Jonathan Fortin is the author of Lilitu: The Memoirs of a Succubus (Crystal Lake Publishing), “Requiem in Frost” (Horroraddicts.net), and “Nightmarescape” (Mocha Memoirs Press). An unashamed lover of spooky Gothic stories, Jonathan was named the Next Great Horror Writer in 2017 by HorrorAddicts.net. He attended the Clarion Writing Program in 2012, one year after graduating summa cum laude from San Francisco State University’s Creative Writing program. When not writing, Jonathan enjoys voice acting, dressing like a Victorian gentleman, and indulging in all things odd and macabre in the San Francisco Bay Area.
NTK: How old were you when you first discovered horror?
JF: I remember getting into horror as early as first grade when I started reading the Goosebumps books. Then in middle school, I became obsessed with Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow and wrote a trilogy of short vampire novels. However, I was an anxious, easily-terrified child, so I didn’t fully embrace horror until later in life. Now, I’d always been drawn into darkly magical worlds, even in the video games I adored (American McGee’s Alice, Planescape: Torment, Vampire the Masquerade, etc.) But because I was so sensitive, it was rare for me to watch horror movies in my youth. That changed when I went to college, and began trying to face my fears and challenge my limits. I realized then that I’d been a horror fan all along–I had just been too scared to accept it.
NTK: Who is your favorite author? Who has influenced you?
JF: My favorite author is Neil Gaiman. Not always horror, but certainly dark. Other authors who have influenced me include China Mieville, Alan Moore, H.P. Lovecraft, Holly Black, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Carlton Mellick III, Dan Simmons, Clive Barker, Patrick Rothfuss, Haruki Murakami, and Junji Ito. Lately, I’ve been digging the work of Joe Hill and N.K. Jemisin.
NTK: What inspired you to write “Requiem in Frost?”
JF: I wrote “Requiem in Frost” during the Next Great Horror Writer Competition, where we were tasked with writing a music-themed horror story. I’d had the idea in my head for a couple years: a little girl who moves into a house haunted by the ghost of a murdered black metal musician and ends up solving his murder.
I’m a huge metalhead, and it irks me that even in horror, metalheads are almost always exclusively villains. We’ve since gotten Eddie Munson in Stranger Things, which was terrific, and I think the fact that so many people loved his character goes to show how badly we needed better metalhead representation. So that was a big factor in what I wanted to do with the story. I was inspired by spite. (Laughs.)
NTK: What has your experience been as a neurodivergent author?
JF: As an autistic person, one of the reasons I was first drawn to writing when I was young was because it was a solitary process. I didn’t need to compromise my creative vision based on budget or social considerations like I would if I was making movies or games, and imagined that it would be a good career for me because of that. I thought I could just write my books, get them published, and not have to interact with too many people unless I wanted to. There was great appeal in that idea, because then I could be left alone and nobody had to find out how weird and socially awkward I was.
As an adult, I learned that making it as a writer means being a part of a community. You need to network at conventions. You need to have writer friends willing to blurb you or trade beta reads. You need to constantly be posting on social media to build your following. And you need to make sure people actually like you while you’re doing all this.
This is challenging when you’ve got a disability that makes you awkward, or unaware of how you’re coming across, or prone to accidentally offending people without realizing it. And being fully aware that you have those tendencies tends to make you rather shy, and reluctant to put yourself out there as much as you need to if you’re going to make it in the writing world.
Networking is challenging for autistic people at the best of times, because we hate being fake, and are often very, very bad at it. Actively trying to make people like us usually results in people being repulsed instead. And unfortunately, your reputation follows you your entire life.
All of this honestly puts neurodivergent authors at a huge disadvantage in the current writing world. Many of the things you’re expected to do as a writer–things that have nothing to do with the writing itself–are things that many autistic people struggle with. A lot of people don’t realize how difficult it can be, and just how much an invisible disability of this nature can impact your chances of success in this career.
NTK: What do you wish potential readers knew about neurodivergent authors and their works?
JF: This is complicated, but I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to the notion that neurodivergent authors are expected to write for neurotypical readers first and foremost, even if this isn’t something that comes naturally to them.
I certainly can’t speak for all neurodivergent authors, because there’s great diversity among us. But I recently had a conversation with a neurodiverse friend who stated that they struggled to find books they enjoyed. They explained how many “literary” books expect the reader to read between the lines and make the correct assumption based on what’s unsaid, something that many autistic people struggle to do. It got me thinking about how many times I’ve been totally unimpressed by works that a great number of my peers absolutely loved, and why that might be the case.
I’m currently wondering if neurodivergent people may not always have the same tastes or artistic values as neurotypical people. We may not always connect with the same characters, or obsess over the same ideas, or want the same things left unsaid. It’s different for all of us, to be sure, but it’s something I’ve been having a lot of conversations about with other neurodivergent friends.
Unfortunately, there are still many people who have a tendency to view certain tastes as “superior,” simply because they’re subtler, or leave much unsaid–factors that will leave some neurodiverse people (though of course not all) feeling “left out” because the conclusions we come to may not be the same as those of most neurotypical people. This is especially troubling when you’re a writer, because you are expected to write primarily for neurotypical readers.
NTK: What does the future hold for you? What do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?
JF: Right now, I’m trying to get an agent for my second novel, so I’ve been sending out query letters left and right. I’m also working on edits for the second draft of a third novel, shopping around a few short stories, and plotting out the sequels for the book I’m currently shopping. I do still intend to write at least two more LILITU books, but not just yet. My author ADD is in full force at the moment. (Laughs.)