Author Interview - JONATHAN MABERRY
I have a special treat for you all today. Because I love you and want you to have nice things.
Not only did our Witch Haunt guest today cover-quote my novel, ISLAND OF BONES, calling it “a devious mystery with plenty of dark secrets, unexpected twists and a very satisfying payoff,” but he’s also a NY Times bestselling suspense novelist, five-time Bram Stoker Award winner, one of the stars of the Three Guys With Beards Podcast, and a comic book writer. His vampire apocalypse book series, V-WARS, is being produced as a Netflix original series, starring Ian Somerhalder (LOST, VAMPIRE DIARIES) and will debut in early 2019. On top of all this…he’s also a SUPER NICE GUY!
Have you guessed who it is yet? It’s JONATHAN freakin’ MABERRY, witches!
WH: Welcome to The Witch Haunt, Jonathan! Before anything else, tell us about the V-WARS production so we can all live vicariously through you:
V-Wars has been a favorite project of mine for several years. It began life as a shared-world anthology in which I wrote a long framing story and invited other writers to come in and write short stories built into the same world. The basic story is that global warming causes extensive melting of polar ice, which releases an ancient pathogen that triggers a gene which codes for vampirism. The people who turn are not the Hollywood vampire —they’re not pale and tragic romantic immortals who fear the sun or are repelled by the cross. These vampires are people undergoing a massive genetic transformation that turns them into savage predators. Well…some of them. Not all vampires are evil, and not all humans are good.
That first book spawned three sequels, and I wrote a comic tied to the series as well. There’s even a board game based on it.
The publisher, IDW, thought it would make a pretty good TV show and spent a few years shopping it around to different networks but not quite finding the right fit. Then Netflix acquired it and we’re going straight to series. The first season will have ten one-hour episodes and has an amazing cast and crew. The star of the show is Ian Somerhalder (LOST, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES), who is a human research physician caught up in the outbreak. His best friend, Michael Fayne (played by Adrian Holmes of ARROW) is the first person to turn, and he becomes a new kind of apex predator. Jacky Lai (THE FLASH) plays Kaylee, a reporter; and Peter Outerbridge (THE EXPANSE, ORPHAN BLACK) is a shadowy scientist from the Department of Defense. Other cast members will be announced shortly. Our director is Brad Turner (24, HOMELAND, STARGATE), so we’re in incredibly good hands.
I went to the table read for the first two episodes and was blown away by how many power players are involved in this. Netflix brings a certain level of mojo, and everyone is playing their A-game. And, yes, Ian Somerhalder is a great guy. Very down to earth, funny, and talented.
WH: I can’t wait to see it, and how amazing that it went through so many adaptations. You must feel like a proud father watching his baby short story grow up to become a Netflix original that way. What other career would you have if not writing/publishing?
I’ve always been a teacher of one kind or another. I love it. For most of my life —before I was able to earn a living as a writer— I taught martial arts and self-defense. I taught at Temple University for fourteen years, teaching Martial Arts History, Jujutsu, and Women’s Self-Defense. I also ran my own dojos and taught workshops for SWAT and Special Forces. Starting in the late 1990s I began teaching writing, and have since taught programs on the craft of writing and the business of publishing all over the world. I also give workshops on social media branding. So…teaching is always Plan B. But for me Plan A was always writing.
WH: Since you’ve taught others how to write so well, what’s your own writing process like?
I’m a working writer. I work eight hours each day on whichever project is currently on deadline. I average three to four novels per year, plus comics and short stories.
I’m a very structured guy. I make sure the business aspects are taken care of. I have frequent conversations with my literary and film agents. I keep myself up to date on what’s happening in publishing and in the various genres in which I publish. And I manage my own social media. So…with all of that, time management is critical.
As for the actual writing…I plot out my stories. I do research before and during the writing process. I typically write four thousand words per day.
WH: I write about 4K words a day as well, depending on the kids’ schedules. So, as you know, I used to own and operate a cake design studio for many years, so I’m always curious to know what sweets other people love. Do you have a favorite dessert?
I’m a big fan of pumpkin pie. My grandmother made the best, and I like it served cold. No whipped cream. Just a slice of cold pumpkin pie of heroic size.
WH: Yessss… I always make sure to add extra cloves to my pumpkin pie spice to make it extra yummy. So, back to books. Which of your novels are you most proud of?
That’s such a complex question because I write in so many genres. So, I’m going to give you a complex answer. My favorite thriller is PATIENT ZERO, which introduced my favorite character, Joe Ledger. The novel combines my love of weird science with plenty of realistic action, deep character development, and lots of snarky humor. The tenth book in that series, DEEP SILENCE, debuts in October, and the series has been optioned for a possible cable TV show by SONY.
My favorite Young Adult novel is ROT & RUIN, the first of that series; though I have a great deal of affection for BROKEN LANDS, which launches a spinoff series. That debuts in December.
My favorite standalone novel is GLIMPSE, in which I took a few giant steps outside of my comfort zone.
And my favorite comic (now collected into a graphic novel) is BLACK PANTHER: DOOMWAR. It was such an honor to have written the Panther comic for a couple of years. I was exposed to a tremendous amount of racism as a child but learned about diversity and tolerance through the Black Panther’s first appearances in the old FANTASTIC FOUR comic. So…T’Challa made me a better person.
WH: Isn’t it amazing how art can change a person’s life? Speaking of art, I love, love the Rot & Ruin covers designed by Laurent Linn, Art Director at Simon & Schuster. He’s one of my favorite SCBWI peeps from my Co-Regional Advisor days and a wonderful person as well. Jonathan, if you could interview any horror author, gone or alive, who would it be?
I’ve been fortunate to have had substantial and meaningful conversations with some of my favorite horror writers, including Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson, both of whom advised and mentored me as a young teen. And I know pretty much everyone else in the genre now, and am delighted to call many of them friends. So, I’d dive deep and would love to talk with the old pulp masters August Derleth or Seabury Quinn.
WH: As I prepare this interview on July 4th, it’s the 47th anniversary of Sir Derleth’s death. How have you changed as a person from your early life until now?
Life has been a pretty bizarre journey of personal transformation. It’s as if I’ve lived different lives within one life. I was a shy, abused kid in a troubled household. I got involved in martial arts for protection against abuse, and then spent most of my adult life teaching jujutsu, martial arts history and self-defense. I was a bodyguard for a while, and taught combat workshops for police, SWAT and special forces. But I was also involved in musical theater, in rock bands, in art. All through that time I defined myself as a ‘writer’, even though I wasn’t living off my writing income until my late forties.
I was also poor as a kid, and had financial troubles well into my forties. When I switched from writing nonfiction (articles, mass market books, how-to manuals, etc.) to writing fiction, my life totally transformed. Now I am a novelist and comic book writer. I no longer struggle financially. I moved from the Philadelphia area to a condo on a cliff over the Pacific. I have a TV series being filmed right now. I’m happier than I’ve ever been.
But the question is how I changed as a person, so let me step back and answer that from a different perspective. Once I broke free of the pervasive racism, sexism and general intolerance of my childhood environment, I became a different person than what I might have otherwise been. Sure, we all want to believe that we are innately good and fair, but there was so much negativity being pounded into me that I could have easily become warped. However, along the way I encountered people —real and literary—who encouraged me to open my eyes. The heroism and nobility of T’Challa, Peter Parker, Captain America, and Professor X in the Marvel Comics; the kindness and generosity of spirit shown to me by Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Harlan Ellison, L. Sprague de Camp and other writers I met as a teen. The gentle strength and integrity of my jujutsu instructor who was more concerned with helping me want to be alive rather than merely becoming tough. The deep knowledge of the supernatural and paranormal worlds, as well as the scientific and anthropological underpinnings shared with me by beautiful weird grandmother. And others.
I’ve worked to honor the values of the people I respect. As a younger person I was often motivated by fear and a belief that I had to fight for survival. Over time I learned that if you spend your life bracing to deal with a punch, then the punch will eventually come. I changed my view and no longer see myself as the trained martial artist ready to defend. Instead I have accepted that, at my core, I’m an artist. Sounds corny, perhaps, but since I made that change I’ve also let go of old grudges and turned toward the next part of my life with optimism. So, instead of being a guy who once thought that the glass was not only half empty but filled with bacteria, to a guy who sees the glass as half full of delicious water and the waiter is bringing a full pitcher.
WH: *slow clap* Jonathan…that’s some seriously deep goals right there. Many people don’t care to change their outlook on life, and many try to but find themselves stuck in a perpetual hamster wheel of negativity. Sounds like you’ve unlocked the key to happiness. And now, for Food/Drink Question #2…how do you like your coffee?
I like my coffee with a little bit of milk, no sugar. And I want more than one damn cup.
WH: Right away, sir. *snaps to waiter* Do you have a favorite libation?
I don’t drink much, but when I do, my drink of choice is a Bombay Sapphire Martini, straight-up, three olives. I will, however, settle for a good wheat beer…which for me begins and ends with Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier. I’m also fond of very good bourbon, too, though it takes me forever to get through a bottle.
WH: I’m a beer woman myself, though lately, I’ve laid off most carbs. What about Halloween traditions? Do you have any favorites?
I’m often on book tour around Halloween, so I haven’t been home for the last four Halloweens. But I love the holiday. I have ghosts, ghouls, pumpkins and black cats all over my office. I was always a fan of dressing up like a monster and scaring the bejeezus out of kids…while handing out candy.
WH: LOL. That must’ve made a few kids pee their pants since, you're what...8 ft-tall? Because this IS a witch blog, what is the witchiest thing about you (we’re all a little witchy)?
Well, my grandmother was a bit like an old-lady version of Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter. She believed in everything and told me wonderful tales of ghosts and vampires and werewolves. I grew up with an open mind, and though I don’t believe everything she did, I believe in a larger world. Spirits and positive/negative energies, and so on. I am also very superstitious. I have good luck charms. And I even buy myself some object tied to whatever I’m about to start writing.
Oh, and all through high school and college I used to read tarot cards. I was pretty darn good at it, too. My wife bought me a new Ryder deck for Christmas.
WH: Sounds like your grandmother and I would’ve gotten along splendidly! Who would be your favorite Addams Family character?
Gomez, without a question. Mad as the moon, delighted with life, very well dressed, and funny as hell.
WH: Just say it...and sexy. What do you feel makes a horror novel scary?
Suspense is the key. Not shocks, not gore —though they can have their moments. But it’s all about the growing dread of what might happen, and the uncertainty about what is happening. My favorite horror novel of all time is THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson. My second favorite is SALEM’S LOT by Stephen King. Both play more on dreadful anticipation rather than visceral shocks. Other books that do that well are I AM LEGEND by Richard Matheson, MYSTERY WALK by Robert MacCammon, GHOST STORY by Peter Straub, THE SILENCE by Tim Lebbon, and ARRARAT by Christopher Golden.
WH: You just named all my favorite suspense novels of all time, though I haven’t read ARARAT yet, but it’s on my TBR list. What’s next for you? We can’t wait to see what you have coming up!
I am in the middle of my busiest year ever. I have four novels releasing throughout 2018. GLIMPSE came out in April, DEEP SILENCE debuts October 30, BROKEN LANDS on December 11; and STILL OF NIGHT, the fourth in my zombie apocalypse series, should be released later this summer. Waiting on a publication date on that now.
As for what I’m writing, I just wrapped some short stories in a variety of genres—epic fantasy, cosmic horror, weird west, thriller, and horror—and will be doing three back-to-back novels: INK (a horror/suspense about a kind of psychic vampire who steals tattoos that are tied to the most precious memories of his victims), LOST ROADS (second in the BROKEN LANDS spinoff series tied to my ROT & RUIN young adult post-apocalyptic novels), and then RAGE (first of the new Joe Ledger: Rogue Team International thriller series). After that, I’ll be tackling a mystery novel for teens.
I’m also writing a zombie comic, but the details will be announced right before San Diego Comic Con. And there’s another comic that I just pitched that may be an ongoing title.
And with all of that is the production of the first 10-episode season of V-Wars for Netflix, and the possibility of new books and/or comics tied to that.
You know what they say…Idle hands are the devil’s tools.
WH: All I can say is HOLY SHIT. You’ve got your hands full. Thank you, Jonathan, for an amazing interview, for always being so generous with your time and knowledge, and good luck with all these amazing projects we can’t wait to see and read! To stay up-to-date with all of Jonathan Maberry’s goings-on, check him out at:
* Website: www.jonathanmaberry.com
* Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B001JSF8TK?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true
* Latest release: GLIMPSE, a horror suspense novel; St. Martins Griffin; hardcover
* Facebook: www.facebook.com/jonathanmaberry
* Twitter: @jonathanmaberry
* Instagram: jonathanmaberry
JONATHAN MABERRY is a NY Times bestselling suspense novelist, five-time Bram Stoker Award winner, and comic book writer. His vampire apocalypse book series, V-WARS, is being produced as a Netflix original series, starring Ian Somerhalder (LOST, VAMPIRE DIARIES) and will debut in early 2019. His other works include the Joe Ledger thrillers, Glimpse, the Rot & Ruin series, the Dead of Night series, The Wolfman, X-Files Origins: Devil’s Advocate, and many others. His YA space travel novel, Mars One, is in development for film; and his novel Glimpse and the V-Wars shared-world vampire apocalypse series are being developed for TV, as is his bestselling Joe Ledger thriller series. He is the editor of many anthologies including the X-Files, Aliens: Bug Hunt, Nights of the Living Dead (co-edited with zombie genre creator George A. Romero). His comics include Captain America, the Bram Stoker Award-winning Bad Blood, Black Panther, Punisher, Marvel Zombies Return, and more. His Rot & Ruin novels were included in the Ten Best Horror Novels for Young Adults.His first novel, Ghost Road Blues was named one of the 25 Best Horror Novels of the New Millennium. A board game version of V-Wars: A Game of Blood and Betrayal was based on his noels and comics. He was a featured expert on the History Channel’s Zombies: A Living History and True Monsters. He is one third of the very popular and mildly weird Three Guys With Beards podcast. Jonathan lives in Del Mar, California with his wife, Sara Jo.
If you enjoyed this post, please show your love—comment and share!
🔮 GABY TRIANA ☠️