Meaty Werewolf Book Interview with Wolf Land Author Jonathan Janz

We at WerewolfBook are honored to interview prominent Horror author Jonathan Janz. Today we are discussing his book Wolf Land (Which made our list of 12 Best Werewolf Books) as well as several other of his books. Here is the Amazon Link. ISBN 978-1619231160, Kindle ASIN: B0116TEM3E.

About the Book:

The small town of Lakeview offers little excitement for Duane, Savannah, and their friends. They’re about to endure their ten-year high school reunion when their lives are shattered by the arrival of an ancient, vengeful evil. The werewolf. The first attack leaves seven dead and four wounded. And though the beast remains on the loose and eager to spill more blood, the sleepy town is about to face an even greater terror. Because the four victims of the werewolf’s fury are changing. They’re experiencing unholy desires and unimaginable cravings. They’ll prey on the innocent. They’ll act on their basest desires. Soon, they’ll plunge the entire town into a nightmare. Lakeview is about to become Wolf Land.

About the Author:

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.”

2013 saw the publication of his novel of vampirism and demonic possession The Darkest Lullaby, as well as his serialized horror novel Savage Species. Of Savage Species Publishers Weekly said, “Fans of old-school splatterpunk horror–Janz cites Richard Laymon as an influence, and it shows–will find much to relish.” Jonathan’s Kindle Worlds novel Bloodshot: Kingdom of Shadows marked his first foray into the superhero/action genre.

His 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.

Now the Interview Questions:

Question: It has been over a year since Wolf Land was published. Can you give us an overview of how the book has done from book launch, initial response, to current date.

Answer: Sure! It rocketed out the gates and never looked back. I’ve honestly been surprised at how positive the reception has been. It’s my most violent, goriest book, and it contains some truly monstrous moments. But folks have responded wonderfully to it, and I’m not complaining.

Question: You have published an amazing number (what is it 12?) of incredible books since 2012. How do you do it?

Answer: B.I.C. (Butt in Chair) is the Joe R. Lansdale rule I teach my students. As coarse as that sounds, it’s so very true. If you force yourself to do the work even when you’re not totally inspired to do so, you’re accomplishing something. Sure, what you write that day might not be perfect—or even usable—but through the act of writing, you’ve accomplished something. You’ve put black on white. That’s no small thing.

Question: You have been described as “one of the best modern horror authors” and a “true fan of horror”. Tell us
why you like the genre so much?

Answer: I love the genre because, despite its sometimes fantastical nature, it tells the truth more than any other genre. In horror the floor for human behavior is lower, but the ceiling is also higher. I’m fascinated by the human animal; horror does a marvelous job of analyzing this strange creature.

Question: Does the ancient werewolf that has quietly been roaming in the shadows of the Indiana prairie have an origination story? Please provide some more background on this creature and that of The Three.

Answer: You know, I think it’s the cross-pollination of my upbringing (in rural Indiana), all the creepy things I’ve always imagined, and the books and movies I’ve digested. But there’s no definite origin I can trace for the werewolves in WOLF LAND. I do have to admit that the cover art for THE HOWLING 2 movie might have sparked my imagination a bit for The Three.

Question: What are the motivations for Garner warning of his attack before it happens and why does he make it so public?

Answer: Great question, and one I don’t think I’ve been asked before. Basically, Garner’s view of humans is so laced with contempt that feels it is beneath him to skulk in the shadows and rely on the element of surprise. He wants to watch their reactions, wants to witness the falling away of their incredulous grins and the appearance of their mortal terror. Only by announcing himself in such a bold way can he fully experience the superiority he assumes (and in that juncture of the story, possesses).

Question: Have you ever considered writing something completely opposite of horror like historical nonfiction or romance?

Answer: Oh, certainly, but what I normally do instead is season those types of stories with horror. Or the reverse. For instance, I think DUST DEVILS is as much a western as it is a vampire tale. An upcoming novella is as much a historical romance as it is one of horror and dread. My interests are diverse, and I hope that shows in my writing.

Question: You’ve mentioned that you were in a near-fatal car crash in your senior year of high school. There are a lot of parallels between the character Mike Freehafer who is in a number of car crashes in the book. Are you that character?

Answer: Now this is a meaty question and one I’m pretty sure no one has asked. Yes, you’re exactly right. I’m no longer, thankfully, like Mike Freehafer, but there is certainly some of my past self in the character. His last name intentionally sounds like my actual last name (Jonathan Janz is a pen name). No one died in my near-fatal car accident, but it was still a whopper, so there’s that connection to WOLF LAND. Just as meaningfully, Mike is a former athlete whose identity was wrapped up in that sort of sporting life, and much of my first three decades on earth were tied up with basketball.

Question: I can remember a time in my childhood, watching a scary movie at the drive-in movie theater and being afraid the monster would get me while going to the bathroom alone. Was this scene inspired by something similar?

Answer: Yep, that’s spot-on. The drive-in bathroom is sort of a creepy, primitive place, and not one in which a kid feels safe. I guess I never thought of how creeped out I used to be by those bathrooms, but looking back, I’m certain that childhood fear played a major role in the WOLF LAND restroom scene.

Question: Please tell us a little about your teaching career. Are you thinking of stopping teaching and just writing full time?

Answer: No, I love teaching too much to do that. Writing is going really well and getting better with each successive year, but my teaching career is solid, rewarding, and something I’d have a hard time giving up. I could see retiring a few years early, but that time is far, far away.

Question: Please relate your experience in working with Samhain Publishing which shut down in February 2016.

Answer: Samhain gave me my start, so I won’t speak negatively about them. I will say that Don D’Auria was especially supportive and helpful in launching my career and helping me believe in myself. Samhain proved to be the right place for me to start, and for that I’m grateful.

Question: Your latest book Children of the Dark was released in March with Sinister Grin Press. What made you select Sinister Grin Press?

Answer: I was at a crossroads at that moment and was looking to diversify. They’d published a couple of my friends’ books, and I thought they’d done a nice job with those books. So things came together for CHILDREN OF THE DARK, and as you’ll hear below, I’m glad they did.

Question: How has the reception of the book been?

Answer: Insane. I’ve been stunned at how the book has been received. The reviews have been magnificent, and the sales (which started out extremely well) have been steadily growing. It’s the first book I’ve had purchased for translation (Voodoo Press out of Germany), and at the moment it’s garnering attention from other entities as well. And even though the book has already done so well, it still seems to be on the upswing.

Question: What are your thoughts about self-publishing?

Answer: Like most modes of publishing, it can be great or it can be disastrous. It’s all about one’s skill at self-publishing and one’s approach. I’ve seen outstanding self-published work. I’ve also seen an awful lot of…not-so-outstanding self-published work. One guy that’s doing it right is Bryan Smith. But the key is that Bryan can really write. No matter how you’re trying to be published, the writing is what matters most.

Question: Can you talk about the different triggers that make your werewolves change?

Answer: I love werewolf stories, and the notion of the moon triggering the change is a cool one. But for this tale—and for my werewolf stories in the future—I wanted the change to be something more personal. To me, my werewolves’ triggers are less superstitious and more meaningful. So it seemed logical that the changes would be powerful negative emotions, and that those emotions would be different for different characters. After all, we all have different darknesses, right?

Question: I love how the title of the book hints at the epic battle that takes place in an amusement park. What made you settle on this title and location?

Answer: Thank you. That’s exactly what I was hoping to do with the title. I wanted to refer to the whole realm of the story (or the “land,” if you prefer), but I also wanted to make sure the amusement park was somehow referenced by the title. In a way, this was also a connection to a couple books I admire, Richard Laymon’s FUNLAND and Stephen King’s JOYLAND. I dig the idea of the whole amusement park becoming overrun with werewolves.

Question: The characters in your book have been praised for their level of relatability. Were some of them inspired from people in your life?

Answer: Absolutely. Mike, Glenn, and Duane all connect to me in specific ways, so that’s obviously pretty personal. Savannah is an amalgam of many of the girls I used to crush on when I was a teenager. Sadly, I knew quite a few Weezers, and even more sadly, I knew a few Melodys as well. Joyce…Joyce is probably the least reliant on my memories and the most dependent on my ability to construct a character from pure imagination.

Question: Some of the scenes in Wolfland have been described as “visceral” to the point of gross-out gore. How did you approach writing these violent scenes?

Answer: That’s a fair description. I dedicate myself to following wherever a story goes and recording that tale faithfully. This necessitates some pretty gory descriptions at times. You simply can’t have creatures as malevolent and maniacal as these werewolves without spilling some blood. So I did. I can say that some of the scenes were fun to write, like the drive-in bathroom scene or the Barb/Garner throwdown. But others were gut-wrenching experiences. The scenes with Melody, for instance, made me step away from the keyboard and leave the room to clear my head. The scene with Weezer and an old girlfriend was also a harrowing experience to write. I knew where it was going, but it was really painful getting there.

Question: You have described this book as the darkest one you have ever written and hinted that it didn’t start out that way. What was your original intent and why did it change?

Answer: Well, after I finished THE NIGHTMARE GIRL (which is a book I love and a highly emotional one), I was hoping to do something lighter. The idea of werewolves in a theme park seemed like pure escapism and good old-fashioned fun. However, as is evident in the novel, that notion became a mere framework for a deeper study of the human psyche and some pretty heady ideas. More than any plot strand, I’d say the Melody story was the one that changed that book for me. It transformed WOLF LAND from something lighthearted and fun to something that was, at times, really serious.

Question: What are the different ways the werewolves in your book can be killed or die?

Answer: Decapitation is one. Being burned to death or blown up would probably work too.

Question: Have you ever thought that Wolfland would make a compelling movie?

Answer: Man, have I ever. The only problem is budget. This is really an action-packed book. We’re talking about multiple sets, tons of paid actors, heavy makeup and/or CGI work. It could be an incredible film, but someone would have to really love the story to do it justice. And have the funds to do it.

Question: It looks like you only have three of your books in the audiobook format. What are your feelings on the Audible and audiobook platform?

Answer: I’m a fan of Audible, and I really love audiobooks. As you said, I have three right now, but by the end of the year, there’s a good chance that number will more than double.

Question: Are you a fan of the werewolves in the Underworld series? Any thoughts about the upcoming latest installment of the franchise?

Answer: Total honesty? I’ve never seen them. I’ve heard good and bad things both, and at some point I’ll likely see them for myself.

Question: How do you feel about your children one day reading your books if they haven’t already?

Answer: My son has heard me read several of my books. He was influential in helping me with CHILDREN OF THE DARK. Some of my other books, however, might be a bit more difficult to experience with my kids. As you know, my stuff can go to some awfully dark places. But I like the idea of my kids reading my work. I think it’s good work that’ll stand up to scrutiny. Of course, maybe they’ll feel weird reading my stuff. It’ll probably depend on the kid and the book.

Question: Can you explain a little about your process from initial ideas, to manuscript, to editing?

Answer: The process is different with every book because every book is different. I can say that I spend more time editing than I do on writing, and I think that’s atypical for writers. I could be wrong, but I get the sense that the editing takes a lot less time for most writers but that the writing is the harder part. For me, it’s the reverse. I love editing, but it’s a painstaking process that takes me months to get right.

Question: You’ve said before that you were greatly influenced by Stephen King’s work. How do you feel about some of his more recent books?

Answer: I think he’s still improving. I happen to be nearing the end of THE BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS and am just amazed at how clear and powerful his voice is now and how diverse his stories have become. “A Death” has the feel of a western—something by Elmore Leonard (to whom the story is dedicated)—while “Drunken Fireworks” is a hilarious, colorful tale with nary a supernatural element. “Ur” is a glorious fusion of old-fashioned cosmic horror and modern technology, while “Bad Little Kid” is a flat-out chiller.

Question: How do you approach cover design?

Answer: That’s largely up to the publisher, but in general, I enjoy being active in the process. Similar to the manner in which a story can begin as a vague, inchoate idea, so too can a cover art idea begin as a hazy, ill-formed concept. I do my best to communicate what I’m thinking via my words and any book or movie posters that project the same vibe, but it’s usually a surprise to see what the cover artist ends up creating. Lately, I’ve been working with Matthew Revert, and his stuff is really wild. We’re about to unveil his cover for my new book, which is just fantastic. Really stunning artwork.

Question: What are you working on Next?

Answer: After I finish the book I’m working on now, I’ll be concentrating either on a CHILDREN OF THE DARK sequel or a ghost story set on the Rappahannock River called THE SIREN AND THE SPECTER. There are a couple of other projects that could nudge the aforementioned two out of the way, and that’s all part of the fun. Whichever tale clamors the loudest to be written is usually the one that commands my attention. Thanks for the great questions. I really enjoyed this! J

WerewolfBook would really like to thank author Jonathan Janz for taking the time to answer our questions. You can learn more about Jonathan at www.jonathanjanz.com. You can also find him on Facebook, via @jonathanjanz on Twitter, on Instagram (jonathanjanz) or on his Goodreads and Amazon author pages.

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