I’m happy to have author Jonathan Janz back as a guest on my
blog. More than just a talented horror writer who can scare you with great
stories, he’s become a personal friend of mine. Every year since we met a few
years back at Horror Hound Cincinnati, Janz has been taking the horror genre by
storm, churning out many excellent novels, including House of Skin, Savage
Species, Wolf Land, The Nightmare Girl, and Dust Devils to name a few. Now, he’s just released a new book: Children
of the Dark. Without further ado, I’ll let Janz take over.
The Body, and Children of the Dark
by Jonathan Janz
off, I want to thank Brian for hosting me today, for being such a good friend,
and for writing such outstanding fiction.
that I’m here, let me tell you something I suspect many of you will relate to…
love Stand By Me. I saw the movie
back in high school and read the novella on which it was based shortly after,
and both tales spoke to me in a way that few stories do. Innocence is a
fleeting, precious thing, and the movie/novella combo to which I’m alluding
does an incredible job of capturing both that innocence and its permanent removal.
The Stephen King epigraph I used in the beginning of my novel Children of the Dark says it perfectly:
“Love isn’t soft,
like those poets say. Love has teeth which bite and the wounds never close.”
we’re very small, we long to be comforted, cherished, wrapped up in our
parents’ unconditional embrace. That safety, of course, can’t last forever, and
over the course of our late childhood and adolescence we begin to recognize the
harsh realities of life, the razorlike teeth of love. Though we cling to our
illusions, it dawns on us in a series of shattering revelations that life
really isn’t so simple, that even love can pierce us deeply and permanently.
the King story and the Rob Reiner movie, Gordie LaChance loses his big brother,
which is bad enough. Just as devastating for Gordie, however, is the manner in
which his parents forget he’s still alive. In the moments he needs his folks
the most, they seem to care about him the least, and as a result, his nightmare
becomes even more traumatic.
Chambers is a great kid with a bad family, which means (in the town’s eyes)
he’s guilty by association. He’s smarter than most and more loyal than just
about anyone, yet the alcoholism and dysfunction surrounding him manufacture a
seedy, clinging aura he doesn’t deserve but cannot shake.
kids take refuge in their friendship, and it is this bond that forms the emotional
core of both King’s novella and Reiner’s film. Like all great fiction, it is
the human element—the connections we
feel with the characters, the universality of the emotions expressed—that
engrosses us and touches our emotions.
tales spoke to me during my formative years, and I yearned to tap into those
emotions when I wrote my own coming-of-age tale. The two main characters in Children of the Dark (Will Burgess,
partially named for Wil Wheaton, who played Gordie LaChance; and Chris Watkins,
who resembles Chris Chambers in certain respects) are enduring hardships with
which they’re incapable of grappling by themselves.
Burgess never knew his father, has a drug addict for a mom, and is charged with
acting as the father figure to his six-year-old sister. Add to that Will’s
poverty, his undesirable reputation in the town, and his unfortunate conflict
with several bullying upperclassmen, and you have a difficult, bleak life,
especially for a person so young.
the surface, Chris Watkins is Will’s opposite. Born into a rich household, son
of an influential attorney, Chris appears to lead a life of privilege. However,
there are harsh truths lurking beneath the sparkling veneer, truths that are
revealed later in my novel.
of you who’ve read Ray Bradbury’s sublime Something
Wicked This Way Comes might also be sensing a connection between Bradbury’s
classic tale and my own. This is also intentional, particularly with regard to
Bradbury’s central young characters.)
King’s characters, Will Burgess and Chris Watkins draw strength from their relationship.
Like King’s characters, Will and Chris are thrust into a harrowing situation
and forced to deal with it as well as they can…though at times their coping
mechanisms are far from adequate.
see, at the heart of both stories is the destructive shadow side of love:
LaChance is wounded by the withdrawal of parental love at a time when he needs
it more than he ever has.
Chambers is physically and verbally abused by his father. The man who is
supposed to provide Chris with a positive male role model becomes a blade that
stabs Chris over and over.
Burgess understands the sharp teeth of love very well. Not unlike Gordy
LaChance’s parents, Will’s mother is so enshrouded by her own problems that her
children become an afterthought.
Watkins, as alluded to earlier, must face emotionally-scarring realities, and
like the other three boys, the wielder of the weapon in Chris’s case is a
person he should be able to trust.
many ways, the loss of innocence isn’t as painful when strangers are the ones
stealing it. But when those we love are the authors of our forced maturation,
the damage multiplies. It’s a dire enough truth that people can be vicious,
snarling creatures. It’s far worse to learn that the unconditional embrace of
our parents is often full of conditions, full of selfishness.
hope you enjoy The Body and Stand By Me as much as I do. And I hope
you’ll give my own coming-of-age tale a shot as well.
of the Dark, Synopsis
Burgess is used to hard knocks. Abandoned by his father, son of a drug-addicted
mother, and charged with raising his six-year-old sister, Will has far more to
worry about than most high school freshmen. To make matters worse, Mia Samuels,
the girl of Will’s dreams, is dating his worst enemy, the most sadistic
upperclassman at Shadeland High. Will’s troubles, however, are just beginning.
one of the nation’s most notorious criminals—the Moonlight Killer—has escaped
from prison and is headed straight toward Will’s hometown. And something else
is lurking in Savage Hollow, the forest surrounding Will’s rundown house.
Something ancient and infinitely evil. When the worst storm of the decade
descends on Shadeland, Will and his friends must confront unfathomable horrors.
Everyone Will loves—his mother, his little sister, Mia, and his friends—will be
very few of them will escape with their lives.
of the Dark is available at Amazon
Biography of Jonathan Janz
Janz grew up between a dark forest and a graveyard, and in away, that explains
everything. Brian Keene named his debut novel The Sorrows “the best
horror novel of 2012.” The Library Journal deemed his follow-up, House of Skin,
“reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Peter
Straub’s Ghost Story.”
saw the publication of his novel of vampirism and demonic possession The
Darkest Lullaby, as well as his serialized horror novel Savage Species.
Of Savage Species, Publishers Weekly said, “Fans of old-school
splatterpunk horror–Janz cites Richard Laymon as an influence, and it
shows–will find much to relish.” Jonathan’s Kindle Worlds novel Bloodshot:
Kingdom of Shadows marked his first foray into the superhero/action genre.
Ketchum called his vampire western Dust Devils a “Rousing-good weird
western,” and his sequel to The Sorrows (Castle of Sorrows) was
selected one of 2014’s top three novels by Pod of Horror. 2015 saw the release
of The Nightmare Girl, which prompted Pod of Horror to call
Jonathan “Horror’s Next Big Thing.” 2015 also saw the release of Wolf
Land, which Publishers Weekly called “gruesome yet entertaining gorefest”
with “an impressive and bloody climax.” He has also written four novellas
(Exorcist Road, The Clearing of Travis Coble, Old Order, and Witching Hour
Theatre) and several short stories.
primary interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children, and
though he realizes that every author’s wife and children are wonderful and
amazing, in this case the cliché happens to be true. You can learn more about
Jonathan at www.jonathanjanz.com.
You can also find him on Facebook, via @jonathanjanz on Twitter, or on his Goodreads and
Amazon author pages.
for Children of the Dark
“Jonathan Janz brings us a vicious tale of terror with the
innocence of youth in a coming of age tale that should surely make Stephen King
smile.” – Dave, Beneath the Underground
Janz has written the next definitive coming-of-age horror novel that is sure to
be mentioned alongside those that came before it. Be on the right side of
history and read it now, before it becomes a classic.” –Patrick Lacey, author
of A Debt to be Paid
Praise for Jonathan Janz
is the literary love child of Richard Laymon and Jack Ketchum (with a little
Joe Lansdale DNA in the mix), with all the terror that implies. Try him out.
You won’t be disappointed.”
-Pod of Horror
of the best writers in modern horror to come along in the last decade. Janz is
one of my new favorites.” –Brian Keene, best-selling author
the best of its kind I’ve read in years, such that I’d call it 'The
Quintessential Haunted House Novel.' You’ve taken the old school traditions of
the form which readers want and then have injected modern style, characters,
and macabre, hard-edged mayhem into the guts of the story. THAT’S the way to do
it, my friend!”
-Author Edward Lee on House of Skin
Janz is one of the rare horror novelists who can touch your heart while
chilling your spine. His work offers incisive characters, sharp dialogue, and
more scares than a deserted graveyard after midnight. If you haven’t read his
fiction, you’re missing out on one the best new voices in the genre.” –Tim
Waggoner, multi-published author
of old-school splatterpunk horror--Janz cites Richard Laymon as an influence,
and it shows--will find much to relish." - Publishers Weekly on Savage
along the tour with these hashtags: #ChildrenoftheDark #StandwithWill