Monday, October 9, 2017

Interview: Jonathan Janz



AMES: I heard you teach film studies. How do you think teaching that class helped prepare you for the writing of this book, and actually all your books?

Janz: On a general level, teaching film keeps me immersed in the world of storytelling several hours a day. I'm constantly mindful of what makes a great story, and though the two mediums--fiction and film--are different, they share a striking number of similarities.

Studying film editing makes me a more efficient storyteller, as does examining the structure of a screenplay. The manner in which we study framing and cinematography reinforces the need to constantly select powerful and/or atypical visual details in order to paint my picture.

Even the acting in films helps inform my writing. Stage business is so important in every medium, and just as every gesture or facial expression helps create a character on screen, so too do these mannerisms and expressions develop a character on the page.

So, yes, teaching film brings with it some serious opportunities for me, and I try to maximize those opportunities by being just as attentive to our content as my students.


AMES: You write about kids that can be very cruel. The main character, Will, is hounded at every turn by some very mean kids. Did this happen to you? 

Janz: I'd like to say I never got bullied, but yeah, I got bullied, and pretty mercilessly. From being hit and thrown down to being excluded and mocked to someone pissing in my football helmet for a joke...yeah, I know very well what it's like to be bullied.

Essentially, Will is me. There are some differences--my mom, for instance, was very much involved in my life instead of being a burnout like Will's mom; also, I was an only child, so Peach is based on my two daughters--but in his experiences, his poverty, and his attitudes, I am Will.


AMES: Your description of the relationship between Will and his mother seemed very on point, particularly the prescription drug use and how that tainted the relationship between the mother and son. Did you draw on real life for any of this?

Janz: As I alluded to in the last answer, I didn't experience this from my mom, but I've seen friends go down that road of prescription addiction, and it's heartbreaking to watch.

From there I basically put myself in Will's shoes and felt what he'd feel and thought what he'd think. But that real-life knowledge really was helpful in developing those interactions.


AMES: The story ends in a way that can easily lead to a sequel. You’ve said you are writing part two very soon. Could you let us know a little about your thoughts on part two? Will it have the surviving members of these young kids as the main characters? How far into the future will we be going?

Janz: Yes! I'm so excited about the sequel. It will indeed feature the surviving cast members, as well as at least one character from another of my novels, SAVAGE SPECIES (which is referenced in CHILDREN OF THE DARK).

The way I've been thinking about the sequel is a bit like ALIENS, in that a survivor from the first horror has to return to face her/his worst fears. There's a militaristic element to COTD 2, and like ALIENS, the threat will be amplified and multiplied. I'm having a blast writing it!


AMES: The Children (Wendigos) were fantastic monsters. There were hints of winged monsters as well. Can you elaborate on what those winged beasts are? Will they have a major role in the sequel?

Janz: I'm glad you brought those creatures up. They figure strongly in SAVAGE SPECIES, and they'll play a huge role in COTD 2. They're called the Night Flyers, and they're just as lethal as the Children.

Their first attack in COTD 2 will be awfully memorable.

Thanks so much for the interview, Draven. Talk to you soon!


Bio: Jonathan Janz grew up between a dark forest and a graveyard, which explains everything. Brian Keene named his debut novel The Sorrows "the best horror novel of 2012." The Library Journal deemed his follow-up, House of Skin, "reminiscent of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and Peter Straub's Ghost Story."

Since then Jonathan's work has been lauded by writers like Jack Ketchum, Edward Lee, Tim Waggoner, Bryan Smith, and Ronald Kelly. Novels like The Nightmare Girl, Wolf Land, Savage Species, and Dust Devils prompted Thunderstorm Books to sign Jonathan to an eleven-book deal and to give him his own imprint, Jonathan Janz's Shadow Side.

His most recent novel, Children of the Dark, received a starred review in Booklist and was chosen by their board as one of the Top Ten Horror Books of the Year (August 2015-September 2016). Children of the Dark will soon be translated into German and has been championed by the Library Journal, the School Library Journal, and Cemetery Dance.

Jonathan's primary interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children, and though he realizes that every author's wife and children are wonderful and amazing, in this case the cliché happens to be true. You can learn more about Jonathan at http://jonathanjanz.com. You can sign up for his Shadow World newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/cKLKt5. You can also find him on Facebook, via @jonathanjanz on Twitter, on Instagram (jonathan.janz) or on his Goodreads and Amazon author pages.