Joanna Penn, from The Creative Penn, interviewed J Thorn, author of Horror and Dark Fantasy, about the dark realm and how he thrives writing about the fear. J Thorn’s best selling book has sold over 100,000 copies, which ranks him as a Top 100 Author in Horror, Science Fiction, and Fantasy. He is a master of the craft and educated in the occult and mysticism. The latter lends for excellent material for his numerous tomes. He is driven by the macabre and within this interview, you can hear how passionate he is about his genre.
I always enjoy hearing how other authors feel about the darker genres. As these genres can delve into the gore, terror, and ultimate evil, there is a serene sentiment that is echoed in the voices of all authors who dare to craft this somewhat “taboo” genre. We all find dark fiction healing. There is something to be said about being courageous enough to write worldly terror down on paper and share with others. The fear of rejection, ridicule, and hatred are a few words that spring to mind. It is something that all authors go through, but we of the dark arts probably experience it to a higher degree… well, maybe those of erotica do as well. We push the boundaries set by social norms. We bring into the minds of our readers thoughts and ideas and characters that could potentially scar them for life. But once the story is out there, once it is accepted, once it is loved… It is liberating. It is healing.
“I believe dark fiction can be healing.” – J Thorn
Without giving too many spoilers from this interview, I just wanted to point out one other thing that J and Joanna spoke about that really resonated with me: dreams of dark fiction authors. What are our dreams about and how do we even sleep at night? To that, J answered “very well”, and I could not help to nod my head in agreement. I enlightened one of my co-workers this very morning with the fact that what I write does not induce nightmares in my mind. I truly have no fear of ghosts or monsters or cosmic evil. What terrifies me is real life. I recounted to her that I woke up in tears last night by a nightmare where our office moved to a riverboat on the Mississippi river in the state of the same name, we hired an employee that I was against, my boss cryogenically froze himself – alive, and another co-worker published her first novel (80,000 words, mind you) about her amazing ham and scalloped potatoes. I was up the rest of the night with that one. These are my darkest fears.
Now you can go ahead and laugh at me all you want, but I am serious. Those who write in the realm of dark fiction have fears of the everyday things. The things that are dubbed spooky and grotesque are the dreams we crave. We want our dreams to be haunted by madness and the macabre.
J Thorn hits home in this interview and I am sure if you write dark fiction, you will feel the same as well. There is so much more that I want to discuss, but I don’t want to reveal everything within this post. You will have to watch and experience it for yourself.
I am looking forward to what comes next from this fellow Pittsburgh native.
Insight into the mid of someone who writes horror is a gift! Your dream that brought you to tears was worthy of a short story! BTW, I was in Pittsburgh this last weekend for a wedding!
Haha, the thought crossed my mind. I was pretty ticked that my co-worker published a “novel” before mine was complete.
My mom said that last weekend was a pretty autumn weekend. Hope you had a great time in the ‘burgh.
We did – the reception was in the aquarium!
Dark fiction heals. I couldn’t agree more. Some days I just crave me a horror story, movie or book. The way somebody might crave chocolate. Those chills, thrills, that terror, that sinking feeling in the heart, the cold rolling in the stomach . . . imagine that after a while I miss them. I keep a collection of my finest horror movies, among them the Exorcist, Mama, The Haunting in Connecticut, etc. And my library is full of horror stories. In 2008, one of classmates asked me for a book to read. She always saw me reading and enjoying myself. That day I was reading Crichton’s A State of Fear. I told her what the story was about and she said she’d like something to read over the weekend. We went to my room and I gave her The Pet Sematary. I told her it was about “these fine pets doing these wonderful mysterious things that she had to read by any means.” On Monday, she returned the book to me, with one word: “Peter!” You should have seen her face, the disturbance there, the questioning frown! And I laughed like crazy. She never asked me for any book again.
Where you say we stand to be unfairly criticized, rejected, ridiculed, hated, or even ostracized–if these things happen to us then our stories have impact on society. Otherwise there would have been apathy. And the last time I checked, such emotions as above are not elicited by lies or impossibilities. They are elicited by something with truth in it. Something possible.
Haha – your friend was petrified of Pet Semetary?! I always thought that story was so tame. Then again, I do love a good “child in jeopardy” story and my soul is extremely dark.
Your collections of movies and books sounds much like my own – though I am angry that I have not had the time to see Mama yet. Maybe I will force myself to take a break this evening to watch it.
You are exactly right about the impact on society. The reason that society still criticizes our genre is because it is full of truth. And what a horrific truth it is! A good portion of society does not want to accept it. Whether that is out of fear, ignorance, or naivety, I do not know. What I do know is that we (along with other genres, like erotica), do have to fight harder to win over these social conditionings. That doesn’t mean that we have to be 100% accepted someday (however, that would be pretty awesome), but it means that it would be nice if our genre would be elevated to the ranks of such genres as Romance or Fantasy or Mysteries.
It bothers me that when I go to Amazon, there is no overall “Horror” genre listed to select from. You have to dig through other genres to uncover “Horror” as a sub-genre.
Yet, despite my rant, there is a shift beginning in what people are selecting to read these days. I think authors, like you and I, are about to be caught up in a sweep of popularity with the horror genre. People are starting to look, understand, believe, and take notice.
Maybe Amazon will soon take heed…
I had noticed and wondered why Amazon is such. I hope with time they see the truth.
Actually, now that you have mentioned it, Pet Sematary is not one of King’s best books. I read it the first time in 1999, and up to that point, I’d never read a story where the dead come back to walk the earth. I’d just joined high school and one of my classmates gave it to me. It did scare the bejesus out of me, though. That cat with the dead crow, that boy with the razor!
One of King’s best works for me, I think, is Needful Things. It had such an impact on me. I even woke up screaming one night and bumped my cousins bed when I dreamt that I had bought something from Leland Gaunt. I hated the way that boy blew his brain out, I hated so many things in that story. It is about evil. And there is also, The Tommyknockers. Where the population of Haven begin to turn into transparent jelly-like things. And they were losing teeth! I thought once that if you crossed through that town and the grinned at you. Shiny, meaty toothless gums exposed before your unbelieving eyes. I liked that book. The third was The Dark Half. George Stark is a villain to reckon with. There was that part where he was killing someone, I think the editor, and the neighbor opened the door: “What’s going on out here?” he asked, and Stark said, “Murder, you want some?” That part still makes me laugh. I have all the books King ever wrote.
My movies also include The New Daughter with Kevin Costner. It’s a crazy scary movie. Did you watch it? And find time for Mama. I think it beats Conjuring and Drag Me to Hell.
Agree with you there. I adore the concept of Pet Sematary, but not one of his best. Completely agree with you on Needful Things. That is one of my favorites. Hmmm… I think I am in the mood to re-read it. The Shining shall always remain one of my favorites. Nothing better than an author literally “losing” himself in his writing.
I have not seen New Daughter. Consider it added to my list. The Conjuring I fell asleep about 10 minutes in and 5 into Drag Me to Hell – that is never a good sign. So looking forward to seeing Mama and New Daughter.