John F.D. Taff is an icon in the horror industry and has been putting out quality stories for over 25 years. He has been a Stoker Award Finalist and is soon to be releasing Dark Stars.
John, welcome, thank you so much for joining me today. I’d like to kick things right off and ask about your upcoming release of ‘Dark Stars’ from Tor’s Nightfire line. What can you tell us about editing this collection of stories?
Hi. Thanks for your interest. Editing Dark Stars has been a turning point in my professional writing life, as it represents the real first anthology I’ve put together and edited. It was a blast, from start to finish. It’s made me so much more aware of the spectrum of horror than I was before, and the presence of so many wonderful writers. It was tough deciding who to invite to submit stories for this, so who knows? Maybe Dark Stars 2 sometime.
You have both known and newer names attached to ‘Dark Stars’. Of the newer authors, whose work are you most excited to be able to share with the world?
There are authors many readers will be familiar with, like Alma and Caroline and Josh and Stephen—and, of course, Ramsey Campbell. But there are others, just as powerful writers, whom readers might not be as familiar with—Gemma, Livia, Chesya, Usman T, Malik. I’m as excited by sharing their stories and hopefully helping them reach more readers.
You’ve written shorter works, longer works, and done editing. What are your thoughts on these different aspects of the written word?
Writing and editing exercise two related but completely different parts of the brain. I’ve been writing for 30+ years, so I’ve learned quite a bit (still learning!) about the art and process of writing. Editing, though… I came up in the trade magazine business. I was editor/publisher of an art magazine for years, then editor for a retail paint magazine. I know about editing, at least in the non-fiction, more journalistic style. Fiction editing is tougher, because you always have to keep in mind that you don’t want to edit everyone’s stories in the same way, so that the result you get is sort of the same, homogenous pap at the end. All of the authors in Dark Stars have their own unique, easily seen style, their own voice. I tried hard not to edit that out.
If I do decide to edit more works, I’ve learned quite a bit working on Dark Stars. Especially working with such a solid publisher as Tor/Nightfire. Kelly Lonesome, the senior editor there. Been a blast being able to work with people who share the vision for the book without being nudged.
I still prefer writing over editing. And there’ll always be a soft spot in my heart for short stories and novellas/novelettes.
When you aren’t busy working on writing or editing, what else do you enjoy doing with your time?
I live out in very rural Illinois on a couple of acres. My wife, Deb, works from home, so we’re there (especially over the last two years) most of the time. We have a couple of cats and a couple of pugs. I like to cook, particularly bake. I make some mean bread. I also paint a little, acrylics, mostly space scenes, nebula and stuff.
I’ve read that you grew up reading comic books. Has that at all had an impact on your writing? If you had the opportunity to write for any existing comic franchise, which character or group resonated with you the most that you’d want to have a crack at?
Ahh, comic books. Yeah, I was a big Marvel fan—Spider-Man, Capt. America, Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, The Avengers. Really got me into reading. I think it’s had an enormous impact on my writing. I’ve secretly always wanted to write for comics. I’d really want to explore a little-used character from the ‘70s, The Son of Satan, Damion Hellstrom. Marvel got really occult in the ‘70s, and it was great. Nowadays, I don’t think they’ve figured out quite how to use the character, but that’d be fun.
Have you geeked out that comic books are finally mainstream or have your love for them waned over the years?
Have I geeked out over Marvel movies? Ask my wife. Seriously, I am a major fan of Marvel movies. I also collect Hot Toys figures, which are arranged atop my bookcases in my office. I’m up to 34 figures at present, with five more on the way. It’s kinda an addiction at this point.
Your Twitter says that you’re from the Midwest! As a Chicago resident, I have to wonder, do our season changes at all affect your writing?
Born and raised in St. Louis, been in southern Illinois (where my wife is from) for the last seven years. I love the changing seasons, and yeah, it probably does affect how I write and what I write. Nothing better than cranking up the music, getting a cup of coffee and settling down for a nice day of writing when its cold or rainy out.
You’ve received two Bram Stoker Award nominations. I know it’s hard to choose between your children but are you more proud of either of the two?
I love the fact that both nominations have been for short fiction, but I think my first nomination, for my novella collection The End in All Beginnings, makes me prouder, just because it’s for the entire work.
Last year you started a newsletter, for potential fans looking to sign up, what can they expect to see in it? (Signup here: https://lp.constantcontactpages.com/su/LsRokyo?source_type=twpo&source_id=bba07669-d34b-40f6-ac46-badcc19afef0)
The newsletter is my way to stay in front of readers, give them some background information as to what projects I’m working on, as well as some glimpses into my life. I try to keep it light and fun.
Thank you for your time today, can you tease any other fiction that you currently have in the works?
I have a bunch. Two novels, Plastic Space House and He Left, will be released sometime. I’ve also got two collections ready to go, a cosmic horror collection called All the Stars Die One by One, and a short horror fiction collection called The Little Things we Don’t Discuss. All coming sometime soon. Two pieces of my short fiction will also appear soon. The first, “Huddled Masses, Yearning to Breathe Free, will appear in Orphans of Bliss. And “The Things We Did, We Did Were All For Real,” in The Hideous Book of Hidden Horror.
Finally, is there anything that you’d like to share with our readers?
Thanks for reading and keep reading!