Hello everyone! Today, I’m thrilled that we’re joined by John James Minster. John has been reading and writing for decades and was first published professionally in 1990. He took a break from fiction soon after to get into writing tech books and returned to the world of fiction in 2018 and hasn’t looked back! Minster has recently released The Undertaker’s Daughter from Hellbender Books. The Undertaker’s Daughter is a book about young love, teenage bullying, with just the right amount of terrifying Eldritch horror thrown in for good measure to spice things up!
John, welcome; thank you for joining us today. First off, if you could share a bit more about The Undertaker’s Daughter without giving away any major spoilers? What inspired you for this story? Were any parts of it brought up from your own life? (Not including the Eldritch horror, of course.)
JJM: Thank you for the warm welcome, so happy to engage with you!
For awhile, I’d held a simmering interest in the subject of golems. It wasn’t until I did a deep dive into their origins and history that it boiled over into the need to tell a golem story. I sat before a blank formatted Word document, saved as ‘Golem,’ with three pages of notes and more details swimming in my head. Had no clue what to write. Within fewer than sixty seconds, it all came to me: characters, their personalities, and the plot. Like a radio signal from somewhere, just BAM!–got the whole story. Then I had more research to do on mortuary science. Apart from geography used as the setting no, not one character or any aspect of the book relates to me personally.I believe this is your first full novel to be released; previously, you’ve released a combination of novellas and short stories. How has this longer work been different from your previous outings?
JJM: Hear me now, believe me later: it is by far easier to write a novel than a short story. Think about it. For a story to work, it must grab a reader’s attention, pull her in, be so engaging that she can’t bear to stop at any point. She must keep reading to find out what happens next. Believable, relatable characters she gets to know through chapters of action and dialogue. In the hands of the reader, a sort of magic happens: she sees in her mind something very close to what the author saw in his mind. This happens in a multi-chapter story spanning 80-100K words. Now: make magic happen in only 5, or 10K words. Squeeze 100 pounds of magic into a 5-pound bag. See what I mean? Edgar Allan Poe only ever published horror short stories, and his work still tops the list today. Reading his stories, you see what he was seeing; feel what he was feeling 150 years ago. Feel what mood he was in. That is real magic.
It looks like you’ve primarily written darker stories with your fiction; what has drawn you to them?
JJM: By age eight, I had burned through the entire works of Poe, Lovecraft, Asimov, Shelley, Stoker–whatever ‘horror’ I could access. I’ve loved horror from Day One. I’ve always sought to feel a tingle of fear, like walking into a completely dark mausoleum in a supposedly haunted cemetery. I was a jaded horror reader by my teens. I felt like it was a fairly dead genre until Stephen King rescued it in 1974. I snapped up his works the moment they hit bookstore shelves, then shared them with friends. We’d meet to throw Frisbees under streetlights then huddle together to identify what ‘scenes’ of his were scariest.
When it comes to non-fiction, you were working as writing tech-based books for a living. How has preparing and writing in that realm differed from fiction?
JJM: Not writing tech-based books but yes, I wrote a boatload of marketing copy and legal docs. The discipline of writing is different for each writer. I know some who agonize over every word in typing new sentences, spending minutes per sentence. My previous writing experience probably set my process forevermore: get it all down once, then go back and correct fat-fingerings and nits. If time allows, get it down, do a copy-editing pass, then let it sit for a long time. Return to it weeks-months-years later with completely refreshed eyes. That’s when the flavor gets added.
If you could collaborate with any living author, who would it be and why?
JJM: Great question. Probably Clive Barker. I find that we are both unafraid of blood, gore, and grossing out our readers. We’re liberal with the gross-out scenes while obeying story arc and momentum. I think we’d have fun grossing each other out, like a little competition!
One of your friends asks for a book to read; what do you suggest to them? Now, they ask for a book to read that is written in the same genre as your own; which do you pick, and why?
JJM: Everyone should read the entire Holy Bible cover-to-cover (maybe skip ‘Numbers.’) It’s more than a dry history book. It’s alive. Makes Shakespearean tragedies seem tame. The horror inside is real. As for pure horror fiction, I’d say F. Paul Wilson’s The Keep. Just a fine horror masterpiece that doesn’t always seem to make it on horror reader-fans’ essential reading lists.
What book are YOU reading right now?
JJM: No Plan-B (Jack Reacher) by Andrew and Lee Child.
What advice would you give to inspiring writers who are getting into the craft?
JJM: Read everything in your genre. If you think you can do better, probably you can. Write stories to give yourself tingles of fear, or romance, or mystery: whatever spins your beanie. Assemble a database of indie publisher submission emails or portals in your genre, minimum 50 (the more the merrier.) Have someone you trust, like an already published author, read your work and redline it. Guaranteed there will be nits. Then submit, and keep submitting. Forget about the money offered for your short story, novella, or novel. Just get published and build on that.
Do you have any stories in the works you could tease us with details on?
JJM: Confucius said, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” But sir—can silly graves truly contain every species of hate? The Vengeful Dead are nine unique hard-core supernatural horror stories designed to engage and unsettle the most jaded horror fans.
Seeking relief from bullies, teens turn to the dark side but quickly learn it exacts a heavy toll; other young mischief-makers out to make an easy buck inadvertently commit a great evil and try to cover it up—but quickly learn that dead, doesn’t always mean gone. Convicted and imprisoned, an assisted suicide doctor pays his debt to the State until he gains popularity among wardens for his lethal injection skills, but his many victims, including the wrongly convicted whom he executed, insist on payback. Professional graverobbers feel no regret stealing from the dead, until the evil dead get buried along with a curse. A below-average man’s luck changes after inviting a beautiful woman and her coven sisters into his world; the common child’s toy they sell him leads him to wealth beyond his wildest dreams—but at great cost to him and to the sisters.
Animal magnetism leads an avaricious young ne’er-do-well into the lonely arms of an attractive trust fund heiress, smack against her father and brother—also across the grounds to the family crypt, where four empty graves and incontrovertible revenge await. A successful illusionist flies to Palestine to buy an ancient magic artefact, allegedly authentic, traced back to the original pagan Arabic desert gods, along with a warning from the seller to appease the magic within or suffer unimaginable consequences—a lose-lose proposition. Contrary to his spiritual beliefs, a wealthy old man invests in his nephew’s business plan to prey upon those seeking immortality through cryonic corpse preservation, until his nephew disregards those beliefs and has him frozen—out of sight out of mind—but is he? Raised by a High Priestess mother in the Santa Muerte unholy death cult of Mexico, a rescued young boy, now a man running a business in the States cannot shake his faith in the White Lady of Death, luring and sacrificing the innocent at her altar, until darkness turns his own lure into the creepy instrument of his undoing.
One reviewer’s five-star rating and comment on the one story out of the collection previously published in September within a horror anthology: ‘So disturbing I could not sleep. Literally. It disturbed the sleep out of me.’ Mic drop moment for me. MY WORK HERE IS DONE, lol.
Thank you again for joining us today, is there anything else that you’d like to share with our readership?
JJM: Thanks for the great questions! I would share with your readers, assuming their objective is a shared one (getting published): Grow thick skins. Rejection is a big part of the game and never let this (or a sour review) near to your heart. Writing is a job like every other. Work at it every day and it will happen. Those who declare, “I will be published come Hell or high water!” are those who make it in the biz. It’s not magic; it’s a process. Follow the process. And when you do get published, market the hell out of it! Shout if from the mountaintops! Make your publisher grateful by increasing sales. There may be a magic connection between you and your reader thanks to your awesome story, but if few read it because there’s no buzz (few ratings-reviews, few Bookstagram posts, no podcasts, no Booktuber reviews, no eZine write-ups) then there are no sales. Create thy own buzz. Authors didn’t just magically end up in grocery store racks or on Costco’s book tables because their stories are ‘that awesome.’ They spent at least a decade following process, as must we all, starting from zero.