Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Interview with John Hornor Jacobs & Giveaway - August 3, 2011

Please welcome John Hornor Jacobs to The Qwillery as part of the 2011 Debut Author Challenge Interviews.

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

John:   Like, do I write in my underwear? How is my process different? Or, do I have a one-eyed character in every one of my plots?

Hmm. As for my process, I DO write in my underwear. I guess a quirky thing about my process of writing is I’m not an everyday writer. I have too many responsibilities to put down a thousand, two thousand words a day. I have a demanding day job and a wife and two young daughters that need my attention. I’m creative director of Needle Magazine of Noir that takes up my time intermittently and I also do freelance design, programming and animation. And I’m in a band. So, when I write, I write in spurts.

I don’t listen to the radio on my daily commute. I percolate on plot and character.

As for quirks in the actual product itself, I tend to have characters that injure themselves, both physically and emotionally. I tend to have characters that sacrifice themselves. I don’t know why. I kill off beloved characters. And all of my books are set in Arkansas, except my fantasy/western novel which isn’t set in this world at all – yet it still has some nods to Arkansas, names of towns, the character of the people. You can take the boy out of the country, but can’t take the country out of the boy, or so they say.

TQ:  Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?

John:   Currently, my favorite dead writers are Flannery O’Connor, Charles Dickens, William Styron, Anton Checkov, Dee Brown, and Norman Mailer.

My favorite living writers are Stephen Blackmoore, George R.R. Martin, Michael Chabon, Neil Gaiman, Jonathan L. Howard, John Rector, Neal Stephenson, Tim Powers, and Daryl Gregory. A list much more speculative than the dead writers.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

John:   I’m a modified flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pantser. I don’t write with an outline or synopsis – I’ve tried and that doesn’t work for me. I know my dominant characters. I know my ending. I know my mid-point. I know a few scenes I want to write, a few images I want to capture.

Then I sit down and start writing it, in order. Some folks can write scenes, jumping around in the novel’s timeline and keep all that straight. Not me. I’m a linear kind of guy. I write from the beginning to the end.

I like to be able to discover the story as I write it. I like being surprised by what my characters say and do. I don’t think I can achieve that with in-depth and detailed outlining and synopsizing.

TQ:  Describe Southern Gods in 140 characters or less.

John:   Southern Gods is a historical crime-noir, Southern Gothic, Lovecraftian horror novel that makes a great stocking stuffer.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Southern Gods?

John:   Many things lead to inspiration and sometimes it’s hard to keep it all straight. It’s all roiling around in my scrambled noggin’, sometimes. But I remember a bit of the circumstances leading up to the gestation of Southern Gods.

I spent the summer of 2007 buying Manly Wade Wellman novels and anthologies and read everything he’d ever written about Silver John – Wellman’s travelling, supernatural fighting hero who plays a silver-stringed guitar. At the same time, I had been reading a non-fiction book called about border blasters, the “pirate” radio stations set up across the border from the US in northern Mexico in the fifties. That was the kindling.

Then, one morning driving to work, NPR featured a segment about A&R agents in the fifties – how they’d have some money and would really just travel around, looking for talent, sometimes in the most obscure places, places far off the beaten path. That segment got my creative juices flowing. Add to that mix an intense interest in music history as it relates to the South, a fascination with old school radio history and practices, payola, and the birth of rock-n-roll. Those were the sparks.

But I wasn’t a writer then. It was just stuff I was interested in. It wasn’t until I entered the National Novel Writing Month competition in November of 2007 did I try to form all of this into a cohesive story line. That was the gasoline.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Southern Gods?

John:   I read a lot on Arkansas radio stations but Ray Poindexter’s Arkansas Airwaves was essential. I’ve already mentioned Border Radio: Quacks, Yodelers, Pitchmen, Psychics, and Other Amazing Broadcasters of the American Airwaves if not by title.

I had to read up on the battle in the Pacific in World War II – where my protagonist, Bull Ingram, fought at Guadalcanal. I read a few marine memoires of the Pacific battles, like Richard Tregaskis’ Guadalcanal Diary. And a couple others but I can find them now.

I talked with my father extensively about the time. I wanted to depict Arkansas as backward and remote – which it was – but I tried not to be exploitative. The biggest problem I had was how much items cost at that time. So I glossed over many of the aspects of money.

There is some Latin in Southern Gods – not a lot – so I had to dig out my old Latin-to-English Dictionary. And I used Wikipedia to check small facts, especially in the revision phase.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?

John:   The easiest character to write was Sarah Rheinhart because her story was mostly domestic – a homecoming story – and she has a child. I have children. So describing her life at The Big House, the Rheinhart Plantation, was easy. I just drew from the experience of having children.

Bull was harder because I needed to strike a balance between him being a brutal, violent man and still being likeable. I also needed to humanize him enough to make sure that his story arc was believable. I had to create a character you’d believe could beat a man to death yet also be gentle. So, I had to, in essence, write a human character like a bull. Both dangerous and gentle.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in the novel?

My favorite scene is probably the meeting between Sam Phelps and Bull Ingram. Sam is loosely based on Sam Phillips of Sun Studios and that scene was fun to write. And there’s also a scene with Bull’s former (deceased) Captain near the end of the book who appears to him in a vision dressed in a Roman centurion’s uniform yet is as profane as ever. Captain Haptic or Cap Hap. He was fun to write.

TQ:  What's the playlist for Southern Gods?

John:   As I was writing it? This is weird, but at the time, I listened to Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois almost constantly as I would write. It has this droning, hypnotic appeal that I liked. I wasn’t listening to blues as you might think.

If I had to assign a playlist to go along with reading Southern Gods, I’d say you need to listen to Alan Lomax’s recordings from the Library of Congress – full of field hollers and gospel and proto-blues. That and anything by Robert Johnson.

TQ:  What's next?

John:   Well, I’ve had a good year, this year. Southern Gods is coming out now and my agent and I have sold my next novel, This Dark Earth, to Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books – that’s the old Pocket Books imprint. We also sold my young adult novel, The Twelve Fingered Boy, to Lerner Publishing’s Carolrhoda Labs imprint in a three-book deal. I’m especially excited about that because I truly love YA fiction – there are so many exciting and daringly written YA titles nowadays – AND that it’ll be released in hardback.

I have another novel complete, called The Incorruptibles. I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. It’s a fantasy/western/alternate Roman history/demonpunk novel. Or something like that. It’s kinda hard to describe. And we’re sitting on it currently, waiting for the right time to send it out into the world since it IS the beginning of a fantasy series. And I’ve got books I have to write on contract before I can start writing a new series.

But, yes, I’ve got a lot on my plate and hope to have more. Someday I might even be able to quit my dayjob. Maybe. If I get lucky.

Anyway, you can learn more about all of my shenanigans over at The Bastardized Version (

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

John:   Thanks for having me!

About Southern Gods

Southern Gods
(Night Shade Books, August 1, 2011)
Recent World War II veteran Bull Ingram is working as muscle when a Memphis DJ hires him to find Ramblin' John Hastur. The mysterious blues man's dark, driving music--broadcast at ever-shifting frequencies by a phantom radio station--is said to make living men insane and dead men rise.

Disturbed and enraged by the bootleg recording the DJ plays for him, Ingram follows Hastur's trail into the strange, uncivilized backwoods of Arkansas, where he hears rumors the musician has sold his soul to the Devil.

But as Ingram closes in on Hastur and those who have crossed his path, he'll learn there are forces much more malevolent than the Devil and reckonings more painful than Hell . . .

In a masterful debut of Lovecraftian horror and Southern gothic menace, John Hornor Jacobs reveals the fragility of free will, the dangerous power of sacrifice, and the insidious strength of blood.

Amazon : Barnes & Noble : Book Depository

About John

John Hornor Jacobs is a novelist, among other things. His novel, SOUTHERN GODS, will be published in August 2011 by Night Shade Books. THIS DARK EARTH will be published in July 2012 by Gallery/Simon & Schuster. The INCARCERADO TRILOGY, comprised of THE TWELVE FINGERED BOY, INCARCERADO, and THE END OF ALL THINGS will be published by Carolrhoda Labs in 2013, 2014, 2015 respectively.

John's Links

Twitter:  @johnhornor

The Giveaway


What:  One commenter will win a copy of Southern Gods.

How:  Leave a comment answering the following question:

What types of music do you listen to?

Please remember - if you don't answer the question your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1) Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2) Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

3) Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. In addition please leave a way to contact you.

Who and When: The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Wednesday, August 10, 2011. Void where prohibited by law.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*


  1. I listen to roots and world music.

  2. I'm extremely eclectic. I listen to everything from dada music from the early 1900s to horror hip hop. Lately I've been mostly listening to trip hop, though.

  3. Mostly its alternative rock or Desi music.

  4. I listen to a lot of music, but mostly jazz, funk, blues, soul and rock.

  5. Oh wow, he seems about right up my street! I'll be adding him to my tbr asap.

    As to the music I listen to, well that's almost everything. I have a very extensive collection ranging from classical music (Bocelli, Sarah Brightman, Hayley Westenra), to rock (Scorpions, Meat Loaf, Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton), pop (Lady Gaga, Girls Aloud, Kelly Clarkson) and folk (Mandy Moore, The Weepies, Belle & Sebastian, Sufjan Stevens) seasoned with some jazz, soul, r&b and dance too.
    My absolute favourites are Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan and Casey Stratton.

    +1 Follower


  6. Favorite is 80s Rock.

    Qwill follower

    zombvampire[at]gmail(DOT) com

  7. i love listening to pop music,alternate rock,r&b and i enjoy a few classics as well:)

    +1 i tweeted:!/justjanhvi/status/98802238629228545

    +1 comment

    +1 GFC follower-Janhvi Jagtap

    justjanhvi at gmail dot com

  8. Wow, this book certainly sounds different. I've actually been listening to books on CD lately (primarily J.D. Robb's many, many books)but I used to listen to 5 different stations with country being #1, then light rock and pop.

  9. Oh, yes, I'm a follower too.

    GFC Anne38

  10. I love listening to country and some pop music. Please enter me in contest. I am a follower and email subscriber.

  11. Much like my reading my music tastes are very eclectic. I will listen to everything from jazz to techno to R&B and most things in-between :) I love music that I can identify with the lyrics or if I feel like dancing behind the wheel at stop lights and belting out the lyrics as I drive. I was very interested to learn that this author has a very busy life and family and that give me hope that I will get it done. Thank you for sharing about this very interesting book, I would love to read it and appreciate the giveaway opportunity.


  12. I'm on a Celtic music kick!
    jwitt33 at live dot com

  13. I listen to just about everything but lately I have been on a big country kick.

    I follow through email

    sariahwalters at gmail dot com

  14. I listen to almost everything except rap..When I need a boost its either some pow wow music or Wicked Tinkers. Some blues to mellow me out and when I really want to feel mellow a raga or Sinatra. in the car its rock and roll time, airplane, dead, jimi, zepplin et alia.
    Follower of Qwillery via e-mail
    links to Qwillery on my blog:

  15. I listen to everything except opera ;) I love listening to music in other languages as well. Rock, pop, *cough Lady Gaga cough* =) edysicecreamlover18@gmailDOTcom Thank you for the giveaway! GFC Krystal Larson

  16. I listen mostly to the 80's pop music. Sometimes I listen to other music, but this is my favorite.

    GFC follower


    meredithfl at gmail dot com

  17. I like to listen to soft rock generally but do enjoy other types debby236 at gmail dot com

  18. I listen to every thing..but I especially 80's goth and old school blues like John Lee Hooker

  19. I love Classical Music & Jazz.

    GFC: Mary Preston +1


  20. Sounds like a fascinating book. I listen to blues, jazz, classical, lots of different Mexican music, Broadway musicals, 60s rock and roll.

  21. It would probably be easier to tell you what type of music I don't listen to very often !

    I like classical, early rock, musicals,jazz, folk and pop. I don't listen to opera, soul, r&b and heavy metal.

    Thanks for the giveaway.

    Carol T

    +1 for comment
    +1 I Follow via GFC

    buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

  22. I listen to an insane variety of music. Early music. Classical music from Bach through Beethoven. (I don't like most of the late 19th-C or 20th-C for classical.) Ragtime and blues, such as I have. Jazz from dixie through bebop. Rock 'n roll. Do-wop. Classic rock. Hair metal. 80s pop. Folk music, both traditional and of the Bob Dylan/Joni Mitchell variety. Celtic folk-rock. Various top-40 hits of the 1990s through to 2011 (Backstreet Boys, Five for Fighting, Lady Gaga). Musicals. Novelty and comedy songs. And I'm trying to get more of a world music collection.

    Following! +1
    Tweeted! +1!/AnassaRh/statuses/99413315037577216

  23. I think i listen a lot of type of music. Maybe it's Rock i listen more during this summer. But it's often change.

    thanks for the giveaway !
    I'm a gfc follower !

  24. Thanks for the interview and giveaway!

    Like alot of people...I listen to a wide array of music. My mainstays are Metal (black, death and some traditional/power), Opera (I love Verdi!), gothy rock plus a smattering of pop/rock/old school country etc. Jean Redpath is one of my all time favorite artists.

    I am a follower :)

    ssosborn AT gmail dot com

  25. Though I enjoy most types of music, I really love mustic from the 50's and 60's... pop, rock, and R and B.

    I'm a follower (booklover0226)

    Tracey D
    booklover0226 at gmail dot com

  26. I listen to almost everything, from metal to pop, with some rock and blues and why not, country. I love my playlists to surprise me!

    aliasgirl at libero dot it