Meghan: Hey, John! It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?
John Everson: Hmmm…. Well, let’s see… I bought a classic 1980 Galaxy pinball game by Stern for my basement last winter. Over the spring I read maybe the first autobiography I’ve ever read (John Fogerty. He’s amazing). I’ve spent some time in San Diego, Las Vegas and New Orleans travelling for my day job. Oh… and I finished a new book for Flame Tree Press called The Devil’s Equinox, that came out at the end of June!
Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?
John Everson: I am a lot of things, I suppose, but most importantly I hold the titles of husband, father, and “flock-leader” (I have a cockatoo, cockatiel and parakeet). I’m an obsessive music lover, pinball hobbyist, and baseball (Chicago Cubs!) fan. I’m also a hot pepper nut and beer aficionado (some say “beer snob”). I love discovering new breweries and finding great IPAs. I am at the core an incessant creative – aside from writing fiction, I love to garden, cook, write music, create digital art, do occasional woodwork projects… as long as I’m making something, I’m happy.
Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?
John Everson: We all make choices. I let them make theirs!
Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?
John Everson: It’s absolutely a gift. The ability to put yourself in the shoes of all sorts of characters helps develop a level of patience, empathy and understanding for the people around you. It’s increasingly easy in today’s obsessively Me-Me-Me Society to swim in a self-reflective shallow pond. Writing tends to force one to see and try to understand other viewpoints, other ponds. Writing also offers an escape from a world that is increasingly problematic to stomach with the endless political bickering and my-cause-is-more-righteous-than-yours posturing. A writer can disappear into his or her own world and characters and shut out the unwanted noise of the real one.
Meghan: How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?
John Everson: I grew up in an ultra-conservative Catholic home and went to parochial school for 13 years. My mother was a flag-waver for anti-abortion and religious causes and forced the family to march along with her. The end result of those years was a divorce, a couple of house and school moves, and an estrangement from my dad for many years. Not surprisingly, thanks to those repressive years, as an adult I am a skeptic, support no overt “causes” and believe that virtually nothing is black and white, but rather shades of grey. I don’t believe in absolutes or heaven and hell. I believe we make our own fate and the best possible world-view is to “live and let die.” At one point in time, I was considered a liberal, but based on the painfully “politically correct” rhetoric I hear from liberals these days, I don’t suppose I’d be called that anymore by many. In any event, certainly the destructive effects of divorce, narrow-minded religious “cultism” and other obsessive mindsets have impacted who I am and how and what I write.
Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?
John Everson: If you were stretched out on a rack and one of your arms was ripped off at the shoulder from the force, is there a possibility of survival or would you bleed out before it was possible to staunch the flow?
Meghan: Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?
John Everson: Beginnings are hardest for me. The first chapter or two is easy… but then you have to build the characters and set all of the plot issues in motion. You have to introduce people and round them out with things the reader can identify with, while trying to keep some energy moving in the story. To me it’s like a rollercoaster. Ratcheting everything up to that first big peak is hard, slow and often frustrating. But once the cars tip down that peak and begin to careen towards the first big dip and flip – well, that’s the fun part. At times during those rollercoaster plot twists, the book really just writes itself if you’ve set things up right.
Meghan: Do you outline? Do you start with characters or plot? Do you just sit down and start writing? What works best for you?
John Everson: I have to outline – because that’s how I sell my next book to my publisher (here’s what I’d like to write, what do you think? Will you contract it?). It’s not my favorite way to write, because it pushes you into a bit of a paint-by-numbers feeling, and the fun of writing for me is to tell myself a story. But usually my outlines have lots of room for unpredicted plot twists and changes, so it’s all good. And it does help to have a general roadmap to help ensure that you’re moving toward the right destination and not detouring into a dead end. As far as how it happens? Usually I brainstorm a few different story ideas at a time. Later I decide what I want to develop and will sit down and spend a few hours trying to plot out how the story might work. So I generally start with a situation/conflict and spin the story out from there.
Meghan: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline/plan?
John Everson: Well, that’s a conscious choice that you as the writer make. I typically don’t make that choice, though I also leave my outlines open enough that there are various ways certain situations could go. I know some writers say “well, my characters decided they didn’t want that” and it always makes me laugh. Unless you’re schizophrenic, you control the characters and every action they make. Hopefully you write the characters so that they seem alive to your readers, but… they’re not. They can’t make choices themselves. You may decide you don’t like what you originally outlined and skip it… but the characters aren’t making those decisions – you are!
Meghan: What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?
John Everson: I sell an idea and get a contract – with a hard deadline date on it! When I was younger, I didn’t have a lot of responsibilities and writing was just an enjoyable pastime that I did on weekends to pass the time. Fast forward 30 years and just finding an hour or two at night to do this interview is challenging. So, to make sure that I actually DO still write, I try to get each project contracted, with a deadline. I’m a former journalist, so I’m used to the motivation that real deadlines drive. Without a real deadline, I could let weeks or even months go by and never sit down at the computer to really work.
Meghan: Are you an avid reader?
John Everson: I used to be… it’s why I became a writer. Sadly, the past few years, I’ve only managed to read a handful of books a year. I’m always working on one thing or another, and having the time to just sit in a chair for an hour or two and read just never happens. I’m looking forward to conquering the ginormous TBR pile in my bedroom once I retire (though that’s another decade away!)
Meghan: What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?
John Everson: Fast, fun stories that yank you out of this world and take you on a crazy ride somewhere else. Growing up, I was a sucker for golden age science fiction. As an adult, my tastes skewed more to horror and dark fantasy. Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s novels about a family/community of people who can harness magic kept me enthralled. I’ve read a many Edward Lee horror novels that sucked me in and didn’t let me go until the book was over. It’s incredibly rare for me to have the time or interest to read an entire book in a day, but things like his City Infernal and Succubi or Incubi are literally the blueprint for how to write a book that keeps you entranced page-after-page. He’s one of the few authors whose books I’ve read start-to-finish in a day.
Meghan: How do you feel about movies based on books?
John Everson: There should be more of them! Hollywood keeps recycling the same movies, and yet there are thousands of novels – fresh, unfilmed stories! — published every year. While usually you will feel that a movie version doesn’t do justice to your favorite books, I think they do provide a different look at the story… and there are millions of people who will never read the book version, but would watch the story if it was to unfold on the screen.
Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?
John Everson: Maybe?
Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?
John Everson: No… and that’s why you have to ask yourself during “difficult” scenes if you’re “pulling punches”? Are you being too easy on them because you like them and don’t want the situation you’ve set up to really impact them like it should?
Meghan: What’s the weirdest character concept that you’ve ever come up with?
John Everson: I once wrote a story about a lesbian relationship between an alien described as a cross between “a horse and a centipede” and a human woman who she meets as part of a human “sex circus.”
Meghan: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received? What’s the worst?
John Everson: Don’t quit your day job. Don’t quit your day job.
Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?
John Everson: Everything! They’re why I write. Without readers… what’s the point of telling a story?
Meghan: If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why?
John Everson: This is digging back a ways, but one of my favorite characters growing up was Poul Anderson’s Dominic Flandry. He wrote several books about Flandry: Agent of the Terran Empire, a kind of intergalactic 007. One of Flandry’s favorite sayings was, “What is the point of living in a decadent age if you don’t know how to enjoy the decadence?”
Meghan: If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?
John Everson: I actually started an apocalyptic collaboration with W.D. Gagliani and David Benton a few years ago and I’d love to finish it… because I want to know what happens! One of these days we’ll all dig in and make it happen!
Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?
John Everson: I’m currently working on a book called Voodoo Heart, set for release in October 2020. It’s a book I’ve wanted to write for 15 years because it’s set in the world of the title story from my 2nd fiction collection Vigilantes of Love. When I wrote the original “Vigilantes of Love” pastiche, it was a very slight “flash fiction” scene about a particular voodoo curse in New Orleans. My editor convinced me to expand it to more of a real story for that book… and ever since, I’ve thought that it could really expand into a novel-length story. I outlined it a decade ago and finally started working on actually writing it while I was in New Orleans for business in the spring. I am hoping to finish it by the end of the year.
Meghan: Where can we find you?
John Everson is a staunch advocate for the culinary joys of the jalapeno and an unabashed fan of 1970s European horror, giallo and poliziotteschi cinema. He is also the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of eleven novels, including his latest occult thriller, The Devil’s Equinox, and last year’s The House By The Cemetery, which takes place at a real haunted cemetery — Bachelor’s Grove — in the south suburbs of Chicago. His first novel Covenant, was a winner of the Bram Stoker Award and his sixth, NightWhere, was a finalist for the award. Other novels include Redemption, the conclusion to the trilogy begun in Covenant, as well as Sacrifice, Violet Eyes, The Pumpkin Man, The Family Tree, Siren, and The 13th. Over the past 25 years, his short stories have appeared in more than 75 magazines and anthologies. He is the founder of the independent press Dark Arts Books and has written novelettes for The Vampire Diaries and Jonathan Maberry’s V-Wars universe (Books 1 and 3), which will appear as a 10-episode series on NetFlix in 2019. He’s also written stories for The Green Hornet and Kolchak, The Night Stalker anthologies. He has had several short fiction collections, including Needles & Sins, Vigilantes of Love, Cage of Bones & Other Deadly Obsessions, and most recently, Sacrificing Virgins. For more on his obsession with jalapenos and 1970s European horror cinema, as well as information on his fiction, art and music, visit his website.
Austin secretly wishes his wife would drop dead. He even says so one boozy midnight at the bar to a sultry stranger with a mysterious tattoo. When his wife later introduces that stranger as Regina, their new neighbor, Austin hopes she will be a good influence on his wife. Instead, one night he comes home to find his wife dead. Soon he’s entranced with Regina, who introduces him to a strange world of bloodletting, rituals and magic. A world that puts everything he loves in peril. Can Austin save his daughter, and himself, before the planets align for the Devil’s Equinox? FLAME TREE PRESS is the new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing. Launched in 2018 the list brings together brilliant new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices.
Rumor has it that the abandoned house by the cemetery is haunted by the ghost of a witch. But rumors won’t stop carpenter Mike Kostner from rehabbing the place as a haunted house attraction. Soon he’ll learn that fresh wood and nails can’t keep decades of rumors down. There are noises in the walls, and fresh blood on the floor: secrets that would be better not to discover. And behind the rumors is a real ghost who will do whatever it takes to ensure the house reopens. She needs people to fill her house on Halloween. There’s a dark, horrible ritual to fulfill. Because while the witch may have been dead… she doesn’t intend to stay that way.