Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: John Quick

Meghan: Welcome back… well, sort of back… back to the annual Halloween Extravaganza, but welcome TO the brand new blog. It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?

John Quick: A lot, actually. I think we last talked after the release of The Journal of Jeremy Todd, and since then I’ve released three more novels, a novella, and another short story collection. In other words, a lot, lol.

Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?

John Quick: A husband, father, geek, and stuck in the 80’s, I guess, lol! I’ve got a horrid day job to help pay the bills so I can do this writing thing, but love spending time with my wife and kids, and friends playing D&D or board games or just hanging out talking about Marvel MCU movies, Doctor Who, and other geek-related subjects. Basically, I’m a guy who never grew up, but had to grow up because I’m in my forties, lol.

Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?

John Quick: As long as they remember I’m not what I write, I’m good with it. Two of my closest friends are actually beta readers. I let them do it, because they’re the kind of friends who don’t care if they tell me it’s shit when it is. They could care less about my feelings and more about making sure my career actually goes somewhere. As to family, my wife reads everything, albeit slowly, and while my mother supports my career as a writer, she can’t get past the swearing in my books, much less the subject matter.

Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

John Quick: It’s both. It’s a gift because it gives me a way to release the things that wind up trapped inside my head (take that how you will). It’s also introduced me to some of the most awesome people I’ve ever met. I’ve had more than one person comment that when I’m at a con with my contemporaries, I seem happier than normal, and more in my element than they’ve ever seen me. It’s also a curse because it’s a compulsion to do what I do. I get grumpy when the writing’s not going well, and occasionally get depressed with the way the business end of this whole thing works. Make no mistake, this is a job, just one that is immensely more satisfying than anything else I’ve ever done. Like every job, though, it has its good days and its bad. You have to take both if you want to do this.

Meghan: How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?

John Quick: For a long time, I tried to ignore my environment and upbringing. It seemed that everything was in rural Maine or in a big city. Once I finally stopped being ashamed of my humble beginnings, and kind of made Tennessee a character of its own in my work, things got much, much easier.

Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?

John Quick: Wow, I don’t even know. I’ve given up on having a normal search history in Google, I’ll put it that way. Maybe it’s the real stories behind the concept of succubi, or what a stun gun does to a human face when that particular warning is ignored. I really don’t know.

Meghan: Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?

John Quick: The beginning. I always have a scene come into mind right away, but it’s usually once things start going. I hate having to write up to that point, but love going past it.

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 Quick: I am a total pantser. When a story comes into my head, it’s a scenario, including the people involved in it. Then I start writing and wait for them to introduce themselves and show me how they’re going to deal with that scenario. The exception is the final book of a potential fantasy trilogy I’m working on, where I had to outline it to keep everything straight in my own head. It made it very tough to work on. The outline’s finished, but the actual writing is ongoing, if you’re curious.

Meghan: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline/plan?

John Quick: I let them lead me. If I don’t know where the story’s going, how will the reader?

Meghan: What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?

John Quick: I treat it like the job it is. Simple as that. And as complicated.

Meghan: Are you an avid reader?

John Quick: Absolutely. I couldn’t write if I didn’t read a lot, too.

Meghan: What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?

John Quick: Horror or fantasy, and I want believable characters and a story that sucks me in.

Meghan: How do you feel about movies based on books?

John Quick: They’re hit or miss. I can deal with them as long as they keep the spirit of the original work. You mess with character motivations, development, or how they act, and we’ve got issues, though. That’s why I hated Legend of the Seeker. I loved the Sword of Truth novels, but the TV show acted like they only read the first book and ignored the rest.

Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?

John Quick: Sure. In the fantasy series. But that’s almost a trope now, isn’t it?

Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

John Quick: The way I see it, if the reader loves the character, and the character suffers, so will the reader. Isn’t that what horror’s all about?

Meghan: What’s the weirdest character concept that you’ve ever come up with?

John Quick: Most of my characters are normal-ish. If they don’t feel real, I don’t use them. Hence, most aren’t any weirder than I am (again, take that how you wish, lol).

Meghan: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received? What’s the worst?

John Quick: Best? Don’t put your eggs in one basket. I’ve worked with several small presses, as well as doing some self-publishing. Because of that, I’m not as afraid of any one of those falling apart. I have alternates if I need them.

The worst? Try a Facebook ad. I did, and I might as well have flushed the money down the toilet. It might work for someone else, but it sure didn’t for me.

Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?

John Quick: I write for myself (write the story you want to read). That said, I’m still adjusting to the fact I actually have fans! Those I have, though, I love dearly. They make me feel I’m on the right path with this, and they make me feel it’s all worthwhile. While, as I said, I write for me, there is a part of me that hopes they like it too, and worries about it after every release.

Meghan: If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why?

John Quick: Brian Keene’s Levi Stoltzfus. I’d love to throw him in one of the Cochran books and have those two deal with a case. I think that would be a blast.

Meghan: If you could write the next book in a series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about?

John Quick: That’s a tough one. While it’s not a proper series, I’d love to play with the characters from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic series. I’d do a story about a guy who’s slowly going insane, and bring in the Endless to make it really hit home. I can see how all of them could fit into the story. Would he pull out of it, or would he succumb to it? I’d have to write it to find out, but it would definitely be interesting getting there, either way!

Meghan: If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?

John Quick: I’m actually doing that right now. It’s about a band in 1984 that makes a bargain with something for fame and fortune, and the impact that has on their lives over the years. I don’t want to say more about it right now; you’ll just have to see it when it’s finished.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

John Quick: I have a new novel coming out in November from Silver Shamrock, called Hidden Hearts (though the title may change). It’s a ghost story / haunted house novel that contains some of the most emotional stuff I’ve ever written. Beyond that, I’ve got a few things in the works that may or may not pan out, so keep watching to see how they develop!

Meghan: Where can we find you?

John Quick: I’m everywhere. Facebook (personal profile or fan profile), Twitter, Instagram, or my website.

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 or the last?

John Quick: I could never have guessed how my life was going to turn out when I first started this a few years ago, and am thrilled beyond belief at how it’s gone. Thank you to everyone for all the support, and I can’t wait to see where you let me go in the future!

If you ask his wife, John Quick is compelled to tell stories because he’s full of baloney. He prefers to think he simply has an affinity for things that are strange, disturbing, and terrifying. As proof, he will explain how he suffered Consequences, transcribed The Journal of Jeremy Todd, and regaled the tale of Mudcat. He lives in Middle Tennessee with his aforementioned long-suffering wife, two exceptionally patient kids, four dogs that could care less so long as he keeps scratching that perfect spot on their noses, and a cat who barely acknowledges his existence.

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Jonathan Janz

Meghan: So, you’ve made it back for round three, Jonathan, where the questions get more and more difficult.

What are your go-to horror films?

Jonathan Janz: A few I’ve watched and rewatched are (of course) Jaws, which is one of my top-three films ever. I also love Ravenous, which I probably watched ten times over a few months back in the early 2000s. Another would be the original Halloween for the way it builds suspense bit by bit.

Meghan: What makes the horror genre so special?

Jonathan Janz: So many traits make horror special, but one of the ones I appreciate the most is its diversity of subject matter. It can be supernatural or non-supernatural, grounded or completely surreal. It can have creatures. It can be set in another time and place. The possibilities are endless.

Meghan: Have any new authors grasped your interest recently?

Jonathan Janz: Sarah Read really blew me away with The Bone Weaver’s Orchard. A couple others that are doing great work are Tim Meyer and John Quick.

Meghan: How big of a part does music play in creating your “zone”? What do you listen to while writing?

Jonathan Janz: It’s integral to my process. I listen to Baroque music (usually played by Yo-Yo Ma) when I write, and it really gets my creativity flowing. It also drowns out the noise of my house, and with three kids and two dogs, that can be pretty important sometimes.

Meghan: How active are you on social media? How do you think it affects the way you write?

Jonathan Janz: Relatively active, though I’ve had to scale back. I simply don’t have time to be on there much. It doesn’t affect my writing much, though I do see interesting items there sometimes that pique my interest.

Meghan: What is your writing Kryptonite?

Jonathan Janz: My busy schedule. Everyone thinks he/she is busy, but I’d put my schedule beside anyone’s and give him/her a run for his/her money. I have two full-time jobs (teaching at one of the most demanding public schools in the nation, as well as being an author), a family to love and take care of, the entire business side of writing (every day I have a punch list of maybe seven or eight tasks I try to get done), my ninety-four-year-old grandpa to help, three different teams to coach (in three different sports), a house to maintain, my fitness to keep up, and… oh yeah, a wife I’d like to see a lot more often. I simply wish there were more hours in the day.

Meghan: If you were making a movie of your latest story/book, who would you cast?

Jonathan Janz: In my current work-in-progress, I’d cast Chris Hemsworth as one of the characters and Nick Offerman as another. Those two would play really well off each other.

Meghan: If you had the choice to rewrite any of your books, which one would it be and why?

Jonathan Janz: GARDEN OF SNAKES. It’s my one “trunk novel,” and I still love certain aspects of the story. I just didn’t know how to write it back then, and it showed in the final product.

Meghan: What would the main character in your latest story/book have to say about you?

Jonathan Janz: He’d tell me to breathe, to lighten up a bit so I could get more sleep.

Meghan: Did you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Jonathan Janz: I absolutely do. Writing is an intensely personal act, so some of the stuff would only be detected by people who know me well. Brian Keene does that a lot with my work, most recently in The Dark Game.

Meghan: How much of yourself do you put in your books?

Jonathan Janz: So much! Most of the time, though, it’s accidental, and I’m not even aware of it until I notice it later, or after publication, when someone points it out to me.

Meghan: Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into our novels?

Jonathan Janz: Many of the events in Children of the Dark are based on real-life occurrences. I lived in that house, on that street, beside that graveyard, and in front of that woods. That was my baseball field and my hometown. Those were my friends. It’s incredibly autobiographical, and I think that shows in a positive, poignant way.

Meghan: Are your characters based off real people, or did they all come entirely from your imagination?

Jonathan Janz: Some of both, though more of the latter than the former. I’d say my imagination is the food, and other people are the seasonings I sprinkle in.

Meghan: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

Jonathan Janz: I’ve grown much more confident. I now can look at something I’ve written and say, “That doesn’t work,” and go back and delete it or change it. That takes a strong stomach because you’re admitting to yourself that you made a mistake or that you were off track for a day or three.

Meghan: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Jonathan Janz: Letting go of a book. I edit and edit and edit and would probably keep doing that in perpetuity if I didn’t force myself to let it go at some point.

Meghan: Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Jonathan Janz: Definitely both. I get so excited when I write something that works, but when I’m done each day I feel like I’m in a fog. I tell my wife and kids it’s like Han Solo unfreezing from carbonite.

Meghan: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones? Have you ever learned something from a negative review and incorporated it into your writing?

Jonathan Janz: I read them less and less, and there are people whose reviews I don’t even glance at because I know where they’re coming from, and it’s not a happy place. They have value, and I’ve read positive and negative reviews that have both helped me, but I simply don’t have the time to look at them much anymore because I’m too busy creating.

Meghan: Why are your ambitions for your writing career? What does “literary success” look like to you?

Jonathan Janz: Someday, I’d like to write full time. I’m in no hurry to get there, and if I could write now, I don’t think I would because I truly love teaching too much. But at some point that would be a blast.

Jonathan Janz is the author of more than a dozen novels and numerous short stories. His work has been championed by authors like Joe R. Lansdale, Jack Ketchum, and Brian Keene; he has also been lauded by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and School Library Journal. His ghost story The Siren and the Specter was selected as a Goodreads Choice nominee for Best Horror. Additionally, his novel Children of the Dark was chosen by Booklist as a Top Ten Horror Book of the Year. Jonathan’s main interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children. You can sign up for his newsletter, and you can follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads.