Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Gal's 62 Days of Horror Day 4: AMONG THE STACKS: Jonathan Edward Ondrashek


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hey, Jonathan.  Welcome to The Gal.  Thanks so much for joining us today for our FOURTH day of The Gal's 62 Days of Horror.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
I was born and raised on a farm in Iowa until I turned 12, when I then because a city slicker.  I'm a predictable Average Joe, yet random.  I work hard, love hard, sleep like a fucking rock, and hold grudges until death.  My strong sense of compassion is often viewed as anger or stubbornness.  I'm an introvert, but I can speak in front of large crowds at work without hesitation.  If I could afford to write full time, I would gladly quit my day job even if it is providing a lucrative career.  I'd love to retire and move to the Rockies long before I'm knocking on Death's door.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
  1. I prepare speeches in the shower.
  2. I've tried many different (and mostly illegal) drugs in my short lifetime, and I'm glad I have.
  3. I probably suffer from multiple mental disorders, but I don't care for pills or therapy.
  4. I get about 24 hours of sunlight every year, if that.
  5. I started the process of joining the Peace Corps many years ago, but couldn't afford all the testing fees.
The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
The first full-length novel I remember being completely enamored with was Mrs. Frisby & the Rats of NIMH, though I'd read countless tomes prior to that.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
I've been slowly chipping away at Rejected for Content 4: Highway to Hell, a horror anthology containing one of my short stories.  I always like to read the works from other contributors.  Makes me realize how lucky I am to be included amongst such amazing talent.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn't expect you to have liked?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
Where the Red Ferns Grow.  I think people expect me to like horror - the more extreme, the better.  However, this ol' tale hits me square in the boy-nuggets, and it's far outside the realm of my current reading tastes.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
I started writing "books" once I was in kindergarten, and it progressed from there.  I didn't have my epiphany to actually pursue a writing career until I was 20 years old, living with friends, no house, no spouse, no kid, doing buffets of drugs every day and pissing my life away.  During a particularly crippling bout of depression, I dug out the old box of keepsakes I'd accrued over the years and realized writing had been my passion all my life.  I decided then to make something out of it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
In my man cave.  Smells like ass and bleach.  Perfect.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
I have to read what I wrote during my most recent writing session before I can get back into the flow. I also tend to edit as I write... and edit, and edit, and edit again.  It drives me insane and slows the process down tenfold, but I can't help myself.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
Coming up with new plot/story ideas seems to be my biggest hurdle.  That's why I've been gravitating toward anthologies this year.  Being given a specific theme tends to inspire ass-in-seat keyboard clacking.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's the most satisfying thing you've written so far?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
I have a short story titled "Familiar Scents" coming out in a wicked charity horror anthology on December 1.  The collection pits UK-based writers against US-based writers, all in fun.  Not only does my story push limits where senses (particularly smell and taste) are concerned, but it also earned nods in two separate judges categories.  That, and the second book in The Human-Undead War Trilogy is also satisfying.  I think the theme is more intricately woven in that one than anything I've yet written.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle all inspired me.  They were ahead of their time.  As for my writing style, I can't think of any specific authors.  I don't know who I write like, to be honest, nor do I care.  I just want to write, and if I gain a fan or two along the way, I'm content.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
Characters and plot drive the storyline, but crisp, tight writing and pacing can make or break a story, in my opinion.  I've seen amazing premises and intriguing characters get smothered by poor writing and pacing.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
For me to love a character, they need to be flawed, multi-layered, and true to themselves.  In real life, all people are fucked up in their own fucked-up way.  That needs to translate to the page, too.  I keep that in mind when crafting characters, even the decent ones.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
Keith Manera, best friend of the primary protagonist in The Human-Undead War Trilogy.  His self-esteem is shit.  He's young but balding, and hides his embarrassment by shaving his head.  He's intelligent enough to do whatever he sets his mind to, but prefers to stay in his comfort zone.  And he's stubborn as hell.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
To put it bluntly, bad covers turn me off worse than 2 Girls 1 Cup.  and I couldn't even get half-stock when I watched that shit.
            Though my current publisher has an in-house cover designer, I had seen work from Dean Samed years ago and wanted his digital art on my novels - even though that means I have to pay for it out of my own pocket.  I truly believe no one does it better, and he is an absolute joy to work with.  Tell him what you want to see, and he will bring your vision to detailed life.  He's also wise and will provide insight based on his expertise in the realm.
            Kevin Ernhart designed the two anthologies I've co-edited.  He is bikeways a joy to work with, and when it comes to hand-drawn art, he's one of the best around.  He'll draw it exactly as you want it, with a creative flare for minor details.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
Writing and editing, though often difficult, are the easy parts.  Marketing is a bitch.  Getting your work out there in front of hungry audiences is far more difficult and time-consuming than getting words on the page.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
In Patriarch, book two of The Human-Undead War Trilogy, there's a moment when a father has to tell his ailing son goodbye.  The father has no intent of seeing his wife or child again - duty to humankind calls.  I wrote the scene as if I were telling my own son a final farewell, and it made me choke up.  I try to be a manly man, but it really got me right in the feels.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
Vampires are overdone and no longer a desirable genre to pursue, according to the larger presses and most literary agents.  I feel that's because of Twilight and the like - it's become oversaturated with romance and sissy vampires, and they are no longer scary.  Also, the post-apocalypse genre tends to focus on how humans treat each other after the fall.  The Human-Undead War Trilogy places romance in the background and focuses on human versus monster, plus incorporates fantasy elements, gore, and classic horror tropes.  I think they're more brutal and dark than most modern vampire books, and I've also turned vampire lore on its head.  I like to believe this trilogy offers something fresh and new in a tired genre, but I'm biased.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
I think the title, like the cover, can lure or turn away a reader in one simple glance.  It must be intriguing yet vague; capture the theme yet reveal no secrets; make the reader reflect on its meaning after The End.
            It is difficult to choose a title, and many writers tend to change it multiple times throughout the writing process (myself included).  It's less about perfection and more about capturing the full essence of your story, and leaving a lasting impression.
            I chose mine based on the overarching theme per individual book within the trilogy.  The trilogy title has never been used before in writing, so I wanted something unique like that without resorting to trilogy title cliches.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
Short stories fulfill me more at the moment.  I feel I'm getting better at them, and they're getting published.  I've had no rejections yet this year in that market, and I'm hoping to continue that streak for as long as possible.  There's something about them that epitomizes the essence of writing: tight, crisp, descriptive, engaging prose.  You have to deliver a message, chill, thrill, lesson, laugh, or what-have-you in as few words as possible, and that's a hell of a daunting task.  That challenge itself fulfills me.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
The Human-Undead War Trilogy is about humans being driven to the brink of extinction by vampires, the ensuing war, and the fight for ultimate supremacy on Earth.  The future of mankind hangs in the balance as multiple characters attempt to quash the violent uprising.  Peace is nothing but a fantasy.  Old technology and societal norms are relegated to the past.  Old vampire love doesn't apply.  Secrets and betrayals lurk in every shadow; nothing is as it seems.
            I initially wrote this story with males around my age group in mind, though mostly women have read them - and loved them.  Anyone tired of Twilight-esque vampire stories should find them enjoyable, especially if you don't mind delving into bleak reality, gore and horror, action, science fiction, and fantasy.
            I want readers to come away thinking that the overall story reinvigorates a dying genre, and no other outcome was possible.  I write to entertain.  If you find some literary quality in my books, cool - I've left little nuggets of wisdom here and there.  If you don't see them, you weren't meant to.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
I've earned a reputation of being a brutal editor, but people haven't seen how much red ink I splash across my own pieces - I delete, move, and rewrite a lot of shit in my work.  That said, anything in my books that has been cut has found its way into the subsequent work.  Rather than toss it altogether, I find a way to repurpose it.  I'm all for recycling word vomit.  Since only book 1 has been published as of this interview, I don't want to reveal what those deleted scenes were.  The Spoiler Police would be all over that!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your "trunk"?  (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn't necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a 'rainy day' or for when they have extra time.  Do you have one?)

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
I wrote a perverse coming-of-age serial titled The Adventures of Deeb Autcherry many years ago, when MySpace was all the craze.  I'd love to jump back on that, edit it, fluff it up, turn it into a novel. Rainy days come and go, so I guess I'm waiting for a fucking hurricane.  In the Midwest.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
The aforementioned serial in novel form.  Many more short stories, perhaps even a short story collection down the road.  Some collaborative work, hopefully as soon as next year.  A second trilogy that takes place in the same future Human-Undead War world and details a new epic adventure that occurs after the fallout of the first trilogy.  And more edited anthologies.  I'm addicted to the damn things!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks again for stopping by.  This trilogy sounds fantastic - I'm going to have to pick the first one up and give it a read.
            Before you go, do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek:
Fuck the rat race - live your life and pursue your dreams.  You might need that daytime job to pay the bills, but you don't have to be a damn slave to it.  Find a hobby and free your soul.
            Please leave reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other sites.  Authors need those, or we mentally starve.  Even negative reviews are welcome, so long as they are insightful.
            Oh, and rock on!


About the author:
Jonathan Edward Ondrashek loves to spew word vomit onto the masses.  He's had an array of poetry, reviews, articles, and interviews published in the last decade.  His short stories have appeared in the anthologies Fifty Shades of Slay and Rejected for Content 4: Highway to Hell, with a few more slated for 2016.  His first book in The Human-Undead War series, Dark Intentions, debuted in April 2016, and the second book, Patriarch, is set for a November 2016 release.  he's also co-editing two anthologies: What Goes Around and the upcoming Man Behind the Mask.  If he isn't working at his day job, reading, or writing, he's probably drinking and making his wife regret marrying a lunatic.  Feel free to stalk him on social media.  He likes that shit.

About the book:
In 2041, vampires are discovered and humanity is thrust into a blood-soaked battle for supremacy.  Seven years later, the Human-Undead War rages on.  Brian Koltz, the lead scientist and negotiator for the Undead Relations Committee, believes he holds the solution to peaceful cohabitation.  However, he is unable to recreate the platelet mushroom due to its mysterious origin and government disapproval of using a human body as its engine.  When Brian is kidnapped and introduced to the Undead Patriarch, Barnaby, the seemingly caring vampire makes offers Brian can't refuse if he wishes to achieve his vision of peaceful coexistence.  Reluctant yet hopeful, Brian agrees to the offers and befriends the misunderstood Undead leader.  But as the war takes on new heights and Barnaby's dark intentions become exposed, can Brian find it in himself to forsake peace and undo a sinister plot before the world is plunged into darkness forever?


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