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.