Tag Archive for Johnny Worthen

Top 10 Tuesday: My Favourite Reads of 2016

2016 was a lean year for reading, but I did find quite a few good books to enjoy. So, in no particular order (and in a variety of genres), I present to you my top 10 favourite reads of 2016.


  • The Widow by Fiona Barton—I might have had some issues with the book, but it’s undoubtedly one of the most memorable reads of the year. The emotions ran high, the mystery unfolded at a great pace, and frankly it was an important story everyone should read. The ending, however, sent shivers down my spine, and I wish there was more to read…
  • Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan—Another crime thriller that was excellently written, which stayed with me, and had some great pacing to keep readers on the edge of their seats. This mystery wasn’t easy to figure out, but I did have my suspicions at times. It definitely earned its spot on my list.
  • Final Cut by Jasper Bark—This one is far more nitty-gritty than the previous two entries, and folks who don’t have hair on their teeth should probably give it a miss, but Jasper Bark’s Final Cut is a memorable read—one you probably shouldn’t read with the lights off.


  • A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas—The sequel to Maas’ bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses was a spectacular read (which isn’t usually the case when it comes to sequels) and I’ve already read it twice since its initial release in May! If you love fantasy, and you’ve not read it yet, you’re missing out on an awesome ride.
  • Night Study by Maria V. Snyder—When I’m having a book hangover thanks to Maas, I turn to Snyder, and the 5th book in her Poison Study Series (or 2nd book in the Soulfinder trilogy) was yet another great read this year. Yelena is one of the best fantasy heroines in recent times.
  • The Race by Joan de la Haye—This novelette packs a mighty punch, and is so left of the field I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome it is. The story means something different to each person who reads it, some classify it as horror, I like to think of it as a grown-up Battle Royale. Definitely try to get your hands on it, because it is splendid!


  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah—A bit of non-fiction for all those who like to live in the real world… Born a Crime is at times satirical and at others very emotional, as Noah tells us about growing up in Johannesburg, South Africa during the most tremulous days in South African history. A great book and a fantastic read, though the copy I bought (published by Pan Macmillan SA) was riddled with editorial mistakes.
  • The Winter Box by Tim Waggoner—An evocative tale of a couple who are trapped in their home while a blizzard rages outside. It’s a fantastic novella that is not completely as it seems at first glance.
  • David: The Unseen by Johnny Worthen—The final book in Worthen’s YA trilogy, and it is simply wonderful! I fell in love with this trilogy from the first page in the first book, and up to the last page of David: The Unseen, I was hooked. It’s a beautiful must-read if you have a soft spot for YA books.
  • Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan—This one wouldn’t have made my list had it not been for the non-binary character Riordan introduced. At times, the humour seemed forced (weird, considering I like Riordan’s humour), but I can’t deny I enjoyed the adventure, either.

And there you have it, my Top 10 Favourite Reads of 2016.

What made your list this year? Leave a comment and let me know.

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Top 10 Favourite Horror Novels of ALL TIME


I’ve read a lot of books in my (almost) 28 years on this planet and most of those books are mainstream, but some of them are rather obscure and sometimes a bit hard to find. Of course, each person has their own taste in books, but these are -in no particular order- the ones that definitely gave me the chills:

nos4a2cover beatrysel jago annadressedinblood

  • NOS4A2 by Joe Hill – I recently listened to this one on audiobook, and 10 minutes in my fiance (who doesn’t really read fiction) was enthralled by the plot. So much so that he put off the TV and sat closer just to hear what was going to happen next. For DAYS afterward, he was still talking about the plot, the characters, and the general creepiness of the book. Definitely get your hands on this one, because OMG it is just so bloody good!
  • Beatrysel by Johnny Worthen – Johnny Worthen has a way with words, like I’ve stated numerous times in the past, but my first taste of what he had to offer was none other than Beatrysel. Beatrysel is one of those memorable novels, full of mystery and intrigue and psychological creepiness. I love this book, and I bet you will too.
  • Jago by Kim Newman – This is probably my favourite horror book of all time. Jago is a story that plays out in a small town, where a cult is bringing on the end of the world, and the shitstorm that’s coming is literally Biblical. Think Revelations meet Lovecraft, and voila. It’s very good, but not for anyone who gets offended easily.
  • Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake – Sometimes I do find a good YA horror novel, like Anna Dressed in Blood, which is a straightforward ghost novel with some extra elemental whooha thrown into the mix. I enjoyed the character immensely, especially her growth. But as good as Anna Dressed in Blood was, that’s how bad I thought the sequel was, so … keep that in mind.
    underground army-of-dr-moreau rotandruin
  • Underground by S.L. Grey – I love me some S.L. Grey when the horror mood strikes. Ever since I first read The Mall, I’ve been a fan of their books and I eagerly await their next publication. Underground was a fantastic, albeit claustrophobic read, and definitely perfect to get in the mood for Halloween.
  • Sherlock Holmes & The Army of Dr. Moreau by Guy Adams – A bit more mystery than horror, but it certainly has a peculiar creepy factor to it that makes the book stands out. I love this book, so much so that it also features on my Top 10 Favourite Books of All Time. If you love Sherlock Holmes and you enjoy some creepy mad science, then this one will appeal.
  • Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry – No horror list is complete without a bit of zombie action, and no zombie book is better than a Jonathan Maberry one. It may be a YA horror, but it’s a fantastic read for young and old.

broken-monsters pretty-girls lost-girl

  • Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes – Set in Detroit, Michigan, this innovative tale of terror highlights the ruin that has befallen the city and its people as a serial killer prowls the streets, whilst giving readers a paranormal element to enjoy . It’s a wonderful read with a lot of heart put into the construction of the book. Definitely get your hands on it.
  • Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter – A bit more crime thriller than horror at times, but there are some gruesome scenes that will give you nightmares. I enjoyed this one a lot, if only because of how real the horror felt. This book made me a Karin Slaughter fan for life.
  • Lost Girl by Adam Nevill – The second Adam Nevill book I’ve read, and it’s a great one! The author engages the audience by pulling them into the book, making them experience this world he’s created and then terrifying them in the process. Lost Girl is an excellent piece of horror literature worth having on your shelf.

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Cover Reveal: Muti Nation is Coming … Are you Ready to be #Scared?

It feels like a lifetime since I first started work on Muti Nation. Three and a half years ago, I had an idea to write a story set in my hometown, revolving around ritual murders and things that go bump in the night. I wanted to get a really good story out in the world, with some added truths about my country thrown into the mix. The book turned into something that kept me up at night, either with worries or with fear.

Yes, my own mind scared me silly at times. The things I conjured up just before sleep made me rethink the book over and over. But pushing through was worth it, especially now that I can share the cover art and synopsis with the world!

First things first, I need to thank the staff at Omnium Gatherum Books for their hard work. Kate Jonez and Johnny Worthen were a spectacular team who helped make this book a reality. Without their guidance and encouragement Muti Nation would have still been in a drawer somewhere. Furthermore, my first readers get a shout out: Joan de la Haye, Mercedes M. Yardley, and Sakina Murdock. They were total rock stars! Seriously, I couldn’t ask for better friends.

Without further ado, lo and behold the beauty that is sure to scare you senseless (especially seeing as some of the things in this book is true):

Muti Nation WS

Every country has its secrets. Every culture has its taboos. Every house has its cross.

When Esmé Snyders – a young occult-crime expert – investigates a grotesque muti-murder in Pretoria West, she doesn’t realise she’s become a player in the killer’s deadly game. Before long, more savagely mutilated corpses join the tally, proving that the evasive murderer is slipperier than what she’s used to when it comes to muti-killers. While searching for a monster capable of such heinous crimes, Esmé is thrust into a dangerous adventure of love, sex, death and the paranormal. Can she win a game she doesn’t know she’s playing?

“Too often people mistake monsters for gods.” With that perfect first line, Monique Snyman dives headfirst into a unique novel that combines all of the good stuff: murders, lust, police reports, the Internet, and a mysterious entity known as Him. I read this in a night, and loved every second of it.” — Mercedes M. Yardley, Bram-Stoker Winning author of Nameless: The Darkness Comes

Release Date: July 15, 2016

Muti Nation is now available for pre-order on Amazon, so do me a favour and get your copy while it’s hot. Also, remember to leave reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, or on your blogs if you want to. I always find them, and I always like reading them (even if it’s a bad review).

I’m so excited! Heck, just look at that beauty. *sigh*

Remember, leave your comments below, folks. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Love and hugs,

Monique Snyman

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February 2016 Round-Up

2016 has been a mad dash, so far. I’ve heard some of my deadlines break the sound barrier, while I try to keep up with all the work that’s been coming my way. Alas, there’s no time to slow down and take a breath. Not yet, anyway.

That said, I have high hopes that April will be the month where I can take a much-deserved break – away from home, or cellphone reception, or WiFi connections.

Until then, however, I still have March to deal with, which is going to be hella hectic even by my standards.

Anyway, so while I know I’ve been somewhat scarce, this is what I’ve been up to:

Favourite February Read

Me Before YouTitle: Me Before You (Me Before You #1)

Author: Jojo Moyes

Publisher: Penguin Random House SA

Published: September 2012

Genre: Romance

Rating: 9/10

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

February Review Round-Up

Killer Aphrodite Entertainment

Charming Incantations Blog

Tentacle Books

The Red Pen Bleeds …

I have some great news to share on the editing front: The two books I edited for Mercedes M. Yardley (a wonderful woman, and a talented author) is set to be released through Crystal Lake Publishing tomorrow! That’s right, my pretties, now’s the time to get your pre-orders in for these gorgeous books (just look at the covers, aren’t they to die for?):

Pretty little dead girls

Click the image to pre-order Pretty Little Dead Girls by Mercedes M. Yardley.

“Run, Star Girl.”
Bryony Adams is destined to be murdered, but fortunately Fate has terrible marksmanship. In order to survive, she must run as far and as fast as she can. After arriving in Seattle, Bryony befriends a tortured musician, a market fish-thrower, and a starry-eyed hero who is secretly a serial killer bent on fulfilling Bryony’s dark destiny.
Mercedes M. Yardley’s Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy is a dark, lovely fairy tale with lyrical language and a high body count, and features a cover by Hugo award-winner Galen Dara.
Includes “Oliver Bloom” by Ryan Johnson, a short story featuring characters from Pretty Little Dead Girls.


Apocalyptic Montessa

Click on the image to pre-order your copy of Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu by Mercedes M. Yardley.


Montessa Tovar is walking home alone when she is abducted by Lu, a serial killer with unusual talents and a grudge against the world. But in time, the victim becomes the executioner as ‘Aplocalyptic’ Montessa and her doomed ‘Nuclear’ Lulu crisscross the country in a bloody firestorm of revenge.


The cover reveal for Joan de la Haye‘s upcoming novel, Fury, has also been revealed this morning. AND she released an excerpt, too!


A young girl is brutally murdered.

Two rival crime bosses fight for dominance on the streets of South Africa’s capital city.

The city’s underground film industry is set ablaze.

An angry spirit bent on revenge is on a murder spree.

And Alice, a university student, is caught in the middle of a bloody battle for survival.

Their fates all intertwine in this tale of vengeance and fury.

You can read the excerpt for Fury by clicking here.


Next up, news about my progress with Tales from the Lake: Vol 3

Okay, so the open-call for Crystal Lake’s serial anthology officially closed on Leap Year day, and I got around 239 submissions to work through in my inbox. The stories came from across the world, and the majority of them are really fantastic. Unfortunately, I can only pick a handful of stories to feature in the actual book, but … Joe and I are thinking about broadening our horizons and giving a few extra authors some love. Are you curious as to what’s brewing in our dark, twisted minds? Well, I can’t give any hints on what we have planned, yet. More news will come when things have been finalized, and when I’ve turned my long-long list into a short-list. Promise.


My last editing news for February is: I finished that academic piece I was editing for someone! Whoohoo! ^_^ By the time I was done, I even felt cleverer. That’s always good, right?

Baby’s Got Ink!

February also saw some of my words getting announced/released.


Bloody Parchmen 2013

Click on the image to buy your copy of Bloody Parchment: Beachfront Starter Home, Good Bones & Other Stories

Sometimes gentrification brings with it unexpected, sinister results, or your neighbours harbour secrets. Social media has a darker side or maybe it’s your kitchen appliances that are plotting against you. Who knows? The South African HorrorFest Bloody Parchment anthology, Beachfront Starter Home, Good Bones and Other Stories, offers you a selection of tales that will take you from the comfort of your home to deeper, disturbing destinations drawn from its 2013 competition finalists.

Step inside, draw up a chair near the fire, and discover the dark visions of these authors.


A new book is on the horizon! I did a title reveal for my new, upcoming novel from Omnium Gatherum Books, on my Instagram profile in February, which will also be the place where I’ll do my cover reveal. If you missed it, shame on you! You should follow me on Instagram immediately: @therealmoniquesnyman (FYI I don’t just talk books on my Instagram; sometimes I share my knitting projects, pics of my dog, and pretty food or flowers or whatever. Actually, I’m quite random on there, so you’ll never be bored).

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My cover will be gorgeous, so head’s up.


I’ve also been working on a new book, but due to all my other commitments I’ve been stuck at the 5,000 word mark since Valentine’s Day. That said, I promise it’ll be awesome once I get back to it.

Knit It Like You Mean It

I joined in on the Knit Along, hosted by iKnit2Purl2, this month. IT WAS FANTASTIC! We knit the Asbury Park shawl, which was easy, and great to help with my ever-growing stress. Also, I didn’t have to concentrate too much on the pattern, which slowly helped me switch off my brain before bed. Not that sleeping comes all too frequently these days, but it did help. This is the finished project:

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When that was done, I started working on a Mesh Mini Dress … Wow, did that thing fail. I just did the back piece, but I already knew the sizing of the pattern was whack, so I frogged it and decided to start making a winter blanket instead. I’ll share my progress with you as time goes on, but yeah.

Oh, and if iKnit2Purl2 is up to it, there’ll be another KAL from the middle of March for her gorgeous Muirs Shawl pattern. That thing is really splendidly beautiful and I can’t wait. Check it out here.

If you’re into knitting and you want to, please follow me on Ravelry at http://www.ravelry.com/people/moniquesnyman. I do so enjoy meeting new knitters/crocheters! Also, if you have a pattern on there that you think I’ll love, give me a holler.

What I’m Reading in March

I have no set plans at the moment to read anything. I know there’s a never-ending list of review books I need to get through, but apart from a few titles I’m itching to read, I don’t know what’ll happen. So, this month I’ll just surprise you with whatever book is at the top of the pile and work from there. 🙂

And that’s it. That’s all I have for you at the moment.

Comment below if you have any news or would like to share some interesting stuff that you’ve gotten up to in February, or even if you have something happening in March! I love to hear about it.

Have a good March, and I’ll see you again soon.



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Top Ten Tuesday: Author Team-Ups that NEED to Happen ASAP


I often wish my favourite authors would pair up and write a novel (or a series) together, just to see a spectacular gem being born from similarly great minds. So, here’s my top ten author teams I wish would form, to make my dreams a reality …

Team Maas-Snyder


With the Throne of Glass series being such an addictive read and with A Court of Thorns and Roses being such a thrilling new series, I can’t seem to get enough of Sarah J. Maas. However, when I start to show withdrawal symptoms of hers, I always lean towards Maria V. Snyder to help me through the tough waits. Maria V. Snyder’s Poison Study series has been such a crutch at times, I honestly feel like I know the characters. So, my greatest wish is for these two authors to team up and write something so full of fantasy that my head explodes, literally. No, I mean it. If they team up, I’ll die a happy, albeit violent, death simply because of the inexplicable amount of awesome they’ll conjure up.

Team Stiefvater-Snyman

Stiefvater1Perhaps I’m a bit presumptuous, yes? Well, fine, but let it be known that I would LOVE to team up with Maggie Stiefvater on a project. I can see it now … FEAST OF WARS – a tale set in a dystopian megalopolis, where women battle to the death in arenas for the enjoyment of men, that is, until twins – the reigning champions – decide they’ve had enough of the gender inequality in the world.  Unfortunately, one of the sisters falls in love with the reigning asshole’s only son, and … conflict. Lots and lots of conflict. *nods* A girl is allowed to dream isn’t she?

Okay, let’s try this again …

Team Stiefvater-Mead

Stiefvater1Maggie Stiefvater’s hella popular The Raven Boys series made me fall in love with her as a writer; the characters are simply wonderful, and so well-rounded. Not to mention, I adore the storyline. Then, there’s Richelle Mead with her wonderful, and my all-time favourite vampire series, Vampire Academy. Again, the characters and the plot is simply memorable. Can you imagine the awesome that’ll be whipped up if these two ladies got together and wrote a novel, or ten? Oh my word. I would devour those books whole.

Team Iggulden-Sanderson

2014-07-19-ConnIgguldenWeird team-up, huh? I agree, but I just think Conn Iggulden (author of the Wars of the Roses series, which I can’t get enough of) and Brandon Sanderson (author of the Mistborn Trilogy, amongst other things) will be able to come up with something truly remarkable. I mean, come on. With Iggulden’s extensive research abilities and Sanderson’s impressive imagination, even their grocery lists would become literary masterpieces. So, yes please. A hundred times, yes please! I will sell my soul to see whatever they can come up with, together.

Team Hill-Beukes

I love horror as a genre, and I love seeing rising horror authors collaborate on stuff. What’s more, I love adding a bit of South African flavour to my posts. The world can use some Proudly South African to spice up their book shelves, believe me. Therefore, I’ve decided to team up Joe Hill – the author of Heart-Shaped Box, Horns and NOS4A2 – and Lauren Beukes – author of The Shining Girls, Broken Monsters and Zoo City. For some reason, I don’t think this match is far-fetched. Sure, they both have their own styles, but I can actually see them teaming up to bring readers something truly terrifying. Match made in heaven? I think so!

Team Rowling-Riordan

JKDon’t ask me why. I just want to see J.K. Rowling and Rick Riordan do something together. I guess maybe it’s because I love both the Harry Potter series (by J.K. Rowling) and the Percy Jackson series (by Rick Riordan). Maybe it’s because they’re both exceptional writers. I have no idea why I want to see them collaborate, but I do, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this matter. Just imagine, Rowling and Riordan brainstorming the ultimate children’s fantasy series … Holy hell, I’d pay to watch them type! Publishing elves, make THIS happen. IMMEDIATELY.

Team Maberry-Worthen


Jonathan Maberry (author of the Rot & Ruin series, Joe Ledger series, etc.) is the king of zombie literature! Johnny Worthen (author of Beatrysel, Eleanor: The Unseen, and Celeste: The Unseen) is the king of independent horror! Together, they will make one helluva team. I can see it now: A YA horror extravaganza of R.L. Stine proportions – if not better. I want to see this collaboration happen, like, right now. Boys, boys, don’t leave a girl hanging unnecessarily, okay? Team up, already.

Team Delport-Lu


This pair-up was a seamless fit. Both authors have released successful dystopian trilogies in the past, and both are currently preoccupied with fantasy trilogies! Yes, yes, I can see it now. Melissa Delport (author of the Legacy trilogy) and Marie Lu (author of the Legend trilogy) would make a dream team for YA/NA audiences everywhere. However, I don’t want to see them doing a dystopian trilogy or a fantasy trilogy together … nope, I want them to tackle the sci-fi market. How glorious those books will be. *sigh*

Team Martin-Gabaldon


Imagine if George R.R. Martin, author of the A Song of Fire and Ice Series, teamed up with Diana Gabaldon, the author of the Outlander Series. Both have highly successful books, TV shows, and God knows what else. Both write mammoth-sized books (well, one writes mammoth-sized books more often than the other, but I’m not being judge-y or anything). Imagine them working together to create something … The mere thought of it ever happening leaves me utterly speechless.


I want to see an anthology that crosses genre boundaries, featuring all of the above-mentioned authors. I want to see their individual styles intertwining, evolving on the page, to create a work of literary art. I want it- No, I need it. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. So, dearest publishing elves, when can we expect it?

What are your author team-ups?

Comment below and let me know!

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Top Ten Tuesday: My Absolute Favourite Books of all Time

collageIt’s Top Ten Tuesday again, and I thought, what better way to celebrate such a lovely day than to give everyone a sneak peek into what my absolute favourite books of all time is. Now, I might’ve cheated a bit, because I can’t possibly choose just 10 books, you know, so I counted series’ or collections as one book … I tried to limit it down as much as possible though. Remember that saying: “Don’t hate the player, hate the game”? In my world, that saying applies big time. Anywho, let’s get on to my favourite books of all time list (in no particular order) then:

  1. The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – You want a funny sci-fi series to read? Well, look no further than the holy grail of sci-fi humour. When people ask me what book influenced me and my writing, this one always takes the top spot.
  2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – One of the few prescribed reading books in university that I actually enjoyed enough to put on my favourite list. Yes, yes, I liked the book before Leonardo DiCaprio played Gatsby; I’m so freaking hipster it hurts.
  3. The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett – Stories about rats always gets me giddy, and this book – although aimed at younger readers – is one of those special books that brings a smile to my face every time I read it. And I’ve read it plenty …
  4. Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangerembga – This book is apparently quite unknown, and I can’t understand why. Set in Rhodesia (what Zimbabwe used to be back in the day) in the 1960’s, the story follows a girl named Thambu who rises from obscurity against the odds. Quite a good book for teenage girls, and if you are looking to know more about post-colonial living in Africa, then Nervous Conditions is a must-read.
  5. Jago by Kim Newman – Probably not the type of book everyone would enjoy, but I quite liked the way that Kim Newman incorporated The Book of Revelations with cults, music, and horror. Religious extremists won’t like it whatsoever, so if you’re easily angered, maybe skip it. I, on the other hand, love it.
  6. The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Come on, do I really need to explain why this collection is on my top ten list? Really?
  7. Eleanor: The Unseen by Johnny Worthen – The newest addition to my fave list is none other than Johnny Worthen’s Eleanor: The Unseen. It’s exciting and beautiful, and I absolutely adore the poetic prose of his writing.
  8. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri – An absolute classic in every sense of the word. You must’ve heard about Dante’s Inferno, right? Well, there’s more to the story in this spectacular trilogy.
  9. Sherlock Holmes & The Army of Dr. Moreau by Guy Adams – I’m not usually a fan of fan-fiction, but Guy Adams rocked his socks off with this wonderful book. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would’ve been proud of this piece, and that’s why it makes my top ten list of all time favourite books.
  10. The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead – Oh, don’t judge me. I know this is probably not seen as required reading, but it’s a guilty pleasure, and I honestly can’t get enough of Dimitri and Rose, so yes, it’s totally one of my favourites. I love the whole series, I’ve read it about three times already … when I’m sick, these are the books I cuddle up with. Total girl moment, I know, but hey we all have our little secrets.

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Writer’s Corner: Interview with Johnny Worthen

Johnny Worthen – an extraordinary author with so much talent that I’m sure Pan McMillan will be offering him a three book deal in no time – stopped by for a little chat at the Writer’s Corner to promote his new book, Eleanor: The Unseen. Now, I’ve reviewed Eleanor: The Unseen [read review here], but let me just say that if you’ve read Beatrysel and Eleanor: The Unseen, you’ll probably agree that this is one author you need to keep tabs on. So, without further ado, let’s go pick at his brains, shall we?


Monique: Eleanor: The Unseen is the first book in your young adult trilogy; tell us, what inspired you to write the book?

Johnny: The idea began from the Navajo legend of the Skinwalker, an evil magician who can change his shape to do evil to good people. I ran into the legend years ago in Tony Hillerman’s book by the same name. Just about every culture in the world has some kind of shapeshifter legend. It’s a universal trope, something Joseph Campbell would say is part of the human condition. I imagined the possibility that the legends were actual histories, people describing the same phenoomen but from different standpoints. The idea has been rolling around in my brain for a long time. Then one day while I was driving through the desert of New Mexico I saw Eleanor in my mind, a shy but extraordinary girl, afraid and lonely, abandoned but full of love. I was thinking through the themes of change and courage, acceptance, uniquencess and adolescence – my boys at that age themselves. It all came together in a flash on that lonely western desert road and Eleanor, complete with name and longing eyes, stayed with me and became the daughter I never had.

Shifter novels are all the rage these days, especially seeing as vampires have become such a passé topic. However, you’ve gone out of your way to avoid the clichés in shifter mythology by picking a ‘creature’ that’s not often used in novels. What type of research went into the book?

I didn’t do much research beyond identifying the myths and universality of the trope. I knew I wouldn’t be using anything established in the mythological or literary traidtions. None of them would entirely describe what was happening, but all of them would be fitting to some degree. The characters refer to some of them as they try to unravel the mystery. Ultimately, however, every myth falls short to describe what’s happening and show themsevles to be just legends and second-hand accounts from scared prejudiced people. The paranormal aspect of the the book, the “shape-shifting” is not at the center of the story, it is a complication — the underlying metaphor.

EleanorThere are times when you touched difficult topics in Eleanor: The Unseen, which includes: racism, bullying, sex, etc. Other young adult authors try to avoid – or tiptoe – around these subjects, but you just delved into it headfirst and somehow it added character to your novel. Was it a calculated risk you took or did it just happen without you realising? 

Young adult readers are pretty cool and you have to approach them with the respect they deserve – they’re buying and reading more than any other demographic. They’re more worldly than many authors give them credit for. To approach my YA, the only changes I made to my style was to keep the swearing down and the sex PG. Everything else is as I’d have written it for adults and, knowing how adult it was, I knew adults would be reading it too.

It’s been called a paranormal, a romance and even a horror, but I see it as a fable, a coming of age story of the ultimate outsider, a trope we all can identify with. The challenges and problems needed to be real and threatening, sugarcoating any of it would be dishonest. I allowed myself one supernatural element, the rest is raw and real. Poverty, bigotry, sexism, cruelty, life and death, but also hope, love and caring, forgiveness, understanding and change. ELEANOR, THE UNSEEN is a small book about a modest girl in a tiny rural town, but it is the biggest book I’ve ever written.

I don’t know if anyone else has made this connection, but there’s an almost Carrie-esque scene in Eleanor: The Unseen. At the school dance, things happen that I didn’t see coming. Could you explain why you would choose that path for Eleanor to take instead of, say, Eleanor having one moment of feeling like a princess?

Very astute. You’re the first to catch it. Carrie was well in my mind when I planned that scene. The two characters are much alike, but different in some key ways. To the scene though, I knew I was creating a parallel and the response would be telling, but to be honest, I didn’t know what would happen.

When I wrote it, I set up the pieces and let it play out. Eleanor did what she did and I recorded it like a stenographer. That’s how scenes work for me sometimes, there’s magick there, the characters have their own will and I’m only a witness. After it was out, I looked at it again and saw that it could have gone no other way. Maybe one day it will play out differently, but then and there…

Without giving spoilers, I would say the key difference is Eleanor’s relationship to her mother which is much different from Carrie’s. That relationship is the core of Eleanor’s reaction and existence in Book One. Also, the crises is Eleanor’s own; it is her doing, her mistake. It reveals her in more ways than one. As much as anything else, it is an exposure of her motives and wants. She is someone who has spent her entire life concealing everything, she has betrayed herself. She reacts as a coyote would when caught out in the open.

Okay, David and Eleanor is a thing and I quite like them together. I mean, he’s really good for her and they’re kind of cute. But after the initial girly reactions, I’ve started shipping her and Robbie Guide together, just because he’s so in tune with her true nature. Do we get to see those two interact more in the upcoming books?

Oh yes. Their relationship gets more complicated and in depth. Go back to the kiss on the cliff in ELEANOR, THE UNSEEN and read it again believeing that the purple prose is not purple, but the best description possible for a new phenomona neither have encountered before. Add the limits of age, the oppression of parents, the scars of war, the gossip of small communities, fear of the unknown, and you’ll see the story is far from over.

Speaking of upcoming books, give us some details of the upcoming ones! When? Where? What? Come on, tease us and please us, Mr Worthen.

I have written the trilogy. They’re at my publisher’s. I was adamant that Book One be a standalone. As a reader, I always feel tricked if I pick up a book, enjoy it, and get to the ending and there’s not one. I’m looking at you George RR Martin. ELEANOR, THE UNSEEN, has an ending, but it’s also the beginning of the rest of the series. The final chapter of Book One sets the conflict for Book Two. Look at it as a broad picture and you’ll sense it.

So far I’m told to expect CELESTE, THE UNSEEN Book Two, to be released one year after ELEANOR. I know… I hate it too, but I’m told they know what they’re doing. There’s some talk about bringing DAVID, (Book Three) out six months after CELESTE, cutting it for Christmas release, but nothing’s been finalized. We’re in edits now with CELESTE but like I said, the triliogy is done, so killing me won’t solve anything.

BeatryselWSOh, I have to ask you this … I know I sometimes struggle to write male characters, mostly because I write what women desire in a man (hotties galore! *drools*). Was it difficult to write a teenage female protagonist, considering that you’re a male author?

I think woman have a harder time writing men than men do writing women and I’ll tell you why: Mothers. Not everyone ha
s a father, or a father they sympathize with and understand (we’re a shit species sometimes), but we all have mothers. Men can draw from that for their females, and themselves for their male characters. Women are often only guaranteed half that equation. This is a complete generalizaiton though, I know that. There are plenty of great fathers out there and a few shit mothers, but I had the opposite.

I was a teenager. Most of us were, right? I have teenagers. I stil think of myself much as a teenager. I’m shocked to see the gray in my hair to this day. It wasn’t hard to slide back into a purely teenage mind. It’s about unloading prejudices and garbage. Forgetting a few lessons so we can learn them again. And then for a girl, it was about vulnerablity.

Western society for all its advancement is still patriarchal. Woman are a subjegated class. Even at the top, women are born a step behind their brothers. Down at the bottom, it’s even worse. Be young and poor, fatherless, different and a girl, and you have the recipe for a very vulnerable character. You have Eleanor.

This one’s completely off-topic, but I’ve been wondering … How many tie-dye T-shirts do you own? 

Right now I have about twenty in circulation, but I love these new five I just got and keep putting those on. I have a drawer of another twenty that I’ve worn through, and about twice that many have been lost to time. There have been years of my life when I wore a tie or a uniform and when I wanted to be happy, I’d put on a tie-dye. That goes back to my Grateful Dead days. I reached a certain point in my life when I was done compromising on some things and decied I wanted to be happy all the time. I wear tie-dye because it’s beautiful, because it’s not just clothes, it’s art. Every shirt I wear is hand made, by artists who make the world a brighter place one shirt at a time. You don’t wear it for yourself – you hardly see it unless you look down, and hopefully you don’t do that too much. No, you wear tie-dye for your friends. You’re welcome.

So, Beatrysel is out and Eleanor: The Unseen is out, what can we expect in the future? Are you working on anything else that’ll probably be even more spectacular? Give us the details of what we can expect from Johnny Worthen.

The next big thing from me will be THE FINGER TRAP. Scheduled for next year and in edits now, it is an adult mystery/comedy where I unleash Tony Flaner, a sarcastic smartass loafer who has to become his own detective when his life collapses around him. It might not surprise you to see him in tie-dye and complaining about his weight. It’s a fun commentary on American absurdity and a ripping good yarn. There are important themes about maturity and family, completion and debt, video games and quiche, but it’s a summer read, a casual strole. The key is in Tony, Tony Flaner – Flâneur referring to the act of strolling, with all of its accompanying associations. And it’s funny.

Where can people find you? Come on, I’m sure there’s an Annie Wilkes out there dying to know.






About the Author:

JohnnyWorthen3JOHNNY WORTHEN grew up in the high desert snows and warm summer winds of the Wasatch Mountains. He graduated with a B.A. in English, minor in Classics and a Master’s in American Studies from the University of Utah. After a series of businesses and adventures, including years abroad and running his own bakery, Johnny found himself drawn to the only thing he ever wanted to do — write. And write he does. Well versed in modern literary criticism and cultural studies, Johnny writes upmarket multi-genre fiction – thriller, horror, young adult, comedy and mystery so far. “I write what I like to read,” he says. “That guarantees me at least one fan and a hectic job for my publicist.”

When not pounding on his keyboard, attending conferences and conventions, Johnny Worthen can be found with his wife and two boys in Sandy, Utah.

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