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.
Jonathan is a true gentleman with a terrific sense of humor. We spoke of writing, The Victorian Age, and Lilitu: Memoirs of a Succubus.
NTK: Welcome, to Chilling Chat, Jonathan! Tell us, how did you become interested in the Victorian Age?
JF: I think it was in middle school when I first became fascinated with the Victorian Gothic aesthetic, thanks to a healthy obsession with Tim Burton movies, American McGee’s Alice, and a number of other dark influences. The Victorian Era had many facets, but it was horror that pulled me to the period. I adored the dark elegance of their wardrobes and architecture, and was intrigued by their stuffy way of behaving. It seemed as though they were navigating a world full of macabre terrors that were best left unspoken–basing their etiquette around their profound fear of the world they themselves had created.
NTK: Do you have a favorite Victorian novel?
JF: Novels by Victorian authors: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and Dracula by Bram Stoker both come to mind. Basic, I know, but critically influential nonetheless.
Modern novels set in Victorian England: The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox, Drood by Dan Simmons, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and (if I may be permitted to include a very wordy graphic novel) From Hell by Alan Moore.
NTK: Do you have a favorite Victorian movie?
JF: Crimson Peak, The Prestige, and Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. If we’re including 19th-century America, then also Sleepy Hollow and Gangs of New York. And if we’re including TV, I adore Penny Dreadful.
NTK: What inspired you to write Lilitu?
JF: I’ve long been fascinated by succubi and incubi. When I was in college, I went looking for novels focused on them, but there were only a few, and they didn’t quite give me what I wanted. So, naturally, I decided to write one myself. However, I initially wasn’t sure how to manage it. I was toying with an alternate world setting that just never really gelled, and ended up changing the plot and rewriting it over and over again–never certain where to take the story. I knew that I wanted a reluctant succubus lead struggling with her demonic nature, but the details were a constant state of flux.
Then one day, when I was in a bookstore, a certain cover caught my eye, showing a man in a top hat staring into the London fog. The image was laden with foreboding, and compelled me to pull the book off the shelf and read the opening sentence: “After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn’s for an oyster supper.” This novel was The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox, a tale of revenge set in Victorian England. I was hooked. I devoured the novel, enjoying every word, and realized rather abruptly that Victorian England was the perfect setting for my own novel. Suddenly, everything came together: this was a tale of demons in the Victorian era, focused on a succubus brought up in that rigid world and struggling to reconcile her upbringing with the needs of her new form–and in the process questioning all the toxic ideas she was forced to internalize growing up. And so Maraina Blackwood was born.
NTK: What is your creative process like? How do you go from inspiration to final draft?
JF: It’s all over the place. I’ll usually plot out the entire novel, then change everything as I actually write it. When I eventually get a working draft that I’m passably happy with, I’ll ask writer friends to read and critique it. Then I’ll edit, and edit, and edit some more, until I think it’s finally ready enough for publication. If it gets picked up, that means more edits because the publisher’s editor will need to give it a good look. If it doesn’t get picked up, it means the book isn’t good enough yet, so it needs more edits anyway. Lilitu took more years than I care to admit.
NTK: What do you like most about the Victorian age?
JF: The psychological complexity. The aesthetics. Their elegant manner of speaking. I also like how deeply hypocritical they were, because it’s ever so much fun to satirize.
NTK: What do you dislike most?
JF: When you get down to it, the Victorian Era was quite horrible to actually live in. Severely rigid gender roles, miserable science/medicine, incredible poverty, child labor…I’ll often meet other Victorian enthusiasts, and many say that they wish they lived in the Victorian era instead of today. While that’s valid, I always like to remind them that they almost certainly would have been impoverished, and never able to afford those pretty, fancy dresses that they are so keen on wearing. People honestly romanticize the Victorians and are quick to forget that the elegant ladies and wealthy gentlemen they’re so enamored with made up a tiny, tiny slice of the population. That’s beside the fact that things were abysmal for women, even wealthy and noblewomen, as they were not allowed agency over their own lives. It was just a nasty, cruel period, and many are far too quick to forget that.
NTK: Have you written other stories in the Lilitu universe? If so, what?
JF: We have a FREE short story in the Lilitu universe out now, called Lilith in Repose.
It’s a twisted, erotic Dark Fantasy tale about a nun whose church has been taken over by demons…and now they are asking her to join their ranks.
I am also in the early stages of the second Lilitu novel. I’m planning it as a trilogy right now, but that may change as I actually write it. We’ll just have to see.
NTK: What’s your favorite curse word?
NTK: What’s your favorite curse?
JF: I can’t think of one, so I’ll improvise. “MAY YOU BE REBORN A DINGLEBERRY HANGING FROM THE CRACK OF SATAN’S ARSEHOLE!” Hmm…when you consider the smell, that would actually be a truly dreadful fate.
NTK: (Laughs.) What does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?
JF: I’m currently in the editing stages of an epic Lovecraftian biopunk novel. I’m also almost done with the first draft of a new horror novel centered around an autistic protagonist (I am on the spectrum, so it comes from a real place). Then there’s of course the second Lilitu book, wherein readers will learn of some surprising–and horrible–consequences of Maraina’s actions in book 1.
NTK: Jonathan, thank you so much for chatting with us.
JF: You’re welcome.
Addicts, you can find Jonathan on Twitter.