Meghan: Hey, John! Welcome back to Meghan’s (Haunted) House of Books. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

John: The imagery! Halloween is when all of the gothic, spooky stuff comes out to play. Haunted houses, giant spiderwebs, eerie candlelight emanating from grotesquely carved pumpkins… I love it all. In Chicagoland, the weather turns from the fading light of summer to the crisp and bone-chilling cool breezes that signal the coming of winter, and the leaves that were so vibrantly red and orange just a couple weeks before litter the ground as brown, dried husks. Desiccated memories of the vibrance of summer. Halloween is the between time, the dying time between the days of warmth and sunlight and the frozen deathscape that freezes and kills the land in December and January. I can’t imagine Halloween in a warmer climate because the weather provides as much a part of the chill as the dying landscape and early nightfalls.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

John: My personal Halloween tradition is pretty standard — I watch horror movies. I do that year-round, of course, but I used to spend a whole weekend binging on horror movies leading up to Halloween, which was awesome. I’d get through a handful each day. I haven’t been able to wallow in the creepy crazy for that much dedicated time the past few years… but one of these days I’ll be able to do nothing but watch old Euro-horror movies for a solid weekend to celebrate Halloween again! And host the Halloween movie nights for friends that I used to before everyone’s lives got so crazy busy we couldn’t get them scheduled anymore!

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

John: I love everything spooky, supernatural and gothic, and Halloween is the one time of year that everyone in the world gives a nod to the creepy stuff that I love to see and talk about all year round. For a little while, everyone is into horror movies and lawns are decorated with all manner of “haunted house” style decorations. I love it.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

John: I don’t know that I’m really superstitious. But sometimes I do wonder if my pinball machines are possessed by a spirit who likes to taunt me. Anyone who knows me knows I love pinball almost as much as horror and music, and I own five classic machines in my basement that I play all the time. Some nights, particularly if I hit the restart button because I start a game with a bad ball and don’t feel like finishing the game with a handicap, it’s almost like the machine knows I’m “cheating” and starting over – and the next half dozen balls will all go straight down the middle or side with no chance for me to hit them with the flipper. It’s as if the game demon says “oh, you want a do-over do you? Take that. And that. And that. C’mon, can’t you handle it sucker?” It’s creepy when it feels like the game suddenly turns on you and consistently does unusual things with the ball.

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

John: The title character of The Living Dead Girl by French director Jean Rollin. She is both a horrific and pathetic character – a “zombie/ghoul” who slowly comes back from the dead and rebels against her blood-drinking nature and her best friend who feeds her with victims out of misguided love.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

John: I honestly couldn’t name one. I don’t ever read or watch anything about “true crime.”

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

John: Bloody Mary used to creep the hell out of me as a kid. Some people call her Mary Worth. The whole idea of going into a dark candlelit room, saying her name in the mirror multiple times and having her spirit come through the mirror in answer to potentially claw your eyes out… it’s such a perfect way to build dread. Kids do it on a dare, but all you need is just a hair of fear that the legend could be true and by the time you say Bloody Mary’s name the third time, your heart is racing.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

John: Again… don’t like true crime stuff, so none of them. I read “escapist” supernatural horror so that I don’t have to be faced with the real life monsters that walk the earth.

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

John: Geez, I couldn’t answer that with any surety. I’ve watched the old black and white classic horrors since I can remember. We had WGN – Channel 9 TV in Chicago that used to play a Creature Features program on Friday or Saturday nights that I saw a lot while I was in grade school. I do remember being in probably 3rd or 4th grade and watching a PBS color production of Dracula that I really thought was great at the time. Loved the whole gothic setting with coffins and dusty castles. That probably set the stage for my love of Hammer Films later in life.

As far as first horror book… again, my memory just doesn’t go that far back! I remember reading ghost story books I bought from the Scholastic Book catalog in grade school and loving the spooky factor. And I remember buying a complete collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s fiction at a garage sale once and reading and re-reading that book (which is still on my shelf). Maybe one of the earliest printed impacts on me was a comic book that I bought in probably first or second grade. It might have been an Eerie Tales or something like that. I don’t really remember the stories, but I do know they stuck with me a long time and I still retain one image of a skeletal woman in a bridal headdress driving down the street at the end of one. Apparently whatever that twist was creeped me out enough to remember a snippet of that image almost 50 years later.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

John: Probably Clive Barker’s The Damnation Game. It was the first novel of his I read, and I read it during one of my first trips away from home alone when I was probably 22 – I’d flown to Memphis to spend a weekend with some other journalists on a “PR junket” hosted by the city. We went there to see Graceland and the Handy Blues awards and to generally get a 36-hour tour of the city to go home and write travel stories about how great Memphis was for our newspapers. I remember the first night I was in the hotel room alone, reading that novel and the scene about people being skinned alive and when I turned out the lights to go to sleep… I was severely creeped out!

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

John: I don’t know about “scarred” but Alien impacted me severely. The atmosphere, the slow brooding, building suspense, the wildly otherworldly and ominous spaceship architecture… it was a genius sci-fi horror film and has been in my top 5 horror and top 5 sci-fi movie lists since the day I first saw it. It’s an unsettling, scary and darkly beautiful film.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

John: I have never been a “dress up” person myself, but I do appreciate creative costumes and makeup. Always love good zombie, ghoul or witch makeup!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

John: That one’s easy. “(Every Day is) Halloween” by Ministry. It’s an amazing track both for the Halloween theme and for synth pop. One of my favorite dance club tracks ever, bar none.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

John: Best treat is definitely Almond Joy bars. Worst? Dental floss. (Assholes).

Meghan: Thanks for stopping by, John. It is ALWAYS a pleasure to have you visit. One more thing before you go: What are you top 10 go-to Halloween movies?

John: I am a huge movie buff, and literally own hundreds of horror and giallo DVDs and Blu-Rays. That makes it super hard to pick a top 5 or 10 or even 25… There are so many good ones. So… I’ve tried to note the movies that have really stuck with me the most across multiple genres of horror. Films that I’ve watched multiple times. There are dozens of films I could point to as “oh yeah, that’s a great one!” but here are films that really moved me. From the extreme horror of the French new wave in the 90s with High Tension and Martyrs to the claustrophobic indie horror of Cronenberg’s early Rabid and Shivers, I come back to these again and again. Though my main favorites tend to be older – ‘70s and ‘80s films are my jam. I’m not that much of a modern horror fan. My “Top 3” below are films that have all actually been my #1 at one time or another. I used to say Alien until the Suspiria 4K remaster happened a few years ago! And Jean Rollin’s sexy and horrible beautiful pathos of Living Dead Girl has occupied my #2 or #3 spot since I first saw it some 20 years ago:

Best Movies:
SuspiriaDario Argento (1977)
AlienRidley Scott (1979)
The Living Dead GirlJean Rollin (1982)
The BeyondLucio Fulci (1981)
The Night Evelyn Came Out of the GraveEmilio Miraglia (1971)
PhantasmDon Coscarelli (1979)
Night of the Living DeadGeorge Romero (1968)
RabidDavid Cronenberg (1977)
DagonStuart Gordon (2001)
MartyrsPascal Laugier (2008)

I have to give honorary mentions to horror-humor films which I think live in a class by themselves:
BeetlejuiceTim Burton (1988)
Shaun of the DeadEdgar Wright (2004)
Dead AlivePeter Jackson (1992)
Evil Dead IISam Raimi (1987)
ScreamWes Craven (1996)

John Everson is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of the novels Covenant, Sacrifice, The 13th, Siren, and The Pumpkin Man, all released by Dorchester/Leisure Books in paperback. His sixth novel, NightWhere, was a 2012 Bram Stoker Award Finalist. Other novels include The Family Tree, Violet Eyes, Redemption, and The House By The Cemetery. His 11th novel, The Devil’s Equinox, was released by Flame Tree Press in June 2019. He is also the creator of the characters Danika and Mila Dubov, now seen on the new Netflix series V-Wars, based on the books and comics created and edited by Jonathan Maberry.

A wide selection of his short fiction has been collected in six short story collections – Sacrificing Virgins (Samhain Publishing, 2015), Deadly Nightlusts (Blasphemous Books, 2010), Creeptych (Delirium Books, 2010), Needles & Sins (Necro Books, 2007), Vigilantes of Love (Twilight Tales, 2003) and Cage of Bones & Other Deadly Obsessions (Delirium Books, 2000).

John is also the editor of the anthologies Sins of the Sirens (Dark Arts Books, 2008) and In Delirium II (Delirium Books, 2007) and co-editor of the Spooks! ghost story anthology (Twilight Tales, 2004). In 2006, he co-founded Dark Arts Books to produce trade paperback collections spotlighting the cutting edge work of some of the best authors working in short dark fantasy fiction today.

John shares a deep purple den in Naperville, Illinois with a cockatoo and cockatiel, a disparate collection of fake skulls, twisted skeletal fairies, Alan Clark illustrations and a large stuffed Eeyore. There’s also a mounted Chinese fowling spider named Stoker courtesy of fellow horror author Charlee Jacob, an ever-growing shelf of custom mix CDs and an acoustic guitar that he can’t really play but that his son likes to hear him beat on anyway. Sometimes his wife is surprised to find him shuffling through more public areas of the house, but it’s usually only to brew another cup of coffee. In order to avoid the onerous task of writing, he records pop-rock songs in a hidden home studio, experiments with the insatiable culinary joys of the jalapeno, designs book covers for a variety of small presses, loses hours in expanding an array of gardens and chases frequent excursions into the bizarre visual headspace of ’70s euro-horror DVDs with a shot of Makers Mark and a pint of Revolution Anti-Hero IPA.


Voodoo Heart
When Detective Lawrence Ribaud wakes alone in a bloody bed with his wife missing, he knows this is more than just a mysterious case of murder. His wife is the latest victim in a string of bizarre disappearances. All across New Orleans, on one night each month, people are vanishing, leaving behind nothing but a pool of blood on the bedsheets… and an abandoned heart. Ribaud doesn’t believe in voodoo, but he soon finds himself moving through the underbelly of a secret society of snakes, sacrifices and obscene rituals in search of the mysterious Black Queen … and the curse of her Voodoo Heart.

The Devil’s Equinox
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?

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: John Everson

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:

BookBub ** Goodreads ** Amazon
Facebook ** Twitter ** Instagram

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.

The Devil’s Equinox

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.

The House by the Cemetery

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.