Christmas Takeover 23: JG Faherty: Yule Cat

Yule Cat

A Story by JG Faherty
3,008 words
Originally published in Appalachian Winter Hauntings, 2009

Excitement hovered over the town of Fox Run in much the same way the snow-filled clouds had done all week. The day seemed ordinary enough, but children and adults alike knew differently.

Tonight would be special.

All day long, women bustled about in kitchens, grandmothers and mothers and daughters, cooking and baking the feasts for that night. The savory, grease-laden scents of fried ham, roast lamb, and hamborgarhyryggur – smoked pork rack – competed with the heavenly aromas of fresh-baked breads and desserts. For those with a sweet tooth, plates stacked high with jelly-covered pancakes and twisted fried dough – lummer and kleinur – sat on tables and counters, wherever there was room.

It was the traditional Yule feast, part of the celebration of the winter solstice.

The longest night of the year.

The night when ghosts ride the winds and the Yule Cat roams in search of lazy humans to eat.

“Aw, Grandpa, that’s just a silly old tale to scare little kids,” Jacob Anders said, as his grandfather finished his annual telling of the Yule story.

“Don’t talk to your Farfar like that,” Grandma Anders said, her thin face pulled tight in one of her mock-serious scowls. She worked hard to keep up her brusque appearance to the rest of the family, only occasionally letting her old-country veneer slip, as she’d done earlier when she let Jacob and his older sister Erika lick the spoons after she iced the traditional Yule cake.

Like most of Fox Run’s residents, the Anders had emigrated from Scandinavia, eventually settling in Western Pennsylvania, where the Appalachians provided the same backdrop as the Kölen of their homeland.

Although they’d celebrated Yule at their grandparents’ since before they could remember, this year was the first year Jacob and Erika’s parents weren’t with them. They’d dropped the children off the day before, with kisses and hugs and promises to return in four days loaded with gifts from their cruise.

For Jacob and Erika, the four days loomed over them in much the same way as the mountains loomed over Fox Run. Their grandparents’ house wasn’t exactly child friendly. They had no cable TV, no video games, and cell phone service was spotty on the best of days.

His temper frayed by boredom, Jacob, who’d always been overly energetic, even for a nine-year-old, made a face. “It’s the same old boring story every year. Why can’t we go into town and do something? Maybe see a movie?”

“Because Yule is for being with family.” Grandma Anders shook a bony finger at him. “Children today have forgotten the old ways. They think only of themselves.”

“Ja.” Grandpa Anders sucked on his empty pipe. He’d given up tobacco years before, but never the habit of clenching the pipe between his teeth while sitting by the fire. “And those are the ones who get no presents from Jule-nissen later tonight.”

“Grandpa, we don’t believe in Santa or the Easter Bunny. What makes you think we’re gonna believe in an elf who rides a talking goat and leaves gifts for children?” Jacob laughed, but his grandparents didn’t smile.

“Ah. No talking to children today.” Grandpa Anders got up and shook his head. “Goodnight, then. If you think the tales of your ancestors are such…foof…” he said, waving his hand at them, “perhaps you should stay up and watch for the Jule-nissen yourself.”

“Maybe I will.”

“Jacob, hush.” Erika gave her brother a poke. Normally she wouldn’t care, but with her parents gone she felt responsible for her brother, and she didn’t want him being rude.

“I think perhaps bed is a good idea for all of us,” Grandma Anders said, taking her tea cup into the kitchen.

“No way! It’s not even nine o’clock yet. We never go to bed this early at home.”

“You’re not at home, young man.” Grandma Anders glared at him, giving him what the children secretly called her ‘stink eye.’ It meant she’d reached the point where she’d put up with no more nonsense. “So off to bed. Now!” She clapped her hands twice, the sudden sound like branches snapping under the weight of too much ice.

“But–”

“C’mon, Jacob. I think you had too much sugar tonight.” Erika grabbed him by the arm.

“Lemme go!” He yanked himself from her grasp and stormed down the hall to the guest bedroom they were sharing.

“I’m sorry, Grandma,” Erika said.

Grandma Anders patted her shoulder and planted a soft, whiskery kiss on her cheek. “Don’t fret, child. Someday he will learn the truth.”


Jacob and Erika lay awake in their room. Upstairs, the grumbling, wheezing sounds emanating from their grandparents’ bedroom told them Mormor and Farfar Anders were fast asleep.

“I’m hungry,” Jakob whispered.

“No, you’re not. You had two plates for dinner, and at least three desserts, plus the one I saw you sneak while everyone was sitting by the fire.”

“Fine. Then I’m thirsty.”

Erika sighed. “What you are is bored and a brat. Go to sleep.” She wished she could do the same. She’d been trying to doze off for over an hour. But too much sugar and a day of doing nothing but helping in the kitchen had her wide awake.

“Did you hear that?” Jakob asked.

“All I hear is you talking.”

“Sssh!”

She started to scold him for being such a pain, and then stopped.

Because she did hear it.

A low, distant moaning, winter-cold and ethereal as the wind. A dozen voices; a hundred. A thousand, perhaps, all sighing at once, all lamenting a sadness older than time but not forgotten.

Jacob climbed out of bed and went to the window. His body was a gray shadow among all the others in the room. When he pulled the white lace curtain aside, he revealed a scene that was almost alien, as the snow, so white it almost glowed, hid the ordinary beneath weird mounds and featureless plains.

“Don’t!” Erika couldn’t explain it, but she felt something deep in her bones.

Danger waited outside.

As usual, Jacob didn’t listen. He pressed his face to the glass and peered out.

“I don’t see anything,” he whispered.

Against her better judgment, Erika joined him at the window, barely noticing the chill of the floor against her bare feet.

Jacob’s breath left twin ovals of fog on the frigid glass as he pushed closer to look up and down the street.

Shaped like a heart, Erika thought, and that scared her just as much as the distant susserations of grief.

Outside, nothing seemed different than any other night. The houses were dark. Like the hard-working towns around it, Fox Run rose early and went to bed early.

Just when Erika thought her chattering teeth might wake her grandparents, new sounds joined the mourning dirge. A triumphant cry, accompanied by the bellow of a horn and the baying of hounds.

“Something’s happening!” Before Erika could stop him, Jacob dashed from room. For a moment she stood frozen by indecision. Then she heard the slam of the back door and the spell holding her in place broke like an ice dagger snapping from the gutter.

Pausing just long enough to put on boots and grab her coat from the hook by the back door, she hurried outside and spotted Jacob already running down the road.

“Jacob, stop! Come back!” He didn’t, so despite the glacial air that threatened to freeze her blood and stop her heart, Erika ran after him.

It took three blocks to catch up with Jacob, and by the time she did, her face burned and tiny icicles of snot crusted her nose and upper lip.

“I’m gonna kill you when we get back,” she said, grabbing a fistful of his coat.

“Quiet!” He put a finger to his lips. “It’s almost here.”

Since the sounds were no louder, Erika wanted to ask him how he knew, but then she understood. He felt it, and she could, too.

A heartbeat later, the source of the supernatural noise appeared. Swirling towers of mist, so many she couldn’t count them, appeared out of nowhere and sailed down the road as fast as racing cars. As they swept past, she glimpsed faces, twisted and horrible. The moaning of the apparitions vibrated her teeth like a dentist’s drill. Next to her, Jacob pressed his hands over his ears.

The line of spirits – for she knew that’s what they were – seemed to go on forever, but it was only seconds before they were past, and the reason for their wailing became apparent.

Behind them came more ghosts, mounted on ephemeral horses and surrounded by massive hounds with glowing red eyes. Leading the pack was a giant of a man wearing the antlered skull of a colossal deer as a helmet. It was his exultant war cries that had the other spirits fleeing, as he led his phantom troop in pursuit.

Ten heartbeats later, the streets lay empty again.

“Did you see that?” Jacob asked. “What were they?”

“I don’t know.” Erika pulled at him. “Let’s go home before we freeze to death.”

“’Tis not the cold you should be worrying about.”

Erika screamed and Jacob gasped at the unknown voice behind them. Turning, they found themselves face to face with a goat wearing a green jacket. On its back perched a tiny man with a long, pointed beard. Like the goat, the man’s yellow eyes had horizontal pupils, and he wore green clothes as well.

“Jule-nissen.” Jacob’s eyes were wide. “You’re real!”

The elf shook his head. “Yes, but you’ll be nothing but a memory if the Cat gets you.”

“The cat? What cat?”

“The Yule Cat, sonny-boy. He’s been stalking you since you left your house.”

“I didn’t see any–”

“There!” The elf pointed down the street.

Between two houses, a shadow, darker than the sky and impossibly huge, slid across the snow. Before Erika could think of anything to say, a giant tabby cat, taller than a lion and twice as broad, stalked into view, yellowish-green eyes glowing and a hungry smile on its face.

Jacob moaned, and the Cat, even from a hundred yards away, heard. Its ears twitched and it crouched down in the middle of the street, tail whipping back and forth behind it.

“Run,” Erika said.

Jacob stood still, frozen in fear.

“Run!” This time she shouted it. At the same time, the cat sprang forward.

“This way,” the elf called to them, as the goat carried him down a side street.

Jacob and Erika followed. Each step took them further from their grandparents’ house, but they didn’t care. All that mattered was eluding the impossible feline sprinting down the road after them.

The goat led them around a corner and Erika felt a rush of relief as the Cat skidded on the slippery road and missed the turn. Then her relief turned to horror as the Cat sprang out from behind a house and swung a massive paw that sent the goat and its elvin rider tumbling across the icy blacktop. It swung again and Jacob cried out as a white cloud exploded from his chest. Erika screamed, sure the cat had disemboweled her brother and she was watching the air from his lungs freeze as it escaped. Then she saw it was just the front of his down jacket torn open and gushing feathers into the night.

“Get up!” Erika grabbed Jacob and pulled as he kicked his legs in a frantic attempt to get his feet under himself.

The Yule cat took a half-swing at them and hot liquid ran down her legs. She remembered how Mittens, the cat they’d had when she was younger, used to play with field mice and birds the same way, toying with them until it was ready to bite their heads off.

Now she knew how they felt.

“Ho, Yule Cat! Train your eyes this way!”

Erika jumped at the Jule-nissen’s shout. In her worry for Jacob, she’d forgotten about the elf and his goat. She watched in amazement as the diminutive man waved his arms while the goat jumped and danced on its hind legs.

“What are you doing?”

“Saving your lazy hides,” the elf said. “This is your chance. Return to your house. We’ll be fine.”

Erika didn’t argue. Hand in hand, she and Jacob ran as fast as they could, the December air burning their lungs, hearts pounding in time with their feet. They ran without looking back, deathly afraid the Cat might be only a whisker’s length away.

Suddenly Jacob cut sharply to the right. Erika started to shout at him and then realized they’d reached their grandparents’ house. They pounded up the front steps and flung open the door so hard it hit the wall and sent knick-knacks clattering to the floor.

“Who’s there? What’s going on?” Josef Anders appeared at the top of the stairs, his wife close behind him.

“Grandma! Grandpa! It’s after us! The Yule Cat!”

Erika slammed the door shut and twisted the lock. Grandma Anders said something, but Erika couldn’t hear over the sounds of her and Jacob gasping for air.

“Into the living room! Hurry!” Grandpa Anders hurried down the stairs and tugged at their sleeves.

“But we’re safe now. The goat–” The rest of Jacob’s words disappeared in a crash of breaking glass as a pumpkin-sized paw came through the window next to the door.

“There’s no hiding from the Cat,” Grandma Anders shouted. “Only one thing can save you. Come!”

Erika and Jacob followed their grandparents into the living room, where the sweet scent of pine still decorated the air from the Yule log smoldering in the fireplace. Behind them, the Cat let out a fierce yowl at being denied its prey yet again.

Grandma Anders grabbed two small boxes from beneath the Christmas tree. “Here, open these. Quickly now.”

“What?” Erika took the box but could only stare at it. With everything that had happened, the merry green and red wrapping paper seemed unreal.

“Do as your Mormor says.” Grandpa Anders threw an angry scowl at them as he pulled the drapes shut. With his head turned away, he never saw the movement outside the window, never knew the Yule Cat was there until it burst through the glass and knocked him sideways into a bookcase. Shaking shards from its fur, the Cat let out a roar.

“Grandpa!” Jacob cried.

Erika turned to run but her grandmother stopped her by slapping her across the face. “Open the fordømt box!”

Hoping box contained some kind of magic weapon, Erika tore at the paper and cardboard. When she saw what was inside, her hands went limp and the box fell to the floor.

“A shirt?” She sank to her knees, knowing there was no hope left. Hot, fetid breath blew past her face, carrying the stench of rotten meat. Tears ran down Erika’s face as she closed her eyes and waited for the end.

The carrion stink grew stronger and a whimper escaped her throat as something cold and wet bumped ever so lightly against her neck. Then it was gone.

“That’s right, one for the girl and one for the boy, too. Now be gone.”

Erika heard her grandmother’s voice but the words didn’t make sense. She opened her eyes and risked turning her head, just in time to see the Yule Cat climb out through the shattered picture window. Grandpa Anders was leaning against the bookcase, a cut on his forehead dripping blood. Jacob stood near him, his half-opened box in his hands.

Eyes still on the departing feline, Erika asked, “What happened?”

“I can answer that, young miss.”

Erika turned and saw the Jule-nissen atop his goat, right next to Grandma Anders, who didn’t seem at all surprised by their presence.

“’Twas the gifts. A shirt for each of you.”

“On Yule Eve, the Jule-nissen leaves a gift of clothing for all the children,” Jacob said in a soft voice, “except for the lazy ones.”

“And for them?” the elf asked.

“The Yule Cat eats them.”

“So, you did listen to my stories.” Grandpa Anders put a hand on the boy’s shoulder.

“You really brought us gifts?” Jacob asked.

The goat snorted and the Jule-nissen shook his head. “Not me. You haven’t done anything to deserve them, in my eyes. But lucky for you, someone thought different, and to the Cat, a gift’s a gift.” The elf snapped his fingers and he and his goat disappeared in a burst of golden sparkles.

“Then who…?” Jacob looked confused, but Erika knew exactly where the gifts had come from.

“You knew the tales were true,” she said to her grandmother. “You did it to protect us.”

Grandma Anders gave them the briefest of smiles. “We follow tradition, even if you do not. All families make sure to keep gifts handy in case the Yule Cat appears.”

“You have to be careful on Yule,” Grandpa Anders said.

Jacob nodded. “’Cause of the Yule Cat.”

“Yes, but not just the Cat. ‘Tis also the night of the Hunt, when the spirits of the Oak King arise to drive away the spirits of the Holly King, and put an end to nights growing longer. Get in their way and you’ll become like them, doomed to Hunt forever.”

“The Hunt,” Erika whispered. She shivered, remembering the wailings of the Holly King’s spirits as the Oak King banished them until June.

Grandma Anders noticed her reaction. “Go put on dry clothes. I’ll make hot cocoa.”

After the children left the room, Grandma Anders went into the kitchen, where her husband was already filling a pot with milk.

“Well?” he asked.

“I think from now on they’ll listen when you tell your stories.”

So distant they wouldn’t have heard it if not for the broken window, a child’s voice screamed in pain.

Josef Anders nodded. “Ja. Let us hope so. For their sakes.”

A life-long resident of New York’s haunted Hudson Valley, JG Faherty has been a finalist for both the Bram Stoker Award (The Cure, Ghosts in Coronado Bay) and ITW Thriller Award (The Burning Time), and he is the author of 7 novels, 10 novellas, and more than 75 short stories. His next novel, Hellrider, comes out from Flame Tree Press in August of 2019. He grew up enthralled with the horror movies and books of the 60s, 75, 70s, and 80s. Which explains a lot.

Halloween Extravaganza: JG Faherty: Halloween & My Writing Career

I love these blog posts because I can let the authors pretty much do what they want. In this one, JG tells us about a Halloween that led him to be the author he is now. A great read.


Hello, there! My name is JG Faherty, I’m a horror and dark fiction author, and I’ve been granted free reign for today’s blog. So strap and in prepare yourself for some Halloween-themed brain musings.

I thought long and hard about what to discuss today. The topic of Halloween offers so many options – the history of the holiday, childhood memories, what Halloween means to me, things I’ve written that deal with Halloween.

In the end, I decided to do something of an amalgam and talk about not just a strong Halloween moment but how that moment impacted me as a writer.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Halloween, all the way back to when I was a little kid dressing up as Spider Man, trick-or-treating with my friends, and watching the Great Pumpkin. Back then, it would only be on once the whole month of October and I made sure to never miss it. As I got a little older, two things happened – I added the juvenile pranks of Gate Night/Mischief Night to my celebration (shaving cream, soap, flaming dog poo, all the standards!) and I discovered a book: Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury.

Wow.

To the 12-year-old me, that was possibly the most amazing book ever. Better than Poe, Shelley, Stoker, or Verne, the classic writers I’d been reading up to that point. Better than the Hardy Boys. Better than James Blish, who was writing a lot of Star Trek tie-ins that I enjoyed so much. Better even than Heinlein, who I’d recently discovered.

I fell in love, not just with the book, and Bradbury as a writer, but with how it spoke to me. A kid from a small town in the country who loved scary stuff and carnivals. (Did I mention we used to play in the local graveyards?)

I probably read that book three times before I got into high school, and another three times since. It didn’t start my life-long infatuation with all things horror and Halloween, but it did give me a particular fondness for small-town terrors, Halloween-themed stories, and coming of age stories.

Which leads me to the year 2001.

Yes, we’ve jumped forward quite a bit. 2001 was the year I started writing fiction. The previous year, I’d gotten a side job writing study guides for The Princeton Review, 4th and 5th grade, mostly. English, Language Arts. Each book was about 100 pages long and I had to write the practice reading assignments plus all the questions and answers. Although I’d always had a deep desire to be a writer, I’d never thought I had the ability, and other than 1 very abortive attempt in college, I never tried. I did a lot of writing for work, as a research scientist and laboratory manager, but never fiction.

Until those study guides. And I discovered it was fun. And it came easy to me. I’ve talked about how this led to me writing my first fiction in other blogs, so I won’t repeat that here.

By 2001, I had 2 short stories published. A few others in the works. And then it happened.

The dream.

A bunch of college students stuck inside a Halloween carnival, run by a demon. They had to go through every room in the haunted mansion, where all the monsters came alive. A cool dream, right?

But there was more.

I dreamed an entire novel, from beginning to end. And not just one story, but a whole series of them. I saw not just the haunted mansion, but also all the other rides, the side shows, the games. The monsters behind the masks at every booth. How the carnival appeared every Halloween since the dawn of time, never in the same place.

When I woke up, I immediately grabbed a notebook and pen and started writing. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. For two weeks, I wrote in the morning, at lunch, and after work. I wrote on the weekends. And I finished that novel in record time. Not an outline, the whole damn novel!

Then I transcribed it into the computer. 137,000 words. I proofed it, got it down to 129,000.

It didn’t sell. I was young and naïve then, I knew nothing about the publishing industry or how bad the quality of a first novel is. Over the next few years, I honed my skills, kept rewriting that book, took the Borderlands Writers Bootcamp and had famous writers critique it. I got a mentor through the Horror Writers Association and she helped me.

And in 2009, I sold it. Carnival of Fear. Published in 2010. Still available (feel free to buy it!).

But remember how I said I dreamed of more?

There’s a lot more.

I wrote 3 short stories based on that carnival. And a novella, which was published by Samhain Publishing a few years ago. Plus some poems. I have the sequel to Carnival of Fear half-written in my computer, and the only reason it’s not complete is because I’ve worked on other books before it. During that dream, I saw the sequel, the spin-off stories. I woke up with ideas for what could happen on every ride, under every tent. I knew which ones would be short stories and which ones longer pieces.

Never in my life had I ever experienced anything like that, and never since.

Although I have, and will, write about other things, every couple of years in one way or another I come back to the world of Carnival of Fear and pluck another story from my dream memories.

What is it about the Carnival of Fear universe that is so vital to me I keep going back to it?

It’s my Something Wicked. In the past, I’ve said my book was an homage to Bradbury’s. And it is. Teens, haunted carnival, strange carnies, bad things happen. But it’s more than that.

Because I identified so much with Bill Halloway and James Nightshade, I created characters like them for my stories. Ordinary boys, girls, men, and women caught up in something they don’t understand. Small town people, because where else would a mysterious carnival pop up?

People like me. Like my friends and family.

Bradbury wrote with a simple, everyman style, and all my favorite authors write that way. Do I like them because of him? Probably. Folks like King, Keene, Wilson, Koontz, Hamilton, Collins, Maberry.

Did Bradbury play a part in shaping the way I write? How could he not?

After I found Bradbury and read everything I could by him, I discovered other writers who focused on that small town or country vibe. Manly Wade Wellman. Karl Edward Wagner. People who made any story feel like a cold October night in upstate New York.

Bradbury has written a lot of stuff, but for me opening any of his books always makes me feel like I’m opening the door to Halloween, that it’s the season where anything can happen.

When I wrote Carnival of Fear, I wanted my book to be just like that for a new generation. Not just frightening, but exhilarating. I wanted people to remember what Halloween was like as a kid, as a teen, when they turned those pages. I wanted them to smell the popcorn and cotton candy, taste the candied apples and French fries and hot dogs.

Remember what it was like to pal around with friends or hold hands with someone special and breathe the crisp October air.

I wanted them to feel the way I did when I read Something Wicked This Way Comes for the first time.

And that’s my Halloween story for you.

Happy Halloween!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A life-long resident of New York’s haunted Hudson Valley, JG Faherty has been a finalist for both the Bram Stoker Award (The Cure, Ghosts in Coronado Bay) and ITW Thriller Award (The Burning Time), and he is the author of 7 novels, 10 novellas, and more than 75 short stories. His next novel, Hellrider, comes out from Flame Tree Press in August of 2019. He grew up enthralled with the horror movies and books of the 60s, 75, 70s, and 80s. Which explains a lot.

Carnival of Fear

The carnival is in town… What was supposed to be an evening of fun and laughter for JD Cole and the other students of Whitebridge High turns into a never-ending night of terror. Trapped inside the Castle of Horrors by the demonic Proprietor, good friends and bitter rivals must band together to make it through the maze of torturous attractions, where fictional monsters come to life, eager to feast on human flesh. Vampires, zombies, werewolves, and aliens lurk around every corner as JD and his friends struggle from one room to the next, fighting for their sanity, fighting to survive, fighting to escape … The Carnival of Fear.

The Cure

She was born with the power to cure. Now she’s developed the power to kill. Leah DeGarmo has the power to cure with just a touch. But with her gift comes a dark side: Whatever she takes in she has to pass on, or suffer it herself. 

Now a sadistic criminal has discovered what she can do and he’ll stop at nothing to control her. He makes a mistake, though, when he kills the man she loves, triggering a rage inside her that releases a new power she didn’t know she had: the ability to kill. 

Transformed into a demon of retribution, Leah resurrects her lover and embarks on a mission to destroy her enemies. The only question is, does she control her power or does it control her?

Houses of the Unholy

In this new collection of stories, genre favorite JG Faherty takes you on a tour of unholy houses, where you’ll find: 

– A man struggling to discover why all the people in his life are disappearing when he falls asleep. 
– An accident in a mountain pass that turns into a deadly encounter with a mythical beast. 
– A man who learns that the only thing worse than being a passenger on the train to Hell is being the engineer. 
– A town where the dead coming back to life isn’t the worst thing that can happen. 
– A young couple who uncover a terrible secret in the town that has ostracized them for their sins. 
– A science experiment gone wrong that could spell the end of mankind. 

The collection also includes “The Lazarus Effect,” a chilling post-apocalyptic story where survivors face off against godless undead, and a brand new novella-length sequel, “December Soul.”

Hellrider

After being burned alive by a gang, the Hell Riders, he used to belong to, Eddie Ryder returns as a heavy-metal spouting ghost with a temper that’s worse now than when he was alive. At first he is nothing more than a floating presence, depressed he has to spend eternity watching his teenage brother, Carson, and ailing mother struggle without him. Then he develops powers. And he can control electricity. He can conjure the ghostly doppelganger of his motorcycle, Diablo, and fly across the sky, but he can’t escape the boundaries of his hometown, Hell Creek. 

Eddie decides to exact his revenge on the bikers who killed him. Before he can do more than scare some of the bikers, however, he discovers something even better: he can posses people. He uses this ability to get the gang members to attack each other, and to deliver a message to the current leader, Hank Bowman: Eddie’s Coming. 

Spouting fire and lightning from his fingers and screaming heavy metal lyrics as he rides the sky above the town of Hell Creek, he brings destruction down on all those who wronged him, his power growing with every death. Only Eddie’s younger brother, Carson, and the police chief’s daughter, Ellie, understand what’s really happening, and now they have to stop him before he destroys the whole town.

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: JG Faherty

Meghan: Hi, JG. Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

JG Faherty: Let’s see. I’ve been writing fiction since 2000. My first novel was published in 2010. I write primarily in the areas of horror, supernatural thrillers, YA, and paranormal romance, plus a little dark science fiction and fantasy. My hobbies are playing the guitar, watching bad sci-fi movies, visiting wineries, and reading. I own a rescue dog, I’m married, and I live in a very haunted region of New York State.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

JG Faherty:

  • I studied herpetology in college and used to own more than a dozen venomous snakes.
  • I have built four guitars.
  • I have been published three times in Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies.
  • I used to write an advice column many years ago.
  • I enjoy exploring abandoned buildings.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

JG Faherty: Try as I might, I can’t remember the very first book. I know I started reading at a young age. I know that by the time I was 7 or 8, I was already checking out books on dinosaurs from the library and I was reading short stories by Poe. My first novel was probably either Frankenstein or Dracula. And as a young kid, I also read all the Hardy Boys mysteries (I still have the whole collection!).

Meghan: What are you reading now?

JG Faherty: I just got back from a vacation and I read Demons, Well-Seasoned: Book III in The Secret Spice Cafe Trilogy by Patricia V. Davis (it’s a cozy supernatural mystery) and The Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories, edited by Stephen Jones. I recommend both of them!

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

JG Faherty: Hmmm. Probably something outside of the horror genre, like Snakes & Snakes Hunting, the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series, or Lucy (an anthropology book by Donald Johanson).

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

JG Faherty: When I was young, I wanted to be a comic strip writer. But I can’t draw well enough. In college, I tried to write a horror novel, but it was terrible and I didn’t know at the time (this was before the internet) that you had to practice, have editors, etc. So I just stopped writing. Then, in 1999, I got a job writing test preparation books for The Princeton Review, and that required writing fiction for the reading passages. I really enjoyed it, and it came easy. I tried my hand at a short story, and got some good comments from editors I met at a horror convention. So I kept at it, and started getting published. I began writing in 2000, and my first professional publication was 2001, a 2000-word short story. Little did I know it would be almost 3 years before my next one, and not until 2005 until I’d start getting published on a regular basis.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

JG Faherty: I always write at my desk, on my computer. No laptop for me. Hate them. If I’m on vacation, I bring a journal-type notebook and write long-hand. Usually, that’s how I work out story problems or put down ideas, but I’ve also written some short stories that way. Interesting fact – my first novel, Carnival of Fear, was written entirely long hand and then I typed it into the computer later. Only time I’ve ever done that.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

JG Faherty: It has to be absolutely quiet. No music, no noise. I don’t mind music when I’m editing, but it distracts me when I’m writing. Same with TV, people talking, etc.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

JG Faherty: All of it. It’s hard for me to maintain a long attention span, and usually I think everything I write sucks. It’s not until the editing phase that I start to think the book is good.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

JG Faherty: My first novel will always be the most satisfying, because it proved I could do it. Every novel since then is satisfying because it means I overcame all the obstacles and did it again. And, of course, being nominated for several industry awards has meant a lot.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

JG Faherty: I particularly have always enjoyed writers who have a down to earth style – Stephen King, Brian Keene, and several of the science authors I enjoy. While I’ve never tried to copy anyone, I think that my style is also down to earth, casual, and realistic in terms of dialog. I like characters that seem real, like people you’d meet.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

JG Faherty: A good story should have a plot that makes sense, move quickly into the action, have a strong middle, and a strong ending. Too many books are great right up to the last 30 pages, and then they don’t make sense. Or worse, there’s no ending at all. Most of all, a good story keeps the reader interested from page 1 to the last page.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

JG Faherty: For me to love a character, they have to seem real to me. I have to be invested in them emotionally, whether they are good or bad. They have to make me laugh, or cry, or shout, or all three. I can love a character whether they are evil or good – we all love Hannibal Lecter and Dracula, and they aren’t good at all. And that’s what I try to do with my characters, both protagonists and antagonists, and even secondary characters. Put the reader in their shoes, so that when good or bad things happen, they are feeling what the characters are feeling.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

JG Faherty: Wow. That’s a tough one. I try not to put too much of myself in any character, because I’m always trying to be in other peoples’ shoes, to think like my characters would. In terms of how and think and feel, perhaps JD, the main character in Carnival of Fear. But I don’t come from the wrong side of the tracks like he did, and I don’t have an old football injury. I’ve put a lot of other people into my books, though, under fake names. I’ve never told them, and they’ve never let me know if they’ve noticed!

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

JG Faherty: I am incredibly turned off by bad covers. I’ve had a couple of books where I hated the covers and I couldn’t wait to put new ones on them once I got the rights to the books back. I firmly believe those bad covers are partly responsible for poorer sales than I anticipated. As my career moved along, I have made sure to be as involved in cover art as possible, and to that extent my time with Samhain Publishing and now Flame Tree has been very rewarding, because in both cases the staff artists were/are astounding and I’ve had to fill out lengthy cover art worksheets detailing my ideas, plot, character descriptions, and more for the artists. And the result has been 9 books in a row with covers I love. And that readers tell me they love, too.

Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

JG Faherty: That writing is hard! Also, that, like my mentors in this biz have said over and over, your first idea usually is either not good or it’s already been used. You have to look beyond the obvious, find twists, make a story your own. Don’t rewrite Dracula, create something that’s never been done before. Also, that I have no idea of what is scary. I keep trying to scare myself with my stories, and it never happens. But my readers say the stuff is way scary. So I’ve learned not to trust my own judgement.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

JG Faherty: Military horror is kind of tough for me, because it requires non-stop action. In Hellrider, I had to write a scene where a character threatens a minor with physical and sexual violence, and we had to make sure it portrayed the character as bad but didn’t step over the bounds of what you’d normally expect in a grindhouse story. In Carnival of Fear, I had to write a death scene that was supposed to be tragic, and I kept working at it until finally I re-read what I’d written and I started to cry. That’s when I knew I’d nailed it.

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

JG Faherty: They’re by me. My style, my words, my ideas. No two writers are the same. I’ve written a lot of ‘classic’ horror, the kind with supernatural bad guys and people trapped in impossible situations. Same as King, Mary Shelley, Peter Straub, Dean Koontz, and a thousand other horror writers. But none of it’s the same. There’s really no other way to say it. My haunted carnival novel is not the same as anyone else’s. My novel about a veterinarian who can cure animals by touching them (The Cure) is not like anyone else’s novel about curing with a touch. My novel about six friends reuniting to stop a supernatural terror (Cemetery Club) is not like IT once you get past the one-line description. And Hellrider is nothing like Ghost Rider, even though they are both on motorcycles. My story is more like Sons of Anarchy with ghosts, if Robert Rodriguez directed it.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

JG Faherty: I think the book title is very important – it has to convey the basics of the story to the reader, even if they don’t know it at the time. Can you imagine if The Shining was called Danny’s Life? Or if Dracula was called Harker’s Journey? Or if Frankenstein: A Modern Prometheus was called Experiments in Anatomy?

For my own books, I’ve always put a lot of thought into the titles. Carnival of Fear – a demonic, haunted carnival. The Burning Time – an evil entity incites a town to extreme violence during a summer heat wave. Cemetery Club – a group of outcasts form a club that meets in a cemetery that sits over haunted ground. The Cure – a veterinarian can cure with a touch, but more than that, the whole book is about her trying to ‘cure’ her own feelings of inadequacy and her loneliness.

Hellrider has a quadruple meaning – Hell Riders is the gang Eddie belongs to, Hell Creek is the town he lives in and he’s a ‘rider,’ his last name is Ryder and he comes back from Hell, and Hellrider is also the name of his favorite song.

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

JG Faherty: I love writing short stories. That’s how I got my start. I still think that a short story imparts the most emotional impact because it has to hit hard and fast, no wasted words. Novels are great for delivering grander stories, expansive plots, and deep concepts. Personally, I feel that the novella is the best length for a book – long enough to have secondary characters and a subplot or two, but short enough that you can read it in one sitting and still get hit hard by the story. I’ve written 10 so far, and I look forward to writing more.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

JG Faherty: Well, I think I’ve covered the books in answering previous questions. My novels and novellas range from downright traditional and scary (The Burning Time, Cemetery Club, Death Do Us Part, Winterwood) to thrillers (The Cure, Fatal Consequences) to YA (Ghosts of Coronado Bay) to grindhouse (Hellrider) to Lovecraftian (Legacy, the upcoming Sins of the Father) to suspense (Fatal Consequences). My target audience is really just people who love an entertaining story that will send some shivers up your spine and keep you at the edge of your seat. When they’re finished, I’d like them to say, ‘wow, that was cool, and maybe I won’t turn the lights off tonight.’

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

JG Faherty: There’s not really a lot. Things get cut out of every story when you’re writing it, but usually if it’s not good enough to be in the published version it’s not good enough to create a later, unabridged version! One exception would be with Carnival of Fear – I cut that one from 120,000 words to 90,000, and I saved the excess to use in the sequel that I plan on writing someday. It was a sub-plot with some characters that don’t appear anywhere else in the book and so eventually they’ll get their own story.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

JG Faherty: My trunk is about the size of Fort Knox. I have at least 7 half-finished novels, a few novellas, and a couple of dozen finished short stories, plus unfinished ones. I write in a very OCD style, so if I get stuck working on one project, I’ll root through the old ones and see if something strikes my fancy to work on for a while.

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

JG Faherty: My next novel, Sins of the Father, is currently in the pre-editing phase with Flame Tree Press, so I imagine it will come out some time next year. My collection of short stories, Houses of the Unholy, and my current novel, Hellrider, are both available now. Beyond that, who knows?

Meghan: Where can we find you?

JG Faherty: Twitter ** Facebook ** Website ** Amazon

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?

JG Faherty: For fans and readers, I just want to say thank you, you are the ones we do this for and you make it possible for people like me to do what we love. And if you read a book you enjoy, please leave a review on Amazon and tell your friends – spreading the word is what keeps writers able to write.Beyond that, remember, Halloween is right around the corner, so read something scary today and tell your kids a scary story tonight!

A life-long resident of New York’s haunted Hudson Valley, JG Faherty has been a finalist for both the Bram Stoker Award (The Cure, Ghosts in Coronado Bay) and ITW Thriller Award (The Burning Time), and he is the author of 7 novels, 10 novellas, and more than 75 short stories. His next novel, Hellrider, comes out from Flame Tree Press in August of 2019. He grew up enthralled with the horror movies and books of the 60s, 75, 70s, and 80s. Which explains a lot.

Carnival of Fear

The carnival is in town… What was supposed to be an evening of fun and laughter for JD Cole and the other students of Whitebridge High turns into a never-ending night of terror. Trapped inside the Castle of Horrors by the demonic Proprietor, good friends and bitter rivals must band together to make it through the maze of torturous attractions, where fictional monsters come to life, eager to feast on human flesh. Vampires, zombies, werewolves, and aliens lurk around every corner as JD and his friends struggle from one room to the next, fighting for their sanity, fighting to survive, fighting to escape … The Carnival of Fear.

The Cure

She was born with the power to cure. Now she’s developed the power to kill. Leah DeGarmo has the power to cure with just a touch. But with her gift comes a dark side: Whatever she takes in she has to pass on, or suffer it herself. 

Now a sadistic criminal has discovered what she can do and he’ll stop at nothing to control her. He makes a mistake, though, when he kills the man she loves, triggering a rage inside her that releases a new power she didn’t know she had: the ability to kill. 

Transformed into a demon of retribution, Leah resurrects her lover and embarks on a mission to destroy her enemies. The only question is, does she control her power or does it control her?

Houses of the Unholy

In this new collection of stories, genre favorite JG Faherty takes you on a tour of unholy houses, where you’ll find: 

– A man struggling to discover why all the people in his life are disappearing when he falls asleep. 
– An accident in a mountain pass that turns into a deadly encounter with a mythical beast. 
– A man who learns that the only thing worse than being a passenger on the train to Hell is being the engineer. 
– A town where the dead coming back to life isn’t the worst thing that can happen. 
– A young couple who uncover a terrible secret in the town that has ostracized them for their sins. 
– A science experiment gone wrong that could spell the end of mankind. 

The collection also includes “The Lazarus Effect,” a chilling post-apocalyptic story where survivors face off against godless undead, and a brand new novella-length sequel, “December Soul.”

Hellrider

After being burned alive by a gang, the Hell Riders, he used to belong to, Eddie Ryder returns as a heavy-metal spouting ghost with a temper that’s worse now than when he was alive. At first he is nothing more than a floating presence, depressed he has to spend eternity watching his teenage brother, Carson, and ailing mother struggle without him. Then he develops powers. And he can control electricity. He can conjure the ghostly doppelganger of his motorcycle, Diablo, and fly across the sky, but he can’t escape the boundaries of his hometown, Hell Creek. 

Eddie decides to exact his revenge on the bikers who killed him. Before he can do more than scare some of the bikers, however, he discovers something even better: he can posses people. He uses this ability to get the gang members to attack each other, and to deliver a message to the current leader, Hank Bowman: Eddie’s Coming. 

Spouting fire and lightning from his fingers and screaming heavy metal lyrics as he rides the sky above the town of Hell Creek, he brings destruction down on all those who wronged him, his power growing with every death. Only Eddie’s younger brother, Carson, and the police chief’s daughter, Ellie, understand what’s really happening, and now they have to stop him before he destroys the whole town.