December 4, 2014

The Nature of Horror: an interview with John Everson, author of "The Family Tree"

John Everson is at it again this fall with a new horror novel through Samhain Publishing called The Family Tree. You can find yourself a copy by visiting or buy it directly from Samhain Publishing, or wherever else fine books are sold. But before you do, you may be interested to read the interview I did with John to gain a better appreciation for his work. Enjoy.

Gef: As I understand it, The Family Tree started out as a novella, but kind of grew into a short novel. When it comes to novellas, I've come to really appreciate them since the rise of the ebook. How has your experience with that particular story length been over the years, both as a writer and a reader?

John: I guess I have no real affinity for novellas either as a reader, or, apparently, as a writer LOL!  I’ve read a few and enjoyed them, but I tend to want a full novel if I’m going to dig in and read something more than a short story, so I haven’t sought them out.  I know novellas are hot these days, thanks, I think, to the intersection of e-readers   and short attention spans. So I agreed in 2013 to try to write one. But I realized halfway through writing The Family Tree that I’d overestimated how much “story” I could fit into a 30-40,00 word novella. At the end, the book came in close to 70,000 words. My shortest novel, but definitely not a novella. I have nothing against novellas… they just don’t seem to be my natural “groove.”

Gef: How intensive was the research process for you? What little tricks have you picked up with approaching the research phase of writing?

John: Honestly, I haven’t really needed to do a lot of heavy research for my books.  My stories haven’t called for a lot of deep technical knowledge or historical back-story, since most of the “histories” behind my novels have been completely made up. I will use Google Maps to try to set a story in the proper geographical space, and I’ve done Google searches to look up certain aspects of demonology or witchcraft or Indian lore or the meaning of a name… but other than that… mostly I just make shit up!

Gef: What do you consider to be the strength or saving grace of the horror genre?

John: Horror taps in to the universal fears that we all share. Fear of the dark, fear of the unknown, fear of death. And because of that, it will always have an audience – it strikes a universal chord. Because fear is something we all share. Horror gives us thrills and chills because we can identify with the characters… we all understand being afraid.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

John: I’m a pretty independent cuss – I don’t workshop my stories or really let anyone read them before they go to whatever editor they’re aimed at. I did send a couple of my novels to proofreaders just before they went to the editor, but mostly there have been no eyes on the books between my computer and the editor’s desk. So I haven’t really gotten much advice over the years. I don’t ask for it, and people haven’t tried to tell me what to do (or if they have, I guess I’ve just stubbornly ignored them!) That’s not the right path for everyone, but it’s the right path for me. 

I’ve always believed that there are people who have a natural voice to tell stories, just as there are people who are naturally funny or naturally in love with numbers. I don’t think you can “teach” anyone those talents if they don’t start out with the affinity. You can hone an existing proclivity, but I don’t think you can give a ‘non-storyteller’ a voice. I think you either have a voice that people enjoy reading, or you don’t. I don’t think I have the best storytelling voice in the world, not by a longshot. But it’s enough that some people keep coming back. So… I don’t ask other people what they would do with a story I’m working on because then it wouldn’t be mine… I try to focus on what I, naturally, would do. Because whatever that spark is that comes up with the “weird shit” I come up with when I’m sitting at the computer? That’s what makes a story mine. That’s what makes stories come out that I’m proud of. And in the end… that’s really what matters. If I’m proud of what I created, then I’m OK, regardless of how many copies sell. If I took someone’s advice and did something that didn’t feel natural, I would be uncomfortable with the end product, even if it was a bestseller. Though, I’m sure if I had a bestseller, I wouldn’t refuse the checks!

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

John: I don’t know about guilty…  but I think the “expected” thing for a horror writer to do is to listen to Megadeth or Anthrax or whatever classic metal band you care to name, and to swear by Lovecraft as well as a handful of modern underground authors. Me? I’m the guy who worked for an alternative rock magazine in the early ‘90s, yet had a poster of Madonna on his office door. I love to listen to Ke$ha, Paramore and Lady Gaga, as well as old faves like The Cure, New Order and Erasure.  I always found Lovecraft too turgid to wade through, and the most recent novel I read was Fifty Shades Darker. And I liked it. As for movies… I’m a nut for Euro-horror and exploitation films from the ‘70s.  My basement shelves are lined with films by Dario Argento, Mario and Lamberto Bava, Lucio Fulci, Jean Rollin (I’m a Rollin fanatic!), Jess Franco, Joe D’Amato, Jose Ramon Larraz, Harry Kumel, Paul Morrissey, Walerian Borowczyk, Amando de Ossorio and many more! I don’t feel guilty though.

Gef: We're coming up to the end of the year, which means everyone and their mama is writing a year-end lists. So what book, movie, game, show, song, or dirty limerick has found its way to the tippy-top of your favorites this year?

John: I really didn’t read very much this year … though I did get through two of the Fifty Shades books! it’s been a frenetic stressful year without a lot of down time, honestly. About the only media that I got to enjoy a lot of was music. And… a lot of that was retro. I discovered Stretch Princess, and listened to their first album incessantly for several weeks… but the disc came out in 1998!     Probably my favorite album from 2014 has been Chvrches’ The Bones of What You Believe – the singles “The Mother We Share” and “We Sink” are phenomenal, and the whole album is a perfect bit of modern techno.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

John: Well… my eighth novel, The Family Tree just came out last month… so I hope people will check that one out!  I’ve also just had a couple new short stories come out this fall, in the Qualia Nous and Equilibrium Overturned anthologies. And another will appear in the just-announced Eulogies III anthology from Horror World.

Over the summer, I finally started the novel I’ve been talking about writing since 2007 – the sequel to Sacrifice. That got put on hold almost immediately when I was asked to do a second V-Wars story. A couple years ago, Jonathan Maberry asked me to write a story for the original V-Wars book, which has since spawned a comic series and a book series, and in August, I wrote a new story for the third book in the series, V-Wars: Night Terrors  That will be out in March.

Now that holidays and some vacation time are around the corner, I’ll be digging back in to the  as-yet-untitled novel again. My ninth!

To keep up with news of my fiction, not to mention well-framed photos of my dinners in brewpubs across the country, catch me on Facebook at or on my website and blog:

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