Jonathan Raab is the founder and editor-in-chief of Muzzleland Press. He is the author of Flight of the Blue Falcon, The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre, The Lesser Swamp Gods of Little Dixie, and Camp Ghoul Mountain Part VI: The Official Novelization. His short fiction has appeared in Lovecraft eZine, The Book of Blasphemous Words, Letters of Decline, A Breath From the Sky, and Turn to Ash Volume 2: Open Lines. His nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times At War blog, CNN.com, Stars and Stripes, and others. He lives in Colorado with his wife and their dog Egon.
KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?
I grew up in rural Western New York in a depressed, Rust Belt community with terrible weather. After college I deployed to Afghanistan with the Army National Guard for a tour as a combat advisor, came home and got my master’s in teaching, then deployed again to Kuwait before finally leaving the military life behind. After moving to Denver I got married and switched careers. I now do communications work full-time. We’re expecting our first baby in a couple of months. (KR: Congratulations!)
I’ve been writing pretty much non-stop since college, with my first major publications being nonfiction pieces on the veteran experience. I exclusively write horror fiction these days and run Muzzleland Press, a micropublisher of anthologies and novellas/novels, when I have the time.
KR: What do you like to do when not writing?
Living in Colorado, we’re blessed with great hiking and camping opportunities. I also run and play in tabletop RPG games about once a month or every two months, read a lot, watch movies and spend time with my wife, walk the dog, play videogames—and spend a lot of time editing work for Muzzleland Press. With the baby on the way I’m not sure how much time I’ll have for any of that!
KR: What is your favourite childhood book?
One Day At Horrorland by R.L. Stine was a favorite. I read that several times.
KR: What is your favourite album, and does music play any role in your writing?
Right now I’m really into the Mondo vinyl release of the Castlevania: Rondo of Blood / Dracula X soundtracks. I often listen to instrumental, horror-tinged soundscapes or videogame soundtracks when I write. Black Mountain Transmitter (an artist in Ireland) is a favorite, as is a lot of stuff put out by the Cryo Chamber label.
KR: Do you have a favourite horror movie/director?
John Carpenter stands tall, of course. But I’m also a huge fan of Stuart Gordon, David Cronenberg, Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento—too many to name!
KR: What are you reading now?
False Gods by Graham McNeill, various dad books, and the Star Trek Adventures RPG rulebook.
KR: What was the last great book you read?
Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones is one of the best novels I’ve ever read. It’s a heartbreaking werewolf novel that’s equal parts horror and class critique.
KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?
All of the above. I tend to buy paperbacks and hardbacks if I think I’ll want the book on my shelf or am very interested in the work, with e-book purchases being more impulse buys.
KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?
R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike at first. Then a lot of science fiction authors like Frank Herbert, Robert Heinlein, Kurt Vonnegut, and Phillip K. Dick. Then came Stephen King, Clive Barker, Shirley Jackson, Whitley Strieber, John Keel—and the list keeps growing from there. Current authors like Gemma Files, Orrin Grey, Stephen Graham Jones, Mer Whinery, Matthew M. Bartlett, and Christopher Slatsky are major inspirations.
KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
I definitely outline, but I’m never married to that outline. Having big story beats, scene sketches, and a general map of where I’m going prevents me from getting lost or developing writer’s block.
KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
That depends on the subject. Usually I’ll pause writing to do a little research (but I’ll be careful not to let my “research” consume all of my writing time) as it comes up. I know almost nothing about trains, for example, but a train plays a big part in my current work-in-progress. I spent some time learning some of the vocabulary, studying photographs, and researching a little local rail history. But if I’m unfamiliar with a subject I tend to not dwell on the details.
KR: How would you describe your writing style?
My work should be, first and foremost, fun to read. Hopefully it’s also occasionally creepy or even scary. Paranoid, gonzo, high strange-infused, conspiracy-theory horror fiction.
KR: Describe your usual writing day?
I wake up very early during the workweek to exercise/walk the dog, shower, eat breakfast and drink some coffee, then write or edit for 20-30 minutes. On the weekends I’ll usually write for an hour and a half each day, unless I’m taking time off to let my brain recover.
KR: Do you have a favourite story/short that you’ve written (published or not)?
I’m very proud of all my children, of course, but your readers can check out my story “The Secret Goatman Spookshow” for free via the Lovecraft eZine. It will serve as the anchoring story for my collection, which I hope to publish in the next two or three years. My latest, “Core Rules,” was just accepted to an upcoming anthology, and it marries my love of roleplaying games with the haunted media trope. I’m quite proud of it.
KR: Do you read your book reviews?
I know the answer is supposed to be “no,” but my writing is so bizarre and personal that I’m often unsure about how other people might receive it. So yes, I do. I don’t respond to the negative ones, though!
KR: How do you think you’ve developed as an author?
I’ve spent a lot of time in front of the computer writing, re-writing, and editing work. Being a writer isn’t romantic and whimsical, dependent on some inherent talent or genius. Being a writer means committing yourself to the practice and forcing yourself to do the work. I’ve been writing consistently since I was about 18 or 19. That’s about fifteen years of consistent work. And I don’t let myself think I’m good enough or hitting my prime yet.
KR: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received regarding your writing?
“If you’re going to write horror, you’re consigning your work to the literary ghetto.” A college instructor told me that—and he was right, so far. It’s helped temper my expectations and kept me from having too many delusions of grandeur. I could have pursued a more literary career—I was on track for that back when I was publishing nonfiction—but I decided to return to my first love, horror fiction, because I love the form. Lucky for me, the underground is alive and well, and I can find my audience online and at conventions—even if it’s a relatively small audience.
KR: What scares you?
In the darkest watches of the night? The idea that I’m wasting my life, that I’ll be judged and found wanting by my God. That I’m a disappointment, or be unable to defend or help my family or friends.
On a less-existential note, alien abductions have always terrified me, even though I’m pretty sure they’re just night terrors combined with repressed sexual trauma.
KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?
Camp Ghoul Mountain Part VI: The Official Novelization from Turn to Ash is a throwback to the days when big horror movies got tie-in novels. It’s one part adaptation of a cult slasher movie sequel that doesn’t exist, one part behind-the-scenes history of the film and its legacy. It’s a love letter to the horror movie boom of the 1980s and conspiracy theories of the 1990s.
KR: What are you working on now?
I’m wrapping up writing and editing the novel/anthology hybrid Freaky Tales From the Force: Season One, which features my occult detective character Sheriff Kotto taking on a variety of supernatural menaces while struggling to stay sober. Next up I’ll be editing the mini-anthology tribute to Hammer horror and Vincent Price movies Behold the Undead of Dracula.
KR: You find yourself on a desert island, which three people would you wish to be deserted with you and why?
You can choose…
a) One fictional character from your writing.
Cecil Kotto would be great to have around for bizarre conversation and entertainment
b) One fictional character from any other book.
Batman, as he could probably devise a way off the island given enough time
c) One real-life person that is not a family member or friend.
John C. Reilly, as I think he’s the funniest man alive.
KR: Thank you very much Jonathan.
You can find out more about Jonathan & Muzzleland Press by visiting www.muzzlelandpress.com
Please follow Jonathan/Muzzleland on Twitter @MuzzlelandPress
When the arrest of known moonshiner (and possible alien abductee) Larry “Bucky” Green goes south, several cops are left dead and Bucky goes on the run. His latest batch of moonshine is driving the locals mad—literally. Anyone who drinks it falls victim to some terrible form of mind control. They start tearing each other apart and building strange altars to forgotten gods.
Strange lights in the sky, mob violence, militarized police, creatures from beyond time and space, and sinister government agencies descend on the idyllic autumn countryside, sowing chaos and terror in their wake.
Only the paranoid Sheriff Cecil Kotto—who also happens to be the host of a popular conspiracy theory radio show—has any clue about the truth behind it all. He recruits a new deputy and joins forces with an ambitious public access television reporter to track down Bucky and stop the apocalypse from kicking off.
Who’s behind the evil of the age? FEMA? The Illuminati? Reptilians? Aliens? The Red Cross? Secret societies? The DHS? The CIA? The EPA? The Council on Foreign Relations? The Trilateral Commission?
Only Sheriff Kotto and his team can find out. Only they can stop…
THE HILLBILLY MOONSHINE MASSACRE
Drawn into the haunted heart of southern Oklahoma by the promise of a mysterious inheritance, conspiracy theory radio show host turned county sheriff Cecil Kotto finds himself thrust into the depths of a horrifying occult mystery.
Witchcraft, corn sorcery, the KKK, wicked temptations, and inhuman horrors from Hell await Sheriff Kotto as he begins to piece together the frightening truth about his long-lost aunt, and his unholy connection to a source of power far greater than anything he could ever imagine.
Alone and straining under the weight of his own paranoia, Kotto must face the true terrors of Little Dixie, Oklahoma: the darkness of the human heart, and the wrath of The Lesser Swamp Gods of Little Dixie.
As a chewed-up Army National Guard unit heads to a forgotten war in Afghanistan, three men find themselves thrust into the heart of absurdity: the post-modern American war machine. The inexperienced Private Rench, the jaded veteran Staff Sergeant Halderman, and the idealistic Lieutenant Gracie join a platoon of misfit citizen-soldiers and experience a series of alienating and bizarre events. Rench is force-fed cookies by his drill sergeants. Halderman’s “training” is to pick up garbage in the California desert for four days straight. Gracie contends with a battalion commander obsessed with latrine graffiti.
Once they reach Afghanistan, things really get weird.
Flight of the Blue Falcon is the story of three men who volunteer to serve their country. It’s about what it means to be a soldier, to fight, to know true camaraderie—and to return home.
This is a war story. This is our story.
Only the most unbelievable parts are true.