Oh, the horror! And I mean that in the best way possible. ;) John Inman is here with me today to tell you all about ghosts and haunted houses and moldering skeletons in creepy closets. I’m talking, of course, about John’s new release The Boys on the Mountain, released just yesterday from DSP Publications. So light your candles and get out your Ouija boards—but first, let’s have a look at what’s in store.
Jim Brandon has a new house, and boy is it a pip. Built high on the side of the San Diego mountains by a legendary B movie actor of the 1930s, Nigel Letters, the house is not only gorgeous, but supposedly haunted. As a writer of horror novels, Jim couldn’t be happier.
But after a string of ghostly events sets Jim’s teeth on edge and scares the bejesus out of his dog, Jim begins to dig into the house’s history. What he finds is enough to creep out anybody. Even Jim. It seems long dead Nigel Letters had a few nasty habits back in his day. And unhappily for Jim, the old bastard still has some tricks up his sleeve.
As Jim welcomes his ex, Michael, and a bevy of old friends for a two-week visit to help christen the new house, he soon realizes his old friends aren’t the only visitors who have come to call.
Carole: So last time you were here, John, I called you DSP Publications’ answer to Stephen King, and though you demurred, I haven’t seen anything yet to change my opinion. Now, I know one of King’s least favorite questions is “What is it about the Horror genre that appeals to you?” so let’s be evil and start with that one.
John: Horror stories are always fun. Usually they are so over the top that they make the writing of them a true blast. In horror you can let your imagination take you wherever you want to go. There are no restrictions of reality or time or reason to hold you back. Next to flat out gooshy love stories, which I adore making up, I enjoy writing bloody, creepy, scream-inducing horror stories the best.
Carole: Quite the contrast there! Now, horror as a genre has such broad appeal. Why “narrow the audience,” so to speak, by featuring the M/M dynamic?
John: I guess it boils down to being who I am. Since I’m gay, the M/M perspective on a story is just the way I instinctively go. I’ve always written male on male, even before I ever sold a manuscript and before I ever knew there was actually a market out there for that type of story. And at this late point in the game I don’t think I could change because it’s the only way I know how to write.
Carole: And why should you, really? Okay, so let’s move on to the good stuff. Tell us about The Boys on the Mountain.
John: This book was sort of a test for me. It was my first foray into writing a ghost story. It was also the first time I tried writing a story that encompassed two separate time periods, decades apart. I have published ghost stories before this one but The Boys on the Mountain was written before those. Boys is the story of a serial killer of young men who lived half a century earlier than when the present day part of the story takes place.
Nigel Letters was an old ham actor of the forties who starred in a string of B movies and made quite a name for himself doing it. He also had a few kinks in his persona that his fans didn’t know about at the time. Fast forward five decades. James Brandon is a writer of horror stories who is buying the old Letters home situated on the side of a mountain in Southern California. Once there, he realizes, through his pen, that something horrible once happened in that house, and the victims of that horror are still in residence. When his coterie of gay friends come for two weeks to christen the house, they find themselves in a battle with the ghost of Nigel Letters who still wields control over the poor souls he murdered here fifty years before. And not everyone survives the battle.
Carole: Yikes! Sounds like a book to be read with all the lights on and maybe a guard dog or two. ;)
So, The Boys on the Mountain is being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for nonromance genre novels. Tell us about the relationship in The Boys on the Mountain and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.
John: The Boys on the Mountain was accepted by Dreamspinner Press about three years ago, and has been on hold until the new DSP Publications imprint opened up, because they thought it would be a better fit. While Boys is indeed a romance, the romance part of the story is overshadowed by the spooky stuff. My other release through DSP Publications, Willow Man, was likewise held in limbo until the imprint went live. Both books are horror, and both are ghost stories. Anyway, they’re here now, and I couldn’t be happier. Stephen King has always been one of my favorite authors. I think I’ve read every word he’s ever written write down to his grocery list, so if the reader sees any similarities (not in style and deftness of execution, mind you, I could never match King for that, hell, nobody could) but in mood and basic imagery, then I hope I’ll be forgiven.
Carole: *refers John to intro and whistles* Ahem. All right, now it’s time for what’s always my favorite part of Genre Talk: Tell us about the evolution of this story. What was its earliest incarnation as a concept and when did it begin to take the form of The Boys on the Mountain?
John: The germ of an idea for this story came into being one spring day in San Diego when I was visiting the San Diego Zoo. It’s about a 15 minute walk to there from where I live so I go there quite often. Anyway, one early morning I snuck into the zoo when they first opened and not too many people were around. I was happily hiking the trails and pathways of the zoo, all by myself, chomping down on a humongous bucket of popcorn, when I strolled through the valley of big cats. There were almost no people around at all. It was still really early in the morning and some fog lingered from the night before. As I was passing this vast wire cage that reached about 15 feet high and 30 feet across, a black panther came storming out of the bushes and crashed flat out into the fence, feet first, hissing and snarling and spitting, not two feet from where I stood. Needless to say, my popcorn went flying and I damn near peed my pants. That cat meant business. I guess he thought I was on the breakfast menu. I have never forgotten that moment, and I knew I had to work it into a story. So believe it or not, all 150,000 words of The Boys on the Mountain came from those few seconds of abject terror when I stood in the fog at the San Diego Zoo and tried not to keel over in a dead faint when that black panther flew at me out of the bushes. Haha. I did manage to work the moment into the book though. It also gave me one of the major players in the story. Tania, the puma. And what a bitch she is!
Carole: (Do you see why that’s my favorite part? Always such awesome answers!) Okay, for this last question, I basically just asked John what he would like to talk about. Here’s what he came up with.
John: Since I’ve been told I can say anything I want during this part of the interview, I would like to direct a couple of words to the people out there (you most certainly know who you are) who have a dream to become a writer. To you I would like to say just one thing. Do not ever give up. Hold true to your dream. Practice your craft. And read. Read everything you can get your hands on. Trust me, every rejection letter and every unanswered query you are faced with now will make the final signing of your first contract all the more exciting – and well earned. I wish you all the luck in the world. I really do. Oh, and more thing. Write from the heart. That’s where the best words always lay hidden.
Carole: Oh, John. You’ve gone and made everyone all swoony now. Thanks so much for being with us today and best of luck on the new release!
And thank you, readers, for coming along for the ride. As a reward, please enjoy the following excerpt from The Boys on the Mountain, and look for the buy links at the end of the post.
Excerpt: A TOUCH at the side of my neck brought me crashing back to the present, my connection to the past lost in the space of a second.
Michael stood over me, smiling down. His hair, freed of the stocking cap and considerably thinner now than when we were an item, poked up around his face in a dozen different directions. Bed hair. Crumpled, baggy pajama bottoms hung precariously from his slim hips, and he sported a nicotine patch on his upper arm. He was trying to quit smoking again, a quest he had pursued off and on and with a constant lack of success since the day I met him.
But for the smoking, and a few too many drinks occasionally (especially when the five of us got together), Michael was something of a health nut, popping God knows how many vitamins every day, jogging or racewalking every morning, working out at his gym four evenings a week. Compared to him, the rest of us were slugs. We basically kept ourselves trim with periodic bouts of starvation. Michael did it with hard, steady exercise. His devotion to it was mirrored in the clean, trim lines of his body.
I snaked an arm around his waist and pulled him into my space, pushing my face into the sprinkling of hair on his firm, rippled stomach. His skin felt sleep-warm and heavenly.
He rested a hand against the back of my neck. “This may come as a surprise to you, Jim, but most life forms require sleep to survive.”
I grinned and kissed his stomach. He not only lived a healthy lifestyle, he had also taken it upon himself to constantly lecture the rest of us on the advantages of one. For my part, his lectures usually oozed in one ear and dribbled out the other without making any long-lasting impressions anywhere in between.
“Nag. What time is it?”
“About an hour before dawn. The sky is just beginning to lighten.”
“Is that what woke you?”
“No,” he said, chuckling. “A warm fuzzy body crawling into my bed is what woke me. I was hoping it was you.”
“Hmm. Who was it?”
“He misses you.”
“Anybody else around here miss me?”
“Yeah. I do. All the time.”
He ran his fingers through my hair. “Right. That’s why you moved to practically another country. We’re twenty miles from the Mexican border, for Christ’s sake. When the wind is right, you can probably smell the salsa.”
“Right now I can smell only you,” I whispered, breathing in the familiar fragrance of his warm skin.
I felt a stirring beneath the fabric of his pajama bottoms before he gently took a step backward. “Let’s not complicate matters,” he said, but there was a smile in his voice. “We have other things we should be concentrating on.”
“Like what?” I asked innocently.
“Well, gee, let me think. Judging by all the paperwork scattered around you, you’ve just been mysteriously channeling the story of another boy who was murdered in this house more than fifty years ago. Our friend is lying in the back bedroom with first-degree burns over most of his face and so strung out on pills and booze that he doesn’t realize he should be in pain. And, oh yes, you’re in the process of buying a home that is crawling with ghosts and goblins and demons, and we need to be checking the yellow pages for a good exorcist before one or all of the spooks living here decide to set fire to the rest of us. Did I miss anything?”
“Well, there is the small matter of the beast who attacked my dog, but I suppose that would fall under the general demon category, unless you’d prefer to sublist it. Organization is, after all, your middle name.”
“And chaos, my friend, is yours. It follows you wherever you go.”
I studied his face. “Is that why you left?”
He smiled. “Who said I left? Maybe I’m on hiatus.”
“If that’s what it is, it’s been a long one,” I said, but I could feel my heart doing a happy little patter. Maybe there was hope for us yet. Michael apparently was harboring the same thought. At least I hoped he was.
“Complications aren’t necessarily bad things,” he said, moving closer.
“Not bad at all,” I agreed.
“And the other stuff we can work around. Ghosts. Goblins.”
I slid my lips across his stomach. “Fuck it,” he said. “Let’s go to bed.”
“If you insist.”
He laughed. “You’re so easy.”
I pulled the drawstring on his pajama bottoms and watched them slide to the floor.
“And you’re so hard.”
“Nice segue,” he said.
“Thanks. I’m a writer. We’re good at things like that.”
“What else are you good at?”
“Let me refresh your memory,” I said. And I did.
Author Bio: John Inman grew up on a tiny 60-acre farm in Indiana. His childhood was a happy one. He spent most of it barefoot with a cane pole over his shoulder, fishing and roaming the countryside and dragging home every wild creature he could get his hands on hoping to make it a pet, much to his mother’s horror.
Longing to see the world (what kid doesn’t?), he joined the Navy two minutes after graduating from high school. The Navy carried him all across the Orient before finally landing him in San Diego, California, a city he fell in love with at first sight. He lives there to this day with his husband John (yep, John and John), and an assortment of pets they’ve happened to adopt along the way, (Yep, he’s still doing that too.)
The one great longing that has stayed with John his entire life, from his childhood on the farm, to his years in the Navy, and all the way up to retirement from the working world, was the need he felt to write fiction. And he did. He wrote every chance he got, from elementary school all the way through to Social Security.
John calls this passion of his a wonderful addiction, and he thanks God every day that he suffers from it. Since he can’t think of a happier way to spend his remaining years on this marvelous planet, you can now find John seven days a week, merrily slogging along on his computer, doing what he most dearly loves to do.
Writing. (And there’s usually a pet on his lap while he’s doing it.)
Next on the chopping block for Genre Talk is… eek! Me! J Tullos Hennig will be turning the tables and giving me a taste of my own medicine and other mixed metaphors. So, until then—thanks and happy reading, everyone!