Every month we feature a different author, publisher or bookseller who has earned the RLK! seal of approval! We will highlight and review their books/company as well as providing author biographies (where available) and publishing information. We hope you enjoy RLK! Spotlight On....

Author Bio:

Since 1979 J. N. Williamson has written or edited more than 50 books and three times that number of published short stories.

With Dean Koontz as President, Jerry was the first secretary of the Horror Writers Association.

He has edited all four volumes of the acclaimed anthology series called Masques and in 1987, edited How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction with an introduction by Robert Bloch and chapters by such writers as Ray Bradbury, Dean Koontz, Colin Wilson, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Janet Fox, Robert R. McCammon, and Douglas E. Winter.

Jerry and his wife Mary raised six children and when Jerry isn't writing and Mary typing his manuscripts in final form, they spend much of their winters following Indiana University and Indiana Pacers basketball.



RLK! EXCLUSIVE Author interview:

J. N. Williamson was kind enough to answer the following RLK! questions:

Richard Laymon Kills!: Jerry, thanks for taking the time to talk with us.

J. N. Williamson: It's a joy to cooperate with you on a website for one of horror's true working pros.

RLK!: You were one of the most prolific authors during the 80's "horror boom", with what seemed like a new paperback original coming out every month. With the horror market going bust in the late 80's and early 90's, how has that affected your prolific nature?

JNW: For awhile it seems to me I was publishing a new paperback original monthly, and in 1981 there were eight months when there was one, then half the months in '82! That was when I was saddled with the "prolific" label and didn't even know it was a slur at first! What critics didn't know was, I'd written several partials before The Ritual became my first sale, from Leisure in '79. I respected hard work, and I wasn't about to turn down an advance at a time when my family needed money and suddenly I was hot. I was putting in 60-hour work weeks to complete those books.

I loved the horror boom and was grateful for it. My so-called "prolific nature" turned to mastering short stories, and I placed 27 of my current total of 159 in '85-'86 alone. And since '88, I've sold 35 short stories to fiction anthologies. I can't stop writing.

RLK!: Are you seeking other markets...or trying other genres?

JNW: In addition to the stories, I've written columns for the likes of Dead of Night, Pulphouse and ZAM. My upcoming Leisure story collection, Frights of Fancy, contains not only a mixture of horror but fantasy, mysteries, ghostly carryings-on, UFO tales, and some unclassifiables. I've never ruled out writing almost every sort of writing, but an ex-agent I respected told me a serious mainstream novel I planned would probably sell better under a pseudonym because my horror reputation wouldn't let me be acknowledged as the truly excellent writer I want to be! So I gave it up, occasionally trying forays into other genres but in short fiction only. So I've sold the latter to such anthologies as Marilyn (Monroe): Shades of Blood; an sf-mainstream yarn to VB Network; mysteries to Holmes for the Holidays (Sherlock, of course), Murder Most Delicious (with a recipe) and Cat Crimes Goes on Holiday (a "cozy," for goodness' sakes!).

But the odd thing is that, in addition to eight of my novels that are undeniably ghost-story books, I regard at least six of them as primarily being simply novels anyway, and Death-Angel ('83) was a silly parody of horror! They were all sold as horror or occult anyway.

RLK!: Why do you enjoy writing horror - what is it about the genre that interests you?

JNW: I think I enjoy writing horror because there's so much of it in real life that, like such wonderful "Twilight Zone" writers as Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont, whom I'd rather have gotten to know than any other writer of imaginative fiction who has died, it affords a horror author the chance to confront dark, evil or stupidly destructive forces in an outwardly realistic situation or environment - even familiar ones.

RLK!: Can you give us a sense of what it was like to write horror during this "boom"?

JNW: Once characteristic of the horror boom was, I think, that most of the variations of the older tales in fiction, film and legend tended to be used up by the newcomers by the early '80s and what publishers often bought was either rip-offs of King, stuff with no attempt at credibility, or variations of the variations. It's popular to say there was almost nothing being written awhile then but junk, but Richard Laymon and I were only two horror-hands who built careers on talent, imagination and hard work.

RLK!: Why do you think the market for horror fiction bottomed out?

JNW: I think the "market bottomed out" because, primarily, publishers and writers went on learning little about the character of fictional fear and not only what may frighten an audience but what people are willing to be scared by. (I hope it's obvious I'm generalising.) A problem was that editors with no background reading horror were being made department heads and wordsmiths who'd seen a movie when their girls snuggled up decided horror was easy to write. It still hasn't occurred to these people, in some instances, that healthy types don't believe there's a Bundy, Dahmer or imaginary Dr. Lector in the area until a skilled writer convinces them there is - which is fun - or, there is (which isn't fun). Some of them seem unable to differentiate between a novel and a movie, too!

RLK!: Where do you see the US horror market going now? Considering the upturn in horror sales and small presses popping up all over - and apparently doing quite well - do you see it on the rise? And, if so, what do you see as your part in this resurgence?

JNW: Horror fiction is going up in sales again in part because Leisure Books' editor, Don D'Auria, understands how to buy it - who and why - and how to market it. I think Don and also Rich Chizmar at Cemetery Dance both know horror and suspense fiction are here to stay just as westerns, mysteries, sf and other genres have specific audiences which can be targeted. I see myself as part of the resurgence in part because I continue to try to become a better writer, and some say I succeed, and because I never write the same novel or story a second time. I am original.

RLK!: Can you tell us a little bit about how the MASQUES anthology series came about?

JNW: Sure. Writer-publisher John Maclay had published my stand-alone novella Hour and two short story collections of mine, Anomalies and Nevermore! in 1983 and we'd collaborated on an adventurous mainstream novel, Wards of Armageddon (Leisure, 1986), and I proposed he publish a magazine I'd edit to be called J.N. Williamson's Horror Magazine. He counterproposed the same distributions of talents for a hardcover anthology. I couldn't have agreed with greater alacrity! No professional experience of mine has been happier - John and I agreed down the line on approach.

RLK!: What do you feel is the strongest volume of this exemplary anthology and why?

JNW: It's very hard to choose the "strongest volume" of the four Masques, and the product of my reflection is a bit like asking my favorite of our six children: it almost depends on which one is in my thoughts at the time. But my favorite Masques, on an emotional basis, is the first.

RLK!: Any favorite stories or contributions?

JNW: The unforgettable contributions, for me, are McCammon's "Nightcrawlers," F. Paul Wilson's "Soft," Ray Russell's "Czadek," Hamilton's "The Alteration," Beaumont's "My Grandmother's Japonicas" and Matheson's interview with me in the first; Stephen King's "Popsy," Tom Sullivan's "Man Who Drowned Puppies," Alan Rodgers' "Boy Who Came Back From The Dead," and Robert Bloch's "The New Season" in Masques II; Ed Gorman's "Drifter," Dan Simmons' "Shave and a Haircut, Two Bites," Adobe James' "The Spelling Bee," Diane Taylor's "The Skull," Maclay's "Safe," Graham Masterton's "Ever, Ever After," John Keefauver's "Kill for Me," and James Kisner's "The Willies" in Masques III; and Kristine Rusch's "Children," Gahan Wilson's "Sea Gulls," Maclay's "Pratfall," Darrell Schweitzer's "Savages," Cameron Nolan's "Children Never Lie," and Castle's "Love, Hate and the Beautiful Junkyard Sea" in Masques IV.

Lastly, about my fiction anthologies, these were my indelibly remembered thrills (however uncool that is): Speaking with Bradbury the first time. Getting a submission from Bob Bloch, and corresponding with him. Receiving from his friend William F. Nolan an unpublished Beaumont and getting to present it. Interviewing Matheson and, a book later, having a choice between two unpublished stories of his (I bought them both). Watching King promise me he'd write for another Masques and seeing him keep his word when there'd been no talk of a "sequel," for then Steve made it happen. Discovering writers such as Hamilton, Sullivan, and Katherine Ramsland. Holding the published Masques anthologies in my hands and reading the reviews.

RLK!: THE HAUNT is a terrific book which is a stunning character study. The atmosphere in the novel is also thick with suspense and impending doom. Did you set out to do this on purpose, or did it just grow as you wrote?

JNW: Thanks for the praise of my novels. About Haunt, very seldom do any of my novels surprise me because I've worked from extensive outlines since the beginning. I know to make a supernatural yarn atmospheric so, as I'm outlining, I set up not only scenes that advance the plot - always that - but scenes with the right characters to enable me to provide a suitable ambience: suspense, say, light or playful or sensual, or perhaps spookily atmospheric. That's why my main setting is an old barn of a house. People think of a bright, new house as haunted, although if someone died there out of time, there's no reason - to parapsychologists - why it shouldn't be. By the way, I'm delighted you find The Haunt a "stunning character study."

RLK!: What was the genesis of THE HAUNT? How did you come to write it?

JNW: I was told by Leisure editor Don D'Auria, in a get-acquainted phone chat, he'd like to see me undertake a supernatural novel, and I said I'd love to write one again. I did, as a partial, and he wanted it for Leisure.

RLK!: The Kidd brothersí relationship with their house is fascinating. In fact, the house takes on its own personality through the novel due to the ghost. Was this hard to achieve?

JNW: Not any harder than many things I've written, but I welcome the praise. What enabled me to give the house a personality, perhaps, was remembering to see it not just from the brothers' viewpoint but from that of the woman Rachel, her kids, Andre - based imaginatively on TV Homicide's Andre Braugher - and especially of the oddly-confined haunt itself. My plan was based on my wife Mary's long-ago perception that she was many people: A wife; daughter; sister; and the mom of children who became conscious of her at different stages of her life over a span of nearly two decades, since there were six kids by two different dads. I extended this to the house itself because it was almost parentally haunted.

RLK!: (Without wanting to give the ending away...) the climax where the reader finally meets the ghost is full of twists and turns that no reader can expect. Did you have this exact ending in mind when you started to write the novel, or did it just evolve that way?

JNW: Not quite. I'd had in mind Andre and Eight finishing it. But that wasn't fair to Jack or to the heroic Rachel and a growing desire for decent family members to triumph over an old looney.

RLK!: THE HAUNT was our RLK! Book of the Month for July and certainly deserved the honour! What have your fans had to say about this novel?

JNW: I seldom get much feedback from readers except at convention signing parties and from fellow writers such as Maclay, Kisner, Castle, Tom Millstead and Tracey Knight, and a very few relatives: Daughters-in-law named Candace and Sandy. My grandson Kyle is my latest fan, at twelve, and he devoured Bloodlines, The Haunt, and my '91 limited collection, The Naked Flesh of Feeling, with no sign of indigestion. As for the honor you bestowed on The Haunt you made my July and I'm grateful for the review too!

RLK!: SPREE is a cross between American Psycho and Thelma and Louise but, of course, much better than both! This novel really stays with you long after you have finished reading. Dellís idea of taking personal "magic" from people is a strange and disturbing story element. How did you create this??

JNW: It's just an idea I thought would work for Dell, who is sociopathic and "rationalises" his essentially conscienceless actions.

RLK!: In fact Dell and Kee are downright disturbing and strange themselves. Were you worried about writing a novel focussing on two main characters that the readers couldnít like?

JNW: I am delighted you found Dell and the psychotic Kee disturbing and strange so I don't have to worry about you! No, I wasn't worried about that because they were pre-tested in short story form in the much-missed Night Cry magazine in '86, reprinted in Bill Nolan's fine Urban Horrors in '90 - and because the characters dare to be absurdly funny to me! Most such monsters wind up that way for me in real life, once they've been fried!
RLK!: Take us through a normal day for you at work...

JNW: My day starts depressingly earlier than it used to thanks to such high blood sugar about two years ago that I had to go on insulin and watch my diet, even eat breakfast. I can't say I write more, but I still finish a novel in about two-three months. After I have enough coffee and walk our dog, Nikki, I get in about an hour's work before lunch and work hard till about 6:30 when I have another blood-check, more exercise with Nikki, dinner and TV with Mary. Going back to the work-phase, I often play music, probably Les Paul, Chet Atkins, Count Basie or Benny Goodman. If I put on my all-time favorite singers, Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald, I tend to sing softly with them since I used to be a professional singer, I know most of their arrangements, and I may be a better Sinatra impersonator today than any of Elvis' imitators do Presley! So sooner or later I'll probably quit writing and stand to sing fully with Lady Ella or Old Blue Eyes.

Sometimes I don't write, I act as a professional critique editor.

RLK!: What job would you be doing if you weren't a writer?

JNW: If rock 'n roll hadn't gone over I might well be a singer today. I'm also interested in psychology and both law and law enforcement. And U.S. Senator Richard G. Lugar and I were on the same high school debate team; politics has its pull.

RLK!: Which do you enjoy more: editing or writing your own prose?

JNW: Undeniably, writing. I cannot imagine not writing fiction now.

RLK!: Who do you like to read when you're not at work?

JNW: I used to have generally different answers. These days, I'd say most of Colin Wilson's non-fiction; bios of favorite people; The Sporting News and basketball books; and carefully-selected books about the paranormal, especially UFOs. I'll cheerfully read Tracy Knight, who writes horror though his first novel sale was a western; Gary Braunbeck, and a few of the other great writers in Masques. Some of my reading, clearly, is for keeping up as well as for pleasure.

RLK!: Longmeadow Press published two incredible hardcover works by you, the foremost being BOOK OF WEBSTER'S, aptly retitled by Leisure Books as SPREE - in my opinion, your best book to date. Why did you choose a previously-published book as a Leisure title?

JNW: I wanted that and Bloodlines to have the wider readership of paperbacks too.

RLK!: How is your relationship with Leisure Books?

JNW: My relationship with them is fine, thanks. It's truly the new Leisure under Don D'Auria's stewardship.

RLK!: You also had several books published by the Severn imprint in the UK. How was your work regarded overseas?

JNW: Severn honored their contract, but I have little going on overseas, alas.

RLK!: Which do you enjoy writing more: novels or short stories. And why?

JNW: If I've agreed to write a story, and know they'll probably take it, I prefer the short form, unless I'm burning to write a particular novel. It's challenging to develop interest in characters, to outline the basic problem or peril, and to compel readers' interests in basically a day or so in the protagonists life, with no sideshows, and do all that convincingly in maybe fourteen or fifteen pages! You spread out more in a book. And much of the time your story's published faily quickly. Of course, novels pay vastly better!

RLK!: Do you have any new titles forthcoming?

JNW: Oh, yes, thank you! In June 2000, Leisure's scheduled my story collection Frights of Fancy, with most of the best of my short fiction and a few new stories. I've wanted a commerical edition for years to showcase the variety of my work for the largest possible audience. And what I'm at work on now is a new novel, Affinity is the working title, which Leisure has bought. I don't much like discussing work-in-process, but I can say it will deal with two young people with amazing paranormal gifts, romance, sexual identity, and the horror of misplaced power causing others to do things against their individual will.

RLK!: Many of our readers are budding-writers. Do you have any suggestions for people who want to break into the horror genre?

JNW: You asked that of a guy who edited, in 1987, How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy, and Science-Fiction, which has never been out of print - so stand back! First, perhaps learn the field and don't consciously try to write like or to the success-level of any other writer. You need to learn what's been done in the hope, even expectation, of finding a new idea, theme or slant; vampires on the farm isn't it. Also, fourty-thousand word stories aren't novels, and two-hundred-and-fifty-thousand word books of horror probably are unpublishable unless you're Stephen King, Dean Koontz or Thomas Harris - maybe Anne Rice.

There aren't as many places to sell short or novel-length fiction as there were in the eighties. You need to be as familiar as possible with what is selling and to get in on any trends. Read publications offering market tips such as Janet Fox's Scavenger's Newsletter and try to write yarns that fit; sell or not, it's all good practice.

And good hunting, not just for a place to be in print but for your own voice!

RLK!: Jerry, thanks for your time.

JNW: Thank you for asking excellent questions!



Books Published:

RATING:

Date of Release: June '99

Publisher: Leisure Books

Review Source:

THE HAUNT

Something haunts the old Kidd home.

But it's not a ghost.

It's a being that's neither alive nor dead, and it's been protecting the Kidds for generations.

No Kidd family members need ever get sick or hurt - the thing in the house will protect them.

Unless they do something to offend it.

Then it really gets mad.

Ray and Jack Kidd are the latest generation to live in their family abode. Both single, and ever vigilant not to offend their protector, they live with the ever present pall of fear and foreboding hanging over them. Their protector prowls the second floor of their home - a place both Kidds fear to tread.

And Ray Kidd is sick of it.

So sick of it he wants to test just how far the "hate-haunt" (as he calls it) will let him stray.

The answer is: not far.

Jack is more introspective, a quiet bachelor without too much of a life. But he has met a girl called Rachel and fallen in love with both her and her kids, Nick and Tricia.

To survive, the "hate-haunt" needs new members of the Kidd family. And because of this, it lets Rachel and the kids into the house. But not without taunting them and scaring them half to death! The hate-haunt needs to have some fun now and then...

Rachel figures the only way to beat the entity is to know more about the thing that lives on the second floor of the ageing building she and her kids call home, so she hires PI Craig Ryce to find out more. Ryce manages to do so, but in the process brings them all to the very edge of danger.

Meanwhile, psychic Andrew Jordan (through his channelled entity, "Eight") is receiving messages that soon the Kidd's will need his help as a matter of life and death. "Eight" has never been wrong before.

Just what or who is the "hate-haunt"? Is it alive or dead? And what does the mysterious great-grandfather, Howell Kidd, have to do with it all?

J.N. Williamson has turned out a spellbinding tale of horror and possession. Very rarely a book comes along with such strong characters and a plot driven by both emotion and action. You'll be scared to turn the next page and the characters will stay with you even after the ending - an ending that will leave you re-evaluating the whole novel. The feeling of damp, dark terror in the house seeps from every page and makes you feel any house could contain a hate-haunt such as this one.

Spellbinding, entrancing and unforgettable.




RATING:

Publisher: Leisure Books

Review Source:

SPREE

Dell is in and out of prison during his teenage years, charging from one crime to another, from one prison cell to the next. With low intelligence and little common sense, all he likes to do is kill.

People have "magic" and Dell needs more of it. By killing others, Del gets their magic from them. It's a simple plan for a simple guy.

Until cell-mate and protector Lloyd B. takes him under his arm and shows him the wonders of The Good Book - no, not the Bible, but a Webster's Dictionary. Soon, Dell learns more and more about words and becomes more educated - more willing to learn about the world and the way it works. But still the magic must be taken from others to make Dell even stronger. He has learnt about the phoenix and wants to rise from the ashes of his life stronger than before. And when he gets out of jail this time, he's going to make sure he can get as much magic as possible.

Kee is a teenager who lives a boring life. Her mother's a religious fanatic and her father is dying of syphillis. Her life couldn't get more dull, but she knows that soon her knight will drive through town and take her away from it all. She's had visions of him and knows he will come one day. All she has to do is wait for him. And, as she waits, she allows the boys of the town to feel her breasts and have a look at things they shouldn't - all for a price of course...

And then, as Dell begins his killing spree across America, he stops one night in sleepy Cherokee Rose and Kee finds her knight waiting for her.

Apart, Dell and Kee are lonely psychos in the sea of life. Together they're a tornado that's going to tear apart anyone in their way.

Even police officer Kirk Douglas (no, not *that* Kirk Douglas...but he does look like him) is way behind the eight-ball on this one. He has no idea where Dell and Kee are headed or where they'll strike next. All he can do is follow the trail of destruction and pick up the pieces of the dead and dying. Unless he gets a lucky break...

Throw out your copies of AMERICAN PSYCHO. Tape over your copy of THELMA & LOUISE.

SPREE by Williamson outdoes them all.

This roller-coaster ride into hell (but not back) will keep all readers on the edge of their seats. Once again, characterisation is the key here, with Dell, Kee and Lloyd B. (and even Kirk Douglas) strong and believable as real people. You feel for them, you wish you could reach out and take hold and shake them and say, "Hey, get a grip here!" But you can't. All you can do is watch and hope for the best.

But the best doesn't come for Dell and Kee - nothing can save them once they start on their bloody journey. No one is going to get in their way. No one is going to survive.

Another classic Williamson terror that will stay with you long after the book has ended.

Top notch!




RATING:

Date of Release: Dec '98

Publisher: Leisure Books

Review Source:

BLOODLINES

Bloodlines run deep in the Madison family...real deep.

Thaddeus and Caroline have a happy childhood. Sure, dad stays home and writes all day and mom goes out to earn enough money for them all to survive, but they're happy and loved and that's all that matters.

But then one day Thaddeus is taken into the bathroom by their father and there, naked, horrible things are done to him.

And then, his mother walks in on them.

And all hell breaks loose.

Their mother barricades both kids in a room and calls for the police. Then, she steps into the bathtub and slits her wrists...eventually bleeding to death.

And their father, Marshall Madison, runs into the night, never to be heard from again.

Thaddeus and Caroline are sent to a SoHo guardian home and, eventually, split up into two foster homes. And all is forgotten...

Until Marshall Madison makes good on his promise to return and reunite his family. No matter who gets in the way, Marshall will have his family once more...at whatever the cost.

J.N. Williamson dazzles the imagination with a tale of horror and suspense like none other. The characterisation is first rate as readers get to know, and fall in love with, both Thaddeus and Caroline and their new families. Even the damned spectre of Marshall Madison evokes sympathy in this hang-onto-you-hat thriller that grips you from the first page.

Williamson shows once again his strength is in drawing strong and compelling characters into a world of nightmarish reality from which the reader can only hope they will escape.

The angst and emotional turmoil of foster families and their children is brought to light here in a daring and unconventional way. The ending is a surprise and will leave the reader begging to know more about the characters and their lives.

Top rate.





Previous releases by J. N. Williamson include:












Websites:

J. N. Williamson does not currently have a website.


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 RLK! Spotlight On...
Past Features

 December 99: Phil Rickman Click here to view.
 November 99: Paul Thomas Click here to view.
 October 99: James Lee Burke Click here to view.
 September 99: Leisure Books Click here to view.
 August 99: Gerald Seymour Click here to view.
 July 99: Brian Lumley Click here to view.
 June 99: Michael Connelly Click here to view.
 May 99: Stephen Laws Click here to view.
 April 99: Gemma O'Connor Click here to view.
 March 99: Simon Clark Click here to view.
 February 99: Obsidian Books Click here to view.
 January 99: John Case Click here to view.

 A new Feature added monthly so check here often...



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