Interview with Author John Everson

Flame Tree Press released Bram Stoker Award-winning horror author John Everson’s 10th novel, The House by the Cemetery, on October 18th.

The teaser for the book hints at a perfect autumn read:

Flame Tree PressThe teaser for the book hints at a perfect read for autumn: “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.”

Everson’s novels are dark and visceral, often blending horror with the occult and taboo sex. The Illinois author won the Bram Stoker Award for a First Novel in 2005 for Covenant. His sixth novel, Nightwhere, was a Bram Stoker Award finalist in 2013. Check out Everson’s website by clicking here.

In an exclusive interview with HorrorAddicts.net, Everson discusses his new novel, his past works, and what scares him.

THE INTERVIEW

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HORROR ADDICTS: Your 10th novel, The House by the Cemetery, arrived October 18th from your new publisher Flame Tree Press. Does this release personally feel any different than your previous releases in terms of anticipation and excitement? Or do all of them feel the same?

EVERSON: They’re all a little different, but this one is special because it’s the debut release on my fourth major publisher. My first couple novels debuted in hardcover on Delirium Books, a small independent press, and then made their big “mass market” paperback debut a couple years later on Leisure Books, which put them in bookstores across the country. Both of those debuts were big because – first book ever, and then first book ever in bookstores.  Then after the dissolution of Leisure, my sixth novel NightWhere debuted on Samhain Publishing, which was my second “paperback” home. After four books with them, I am now with Flame Tree Press, which is issuing The House By The Cemetery in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audiobook. That is the first time I’ve ever had a publisher do all versions of a novel, so… it’s a big release for me!

HA: You set The House by the Cemetery in Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, one of the most haunted sites in Illinois and near where you grew up. What part of the cemetery’s history or legend intrigued you the most?

EVERSON: I  am always fascinated by ghost stories, so I love the stories of the Madonna of Bachelor’s Grove, a ghostly woman sometimes seen walking with a child, and sometimes on her own. I wrote a short story about her for the Cemetery Riots anthology a couple years ago. And she’s really the inspiration (along with a famous gravestone) for one of my earliest stories, “Remember Me, My Husband.” But the ghost story that inspired the novel is that of a mysteriously appearing house, which people see in the back of the cemetery. I decided that for the novel, the house would be a real, physical place. But the combination of the ghost stories about that, the Madonna, and the devil worship legends about dark things that occurred in the cemetery 40-50 years ago, really fueled the book though they were inspirational, not directly “retold.”

HA: With horror movies breaking records at the box office and tons of quality horror fiction being released the last couple of years, the media is reporting that the horror genre is more popular than ever. Does it seem that way to you or is it just hype? Have any movies or horror fiction blew you away in the last couple of years?

EVERSON: Horror as a film and TV genre does seem more popular than ever. The popularity of series like Stranger Things and The Walking Dead, in particular, has galvanized a huge fan base. I haven’t seen that turn into a huge fan base for horror novels, because at this point, published horror fiction is still divided between Stephen King, Anne Rice and a few others published by the major labels, and … everyone else being published by independent publishers. When you walk into a bookstore, you’re not blown away by the preponderance of horror books, at least not in any of the stores I walk into. I hope that changes because certainly, this is the age of horror video. And without “writing” there are no films and TV shows!

As far as what’s blown me away … I don’t have a frame of reference because I don’t watch most modern horror films and I avoid TV series – because while they may be great, I just don’t have the time! I can either watch TV or write … and I choose writing. I have seen Stranger Things, which is awesome. But that’s about it for me on the screen over the past couple years. My movie watching (which happens every Friday or Saturday night around midnight in my basement!) is centered around older horror, giallo, and exploitation films, particularly from Europe, from the ‘60s-’80s. At the start of the year, I did see and love the films The Shape of Water from Guillermo del Toro and Endless Poetry from Alejandro Jodorowsky. Ironically, both of those films also look backwards in time, to other ages. My favorite things that I’ve seen lately are Hitch Hike, a 1977 film by Pasquale Festa Campanile, Death Occurred Last Night, a 1970 film by Duccio Tessari, and Pets, a 1973 film by Raphael Nussbaum.

HA: You’ve written a horror trilogy titled The Curburide Chronicles about a reporter named Joe Kieran battling demons. What about Joe caused you to return to his story two more times?

EVERSON: I never intended to. After the first novel was initially finished in 2000, I wrote a few short stories, and a year or two passed as I tried to find a publisher for Covenant, the first book. One day in 2002, I heard about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and I thought … what a great way to jumpstart a book – write 50,000 words in four weeks? That’s insane! But I took the dare. I had an idea about what happened to Joe after Covenant, and in some ways, it felt like a better, more adventurous story than the first novel. So…I decided to use NaNoWriMo as my prod to knock out a big chunk of a novel. I still hadn’t sold the first book – and didn’t know if I ever would! – so I tried to write Sacrifice as a standalone novel, though it directly follows the first book.

So … when I finished Covenant I hadn’t had any thought of a sequel. When I finished Sacrifice, though, I thought almost immediately of how I might want to return to the world again, because I’d left a couple characters in limbo. However, the publisher wasn’t interested in a third book (third books in a series don’t usually do great unless you’ve got a mega-bestseller thing going on). So I had to sit on the idea of the third and final book in the series for almost a decade. A couple years ago when both Leisure and Samhain had collapsed and I found myself without a publisher, I decided, “what the hell …” and I dove in and finally wrote Redemption, the final chapter in the trilogy.

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HA: I cite The 13th as one of the best horror novels I’ve ever read and one that’s influential on my own writing. Do you have a favorite amongst your children (why or why not)?

EVERSON: I don’t have a favorite, but I have a few that I tout a little higher than others. Ironically, those are the ones that seem to have either sold less or been reviewed harder than the others! I am really a fan of Sacrifice, though it hasn’t sold half as many copies as Covenant. I love The 13th because it’s just over-the-top crazy horror fun (I think!) I really was proud of Siren, which had a dual narrative structure that was adventurous for me and dealt with some personal themes that also were important to me. While I’ve seen some people call it their favorite, that novel has faired the poorest in overall reviews (a lot of people are not happy with the ending), though personally I think it’s one of my strongest pieces. NightWhere is a big one for me because it dealt with dark, taboo themes that I was afraid to write about (and sign my name to) for years. But when I finally did it, I was really proud of the way it turned out (and it turned into an award finalist and has been reviewed pretty well).

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HA: Was there one of your works that kind of fell through the cracks that you wished more people would’ve discovered?

EVERSON: Redemption. It had everything going against it – it’s the third and final part in my Covenant trilogy, but it was released a decade after the second novel, and it was released on my own independent Dark Arts Books label – the only book I’ve done that with on a first run, because the original publisher of Covenant and Sacrifice was gone.  So … most of the thousands of readers of those first two novels have no idea the finale exists, and there’s no way to let them know unless they’re actively looking for it. But I think it’s one of my best books, and really ties up the threads of the first two books. It’s also my longest novel.

HA: Taboo sex plays a large part in the plots of almost all your novels, but it’s also popular in a lot of other horror novels. Why do you think sex and horror are so intertwined in horror fiction?

EVERSON: Horror is in a lot of ways, a “Christian” genre (there are people bristling all over reading that!) in the sense that, because a lot of horror is based on the crime and punishment philosophy of “people who do bad things – like have sex before marriage – are punished by DEATH!” There are a lot of “sin and retribution/punishment” themes in horror. Being punished for killing someone … and being punished for cheating and/or premarital sex are big themes that horror tales frequently tackle. Horror has always explored the “what happens when you cross the moral line” factor.

And I think that sex comes into horror a lot too because – when are you at your most vulnerable? When you completely open yourself to another human being. We’re afraid of the potential danger of that intimacy, and thus … horror stories!

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John Everson signing his latest novel, The House by the Cemetery.

HA: I know you’re a music lover. Does music influence or inspire your writing at all (how)?

EVERSON: Music is a huge part of my life and I don’t ever write without it. I can’t say that music influences my writing direction in a way (I don’t hear a song and write a story about it) but I do put on types of music if I’m writing particular scenes. Most of the time I have on ambient “dreampop” kind of bands like Cocteau Twins and Delirium and The Cure which set a particular “mood” for writing. But if I’m doing very aggressive scenes, I might put on mixes of harder techno stuff, from Covenant to Rob Zombie to Marilyn Manson.

HA: What music are you listening to now?

EVERSON: I’m listening to a MixCloud mix by one of my favorite DJs, DJ Mikey. I have bought so many CDs because of his mixes! I listen to this particular one all the time at night because it’s nice and lowkey. Here’s the link: https://www.mixcloud.com/strangewaysradio/space-between-us-dreampop-dj-mikey/

HA: Are you binge-watching anything on Netflix?

EVERSON: The only thing I’ve ever watched on Netflix was Stranger Things … which is actually the only reason I subscribed (the rest of my family now won’t let me cancel it). I’m not a fan of most streaming services because their libraries aren’t deep enough for me. I have a lot of niche, cult film tastes and really, the only way to get most of those movies is to buy them from the cult film companies that remaster and produce them for Blu-ray and DVD. Plus, one of my favorite things about watching an old movie is to watch the bonus DVD extras – all the interviews about the making of the film. You don’t get that stuff on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

HA: Have you read any fiction recently worth recommending?

EVERSON: The last novel I finished was David Benton’s Fauna, which is excellent!

HA: When you’re not working, writing, or spending time with your family, what do enjoy doing with your downtime?

EVERSON: Watching cult 1970s/80s horror, giallo and exploitation films – often from Europe – is one of my favorite things to do. Give me a beer and a new discovery from film companies like Vinegar Syndrome, Severin, Raro Video, Mondo Macabre, Shameless or Synapse, and I’m a really happy guy.  If I’m not going to collapse in a comfy chair to watch obscure movies in the dark, I also love to cook and garden and occasionally even do some woodwork – I’ve built an oak bar for my basement and a couple of DVD cabinets.

HA: Give me some breaking news about your next project or tell me something your fans don’t know about you?

EVERSON: I’m currently just a few weeks from wrapping my 11th novel, The Devil’s Equinox. It’s an occult-based Rosemary’s Baby kind of story that maybe shares a few themes with NightWhere, The Devil’s Equinox, and The 13th.

HA: What scares you?

EVERSON: People! I’m a big fan of the core message of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In the end, it’s really not the monster that’s dangerous.

 

 

 

 

Chilling Chat Episode 160 Michele Roger

Michele Roger is an author and harpist living and working in Detroit. Her previous novel, The Conservatory, was published in 2014. Her second book, Eternal Kingdom: A Vampire Novel, was published in 2015 and made into a film script. Dedicated to furthering the reach of women in speculative fiction, she is a founding member of, “The Wicked Women Writer’s Group.” Her short stories have been published in anthologies in both the US and UK. As a harpist, she is the founder of the Michigan Conservatory. She was a Detroit Music Awards Finalist for best classical composer in 2015.

Michele is an innovative and artistic woman. We spoke of music, the creative process, and her advice for the burgeoning female writer.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Michele! Thank you so much for chatting with me.

MR: I’m thrilled to be here. Thank you for the invite!

NTK: You’re an accomplished musician. How does your background in music influence your writing?

MR: That’s a great question. In reality, there isn’t an easy answer. The two creative outlets sometimes inspire one another. That’s when it feels like a blessing. I can be writing a conversation between two people falling for one another and the music will start to play in my head. The epiphany will hit me that it’s not a song I’ve heard before. Then, I stop writing words and start writing notes on a music paper. Sometimes, the two outlets compete for my attention. I can wake up at 3 am with a story and the theme music and the entire movie score in my head. Then, it feels like a curse. Which do you act upon first? Honestly, it’s a good problem to have.

NTK: Do you find inspiration in dreams?

MR: My biggest inspiration is walking. But, dreams do come into play. If I set a story and its characters aside to do my day job teaching music or playing Harp concerts, the characters sneak into my dreams. It’s always the same dream to start. I’m asleep in bed inside of a glass box. The characters come and gently knock on the box while I’m sleeping. The characters return each night, knocking louder and eventually pounding on the glass until I finally start to write their story. Then, the dreams end.

NTK: Did The Harpist come to you in this way?

MR: Yes. The ghost in the story, Emma, came to see me first, as I was out for a walk. That night, I dreamed of her outside the glass box. She scared the hell out of me. But as a paranormal writer, that’s an advantage, I suppose. Elizabeth and Detective Flannery came to me the next day.

NTK: That’s a fascinating process. What is the difference between paranormal and horror?

MR: Paranormal, by my definition, is like a flavor of a story. There are elements that are scary or ghostly but those elements are just tools for telling a story. The Harpist is definitely paranormal. I’ve written two horror novels. The entire story builds and builds becoming more frightening at every turn.

Paranormal uses scary elements to tell a great story. Horror uses a story to convey something really scary.

NTK: Are your stories character driven? Or, plot driven?

MR: Depends on the story. My sci-fi book, Dark Matter was definitely plot driven. So was [ ETERNAL KINGDOM: A VAMPIRE NOVEL Paperback ] Roger, Michele ( AUTHOR ) Jul - 20 - 2014 [ Paperback ]my horror novel, Eternal Kingdom. But my latest shorts, like Addicted to Love and now this new novel, The Harpist, is far more driven by the characters.

I think, as I get older, the more I like how beautiful it is when characters are vulnerable.

NTK: How much control do you exert over your characters after they come to you? Do they retain their free will? Do they come to you with vulnerabilities?

MR: They come to me dragging their huge amounts of baggage. It’s just my job to spoon their personality and flaws out to the readers as needed.

NTK: What writers have influenced you most?

MR: My first love of literature bloomed after reading F. Scott Fitzgerald. When I read that Hunter S. Thompson said he wrote passages from The Great Gatsby over and over again to learn how to write well, I tried it. That’s when I knew I wanted to write. I didn’t realize I wanted to write speculative fiction, sci-fi, and horror/paranormal until I devoured Stephen King’s short, Thinner. Then, The Visitor series in the 80s and finally, Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last, had me writing in the genre and never looking back.

NTK: Were you a reader as a child?

MR: I loved to read. It was always my escape.

NTK: What got you into horror?

MR: In 8th grade, a friend gave me a copy of Stephen King’s, The Eyes of the Dragon. It was a fantasy story he wrote for his daughter. I was already reading all the sci-fi and fantasy I could get my hands on secretly (my mom thought I should read romance) so King’s fantasy novel became my gateway drug into his other stories.

NTK: What do your parents think of your writing? Have they encouraged you?

MR: Before my dad passed away, he came to every signing and author event I had; often buying a copy of books he already had just to show his support. My mom is supportive of all my creative endeavors.

NTK: You said your mom wanted you to read romance. Do you like to write romantic scenes in your books?

MR: The first romantic scene I ever had to write, I was so nervous, I had to have a cocktail to get through it. Now, I have become much closer friends with my characters. I adore helping them find their loves. Maybe, that’s the difference between writing my first love scene in my early thirties and writing now at 46. I’m more comfortable with my own sexuality and hence, I’m more comfortable with the romance scenes of my characters.

NTK: That’s great! Do you enjoy horror movies and television shows? If so, which are your favorites?

MR: Hmm. I love Stranger Things but really, I don’t watch much TV or movies. I’m a print junkie.

NTK: What do you like about Stranger Things?

MR: I love the duality of worlds; one we can see, one only a select few can see. I also adore how much they’ve embraced the deliciousness of the 80s, right down to the plaid flannel shirts. Seeing the story through the eyes of kids is one of the best parts.

NTK: You’re a founding member of The Wicked Women Writer’s Group. Could you tell the Addicts how that came about?

MR: Early on in my writing, a publisher told me that it would be hard for him to market my work if I used my real name. Horror and sci-fi readers didn’t buy work written by women (or so he thought.) I didn’t want to hide behind a male pen name. Instead, I started a group for women who wrote speculative fiction. I wanted it to be a positive place for female horror writers to support one another. It’s become so much more and I couldn’t be more proud of all the members and our collaborations.

NTK: Very cool! Thank you for starting this group and giving women writers a place to get together. What advice would you like to give prospective women writers out there?

MR: Just this week, The Guardian published an interview with Phillip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials series, and president of a UK author society. He said that the publishing world isn’t supporting authors. Less than 30% of authors can make a living by writing solely as a career. For women, the percentage is even lower. Hence, my advice is this: 1. Buy the work of all authors you love. As a woman and a writer, we appreciate the grueling art form. Particularly, buy the work of female authors. Show appreciation with our dollars. 2. If monetary support is out of reach, support women’s writing by posting great reviews of their work. 3. Never give up on your dream.

NTK: Wonderful words! Michele, as you know, Season 13 of HorrorAddicts is CURSED! Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

MR: Curses are definitely a powerful female tool. My favorite thing about them is that they’re more frightening than a threat. A curse actually feels possible. My favorite curse? “I hope you have a kid just like you!” That curse came true in my two kids. And, I couldn’t be more proud.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What books, stories, and music do HorrorAddicts have to look forward to?

MR: The Harpist (Cursed) will be released this fall 2018. A short holiday story with Elizabeth and Flannery is in the works and the sequel to The Harpist is already outlined and taking shape. As for music, I’m working on another Celtic harp album which will hopefully be released in the spring of 2019.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Michele. It’s been fun.

MR: Thank you so much for the interview.

Addicts, you can find Michele on Twitter.