Welcome to Cat After Dark, Erik It’s so nice to meet you. I’m glad that you were able to take time out of your schedule to let us get to know you a little bit better.
Are you a full time writer or do you hold down a regular job as well?
I used to work a full-time job and write at night/whenever I could. Last year, a few things happened that led to my decision to find part-time employment so that I could concentrate more time and focus on my writing. Currently I work just two days a week, which is awesome. Every other day it’s writing, writing, writing . . .
This move to part-time work was precipitated by two factors:
1) I got sick of the bullshit that is a requirement of working full-time—the toxic atmosphere of petty bosses; backstabbing; under-the-bus-throwing; the necessity to conform with cultural “norms” that restrict your ability to express your true personality; the hypocritical concepts like “transparency” and “breaking down silos” and so forth. Look, I’m 45, my life’s half over (if not more than that) and then I’m nothing (In my opinion). So I made a commitment to myself to be exactly who I am, 100% no bullshit for the remainder of my years. And I’m a writer, and I’m a rocker, and I say what I think and feel. I figure, if that gets me fired in the future, so be it. I’ll live on the street, whatever. Because writing—and music—are all I really care about.
2) My writing career began to pick up traction. YES TRESPASSING was very well received by critics and by a faction of readers who enjoy literary Speculative Fiction; I’ve been getting invited to and into more and more high-profile anthologies, doing successful public and private readings on a fairly regular basis, and have slowly but surely become more involved in professional writer’s associations, such as The Horror Writer’s Association (HWA), PEN America, and The Author’s Guild. Sitting on panels at, and attending conventions, has further helped to raise my profile.
I’ve also seen the quality and range of my writing improve in precise correlation with the amount of time I’ve had to dedicate to the (hard but rewarding) working. Most importantly, peers whom I respect have pointed this out to me, without any begging on my part, which is highly validating and encourages me to strive to become ever better.
Basically I feel pretty optimistic about where it’s all going.
What are you working on now? What does your publishing schedule look like for the future?
I have a bunch of exciting things going on.
The biggest, to me, is the formation of the FOU4, a “band” of four writers—Josh Malerman, J. Daniel Stone, John F.D. Taff, and yours ambiguously. With a fifth author (the superior Joe Schwartz), we put out I Can Taste the Blood a few years back, and it became an Amazon #1 bestseller. That book consisted of five novellas with the same title—I Can Taste the Blood.
We’ve become a four-piece—like most of the great rock n’ roll bands—and our current project, I Can Hear the Shadows, consists of one novella from each of us. I’m proud to say that we all agree that our four contributions here far excel the pieces in I Can Taste the Blood. We just finished wrapping up the manuscript, which includes a forward and afterword by Josh Malerman and an introduction by John F.D. Taff, as well as afterwords to each novella (written by the authors themselves) We’re currently shopping around for a publisher.
The plan is for the FOU4 to become a series-making outfit, to continue making “albums” together as long as people wanna read ‘em. We are a personally and professionally tight unit and to be honest, I’m psyched to see what we do next (On the not-so-Q-T: We’ve already that idea ready to go, and it’s going to be very different and awesome . . . )
Next up? I’m working on a novel based on my Private Investigator character Martin Box. YES TRESPASSING contains six Martin Box stories, and when the book was released, just about every review singled these stories out as being especially fun and awesome, one reviewer going so far as to say that they were worth the cost of the whole book—I was humbled and inspired to do more with Box. So the novel, which is coming along (about halfway through), has been a blast to write so far, and I’m planning to finish it in about six to seven months—then it’s pitch time! Oh, and it’s titled MARTIN BOX IS DEAD, and it involves a bunch of cases, including a job where he gets hired to kill God.
With editor and author supreme Michael Bailey (proprietor of Written Backwards press, who put out YES TRESPASSING), I’ve completed a dark fantasy/Young Adult novel that takes place in an alternate 19th Century, focusing on a skeleton boy named Sunday. The novel follows Sunday’s adventures on an off this fantastic location, and is intended to be the first in a trilogy. We’ve worked out synopses for the next two books (and even the next SIX—because if it does well, we’re doing a series of seven volumes). We asked some of our most respected peers to read it and so far everyone’s loved it; now it’s—you guessed it—pitch time! Our hope is to find a publishing house for it in 2019.
In terms of the near future, I’ll be on hand at Dark Delicacies bookstore in LA on October 28th for the Launch of Birthing Monsters, a beautiful, unique anthology of writings on Shelley’s Frankenstein, being put out by delightfully brilliant Firbolg Publishing. I’ll be signing and reading along with a bunch of other contributors (whose presence there I will be honored to share). The introduction is by S.T. Joshi, and the Table of Contents include these talented and occasionally award-winning folks::
Doctor Alex Scully
Robert Payne Cabeen
Jason V. Brock
The other thing coming out, perhaps around the same time as Birthing Monsters, is Chiral Mad 4, edited by Lucy Snyder and Michael Bailey. I’ve had the great luck to’ve been included in every installment of Written Backwards’ groundbreaking Chiral Mad series to-date. Chiral Mad 4 is probably the most special:
The editors have chosen to make this an anthology of collaborations, and the competition was fierce, so I am super-proud about getting in here. My FOU4 brother J. Daniel Stone and I wrote the story “Ghost Drawl” together; the full Table of Contents (God I am lucky fucker; check out my fellow contributors!) are:
4 short stories:
“The Substance of Belief” – Elizabeth Massie & Marge Simon
“Home and Hope Both Sound a Little Bit Like ‘Hunger'” – Seanan McGuire & Jennifer Brozek
“Wolf at the Door” – Anthony R Cardno & Maurice Broaddus
“Ghost Drawl” – Erik T. Johnson & J Daniel Stone
“Golden Sun” – Richard Thomas, Kristi DeMeester, Damien Angelica Walters & Michael Wehunt
“Peregrination” – Chesya Burke & Lawana Holland-Moore
“Detritus Girl” – P. Gardner Goldsmith & Valerie Marcley
“Asperitas” – Kristopher Triana & Chad Stroup
“How We Broke” – Bracken MacLeod & Paul Michael Anderson
“The Long and the Short of It” – Erinn Kemper & F Paul Wilson
“The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward” – Sarah Monette & Elizabeth Bear
“In Her Flightless Wings, a Fire” – Emily Cataneo & Gwendolyn Kiste
4 graphic adaptations:
“Firedance” – Jack Ketchum & Glenn Chadbourne
“Fade to Null” – Brian Keene & Daniele Serra
“The Ghost of the Bayou Piténn” – James Chambers, Jason Whitley & Christopher Mills
“Sudden Sanctuary” – Glen Krisch & Orion Zangara
Check out the Written Backwards website for more details, or for direct links to purchase any of these titles.
. . . And I’ll have more announcements soon (very cool stuff that I can’t talk about yet)!
What are some of the things you enjoy doing when you’re not working? And how would you spend your time if there were no restrictions in place – either time or moneywise?
This is pretty much all I do: Write, read, draw, listen to music, play music, record music, and play in an Iggy Pop/Stooges cover band, METALLIC K.O. (We’ve only rehearsed 3x, but what rehearsals—hope to be gigging by fall of 2018). In the latter I just do Iggy, which is a fucking blast and we will take no prisoners. When that gets going I’ll be adding a section to my website, eriktjohnson.net, dedicated to that project.
If you had a superhero power, what would it be and what would you do first?
Cliché as it sounds, I think invisibility is a no-brainer. As a writer, I am naturally inclined towards seeing the forbidden (going so far as to watch myself for salacious neural events). I’m that guy who has to go as far as possible and then some, push the envelope so hard nobody can find it, striving (if failing) to write the most beautiful, filthy, outrageous, thoughtful, compassionate, humorous, satirical, scary, poignant, terrifying shit that I can. Fuck the stars; I believe in shooting for the harder targets of dark matter. I am the posterchild for going down in flames. I’d rather fail attempting to accomplish the impossible than safely produce work that takes no risks.
Where was I? Oh yeah, invisibility . . .
If you could spend the evening chatting with any one person from history, who would you choose and why? Language is not a problem.
Nikolai Tesla. Because, I mean, NIKOLAI TESLA!
You’re a guy who clearly loves words, I didn’t realize just how much until I read YES TRESPASSING, how do you think your fascination with language came to be?
I wrote my first “book” when I was five. It was called “My Life as a Convict” and ended with me getting my head cut off as punishment for murder. I’ve always been enraptured by words. I grew up in a family that held a lot of esoteric/occult beliefs, so I had things like The Egyptian Book of the Dead, The Finnish Kalevala, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and tons of other mythic literature on hand. These ancient books contain poetry in every line and to this day I am an ardent reader of ancient texts; I find the alien word constructions and conceptions intoxicating.
From the Book of the Dead:
“I am the great Benu-bird which is in Heliopolis, the supervisor of What Exists . . .
As for What Exists, that means his injury. It means Eternity and Everlasting.
As for Eternity, it means daytime; as for Everlasting, it means night.”
How gorgeous and mysterious is that?!
One more . . .
“He pushed stones straight into their mouths,
stacked rocks on the flat side for the best singers,
for those most proficient in song.
Thus he sang such men—one hither, on thither—off to treeless clearings,
fallow fields, to fishless ponds quite without perch,
sang them under the current into foam,
into rocks in the middle of the rapids,
to burn like fire, to flash like sparks . . . “
I also love poetry and feel more fiction writers should read it. The great poets like Rilke and Wislawa Szymborska, Lautréamont, Fernando Pessoa, and Anne Carson (to name a few) are such masters of language—magicians, really. I aspire to that in my prose. Why not write the most wonderful sentences you can?
More modern fascinations with language came through my discoveries of such authors as Mervyn Peake, Herman Melville, Clarice Lispector, Italo Calvino, Borges, Lord Dunsany, Georges Bataille, and William Burroughs, among many, many other Masters of the Word.
What are your three favorite books? And what are you reading now?
Three is a toughie. But these are close:
1. Moby Dick (Melville)
2. The Gormenghast Trilogy (Mervyn Peake)
3. The Maimed (Hermann Ungar)
If you could choose one time and place in history to visit for a day, where would it be and what would you do?
I would go to Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1969 and see The Stooges, Alice Cooper, the MC5, and The Flamin’ Groovies play on the same bill (Golden-Age Detroit rock is my favorite genre, though I love everything from Mahler to Leonard Cohen and Slayer).
What makes you laugh?
How would you like the world to remember you?
I’m more interested in how I’ll remember the world. Particularly in the interesting situation wherein such a recollection could be possible—and complete. I know when I’m dead I’m not gonna care what they think since there’ll be no “I.”
Erik T. Johnson has appeared in numerous periodicals and award-winning anthologies, including the #1 Amazon bestseller, I Can Taste the Blood (alongside bestselling author Josh Malerman and John F.D. Taff). Erik’s short fiction collection, Yes Trespassing, was called “electric” by Malerman; THIS IS HORROR UK wrote: “One of the best, most beautifully written collections of this or any other year. Erik T. Johnson is writing at a level that all authors, new and veteran alike, should aspire to. Because what Johnson has achieved with Yes Trespassing is nothing less than absolute greatness.”
I have read much of Erik’s work prior to reading YES TRESPASSING, and enjoyed it all. Frankly, YES TRESPASSING blew me away. I was thrilled to learn that he has more planned for PI Martin Box and hope that all of you will purchase and read this stunning and eclectic collection.