Today I am happy to have John Quick on The Horror Bookshelf for an interview in support of his excellent debut novel Consequences (review). Quick’s novel is a really fun summer read that will appeal to any horror fan, but particularly those who enjoy a good slasher story. Consequences is based on a real-life serial killer legend from Quick’s hometown and he uses that inspiration to craft a brutal novel that is full of great characters, plenty of action, and a formidable killer that will definitely give you the creeps! I really enjoyed Consequences and it seems Quick is poised for great things as he has signed to Sinister Grin Press for his follow-up novel.
During my interview with John, we talked about his writing process, his influences, the inspiration and history behind Consequences, bits of publishing stuff, and some of his upcoming work. This was an awesome interview and it was really cool to talk to John about his love of writing and some behind the scenes aspects of his work. A big thank you to John for stopping by to answer my questions and to Erin Al-Mehairi of Hook of a Book Media & Publicity for having me on the tour!
Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview! For those who may be unfamiliar with your work, how did you first get started in writing and what led you to pursue it professionally?
Thanks so much for having me!
I’ve always liked to read and write, so that part of it just seemed to come naturally. I was an only child, so there were many times growing up where I found myself with nothing to do other than to read. Thankfully, my parents encouraged that; they didn’t seem to care what I was reading so long as I was reading something.
I think it’s a natural extension of writing to eventually think about doing it for a living. I love to create, and I love even more to think about something I created maybe inspiring someone else to do the same. Ever since seeing pictures of John Skipp, Craig Spector, and David J. Schow in the leather jackets and sunglasses in Fangoria magazine years ago, writers have been like rock stars to me, and since I don’t have the musical talent to go that route, writing seemed like the next best thing [laughs].
What is a typical day of writing like for you? Do you have a set process or is it something that varies depending on the day?
Since I got serious about it, I’ve been pretty consistent; I write at night, after the family’s gone to bed. I go out on my back patio with the laptop, smokes, and a couple of beers, and go until the night’s chapter is done—doesn’t matter how long it takes, and sometimes it can get a bit brutal [laughs]. I do have a day job, so there are times I’m exhausted when I get there, but the satisfaction I feel doing something I love every night makes it worth it. Mondays and Wednesdays are usually edit days; I’ll print out a manuscript, and jot down things with a red pen throughout the week, then plug them in on those days.
I have learned to take time off now and then, just not usually longer than two days running. If I do, apparently I get grumpy (according to my family [laughs]).
I have read your blog and see you were a big fan of shows like the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. What was it about these shows that appealed to you growing up?
I think it came from living out in the middle of nowhere, and the sense of isolation that came along with that. We had a couple of acres, and there wasn’t a house right next door on either side, so you could definitely walk outside and feel like you were the only person around for miles, even if that wasn’t the case. Beyond that, I’ve just always had a thing for the strange, and thankfully that never went away as I got older.
You mentioned on your blog that in July of 2015 you decided to start Consequences. Within that year, you ended up writing 10 first drafts, which is a pretty impressive accomplishment. What do you think helped spark that creative drive?
Just finally hitting a point where I was in the right mindset for it. I’d tried writing before, even tried going the traditional publishing route about ten years ago or so with no success. At that time, I had dreams of bestseller lists dancing in my head, and quitting my job on the basis of a single advance. As a result, it took me nearly a year to get one manuscript finished, and it was nowhere near ready for anyone else to look at.
Then I turned forty, and I realized that if I really wanted to do this, I’d better get to it before it was too late.
This time around, I just wanted to get something I’d written out there. I had no plans to quit the day job, and was of a mind that if I sold one copy to someone I didn’t know, I’d done what I set out to do. I’d also managed to get my hands on a copy of Richard Laymon’s A Writer’s Tale, and read the line “Write the books you want to read.” As soon as I read that, a switch flipped and the words started flowing. Everything that’s happened since has been beyond my wildest dreams!
You allow readers to track your progress on your blog and you have four works currently going on. I have always wondered with writers that are working on multiple projects simultaneously, is it difficult to keep them all straight? What helps you get in the mindset of each project?
Usually it’s not so bad, because there’s only one new thing going at a time. I did just take on the insane task of working on a dark fantasy novel at the same time I was working on a creature feature, and the headache that caused guarantees I’ll never try that again [laughs]!
I also think that since the other stuff is just edits, and the story’s already down on paper, it makes it easier to compartmentalize. Even if I see a new scene that needs to be added, or a scene that needs a complete rewrite, I tend to do it on the fly, working with my gut instincts.
As for mindset, Consequences had been simmering for a year before I put down the first word on paper. After that, it was habit. I sit down at the laptop at the right time, and my brain just switches on and says “okay, let’s do this!”
Consequences is a horror novel that is rooted in the real world, with its basis coming from a true life legend. Do you prefer to write horror that is more realistic or are you more drawn to horror with supernatural elements? What is it about each one that appeals to you if you enjoy both?
Honestly, it depends on the story. I enjoy both, but I tend to favor realism over supernatural stuff. Maybe it’s a result of reading so much horror and watching so many movies in my life, that the moment it occurs to me that something could actually happen, it becomes immensely more terrifying to me.
That said, there’s something almost primal about a good ghost story. I think most of us grew up hearing those tales around the campfire, and I know growing up in the rural south I heard more than my fair share. I’ve been to Chapel Hill to find the ghost that walks on the railroad track, and visited the Bell Witch cave, and many of the other haunted locations in Tennessee. So when it’s translated into literary form, it still manages to strike that same primal impulse.
What was the hardest part about writing Consequences, whether from a story standpoint or the process of getting the book out there?
As far as the story, there were a few things that were a little tricky, but mostly it came easily. Getting it out there was an adventure, though. I did four drafts of it, then sent it to a publisher who was in the process of undergoing staff changes (to not name names). It got rejected about six months later, then that publisher announced they were closing, so I guess I see why it didn’t make the cut with them [laughs]. I decided to get it out there, got volunteers to edit and do cover art, then things happened and both of them dropped out as well. I finally got it done the best I could, hit “publish”, and suddenly realized that the fun was just starting! I owe a huge debt to Tristan over at Sinister Grin and Erin at Hook of a Book for helping to guide me through the headaches that came after that!
What was your experience like self-publishing Consequences? Is that something you would like to continue with future works in addition to releasing with presses or is your goal to work with presses?
There’s something to be said for the complete creative freedom that comes with self-publishing, and I would definitely do it again. Now that I have a better idea what to expect from it, and what to do to make it work, I think I might could do it without wanting to tear my hair out [laughs].
I’m still in the early stages of working with a press, so it’s hard to answer whether I’d prefer working with them over doing it myself, but so far it’s been great. I do kind of like the idea that my biggest worry is writing the story itself, and not all the things that go on behind the scenes.
I don’t want to give away too much about Consequences for those who haven’t read it yet, but it seems like there is the potential for a sort of “spin-off” series. Do you have any plans to revisit those characters?
Also without giving too much away, things are set into motion in the epilogue of Consequences that have continued on. I’ve actually done four books in a series about a couple of the characters mentioned there, with the first book currently making the rounds in submissions. One way or the other, it’ll see the light of day eventually.
Was that specifically vague enough for you? <Insert evil laugh here>
You recently signed with Sinister Grin Press for the release of your upcoming novel, The Journal of Jeremy Todd. How did you get in touch with them?
Luck, mostly! I happened to stumble across an announcement that they were accepting open submissions back in November, and knew I had to send them something. I first found out about them because of Sixty-Five Stirrup Iron Road, and then looked at some of their other stuff and realized they were doing good stuff. Jeremy Todd was the closest to being ready, so I spent a week destroying my brain to get a final draft ready for them, and sent it on. I got a request for the full manuscript on Christmas Eve (an awesome present, I should say), and now here we are!
Is there anything you can tell us about that release?
It’s the story of a guy who was bullied so badly in high school that he’s become a total loser. The story’s told in the form of his journal entries leading up to his twenty year reunion, and we see how his mind degrades as he remembers more and more about his past, with gruesome and visceral results.
It’s also the darkest thing I’ve done yet, so take the time before it comes out to prepare! I know my wife really struggled reading it, and honestly, I struggled writing it, so hopefully that comes through on the page.
Do you have a preference between the novel format and some of the shorter formats (short story, novella, flash fiction, etc)? What do you enjoy about each style of storytelling?
While the ideas I come up with tend toward longer works, I love shorter ones, too. Maybe it was a part of that mindset thing, but I’ve finally started dipping my toes into the short story pond, and even have one coming out in an anthology this fall (Full Moon Slaughter, edited by Toneye Eyenot for JEA Press).
To me, the story is what dictates the length, not a conscious decision. Sometimes the point can be made fast, other times it takes longer. As long as it’s good, I’ll read it whatever format it’s in!
Reading your blog it seems like you have an interest in learning the ins and outs of publishing, even giving readers a look at how Consequence has been doing in various formats. What do you like about learning the publishing side of the business? I think it’s cool that you share what you have learned to help other authors or to help educate readers who are interested in that information.
I was a manager in a bookstore several years ago, so I got to see first-hand how things went on that end. There were always people coming in and wondering why we wouldn’t carry their PublishAmerica books, or pretty much anything that didn’t come from one of the major publishers. I started looking into it, and once I decided to do it myself, wanted to know exactly what I was getting into.
It also struck me that for the number of people actually trying to be writers, there was precious little valid information on what they needed to do to get their work out there. Internet searches give thousands and thousands of results, many of which contradict one another. Even books by big name authors give useful information, but when it comes to the publishing side aren’t as helpful as they could be, since those authors had some breaks that are more difficult to come by now.
So I figured I’d show what I went through during the process, so people could look at it and see that it’s not as easy as it’s been made out to be, and that there’s a lot more that goes with it than just hitting the publish button on KDP or Smashwords or whatever. I’m also one of those weird people who believe that if you’re going to do something, know everything you can about it so there’s no surprises anywhere down the line.
You give readers who visit your blog a very in-depth look at the inspirations for your stories and the “behind the scenes” look at your writing process. Is that something that is important to you, to let readers see how each book has come to life?
One of my favorite things in Stephen King’s short story collections is when he tells where the idea came from for each tale. Likewise, I love watching the “How it was Made” documentaries on DVDs and Blu-Rays. I actually remember seeing the specials on television about how they made Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark when I was a kid, so maybe that’s where it comes from.
But in any creative endeavor, I think people naturally wonder how it came to be. Writers have always talked about the age-old question of “where do you get your ideas”, so this is just my way of heading them off at the pass. Besides, I’m still so new to this that I get excited talking about my craft. Check back with me in fifteen years or so and maybe I’ll be a little grumpier about it [laughs].
What horror novel had the biggest impact on you as a writer and who are some of your favorite current writers that you recently started reading?
There’s actually four that clicked home for me and made me want to do something similar, and they’re kind of an evolutionary thing. First would be Pet Sematary and It by Stephen King, because of the way he was able to evoke emotion seemingly on a whim, and the turns of phrase he used that put you right there in the story. Then it was The Scream by Skipp and Spector, which I consider my introduction to the Splatterpunks. Rock n’ roll and horror have always been natural bedfellows, and this just slammed them together like Alice Cooper in book form. On top of that, this was more blood than King let flow, and had an edge that he also didn’t have. Then came Darkness, Tell Us by Richard Laymon, which was the book that made me realize I didn’t have to hold back, that I could just tell the tale full-bore and not worry if someone else flinched while reading it, so long as I didn’t flinch while writing it.
As to the current writers I just started reading, there’s way too many to list. I’ll limit myself to the last year or so just to make it manageable: Jonathan Janz, David Bernstein, Glenn Rolfe, Hunter Shea, Somer Canon, and let’s not forget the Sisters of Slaughter, Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason!
If you could choose any writer to collaborate or talk about writing with, who would you choose and why?
I’ve been fortunate enough to get the chance to talk to some of my contemporaries whom I respect, thanks to social media and the wonderful online family that is the horror community. If there’s one that I would love to work with, or pick their brain, it would be Richard Laymon. I only regret that I didn’t discover his work while he was still alive, or maybe I’d have had that chance.
I know you have a ton of works in progress and you are fairly open with sharing that information, but is there anything else you are working on that you are excited about sharing?
My haunted house story Hidden Hearts just went out for editing, and I’m really excited for it to hit the release stage! It’s tamer in many ways than Consequences and Jeremy Todd, but it’s also the one that still manages to choke me up near the end, even after three drafts. I can’t wait for people to read it! I also am excited about getting the Cochran Investigations books out there (oops, minor spoiler!), just because since they were so fun to write, I’m hoping people will have just as much fun reading them!
Thanks again for stopping by The Horror Bookshelf John and answering my questions. I really enjoy your work and I am looking forward to reading more of your stuff in the future!
Thanks again for having me, and stay tuned! There’s much more to come!
Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Consequences!- #Consequences #summerofterror #crazyfreddy
It was a summer of blood and terror…
For seven friends, graduation night was supposed to be a time to celebrate the end of their high school careers and the start of their real lives.
But when an accident while partying at the local haunted house results in tragedy, they find themselves being hunted by a maniac for whom the stakes are decidedly personal.
Thirty years ago, Crazy Freddy hung his family up with barbed wire and skinned them alive. Now, the survivors can only hope for such a kindness as they are forced to accept that for everything they do, there will be CONSEQUENCES.
Praise for Consequences
“The character work here is pretty impressive, particularly for a first-time novelist.” – Michael Hicks, Author of Let Go
“John Quick takes you inside the mind of a psycho path in this thriller. I read it in only two sittings because the pacing kept me turning the pages. Very well written, I enjoyed the dialogue very much, especially the young people being hunted by the killer. It felt believable and well developed.” – Michelle Garza, co-author of Mayan Blue
John Quick Biography
John Quick has been reading and writing scary and disturbing stuff for as long as he can remember, and has only recently begun releasing some of his creations upon the world.
His debut novel, Consequences is available now as a paperback or digital eBook. Watch for his next novel to come from Sinister Grin Press in 2017. He lives in Middle Tennessee with his wife, two kids, and three dogs that think they’re kids.
When he’s not hard at work on his next novel, you can find him online at: http://johnquickauthor.blogspot.com/ or on Facebook and Twitter.
Would you like to feature?
If you would like to review Consequences or feature John with an interview or guest article for a media publication, blog, or author blurb, please e-mail Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at firstname.lastname@example.org .