JONATHAN MABERRY is a New York Times best-selling and multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning horror and thriller author, editor, comic book writer, magazine feature writer, playwright, content creator and writing teacher/lecturer. He was named one of the Today’s Top Ten Horror Writers. His books have been sold to more than two-dozen countries.
He writes in several genres. His young adult fiction includes ROT & RUIN (2011; now in development for film; named in Booklist’s Ten Best Horror Novels for Young Adults, a Bram Stoker and Pennsylvania Keystone to Reading winner; nominee for several state Teen Book Awards; winner of the Cybils Award, the Eva Perry Mock Printz medal, Dead Letter Best Novel Award, and four Melinda Awards); DUST & DECAY (winner of the 2011 Bram Stoker Award; FLESH & BONE (winner of the Bram Stoker Award; 2012; and FIRE & ASH (August 2013). His thrillers include The Joe Ledger Thrillers from St. Martin’s Griffin (PATIENT ZERO, 2009, winner of the Black Quill and a Bram Stoker Award finalist for Best Novel; THE DRAGON FACTORY, 2010; THE KING OF PLAGUES, 2011; ASSASSIN’S CODE, 2011; EXTINCTION MACHINE, 2013; CODE ZER0, 2014, and PREDATOR ONE, 2015. (Biography provided by www.jonathanmaberry.com).
If you would like a more in-depth look at the accomplishments and works of Mr. Jonathan Maberry, please visit his website/blog and sign up for his free newsletter at www.jonathanmaberry.com, www.facebook.com/jonathanmaberry, www.twitter.com/jonathanmaberry.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Maberry in regards to his many accomplishments and his life as one of the most well rounded writers/authors out there. Take a look at the interview below and enjoy!
STEPHANIE: After reading your biography, it is clear that you are a true “Jack of All Trades” when it comes to the writing and publishing industry. From novelist to playwright, is there anything you have not taken part in that you’ve always wanted to try? Whether it involves writing or some other industry or interest.
JONATHAN MABERRY: Moving around from one kind of project to another accomplishes several important things. First and foremost it keeps it all fun. I’m constantly learning, growing, discovering new things about myself. Second, it prevents me from being pigeonholed as ‘one kind of writer’. And it opens many unexpected doors.
That said, the next thing I want to try is writing TV and movie scripts. In fact I’m about to start work on a pilot for a potential TV series based on my first novel, Ghost Road Blues.
As far as going outside of my world…I’m a writer. I’ve done a lot of other things along the way –I was a martial arts instructor, a bouncer, a bodyguard, an actor in regional theater, a salesman, a college teacher, and a graphic artist. Writing, however, is what defines me. Luckily there are a lot of ways one can explore writing. So many, many interesting ways…
STEPHANIE: What does your writing process look like? Do you have any strange or unique writing habits (writing in the shower or maybe blasting some hardcore death metal music to help get you in the writing mood)?
JONATHAN MABERRY: I was trained as a journalist and did nonfiction writing as a part-time gig for most of my life. Journalism tends to instill very good and reliable work habits. Time management, discipline, focus, good research techniques, and so on, and it helps in setting realistic goals. I don’t buy into the mythologizing process of being a writer. I don’t ‘wait for inspiration’ or any of that. Most real writers have more ideas than they have time to write them all down. When I have an idea for a project I let it cook for a bit and then I sit down and make some notes about it. I record the random ideas that tend to present themselves while an idea is forming.
Once I have a strong grasp of the project I look for ways to develop it into something I can sell and that I would enjoy writing. Fun has to be part of that mix. If it’s a novel, I pitch it to my agent, usually in the form of a short paragraph. If it’s a short story I file the notes away until I’m tapped to write something for a magazine or anthology, then I sort through my ideas to find the one that best fits.
With novels I tend to draft out a loose outline, then I write the first and last chapters. The first helps me set the tone and voice. Writing the last lets me know where it’s going, which allows me to drive the narrative toward that ending. This process keeps me from writing scenes that don’t belong in the overall work, and it allows me to build in foreshadowing, clues, and other subtleties.
My daily writing habits are moderately regular. I like the idea of ‘going to work’, so most mornings I go to one of my favorite restaurants or cafes and do a few hours of work there. I typically do four hours in the morning, break for lunch and some laps in the pool, and then I do four hours in the afternoon. I take ten minutes out of every work hour to do social media.
There are always variations, of course. I travel and tour a lot in support of my books. Sometimes I need to take whole days for research, events, business meetings, and so on. But on average I write three to four thousand words a day, and I know off at dinnertime. Evenings are family time for me.
I do like to play music while I write, and sometimes I’ll even construct playlists. But if I don’t have my music it doesn’t derail me. I don’t let anything keep me from writing.
STEPHANIE: You have an extensive working knowledge of the military, their protocols, equipment, and technologies from what I have read in your novels. Do you have a military background or a close working relationship with someone in the military who helps with the specifics and details on the weapons and up and coming technology used? Or do you combine imagination with research to come up with a lot of the advanced technology used primarily in your Joe Ledger Series?
JONATHAN MABERRY: I have no military background but I do have extensive experience in the martial arts. I’ve been a practitioner of traditional Japanese jujutsu for over fifty years and currently hold an 8th degree black belt. Because of my writing and teaching experience I was inducted into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame in 20014. I was also a bodyguard and bouncer, and worked as the Expert Witness for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office for murder cases involving martial arts. Sadly, I have a lot of practical experience in armed and unarmed combat.
That said, the information on military procedures and police techniques comes from deep research with soldiers, Special Operators and police, including SWAT. They have been very generous with their information, advice and personal accounts.
STEPHANIE: I asked this question once before via Twitter about your choice of setting in the Joe Ledger Series. I was hoping you would again share the reasons behind your choice of Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, NY as the Headquarters for the DMS. Do you believe the time you spent at Floyd Bennett, when you were younger, influenced your writing of this series?
JONATHAN MABERRY: I spent a lot of time at Floyd Bennett Field with my father-in-law, the late Alvy West. He was a jazz musician and orchestra leader who worked with Frank Sinatra, Billie Holliday, Andy Williams and Madonna. We’d go there to watch the cricket matches or to see people fly small remote-controlled airplanes. During Alvy’s decline due to dementia, the field was a place of great comfort.
While there I became fascinated by the big old hangars, many of which are derelict but still standing. I thought they’d make a marvelous place for a hidden military base.
STEPHANIE: Is there a certain type of scene that is harder for you to write than others? Love? Death? Action? Racy? Or are you like Mr. George R.R. Martin, where knocking off your characters is like breathing?
JONATHAN MABERRY: If there is a particular kind of scene I find more difficult than others I’m not aware of it. Scenes are scenes. If anything there are scenes I enjoy more than others –action scenes, deep suspense, and scenes where figurative and descriptive language is used to suggest the underlying metaphor of the story. I like being devious.
STEPHANIE: As a teacher, what do you feel is the most important piece of advice (about writing or life in general) you have delivered to your students?
JONATHAN MABERRY: There are several bits of advice I like sharing with emerging writers. First –be very good at what you do. Having a natural gift for storytelling is great, but you need to learn the elements of craft. That includes figurative and descriptive language, pace, voice, tense, plot and structure, good dialogue, and many other skills. Good writers are always learning, always improving.
Second –learn the difference between ‘writing’ and ‘publishing’. Writing is an art, it’s a conversation between the writer and the reader. Publishing is a business whose sole concern is to sell copies of art. Publishing looks for those books that are likely to sell well. There is absolutely no obligation for anyone in publishing to buy and publish a book totally on the basis of it being well written. It has to be something they can sell. A smart writer learns how to take their best writing and find the best way to present it to the publishing world, and then to support it via social media once it’s out.
Third –you are more important than what you write. A writer is a ‘brand’. That brand will, ideally, generate many works –books, short stories, etc. Each work should be written with as much passion, skill, love, and intelligence as possible, but when it’s done, the writer moves on to the next project. And the next.
Fourth –finish everything you start. Most writers fail because they don’t finish things. Be different.
Fifth –don’t try to be perfect. First drafts, in particular, are often terrible. Clunky, badly-written, awkward, filled with plot holes and wooden dialogue. Who cares? All a first draft needs to have in order to be perfect is completeness. It is revision that makes it better, and makes it good enough to sell. So, don’t beat up on yourself if your early drafts are bad. Everyone’s early drafts are bad. Everyone.
STEPHANIE: Your series, ROT & RUIN, is now in development for film. Which of your other series would you like to see adapted? Would it be for film or television? Who would you choose to play the main protagonist(s)?
JONATHAN MABERRY: Several of my projects are in development by Hollywood. Rot & Ruin and the Joe Ledger thrillers are in development for film and V-Wars is being developed for TV. I’m going to write the pilot script for Ghost Road Blues. But there are other projects I think would be great on the big or small screen. My Sam Hunter Werewolf PI stories and the new Monk Addison short story series would work well as moody TV shows. Dead of Night and The Nightsiders would make good films, and I just finished a space travel novel for teens that my film agent thinks will be very marketable.
STEPHANIE: Many of your characters often find themselves in situations they are not sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of (this interview not included) and what did you do?
JONATHAN MABERRY: I seldom seek conflict. I spent some violent years as a younger person, while working as a bodyguard and bouncer. Some of those situations were very bad. I was badly inured several times while protecting clients. That’s art of the job, and if I could go back and choose different careers I would. But that’s life. Now, in my late fifties, the scar tissue from knife wounds and broken bones tends to make me achy on cold morning. Reminders of poor life choices.
STEPHANIE: As an author, is there one subject you would NEVER write about? What would that subject be and why is it off limits to you?
JONATHAN MABERRY: There’s no such thing as a subject that’s off-limits. The limitations would come from how those topics would be handled. I would, for example, never write a story in which rape, child abuse, domestic violence, etc were the primary focus. However I have written stories in which such horrific things are elements because they speak to a larger story. You can’t, say, write a story about surviving child abuse if you can’t allude to the abuse. As a victim of child abuse, I’ve drawn on my personal experiences in order to inform my stories. But the point of the story is not to glorify that kind of violence.
STEPHANIE: And the final question! What are you currently working on, that you are allowed to tell us about, and when can we expect this new project? Also, feel free to add any promotional shout outs here!
JONATHAN MABERRY: I’m nearly the end of the busiest year of my life. I’ve written four and a half novels this year, plus twenty short stories, comics, essays, and more. It’ll be about a million and a quarter words for publication. Next year looks to be equally busy. I finished a teen science fiction novel two weeks ago, and am working my way through four back-to-back short stories and novellas which are all due by December first. They include a Sherlock Holmes story, a co-written novel set during a zombie apocalypse, a chapter in a mosaic novel (nine writers alternating chapters), and the framing story for a shared-world vampire story. Then on December 1 I begin writing my next novel, Glimpse, which is a standalone supernatural suspense novel about a recovering junkie looking for the child she was forced to give up for adoption.
In 2016 I’ll be writing another Joe Ledger thriller (#9, Dogs of War), a middle-grade fantasy (The Nightsiders), a mystery-thriller for teens (Watch Over Me), and a couple of other novels. Probably five and a half novels. I’m about to close a deal to write two new comic books. I’m co-writing a nonfiction book that is a companion to my Joe Ledger novels, writing the pilot for Ghost Road Blues, and editing a slew of anthologies, including volumes 2 and 3 of The X-Files, volume 4 of V-Wars, volume 2 of Out of Tune, an anthology of teen horror (Scary Out There), and two new anthologies dealing with alien wars and zombies.
And in December I have a board game debuting based on my V-Wars property.
I’m busy, but I like the fast lane.