Welcome to Cat After Dark The King of Pain! It’s a thrill to have you here, John, I’ve enjoyed reading your stories for quite some time. I guess the obvious place to start is with your nickname. How did you come to be called “The King of Pain”?
Thanks for having me! And thanks for enjoying my stories.
Yes, my “King of Pain” nickname. When Tony Rivera at Grey Matter Press first read my novella collection The End in All Beginnings, he thought of how he could market it and me. What was it that was the thread that kind of drew all the stories together? What he settled on was the emotional resonance that much of my work has. In other words, Pain. So…King of Pain. I think that when it first got out there, we were both a little embarrassed about it. But it seems to have articulated something that many readers have felt about my work, too. And so we’ve both come to embrace it. Grey Matter is publishing a new collection of short stories from me later this summer entitled Little Black Spots, a reference to a line in The Police song “King of Pain.” If that doesn’t say I’ve embraced the nickname, nothing will.
What are you working on now? What does your publishing schedule look like for the future?
I’m actually pretty busy right now. I’ve got that collection, Little Black Spots, coming out this summer. It’s composed of 50% previously published work and 50% brand, spankin’ new stories. I should be able to make an announcement soon regarding my big, sprawling end-of-the-world novel The Fearing. Me and my four blood brothers—Joe Schwartz, Erik T. Johnson, J. Daniel Stone and Josh Malerman—are working on stories for a follow up to our collection I Can Taste the Blood, this one called I Can Hear the Shadows. I’ve got another big iron in the fire with a group of other authors, for a project that should be announced soon. Then, I’m working with Brian Kirk on a project and with Josh Malerman on at least two other things. I’m hoping to have my next novel, He Left, done this summer. Whew. That’s just for this year and next.
What are some of the things you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I like to read, though that’s getting harder and harder to do, at least for pleasure. Other than that, I love movies, cooking, hanging out with my wife and pugs. We also have a fairly large garden, and I like to tinker around with that. I collect an inordinate number of things, mostly Hot Toys Marvel figures and Star Trek ships. Yes, I’m a geek.
When did you first start telling stories? Do you remember your first story?
I’ve always, and I mean always had a love for reading, and that led to me trying my hand at writing from a fairly early age, if just to entertain myself. I don’t remember my first story, but when I was young I was really into Marvel Comics and Sherlock Holmes and Ellery Queen short mystery stories. I tried my hand at writing and illustrating comic books, and I remember writing little horror/detective story pastiches. I seem to remember writing some story when was probably 12 or 13 that involved a space shuttle disaster—kind of weirdly prescient—though I don’t remember much about it and don’t have a copy of it anymore.
If you could spend the evening having drinks with any one person from history, who would you choose and why? Language is not a problem.
Hmmm…I’ll answer that in two ways. First, who would be fascinating to have a few drinks with? Poe. Wouldn’t that be an evening? I think he’d be all kinds of crazy interesting. Who would be fascinating in a more uplifting sense? Lincoln. Though he probably wouldn’t drink, and I’d be too frankly amazed to drink.
What are your three favorite books? And what are you reading now?
My three favorite books of all time? Sheesh. I’ll give you three, in no particular order. First, The Throat by Peter Straub, my all-time favorite writer and one of my (if not the) favorite novels. The Second would be The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson, which is actually a 10-book series, and as such is a cheaty way of answering your question. The third (or more precisely the 12th) would be Night Shift by Stephen King. That was my introduction to King and his mastery of the short story and as such occupies a special place in my reading heart.
Right now, I am reading Priya Sharma’s lovely All the Fabulous Beasts, a collection of her beautiful short stories, and Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman. I love Malerman’s work. His collection Goblin was one of the absolute best books I’ve read recently, and this new one and its weird western vibe has really hooked me. I just finished Brian Kirk’s upcoming book Will Haunt You, which is a stunner, and Erik T. Johnson’s brilliant dark fantasy Sunday, which he wrote with Michael Bailey. Look for these two books soon.
If you could switch bodies with one person for one day, who would it be? What would you do?
Oh lord, probably someone younger and thinner. And I hesitate to share what I’d do, other than eat and make myself fat all over again.
When you write, do you usually listen to music? If so, what type? Does it affect your storyline?
Yes, I generally have music going when I write, to help me set the mood. But I can’t listen to music with lyrics, as it makes it difficult for me to write. So a lot of classical music and soundtracks. But music plays a huge role in my writing, showing up in my stories and helping to define characters. I also love musicians who are great lyricists, as I look to song lyrics to help me with titles.
What were your favorite books growing up?
I loved anything Sherlock Holmes. Books on ghosts and UFOs and the Loch Ness Monster and the Yeti and Bigfoot aWnd other paranormal stuff played a major role in my reading list. I also loved books like the D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths and Book of Norse Myths. Science fiction (Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein) and fantasy (Tolkien, Donaldson,Vance, Silverberg, Zelazny) also played a huge part in my reading as a teenager. When I finally got into horror, it was Poe, King, Straub, Rice, Garton, Ketchum, Barker. They were the biggies.
How would you like the world to remember you?
If I’m remembered at all, I’d like to be remembered as a writer that people liked to read. And, of course, a helluva nice guy.
Well, since doing this interview last spring LITTLE BLACK SPOTS was delayed. So, I still haven’t read it as it’s still going through the editing process and has a publishing date of September 11, 2018. Keep watching the Random Reviews page since I’ll update that as soon as I finish what is sure to be an awesome read.
Be sure to follow John on Twitter. Keep up with his incredibly prolific writing schedule. His webpage is worth checking out – don’t forget to bookmark it! And as you can see from beautiful Sadie’s picture above, he is also on Instagram. One of these days I will figure out how to maneuver my way around there…