Interview with John Everson, author of “NightWhere”
John Everson is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Covenant, as well as the novelsSacrifice, The 13th, Siren and The Pumpkin Man, all released in paperback from Dorchester/Leisure Books. His sixth novel, an erotic horror descent into dark desire centered around a mysterious adult club called NightWhere was released by Samhain in June 2012. He has had several short fiction collections issued by independent presses, including Creeptych, Deadly Nightlusts, Needles & Sins, Vigilantes of Love and Cage of Bones & Other Deadly Obsessions. Over the past 20 years, his short stories have appeared in more than 75 magazines and anthologies. His work has been translated into Polish, Italian, Turkish and French, and optioned for potential film production. He is also the founder and publisher of the independent press Dark Arts Books (www.darkartsbooks.com).
John shares a deep purple den in Naperville, Illinois with a cockatoo and cockatiel, a disparate collection of fake skulls, twisted skeletal fairies, Alan Clark illustrations and a large stuffed Eeyore. There’s also a mounted Chinese fowling spider named Stoker courtesy of Charlee Jacob, an ever-growing shelf of custom mix CDs and an acoustic guitar that he can’t really play but that his son Shaun likes to hear him beat on anyway. Sometimes his wife Geri is surprised to find him shuffling through more public areas of the house, but it’s usually only to brew another cup of coffee. In order to avoid the onerous task of writing, he holds down a regular job at a medical association, records pop-rock songs in a hidden home studio, experiments with the insatiable culinary joys of the jalapeno, designs photo collage art book covers for a variety of small presses, loses hours in expanding an array of gardens and chases frequent excursions into the bizarre visual headspace of ’70s euro-horror DVDs with a shot of Makers Mark and a tall glass of Newcastle.
For information on his fiction, art and music, visit John Everson: Dark Arts atwww.johneverson.com.
Q. Thank you for being on “Things That Go Bump In Your Head.” Let’s start with the question almost everyone asks: What made you decide you wanted to write – and specifically, why did you choose the horror genre?
Because I couldn’t play the saxophone? 😉
Seriously? I decided I wanted to write because I loved reading so much. When
I was a kid, I used to go to the library in the summertime and come home with literally a shopping bag full of books — mainly science fiction and fantasy. I’d read all of them within the two weeks and then return them and come home with more. It didn’t take me too long in grade school to race through most of the Asimov, Simak, Clarke, Heinlein, Anderson, Clement catalogue of classic SF. As I grew older, I wanted to create the same sort of excitement in other readers that those books had created for me.
Why horror? Beats me, because that’s not what I read! I blame that on Roald Dahl and Richard Matheson, who I also read a lot — and they always had nasty dark twists on their tales, even when Matheson was writing SF. And I watched a lot of “Twilight Zone,” “One Step Beyond,” “Outer Limits,” “Night Gallery” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” on TV growing up. I loved the kind of tales that those programs brought to the screen.
Q. With its underlying themes of open marriage and BDSM, your latest offeringNightWhere seems to be being compared by some to 50 Shades of Gray. Do you think it actually has anything in common with the popular work of erotica, or do you think this is just part of the latest trend in comparing every work of fiction that includes BDSM to 50 Shades?
I can’t completely answer this because I haven’t read 50 Shades…but I do know that NightWherereally came out at just the perfect time for the 50 Shades comparisons. It does have a BDSM backdrop to it, so it makes sense that it would garner some comparison… but the comparisons are usually along the lines of “NightWhere is 50 Shades for the horror crowd.” Because while it has lots of sexual content, and characters craving domination and eroticized pain, it is a novel that stems from a horror background, rather than an erotica one. What’s nice is that it walks back and forth across the erotica / horror line, so I really think that it has appeal for readers on both sides of the fence. I’ve gotten several emails from people who participate in the BDSM and swinging scenes telling me how much they enjoyed the book, and how they could really relate to the characters.
3) On a related note, many reviewers seem to be placing NightWhere in the erotic horror category enjoyed by the likes of Poppy Z. Brite. How do you feel about that?
I’m good with that because… that’s what it is! Really, almost all of my novels have elements of erotic horror (except really for The Pumpkin Man) so I’m happy that the books are placed there… sometimes labels can be confining, but they also help readers interested in that sort of book to find other similar things they might like.
4) Why do you think people love stories that combine fear, gore and sex? Do you think the connection between sex and terror is a primal one?
Well, people do tend to love stories that offer a little titillation with whatever the other elements are — whether it’s sex in a drama, sex in a thriller or sex in a comedy… so it’s no surprise that people love to see a bit of flesh in their horror. But I think there’s another reason that sex is often combined with horror. Sexual intimacy is really the most vulnerable position you can be in… so it’s natural that our most core fears would surface there. After all, most vulnerable = most potential for something bad to happen!
5) While I was reading the reviews for your latest book, NightWhere, I noticed one of your reviewers (dbern77) had this to say:
“Sliding NightWhere into the “horror” category leads one to believe it’s just a horror novel, but it’s so much more. It’s a smoothly written novel that flows wonderfully and never lets up.”
Along with the glowing praise of the novel there is suggestion that horror is a lesser genre. Horror is long maligned as a genre: entire texts exist detailing how genre prejudice lead to H.P. Lovecraft’s constant criticism during his lifetime. Do you believe horror is still considered less serious or skilled work than other forms of literature?
Horror has been maligned, though I don’t think that was the reviewer’s intent
in this instance. I think part of the critique in recent times is due to the rash of slasher horror that flooded the market in the ’80s. While that was a long time ago, to this day when you say the word “horror” to a lot of people, they think you’re talking about a story with a crazed guy wielding a knife. That’s a sad thing to me, because that’s not the type of horror I generally read, and it’s not the kind of horror I write. So I think horror is frequently dismissed because of assumptions that all of its tropes are cliché… and it really is the least read of all the main genres. That which is least popular, tends to be dismissed. That’s why Barnes & Noble got rid of its “Horror” section years ago, dumping those books into the general “Fiction and Literature” pool. Meanwhile, Mystery, Science Fiction, True Crime, Romance and others still have dedicated shelf space.
6) You have been writing for a very long time, and are a winner of the prestigious Bram Stoker Award. Aside from well-crafted writing, there are other aspects involved in being a career author. What “right moves” do you think you have made to get this far? Is there any advice you would give to new writers about what we can do to increase our level of success?
Be polite. Be friendly. Be positive.
Don’t be afraid to approach people you respect — but do it with respect. I’ve seen a lot of new authors send out requests for blurbs for their new books “en masse” — just scattershot emailing a pdf of their book to 20 authors and saying, “hey, will you read my book?” If you can’t even give someone a personal email when you’re asking them to do you a favor… don’t be shocked when you get no reply! Every time I’ve asked someone to blurb one of my books, I approach them with a personal email and tell them why I would really like them in particular to offer me their endorsement. And only when they say yes do I send the file (actually, it’s good form to ask them what format they’d prefer it it, if they’ll agree to blurb). As with virtually everything in life, you’ll always get farther with good vibes than bad. I’ve seen a lot of authors over the years who are rude to editors (I’ve worked the slush pile) and rude to each other, via message boards or at conventions. There are a ton of authors out there who write good stuff. Far more, in fact, than editors can publish and readers can read. So… if your talent is equal with a bunch of other people’s and an editor or reader has a perception that you’re a jerk… well… they’re likely going to pass over you for someone else of equal stature who isn’t. Like anything in life, if you have the chops AND can network well, you’ll go farther. I don’t know that I’ve networked that well, but I do try to be friendly to people, answer my emails quickly and not burn bridges. I think that helps.
7) Having worked with both large publishers and independent presses, what would you say are the benefits of either approach?
I think sometimes there’s more flexibility for oddball and “pet” projects in the small press. No large press would have created back-pocket sized hardcover books with laminated covers and allowed me to do my own artwork for them. But that’s exactly what Delirium Books did for me with my novelette Failure and my three-story mini “bug” themed collection Creeptych. Those are little 100+ page hardcovers in an odd size that feature my own cover collages.
The benefit of a larger publisher is that there’s usually a larger editorial team, so you often end up with a better copy edit because more people have gone over it. And the biggest plus, of course, is that a larger publisher can get their books distributed in more stores, and has the marketing budget to promote them. It’s up to the author to do most of the promotional footwork in either case, but a larger publisher can open up more doors to you.
With the e-book revolution, virtually anyone can publish and get their books into Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo, just like the “big boys”. But one thing most authors don’t realize (and probably a lot of small presses don’t either!) is that larger publishers have the opportunity to nominate books for special promotions at stores like Amazon. A small press never even sees that door. So the things that will continue to make (or not make!) larger presses vital in the years to come is the amount of muscle they can put behind their projects to keep them visible above the rest of the pack.
8) Finally, is there anything you would like to leave the readers with that I haven’t yet asked you about?
Well, I hope everyone will download a copy of the NightWhere ebook, or pick
up the trade paperback when it becomes available the first week in October. And also check out the new V-Wars book edited by Jonathan Maberry. This is a shared world book that’s part anthology, part novel, since eight authors (including me) all worked in the same “world” with some shared characters to document the outbreak of a new resurgence of the true vampires of mythology. It was a really fun project to work on, and it just came out in hardcover from IDW just over a month ago. (You can find it in the New in Science Fiction sections at Barnes & Noble stores right now).
Thanks for Bumping Me in the Head!
You can pick up NightWhere on Amazon:
You can contact John Everson or learn more here:
~ by Sumiko Saulson on August 9, 2012.