Interview with John Everson
[Alessandro Manzetti] Tell us about Naperville, your den in Illinois, where your stories are born, including collections of fake skulls and Alan Clark pictures, dvd horror movies of the 70's and a bottle of bourbon. Makers Mark I think. Your Muse is your home or is it loneliness? Or something else?
[John Everson] I grew up in the South Suburbs of Chicago, and dreamed for years of being able to live in Naperville, a western suburb of the city that has a small Riverwalk and a picturesque downtown with lots of bars and restaurants. My wife's uncle lived here when we were first married and I always thought it was the ultimate place to live, if you weren't going to be IN the city. My den here was also a dream -- for most of my writing life, my home office was in a very small bedroom, which was difficult because I write a lot at night, and always play music when I write. But I couldn't really play my music loud when my office was right next to the bedrooms of my wife and son. So it was wonderful for me when we moved into this house four years ago to have a dedicated office space for me to work in on a different floor from the bedrooms. Ironically though, even though I've now got a great little office with lots of horror memorabilia on the walls and on my desk, I actually do more writing outside of it. in order to get away from the distractions of home, I generally write in a local bar every week for several hours - this is where I get a good chunk of my weekly writing done. And when I do write at home, often I go in the basement, turn down the lights and put concert videos from The Cure or New Order or Siouxsie on the TV, and write down there, where I'm not likely to be interrupted.
[Alessandro Manzetti] I definitely want to know something about the hidden home studio where you record pop and rock songs when you do not feel like writing. Is Music a passion that have lost the game with writing?
[John Everson] I was a musician long before I was a writer. The two go hand-in-hand, I think. Both are ways of bringing what's in your imagination to life. I wrote dozens and dozens of songs in high school, college and beyond, but I also began writing short stories as well. In my first apartment after college, I used to spend lots of nights working on my synthesizer and roughing out demo songs that I hoped, someday, to flesh out further with a band. Despite a couple of short-lived band projects (I did play in public a few times!), most of my songs have remained just demos. I even have a few of them posted on my website at http://www.johneverson.com/. In the end, I realized that I was far more likely to make a name for myself as an author than as a songwriter... and so I began to focus more and more on my writing. But music will always be my first love. That's why my novel Siren features a creature who lures men to their deaths with... music
[Alessandro Manzetti] In your novel Covenant, which won the Bram Stoker 2004, the horror that you evoke in Terrell, a small town on the East Coast of America, has the teeth of the unknown and an invisible body. Mysterious suicides, an evil presence that pervades reality. What we expect to find in Terrel, if we decide to do a little trip?
[John Everson] Terrel is a place that only exists in my imagination... I have always loved the romance of old East Coast American towns that are remote, and near the ocean. Towns that were once guided by lone lighthouses jutting out into the water. Towns that could be washed away by a bad storm, or decimated by a ship that ran aground. This vision of a remote, oceanside town is what formed Terrel. And when I sent a reporter from a big city to this mythical seaside place, because he wanted to escape his past, well... it was fun to have him discover the dark past of Terrel, instead
[Alessandro Manzetti] In the sequel to the Covenant, Sacrifice (2007) you mix sex, violence, rituals, sadistic demons ready to bring horror in our world. A novel most brutal and bloody than Covenant, with a great rhythm and a strong erotic component. Have you tried to seduce your readers? What has really changed in your narrative since Covenant?
[John Everson] Covenant was mostly written in the 1990s, when I was in my early 30s. I finished working on Sacrifice more than 10 years later, when I was in my early 40s. There's a big difference there in life experience! I began working on Covenant, my first novel, in 1995 and it was finished in 2000. I did some rewriting work after that, but for the most part, it was created during the last half of the '90s, when my focus was still largely writing short stories. Sacrifice was a different book in many ways - For one thing, I came up with the idea at the end of 2002, a good seven years after the idea for Covenant, and while it involves some of the characters and backstory of Covenant, the whole "attack" of the book was different. Where Covenant was a sort of claustrophobic small town mystery that built into an erotic horror novel, Sacrifice was meant to be a crazy roadtrip to hell that traverses several cities. I wanted to write a book that really worked on its own even though it had its roots in the first novel. And I wanted to create a book that moved fast, throughout.
[Alessandro Manzetti] What is your relationship with mythology, occult, and other literary genres?
[John Everson] I love the idea of magic and the supernatural. I can't say that I believe in it, but I think it would be cool if there were spirits and demons from beyond our world trying to impact our lives. When I was a kid, I loved to read about ghost stories, and science fiction -- things that happened out among the stars. I guess as an adult I'm still the same... I want to read (and tell) stories about events that happen far beyond the accepted scope of everyday life. I want to show a little magic in the world. Even if it's dark magic.
[Alessandro Manzetti] In an interview I read that your novel The 13th (2009) was inspired by horror films of the 70's, just the DVDs that you have in your den in Illinois, we mentioned before. What are the themes, the atmospheres of those movies that you brought in The 13th?
[John Everson] After I sold Covenant and Sacrifice to a New York publisher on a two-book deal, I celebrated. For about six months! Every weekend, I sat in my basement and watched old '70s horror films, especially Euro-trash films. I adore the films of Jean Rollin for their sensual poetry, and the films of Dario Argento for their vivid surrealism. And there are many other directors whose work I watched during that time (Vampyres by Jose Ramon Larraz is a favorite!) I even found a film or two by Jess Franco to like. The end result was, I had been watching all of these films about lurid rituals and demonic murders for months, when it finally occurred to me that, while yes, I'd sold two books, if I didn't get off my butt and start writing again, I wasn't ever going to sell another. So that was the backdrop when I began working on The 13th, a novel about an old hotel that reopens 25 years after a demonic ritual murder to become a home for wayward, pregnant women. Or is it?
[Alessandro Manzetti] What are the links of your and Richard Laymon’s narrative? And what sets you apart?
[John Everson] I hate to admit it, but there really isn't a link between my work and Richard Laymon's... because I haven't really read much of his! I did get to meet him once, at World Horror Convention 2000, just before my first story collection Cage of Bones was released, and when I was first starting to shop Covenant. But I had written both Covenant and Sacrifice by the time I finally read Laymon's The Cellar and later The Beast House. I loved them both -- his prose is exactly the kind of prose I want to be able to spin. His writing is fast, punchy, visceral. Amazing work that sucks you in instantly. But the reality is, those are the only two books of his I've read. I see a lot of similarities in the easy style of Laymon and Edward Lee -- and Lee is a writer I truly have tried to emulate, because of all the authors working today, including Stephen King, it's Lee's novels that keep me riveted to my seat from start to finish. He is the only author in the past 20 years who has produced books that have really kept me turning the pages long after bedtime... because I simply can't put the books down.
[Alessandro Manzetti] We come to your latest novel, Siren (2010). Again, you tell us nightmares interpreting mythological elements and rituals, animating them with your sharp prose. A couple is in crisis over the death of his son. Evan, the father, walks every night to the shore to the point where the child drowned. But one night during his usual walk on the beach Evan makes a strange encounter. A mysterious naked woman who apparently reads minds, dispels doubts and fears. She is Ligeia, your siren, beautiful, terrible and hungry. Too good to be true, so you could say, Never trust a siren. Besides the references to ancient myths and folklore, what else is there in your siren? The Siren, the creature, can be interpreted as a metaphor of the nightmare?
[John Everson] Ligeia, my Siren, is a creature who is more than simply a "villain." She has been wronged, and is searching for someone to begin again with. And in a sense... so is Evan, the protagonist. But in the end, he realizes that the love and responsibility of his past life outweighs the lure of the Siren, and he tries to honor that by saving his wife from drowning in alcoholism as his son drowned in the ocean. The novel explores the pulls of lust and the ache of loss. To me, Ligeia offers not "nightmare" but potential salvation... the trick is, what is the price of that salvation, and is Evan willing to pay it?
[Alessandro Manzetti] And now two Horror Street classic questions:
In this heading we try to learn about new landscape of horror literature, through direct experience of the authors. What are the new trend of horror? Could you name some new authors who are conducting original projects?
[John Everson] You know, in the end, horror is about the most basic emotion that every human being is born with: fear. I'm not sure that anyone is truly finding "new" fears for us... because I think the strength of horror is the universality of the fears it explores. That said, some of the sharpest up-and-comers right now are Ronald Malfi, P. S. Gifford, Brian Moreland and Lee Thomas.
[Alessandro Manzetti] We leave the reader to imagine of walking along a dark and lonely road going back home, and having to turn the corner. Who (or what) does he find around the corner?
[John Everson] Our reader turns the corner to find a wounded angel kneeling on the sidewalk, blood dripping down her porcelain back from where wings once were -- she is beautiful, dark-haired and alluring. And strange. Does he pass by and mind his own business, or help her? Does he take her home and try to care for her or take advantage of her? Does she rake his eyes out at his first glance for lechery? Let the reader decide...
thanks John for being the guest of Il Posto Nero
Interview by Alessandro Manzetti
HWA Co-ordinator Italy
John Everson is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of the novels Covenant (2004), Sacrifice (2007), The 13th, (2009) and Siren (2010). All of these novels were released in paperback by Leisure Books. Limited hardcover editions were also issued from Delirium Books, Necro Publications and Bad Moon Books. Over the past 15 years, John’s short fiction has appeared in more than 50 magazines, including Space & Time, Dark Discoveries and Grue, as well as in a couple dozen anthologies, most recently in A Dark and Deadly Valley, Cold Flesh, Damned, and Kolchak: The Night Stalker Casebook. His short stories have also been translated and published in Polish and French. A wide selection of his short fiction has been collected in four short story collections – Creeptych (Delirium Books 2010), Needles & Sins (Necro Books, 2007), Vigilantes of Love (Twilight Tales, 2003) and Cage of Bones & Other Deadly Obsessions (Delirium Books, 2000).
Letting Go one of the short stories from Needles & Sins was nominated for a 2007 Bram Stoker Award and three other short stories from the collection have been included in the Honorable Mention List of the annual Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror anthology co-edited by Ellen Datlow. John is also the editor of the anthologies Sins of the Sirens (Dark Arts Books, 2008) and In Delirium II (Delirium Books, 2007) and co-editor of the Spooks! ghost story anthology (Twilight Tales, 2004). In 2006, he co-founded Dark Arts Books to produce trade paperback collections spotlighting the cutting edge work of some of the best authors working in short dark fantasy fiction today (they have since produced four anthologies). Web Site
Buy "Covenant" by J. Everson on Amazon