John C. Foster was born in Sleepy Hollow, NY, and has been afraid of the dark for as long as he can remember. A writer of thrillers and dark fiction, Foster lives in New York City with his lady, Linda, and their dog, Coraline. Dead Men is his first novel. For more information, please visit www.johnfosterfiction.com.
What first attracted you to horror writing?
I grew up reading sword and sorcery epics, Elric, Conan, and they often played with the tropes of horror but it wasn’t until a friend in middle school lent me his copy of Night Shift that I landed in a genre that felt like home. It’s one of the few genres where I regularly encountered heroes that lost the fight and even their victories were often pyrrhic. It increased the risk and my involvement in the stories. While I was in LA learning to write screenplays, I was trying to write what I thought was “hot” at a given moment, but also wrote short stories on the side just for myself and these were inevitably laced with horror.
What is your most notable work?
With my first novel (Dead Men) launching in July, I’d have to go with that one. Prior to that I’d have to go with the short story “Mister White,” which I’ve since expanded into a novel (also titled Mister White) that will be released later in 2015.
What are you working on now?
Right now I’m alternating between the edits for Mister White and the continuation of the Dead Men trilogy, entitled Night Roads. There are also some anthologies that have invited me to participate so those stories are in the works as well.
How much planning and research do you undertake before writing?
I do a lot of thinking and scribbling on scraps of paper but don’t outline and tend to research as I write. Too much advanced planning – locked in stone story points – tends to freeze the writing flow for me.
Describe your writing routine.
I get up early so I’m functioning well enough to write by 8 or 9am – and the dog won’t let me sleep in so that helps. I tend to revisit some of what I worked on previously and then kick in a couple hours of writing in the morning, then another session after lunch and usually a third later in the afternoon where I’ll often address things I might have screwed up earlier in the day, not so much editing as adding in texture or fixing continuity issues. If I find myself stuck I’ll go after a non-writing but career related task – submitting stories, correspondence, etc.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
There are a crowd of new writers who brings some serious literary chops to the game – Laird Barron, Paul Tremblay, John Langan. Then there are the folks who have been writing awhile longer – Jack Ketchum is fearless, Brian Keene enjoys revelling in horror tropes as much as I do, Stephen King and Clive Barker are giants and very influential in shaping my view of horror. I’ve learned so much by reading the ghost stories of MR James and Shirley Jackson wrote the finest haunted house story I’ve ever read. In fact, Jackson’s character, Merricat (We Have Always Lived in the Castle) gave me insight into a key character in Mister White.
Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?
Gore for gore’s sake doesn’t excite me, but if it serves the story, bring it on. Dead Men is pretty savage but it’s all related to the nature of the characters and the nightmarish tone of the story. I like to think I find psychological chills scarier but I’m a sucker for a good jump scare as well.
Why should people read your work?
My hope is that they’ll find my voice compelling and original. I enjoy blending genres, Dead Men is a hardboiled tale of horror and Mister White blends the supernatural with my love of spy thrillers.
Recommend a book.
It’s important to read outside the genre (for writers) so I’ll suggest Donald Westlake’s Parker novels, written under the pseudonym Richard Stark. The first – The Hunter – has been made a few times into films but I don’t feel like they ever captured the machinelike relentlessness of the brutal thief. The Hunter takes no prisoners and is probably my favorite hardboiled novel. (Second recommendation but it seems cliché – To Kill a Mockingbird. I only recently read it and think it may be the finest novel I’ve ever come across).