Welcome to the Friday night edition of the 2011 Coffin Hop Author of the Day. Hang on to your trick-or-treat bags and get ready for an early Halloween treat as we talk about John Everson’s new novel The Pumpkin Man and then John entered the arena and faced the 10 Questions! So let us begin…
The Pumpkin Man was released earlier in the year as a signed and numbered hardcover from Delirium Books and on October 15th was released in trade paperback from Leisure. I thought I was ok, but I’m going to have to pick up the paperback after a response in the interview (you’ll see later). I am not going to tell you everything, but just a quick overview and how I rate the book.
The book opens with the murder of Jennica’s father. While his body is found, his head is not. The murder is also perplexing due to the presence of bits and pieces from pumpkins around the scene. So with her father dead and along with her friend Kirsten loosing their teaching jobs, they pick up some male accompaniment, they head off to the house Jenn inherited from her aunt Meredith when she died.
The house is old and has a library full of curious books about witch-craft and spells. When the guys find a Ouija board and try to contact Jenn’s father, all hell breaks loose. The killings of a madman in the town’s past returns. Is it the spirit of the original ‘Pumpkin Man’, is it a copy cat, or is it something else entirely?
The book has a good number of twists and turns as the legend is revealed and the cycle of killings begin anew. The setting is creepy and the descriptions of the murders will make your skin crawl. I vote this book the best use of Jack-O-Lanterns ever. The tale has a good number of horror staples for a good Halloween read, Ouija Boards, bad houses with secrets, and graves. Oh, and blood, lots and lots of blood.
Overall, this one ranks near the top of my favorite John Everson books. It ties with The 13th at the top. John did do something with the book that I really thought went well with it. As with his last novel Siren, he uses a diary or a journal to help flesh out and tell the tale. In Siren, the use of the captains old logbook is used so much it almost makes the book read like two separate books. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Siren, but I like how he used the device in The Pumpkin Man better. Here it’s used more sparingly and adds to the chill of the situation Jenn finds herself in. Instead of long chapters, the diary from her aunt Meredith comes in small doses and weaves better throughout the book.
It is a hell of a read and I highly recommend it. I like it so much, I’m going to buy it twice and get the experience of the paperback edition also. Great novel for Halloween or any time of year.
1- What was your inspiration for The Pumpkin Man?
The Pumpkin Man novel actually was inspired by a short story I published in Doorways Magazine a few years ago. And the short story was inspired in part because I saw a booth at a horror convention that was selling all of these intricately carved (fake) jack-o-lanterns. They also sold pumpkin carving kits. I started imagining a character who was an expert pumpkin carver… only he was aided by the occult because to create his pumpkins, he was actually carving the soul of someone into them. A few years after publishing the short story, I was looking for what to do for my next novel and I decided that I wanted to develop the Pumpkin Man mythology deeper; who was the Pumpkin Man? How did he get to have this power? The novel ended up occurring more than 20 years in the future of the short story and focuses on two school teachers instead of the kids who populated the original tale.
2- The Ouija Board sequences made me think back to the movie Witchboard (which freaked me out as a kid). Where did the idea to use the Ouija Board come from?
I loved Witchboard too! The Ouija idea came basically out of the type of story I wanted to tell. I really wanted to do a book that had a lot of the “setpieces” of classic Halloween creepiness, though it wasn’t necessarily set at Halloween. So you get a cottage in a remote location, lots of ancient occult books including a book of spells, plenty of bones, witchcraft, jack-o-lanterns and … a way to talk to the dead – the Ouija.
3- What jobs have you held while writing? Do you write full-time or part-time?
I’ve always held a full-time job while writing. Early on in my career I was a suburban Chicago newspaper journalist. While writing for that paper I started a weekly music column which I kept writing as a freelancer for them long after I left the reporter job and moved onto other things. After I left the newspaper I was a music magazine editor for a few years and finally moved to a medical association working on publications and websites (which is where I remain). For a long time I had a LOT of “2nd careers” because in addition to the dayjob I was writing a weekly newspaper column about music, occasionally playing keyboards in local bands, and working on horror fiction. I don’t watch a lot of TV.
4- What does your writing regimen consist of?
It varies. Basically when I’m really hard at work on a project, I set weekly word count goals so that I finish it by deadline. There are times I write before going to work, and other times I write for a couple hours after my son goes to bed, starting around 9 p.m. Often I’ll go to a bar one night a week after work and thus avoid all the distractions of home – then I can work uninterrupted from basically 6-11 p.m. and really get a solid block of writing in.
5- Were there any scenes that were edited out of The Pumpkin Man you wish were still in?
No, actually there are scenes that got added in at the 11th hour for the Dorchester edition of the novel. The editor made some great suggestions for fleshing a couple things out, and so I added some things that were not in the original limited hardcover edition release of the book. (Note: This is why I have to buy the Leisure edition)
6- Are Covenant, Sacrifice, or The 13th going to be re-released by Leisure in the new trade paperback format?
Most likely. The goal is to keep the catalogues of Leisure’s active authors in print, however, with hundreds of titles to work with, it’s going to take them a while to convert all the books to the new format and then sell them as reprints into stores. (If you have not read these, find them now and enjoy)
7- What kind of influence does living in the mid-west have on your work? Speaking as a fellow Mid-West resident.
Probably the biggest influence is the seasons and the mood they bring to my writing. I don’t actually set many of my stories here; I tend to favor seaside villages or mountainous areas… to me, they’re more interesting places. But there is a “mood” about the Midwest during the fall – when all the leaves have turned color and the cold winds kick in and everything begins to take on a dark stormy caste… I think this makes for a great setting in horror, and I think I’ve transplanted that mood to some of my other fictional seaside locations. Perhaps not explicitly, in terms of brown leaves blowing around, but just the vibe that it gives me.
8- What projects do you have coming out in the near future that you can talk about?
I’m currently working on an erotic horror novel for the new Samhain horror imprint called NightWhere, which should be out in 2012. I’ve also completed my segments for a couple “shared world” novels which should get edited and pieced together over the next six months for release in 2012 as well.
9- What advice do you have for new writers in today’s market?
Same advice as ever – write. Write a lot. Keep writing. Read what you write out loud to yourself, or others (you hear a stories strengths and flaws differently that way). Submit to editors. The one new thing about today’s market is that it’s easier than ever to self-publish. Personally, I still think having an objective editor as part of the publishing process is a crucial part.
10- Pimp yourself!!! Tell the lovely people where they can find out about you and your work.
I’m active and easy to find on Facebook, Twitter, even occasionally MySpace. I also maintain my main website (which I’ve had running since 1996) at www.johneverson.com. My blog is hosted there, and there’s information about all my books, as well as info about my artwork and music projects. And my new novel has its own micro-site at http://www.thepumpkinman-horror.com
On the Pumpkin Man site you can read an excerpt from the book as well as some short fiction. You can also play with a really cool online Ouija Board and enter a Contest to win autographed copies of ALL FIVE of my novels as well as a CD from New Years Day. The Contest ends on Halloween though, so get to http://www.thepumpkinman-horror.com this weekend!
Bonus Question- Who wins in a fight- Pumpkin Man or The Great Pumpkin?
The Great Pumpkin. I’ve never seen him, and I know Linus is still waiting too. But I know when he falls out of the sky finally, he’ll be big as a house and fast as a meteor. I think he’d probably just roll right over The Pumpkin Man. End of story.
I would like to thank John for taking the time to stop by! See everyone back Saturday evening when I talk Douglas Clegg!
Today’s question: Name the novel John Everson won the Bram Stoker Award for.