To anyone who’s followed this blog with any regularity, it will come as no surprise that I’m a Jonathan Janz fan. Some of my favorite reads of the last two or three years have born his name on the cover. The reason for this, to state the obvious, is that he’s an outstanding wordsmith. His stories are always highly polished, with rock solid characterization and attention to detail that can stand with the best authors in modern horror. I consider it an honor and a privilege to have him here today to talk about his newest novel, WOLF LAND. I’ll be reviewing the book later this month, so watch for that. In the meantime, enjoy this entertaining and insightful article by Jonathan Janz.
The Maniacal Leer:
Transformations That Transformed WOLF LAND – by Jonathan Janz
First of all, a big thank you to Shane for hosting me today. Few readers/critics are as sharp and eloquent as Shane, so it’s an honor to spend time on his blog.
Secondly, I want to make an admission. One of the scariest moments of my life occurred the first time I saw Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video. I was just a little chopper at the time, and even though I knew something scary was coming when Michael and his girl wandered into that forest clearing, I had no idea how scary things were about to get. So when Michael crumpled forward under the light of the full moon, I sat forward, curious about what was happening to him.
When Michael’s werewolf face popped up and leered at his girlfriend, I bolted from the room. Seriously, I tore out of that living room so fast I must have scorched the carpet.
It was the first of many such horrorstruck reactions a lycanthropic transformation would elicit from me.
At around the same age I saw AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and THE HOWLING. In both of those cases I was absolutely terrified. Yet even though the former film is probably the more famous of the two, it was a scene from the latter that scared me more (the scene in question took place in a doctor’s office).
There was a witness.
Like the scene from “Thriller,” there was an onlooker when that weirdo transformed in THE HOWLING, and like the girlfriend in “Thriller,” the witness to the transformation in THE HOWLING didn’t flee right away. No, she watched. Just like I watched. And only when it was too late did she flee.
Actually, I don’t even remember whether she got away or not. I had probably fled the room myself by then.
The metamorphosis in SILVER BULLET scared me even more. Something about Everett McGill’s line “But it’s not my FAULT!” freaked the living daylights out of me. And wouldn’t you know it? By the time he had torn his saintly collar from his neck and transformed into something otherworldly (or underworldly), the damned witness was still gaping at him in mindless terror.
Sensing a pattern here?
You see, there is nothing quite like it in fiction, the transformation scene. And it might just be the purest example of plausible stupidity in horror. I mean, we all roll our eyes when the boneheaded boyfriend strays from the group to investigate a suspicious noise. The seasoned horror fan facepalms when the hapless heroine trips over her own feet when being pursued by the zombie horde.
But when a werewolf transforms, we don’t cry out to the witness to “Run, dang it, run!” Nor do we scoff at the witness’s inability to move.
Because during a good transformation scene, we’ve become the witness. Even though part of us knows we should flee, we simply can’t. We have to watch.
And as we watch, transfixed by the ghoulish spectacle unfolding before our eyes, we know our inaction will bring about our doom. Yet we still…can’t…look away.
Such is the hold the werewolf has over us. Such is the hold the werewolf has over the reader.
In WOLF LAND, there are several transformation scenes, each of them uniquely macabre. It’s my job to make that dark spectacle as paralyzing for you as I can. I hope you check out the novel to see if you can look away when the hair begins to sprout and the teeth start to elongate.
I know I’ve never been able to look away. Not when I was a kid, and not now.
The spectacle is too horrific. And too entertaining.
About Jonathan Janz:
Jonathan Janz grew up between a dark forest and a graveyard, and in a way, that explains everything. Brian Keene named his debut novel The Sorrows “the best horror novel of 2012.” The Library Journal deemed his follow-up, House of Skin, “reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Peter Straub’s Ghost Story.”
2013 saw the publication of his novel of vampirism and demonic possession The Darkest Lullaby, as well as his serialized horror novel Savage Species. Of Savage Species, Publishers Weekly said, “Fans of old-school splatterpunk horror–Janz cites Richard Laymon as an influence, and it shows–will find much to relish.” Jonathan’s Kindle Worlds novel Bloodshot: Kingdom of Shadows marked his first foray into the superhero/action genre.
Jack Ketchum called his vampire western Dust Devils a “Rousing-good weird western,” and his sequel to The Sorrows (Castle of Sorrows) was selected one of 2014’s top three novels by Pod of Horror. 2015 saw the release of The Nightmare Girl, which prompted Pod of Horror to call Jonathan “Horror’s Next Big Thing.” His newest release is Wolf Land, which Publishers Weekly called “gruesome yet entertaining gorefest” with “an impressive and bloody climax.” He has also written four novellas (Exorcist Road, The Clearing of Travis Coble, Old Order, and Witching Hour Theatre) and several short stories.
His primary interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children, and though he realizes that every author’s wife and children are wonderful and amazing, in this case the cliché happens to be true. You can learn more about Jonathan at www.jonathanjanz.com. You can also find him on Facebook, via @jonathanjanz on Twitter, or on his Goodreads and Amazon author pages.