Welcome everyone. I’d like to also welcome our guest – J. G. Faherty, who has come down from New York to visit with us. JG, do you mind getting us started with a little about yourself, and where you come from?
- [I was] born in a small upstate NY town and I’ve lived most of my life in the ‘haunted’ lower Hudson Valley region of NY.
- I have a Bachelor’s in Biology. I started in English but switched. I originally wanted to be a field biologist but ended up in medical technology because the job prospects were a lot better. After that, I did biomedical research and lab equipment repairs for a while before switching to lab management. Then in 1999 I started my own business, a-perfect-resume.com, and I’ve been writing resumes and career search documents ever since.Family-wise, no siblings, married, no kids. We do a lot of traveling, hiking, etc. that’s limited only by pets. Hobby-wise, I play the guitar, we do wine tastings and craft beer tastings whenever we can, and I really dig bad SyFy movies!
Some of those can be quite fun, I’ll agree. When you think about your writing journey, do you remember where (or when) it all began?
- Technically, I began writing when I was in elementary school, doing funny little stories and comics. But except for one aborted attempt at a novel in college, I never really did any serious fiction writing until 1999. At the time I had a side job writing test prep books for The Princeton Review’s grade-school series, and part of that meant writing reading passages. It was a lot of fun, and I decided to try my hand at adult fiction. The first story I ever wrote almost made it into a major anthology (rejected!) and since then I never looked back.
- Like most writers, it [my writing] stems from loving to read and thinking this would be a great way to put the stories in my head into a more permanent medium.
- [My very first book came about because] I had a dream. No, I’m not quoting MLK. I really had a dream. About a demonic carnival where famous monsters come to life. The entire story – every character, every chapter, every twist and turn, came to me all at once. I got up that morning and grabbed a notebook and pen and spent the next 10 days writing it all out longhand. That ended up becoming CARNIVAL OF FEAR, which went through 5 years of revisions and submissions before getting published.
Sounds like you are another subject of the muse’s ultimatum: Write the story now, or else! ::Grins:: Do you have a point before Carnival of Fear was published that you look back at and think, “There! That is when I officially became an author.”?
- The day I sold my first short story at a professional rate was a big turning point. And then having well-known authors like Thomas Monteleone, F. Paul Wilson, and Michael McBride tell me I had what it takes to be a successful writer made me realize I had crossed the line from hobby to professional.
That would definitely give almost anyone I know a big boost to keep going. Do you have any favorite books or authors that you go back to for inspiration upon occasion?
- As a kid, I devoured mysteries and horror, everything from The Hardy Boys to Poe. Reading about the adventures of field biologists (sounds funny, right?) stoked my own craving for adventure. A book like Snakes and Snake Hunting, about people hiking and camping in the wilderness while on the trail for deadly snakes, or Lucy, the story of the discovery of Australopithocine remains in Africa, captured my attention as much as any monster tale.
Do you have a favorite author who you look up to as a mentor figure, even if you haven’t met them?
- Of all time? In horror, it would probably be Stephen King, although that most likely sounds so ‘typical.’ But he’s a writer I grew up with, from Carrie to his current books. He’s had his ups and downs, particularly in the 2000s, but that stretch from the 70s to the 90s produced some of the greatest horror and dark fiction ever written. For me, best aspect of his writing is his use of language. Not too high brow, but not too simple. He doesn’t write down to the lowest denominator but he isn’t pretentious either. And he has a real talent for dialog and description.
- [For mentors, however,] I couldn’t choose one. Mine would be F. Paul Wilson, Thomas Monteleone, Jack Ketchum, Mort Castle, Jonathan Maberry, and Deborah LeBlanc.
Are any of their books in the place of honor in your reading pile, or does someone else hold that spot for the moment?
- At the moment, I just finished BITE by Gardner Goldsmith. A very fun vampire novella.
Might be interesting to look up that one. I’ve found a few new authors who have some wonderful twists on the old tropes. What about you, any new authors who have caught your eye?
- Hell, yes. Gardner Goldsmith. Rena Mason. Michael McBride. Chantal Noordeloos. Patrick Frievald. Sydney Leigh. Erinn Kemper. Peter Salomon.
Sounds like at least one of these ladies and gentleman has made you a devoted fan. ::Grins:: Going back to your own work, are you at a point where you can share some recent news and maybe a little about your newest project?
- Let’s see, my most recent novel, THE CURE, came out this past June and has been doing very well. I also had a novella, WINTERWOOD, come out in June. Later this fall, my next novella, Death Do Us Part, will be published. My other big news is that during the month of August three of my out of print books, CARNIVAL OF FEAR, THE COLD SPOT, and HE WAITS, will be back in print and available on my website and through Amazon.
- Right now I’m splitting my time between some short stories and a novella that I keep trying to finish but it’s playing hard to get.
Well do I understand that. I’d offer the sticky tape, but it hasn’t worked too well on my own story. ::Blushes:: Sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt. ::Mimes zipping my lip::
- Here’s the opening section from a novel I’ve been tinkering around with:Bartimus Jones tried to shout for help as the monster came at him with the scalpel, but the drugs they’d given him wouldn’t allow it. He was paralyzed, petrified like a statue, unable to move anything except his eyes and his lungs.The monster was a horrible creature with a monkey’s face, except its eyes were red and no monkey ever had giant fangs or a neck that spread wide like a cobra’s. When it spoke, its rank breath fell on Bart in polluted waves.”You shouldn’t be able to see us, little boy.”
I don’t want to! Seeing the monsters hadn’t been his idea; it had just happened. He’d been at the movies with his parents, celebrating his tenth birthday. A matinee double feature, The Monster Squad and Ghoulies II. During the intermission between movies, he’d gone to pee while his parents got popcorn and candy.
He was washing his hands when he heard the first gunshot.
His first thought was they’d started the movie already, so he shut the water off and hurried to the hand dryer, pissed at himself for taking too long.
Then the screaming started.
Lots of it. And more explosions, which he realized were much louder than if they’d been part of a movie. Suddenly afraid, Bartimus inched the bathroom door open.
And saw something that made the scariest movie seem like a kiddie film.
Horrible monsters stood in the lobby, three of them, shooting their guns into the frenzied crowd of people trying to escape. The monsters laughed and shouted while they fired over and over; people cried out and fell, were instantly lost in a sea of legs. Men and women and children trampled each other in the mad rush for the exits. Blood flew through the air and splattered against the walls and candy counter.
One of the monsters turned and looked right at Bart. It wore a man’s clothes but it wasn’t a man. Its skin was lumpy and gross, all different colors of red, like a bubbling pizza. Clumps of hair stuck out from its cheeks and head. A flat, wide nose sat above whiskered lips that were drawn back to reveal row after row of curved, pointed teeth. Behind them, a fat, bloated tongue wriggled with repulsive anticipation.
The monster smiled, its lips dripping green phlegm and its yellow-centered eyes bulging from their sockets like two fried eggs about to burst.
Bart had screamed and ducked back into the bathroom. There he’d locked himself in a stall and climbed up on the toilet seat, his hands clamped over his mouth so the monster wouldn’t hear him if it came in. Eyes shut tight, he prayed his parents would come for him before the monsters did.
He’d stayed there until after the shooting stopped and the police showed up.
They were monsters, too.
That was when Bart lost it. He screamed, over and over, unable to stop. He tried to break free as they dragged him out of the bathroom and into the blood-soaked lobby, two giant lizard-things wearing blue uniforms over their scaly bodies. They looked nothing like the monsters who’d been doing the shooting but they were just as scary. In fact, the only thing scarier was that no one but him could see them.
Bart shouted for help, shouted for his mother and father, but his words were lost amidst the wailing of the police and ambulance sirens outside. People white and blue uniforms rushed back and forth, some carrying bodies on stretchers, the sheets stained red, others dashing here and there to help the injured.
No one paid attention to Bart’s cries, not even when he pointed at the police and hollered “Monster!” over and over. He didn’t stop until an ambulance man came over and stuck a needle in his arm. After that, everything got real fuzzy.
He saw people being carried out, their clothes drenched in blood, their eyes closed, their mouths open in silent screams. He watched body parts get loaded into plastic containers. He tried to call out for his parents again but his legs had no strength and he collapsed to the rough, dirty carpet, where he wept as everything disappeared into a murky tunnel, a tunnel that kept shrinking until nothing remained but the dark.
Bart came to naked and tied to a bed, with yet another horrible monster standing over him. A stinking monkey-monster in a white coat, the one that was talking to him now. Up close, its face was grosser than ever and the putrid reek of it – like decayed flesh covered in wet fur – made Bart’s stomach churn.
There were other people in the room, too – Bart could hear them moving around and talking – but he couldn’t see them.
“You might think I’m being cruel,” the monster said, waving its scalpel back and forth. Each word sent more of its stench crashing down on Bart. The silvery blade glittered under the bright lights. Seeing it made Bart want to cry, because he knew what scalpels were for.
They were for cutting people open.
“But I’m doing you a favor.” The monster moved even closer, filling Bart’s nose with the nasty odors of dirty monkey fur and rotten meat. “The others wanted to eat you and kill you, because that’s what we’re supposed to do with little boys. You’re a special one, though. That’s why we’re going to keep you here forever. And everyone on the outside will simply remember you as the crazy boy.”
Strong hands gripped his arms and legs, but Bart couldn’t move his eyes to see who was holding him.
“I hope you enjoyed your movie, crazy boy. It’s the last one you’ll ever see.”
The monster’s face moved away but the scalpel took its place, and that scared Bart even more. The deadly blade grew closer and closer, until he couldn’t focus on it.
Then it pierced his eye.
The pain was immediate and excruciating, more awful than anything he’d ever felt. Despite the effects of the drugs, his arms and legs still twitched and the hands holding him pressed down harder. Bart’s mouth remained frozen but his mind howled. The agony grew worse than terrible, worse than unbearable. It gripped every inch of his body, inside and out, while the monster twisted and turned the blade around the eyeball. A grinding vibration filled his skull as metal scraped against bone. Warm fluids poured down Bart’s cheek and over his lips, filling his mouth with the taste of salt and pennies. There was a sensation of pulling, like the time he’d tried to yank out a loose tooth, only a thousand times worse and in his brain instead of his mouth. Fireworks exploded inside his skull, yellow and white and red rockets piercing flesh and ricocheting from front to back and side to side.
And then it was over and he knew his eye was gone forever. The pain was still terrible but confined to the right side of his face instead of his entire body.
Through the pounding of his pulse in his ears, he heard the monster speak again.
“Did you like that, crazy boy? I hope so, because we still have one more to go.”
It was even worse the second time.
OK, remind me never to get you upset. That’s rather intense. ::Shudders:: Do you draw from reality or your own experiences when you’re writing, by any chance?
- In the case of THE CURE, no. I have incorporated people and events from my own life into other stories, but not this one.
- Who can say for sure? A lot of the settings are based on real places in the lower Hudson Valley. I’m sure there are corporations who hire ‘cleaners’ and secret government agencies investigating new bioweapons, etc. But where is the line between fact and fiction? It changes all the time. I worry more about keeping the important things realistic – how people react in situations, what their emotional responses and feelings are, how they interact with one another.
I’m not sure which is more frightening then. That you have the ability to deliver such an emotional punch in such a short excerpt without personal experience to fuel it, or just how much more impact you would have if you DID have experience to turbo charge the impact.
I know I asked, and in the right frame of mind, I would enjoy the book your excerpt comes from. Just wasn’t quite prepared for it here. ::grins:: It almost sounds like there may be the start of a message hidden in there. Do you ever deliberately weave messages into your work for the readers to find?
- In my latest novel, THE CURE? Other than ‘treat your pets well,’ I don’t think so. There are some obvious bits of subcontext to it, like distrusting the government and big corporations, standing up for yourself, the power of love, all that kind of thing, but no hidden messages or morals. Not every story has a deep meaning – some are meant just to entertain!
Fair enough, and I can also fully respect those stories as well. Since it sounds like you write across multiple genres, do you have a unique style that you write in?
- I’ve done everything from quiet suspense to over the top comic gruesomeness and everything in between.
I’m sure the genre helps define the style then. Do you have any challenges or lessons you’ve run into that you’re comfortable sharing?
- The ability to stay focused. I have a tendency to bounce from one project to the next instead of finishing one before moving on. Consequently, I’ll have 5-6 things going on at the same time, and months will go by without finishing any of them, and then all of a sudden a year later I’ve got a whole bunch of things to submit.
- Keeping a good balance between the action scenes and the scenes of individual emotional ups and downs. It’s a book about one person and her struggles, but at the same time there is a bigger picture in terms of how many enemies she has.
Any lessons that have really stuck with you as you’ve come through the rough spots?
- How to keep action flowing even during times when there isn’t any actual action.
If you had to start over, knowing what you do today, on your latest work; would you change anything?
- Not a single thing. There are some books I would go back and make minor adjustments to, but THE CURE isn’t one of them. Now, ask me again in 10 years and I might have a different answer!
Do you have a supportive folks who help when you hit the rough spots beyond your immediate family?
- That makes it sound like a ghost! I’ve gotten a lot of support over the years. First and foremost from the Horror Writers Association, which has been invaluable to my career. The lessons I learned from the Borderlands Boot Camp for Writers helped me get my writing to the next level so I could get published. And there’ve been some reviewers, including Peter Schwotzer at Famous Monsters of Filmland and Dave Gammon at Horrornews.net who’ve been big supporters of mine over the years.
Sounds like you’ve got a nice network to lean on when things start biting back. With your comment about taking your writing to the next level, does this mean that you see writing as your career?
- Yes, and no. I see it as a profession, because I am focused on delivering quality work and placing that work in professional markets. But not a career, because it’s very rare these days that a writer can do nothing but write and still make enough money to not only live on, but live comfortably and set aside enough for a healthy retirement. Unless you hit with a NY Times bestseller or have a book turned into a blockbuster movie, it makes more financial sense to not quit the day job.
That’s true. But we call all dream of being the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. I’m sure you get asked quite often about your covers and titles. Do you have a specific method to select them, or do you work with someone else to craft the perfect one for each story?
- The cover for my first book, CARNIVAL OF FEAR, was done by my friend Steven Gilberts. Danielle Serra did a couple of my novella covers. The rest have been done by the art staff of my publishers, of which the folks at Samhain Publishing have produced some amazing cover art. Check out FATAL CONSEQUENCES, CULT OF THE BLACK JAGUAR, LEGACY, and THIEF OF SOULS. Absolutely great stuff.
- [As for the titles] sometimes it comes first, and sometimes it comes at the end. No rhyme or reason to it.
Both are rather memorable. (Seriously, folks, check out the covers. I’ve linked them for you to make it easy.)
The other elephant in the room: What advise would you pass on to other authors who are not as far along their journey as you?
- The same as I always give. Work hard, improve yourself, read a lot, and don’t give up. And remember, you’re never as good as your best review and never as bad as your worst one.
For those of use still struggling to get reviews, that makes it a very small space to work in, though I’m sure as we write, that space will get bigger.
Before I completely wrap up today’s visit, any words for our readers?
- If you buy a book—mine or anyone else’s—please help out by going to Amazon and leaving a review if you enjoyed the book. The more reviews a book gets, the better it gets promoted, so you’re really helping writers out when you do that.
Thank you JG for your appeal for reviews. That is so important for every author. And, thank you so much for stopping by to visit. It has been fun, and a little shivery, to have you over today. I really enjoyed getting to know you a little better.
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And, don’t forget, JG will be back in a few days so that Leah DeGarmo can visit with us. Look forward to seeing you then.