It’s been a while since I’ve done an interview on the blog, and I think it’s high time for one! This time, we will be talking to J.D. Horn, an author new to me – but I’ll surely be reading more of his books soon! I have recently reviewed J.D. Horn’s The King of Bones and Ashes which I truly enjoyed, so I’m eager to ask a few questions! So let’s go.
Evelina: Obviously, we’re going to start with The King of Bones and Ashes. I’ve already reviewed this book on my blog, but for those who have never heard about it, can you introduce us to the story in a few sentences?
J.D. Horn: Desperate witches, old sins, decadence, and murder. Magic is dying, and there are some witches willing to sacrifice anything–and anyone–to hold on to power. The book is an ensemble piece with three, strong and, I hope, intriguing main POV characters.
Evelina: Very intriguing indeed, I enjoyed The King of Bones and Ashes immensely! I was incredibly taken with the depth and color of the world you’ve created. Forgive me for not looking into your background, but I like approaching everything as a blank sheet – just like many of my readers are right now! So tell me, do you have any background in New Orleans? What’s your connection to this rich historical setting? What inspired you to write about it?
J.D. Horn: I had never even visited New Orleans before 2015 when I went for the Saints and Sinners/Tennessee Williams Festival, but I fell in love at first sight. I have never before experienced a city that screams “write me” as loudly as New Orleans does. Since my first visit, I’ve returned a few times for research, and have tried to capture the city with as much authenticity as possible by reading histories, news articles, and interviewing every resident who couldn’t outrun me.
Evelina: And I could truly feel that in the book. For me, The King of Bones and Ashes comes across primarily as a family tragedy, almost a classic one. What’s the inspiration for that? Perhaps you drew from some literary or mythological source? Or did you simply want to portray the raw manipulation and emotion that can be painted so vividly through family sagas?
J.D. Horn: What can I say? I used to pay for therapy, then I learned I could write stories instead.
Evelina: I am tempted to insert a badum-tss GIF here, but I shall refrain 😀
J.D. Horn: My books are often classified as Contemporary Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, or Horror. I think of them as a marriage of Magical Realism and Southern Gothic. Grotesque characters and twisted familial relations form the scoliotic backbone of Southern Gothic.
I did draw inspiration from many different sources–beyond my skipped therapy sessions, that is. Cathy/Kate from Steinbeck’s East of Eden. Bone Boatwright from Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina. There are shades of Antigone, Macbeth, and Hamlet. (I really hope this doesn’t scare off any prospective readers. Trust me. I’m not as high falutin’ as this all may make me sound, and the book is an entertaining, if not light, read.)
Also, mythology–especially the myths concerning Inanna and her husband Dumuzi.
But mostly I drew from fairytales. It’s no accident that Alice’s mother’s maiden name is Andersen, and Lisette’s family name is Perrault. If it hadn’t seemed so utterly ham-handed, you might have read a story featuring Alice Grimm rather than Alice Marin.
Evelina: Oh, believe me, the current reader loves the dark! And the darkness in The King of Bones and Ashes was so incredibly deep and intriguing. I will also admit I was a little bit shocked with the showdown of the book. It’s so very dark and strong! Without giving our readers any spoilers, can you comment a little bit on this part? Did you plan for the story to turn black as night, or did it take you away on its own wings, as you were writing? Do you always write stories this dark?
J.D. Horn: I’ve joked that I pitched “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” to my publisher, then delivered “Night on Bald Mountain.” I envy writers who are methodical plotters. I’m the complete opposite; I’m a total “pantser,” meaning that I fly (and write) by the seat of my pants. Even though I start out with a very broad idea for a story arc, I will deviate from it, if need be, the second I feel a character coming alive. (The character of Jilo WIlls in my Savannah series wrote herself into the story first as a foil, then as a heroine in her own right. In this new series, there’s another character–Nathalie Boudreau– who’s blossomed from an incidental character to a starring role.)
I had intended to write a fairly straightforward paranormal mystery, nothing too heavy, nothing too dark. Then life happened. A set of circumstances came together to leave me feeling betrayed and unsafe in the world. The Alice Marin I’d envisioned changed overnight, taking on my emotions, and morphing into the complex, vulnerable, guarded protagonist the reader encounters in this series. Maybe I’ve exposed my inner workings by showing too much emotional honesty, but once Alice began sharing her story (and secrets) with me, any hope of a breezy read evaporated. I’m glad of it. The story Alice and the book’s two other main POV characters, Lisette Perrault and Evangeline Caissy, shared with me is far better than what I’d originally planned.
Evelina: I was also very taken with the representation of voodoo in your book. It’s definitely not the tacky Hollywood zombie stuff. Did you have to do a lot of research on the religion? Can you recommend any further reading for those who want to know what it really is?
J.D. Horn: Voodoo and Power: The Politics of Religion in New Orleans 1881-1940 by Kodi A. Roberts is an excellent academic source concerning Voodoo (or Voudou) as both a religion and a political movement. Bloody Mary’s Guide to Hauntings, Horrors, and Dancing with the Dead: True Stories from the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans by Bloody Mary (Mary Millan) is fun, informative, and spooky. I’ve also read articles by many contemporary practitioners. I was most influenced, though, by the stories told by a young Voodoo priest I encountered in New Orleans.
Although I’ve tried to treat the religion with respect, I’m still writing as an outsider. And I’m writing fantasy. I do hope the religion’s adherents will forgive me for any clumsiness on my part.
Evelina: I am simply dying to find out what happens to Alice, Evangeline, Lucy, Daniel, and admittedly… Sugar. (I am such a fangirl of Sugar! For those not in the know, Sugar is the cat I posted so many GIFs about in the review.) So can you divulge anything about the sequel?
J.D. Horn: Without giving anything away, I can tell you that each of the characters you mentioned comes to empower herself or himself by facing the truth about themselves and those around them. Not a lot of fun for my poor characters, but they’re all tough enough to take it. Especially Sugar.
Regarding Sugar Chloe Caissy, I am so happy you’re enjoying the character, as she is based completely on our beloved Sugar Chloe who passed away two years ago last December. It has been so wonderful writing the character, as in many ways I feel I have my cat back, and that Daddy has given her a tenth life. What I love about the character of Sugar–especially in such a dark tale–is that her relationship with Daniel brings levity, but she isn’t a comedic character. She is, in fact, a pivotal character in both The King of Bones and Ashes and The Book of the Unwinding, the second book in the series.
Evelina: Hopefully, I can somehow manage to wait till June 2018, when The Book of the Unwinding comes out! Thank you for the interview, J.D., it was lovely to have you.
About The Author
J.D. Horn, the of the Witching Savannah series, now debuts a new contemporary fantasy series, Witches of New Orleans. A world traveler and student of French and Russian literature, an MBA in international business, Horn formerly held a career as a financial analyst before turning his talent to crafting stories. His novels have received global attention and have been translated in more than half a dozen languages already. Originally from Tennessee, he currently splits his time between Central Oregon, San Francisco and Palm Springs with his spouse, Rich.
Books By J.D. Horn
Big thanks to J.D. Horn for joining us for an interview today, and keep your eyes peeled for more reviews of his books on the blog! Have you read anything by J.D. Horn yet?