As part of my great big eyes closed, all out plunge into the murky depths of the world of horror, I’ve been doing some networking, talking to fans of the genre as well as other writers. One of the greats with whom I’ve spoken a bit is the utterly fantastic J.F. Gonzalez, of Clickers and Clickers II Fame. J.F. was born and raised in California and has had a long career in the industry, on both the writer’s and editor’s sides of the pen.
Alyn Day: What inspired you to become a writer?
J.F. Gonzalez: I was destined to become a writer, I guess. As a child, I entertained myself by making up stories constantly. I wrote for my own amusement off and on throughout high school. I suppose I made a conscious decision to be a writer when I was a high school senior when I scored incredibly high in English Composition, and various career guidance tests suggested journalism or some other similar career was more to my general making. Of course, it took much longer to finally getting around to actually *doing* the work, which can become a whole ‘nother topic.
A.D.: What are some of your favorite books?
J.F.: Favorites change all the time, but a few that remain at the top: Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Bradbury’s The October Country, and King’s The Stand. There are others that float in and out for various reasons, but these are the ones I re-read constantly.
A.D.: What are some of your inspirations?
J.F.: Being around other writers can be inspiring. I’m lucky enough to have a lot of talented friends in this business, some of very long standing. Sometimes when I’m feeling particularly down on myself and my career, talking to one of them will do a lot to lift me up and motivate me.
A.D.: What is your favorite food?
J.F.: I love all kinds of food, to be honest. I try to avoid chain restaurants. I tend to enjoy various Asian cuisine and I love Mexican food.
A.D.: What is your favorite movie?
J.F.: This changes all the time. One of my all time favorite movies is the 1954 film Them! Saw that when I was five years old and have seen it eighty thousand times. Even have it on DVD now. As for recent stuff, I loved the Spanish film [REC]. For TV, I like Dexter and Criminal Minds.
A.D.: Do you listen to music while you write? If so, any favorites?
J.F.: I listen to all kinds of music when I work, mostly when working on rewrites or when I polish my work. I can no longer write first drafts with music playing in the background anymore. It distracts from the muse. When I do listen to music, it depends on what my mood is. It can be anything from Kate Bush to Johnny Cash to Beethoven to Megadeth and Metallica. I have a very eclectic taste in music.
A.D.: How long have you been writing?
J.F.: As previously mentioned, I wrote off and on throughout high school, and that was thirty years ago. I suppose I’ve been writing *seriously*, as in professionally, for about twenty years or so. Before that, I was an editor/publisher, which a lot of people don’t realize. I edited two pro horror magazines in the 1990’s – Iniquities and Phantasm. I was a good at, too. Iniquities was nominated for a British Fantasy Award, and stories I published were reprinted in various Year’s Best anthologies. It was fun. If the conditions become favorable, I’d do it again.
A.D.: What can you tell me about your current projects?
J.F.: I can tell you that I’m currently collaborating with Brian Keene on Clickers IV, provisionally titled Clickers vs. Zombies. This is the only novel I am contracted for at the moment. My next solo novel, They, is being published as a limited edition from Thunderstorm Books later this year. Deadite Press has reprinted Clickers and Clickers II in trade paperback and ebook, and we’re planning an ambitious undertaking of bringing out a good portion of my backlist in affordable trade paperback and digital editions, starting with The Corporation (which previously only saw print as a beautiful limited edition from Morningstar Press). Wrath James White and I are planning a collaboration on a short novel. I am also working on three other projects, one a novel, the other two screenplay projects, all on spec. I anticipate the novel will sell when it’s ready, since it’s the beginning of an open-ended series of which future books will have ties to my other work. The screenplays I won’t talk about since I’ve learned in film that once you mentioning details like what producer you’re writing it for, or what stage of development it’s in, the project is then doomed to failure. So I won’t say anything more about the film stuff.
A.D.: How do you feel about the trend of writers self-publishing their work?
J.F.: I’m of two minds about it. I think for most neophytes, it’s a bad decision. Beginning writers need the guidance of an editor and, like it or not, material that winds up in magazines (and web publications) has been vetted by somebody who is impartial and, if they’re good, has a set of standards of what constitutes good fiction. If you’re a beginner and you’re good, an editor can work with the raw talent and help shape it into something even better. However, if you’re a beginner and you’re really bad at the craft and you forgo the vetting process, self-publishing won’t do any good for you. If anything, it’ll convince people to never buy anything with your by-line again.
That said, there comes a time in every writer’s career where self-publishing can be very beneficial. For a long time, my peers and I had opposite views on this. Most of my colleagues were of the opinion that self-publishing was wrong, period. I am of the exact opposite. It can be extremely beneficial for writers who have a verifiable publishing track record to get work published that otherwise may not be of favor with editors for whatever reason. One of the myths perpetuated by pros is that if a piece is rejected, it isn’t good. This is clearly not true. Some of the most popular and successful novels in my own backlist were rejected by publishers numerous times before they found homes, for reasons that had nothing to do about the merit of the work itself. In one instance, the publisher wasn’t looking for supernatural horror novels; in another case, while the editor absolutely loved the novel in question, they felt I wasn’t enough of a *name* writer they could get behind. If you’re a beginning writer and you begin hearing this kind of feedback from editors on your rejected work, that is when you should self-publish. I *almost* self-published my first novel Clickers myself for this very reason.
In today’s publishing climate, it makes better sense for a writer with a previous track record in publishing (whether with a small press or a larger NY house) to try self-publishing. Some may say any writer should forgo selling their work to a traditional publisher, but I cautiously advise against that for the reasons previously mentioned. Sure, there have been cases where previously unpublished writers have made millions selling Kindle editions of their work through Amazon, but that doesn’t happen to everybody. And you still have to be able to write. That woman who made a million bucks last year through her self-published Kindle titles might have had her work rejected by every NY publishing house, but at least she had the writing chops and the editorial and marketing savvy to do it correctly.
A.D.: Any words of advice for authors who are just starting out?
J.F.: Be aware of your history. Too many would-be writers grow up reading nothing but Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and little else. Some are weaned on nothing but writers who used to write for Leisure Books – Brian Keene, Edward Lee, Jack Ketchum. They’re good writers, and I consider some of them my friends, but they’re woefully ignorant of those who came before them. Worse yet, sometimes they’re ignorant in works outside of the small pond of horror fiction. My advice? Read everything and anything, and write as much as you can, and most important: live life! Experience things! All that feeds the muse. Rinse and repeat as often as possible. Submit your material to the best paying markets first and work your way down. And avoid genre related message boards! They’re a waste of time. You’re better of using that energy writing fiction.
A HUGE thank you to J.F.Gonzalez for being my very first interviewee!
You can find out more about the very talented Mr. Gonzalez at his personal website.Many of his works are available for purchase through amazon.com.