Author Jonathan Janz Defines Horror

Jonathan Janz:

Earlier this month, author Matt Manochio was kind enough to share some of my thoughts on his blog. See what you think about my definition of horror…

Originally posted on Scary Funny:

Today’s a big day for Samhain Horror authors Hunter Shea and Jonathan Janz, whose respective books, Hell Hole and Castle of Sorrows, hit shelves both physical and digital. I’ll be posting something with Hunter in a few weeks regarding both Hell Hole and his recent Kensington release, The Montauk Monster, which is already on my Kindle just aching to be read. Both guys have been supportive of me in my schlep toward publication come November 4, and I can’t wait to meet both at a yet-to-be-determined horror convention down the road.

But today’s post involves Jonathan Janz, which isn’t his real name and I’m still not sure how to refer to him when I write to him. But that’s another story. Isn’t this a kick-ass cover? (Yes.)

Courtesy: Amazon (Lord of Everything)

Courtesy: Amazon (Lord of Everything)

Castle of Sorrows is the sequel to Jonathan’s 2012 release, The Sorrows, which I read, and which involves the…

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Scares That Care, Part Three: Bryan Smith and Tom Monteleone

Yo. Comin’ atcha from da crib straight up gangsta—

I can’t do it.

What I can do is talk about two individuals I met at the recent Scares That Care convention in Williamsburg, Virginia: Bryan Smith and Tom Monteleone.

When I saw I’d be sharing a table with Bryan, I had two simultaneous reactions. My selfish one was, Yes! This means a bunch of people who know and love his stuff will be gravitating toward my table, and after they buy his stuff, maybe they’ll buy mine! My second reaction was something along the lines of the famous WAYNE’S WORLD mantra, “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!”

Bryan Slash Smith

Bryan Slash Smith

See, Bryan is a well-known guy and for good reason. Plainly put, he’s a brilliant writer. And I don’t use that adjective lightly. I get the feeling folks think of him as a pulp writer, a guy whose pen squirts as much blood as it does ink, and yeah, it’s true that the stuff I’ve read so far from him does contain a good deal of violence. But man, what I don’t hear people talk enough about is how smart his writing is, how rhythmic. Bryan combines a razor-sharp intellect with an uncanny authorial ear. He’s like Guns ‘n’ Roses’s Slash with a keyboard rather than a guitar. I’m getting ready to finish KAYLA UNDEAD tonight, and I can tell you, it’s every bit as wild and wonderful as KAYLA AND THE DEVIL, a book I devoured recently and went gaga over last month.

KaylaUndead (1)

Bryan also happens to be a great guy. Thoughtful, soft-spoken, he really listens to what you say, and he treated me excellently all weekend, despite the fact that I probably annoyed the hell out of him with my constant chatter.

So buy his books. You’ll be supporting a great guy, but more importantly, you’ll be getting some of the best writing you’ve ever seen. Seriously, the guy is a virtuoso.

Which brings me to Tom Monteleone. I’d heard of Tom for years and had been aware of his importance to the field since, well…since my early-twenties. I’d read his short work and loved it, and I’d read books he’d edited and loved them too.

What I’d never done until fairly recently was read one of his novels.



See, I’ll be talking more about this in a bigger blog post soon, but I think the single biggest issue facing horror today is a disconnect between modern writers/readers and their heritage. Sure, there are writers my age and younger who know their stuff, who understand how important a guy like Tom Monteleone is and who regard him with the proper respect. But I also get the sense that many more writers and readers don’t know why Tom Monteleone matters, who don’t know how great a writer and editor he is, and who don’t understand that he’s a freaking legend that everyone needs to read and study.

Before I go too far down this path, let me just say, I’m not trying to eulogize the guy here. He’s only in his sixties, and I reckon he’s going to be kicking butt for decades to come. And if you don’t believe me, just sit at a dinner table with him the way I got to twice, or hang out with him at a convention. Then you’ll see that you’re the one—not Tom—who needs to get your butt in gear, who needs to up the ante on your zest for life, who needs to become more energized and excited about books and people. Tom is a walking, talking live wire.

My revelation about his writing came last year. My fourth novel SAVAGE SPECIES had just been released, and a very astute reader named Andrew Monge (who’s a regular at the best horror forum in the world, the Horror Drive-In) likened my novel to a book called NIGHT THINGS, which Tom had written several years ago. That comment served as a wake-up call for me, for despite the fact that I think I’m fairly well read in (and out) of the genre, I realized I’d never read a Monteleone novel.

Experience the Terror

Experience the Terror

Honestly, that fact was unforgivable.

How could I, a guy who’s ravenously hungry to become the best writer I can be, claim to know my roots when I’d never read a novel by Tom Monteleone, a man whose writing is legendary, a man whose editorial eye has helped shape the careers of too many writers to recount, a man who can, incidentally, tell a story better than just about anyone I’ve ever met (if you do meet him someday, be sure to ask him about Theodore Sturgeon—I promise your life will never be the same again).

So I read NIGHT THINGS. And realized that everything I’d heard about Tom was true. He’s a writer’s writer, a guy who understands and maximizes every square inch of a tale. The characterization. The plotting. The building of suspense. The carefully crafted backstory. The balletically choreographed pay-off. All of it was there in NIGHT THINGS. Once I’d finished, I realized what an incredible compliment Andrew Monge had paid me by uttering SAVAGE SPECIES in the same sentence with Tom’s novel, and I continue to be honored by those words.

Ferocious Thriller

Ferocious Thriller

I’ll be reading more Monteleone fiction soon. Both SUBMERGED and THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB are burning holes in my TBR pile, and I can’t wait to dive into them.

You should too. Monteleone is a guy every writer can learn from. And a writer who can thrill any reader brave enough to check out his work.


CASTLE OF SORROWS: Using a Zombie Trope in a Non-Zombie Novel

Howdy, all! The title of this post is a little misleading because the trope (you could also call it a theme in this circumstance) I’m about to talk about occurs in many non-zombie horror novels. However, I associate it with zombies because, well, they’re everywhere, and some of the best examples of what I’m talking about occur in zombie stories. And I’m also going to winnow down what should be a ten thousand-word essay to a fraction of that number because, as always, my time is short, and I’ve got things to do (mainly, being with my family and working on my current novel).

The Darkness Is Spreading

The Darkness Is Spreading

Consider these characters:

The Governor from THE WALKING DEAD. Colonel Schow from Brian Keene’s THE RISING. The soldiers in 28 DAYS LATER.

Colonel Schow Unleashed

Colonel Schow Unleashed

Aside from the military/governmental trappings that tie these individuals together, they’re also united in their ferocity, their cruelty, and their single-mindedness. But most of all, they’re connected by the dubious distinction of being just as bad—and likely worse—than the zombies.

Almost as bad as the soldiers

Almost as bad as the soldiers

Like I said, this concept is not unique to zombie stories. Other fantastic examples can be found in Dan Simmons’s THE TERROR (Hickey vs. The Terror), Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD (cannibals vs. the apocalyptic landscape), and J.K. Rowling’s HARRY POTTER series (in which Dolores Umbridge becomes even more despicable than Voldemort himself).

In other words, the danger is us. (I changed the predicate nominative form because it sounded weak. You know, kind of like an unnecessary parenthetical explanation.)

I'll never forgive him for using that sword...

I’ll never forgive him for using that sword…

So I warned you a few days ago about the darkness in my new novel CASTLE OF SORROWS. I didn’t specify what made the book so dark, but my very first reader review mentioned it (actually, an email from the reader mentioned it), so the effect I suspected the book would have seems to be occurring (that’s a good thing, by the way).

The main villain of both THE SORROWS and CASTLE OF SORROWS is a god named Gabriel. You can call him Pan if you’d like, but he’s older than literature and one of my favorite villains in fiction. I’m fascinated by him, and he certainly dominates my new book. His shadow loomed over THE SORROWS as well.

However, you could argue that the most despicable character in THE SORROWS is a handsome pilot named Ryan. He’s rich, ripped, and charismatic. He’s also one of my vilest creations.

Where it all began...

Where it all began…

In CASTLE OF SORROWS, you find Gabriel behaving even more maliciously than he did in the first novel. He’s twice as formidable, his “reach” has grown exponentially, and he’s frankly too powerful for any one mortal to handle.

Yet the characters I hate most in CASTLE OF SORROWS are two men. One I won’t reveal here since his true backstory remains concealed until very late in the proceedings. Another, however, reveals his sadism in his very first appearance:

Ray Rubio.

This character actually appeared in THE SORROWS as well. In that novel’s third or fourth scene, the heir of Castle Blackwood (Chris Blackwood) awakens to find someone in his room. Someone with a scalpel. After some ruthless persuasion, Chris Blackwood agrees to Rubio’s demands.

Now Ray Rubio is back in CASTLE OF SORROWS. And this time he doesn’t just have a cameo.

He’s center stage.

When you read this book, it would be wise to put up mental and emotional blinders whenever Rubio appears onstage. He’s sick, he’s depraved, and he’s cagier than he looks. As I wrote him, incidentally, I imagined the following character actor, a former boxer named Tami Mauriello (seen below and to the right) who appeared prominently in ON THE WATERFRONT (and who once lost to Joe Louis in a heavyweight championship bout):

Tami/Rubio is on the right


So even though there are no zombies in CASTLE OF SORROWS (okay, so there are arguably zombie-like creatures at one point, though that one’s debatable), the notion of man’s shadowy nature equalling (or even surpassing) the sadism of an ancient god is a major idea. But sinking to those depths requires some unpleasant subject matter.

Be warned.

Cover (and plot) Reveal! Welcome to EXORCIST ROAD…

I’ve been doing mostly novels for the past couple of years, but I enjoy writing novellas too. I got an idea for one and decided to write it. Here’s the (unedited) description:

Chicago is gripped by terror. Someone is brutally murdering sixteen-year-old girls, and the authorities are baffled. Dubbed “The Sweet Sixteen Killer,” the depraved madman is about to strike again.

Jason Crowder, a young priest, is visited in the middle of the night by one of his parishioners, a policeman named Danny Hartman. Danny tells Jason a shocking story. Earlier that evening, Danny and his partner received a call from Danny’s brother, who is panic-stricken by the sudden violent behavior of his fourteen-year-old son. For no apparent reason, the boy attacked his family and had to be chained to his bed. After seeing his nephew, Danny is convinced the boy is possessed by a demon.

Danny’s partner is Jack Bittner. Full of terrible brute strength and rage toward his ex-wife, Jack’s hardened heart has one soft spot: his teenage daughter, whose sixteenth birthday happens to be next week. Jack has been sent to awaken another priest—Peter Sutherland—Jason Crowder’s mentor. Who happens to be the only man in Chicago who has ever performed an exorcism.

But Jack Bittner has other plans tonight. He believes the boy isn’t possessed by a demon, but instead by an insatiable homicidal urge. Jack believes the boy is none other than the Sweet Sixteen Killer. And he aims to end the reign of terror before another teenage girl dies.

Two priests. Two cops. One terrified family. An adolescent boy who just might be host to an ancient evil. They will all collide one stormy night in suburban Chicago on a street that will soon be known as Exorcist Road.

And now, the cover:

Terror Comes to Chicago

Terror Comes to Chicago

Huge thanks to Angie Waters, a cover artist who never ceases to dazzle me. And, of course to Louise Fury (my agent) and Don D’Auria (my editor) for supporting the project.

This one looks like a September release, folks, so the wait shouldn’t be long. And while you wait for it, why not check out my brand-new beast of a novel CASTLE OF SORROWS?





Okay, I know I omitted the the from the blog post title, but the rhythm was better without it, okay? And if you’re really so hung up on articles in titles, I’ll point you to THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and ask you how often the the is uttered there, and—

You say the the?

Never mind.

A great movie, with or without the the

A great movie, with or without the the

Moving on, I guess now would be a good time to mention the fact that THE SORROWS will eventually blossom into a trilogy. I have a rough mental outline for how the third book will begin and end (as well as a title I like), though as always, I’ll keep an open mind and let the story find its way to a proper conclusion.

But what about this one?



It’s the longest novel I’ve written at 123,000 words. It was much longer than that, but I had to cut a great deal of material to meet the necessary word count. I mention that not because I’m mad or anything—I love the novel in its current state—but because there’s a whole subplot I had to omit. I won’t say much about this now, but I will say two things about the subplot: a) the novel is just as good without it—just different, and b) I still love the subplot because it was inspired by T.E.D. Klein’s amazing novella PETEY. But then again, a lot of what I write is inspired by Klein, so you could say his shadow still looms over CASTLE OF SORROWS even without the subplot.

One of the finest novella collections of all time

One of the finest novella collections of all time

But what’s in the novel is incredibly dark. It’s so dark that I sat there on many days and shook my head at what I’d written. I nearly cut several scenes and paragraphs because they were so violent or depraved or shocking in other ways (Do you read Code?), but then I thought to myself, Wimp.

And I left them in.

I certainly believe in restraint, but sometimes horror is best when there are no cutaways. In CASTLE OF SORROWS, the camera rarely cuts away from the action. And that action is sometimes really, really disturbing.

Which brings me to THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

Luke and Vader…Ben and Gabriel

Luke and Vader…Ben and Gabriel

Those of you who are fans of trilogies know that the second story often contains several distinct elements. A fractured fellowship. A darker tone. A less triumphant resolution and the realization that the evil was never really vanquished after all. And, of course, a serious toll on the good guys.

All of the above holds true in CASTLE. So if you’re looking for something sweet or uplifting, this book ain’t it.

You can purchase CASTLE OF SORROWS here or here, but the best deal is right here at the Samhain store, where the ebook is only $4.55, and the paperback is $8.50 after you apply the PAPERBACK50 code at checkout.

Where it all began...

Where it all began…

I’ll tell you more about the novel soon, but for now, the above will suffice. I’m proud of it, I think it shows a progression in my storytelling, and above all, I think it’s really a spooky yarn.

Just don’t expect to feel happy when it ends.

Scares That Care, Part Two: Kelli Owen, Wrath James White, and Mary SanGiovanni

*Before we get to the main blog post, I feel compelled to mention my new release CASTLE OF SORROWS, which came out earlier this week. More on that soon, but if you haven’t read my smash-hit debut novel THE SORROWS yet, you can buy it here. Then go read the sequel. I think you’ll find them worth your while.

Back to Scares That Care.

The three people in this blog post title have three things in common:

1. They have big hearts; I suspected that going into the Scares That Care convention, but spending time with them all weekend confirmed it.

2. They’re excellent writers. If you’ve been involved in the genre for any length of time, you’ll have heard of all three of them. If you haven’t, it’s time for you to check out their work.

3. I hadn’t met any of them prior to June 27th.

So after spending a weekend with them, here are my thoughts:


Kelli Owen

Kelli is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. She’s extremely bright, and her sense of humor can be very caustic (in a good way). She spent much of that first afternoon showing me exactly how much I didn’t know about marketing, about setting up for an event, as well as my cluelessness about a dozen other topics. On Saturday she nearly murdered me for paying to get my picture taken with Chris Sarandon (aka Prince Humperdinck and Jack Skellington). But Kelli has a way of threatening your life while still showing that she cares about you. That’s an impressive skill. But having survived Kelli’s boot camp, I’m proud to call her a friend.

Many Bothans Died to Get This Picture

Many Bothans Died to Get This Picture

Wrath is bigger than I am. Like, a good deal bigger. I run nearly six-four, and I work out pretty frequently, but Wrath made me look like a malnourished hobbit. However, the coolest thing about him was how easy he was to talk to. It also turns out that we have a strong bond: fatherhood. Talking to Wrath about how it was raising his son (who is now twenty and is becoming a writer himself) was very heartening for me since Wrath did many of the same things I’m doing now (like assigning extra reading and math each day, despite the fact that my son thinks I’m insane for doing so). Anyway, Wrath is as nice as his work is ferocious.


Wrath James White

Mary SanGiovanni is one of the coolest people I’ve met since getting into the industry. She brought her son (a great kid) and was incredibly kind all weekend. I was lucky enough to eat dinner and lunch with her, Brian Keene, and others, and I also got to participate in a panel discussion with Mary (and Kelli) on Friday night. I guess the word that best describes Mary is thoughtful. She’s thoughtful and considerate toward others, and she’s thoughtful in every thing she says. I learned a lot just from listening to her, but most of all, I learned she has a great heart and a sharp mind.

Mary SanGiovanni

Mary SanGiovanni

So if you were hoping I’d have some horror stories to tell from my time at Scares That Care, I’m sorry, but the experience only served to confirm what I’ve already learned about the horror community. Sure, it has its wing nuts, but it’s mainly populated by awesome human beings.

Count these three individuals among the awesome ones.

Scares That Care, Part One: Hunter Shea


Don’t those titles jump off the page at you? I haven’t read HELL HOLE yet, but I did start MONTAUK, and baby, it’s another winner.

montauk monster cover

Hunter Shea is one of the coolest guys I’ve met since I began to, you know, get paid for my work. Brian Keene was kind enough to pair me with Hunter for a reading and Q & A at the Scares That Care convention, which not only gave me a chance to hang out with a good friend, but also afforded me the opportunity to hear the genesis of Hunter’s novel THE MONTAUK MONSTER. It was a fascinating presentation, replete with weird pictures, disturbing trivia about Nazi scientists, and some wild possibilities about what might exist because of our government’s secret activity.

Okay, sure, I was going to read Hunter’s new book anyway, but the presentation bumped MONTAUK up my to-be-read pile several spots. Everything I’ve read by him (including FOREST OF SHADOWS, EVIL ETERNAL, and SINISTER ENTITY) has been spellbinding, and his new release is more than living up to that already lofty standard.


Another thing I really appreciate about Hunter is how easy he is. Um, I mean, how easy it is between us! *clears throat* He’s an easy dude to talk to, and every time something good happens to me, he’s genuinely enthused about it. And when Publisher’s Weekly named THE MONTAUK MONSTER the summer’s best beach read, I was almost as excited as I would have been had it been my own book selected. Almost.

Anyway, thanks again to Brian Keene for pairing me with Hunter (more thanks will be directed at Brian in later posts), and thanks to Hunter for not heckling me (much) during my reading of SAVAGE SPECIES‘s first chapter.

Experience the Terror

Experience the Terror


Tune in for more Scares That Care wrap-up soon…

Oh, and buy my new book! CASTLE OF SORROWS is available now!




So much to say. So little time to say it.

We’re back on the grid after being in the wilds of the awesome Virginia Rappahannock River for several days, and that was after Scares That Care, an experience so amazing that it’ll take several blog posts to tell you about, but I can’t do that right now because I’m hard at work on my work-in-progress, which I haven’t talked about anywhere yet, and I can’t yet for several reasons. So I’ll stop being cryptic and get to the point…

I had a novel released three days ago. It’s called CASTLE OF SORROWS. It’s a sequel to my debut novel THE SORROWS. It’s a novel I love, but…well, I’ll tell you more later, but in case you’ve already started it, you might have noticed something.

The Return of Gabriel

The Return of Gabriel

It’s really dark. Like, incredibly, stunningly, horrifically dark. Stygian dark.

If you don’t like that sort of thing, don’t read it. Because it’s honestly the most ferocious thing I’ve done so far, which, if you ask some folks, is saying a lot. Not many characters survived THE SORROWS, and this time, no one is safe. And I assure you, that isn’t hyperbole.

That’s it for now. Back to writing. Read CASTLE at your own risk.

Brian Moreland Calls CASTLE OF SORROWS “Riveting,” “Enthralling”

If you aren’t yet reading Brian Moreland, you need to. His novels Dead of Winter and The Devil’s Woods are two of the most gripping horror yarns of the past several years, and he’s only getting better. Brian was kind enough to check out my upcoming sequel to THE SORROWS (CASTLE OF SORROWS), and he had this to say…

“Jonathan Janz writes the kind of horror I love to read—entertaining, action-packed, and best of all, scary as hell. The Sorrows and its enthralling sequel, Castle of Sorrows, are two riveting novels that blend the classic storytelling of H.P. Lovecraft with endearing characters and the break-neck pace of Dean Koontz thrillers. I’m a big fan of Janz!”

—Brian Moreland, author of Dead of Winter and The Witching House

The Return of Gabriel

The Return of Gabriel

So what are you waiting for? You can pre-order the digital or paperback version just about anywhere, but you can get the paperback here at the Samhain Horror store for half-price by entering the PAPERBACK50 code at check-out.

CASTLE OF SORROWS releases on July 1st!


My Williamsburg Book Supply and a Word about Authenticity

In addition to a couple of paperbacks I’m bringing to next week’s SCARES THAT CARE convention in the hopes that Brian Keene and Jack Ketchum sign them for me, I’m going to be packing these babies as well:


In case you can’t read all the titles, they are THE SORROWS, HOUSE OF SKIN, THE DARKEST LULLABY, SAVAGE SPECIES, DUST DEVILS, and CASTLE OF SORROWS. The below low angle shot makes them look even more imposing…


And as if that weren’t enough, here’s one more shot of the seventy-five book cache for your viewing enjoyment:


The above books are my six Samhain horror novels. I wrote another novel called BLOODSHOT: KINGDOM OF SHADOWS, but it’s only available digitally (at present). I’ve also written several novellas that are also not (yet) in print, including a new one whose cover I’ll be revealing in a couple days. These pictures were all taken in my writing room, which is also a library, which we also call The Lodge, which also looks out on a beautiful magnolia tree.

Moving on.

The other thing I want to say before I get back to my work-in-progress is this: I know I sound a bit hyper sometimes on here (not that any of you have complained, at least to me), but please know a couple things. Firstly, I don’t have an inferiority complex. I’m not fishing for compliments or hoping anyone pipes up with some sensitive reassurance about how, doggonit, I’m a good writer too! Secondly, even though I am very proud of my work, I haven’t lost—nor do I suspect I’ll ever lose—a childlike enthusiasm for the work of people from whom I’ve learned and continue to learn. My respect for Jack Ketchum is real. My excitement about meeting and talking to Brian Keene is authentic. Those things might be self-evident, but I’ll say them anyway. I want to have a long, successful career. But I refuse to act jaded or entitled or anything other than what I am—grateful and elated and determined.

Enough. Back to writing. Have a beautiful Thursday.