These days, there are a number of independent authors out there who are writing the same high tension, keep-your-lights-on terror that the big name folks are. The only difference is, you may not have heard of these fine folks. That’s really no fault of yours and this is why Mangled Matters exists – to not only support indie artists of all genres, but to also hopefully give you a new favorite creator. Tonight, I spotlight author John Everson, a gentleman with a bibliography that stretches impressively over the last twenty-three years.
From short stories to novels, John is a favorite in the author festival circle, often appearing at just about any book convention that you can think of. He’s rubbed elbows with the likes of Clive Barker and done a reading in a haunted pub – and he’s still going strong.
Everson is his name and horror is his game. And boy, does he play it well.
MANGLED MATTERS: Growing up, who or what really got you into the horror world?
JOHN EVERSON: When I was a kid, I was really more into science fiction than horror… but I did love stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Roald Dahl and Richard Matheson. And I loved the spooky stories I saw on TV anthology series like The Outer Limits, Night Gallery, One Step Beyond, and The Twilight Zone. When I got into high school, I read Stephen King’s Carrie, and that really opened my eyes. I didn’t realize that you could DO that with a narrative. I began to read more and more horror from that point on until, one day, I realized that I wasn’t reading science fiction anymore at all.
MM: You’ve been writing for over twenty years now. What are some of the changes, both good and bad, you’ve seen on the horror literature landscape over the years?
JE: While I don’t feel like horror has changed that much (the genre is always about our deepest fears, which are always centered around the loss of loved ones or the peril of impending death) It feels like I’ve watched a complete change in worlds in publishing! When I started writing, there was no Internet, so everything was done by postal mail. And finding magazines to submit to was done by reading all of the magazines on the bookstore magazine racks – and looking at the classified ads in the back of them. I found all sorts of independent magazines and anthology projects to submit to that way. But it took a lot of work and investment. You had to buy magazines, pay copying and postage costs for the manuscript and return-postage-envelope you were sending, and then wait weeks to hear back.
That was the heyday of desktop publishing, and all sorts of small but good quality magazines popped up. There were dozens of them that I submitted to, and tracked. At that point, in the early ‘90s, magazines were almost like secret societies unto themselves. Fast forward 10 years, and the indie zine scene began to wither, as more and more people took their projects online to webzines, instead of paying for the costs of paper. And more and more people who did print fiction on paper turned to making books instead of magazines. So in the early 2000s, there was an explosion of anthologies and small presses.
And then… along came e-books, and really decimated that market to a large extent, because people were not willing to spend a bunch of money on paper books filled with writers they weren’t intimately familiar with, but they’d buy a cheap e-book from them. I started my own Dark Arts Books press just as e-books were taking off, and I can tell you, in the first couple years of the press, we did great – distributed to a bunch of bookstores and paid our authors decent royalties for a little micro press. But three-four years later, sales all but disappeared as everyone turned to buying 99 cent e-books instead of $15 or $20 paper books.
I can’t say the change has been great from a number of perspectives. I love paper books, and I love it that writers really had to work to be in them. Now, with the ease of self-publishing, people dive in to publishing things that maybe should never have seen the light of day. And thus, the world is now flooded with horror books, making it harder for the average horror reader to find a good book amid the chaff. When I was starting out you had to really work hard to hone your manuscript and pitch it to editors and agents to hopefully find a slot to get it published. Now, you can just idly open a Word document, type whatever comes to your head, and then upload it and hit publish five minutes later.
Freedom is great… but it comes with a price.
MM: What is a “typical” day of writing for you? Are you super picky about how, when and where you write?
JE: I don’t really have a “typical” day! I have a pretty intensive full-time job and a family, so carving out the time to write is difficult. I tend to be a marathon writer. Some authors write a little bit every day – sprints. Me? I might go two weeks without writing a word, but then I’ll carve out five hours on a Sunday and that’s all I do. I prefer doing long marathons every few days than doing a little bit of writing every day.
I also tend to need to have firm deadlines and contracts to drive me to finish projects. When I’m on a deadline because I have a contract to honor, I set weekly word count goals and write before work, after work, on weekends…. Frequently, I’ll pick one night a week where I don’t come right home after work to see my family; instead, I’ll go straight to a favorite pub, and open the laptop and work there for four or five hours. That gets me good chunks of writing done all at once.
I also go on business trips a lot, and after the workday ends on the road, I’ll seek out pubs in other cities and settle in there to write each night. I have photos of my laptop and a beer in all sorts of places, from Barcelona to Tokyo to Seattle to Los Angeles.
So maybe the “typical” for me is that it’s never typical. I do look, however, for bars that are playing good music (helps drown out the conversations around me), good beer, and good dark corners to feel comfortable and at home in to settle in and write at.
MM: When you aren’t writing, I presume you do a lot of reading. What are some of your favorite horror novels that have come out recently?
JE: Honestly? I haven’t read a book in at least six months. I feel bad about that, but it just seems like my “relax” time gets less and less every year. I got into writing because I love to read, but then, as my writing career took off, I found that I had less and less time to just sit back and enjoy a book. I end up working at the computer most nights until it is past the time when I should be in bed, so I go straight to sleep without reading. I used to read every night before going to sleep. Hoping that in 2017, I’ll finally get back to a schedule that allows me to read again!
MM: As a horror author, do you still get odd looks from friends or family when you discuss what you write?
JE: No, because I really never discuss it, except when I’m at horror conventions. My family and local friends, for the most part, have no interest in horror. They know, obviously, that I write and have had some success at it but most have no interest in talking about it.
MM: Who is the first person to read your work after you’ve gave it a read-over?
JE: Whoever the editor is that I am submitting it to! I don’t send my work to “first readers” to critique. I feel like that’s the job of the editor – because it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks – if it doesn’t please the editor, it won’t get published. So when I’m satisfied with the story, I submit it. And that’s it.
MM: If you could sit down at a roundtable with three other authors, who gets a seat at the table and why?
JE: That depends – are we playing a drinking game? I’d love to sit at a roundtable with Edward Lee, because he’s written the most crazy fun, over-the-top books I’ve read in the past decade. I’d love for Clive Barker to be at the table, because he showed me that you really could write stories that make people afraid to go to sleep in a dark room. My third choice would be Stephen King, because he not only introduced me to modern horror, but he showed me what you could do with good characterization in a novel. I don’t think I’d talk much at this roundtable!
MM: When you write, do you prefer to listen to music or keep it quiet?
JE: I never write without music! Music is my first love, and I always have music on. I rarely have the television on, and I don’t listen to talk radio or audiobooks because that would take away from my music time. I have a pretty broad range of tastes, but I love to write to bands like The Cure, Delerium, Conjure One, Cocteau Twins, New Order, Kate Bush, La Floa Maldita, Grimes… the list goes on.
MM: When it comes to appearances and readings, what makes that particular night a “success” in your book?
JE: If I can do a reading and get a solid, visible response from the audience, that’s a success. I read the work and it had a visible impact. It’s always nice if that impact inspires people to pick up a copy of the book, but the key is to have a moment where you and the audience are one in the moment, in the story. That’s a feeling that’s hard to describe, but once you’ve had it as an author, you’ll never forget it.
MM: What are you currently working on?
JE: I’m currently doing the final edits on Redemption, the final book in a trilogy of novels centered around reporter Joe Kieran and the succubic Curburide demons. That book follows my first two novels, Covenant and Sacrifice. I’ve also started working on a new novel centered around an old haunted cemetery near where I grew up. That book is tentatively called The Haunted House By The Cemetery, taking a bit of an overt cue from ‘70s-80s Italian horror director Lucio Fulci.
Keep up on all of John’s literary doings by checking in on his website regularly!