Jonathan Green is a writer of speculative fiction, with more than thirty-five books to his name. He is the creator of Abaddon Books’ Pax Britannia steampunk universe, and his eighth novel set within that world will be published in 2012. He has also written for such diverse properties as Doctor Who, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Sonic the Hedgehog and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, although he is probably best known for his contributions to the Fighting Fantasy range of adventure gamebooks and numerous Black Library publications.
His horror stories have appeared in various anthologies including House of Fear, published by Solaris Books. To find out more about his latest projects visit Jonathan Green Author.
What first attracted you to horror writing?
I should start by saying that I never set out to be a horror writer. I remember, at age 15, filling my school jotter with all manner of gruesome flash fiction (as it would be termed now) but when I seriously sought to get published I saw myself as a fantasy or science fiction writer. But then the dark stuff was always there and it was one of the things for which my writing became known, although it took eyes other than mine to see it to begin with.
It was certainly the grim, gothic atmosphere of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 that drew me into writing within those universes and the dark stuff also found an outlet in my Pax Britannia books. Here, I suppose, it was a case of setting out to write action adventure thriller which had horrific elements to them, rather than setting out to write horror stories. The horror wasn’t the be all and end all.
That said, the third Ulysses Quicksilver adventure, Human Nature, was intended to be a horror story. But then after I handed in the manuscript to the fourth story, Evolution Expects, my editor Jon Oliver told me that was most definitely my ‘horror one’ even though I hadn’t actually set out to write it that way. And it was the surrealist nightmare Pax Britannia novella White Rabbit that got me the House of Fear gig.
I generally consider myself to be a balanced and happy individual, I don’t like confrontation and I abhor physical violence, but as an ex-girlfriend of mine once said to me, ‘Your writing is your dark side coming out.’
What is your most notable work?
In terms of horror? Strangely it’s probably my Weird War Two Pax Britannia novel Anno Frankenstein. It’s received a fair amount of press and rave reviews from all quarters. It’s also the one I frequently find filed under ‘Horror’ in bookshops (along with the fifth Quicksilver adventure Blood Royal). It’s been put forward for various awards and features all manner of Hammer Horror staples, including mad scientists, Frankenstein-esque creations, a werewolf and a vampire. Oh, and a fair few heaving bosoms.
I’d say that ‘The Doll’s House’ (my story in House of Fear) has also got me some good exposure. I’d love to be able to tell you what the novelist Nina Allan said to me at the Foyles launch of House of Fear, having never met me before, but if I did it would spoil the ending for anyone who hasn’t read it yet.
What are you working on now?
I recently finished a tale for Stories of the Smoke, to be published by Pandemonium Fiction to celebrate Dickens’ bicentenary, which ended up turning into a ghost story. But then Dickens did write one of the best known ghost stories in English literature!
I’ve got a sci-fi short to write, that’s also a horror story. There’s a commission form on my desk for a Warhammer 40,000 story, which is going to be pretty horrific in places, and I need to write the second part of my eighth Pax Britannia novel Time’s Arrow.
Right now though, I’m working on an Android gamebook app.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
Having not set out to be a horror writer, I have to confess that I don’t actually read a lot of horror. I’ve seen more horror films than I’ve read Stephen King novels, although I’ve read a fair few of James Herbert’s in my time.
Having heard him speak at the launch of The End of the Line, I have huge respect for Adam Nevill and am looking forward to picking up a copy of The Ritual. It was what he had to say about horror in the discussion that took place that evening that inspired the approach I took with The Doll’s House. And it seemed to work too.
Psychological, definitely. What’s implied can often be far more powerful than what’s right there in your face. I’ve written plenty of gore – there’s bucket loads in my Warhammer 40K stories for a start – and it can be fun, in a slightly sick way, coming up with original and gruesome ways of doing people in, but that’s not horror. That’s just gross.
I think it might have been Stephen King who said something along the lines of the best thing to do is terrify your readers. If you can’t do that horrify them, and failing that try to shock them.
Ultimately, deep down, I suppose what I find truly horrifying is the real world, all the responsibilities that come with being an adult, a husband and a father in modern society, and the downright despicable things people do to their fellow man on a daily basis. And I don’t just mean the murderers, rapists and paedophiles here; I’m talking about the City Fat Cats and power-hungry politicians.
Why should people read your work?
Ultimately, because it’s fun.
“Fun?” I hear you cry? “A horror story is fun?”
Perhaps not the story itself, but the experience of reading something you enjoy is. It’s why we go to the cinema to watch horror movies, isn’t it? To fulfil some primal need that releases that delicious pleasure-rush kick of endorphins.
Oh and because I have a wife and two kids to feed.
Recommend a book.
If I were to recommend one of my own, I’d have to say the sixth Ulysses Quicksilver Pax Britannia novel Dark Side or Anno Frankenstein. (I know that’s two really, but one is a direct sequel to the other.)
If I was to have to recommend somebody else’s, I’d have to go with… off the top of my head… Anno Dracula by Kim Newman (despite last year’s little online kerfuffle). Post-modernist, meta-fictional horror at its best that in no small part has inspired me when it comes to my own darker works.
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