Author Interview – Johnathon Heart

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Anthology: The Devil Who Loves Me
Release Date: June 23rd, 2023
Preorders: Paperback | Kindle
About the Author: Johnathon Heart is the pseudonym of a prolific editor. Their work has been featured on the Nosleep Podcast, and is upcoming on the Thirteen Podcast and in Collage Macabre: An Anthology of Art Horror.
Q & A

How does it feel to have this story published for the first time?

Excellent. It's one of my older stories and one of the most frequently rejected. I always believed in it, but up until now I couldn't believe that there was a good home for it. When Grendel Press announced their "Devil Who Loves Me" anthology, I was shocked at how well their concept fit the story. I was not disappointed.

What inspired the idea for your story?

I've always been captivated by breakups. The messy nature of them, and by how hard it is to label anyone as the "bad guy." I feel like too many speculative fiction readers and writers are afraid of the messy, and enjoy the comfort of a clear villain. I don't. So the kind of interpersonal dramas that I see play out in real life often inspire me more than anything I read.
In particular, I had talked to several people who had been forced into living with their recent exes due to 21st century rent situations. Especially in tiny Southern California apartments, I could only imagine the suffering. The inability to make a clean break, and the feeling that you were reliving your breakup over and over.

We know that writing can be a tumultuous journey with a lot of obstacles, what is your kryptonite as a writer?

I am absolutely terrible at playing the game. And there is a game. The mechanisms of "getting published" in this era involve a web of complicating factors of which only one is "writing well." What are your connections? How active are you on twitter? Do you have the social resources and free time to get involved in a critique group that can help you polish individual pieces? Are you able to keep up with the most recent submissions calls and be aware of what they are looking for on an intimate level?
I have very recently learned to get better at some of these things. In 2018, when I wrote Dorian originally, I could do almost none of them.

Clearly, you’ve succeeded at writing a captivating story for GrendelPress, but we all start somewhere. What advice would you give yourself as a young writer?

Don't write novels until you already know how to get published. Learn how to market yourself. Writers are not hermits, anymore. They must engage with the world to get somewhere. And for the love of god, do not remove work from the internet that is attracting an audience because you think it might get "published in real life" someday. What does that even mean?

We’d like to argue that every good story makes both the author and the readers feel something. What perspectives or beliefs have you challenged with your story?

We are bigger than happily ever after. You can move on from loss, because you as a human are larger than that loss. Romance can only get you so far.

What do you love most about your story’s genre?

I often feel shackled by the romance genre's need to provide happily ever after endings. I guess, since I'm combining it with horror, I am freed from that obligation? What I am more fascinated by than anything else is how people come together and how they come apart. But it feels like "coming apart" is blacklisted from a lot of romance writing, so I am left writing stories about love that do not end the way anyone wants a love story to end.
I think, to that end, I'd prefer horror/romance to dark romance, which often seems to assert: "We know this relationship is toxic, but let's give it a happily ever after ending anyway."

Tell us about your favorite author. What about their book(s) call to you and how do they inspire your own writing?

Neil Gaiman. He understands the fantastical on an intimate level and is not satisfied by just "making stuff up." His made-up material is all connected to the primordial ooze of how people make things up. His work convinces me that our most magical dreams can be as relevant as reality.

What are some other genres you’d like to break into and why?

Dorian fits into the genre of story that I most want to see published, so I'm pretty content right now with that. For the most part, I've just "broken in" to being published in general very recently. My true passion project is a novel that I have already written but has not been published. Crossed fingers.

If you had to pick another story of yours to share with your readers, what would it be?

Love From Distance
A woman who is terrified of touch, but wants to have a child, is offered a son by a strange tree spirit. But when she discovers that her new offspring is less human than she hoped, she has to put into practice the acceptance that was never offered to her.
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