The Special Page
On this month's Special Page: John C. Farris
The son of the best-selling 1970s and 1980s horror author makes his own mark in the genre
IN THE "SPECIAL PAGE" ARCHIVES:
An interview with John C. Farris
Q. I’ll get right to the point. You are the son and namesake of the novelist John Farris, who wrote such horror greats as my personal favorite, Son of the Endless Night. Your father was published by some notable publishers such as Tor and had films made of some of his novels. How do you come out from that shadow?
A. You know, that’s a question I asked myself when I decided to sit down and write my first novel. I had some concerns, one of which was the fact I didn’t want “dad thinking.” I wasn’t going to try and copy his style.
My other concern was: Would anybody take my writing seriously or would I be rejected because I didn’t write like him? So I convinced myself that as long as I stayed away from the supernatural genre I’d be fine. I decided to go with my second passion which was action. My first story involved a terrorist cell and my second, modern day pirates. These were topics that I was really enthusiastic about, but try as I might, horror was in my blood.
One day the “horror” blood began to simmer—then the simmering began to boil. This was back at the beginning of the zombie craze and that’s when the idea behind my first supernatural story came to mind.
Still, I knew without a doubt, I’d never write like my father. Dad has a unique style, a particular voice that has captivated his readers for generations. He’s incredibly talented. On top of that, I’ve become close friends with several A-list authors who have given me sage advice regarding the subject of following in dad’s footsteps.
A few years back, dad also gave me some comforting advice when I brought up the subject. I still remember that day. He said “John, you have gifts and talents I never had, like coming up with titles for novels. I would write several chapters or half a story before the title came to me.”
And he continued, “You have some great ideas. You just need to find your voice and you’ll be fine.” So for the time being, I guess I’ll stay hidden in “the shadow that is,” until the sun rises on my career and I can cast my own light.
So then of course I did what all kids do. I bragged about it to my friends and told myself when I grow up I’ll make movies. After that, my brother Jeff and I were on the set of Quincy MD, Fantasy Island and the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Those are cherished memories.
I even remember when Fangoria magazine did a feature on dad and The Fury. After that, I remember other book tours he did back when publishers had the money to spend on promoting their authors. Each one of those events reinforced how popular dad had become.
But one of my favorite stories that I still share today was the time Stephen King called dad and I answered the phone. This was right before the Firestarter movie came out. For a moment, Stephen thought I was dad and when I realized who was on the phone, I told Stephen to “Hang on a second, sir” and I raced through the house to dad’s study and yelled, “Dad! Stephen King’s on the phone!” Talk about excited.
So while I continued to grow the brand Dead, Buried, and Back!, people were hearing about us, seeing our banners and realizing that we’re also sponsors…and promoters too.
After that, I reached out to various networks and production companies asking for press kits on their projects and before I knew it, Dead, Buried, and Back! became a recognized professional media outlet. I’d have to say, though, it was only during the last year or two that we’ve “officially” become a magazine.
Speaking of which, let me take a moment here to insert this shameless plug and mention that starting this October, Dead, Buried, and Back! is going into print. Our goal is to become a bi-monthly publication. It’s a huge undertaking so we’ll have to see what happens.
Getting back to our online magazine, one thing that was a main focus of mine was to promote authors whether they were published or not. There are literally hundreds of thousands of great stories out there and if I can help someone get some publicity then I’m all for it. I think no matter what happens with respect to our printed goals, Dead, Buried, and Back! will always continue to promote authors.
Since the moment of my rude awakening, I’ve realized that while I have deadlines and must respect other people’s deadlines putting together articles from start to finish, polishing reviews and interviews and searching for and editing original content is a labor of love. In other words, if you really love writing and editing, it’s going to take a lot of labor to produce a zine/magazine.
Recently, I did an interview and when it was finished I was promised that I’d receive some photos and a bio from a publicist. Well, one day turned into two, then two into four and after I finally wrote the article and submitted it for their review, I had to go back through and change several things because timelines and some of the subject matter wasn’t relevant anymore. That’s always fun. Not!
Then of course there’s the indie movie reviews that after you complete the article and post it for everyone to see, the director comes along a day later and tells you he’s removed one of the supporting actresses. “Hey John, how’s it going? Yeah, we’ve gone ahead and cut her scenes from the movie, so if you could go ahead and remove her name and photos from the article that would be great, yeah...”
After I got over my OMG! emotional moment and continued to write it, I found that dad was right.
The story revolves around civil unrest in America (not that we have any of that) and the government tasks a scientist/agent and his team to come up with a pacifying chemical to put into the population’s drinking water that more or less turns them into compliant, mindless zombies. No this isn’t a modern day political novel, it’s still fiction, but there are terrifying consequences. Although I refused (sorry dad) to totally remove the horror element, it has action, suspense and in the end, I think it will be a good read.
This was also the time that Rick Baker, Tom Savini and Rob Bottin were at the top of their game. I always wanted to know the secrets behind the gore and the cool creatures I’d see in horror and sci-fi movies. Fortunately, I was a teen during the 80s so I was influenced by a generation full of creative ideas, not only in books, but on TV and in film.
If I had to really get down it, one of my true passions is reading ghost stories. Right now I have several ideas for both short and full length supernatural stories. With ghost/demon stories there’s plenty of room to explore…shall we say, one’s inner demons and we’re given the ability to let our skeletons out of the closet. I’ve read stories from authors like Jonathan Maberry, Joe McKinney, Heather Graham, Joe Hill and of course dad’s to mention a few, and they always stir my creative juices. Sometimes I’m a critic and I’ll say “If I could have done that I would of changed a few things.” Other times it just spawns great ideas.
Recently there have been a series of big-budget feature films that have bombed at the box office and re-boots or remakes haven’t fared that well either. However, I’ve seen dozens of low or no budget indies that have great stories behind them. There’s lots of original content and many times I’d be on set wishing that a major production company would come along and take the project to a different level.
Now let’s talk about the actors. Here in Atlanta, there is a huge pool of talent to choose from. Unfortunately, due to the fact movie and TV productions are still pulling cast from Los Angeles and New York, a lot of local talent is overlooked.
In indies, I see cast and crew working for as an actor friend of mine put it, “Bologna and cheese sandwiches,” meaning no pay. They do it for the love of film and to improve their craft. While no film is easy to make, indies have to rely on more “creative measures” when it comes to resources and as any actor who films during an Atlanta summer can tell you, the heat can be unbearable. To me, that’s pure dedication.
You know, back in the 80s and 90s, being a geek in school was kind of taboo. While many movies brought humor to the subject, I like many, was a closet geek. But let me say I am now, and forever will be, a hard-core geek.
A few years ago when I was teaching martial arts I’d always tell the kids to “Be yourself. Don’t let others judge you. Follow and achieve your dreams.”
And when the speeches didn’t work, I’d bring out props like comic books and other movie memorabilia and then my students and parents would respond with “Wow. Who knew?”
One time, right before the annual Dragon Con descended on Atlanta, I stepped out to teach my advanced junior karate class wearing my retro yellow Captain Kirk shirt. In the background I was playing the Star Trek theme song. For a moment the class was silent. Then cheers and laughter began followed by every parent reaching for their cell phone to take pictures. While some thought I went to extremes when it came to teaching, I drove my point home.
Being a geek is perfectly fine. When you think about it, it’s hard to be a writer and not be a geek of some sort. Long live geekdom!
Although right now I’m juggling multiple projects, I will eventually get my first novel published and I encourage others to do the same. If you want to become a published writer, then write. It doesn’t matter if you write for a blog, website, or just write to amuse yourself (that’s how dad started) make your writing a priority. Also, read a lot. Finally, surround yourself with positive people. Positive thinking people yield positive results. Good luck!
About John C. Farris
John C. Farris is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and the owner and editor-in-chief for Dead, Buried, and Back! magazine. He is a member of the Horror Writes Association and the Atlanta Writers Club and his first novel is being edited for publication. John considers himself a huge fan of the horror genre and overall geek at heart.