J.D. Horn is the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Witching Savannah series (The Line, The Source, The Void, and Jilo), the Witches of New Orleans Trilogy (The King of Bones and Ashes, The Book of the Unwinding, The Final Days of Magic), and the standalone Southern Gothic horror tale Shivaree. A world traveler and student of French and Russian literature, Horn also has an MBA in international business and formerly held a career as a financial analyst before turning his talent to crafting chilling stories and unforgettable characters. His novels have received global attention and have been translated into Turkish, Russian, Romanian, Polish, Italian, German, and French. Originally from Tennessee, he currently lives in California with his spouse, Rich, and their rescue Chihuahua, Kirby Seamus.
J.D. is an amazing and talented writer with a wry sense of humor. We spoke of writing, a frightening phobia, and future plans.
NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, JD! Thank you for joining me today.
JDH: Happy to be here. Thanks for having me!
NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?
JDH: Oh, goodness. I’m going to say three years old. My mother had to spend a couple of weeks in the hospital, and before she left, she forbade me to watch Dark Shadows with my siblings. Needless to say, there was no keeping me away from the television after that.
NTK: Is Dark Shadows your favorite horror TV show? What is your favorite horror Tv show?
JDH: Well, Dark Shadows is my perennial favorite, but now I am living for The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. I totally excited to learn, though, that CW is attempting another Dark Shadows reboot, so maybe Sabrina will get a run for her money.
NTK: Maybe, she will. What do you think of reboots?
JDH: Reboots can obviously be hit or miss. Battlestar Galactica was flipping amazing. The Night Stalker? Well, they meant well, didn’t they? If the creators have something new to say and aren’t just mining nostalgia, great. Otherwise, look elsewhere. That being said, I will be over the (full) moon if they land a quality reboot of Dark Shadows.
NTK: Have you seen the reboot of IT? If so, what did you think and how do you feel about Stephen King?
JDH: Okay. I have not seen the reboot of It, because I am truly terrified of clowns. Like panic attack terrified. I live part-time in Palm Springs, and there’s a guy who walks around dressed like a clown. He walked into the restaurant where I was having dinner and totally triggered my fight or flight response. Luckily, I had friends who know my phobia who saw him and escorted me straight out.
King. What can you say about King? He’s a living legend. I still reread The Shining and Salem’s Lot every so often. Cujo really lost me as a King reader, but I guess it’s time for me to suck it up and give his newer works a chance.
NTK: Would you say King is one of your influences? What authors have influenced your darker writings?
JDH: I think King has influenced every contemporary horror writer. Anyone who says he isn’t an influence is, well, I don’t want to say deluded, but come on, get real, his work is seminal. Of course, Anne Rice has been a huge influence on me, but perhaps my greatest influence horror-wise is Michael McDowell. He did paranormal/occult Southern family sagas (as well as writing the screenplay for Beetlejuice.) I also borrow from the Cthulhu mythology but find much of Lovecraft problematic.
NTK: Do you have any Russian influences? Do you like Dostoevsky?
JDH: My BA was in Comparative World Literature. I studied French in original and Russian in translation. I love Dostoevsky (The Brothers Karamazov more than Crime and Punishment) and Pasternak (I’ve read Doctor Zhivago around six times). My all-time favorite novel is The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (hilarious, heartbreaking, and terrifying all at the same time).
NTK: Your style is reminiscent of these authors, especially what I’ve seen in Shivaree. What inspired Shivaree and what inspires you in general?
JDH: Funny that you land on Shivaree. I consider it my ugly baby. It seems the readers who like it really like it, and the readers who don’t, well, let’s just say they’re less than enthused. Shivaree is my one book that grew out of a dream, a nightmare, really, though not more than a flash of one. Just an old woman walking through a cornfield at night calling the name Ruby again and again. I woke up covered in a cold sweat and my heart pounding.
Shivaree was supposed to be a novella, but I was having a hard time completing the project I was contracted for and was beginning to panic. I knew I had to keep writing something or I’d freeze up. Jilo, the project I was supposed to be working on wasn’t coming, but Shivaree kept falling into place. I finally called my editor, admitted I was going to miss the deadline on Jilo, but told him I had another book I was, um, sure, ahem, he’d really like (squeaky voice at the end).
Oh, and in general, I love telling stories. Always have.
NTK: Do your characters have free will? Or do you plan their every move?
JDH: Oh, good lord. If I planned everything, I wouldn’t have had so much trouble finishing Jilo. I’m a total pantser, and my best writing comes in collaboration with my characters. I don’t want to say they totally run the show, but, well, okay, they do.
NTK: Love it! Always good to see a writer enjoy a relationship with his characters. Do you like character-driven books? What is your favorite horror novel?
JDH: The Haunting of Hill House. That’s my favorite horror novel. That’s how you get a horror novel done.
I enjoy plot-driven, rip right through the book books, but yes, for me, the books I love, they’re all about character. I’ve recently become obsessed with Liane Moriarty. The plot in Nine Perfect Strangers doesn’t begin until around 85% of the way through. To be able to pull that off? Well, let’s just say when I grow up, I want to be Liane Moriarty.
NTK: Do you have a favorite horror film?
JDH: Favorite horror film? It’s a three-way tie. I know King didn’t like The Shining, but I think Kubrick created magic. (Although I feel terrible about what he is said to have put Shelley Duvall through. Actors know how to act. Ya don’t got to torture them.)
Then there is Rosemary’s Baby, Mia Farrow AND Ruth Gordon. That’s all I got to say. The third is The Fearless Vampire Killers. Of course, both of these were directed by Roman Polanski (speaking of problematic creators).
Oooh! Honorable mention to the original Carnival of Souls.
NTK: Do you have any advice for the budding horror writer?
JDH: Write stories you love. Some readers will adore your stories, some will grab pitchforks and light torches and do their damnedest to storm the castle. Just make sure you’re in love with everything you put out there. It makes climbing out the castle tower at three AM using a rope of made of bedsheets a little easier to take.
NTK: JD, what does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?
JDH: I recently came across some pages of a novel I started when I was twenty-seven (more than a minute ago). I am now working on a collaboration with twenty-seven-year-old me. Southern. Gothic. A lot of heart. A touch of horror. Kind of Orpheus meets Something Wicked This Way Comes meets—there it is—The Master and Margarita.
NTK: Wonderful! Thank you for chatting with me today, JD. You’re a gracious guest.
JDH: And you are a fantastic interviewer. This was fun. Thanks again for having me!
Addicts, you can find J.D.’s work on Amazon.