Next up in our October author Q&As we have John Everson, author of Voodoo Heart. Hear all about his continuing fascination with supernatural themes and what makes this novel so different to his others! Be sure to check in tomorrow for October's final Q&A!
What is the book about?
Voodoo Heart is the story of Lawrence Ribaud, a New Orleans detective who has lost his wife as part of a strange series of disappearances. Every month, on the night of the full moon, people are disappearing, leaving behind no clues but bloody sheets and a human heart on the bed. And every month, the bloody beds are multiplying. Ribaud soon must abandon his search for some kind of serial killer and descend into the hidden world of voodoo to discover what is behind the bloodbath.
What are the underlying themes?
The core themes revolve around love – both mutual and unrequited and finding forgiveness. Early on, Ribaud finds that his wife had been cheating on him. But he still loves her and wants her back, and recognizes the role he played in sending her away. The secret behind the voodoo curse that is stealing away bodies but leaving behind hearts hinges on a story of betrayal and vengeance.
You’ve written 11 other novels; what inspires you and what makes this one different than the rest?
I’ve always been fascinated by ghosts and witches and magic and demons – the incursion into our world of some after- or other-life that is patently supernatural. I’ve never been much interested in serial killer horror, because you can read about crazy people picking up knives and guns and killing innocent people in horrible, unfathomable ways every day in the newspaper. That’s not entertainment or escapism to me. I find the idea of an invisible world, even if it is sinister, a fascinating diversion from the horrors of real life. While I have written about killers, they’re never just killers – like my villain Ariana in Sacrifice – she was performing her sacrifices as an occult ritual to open our world to demons.
So most of my novels have dealt with demonic, supernatural themes – albeit, with lots of bloody sacrifices and rituals. With Voodoo Heart I got to play with both dark erotic and evil occult themes, mixed with the heartache of betrayal, and recovering from it
Did you base your characters on anyone you knew?
No. I’ve been to New Orleans many times, so the city is something of a “character” in the novel.
What’s your favorite color?
Purple! I painted my home office purple and I have always signed my books with a purple pen. I love it that in the Catholic Church, the priests wear purple raiments during the darkest days of the winter leading up Christmas. I love it that Prince took purple as his signature color. Purple to me can represent the mysterious, the erotic, the religious and the profane.
Summer or Winter?
Summer! Despite growing up and living most of my life near “The Windy City” I abhor the cold. The Chicago area has cold and blustery weather from October through April, and by the time things finally start warming up in May, I’m near the end of my rope. I have never skied because a) I’m not very athletic and b) I can’t stand the snow and cold. If it’s below 60 degrees, I don’t want to go outside. If it’s above 80… I’m happy. I love sitting at my glass bar table on the patio all afternoon on a Saturday or Sunday in summer when it’s 85-95 degrees writing. I plug in the iPod and turn up the music, power up the laptop, pour a cold beer and work outside for hours, enjoying the heat. My wife says I’m crazy and stays inside with the air conditioning.
Is there any advice you can give someone starting to write?
I think the best advice is that if want to be a writer… establish goals and deadlines for yourself. There are millions of people who will tell you “I got a book in me I really want to write” who will never discipline themselves to actually do the work to make that happen. They will talk the rest of their lives about how they want to write a book once they get the time. Got news for you: you never “get” the time. You make the time. Or you don’t.
The other advice is also pretty simple. Write the kinds of stories you like to read. Don’t try to chase the next fad to get rich quick by writing. You’d be better off watching TV and playing the lottery. But if you write books that you want to read, you will always entertain yourself and find joy and fulfillment in what you produce, regardless of whether it becomes a bestseller or not.
Where did you write Voodoo Heart?
I wrote some of the novel over the summer of 2019 on my patio, with the outdoor speakers setting the mood. As the weather got cooler, I moved to weekend writing sessions at the oak bar in my basement. I love to write in bars too – I will frequently mark off one night of the week to go straight from work to a local pub and work for the evening. That way, I’m not distracted by all of the family things that go on at home; I order some finger food, someone brings me beer, and I work undisturbed for 3-4 hours. This year I spent solid writing time in and around Naperville working on the novel at World of Beer, Crosstown Pub, Quigley’s, Jackson Avenue Pub, and Old Town Pourhouse.
Did you write in silence, or to any particular music?
I always write to music. I really don’t like to do anything in life without music! For writing, I listen to a lot of dreamy pop CDs with dark or exotic overtones. I keep a stack of Cocteau Twins and Delerium CDs near the stereo and play them to death while working on a project, and also plug in Conjure One, Elsiane, Covenant, The Cure, New Order, OMD, This Mortal Coil and other things. I’m a big fan of StrangewaysRadio mixes on Mixcloud.com too. Now and then, during an action scene, I might plug in some more upbeat or angry music, from Marilyn Manson or Rob Zombie to The Blasters. Or I might put on an intense dark dance music mix with artists like Covenant, Brainclaw, Knife Party, Seraphim Schock, Wumpscut, Ministry and more thanks to my friend DJ L.D. in Orlando.
Did you find it hard to write? Or harder to edit your own work?
It’s not hard to write, it’s hard to carve out the time to write. I have a busy dayjob and family life, so it’s really important for me to block time out on the calendar when I can work. I’m not good at working for an hour a day; I really need to immerse myself in writing projects, so I have to find three or four hour blocks of time that I can lock myself down.
What was it like to be edited by someone else?
With the right editor, like Don D’Auria who I have worked with on many of my novels, it’s a pleasure. It’s not about the quantity of the edits ultimately, but the quality. I’ve had copyeditors for a horror line miss obvious corrections and make suggestions to change things that are counter or irrelevant to the book’s direction. One copyeditor once suggested that I remove a Rocky Horror Picture Show reference because readers might not get it. I would be both shocked and very disappointed if I found that most horror readers aren’t familiar with the “Time Warp.” The reference stayed in the book. In the end, every writer needs an editor. But you need a good editor. Thankfully, I’ve gotten to work with Don for most of my career!
Thank you to John for taking the time to talk today about Voodoo Heart. You can pick up his book, along with the other October releases now. It will be available in paperback, hardback and ebook. Check out our website for details.
John Everson is a staunch advocate for the culinary joys of the jalapeno and an unabashed fan of 1970s European horror cinema. He is also the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Covenant and its two sequels, Sacrifice and Redemption, as well as six other novels, including the erotic horror tour de force and Bram Stoker Award finalist NightWhere and the seductive backwoods tale of The Family Tree. Other novels include The Pumpkin Man, Siren, The 13th and the spider-driven Violet Eyes.
Over the past 25 years, his short fiction has appeared in more than 75 magazines and anthologies and received a number of critical accolades, including frequent Honorable Mentions in the Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror anthology series. His story “Letting Go” was a Bram Stoker Award finalist in 2007 and “The Pumpkin Man” was included in the anthology All American Horror: The Best of the First Decade of the 21st Century. In addition to his own twisted worlds, he has also written stories in shared universes, including The Vampire Diaries and Jonathan Maberry’s V-Wars series, as well as for Kolchak: The Night Stalker and The Green Hornet. His short story collections include Cage of Bones & Other Deadly Obsessions, Needles & Sins, Vigilantes of Love and Sacrificing Virgins. To catch up on his blog, join his newsletter or get information on his fiction, art and music, visit John Everson: Dark Arts at www.johneverson.com.
Make sure you check back in with the blog for more Q&As with the authors of our October releases!
- FLAME TREE PRESS |October Releases | 1 | Russell James Q&A
- FLAME TREE PRESS |October Releases | 2 | Frazer Lee Q&A
- FLAME TREE PRESS |October Releases | 3 | Johny Everson Q&A
- FLAME TREE PRESS |October Releases | 4 | Mark Morris Q&A
- FLAME TREE PRESS |November Releases | 5 | Upcoming Titles