Sunday, September 4, 2016

Ken Jones discusses his new Young Adult Novel "Shiver Lake"

I have had the privilege of working with Ken Jones on many adult horror stories over the years. Today on this blog, I am proud to allow him to spotlight a completely different kind of work, a young adult novel, "Shiver Lake." 

The following interview catches up with Ken regarding this special project. 

I have maintained a separate page on this blog for Ken’s poetry for quite some time now. Please take the time to read Ken’s bio and check out his poetry here:

Q: Tell us a little bit about Shiver Lake.

A: Oddly enough, considering that it’s a montage of all kinds of imaginative literature, it’s also at the same time a real story.  It stars my granddaughter and her little brother and all their friends and immediate family in the town she lives in. As a way of a tribute I’ve also added all my friends and collaborators to it too.  I’ve been publishing professionally for many years and I did a little bit of everything you can imagine in that time including writing comic books for Disney Studios and The New Kids On The Block singing group. For about the last decade, I, along with my son, have had a whole lot of horror stories that we have written see print. I’ve also done a lot of horror and every other kinds of poetry that has come out too. My granddaughter was always fascinated by all that and since she’s young her parents didn’t want her to read any of that material till she was older.  To make her happy I wrote little poems and stories that weren’t for print about her and her brother that were light heated fantasies but that still didn’t seem to satisfy what she was looking for. One day out of the blue while we were talking on the phone she asked me why I didn’t write a horror story that she could read and while I was at it why didn’t I put her and her family and friends in it too.  About ten minutes after our conversation was done just for the heck of I sat down and attempted such a story and I really liked what I came up and when I shared it with all my creative friends soon after that they all thought it was wonderful and that I ought to get it published and even do more of them than that. I sent it to my granddaughter and she loved it and asked me to write some more and I replied that I had already written three more. At first I thought I would bring them out one by one but then as I looked at them and read them all in a row I was amazed to realize that something like the Wizard of Oz in structure was taking place and so I took it from there.

Q: What exactly is the book about?

A:  Well in a nutshell it’s about a girl who has enough magic powers to qualify her as a superhero and how she is in training with a wise mentor named Dorothy who runs a surreal antique store in the girl’s hometown and what a place her hometown is! It is full of ghosts and monsters and fun stuff like that.  The town itself is in a constant state of flux everything coming and going and mysteriously changing. Despite all that it is very much a small town and my granddaughter is still despite her outrĂ© powers very much a young grade school girl who enjoys life. Every kind of weird thing in the book that you can imagine might happen in a YA novel occurs in part one and at the end of that you might think you’ve finally got a handle on everything there but part two proves that isn’t exactly right. I’m very excited about it and really enjoyed doing it.

Q: What do you really believe about ghosts and stuff like that?

A: I believe in that and always have. Back when I was a kid sixty something years ago you were considered mentally unfit if you were even interested in any of those topics at all even to say that you didn’t believe in them it just wasn’t brought up. Luckily I didn’t care what anybody thought about me liking them. Thankfully today most everyone isn’t hung up like that anymore. I’ve often thought that even if you could somehow prove that none of that was true that it would still be fun to think about and to create fiction and poetry about. Actually lately I have become like Dr. Barrett in Richard Matheson’s Hell House and I too think that all of this has a scientific explanation but that what we know about such things is too limited for us to truly understand it currently. Actually I suspect that everything we think about any of this is one hundred percent wrong but I have no real proof of that.

Q: Why are you using the name Grandpa Ken?

A: Because I usually write really intense mature horror stories and Shiver Lake on the surface might be mistaken for one of those. Also the name is a tribute to Dr. Seuss which wasn’t really his name either. 

Q: Tell us something about the character Dorothy.

A: Well first of all my family and I love her and her name is Dorothy Davies and she actually exists and there really is an Old Curiosity Shop that she owns and operates on the British island Isle of Wright. My son Kevin who writes brilliant horror fiction and who is not Dee’s papa and I have long contributed to Dorothy’s various horror anthologies and in the course of that she’s become family to us and my wife.  Dorothy and I share a deep connection and she gets me better than anyone besides my immediate family, Dee or Todd Ocvirk. Dorothy is so kind and thoughtful and wise kind of a real life Mary Poppins and yes she has something very much like magic powers. She reads tarot cards, communes with the world beyond and that’s only some of it. Most all she is a genius writer I often tell her that I think she is the reincarnation of Mary Shelly and I can’t give higher praise than that. Also like me and my family and Dee she adores cats and teddy bears and important things like that and in what well might be a first in book publishing Dorothy was actually the editor of this book that she stars in which is interesting when I say it out loud.

Q: I noticed in part two the character Todd Ovirk plays a larger role in it. Tell us something about him.

A: David Todd Ocvirk is really a cool guy which is why there is so much about him in book two. Todd kind of reminds me of myself in my younger days in that he’s interested in expressing his creativity in so many different ways. First of all if you don’t know his two major movies that he directed and/or produced Kolobos and Gangs Of The Dead then you should. They are really first rate modern horror.  He was real impressed by the idea that back in the day I used to work with Brian Yuzan and helped him with various projects that he was trying to get off the ground. Todd really idolized Brian and that was a really big deal to him that and all the comic book and movie professionals that I knew too. Another thing he does well is write and be involved in getting comic books done. We first met him almost a decade ago when we were putting together black and white comic books with an eye towards turning them into movies. That was back at the beginning of this whole thing of comic books being turned into movies, TV series, etc. I had this interesting idea that it would be cool if the person who was going to direct a movie of a comic book was one of the persons that actually helped create the comic book itself. Every since then Todd became a really close friend and like a son to me. He was always there to help me get through a few hospital stays which would not have been as bearable as they were without him checking in and for him encouraging me to get well. Todd also has always cheered me on about my poetry writing. A year or two ago we formed something called the Incredible Shrinking Press. It looks like that was something different than Nathan’s company but it really wasn’t since he actually put the books out so after much discussion we decided to let Nathan put the latest version of Shiver Lake out like he has other books by me before including Red Blade a collection my horror poems that recently came out. The Shiver Lake that the Incredible Shrinking Press put out was only book one. The one that Nathan is bringing out now has a slightly different version of that plus a whole new giant section called book two. The Shrinking Press is by no means dead. It is a joy to be involved with because it is something done from our home and my wife even does the covers for it. I think what is going to happen with that is that we will use it to put out traditional poetry and other things that don’t fit the Horrified Press brand. Todd is the publisher of that and the guiding light on it and is doing a great job.

Q: What can you say about Nathan’s Rowark’s Horrified Press?

A: We really like his company and him personally too. We think he puts out a great product and that it is a great place to work. My son and I are very happy being involved with all of the various imprints there and I am especially proud that Shiver Lake will be the first new book that Sinister Saints Press will put out since Dorothy took the helm there.

Q: What do you think about the whole young adult book phenomena?

A: Well my whole life I’ve loved fairy tales that’s because Walt Disney has always been my greatest inspiration. The Grimm Brothers, Hans Christian Andersen, Carlo Collodi, Lewis Carroll and most of all L. Frank Baum that and poetry are my two favorite things. I always wanted to do fairy tales but everybody told me mine were too old school and too scary for young folks. Then YA came along which fits that age group plus people clear on up to high school and beyond and also those who are young at heart. Something else I like about it is that I’ve always been envious of the people who first did comic strips, comic books, rock and roll, movies and stuff like that and now I hope this will be my chance to help mold and define something that is as of yet unformed completely. Also my buddy Phil Yeh who is a central character in Shiver Lake has for decades been an advocate of the idea that if we don’t get young people to read lots of books then literacy might well evaporate and I agree with him so I think that YA addresses that and rather well too.

Q: I hear there might be a sequel to this book?

A: You bet my granddaughter and my wife are going to see to that. I had a dream that I was going to do another one recently and then the next morning Dorothy sent me an email and told me how much she liked the Night Mary and her Dreamons characters in book two and that maybe I should write more about her and so viola a new book called Worlds Beyond Shiver Lake is percolating inside of my head and should be typed up soon. I will give you this hint about it. It takes place very soon after this book is over and of course Dee is central to that one too.

Q: Any last thoughts?

A: Well I’d like to thank you George for giving me my first interview. I started out doing lots of these things years ago at the beginning of my career in publication with all of the top comic book pros and so now I can say that I know what it’s like to be on the other end of that and that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.  Ha, ha.

Shiver Lake is available via the following links: