John Langan On Sefira and Other Betrayals, and Writing. | More2Read
 

John Langan On Sefira and Other Betrayals, and Writing.



John Langan is the author of two novels, The Fisherman(Word Horde 2016) and House of Windows (Night Shade 2009), and three collections of stories, Sefira and Other Betrayals (Hippocampus 2019), The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies (Hippocampus 2013) and Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters (Prime 2008). For The Fisherman, he was awarded the Bram Stoker and This is Horror awards. With Paul Tremblay, he co-edited Creatures: Thirty Years of Monsters (Prime 2011). He’s one of the founders of the Shirley Jackson Awards, for which he served as a juror during its first three years. Currently, he reviews horror and dark fantasy for Locus magazine.

John Langan lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with his wife, younger son, and many, many animals. He teaches English at The New York Military Academy. He holds a black belt in the Korean martial art of Tang Soo Do.  



Lou Pendergrast

Welcome and congratulations on your new story collection, Sefira and Other Betrayals.

 

John Langan

Thanks for having me!


Lou Pendergrast

What is the inspiration and underlying theme of this collection?

 

John Langan

As the title indicates, the stories in the collection are tied together by a concern with betrayal–which, as I note at the beginning of the story notes to it, came as something of a surprise to me when I was putting together the stories for what would be my third collection.


Lou Pendergrast

Tell more about the tale Sefira, the seed and inspiration behind it?

 

John Langan

What would become a short novel was inspired by a throwaway remark by my agent, the indefatigable Ginger Clark.  When we were trying to sell my first novel, House of Windows, we were rejected over and over again by mainstream publishers who said the book was too much a horror novel, and by genre publishers who said the book was too literary.  After yet another of these rejections, I wrote to Ginger, “If it had been a fucking vampire hunter novel, they would have taken it,” to which Ginger immediately replied, “No, it would have to have been a succubus hunter novel.”  Which, of course, was laughable, a terrible idea.  It wasn’t long, though, before the fornits were saying, “Yes, we know it’s terrible, but let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that we were to want to write such a story…”

A decade or so later, the narrative was done. 


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LP

There is loss tied into the tale The Fisherman. Tell more about seed and inspiration behind the novel that won a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Fiction in 2016?

 

John Langan

The Fisherman was my attempt to riff on Melville’s Moby Dick, one of my favorite novels, much as King had riffed on Dracula in Salem’s Lot and Straub on “The Great God Pan” and The Turn of the Screw in Ghost Story.  I wasn’t particularly interested in writing about whaling, as I find it repugnant, but I thought fishing might serve an analogous narrative function.  And loss is a subject of much of my fiction, and I think of horror fiction in general–after all, this is the field that brings us face to face with those great gaps in our experience of the world, those moments where everything comes crashing down for us, and what is a more potent instance of that than the death of a loved one?



LP

@MrGaunt tell what does that name mean, in relation to what?

 

John Langan

I took the name from the monster in my second published story, “Mr. Gaunt,” as a kind of sardonic tribute to him and to the early notice his story brought me.


LP

Short tales tell me more about your thoughts on them?

 

John Langan

I love the short-short story, but find them difficult to write.  Most of my narratives tend to need room to stretch around in, and so wind up at novelette and occasionally novella or novel length.  But I have the utmost respect for a writer such as Brian Evenson, who can write strange short stories like nobody’s business.



LP

What is your side hustle or hobby. You have written with sea in the tale, do you fish?

 

John Langan

I do not fish:  that’s my younger son’s passion (he was very helpful checking details in The Fisherman).  To help with the family budget, I teach:  high school English now, college English in the past.  I hold a black belt in Tang Soo Do, which I assist teaching at my dojang.  I review horror and dark fantasy for Locus magazine, too.


LP

Writing, when, where, and with what do you do it?

 

John Langan

Either early in the morning or late at night, in my office, on a legal pad with a pen.  I shoot for a page a day.  I may revise the page later in the day.  Once a story is done, I type it into my computer as quickly as I can, revising more along the way. 


LP

What key advice would you give to the writer trying to write their first novel?

 

John Langan

Patience and persistence.  It’s going to take as long as it’s going to take:  keep at it.  Don’t waste time comparing yourself to other writers:  write your book, the one that only you can write.  To borrow from the great Jeff Ford, you’re going to have the impulse to play it safe, narrative-wise, especially with a first novel.  Fight that impulse; don’t be afraid to go nuts.


LP

In Acknowledgements section of The Fisherman you mention “Laird Barron and Paul Tremblay have been the other brothers I never had” Are they?

Recognition time, what do they mean to you and their contribution to writing world, publishing, and general influence one ones self.

John Langan

With their creative integrity, their personal kindness and generosity, Laird and Paul make my life a better one.  Honestly, I love these guys.  With other writers of our generation such as Michael Cisco, Stephen Graham Jones, Sarah Langan, Victor LaValle, Livia Llewellyn, and Kaaron Warren, their work exemplifies the range of achievement of contemporary horror fiction. 


LP

Which authors and their books impregnated your consciousness in becoming an author?

 

John Langan

When I was younger, Stan Lee, Marv Wolfman, and Robert E. Howard made up a good part of my preferred reading, and they still have an impact on me.  But it was Stephen King who made me think I had to be a writer, and of horror fiction in particular; a realization that was cemented by reading Peter Straub’s work soon thereafter, and T.E.D. Klein’s following that.  Later on, Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, Henry James, Willa Cather, Virginia Woolf, and Salman Rushdie expanded my ideas of what fiction could do, as have Dickens, Philip Roth, and Dan Chaon more recently. 


LP

Monster narratives, which are your greatest ones  from fiction, your memorable characters worth re-reading?

 

John Langan

Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror,” for the relentless forward momentum of its narrative, and the extravagance of its monsters; Stephen King’s The Mist, for its portrayal of a group of hapless people trapped in a supermarket while a monstrous invasion is taking place outside the large, vulnerable plate-glass windows; Clive Barker’s “Rawhead Rex,” for its terrifying, unstoppable creature; Lisa Tuttle’s “Replacements,” for the way its monsters go right to the heart of human insecurity; Cherie Priest’s Those Who Went Remain There Still for its combination of early-American history and crazy monsters. 



LP

What reads, now or last year, you recommend? 

 

John Langan

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about Dan Chaon’s last two novels, Await Your Reply and Ill Will.  From my more recent reading, I’d recommend Carrie Laben’s A Hawk in the Wind, S.P. Miskowski’s The Worst is Yet to Come, Laird Barron’s Black Mountain, Paul Tremblay’s Growing Things, and Nathan Ballingrud’s Wounds.



LP

What writings can we expect next from you?

 

John Langan

I’ll have a novella included in Ellen Datlow’s forthcoming anthology of ghost stories, Echoes.



Lou Pendergrast

Thank you for your time and this peak into your writing world and mind.

 

John Langan

Thank you for this opportunity to talk with you!

 



 

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 12 April 2019