Author Interview : JOHN HENNESSY
We are starting with a new section of Author Interviews and there could not have been a more apt person than John Hennessy to start off this section.
John Hennessy is one of he most amazing and funniest people you would ever meet and the irony is that he is the author and creator of some of the best horror works you would ever see and you would get to see his quirky and fun side as he suffers through our 15 rounds of torture
Catch AUTHOR JOHN HENNESSY at his best in our very first Author Interview
There is one question that has been bothering me ever since I have started reading your books and I guess you might even have an idea as to what it might be as I have always been asking that in my reviews . Where do you find inspiration for your books because none of your characters or stories are conventional?
I wish I could answer that question more clearly than ‘the inspiration from my head.’ I can’t tell you how I really do this, but it generally starts with the outline of a story and then, the development of characters that should fit into that story.
From martial artist to an author that is a huge curve to achieve. How did it happen?
It wasn’t as big a curve as one might think. Even when I was a child and a truly hopeless fighter (more accurate to say I was unskilled, but the simple truth was that I was not a natural fighter. I had to learn how to do it.) I was jotting ideas down as a child, indeed my English teacher (hi Miss Mullins!) encouraged my writing even though she didn’t like the little horror shorts I would send her way. I think I did that because I was fed up of reading the same old books in the school curriculum. But also, back then, just as now…I want to write what I want to write.
My first book was a book about martial arts because these days, I am an authority on the subject. I suppose it re-kindled my love for writing. Also, I had a bereavement in the year that Essence of Martial Arts was released. I had planned to get straight on with the second martial arts book. Instead, I ended up doing fiction. My early works were just that – early. I’ve worked hard to improve my writing craft, listening to painful and harsh (and accurate!) critique from my then editors.
I still love martial arts and I always will. But writing is something I can do when I can no longer do high kicks. So it’s a win-win.
Could you tell us about your background and bit about yourself that you are willing to share with us?
I have a background in marketing and achieved my Master’s degree in 2006. Prior to that I received my BA (Hons) from the University of Birmingham for Sports Sciences. I worked, as many aspiring writers do, in a day job that I felt was part of my career. I wanted to stay in IT, but the industry was forever changing, and after 2008-9 and the recession, I left the role to pursue teaching martial arts full time. I had already outlined my first book, but it would be another two and a half years before it would become reality.
I’m a former ice-hockey player and try to keep as fit as I can through martial arts and other training. I love to visit new places, whether in England or abroad. I’m an avid reader as well as a writer.
Music is a love of mine and I am rarely far away from music, be it a CD in the car or an iPod in my ears.
I avoid a deluge of news because the world can be a depressing place at times. If we look, there’s a lot of beauty out there and even though I write horror, in some of my stories there is always a sense of hope.
I’m a ghost hunter! I like to go to places that are reputed to be haunted just so I can get my own sense of things. It helps me to create more believable worlds within my stories.
What is the thought process when you draft your characters because none of the characters in your books are what you call pure black or pure white. Even the antagonists evoke strong sympathy like if you take the example of Donald Curie from dark winter series or Juliana from the vampire series, there are times when you feel for these characters and on the other there are times when Romilly or Toril, some of the good characters makes us wonder are they really good?
I think the best way to say it that Romilly, a good, decent girl on the face of it, was much more than that. She was a complex character who had her own way of doing things. She would be prepared to do something horrid if the means justified it. I think that makes her more balanced, more releastic. There isn’t a single thing I would change about the character, and I feel satisfied with the close of her story arc in Dark Winter.
I have heard that readers felt some empathy for the ‘evil’ characters and I think that shows good writing. I really think a story can be elevated to something better in the readers’ mind if the characters are well drawn, even if the story itself may have issues.
There may be some authors who have a total and complete handle on their stories. I think sometimes I get great clarity. Other times, especially with a much longer story, it can be difficult to achieve.
I think to answer your question more directly, when you look at the different histories of Don Curie and Juliana, can you truly state that they are evil? Were they born evil, or simply enjoyed the taste of their deeds? It’s not for certain, and I don’t wish to spoonfeed readers with ‘this person is good, and this person is bad’. They are all facets of their characters.
I remember you mentioning that The Ghost of Normandy Road had its inspiration from a place you had know in your childhood. Is that true and how much of your stories and characters have a glimpse from real life?
The Ghost of Normandy Road is perhaps the most ‘true’ fiction novel I have written. The original concept had me leaning towards non-fiction. I wanted to write about the house and my own experiences there as a child. Whilst the fiction story itself is far more scary than anything I experienced, there were elements that were absolutely true. For example, there really was a childhood romance going on. I was, in effect, the character of Danny, and a girl whose real name must stay offline evoked the character of Rebecca.
I was tempted to write The Ghost of Normandy Road as a fiction piece, supplemented by the non-fiction elements. In the end I decided to create the fiction work first. But it is likely I will return to the non-fiction outline I created some years ago.
I have heard that when an author writes a book, he/she lives with these characters. Which is the one character that has refused to leave you even after completing the book?
I think when I was writing Dark Winter I definitely identified with Romilly the most, and she continues to fill my thoughts as if to say ‘Hey, boyo….we’re not finished!’ But I think the more accurate thing to say is that her character was very much my own around 13-16 years of age. It would have been far easier to make that character a male, but then other elements would have had to change. There’s also a lot of Romilly that I couldn’t hope to emulate. I think she’s far braver in the circumstances in which she finds herself than I could ever be.
I tend to adopt an ‘interview’ process when writing a scene. So for instance, if Toril finds herself in a particular scene, I would kind of ‘talk’ with her about it (this is less crazy than it sounds!) and we would work out the scene together. For example, she might say ‘okay, if I am such a powerful witch, why can’t I do this…or make this happen….?’ From then on, you have a chance to make the scene, even in a paranormal fantasy, more believeable to the reader.
Is there a character or bunch of characters that has been more demanding and given you nightmares over portraying it rightly?
That really depends on the story and where you are as the author in relation to them. For example, I could relate to the character of Peter (Clara’s Song) and Seamus (The Girl Who Collected Butterflies) because they are men in their forties, like myself. But take a bunch of teenage girls in Dark Winter, at least I know what teenage girls were like back then. I suppose the more difficult bunch of characters are ones not featured in our world, such as elves, sorceresses and warrior gods (Stormling) or any of the vampires from the Tale of Vampires series.
As a writer what is the toughest phase, is it coming up with the story or writing the book in itself or the process after the book is ready?
I think when the writing flows, there is no greater joy. I think the hard work really begins once that first draft is done. These days I leave a lot of time between draft one and the polish and shine elements. I work on other projects so that I can go back to it with a fresh perspective. The story in itself is unlikely to change. But I just make it better, more refined, and understand where I can edit without losing the thread of the narrative.
Do you think there is anything that stands as a huge obstacle for writers in the industry and needs to be changed?
Honestly I haven’t given much attention to that. I think the established authors, such as Stephen King and JK Rowling only have to have a title announced and it crashes the charts. That’s okay – they’ve built their brand and they deserve their success.
I think agents may know a lot less than they think, or they are simply overwhelmed with scripts that they cannot possibly screen them all. In my own case, I don’t think a three chapter sample works on an agent. I’d rather read the book whole than in part.
The indie publishing phenomenon is ultimately a good thing if it shakes up the industry. Some of the best books I have ever read were not published in the traditional channels. There’s a lot of dross out there too, but that applies to traditionally published books as well.
Ultimately the writer must stay focussed. If they want to go the traditional route, then they should go for it. Others who go independent and then, traditional later must also be determined and stay on that path. This is just my view.
I am a reviewer and a blogger so this question comes with a vested interest. How much do you think the presence of reviewers contribute to a writer and the success of his/her books? Is there anything that you wish could be there or not there in a reviewer and author relation?
I think readers who blog are critical in getting the word out there about a book. Whether they think the book is bad or good, it is just an opinion. I think authors can sometimes get hung up on that, whilst others could not care less about a review so long as the sales come.
As for the author / reviewer relationship I think there is a concern that a review, if not totally positive could hurt the author. I would rather a review be honest, because one always gets a mix of positive, middling and negative reviews. This is normal and to be expected.
Apart from being an amazing author, you have been an amazing friend and one of the things that have astonished me about you, apart from your books of course, is how you have a different and at times an indepth view towards movies. How much does movies influence you and is horror is your favourite genre in there too?
I do love movies of course, but if I am to invest my time, energy and money into a movie, I hope, at the very least, to be entertained. I don’t go to watch 007 for its indepth character building. At the same time I don’t want to be given brain dead stuff like Man of Steel. You see, this is just my opinion, it doesn’t mean I am right or wrong.
Horror isn’t necessarily my fave movie genre but I do love it. I especially love intelligent horror (the recent ‘Sinister’ being one such example). Gore for gore’s sake is not enjoyable unless you are expecting it (Friday the 13th).
I think thrillers are my fave genre when it comes to movies. I love gripping tales.
Next is a cliché question who is your favourite author and one of the most memorable books you have ever read?
This is a difficult question. One of my fave books is Nineteen-Eighty-Four by George Orwell but I didn’t warm to his other works. Jane Austen was one of the first authors I read and Northanger Abbey remains a close favourite. JRR Tolkien with his Lord of the Rings books was mind blowing at the time, and still is.
For pure clarity of story and consistency as a writer, I may have to give the nod to Stephen King and his Pet Semetary. I simply adore that book.
Is there a favourite among your books?
Pet Semetary, Ninteen-Eighty-Four, The Hunger Games (I), The Witching Hour, and Rebecca’s World.
Is there any writing ritual that you follow? I have heard that certain writers like to use a special pen or place to write.. Do you follow something of that nature?
I wish I could tell you I have a system, but I simply write when I can! I’m not a 7am-9am writer, nor someone who can write 6pm-3am(though I have done this). Sometimes the writing bug gets a hold of you, other times, the last thing you want to do is write, not because of falling out of love with it, it is just a case of going through the motions….from which mediocre writing will be produced. I don’t ever want to fall into that trap.
Lastly what is in the future for John Hennessy. What are the works that we should watch out for?
Well, I always have ideas. My works that will definitely happen (though not necessarily in this order) are:-
One More Story (standalone thriller)
Children of the Dark Light (Haunted Minds IV)
Dawn of the New Breed (full length prequel to Murderous Little Darlings)
A Witch’s Grace (all new paranormal horror witch story)
A Tale of Vampires VI (the follow up to Reunion of the Blood)
11:47 (a short story horror compilation)
CaraBella (A dark twisted fairy tale)
Stormling II (the follow up to the 2014 original)
The Mastery of Martial Arts (non-fiction)
I hope you will give them a try.
MORE ABOUT JOHN HENNESSY
A kung fu addict; he teaches martial arts full-time but writes at all other times, working on four series:- Dark Winter, Haunted Minds, Stormling and A Tale of Vampires.
When he doesn’t have a book in his hands, he likes to travel and see weird and wacky things. He admits to having an unhealthy addiction to Star Trek, Batman, Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to name but a few. He will also travel to reputed scary places in England, as he feels it makes his books more real.
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