Jonathan W. Thurston Howl is another author from Blood Bound Books‘ latest anthology, Burnt Fur, edited by Ken MacGregor. I learned a lot about this interview, including some interesting facts about HIV, the difference between sexual and erotic, and sex trafficking.
Meghan: Hi, Jonathan. Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl:
1) I got HIV through a partner who lied about his status.
2) I identify as a furry.
3) I have a very sex-positive household with lots of toys and art everywhere.
4) My fiance and I met through publishing.
5) I have a TED Talk out!
Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?
Meghan: What are you reading now?
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: I’m always reading eight books at once, so I finish several a week. Currently I am reading the following: Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce, Imperial Earth by Arthur C. Clarke, a collection of stories by Lovecraft, Overflow by BGK, Fragments of Life’s Heart by Weasel Press, Silver Sword by Michael Morpurgo, Politically Correct Fairytales by James Garner, and a collection of spooky fairytales.
Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: War & Peace. It’s infamous as such a large book that is incredibly dry, but I actually have loved the book each of the three times I read it. Its social critiques are often still relevant, and I love the characters.
Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: I decided I wanted to write after realizing my writing could make people feel something. It made me feel like a magician, tricking the audience. I first started writing in eighth grade, when I wrote my first novel.
Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Usually just any cafe.
Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: I often write via the Snowflake Method. I write the whole story as one sentence, then one paragraph, then one page, so on and so forth, until it’s done.
Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Descriptive prose. My writing style is very fast and animated. It’s hard to just slow it down to let the setting tell a story by itself.
Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: One of two works. Either my experimental horror book The Devil Has a Black Dog or my nonfiction exposé Blood Criminals.
Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?
Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: One that makes its reader feel what the author intended.
Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: It takes quirks and active personality. However, as a horror writer, it means I’ll make my most fleshed out character the one who gets their flesh outed.
Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Probably the protagonist of my award-nominated book Straight Men.
Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Yes, I can’t stand bad covers. I often work as a cover advisor for a few different publishing houses because I’m so nitpicky.
Meghan: What have you learned throughout the process of creating your books?
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Formatting experimental fiction sucks.
Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Some of the explicit scenes of Straight Men definitely. Doing bad things to good people is hard.
Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: They take popular narratives and queer them. There’s just not enough solid gay fiction out there, not that isn’t a coming-out story.
Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours?
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: I usually choose my titles fairly fast. I think for me they are usually simple but have multiple layers of meaning.
Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Usually a novel. It just takes more time, and you get to hold it in your hands with its own cover.
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 W. Thurston Howl: Usually, my target audience is erotic horror readers. I like them to be aroused but then made uncomfortable for their arousal: they feel complicit in the consequences of the intercourse scenes.
Meghan: I am always excited to get my hands on anthologies, especially ones from publishers that I have grown to trust. Tell us about Burnt Fur and your story in it.
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: So, my story in Burnt Fur twists a couple of narratives: Tusk (an old body horror film) and the video game Five Nights at Freddy’s. Furries are all about wish fulfillment. They buy art of their fictional character. They get fursuits of them. They imagine themselves as that character sometimes. So, my story tackles the question of, “What if you got your wish and could be plastic surgeried into being your character?” But as is usual with wish fulfillment horror stories, you really should have been more careful of what you wish for.
Meghan: You wrote a book called Straight Men, published by Black Rose Writing. Explain to us what a gay sexual thriller is.
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: (Content warning: all kinds of sexual abuse) So, first off, there is a difference between sexual and erotic. Erotic implies that the author hopes the reader is aroused. An erotic thriller could involve, for example, a very Stockholm syndrome case of a person falling for their kidnapper and having lots of sex and then later regret when they escape, masturbating to fantasies back in the safety of their home. Sexual thriller takes out the arousal but keeps the sex. Straight Men does not make me aroused. It didn’t at any portion of writing it. Unfortunately, sex is not always beautiful. There is sex trafficking in this country. There is sexual abuse. There is rape. There are bestiality shows in almost every state, and people live their lives as if these things could only happen on the news, not in real life. Straight Men follows a young man who goes on a hookup without telling anyone and is entered into the sex traffic market, drugged, shock collared, and unable to escape for months. It might sound crazy and extreme, but it almost happened to me. I once had a hookup where I was raped and told that if I didn’t do as I was told, the man’s dog was going to rape me, and I wouldn’t be allowed to leave. This novel came from a very real place for me.
Meghan: I’ve never met someone who has done a TED Talk and this has intrigued me. Tell us more about your nonfiction expose called Blood Criminals and that talk.
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Sure! So, I was diagnosed with HIV on January 7, 2015. It was from a partner who had lied to me about their status. And since then, I’ve had some interesting things learned. Did you know, if you have HIV, you take one pill a day, and you both don’t have symptoms and can’t actually spread it to anyone else? You could literally drink my blood, and you wouldn’t catch HIV from me. Because of my meds. The hardest part of HIV is people telling you once a week to go kill yourself. That’s kind of what my TED Talk and book are about. They’re not focused on my experiences. They’re focused on what having HIV in the 21st century is like. It’s not the death threat it used to be in the 80s, but it has wholly new problems that people don’t think about, and it needs to be addressed.
Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Not really. I can’t think of anything notable that was deleted.
Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Well, the third book in the Straight Men series is the next book I will probably write. Also, I have a book coming out this year called Spiders in Our Bed, a collection of a few erotic horror stories centered on the troubles that can happen if a spider interferes with your sex life.
Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Spiders in Our Bed soon! Plus an erotic horror monster anthology I’m writing with my loving fiance, Weasel.
Meghan: Where can we find you?
Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: My Twitter account (18+ only), and my publisher’s webpage. And if you’ve read this far, you can always feel free to reach me through any of those places or email me at: email@example.com. I am always willing to answer questions, provide recommendations, give tips, etc.
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 W. Thurston Howl: If any of this sounds interesting, just hit me up, and I can possibly get you a discount on any of my books. Just mention the interview! I’d love to just have more readers of my work honestly.
About the Book:
Sit. Roll over. Who’s a Good Boy?
There are no good boys in in this anthology, only twisted, deviant, and burnt encounters with pets, people in costume, animals who behave like humans, and creatures who blur the line between the three. Violent pigs, killer ducks, horny bees, a naughty rabbit, and many more fill these pages with tale after tail of hair-raising horror.
Don your Fursuit, slip into your Fursona, and ride the dark wave of horror that is Burnt Fur. You may never go back to wearing your normal skin again.
The Moon in Her Eyes by Sarah Hans
Mallard’s Maze by Joseph Sale
Salivation by Theodore Deadrat
The Hamford Pigs by N. Rose
The Willingness of Prey by Paul Allih
6 Dicks by Rachel Lee Weist
The Others by C.M. Saunders
Randall Rabbit by Elliot Arthur Cross
A Concubine for the Hive by Rue K. Poe
Five Nights with Teddy by Thurston Howl
Oh Piggy, My Piggy by Matt Scott
Ware the Deep by Stephanie Park
The Molt of a Diminishing Light by Michelle F. Goddard
The Victims by James L. Steele
About the Author: Jonathan W. Thurston Howl is a PhD student in English at Michigan State University. Aside from working on their dissertation, they are an editor of two publishing houses and an activist for HIV destigmatization. They are an avid horror writer, particularly when it comes to erotic horror.