As part of the 47North Author Blog Swap, this month I'll be interviewing JD Horn, author of the upcoming book The Line (Witching Savannah). Know him. Love him. Follow him on his blog (jackdouglashorn.blogspot.com/), Facebook (www.Facebook.com/JackDouglasHorn), and The Line's official Facebook page www.Facebook.com/TheLineSavannah.
Why did you write The Line?
My first novel, The Essence of Things Hoped For, found me my agent. Essence is a very personal and hopefully literary work into which I poured my heart. We shopped Essence around for about a year, but no bites. It seemed that everyone who read it loved it, but… (There were a lot of buts.) Rejection left me with the choice of giving up or taking another run at a “first” novel.
The question for me became whether I could write something with commercial appeal that also embodied my “essence,” the aspects of my soul that compel me to write. I got lucky, I fell in love with a character, Mercy Taylor, and with a place, Savannah. I cannot attest as yet to the true commercial appeal of The Line (it doesn’t go on sale until February 1 of next year), but the dark and twisted bits of my Southern Gothic psyche have found a new place to play.
What is it about this project that makes you happy or proud?
The good folk at 47North,publisher of The Line, liked Mercy enough to allow me to use it as the basis of a new series—the Witching Savannah series. It has been wonderful returning to Mercy’s world, learning more about her and her deeply-flawed but loving family.
What was one of the first books to inspire your interest in this genre?
Wow. This is tough. Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, Dracula, a whole slew of stories where the supernatural infiltrates everyday life. Lovecraft’s wonderful mythos. Most importantly, though, Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita.
Who influenced your voice as a writer?
Armistead Maupin, Charlaine Harris, Alice Hoffman and a bunch of dead Russian guys.
How did you learn how to write? How did you develop your style?
My undergraduate degree was in Comparative World Literature. Rather than inspiring my writing career, comparing my early efforts to the completed works of the greats nearly crippled me. It was only after I began reading the easy and natural style of Maupin’s Tales of the City series that I realized there was a place for me in the literary world.
What is your process when you begin a new project?
I turn on my computer, turn off everything else, close my eyes and listen to the voices. I ignore the ones that tell me I am not a real writer, that tell me I won’t succeed or that I need a pint of ice cream. I listen and keep listening until I hear the voice who wants to tell me a story. Then I start typing what it says. No inner editor allowed.
What are some writing tips or tricks that work for you?
Learn to use the delete key. Learn to love the delete key.
What is one of the happiest moments in your writing career?
Having readers take me to task for the events that happen to Ellen Taylor Weber (Mercy’s aunt) and realizing that my characters were becoming real to these readers, that the readers were falling in love with them just as I had. Signing the ARCs of The Line at NY Comic Con. Meeting my agent and getting a yes from 47North.
What advice do you have for people who want to become writers?
Focus on the creative process, not on the end result. Be willing to start over. Never, ever, ever read Rita Mae Brown’s writing guide Starting from Scratch. Read everything else she has written, but not that. Oh, and take advice from other writers with a grain of salt.
What upcoming projects are you working on?
Getting ready to work on the copy edits of The Source (second in the Witching Savannah series) and continuing work on The Void (Witching Savannah). On the back burner is a novella, Shivaree, about vampires in post-Korean War rural Georgia. Also, I am planning on revisiting The Essence of Things Hoped For to see if new life can be breathed into the manuscript.
You're in heaven (so anything is possible) and you own your own television network. What shows are on your channel?
Sadly I am a sucker for soap opera. In my heaven, As the World Turns and Edge of Night would still be in production. Oooh, and Dark Shadows, too. That and British murder mysteries.
What is your favorite pen to write with?
Do crayons count?
Favorite beverage while writing?
Name five books you love.
The Master and Margarita
The Brothers Karamazov (seriously, not just saying it)
And now I cheat, everything by Douglas Adams
Leather bound editions or paperbacks with a great pulp fiction covers?
I want books I can live with, not books that are too precious to handle. Give me paperback, or better yet, give me Kindle.
What is your favorite quote about writing?
“Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.” Flannery O’Connor (a good Savannahian, but probably not a witch…)