Welcome to the first in a new feature where I pose a few questions that hopefully offer an insight to the past, present and future of authors that work within the darker genres that we love. If you would like to take part then please click here
To kick us off, I’m delighted to have been able to pick the brain of Horror Legend, John F.D. Taff.
An audience with the King Of Pain.
KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?
I’m old enough to know better, but seldom do. I’m married, the father of three mostly grown children. My wife and I live in a great house in the middle of nowhere, USA, with two cats and three pugs. I write full-time now, thanks to my lovely and hard-working (and gainfully employed!) wife.
KR: What do you like to do when not writing?
We garden, cook, read, listen to music, go out to movies a lot. Deal with our three pugs. Boring, domestic shit.
KR: What is your favourite childhood book?
Hmmm…that’s a difficult one. I was really, really hooked by these big, ornate, beautifully illustrated mythology book by the D’Aulaires: The Book of Greek Myths and The Book of Norse Myths. I remember checking them out of the school library so many times they actually banned me from checking them out for a period of time. I also really liked Edward Lear’s The Complete Book of Nonsense. I was a strange child. All this, and comic books, too. Marvel exclusively.
KR: What are you reading now?
On my TBR pile are Joe Hill’s Strange Weather, Owen and Stephen King’s Sleeping Beauties and Stephen R. Donaldson’s Seventh Decimate. Along with a scad of horror stuff that I am desperately trying to read. Plus, I hope to be getting new stuff from Josh Malerman—Unbury Carol—and Erik T. Johnson and Joe Schwartz soon! I just finished Malerman’s Goblin, and it was hugely, tremendously satisfying. What a great book! I also recently finished J. Daniel Stone’s visceral short story collection, Lovebites and Razorlines. I highly recommend it, too!
KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?
Arthur Conan Doyle. Stephen King. Robert Silverberg. Stephen R. Donaldson. Edgar Allan Poe. Clive Barker. Roger Zelazny. Jack Vance. But particularly Peter Straub. Probably Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov, too. A strange mixture of mystery, thriller, sci-fi, fantasy and horror.
KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
When I first began, I outlined like crazy. I needed the mileposts that outlines give you so you sort of know where you’re going. Nowadays, I toss the roadmap to the wind and let the story take me where it wants to go. I might jot down a few ideas here and there, but basically I just write and let it sort itself out. It generally does. It’s like a lot of things, life included. If you just get out of your own way, it sorts itself out.
KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Depends on what the story is. Might just be a Google search. Might be a visit to a library to look things up. Might entail letters or emails sent to subject experts to ask questions, solicit advice. I’ve done it all.
KR: Describe your usual writing day?
When we loved to the wilds of Southern Illinois, my wife gave me a budget to build an office in the basement. So I have a great geek den/writing office that I work in. It has about 17 feet of bookcases, all my nerd paraphernalia, basically all the stuff my wife doesn’t want me displaying upstairs—horror trappings, comic book action figures, Captain America’s shield, etc. The dogs and I go down every morning. They have their own couch to lay on. I write, make lunch for my wife and I, go back down, write some more. Have dinner. Relax with the wife, then go back down at around 9 p.m. until about 2 a.m. to write more. That sounds like a lot of time…but there is a measure of plunking around involved. In other words, goofing off. But it all balances out. At least that’s what I tell my wife.
KR: Which is your favourite of the books/stories you have written?
Ugh…I don’t know. I’ve written more than 100 shorts now and eight novels. Maybe The End in All Beginnings.
KR: Do you read your book reviews?
Oh sure. I may not always agree with them, but I read ’em.
KR: What scares you?
Mostly real world stuff, serial killers, that sort of thing. But I can get really creeped out from a good ghost story. If I’m up late, sometimes I listen to Coast to Coast AM, a popular radio show here in that States that showcases a lot of kooky, off-the-wall and paranormal things. Sometimes, if they’re dealing with stuff like EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena), I can get myself all worked up.
KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?
Meh. Who cares, really? I have maybe 700 hardcovers in my library. And I have about 400 digital books on my tablet. While I am a huge fan of physical books—the feel of them, the smell, how they read—I also think digital books are swell, especially to read at night in bed or travelling. In the end, though, I just think people should read anything—paper, digital, papyrus, a cereal box, whatever. It’s all about the reading, less about the format.
KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?
Grey Matter Press just re-published—and significantly repackaged!—three of my previously published books. The old publisher went out of business, and Tony at Grey Matter was nice enough to want to put them back out. So, we’ve got Kill-Off, a straightforward thriller, which is kind of a departure for me. The Bell Witch, my very popular retelling of an early 18th-century American poltergeist legend, with a great introduction by Bracken MacLeod. And a Definitive Edition of my first short story collection, Little Deaths, complete with five stories new to the collection, expanded notes and a humdinger of an intro by Josh Malerman. Plus, they reissued my Stoker-Nominated novella collection The End in All Beginnings, with a new intro by ace reviewer Shane Keene.
KR: What are you working on now?
I finished my 600-page apocalyptic horror novel The Fearing, and I’m shopping it around. I started work on my next novel, a tighter, nostalgic horror piece called He Left. And Grey Matter is bringing a new short story collection of mine out in the Spring, Little Black Spots. So lots happening!
KR: Fast forward ten years! Where do you see yourself?
Dead, most probably. Heh. No, really, ummm…hopefully still out there making shit up, writing it down and entertaining readers. The nice thing about this particular job is that you can continue pretty much until your brain checks out. Up to then, I hope to be writing.
KR: Thank you very much John, it’s been a pleasure!
John F.D. Taff has been writing for nearly 30 years, with more than 90 short stories and five novels in print. His collection Little Deaths was named the best horror fiction collection of 2012 by HorrorTalk. His collection of novellas, The End in All Beginnings, was published by Grey Matter Press in 2014. Jack Ketchum called it “the best novella collection I’ve read in years,” and it was a finalist for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection. Taff’s work also appears in Dark Visions I, Ominous Realities, Death’s Realm, Savage Beasts, Gutted, Behold & Shadows Over Main Street 2 among many others. He lives in the wilds of Illinois with a wife, two cats and three pugs.
John’s author page is found at Amazon
You can follow John on Twitter @johnfdtaff
Please visit John at his blog http://www.johnfdtaff.com