Interview with John Stewart Wynne

John Stewart WynneTell us about your publishing journey…

 Long, circuitous. Plenty of dead ends, but a few highways.  Never easy.  But worth it.  I got my start self-publishing a short story about UFOs, Bela Lugosi, teen-aged kids with plenty of hormones, all thrown together on a hot summer night in a small American town.  I called it The Sighting and it attracted praise from Hubert Selby, Jr. and a Brit publisher John Calder — he published my first novel Crime Wave in England and the U.S.  It was a literary shocker set in pre-Giuliani Times Square.
My story collection The Other World  (City Lights–book, Untreed Reads–ebook) followed — hallucinatory tales about desperate people living on the margins of existence. Dark psychological suspense pieces. Circus performers, God-fearing families quoting passages from the Bible while hiding horrible secrets, prostitutes, drifters involved in murder, a rich, cross-dressing teen-ager in love with his chauffeur.  It did indeed seem like I was writing about an “other world” — but one that was unmistakably ours.
Untreed Reads brought out the ebook version of The Other World.  I decided I wanted to write two pure horror stories which they published as ebooks as well.  The Needles Highway is about a screenwriter driving home through the California desert to L.A. from his childhood hoThe Needles Highway copy 2me in Needles.  He glances up at the driver of a pick-up truck to find a skeleton behind the wheel.  A pursuit follows.  The scary apparition appearing in the heat of the noonday sun tries to stop him from leaving the desert.  But why?  I was able to create an atmosphere of horror but add a mystery to solve.  A great challenge.  I did the same for my contribution to Untreed Reads’ horror anthology Year’s End.  Stories by different authors about a horrifying moment that happens while ringing in the new year.  In mine, A Night in the Pampas, a werewolf hides in the tall grasses and threatens a group of Air Force men on a h
unting expedition in the Argentine.  Of course, the werewolf manages to bite one of their heads off!  But it turns out he has his reasons.
The Red Shoes (Magnus/Riverdale Ave.–book and ebook) followed, nominated for 2014 Lambda Literary Award as Best Novel.  It’s a modern retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale set in contemporary New York City.  The Red Shoes are a symbol of addiction and flight – once you put them on you can’t stop dancing. The protagonist goes on a bizarre and dangerous journey through rat-infested alleys, penthouses, places of worship, decadent clubs — Is it because of the red shoes or some other reason?  It’s a long, winding novel of 428 pages and I immersed myself in it.  See, I think the best thing you can try to do is convince publishers that your voice is authentic, whatever your theme.  You can’t fool anybody.  If you aren’t into your material 100%, nobody else will be.
My publishing journey has also meant spinning myself off from fiction by writing, directing and producing audio books over the years; I was nominated for two Grammy awards and wrote The Listener’s Guide to Audio Books (Simon & Schuster).  I loved creating scripts and directing multi-cast dramas for audio, such as the Star Wars series, or producing the original Gaston Leroux novel of The Phantom of the Opera performed by F. Murray Abraham. It’s great to collaborate on projects as you can feel isolated when it’s just you by your lonesome.  Right now I’m co-writing a novel with another author; never did that before.  It keeps you on your toes.
 What do you love about being an author?
To create a different reality with each book and to develop ALL kinds of characters, never judging them.
The Other World Untreed ReadsIf you could have dinner with any literary character, who would it be and what would you eat?
 
Dracula.  Hopefully we’d share a bowl of fresh blood.
If your book/ story was to be made into a movie, who would you cast as the leads?
 
The Needles Highway would be perfect for Jake Gyllenhaal — he’d be great at portraying a man slowly sussing out the fact that he’s being pursued through the desert by a skeleton hell bent on making sure he doesn’t get home to L.A.
If you had a time machine, which era would you go back to and why?
 
The Roman Empire during Nero’s and Caligula’s reigns.  There was never a dull moment, always something going on.
What life advice do you wish you’d been given sooner?
Never to waste a minute thinking about trying to write something on a subject everybody tells you is popular at the moment.
If you were a supernatural creature, what would you be and why?
 
A ghost who could glide through walls and spy on everybody.
Where do you write best?Year
In public, in cafes.
What was the last book you read, and what were your thoughts on it?
Suspense writer Ursula Curtiss — Don’t Open the Door.  Really scary.  It made me never want to answer my doorbell again.
If you didn’t write in your genre, which other would you prefer and why?
Light comedies, it’s fun to be funny sometimes.  In fact I wish I could be all the time.
Where can fans find you online?
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