on one the best new voices in the genre.” –Tim Waggoner Reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, this should please readers who appreciate a good haunting.”
—The Library Journal

“Jonathan Janz is one of the rare horror novelists who can touch your heart while chilling your spine. His work offers incisive characters, sharp dialogue, and more scares than a deserted graveyard after midnight. If you haven’t read his fiction, you’re missing out on one the best new voices in the genre.”
–Tim Waggoner, author

“A 10-year high school reunion is the catalyst for lots of furry, toothy scares in this gruesome yet entertaining gorefest.” –Publishers Weekly

"Probably the best werewolf novel I've read in a decade."- Pete Kahle, author of The Specimen

"If you like werewolves, you will think you have died and gone to heaven. Highly recommended." -Confessions of a Reviewer

"This fast-paced read was a frenzy of carnality in epic proportions. Visceral and surreal, Janz has outdone himself with this newest title."
-Nikki, Horror After Dark

"For years now, the werewolf has been hijacked by the shifter romance genre. Well, Jonathan Janz has claimed a bloody morsel back for the horror genre!"
-2 Book Lovers Reviews

"Janz is the literary love child of Richard Laymon and Jack Ketchum (with a little Joe Lansdale DNA in the mix), with all the terror that implies. Try him out. You won't be disappointed." -Pod of Horror

“Jonathan Janz has created a realistic world and peopled it with characters that could be people you know then introduces a whole new werewolf legend to rip them to shreds. I highly recommend this relentlessly fast paced story. A hair raising 5 star read.” –Horror Maiden Book Reviews

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