John F Leonard- Author Interview (2019)

Hey guys, Jaye here again to bring you another amazing author for you to go check out: horror author John F Leonard. John hails from the England and is an author who can spin an incredible read from the usual and the mundane by turning the topics on their head. Beautiful character crafting and scenarios that will have chills running up and down your spine and leave you thinking about them long after you are done reading. A dash of social commentary, a morsel of suspense, and a huge dollop of terror will have you clamoring to read more! So let’s get to the questions for him:

Why horror? What got you interested in writing in that genre?

The simplest answer is that I like reading horror and I think you’re best writing something you would like to read. That was all I ever really wanted to do when I started out – write something for myself. A book I’d see and think, yeah, I fancy reading that. I’ve still got the same ambition.

It also depends on your definition of horror. For me, it has clear cross-overs with science fiction – apocalyptic and dystopian stuff – and yet goes beyond that. Elements of horror are found in a lot of the ‘mainstream’ genres. I wouldn’t want to tackle a romance, for example – believe it or not, I have been asked – but a horror romance, now that’s not entirely out of the question. : )

Who are some of your favorite authors, or inspirations or who inspired you?

Too many to list them all. Some of the earliest include James Herbert, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Stephen Donaldson, A.A. Attanasio, Robert McCammon.

It’s a toughie – the early ones are the easiest and still difficult – how far back to go, how do you identify/isolate influence?

I’m holding off on mentioning newer writers because I haven’t read enough recently. That’s a sad admission, but it’s the truth. There are only so many hours in my day and I’m spending most of them writing/working – that’s set to change, once I’ve got through my backlog of work/rejigged my schedule.

Your art work is amazing, any formal training?

I had an excellent education, and it included art. Your strengths (to whatever degree) are invariably your interests – Art, English, History. They were all subjects that fascinated me. Of course, that was a long time ago.

As far as art goes, I sold quite a few sculptures and paintings and came to the awful realisation that it wasn’t going to pay the bills. I drifted away, like you do. Got lost in trying to survive the world.

Sometimes you go back though, rediscover your first loves. Sculpture, drawing, painting – I wasn’t sure what I had left in me for those.

Language, the written word, was a different matter.

It felt like I’d never really explored what I could do there. I think the desire to write is probably the last great motivation I’ll have in my life. When that urge is spent, I’ll be happy to watch the grass grow.

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Where do you get your ideas?

Everywhere and anywhere. I have a list of ideas – it grows nearly as quickly as my To Be Read books and To Be Watched movies list. Reality and its subversion is something currently grabbing my interest. The Scaeth Mythos/Dead Boxes have their foundation in that concept.

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What frightens you?

Mortality – my own and that of my loved ones. There’s a terrible fragility to life. It wasn’t something that concerned me when I was younger, but I worry about it a lot these days.

There are other things. Stupidity, for one. That scares the brown stuff out of me. Not being able to intelligently reason is a surefire recipe for bad decisions and worse outcomes. It’s great friends with greed, you often find them skipping hand in hand through the wastelands they’ve created.

Heights is another, more prosaic one. Not in and of themselves – nothing wrong with simply being up high, its height combined with a feeling of vulnerability. Standing at the top of the Eiffel Tower is an amazing experience. Beautiful and breathtaking. Stuck at the top of a stepladder trying to fix your roof is insane!

Thinking on it, probably doesn’t count – comes under mortality.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Nothing very exciting. I love to read when I’m not knee deep in my own writing.

Television – I can vegetate in front of the box with the best of them. My viewing mostly consists of horror, science fiction, comedies. Some drama, although a lot of it is dross. Some sport, football and snooker. Current affairs (when you can filter the truth from what the networks want to give you).

I like a drink and relaxing with family and friends. Don’t do enough of that.

Sleep! I know that sounds factitious, but there’s nothing like a genuinely restful spell under the duvet.

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Do you have a writing muse or mantra?

I don’t think so. Not sure I actually subscribe to the idea (on a personal level). I believe the need to create exists in most of us. How it comes out is down to the individual – art, writing, learning how to fix the plumbing. Whatever.

For me, the process isn’t always easy. It’s often hard work. Putting in the effort and hours. What makes it worthwhile is the end result. Well, sometimes anyway. Now and again, you finish up, wipe your hands on the oily rag, and find out you’ve written a turkey. Or the damn tap is still dripping : )

Whilst I love it, writing doesn’t belong on any sort of pedestal. It’s an admirable ability, but ultimately just another skill.

Where did the Scaeth Mythos come from?

It began with me asking family and friends to suggest a name for an Irish vampire (I’m of Irish heritage and very proud of the fact).

I was inundated by ideas – seems my folk can’t resist taking the pee. ‘Mick the Biter’ was one suggestion that made me howl with laughter.

Anyway, I cogitated and researched and eventually got to ‘The Scaeth’.

The vampire side of it also morphed into something else. Broadened into a bigger concept. The Scaeth is a kind of cosmic vampire. A parasite infesting the walls of reality. It’s hollowed out a space for itself and no longer resides in any universe, just plunders those it can access. Dips into them to interfere and feed. It loves to feed.

If you could have dinner with any 5 people, living/dead/real/fiction who would it be and why?

That’s a killer question! Can’t even begin to factor in fictional. This would change with my mood, but here we go:

  1. R. Giger – The mind that created Alien, that’s all I need say. Plus, I’d try to persuade him to get me a Harkonnen chair.

George Best – knew how to enjoy himself and my favourite footballer.

Peter Cushing – a gentleman, part of the Hammer Horror crew so lots of gossip/insights.

Siouxsie Sioux (from the Banshees) – a punk presence.

James Herbert – ignited my love of horror and struck me as a bloke with hidden depths.

We’d need an extra seat – my wife is usually at my side for big events.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve been busy lately with some shorter fiction, novellas of varying lengths. I may put together a collection of what’s already out there along with new, unpublished stuff. After that a novel is most likely.

My latest is A Plague of Pages – another story from the Dead Boxes Archive. In the same territory as Bad Pennies and Call Drops. Old school horror, to my way of thinking anyway, about the perils of writing under diabolical influence.

What happens when a normal guy wants to redefine himself and become a horror writer …it doesn’t work how he plans. Not surprising, there are supernatural, cosmic forces cooking the books, so as to speak : )

I want to thank John so much for taking the time to answer my questions and may I say his dinner guest list was inspiring. If you would like to know more about John, read his works or connect with him on social media, just follow these links:

A Plague of Pages:

AMAZON UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07N7MPMGN

AMAZON US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07N7MPMGN

Get in touch with John on Twitter – https://twitter.com/john_f_leonard

John F Leonard Author Pages:

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/l/B01BHUE6Z6/

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/John-F-Leonard/e/B01BHUE6Z6/

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14953570.John_F_Leonard

 

Edmund Lester Author-Interview (2018)

I had the extremely fun chance to interview author I.E. Lester for my site. I enjoy his books immensely and I hope that you will check them out and read them also! This is going to be fun so lets get down to the questions!

In a Parallel Life you got the music scene down, are you a musician? Do you play an instrument? Any fun stories?

~Thanks for the praise on the music part. But no, I’m not a musician. Although I am married to one. My wife is a saxophonist in a jazz band. I did try my hand at playing guitar… and bass guitar… and drums when I was younger but I was completely terrible at them all and decided the world would be better off without me polluting the air with my pitiful attempts at making music. Trust me, it was bad.

I am however a lifelong fan of music, of rock music, folk music and most especially progressive rock and have music playing at all times when I’m working/writing.

Hmm, funny story? First one that comes to mind was back from my school years. A number of my school friends formed a band, as teenagers do, and did actually play a number of gigs around the Birmingham area. Being my size, I’m more than two metres (between 6’7″-6’8″) tall and back then played rugby so was well built, I used to help out with the band, carry the instruments and help work the door, collecting the moneys on behalf of the band.

Before each of these gigs I would have the usual conversations with the venue’s regular door security team and it one key topic would be the age restrictions. Depending on the type of venue this was either 18 or 21. We could not allow anyone in if they were under that age at it could risk the publican’s license. All makes sense, except for the fact I was 17 when we were doing all this. My being there broke the conditions. I guess being my size they just assumed I was old enough. No one ever checked.

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What are some of your favorite bands and what music helps inspire your writing? (I listen to a lot of John Carpenter 😉)

~The first band I ever listened to seriously back in the late 70s was the Who. I saw a documentary about them on TV and liked the music. I badgered my mother after seeing it to take me to a music shop so I could buy an album by them, and came away with a double LP compilation of the first ten years of the band. I absolutely loved it and was hooked on music from that point.

The Who are still a favourite although they have been joined by many others over the years. Here’s a sampling – Rush, Dream Theater, Bruce Springsteen, Yes, Frank Zappa, King Crimson, Metallica, Tom waits, Iron Maiden, Jethro Tull, Fairport Convention, Pink Floyd, It Bites, Tanita Tikaram, Suzanne Vega

I could go on.

I find any of these excellent music to inspire me when writing. But there are some artists I struggle to listen to when writing. I quite like the surreal pop/rock of They Might Be Giants but as the lyrics are such a stand out part of each of their songs I find they get in the way of my own words.

I’m listening to Neal Morse’s Testimony 2 as I complete this interview. I find his music, his solo work, and in the many bands he’s been part of, absorbing – well maybe his prog work. His non-prog, more singer-songwriter isn’t quite my thing, even though I do like a lot of singer-songwriters.

Why write horror?

~The first adult books I ever read were horror books albeit by accident. I was reading Roald Dahl’s kids books borrowed from the school library and with Christmas coming up my mother decided to buy me a couple as a present. Only she didn’t realize Roald Dahl wrote adult horror stories as well as children’s books and that’s what she bought. I was nine… and I loved them. That was my fate sealed.

Add to this the fact I watched more horror films over the years than I think I can count, most of which were truly terrible, and I have this repository of horror-ness lodged into my brain so I guess it’s natural that when I think of ideas for stories a significant number of them are going to be dark.

Horror also fits well for someone who lives in a country like England. There are just so many places here that seem a little spooky. This country is filled with castles, prehistoric sites like stone circles, Gothic churches – history wherever you look. To me old places naturally go with the idea of ghosts and other supernatural creatures. Just take a look through any of the folk tales from all over Europe and you’ll find a lot of supernatural

The town where I live (Ashby de la Zouch) has hundreds of years of history, traces of which you can see by walking around if you just take the time to look.

That and the other reason – if someone annoys you in life you can write them into the story then make them suffer.

What are some of your favorite horror movies, books, and authors?

~My favourite horror writer has to be Stephen King, the Stand, admittedly not a straight up horror book, being my favourite of his. But add in Misery, It, Carrie, Salem’s Lot, the Shining (plus, plus, plus) and you have an incredible body of work.

But I also love Dean Koontz, Richard Laymon (the Stake is brilliant), Brian Keene, Phil Rickman, Graham Masterton (has to be Tengu or Manitou) and James Herbert (Secret of Crickley Hall, Fog, Rats).

I do tend to find British horror differs a lot from American. As mentioned above I find creepy in history. But a lot of American horror, given the shorter history, has it in people. There’s a lot more tales of teenagers with freaky powers, puberty seemingly being a big bad switch on in US horror, maybe it’s something in the water, and lot more of the hicks in the middle of nowhere horror. The UK doesn’t have enough space to have towns and villages that cut off from the rest of civilization so I don’t think those stories would work here.

With films I have an all-time favourite – the original Halloween. Absolutely brilliant film. I thought Saw was great and have enjoyed the rest of the series although none are a patch on the first. I enjoyed the latest version of It although find it falls short of being a great on one count. It doesn’t have Tim Curry. I think if I’d not seen the TV mini-series and Curry’s performance I would consider it great. Bill Skarsgård was great but Tim Curry is one of my favourite actors.

What inspires you?

~Anything and everything. I know it’s a trite answer but it’s true. I’ve found ideas reading science papers (yes, I’m that sad), history books, visiting odd places, reading about other cultures, antiques I’ve bought at antique fairs (the Intersection is based on an old movie projector), and watching movies, especially bad movies.

My novel the Stairs Lead Down came from one movie session. I was watching a particularly terrible horror movie with my wife and at the end I went on a rant about just how bad I thought it was and how I’d have done it different. So she said, ‘Ok, do it’. Well I went through the plot of the movie (I wish I could remember which one it was) and started making changes. Pretty soon I’d thrown away everything single aspect of the film story – the location (I moved it from the US to the UK), the characters (the original had adults, my leads are teenagers), the basic story (I think it was zombies or something like zombies in the original, mine has ghosts and a necromancer), and pretty much everything else besides. The film, in the end, was a catalyst to get my mind going, and for that I can thank it. Still wish I could remember which film it was, but having watched thousands of horror movies I lose track.

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How do you get past writers block?

~This is a tough one. To be truthful I don’t know. I do know that when I’m not in the mood for it forcing it is a bad idea; or at least with regards ending up with anything publishable. I have a file on my hard drive of random typing. If I’m stuck I open it and start putting words down. Not words in a random sense, I do form them into sentences which tend to be linked. But I don’t worry about characters, plot or anything like that. I just go for stream of consciousness rambling. It’s led to more than one story.

It doesn’t always work, though. When I’m truly stuck I find getting away from the keyboard is the best idea. When it comes to starting a new story, there’s something far easier about doing it with pen and paper. And I find it works even better when I’m not able to do anything other than scribble down thoughts. If I’m in a writing funk and there’s a TV nearby it’s hopeless. I’ll spend an entire evening skimming through YouTube watching total rubbish.

But put me in a car in the middle of nowhere for several hours with a notebook and pens (always take a spare) and great things can happen. I’ve whiled away many hours filling pages with my barely legible scrawl and by the end of these hours usually found I have a new story underway. My current work in progress, a Gothic horror novella called Alabaster started in just such a way two weeks ago.

Why write a YA book and was is hard for that mindset?

~When I was creating the plot for the Stairs Lead Down I wasn’t thinking about writing a ya book. I just wanted to come up with a story I liked enough to try writing. When I’d molded into the plot I liked I found my focus was on a pair of fourteen year old twins. With that focus it felt kind of natural to aim it at young adults.

As for hard, not really. My thoughts about ya fiction is there should be little difference between it and adult fiction, once you take out the obvious no-nos for ya books. So no erotica, no over the top violence or language and all should be good. Well it would as long as the content of the plot isn’t outside the life experience of your average teenager. I’ve often said that (apart from the erotica I mentioned above) the only subject I don’t think would be suitable for younger readers is political intrigue. But I am happy if someone proves me wrong. Young adults are on the cusp of being adults. They should not be treated all that differently, so a good young adult book should be readable by all age groups from then up.

But it’s an odd thing, classifying a book as young adult. My two novellas, the Intersection and a Parallel Life, feature no content more obviously adult than the Stairs Lead Down; maybe the occasional curse word but that’s it. But the main character is a 49 year old accountant and the things that happen to him are in the “odd” category so it probably wouldn’t appeal to a younger reader.

What do you want people to know about you?

~I’m tall. I may have mentioned that – Two metres, one centimetre, or a little over six feet seven in old measure. But I’m friendly, so don’t get scared. And I’m not as pompous as I seem to be.

What scares you?

~I used to say nothing did. But after my wife’s serious illness at the start of this year I know that was just a flippant reply. My biggest fear, one I came too close to experiencing, would be to lose her.

Do you have a personal mantra?

~I have a couple of thing I try to live by. Enjoy life and be nice to people.

I want to thank Mr. Lester for taking the time to answer my questions because there is nothing better for me then getting to probe the minds of the people whose works I enjoy! If you want to learn more, we have included the following links:

@ielester on Twitter

Books:

In the UK

Stairs Lead Down

A Parallel Life

The Intersection

And in the US

Stairs Lead Down

A Parallel Life

The Intersection

 

 

 

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