Today, Hartford Books Examiner rolls out the (blood) red carpet for John Everson.
Everson is the award-winning author of the novels Covenant (2004), Sacrifice (2007) The 13th (2009) and Siren (2010). His short fiction has appeared in more than fifty magazines, and “Letting Go” was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award while three other stories from the Needles & Sins collection were included in the Honorable Mention List of the annual Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror anthology. He edited the compilations Sins of the Sirens and In Delirium II and co-edited the Spooks! ghost story anthology. The co-founder of Dark Arts Books, Everson is also a digital artist and musician. He makes his home in Naperville, Illinois.
Everson’s latest, The Pumpkin Man (Dorchester, $14.95), is available now and has proven a terrifying treat for readers and reviewers alike. Bestselling author James A. Moore (Blood Run) called the book is “a fresh look at…urban legends. Fast-paced, gory fun that is perfect for a chilly autumn night” while Hellnotes enthused that Everson “has guts, and clearly likes to explore and tamper with boundaries. He is a good enough writer that he can get away with murder, as well as multitudes of morbid mayhem.”
From the publisher:
After her father’s gruesome murder, Jenn needed a place to get away from it all with some friends, to take her mind off her grief. The empty seaside cottage she inherited seemed perfect. Jenn didn’t know that the cottage held arcane secrets, mysteries long hidden and best left alone. She didn’t realize until it was too late that the old books and Ouija board she found there really do hold great power. And it was only after her friend’s headless body was discovered that she knew the legend of the local bogeyman was no mere legend at all. An evil has been unleashed, a terrifying figure previously only spoken of in whispers. But now the whispers will become screams. Beware…THE PUMPKIN MAN
Now, John Everson puts the pulp in fiction…
1) Can you tell us what inspired THE PUMPKIN MAN? What is it about the idea of Halloween that lends itself so strongly to storytelling?
The Pumpkin Man actually began as a short story several years ago. As the resident “local horror author,” I was doing some library readings at Halloween and needed something that was both “family friendly” and Halloween-oriented. I had a popular erotic Halloween story, but I couldn’t really use that in a mixed audience. So I wrote this story about kids who are creeped out by a guy who carves REALLY realistic pumpkins… but it turns out, he’s using animals and people as his models… and the “models” disappear after he carves their jack-o-lantern likenesses. It was a creepy tale, but not too bloody to read for varied groups.
At the start of last year, when I was looking for what I should do for my 5th novel, I decided to expand the mythology of this Pumpkin Man but to tell a very different story. The novel deals with two high school teachers who find themselves in the midst of The Pumpkin Man’s new reign of terror… thanks to an inheritance. And they have to use a Ouija board, occult books and delve into the history of their new home if they are to save themselves from being the next victims.
2) The “bogeyman” is a common genre figure. What’s so appealing about this type of character? Also, how does his existence (or legend) help to define the protagonist?
We’re all afraid of dangers as yet unseen coming for us to take our lives or at least our equilibrium away. The “bogeyman” is simply the personification of that fear. Since it’s a universal fear, the personification of the fear as a dark man is also widely used. We can all identify with it. And how the protagonist faces her fear … well, that defines her. Is she really a coward? Brave? Canny? Naive… how we address our fears and (hopefully) conquer them is really a defining moment of everyone. In The Pumpkin Man, my lead, Jennica, really has to face herself. At the start, she loses her dad, her apartment and her job, and must rebuild her life — against the backdrop of an occult killer — in a new place. She has to make decisions about who she wants to be moving forward.
3) Rumor is that this story will cause readers to rethink their view of jack-o-lanterns. Care to comment?
The Pumpkin Manmay give you some images to think about related to pumpkins, but honestly, if you really want to re-think your view of jack-o-lanterns, read my other Halloween short story (which I couldn’t read at libraries, which is part of the reason I wrote “The Pumpkin Man”). It’s called “Pumpkin Head” and is now available on The Pumpkin Man website: http://www.thepumpkinman-horror.com/pumpkin-head.html
4) What do you see as being the confines of the horror genre (if any)? How do you go about adhering to such expectations while keeping things fresh, both for yourself and for the reader?
I actually don’t see a lot of confines of the horror genre. Other than being a scary story, there aren’t a lot of walls there. You can tell an awful lot of varied stories about people who are dealing with fear. People who worry a lot about policing genre boxes may get concerned if the story has more romance or science fiction or mystery than actual “horror” and say that it doesn’t fit the horror genre. But really, horror literature is broad — it is fiction about fear. And that can take so many forms. Most horror fiction today is actually sold under other titles — it’s simply labeled as “Fiction” or as “Dark Fiction”… and the popular “paranormal romance” genre takes a lot of its trappings from horror… they just make the monsters more sexy. Call it what you want, if you’re writing about characters dealing with fear and difficult mysterious situations… it’s probably horror. As for me? I don’t worry about the expectations — I just try to work on stories that hold my interest. So far, those stories always seem to end up under the Horror classification!
5) In your opinion, what purpose(s) do scary stories (whether books, movies, etc.) serve in society? How would you respond to those who say that fictional violence breeds real-life violence?
I think scary stories help us cope with our own irrational fears. By seeing others prevail against horrible odds in extreme situations… it gives us hope. It also tells us, we’re not alone. Others face frightening things, and sometimes… they win ;-) I don’t think fiction breeds violence. I think people are violent or they’re not. Fiction actually can act as a safety valve for those with violent inclinations. I don’t think that’s its purpose, but it could work that way.
6) Do you have any other tricks or treats you’d like to share with us this Halloween?
Well, I do have a Halloween Contest going on, that will give at least some readers some treats. The Pumpkin Man website has a contest running with a grand prize of autographed copies of all five of my novels, as well as a signed CD from the band who did the music for the website (New Years Day). So Trick or Treat your way over there in the next couple days and enter the Contest at www.thepumpkinman-horror.com.
You can also read a couple of free short stories or the prologue of The Pumpkin Man. And… you can play with the online Ouija Board. Ask it things like Are you alive? and Who are you? and my personal favorite, Who is John Everson? Have fun and…
With special thanks to John Everson for generously sharing time and thought.