DD: Thanks for plugging in, Jon! Earlier this year you released Children of God: Poems, Dreams, and Nightmares from The Family of God Cult, written with Craig DiLouie. Tell us about it.
JM: Craig and I have been friends for a few years, and fans of each other’s writing as well. (Seriously check out his Suffer the Children- one of this decade’s best horror novels.) A year ago Craig got a hold of me at Crypticon Seattle and he laid out this incredible idea he had about telling a story through poems. He explained to poetry therapy to, and how it has been used with patients suffering from PTSD. His idea was to cover the rise and fall of a Christian doomsday cult through a variety of poetry. Since I have an interest in both cults and poetry he was kind enough to invite me to play along.
We each created a handful of diverse characters, each with their own personality, history, and style. We created a shared timeline, divided the story into sections, and had each character tell their unique version of the story through poems. Through conversations we had Craig and I decided we wanted something grounded, where the horror is emotional, real, and possible. I honestly feel we pulled that off and created something special for fans of dark fiction. I am very proud of Children of God, and honored to work with such a talented writer and awesome person as Craig.
DD: You also penned a great collection called Mr. Moon's Nightmares. So I have to ask: how much do dreams inspire you, and do you track your dreams?
JM: Oh, shit, going old school! Hahaha. Yeah, ole’ Mr. Moon’s Nightmares was my first collection of stories. It was published by our old friend Doc Pus from his Library of Horror Press. It has been out of print for a few years now, but I have been re-releasing stories little by little through my Hoo-Doo County Horrors series. A few stories from MMN even made it into Stories To Poke Your Eyes Out To, which I built in much the same fashion (mixing traditional horror with surreal, flash/short/novella length variations).
But, back to the real question here. I have always had a hyper-active imagination, and I think that has attributed to the vivid dreams I have always had. When I was younger I would have reoccurring nightmares, and as I grew my dreams and nightmares took on a far more surreal tilt. Hehehe, yup, my dreams and daydreams are like acid trips, kids. Some stories come from dreams, though I have never written about the reoccurring nightmare from my youth, but I would say even more come from daydreams. I fade in and out of reality all day, some times when I snap back with it I bring a story with me. Something to rattle around in my head until I give it some kind of terrible life.
I never really track my dreams but I try to remember them every day. Years ago, I had a roommate named Sharika. We worked graveyards and woke up at the same time every day. As we would get ready for our shift she would tell me all about her dreams. I loved those dream stories, and not just because she was a hilarious woman, but because they were so unpredictable and random. My dreams and nightmares have seldom seemed to be composed of random elements, but rather everything weird or odd has a symbolic feel. Damn, maybe my dreams influence my style as much as my stories.
DD: On the zombie front, you've brought a unique spin to the genre with books like Hollow Mountain Dead. What about the undead appeals to you?
JM: I dig zombies because they freak me out. Can you imagine a dead person attacking you? No way to reason with a dead person, even someone who loved you once. How long you could out run them, begging and pleading for mercy- further wasting your breath? Dead lungs do not need oxygen. That is what I dig, the rainbow of unrelenting horror the undead can represent. From stories about family members dealing with each other to entire metropolises collapsing the dead rising is fantastic story fodder for gore and heartbreak junkies like myself. I prefer the micro, but even then knowing it is a single event or location in a worldwide event always adds a sense of dread to things.
I think the undead are such a great way to represent so many aspects of our humanity, casting reflections through shattered mirrors. I find them easy metaphors for social issues as well as great excuses for writing graphic scenes with disembowelment and cannibalism, all of which I also dig. I know pop culture has grabbed hold of zombies, and unleashed a flood of zombie fiction upon the world, but they have always been a favorite of horror fans like me because they are the oldest, most terrible monsters of all…us.
DD: What does a horror writer do to make Halloween stand out from every other day of the year?
JM: Eat glazed donuts and chili.
(I wear masks all the time. I am wearing one right now…so are you…)
DD: Is there anything you'd like to see more (or less) of in zombiedom?
JM: I would say my one big gripe about zombie fiction is it needs more zombies. More gore! More violence! More horror! MORE ZOMBIES!
I feel like most stories focus far too much on the living. And, man, the living are dramatic. So much talking, pontificating, arguing, double-crossing, remembering, plotting, you get it. I like zombie action, how people react when faced with dead humans attacking you, and not how people act when zombies are eating everyone else. Perhaps this is a certain level of cynicism on my behalf, I have no doubt sociopaths will excel in apocalyptic realities and the world would be a fucked up place all around. (Heh, we haven’t officially hit apocalypse yet and look how we’re doing.) Most zombie stories which start months or years after the first zombie outbreak lose my attention fast, because to me they feel like dramas with zombie scenery. That’s the main reason Hollow Mountain Dead follows the zombie outbreak from the source out.