Kenzie: Congrats on being the next great Horror Writer! I can’t believe it’s all over. It seems just like yesterday when all of you contestants completed the first competition. I’m so proud of you and your hard work. I loved all of your submissions and I’m so happy that you won it all! How does it feel to be the first Next great Horror Writer? Still riding that high?
Jonathan: It’s pretty insane! I’m excited, overwhelmed, and thankful all at once. Winning this contest and this novel contract is the realization of a dream I’ve had pretty much my whole life. I spent many years working on Lilitu: The Memoirs of a Succubus, so it’s kind of incredible to realize that it’s actually going to become a book people can buy and read.
Kenzie: Winning a contest of this magnitude is completely overwhelming, something that only a few get to experience. How long have you been working on your novel and what is it about?
Jonathan: Lilitu: The Memoirs of a Succubus is the story of Maraina Blackwood, a woman in Victorian England who becomes a succubus when demons take over Europe. Her life forever changed, Maraina ends up battling both a demonic new monarchy and her own repressed upbringing. It’s an epic Gothic saga, but also an exploration of Victorian gender roles and repression.
Writing Lilitu took many years. It was a challenging book to write because the Victorian setting had to feel authentic, but it also gets warped fairly early on. I needed to do all the research required for a historical novel, but also all the world-building of a fantasy novel. Naturally, this also impacted the characters–especially Maraina, who changes dramatically over the course of the book. Her character arc needed a lot of time to get right.
Kenzie: Holy cow Lilitu sounds amazing! Definitely, something I would read. Ever since I watched the Canadian show Lost Girl, I’ve been obsessed with any and all things succubus. I can’t wait for it to drop, it’s on my must read list! I love books that have a supernatural and horror element but doesn’t have to be 100% horror. I’ve never read a historical horror novel before, but I know it’ll be great.
Speaking of hard to write, what challenge was the hardest for you this season?
Jonathan: Thank you for your kind words. I love succubi too, not just because they’re seductive, but also because they challenge what society has traditionally told women how they must be. I’ve also always loved the sense of mystique to them–entering dreams, flying with demonic wings…these were things I wanted to capture when writing this book. I didn’t want my succubi to only be sex objects, or lack the magical qualities that make the folklore behind them so interesting. Putting them in Victorian England made sense to me because of the Gothic aesthetics of the time period (and the corsets!), and also because the sexual repression makes them clash dramatically with its values. Regardless, I hope you enjoy the book when it comes out.
For me, the hardest NGHW challenge was, ironically, the interview! Haha. I had a tough time coming up with questions and wasn’t sure what readers would be interested in knowing about me, or about what I think.
Kenzie: I love your interpretation of succubi. It gives them more depth than just sexual objects, especially in the Victorian era where women were supposed to be prim, proper, and dainty.
Haha, I actually remember your interview! I also loved your tongue in cheek way of interviewing yourself. What is one thing being apart of the first batch of next great Horror writers has taught you about yourself?
Jonathan: It reinforced my long-held belief that I am much better about getting my writing done when I have a deadline.
Kenzie: I can understand that! Working under pressure sometimes brings out the best work.
What are your plans going forward after winning this unique competition?
Jonathan: My plans are to push forward with Lilitu and it’s publication, as well as to move forward with my other writing projects. I’ve been named The Next Great Horror Writer–I had best live up to that!
Kenzie: Very True! I look forward to your future writing endeavors! Did you make any friends while doing this competition?
Jonathan: Yes! One thing I loved about this competition was that the participants were all very friendly to one another. I already knew Sumiko because we are both local to the bay area, but the other contestants were all total strangers at the start, so it was a pleasant surprise how nice they’ve all been. I hope to retain friendships with them. There’s even been talk of forming a critique group so that we can all help each other grow as authors.
Kenzie: Wow that’s honestly amazing. In other competitions, the contestants are at each others throats and here you guys are helping each other. You just can’t beat being in a competition where the contestants are nice to each other.
Is there anything else you’d like to let HorrorAddicts and your fans know?
Jonathan: I just want to thank you, Emerian, Heather, and the rest of the HorrorAddicts crew as well as Joe Mynhardt for this incredible opportunity. I hope I can live up to the title you’ve bestowed upon me!
Kenzie: Congrats once again on being The Next Great Horror Writer! We’re all so proud of you and wish nothing but the best for your future work. Good luck and keep it scary.