Meghan: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Jonathan Fortin: My name is Jonathan. My debut novel Lilitu: The Memoirs of a Succubus came out today and I’m very excited about it!
Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?
-I’m a trained voice actor in addition to being a writer. I also have experience acting on stage and in front of the camera.
-Contrary to popular belief, my top hat is not affixed to my head. And no, I don’t shower in it.
-I don’t smoke, drink, or do drugs, but less because of moral reasons and more because I’m fussy and sensitive to the tastes and smells. My taste buds are so sensitive that I can’t even enjoy coffee.
-I do, however, drink earl grey tea every morning.
-I am on the autistic spectrum, which explains the hypersensitivity.
Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?
Jonathan Fortin: I honestly don’t know. Goodnight Moon? Runaway Bunny? Green Eggs and Ham?
Meghan: What are you reading now?
Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?
Jonathan Fortin: While I mostly read Horror and Fantasy, there are a few non-spectulative books that come to mind. James Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues is one of my absolute favorite short stories. I’m also fond of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, and A Fine Balance by Rohinton Minstry.
Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?
Jonathan Fortin: You know, it was kind of always just what I did. As a kid, I wrote children’s books. As a teenager, I wrote young adult books. I first dreamed of being a writer from a young age, because it was the only way I could create the stories in my head. I couldn’t make movies or video games, but I could write. When I was younger, I was interested in exploring the film and video game industries, but quickly realized I didn’t want to deal with the difficulties or creative constraints inherent to them. So I stuck to writing because it seemed the most feasible way to bring my creative visions to life.
Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?
Jonathan Fortin: No, but I should probably find one. It’s honestly hard for me to focus anywhere I go, and when I’m at home I just want to be lazy.
Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?
Jonathan Fortin: I get very detail-focused and sometimes get tripped up on getting a certain detail just right before moving on. Then I’ll get caught by it again when redrafting, because I’m not sure it’s quite there yet.
Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?
Jonathan Fortin: It’s less the writing itself and more the factors surrounding it, such as time management. Blocking out the time and energy to write is hard. So are other factors like promoting the book, networking, attending conventions, etc. Another problem I have is that at any given time I’ll have too many book ideas crawling around in my head, and I get indecisive about which one to work on, constantly distracted by my other ideas.
Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?
Jonathan Fortin: Lilitu: The Memoirs of a Succubus takes the cake for sure. It spans years, has a ton of characters who all needed to develop and change over time, and it combines multiple genres together. It was hugely ambitious for a first novel, and I had to redraft it many times before it was ready.
Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?
Jonathan Fortin: Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, H.P. Lovecraft, Alan Moore, Holly Black, J.K. Rowling, Joe Hill, Dan Simmons, Junji Ito, Haruki Murakami, Clive Barker, Carlton Mellick III, Caitlin R. Kiernan, and Michael Cox all come to mind.
Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?
Jonathan Fortin: Regardless of genre: characters that intrigue you, struggling hard to get things that mean the world to them. A fast pace, so you’re never bored. Beautiful prose. Lots of details. Strong craft elements. You know a story is working when it absorbs you, immerses you in its world—feels more real to you than the real world. But everyone gets immersed by different things, so actually executing this is easier said than done.
Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?
Jonathan Fortin: It’s tricky for me to find characters I love because I don’t relate to most people in the first place, real or fictional. I find that I connect best with characters who make me laugh, or feel true and genuine and deeply flawed. A lot of my characters tend to be dealing with some kind of trauma, because it’s something that I and most of my friends struggle with.
Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?
Jonathan Fortin: I deliberately avoid basing any characters directly on myself, but I will say that one of my current projects involves being on the spectrum. While that character isn’t based on myself, they struggle with some of the things I’ve always struggled with.
Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?
Jonathan Fortin: I am absolutely turned off by a bad cover. It’s shallow, I know, and I’m not saying I won’t read a really great book just because its cover stinks. But it’s hard to not let a cover set your expectations for the book’s aesthetic style. I’m something of an aesthete, and visualize my books very strongly in my head, so I demand a certain degree of control over my book covers. I was terrified that with Lilitu we would get a cover with a ton of cleavage and/or a naked man chest. Fortunately, my publisher Crystal Lake was very willing to put me directly in touch with our cover artist, Ben Baldwin, and Ben was super receptive to my ideas. We all ended up being extremely happy with the beautiful cover he created.
Meghan: What have you learned throughout the process of creating your books?
Jonathan Fortin: Everything takes longer than you want it to, and that’s okay.
Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?
Jonathan Fortin: There’s a certain massive battle sequence in one of my novel projects that was just a thorn at my side for years. I love how it turned out, but that book still needs work, so you’ll have to wait a bit longer to read it, sorry.
Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?
Jonathan Fortin: Lilitu: The Memoirs of a Succubus takes the folklore of succubi and incubi seriously. Its succubi aren’t merely evil seductresses or mindless sex objects for the male gaze. Indeed, it deconstructs the Seductress and Byronic Hero archetypes to explore the emotional ramifications of such beings.
Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours?
Jonathan Fortin: I think it’s important for the title to pull readers in and give them an idea what to expect. I went with Lilitu because I decided that it would be the title of the series, with The Memoirs of a Succubus being the title of the first book. I felt that readers would be drawn to the idea of a high-quality succubus horror novel that didn’t look cheesy or shlocky, since there aren’t too many of those out there.
Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?
Jonathan Fortin: I’m a novel guy. Big, epic stories are what occupy my headpsace. They take forever to finish, but once you finally do, there’s nothing more satisfying. It’s like a very slow exorcism.
Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.
Jonathan Fortin: My fiction is overtly Gothic. I like corsets, crumbling old castles, shadows, monsters, and magic. I like dark humor, psychological complexity, epic battles with clashing swords, tragic love, and sex that you really want but really, really shouldn’t have. I like body horror—transformations, monsterifications, and a general loss of humanity. Above all, I like taking readers into a dark reflection of our own world, revealing difficult truths along the way. Lilitu, for example, is ostensibly about succubi and incubi, but it uses them in order to explore issues of gender, class, and sexual repression.
Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?
Jonathan Fortin: Lilitu needed serious revising because the first draft of it was written years ago, when I was younger and more of an edgelord. It contained a lot more gratuitous violence, particularly towards women, which I just felt took away from the message and would limit the audience significantly. It’s still a very dark, violent book, but I think the final draft is less excessive.
Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?
Jonathan Fortin: There’s an Epic Lovecraftian book that I need to finish editing. I have a solid first draft but it’s super long and rough, and I’m honestly too intimidated to touch it right now. But soon.
Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?
Jonathan Fortin: More Lilitu books, and more unrelated books—primarily, but probably not exclusively, horror and dark fantasy.
Meghan: Where can we find you?
Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?
Jonathan Fortin: Thanks so much! I hope you enjoy the book.
About the author:
Jonathan Fortin is an author and voice actor located in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is the author of Lilitu: The Memoirs of a Succubus, Requiem in Frost, and Nightmarescape. A lifelong lover of spooky gothic stories, Jonathan was named the “Next Great Horror Writer” in 2017 by HorrorAddicts. He attended the Clarion Writing Program in 2012, one year after graduating summa cum laude from San Francisco State University’s Creative Writing program.
About the book:
England, 1876. Twenty-year-old Maraina Blackwood has always struggled to adhere to the restrictive standards of Victorian society, denying the courage and desire that burn within her soul. But after a terrifying supernatural encounter, Maraina’s instincts compel her to action.
Maraina soon discovers a plot to unleash a new world—one of demonic aristocrats, bloody rituals, and nightmarish monsters. Putting her upbringing aside, Maraina vows to fight the dark forces assuming control of England. But as her world transforms, Maraina finds that she too must transform…and what she becomes will bring out all that she once buried.