Little Grains of Sand

The final months of 2020 are before us at last. November and December stare us down like obsidian-clad angels of ruin and regret, looming higher than the very vault of the sky, swords drawn and fingers pointed in accusation, as if to herald the inevitable smiting. Those with eyes to see and ears to hear are not at all astonished to behold such twin specters of punishment and purgation. Imagine your own Doom-Sentinels, if you wish! Pick a horseman, any horseman.


To say the least, 2020 has been a year rife with disturbing social turbulence, unprecedented alteration of daily life and commerce, and withered days marked by a harrowing degeneration of linear thinking skills among factions that pride themselves upon the superior value of “feelings” over reason.

One can practically hear the hiss of the final, stinging sands as they spill, wild and furious, into the bottom of the Damnation Hourglass.


Time’s up, kiddies.


While the horrific toll upon human life exacted by the unleashing of the COVID-19 virus is not unprecedented in the annals of plague and misfortune that have afflicted our beleaguered species, the infrastructural interruption of everyday life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is most assuredly without precedent, at least in modern times. The subsequent and despicable politicization of the virus emanating from all corridors of ideological persuasion is, however, the least surprising aspect of our burgeoning dilemma. This charming little feature was as predictable as the sunrise … or, perhaps more appropriately, the sunset.


The sad and staggering truth is that our present miasma in its entirety has been expanding before the eyes of the West for decades—certainly ever since the advent of the Cold War and, with baleful stealth, fluttering into the halls and fevered brains of academia on the odious wings of post-Structuralism and its rancid, flea-bitten prophets of nihilism and debauchery: Foucault; Derrida; LeCan; et al. Same goes for their equally dismal disciples, still stinking-up classrooms from Harvard to Ms. Pomplefuffer’s Kindergarten Cookie Hour in Dubuque.


The fish rots from the head down, it is said, but when the smell of putrefaction achieves particularly rank proportions, those who can pass by and ignore the billowing fumes tend to do so swiftly. 


And so we have done.


The need to work, to live, to love, and to distract ourselves reasonably from the typical human horrors and ills of the past 60 years is not negligible when it comes to scrutinizing the magnitude of our societal apathy. 


Sadly, a general measure of coherent cultural contentment and stability—with maybe a few wolves baying outside the door every now and then, or howling in more removed and tolerable forest shadows—serves as the ideal magic carpet upon which the gremlins of insurrection and ideological sedition slip into the pores of our corpulent zeitgeist, as if by night. Once within, they set to work with furious but furtive enthusiasm, and with myopic dedication to their goal, which is ever and always the Great Undoing. The undoing—the undoing of all that is good and pure and objective and sensible.

 
Statistically speaking, few have ever had the time to note the gremlins, busy as only gremlins can be at their corrosive work. Fewer have had the inclination to stop them, and fewer still the ability to even comprehend the monstrous and colossal extent of their near-evangelical mission. 
There have indeed been many voices of warning over the past sixty years, but these have proved far too difficult for the rank-and-file to discern. How can anyone expect the average, hard-working soul to entertain such complex and abstruse arguments? Who needs the intrusion of a clarion call when the morning alarm-clock wreaks enough misery on its own, yanking the productive contingent of society out of warm beds and shoving them into factories and offices and coal mines and onto farm fields?


And what about our lovely and treasured distractions? Don’t we deserve them? Haven’t we earned the right to luxuriate in them, to wallow?


Behold the vast landscape of bright and shiny Toys, of Titillating Devices, each one more enchanting and irresistible with every passing year. Nay!–more beguiling and addictive with every passing month!

And so the mildew has set in. Accumulated. And the sickness that once lingered at the edges and stained only the margins has overwhelmed the house from rafter to rafter, wall to wall.


Most of us have been asking for it, and most of us are going to get it, in one way or another.

History alone drives home this inexorable truth, but alas, history’s voice is the one most twisted and least heeded of all those braying amid the din.The irony is that history’s voice is the only one that has remained alive, constant, and in the process of Becoming, along with us, at our sides as both companion and cautioner. 

Enjoy history, friends, because it is about to raise its voice above the fray, as it does, sometimes, when it feels neglected for too long … when it has been overly ignored in favor of more convenient siren songs.


And the rain shall fall upon the just and the unjust alike. Just like always. Only harder.

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My experience of the year 2020 does not merit much description, in light of present circumstances. There was a novel (Wistwood) published and critically well-received. A screenplay adaptation written for Netflix. There were a couple of disheartening fire evacuations in the now perennial tinderbox that is California. The unsettling protocol modifications demanded by the pandemic outbreak. Etc. etc.


But the details of my existence mean very little to me, in terms of sharing and broadcasting. Who cares? That being said, future plans are not without form and ambition. Said plans, however, will be taking-on much different contexts in the future. Books and blogging (so dreary) will comprise the least of these contexts. Look for an absolute—and hopefully interesting—overhaul of my site in early 2021. After all, there’s only the rest of life with which to properly occupy one’s self.


Meanwhile, be quite well, be quite safe, and be surprised by nothing.

Winding Up (and Down) with Wistwood

As our agitated and addlepated society performs an endless watusi in the lusty throes of its confusion, gyrating from one chaotic cultural vortex to another, life goes on for people of all backgrounds who are busy with projects major and mundane. Bread and circuses were never my thing, so best of luck to all the Caligulan lemmings out there. Have a happy Fall.

Great things continue to happen, however, with the ongoing release of Wistwood as a long and difficult Summer segues into the brief but promising oasis of Autumn refreshment. (Don’t get too excited: it’s still going to be a bumpy Remainder-of-2020 and Beyond. Ho hum.)

Aside from the fact that the long-promised updates to WordPress turned out to be as bone-headedly moronic, superfluous, and annoying as I expected them to be, I’m happy to communicate via this now-questionable medium that Wistwood is the subject of a smokin’ hot full-page piece in the September 15th print and online editions of the esteemed Kirkus Magazine.

Have a gander at the image below and share my ecstasy. Otherwise, I haven’t got the slightest interest in writing a damn thing for the brain-dead public in general on this blog. (Faithful readers excepted–all three of you.) When a publisher buys my next astounding novel and pays me big heaps of wampum, then I’ll unleash a veritable Niagara of Revelatory Inner Feelings. Until then, expect infrequent and unenthusiastic updates.

Here’s the full-pager from Kirkus, by the way:

#JonathanKieran #Author #Wistwood #Kirkus #KirkusMagazine #Writers #Novels #IHateWordpress #WhatAWaste

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My previous publications are stacked upward and to the right. Click on the book covers to buy them from Amazon or learn more. Namarie, y’all.

Kirkus Love Keeps Coming for Wistwood

[For inquiries about representation and film rights, email JonathanKieranWriter@gmail.com]

Lovely news just keeps coming into the midst of our secluded Summer idyll. The latest unexpected and inexorably delightful development once again wends its way to my reclusive existence courtesy of Kirkus Reviews, the gold standard for literary criticism in the USA and beyond.

It was honor enough that the Shuriken-sharp and whirling editorial minds at Kirkus bestowed upon Wistwood a thoughtful and glowing assessment. But I have now learned that my chilling novel of metaphysical mayhem and small-town monstrosity has been selected for inclusion (review and all) in the August 15 edition of Kirkus Reviews’ esteemed print magazine.

It has likewise come to my attention that less than 10% of the indie titles reviewed and considered are selected for this particular privilege by the editorial panel at Kirkus.

WHULL!

We are most grateful and possibly even a bit giddy, to put it mildly.

Writing a proper long-form literary work is a lonely business, with no guarantee of validation. Writing such a work well involves the usual shedding of blood, sweat, and tears, along with with that exasperating pound of flesh having been extracted and dropped somewhere along the tortuous path, never to be found again. (Who would want to find it? Think of the flies!) And still there is no guarantee of ultimate validation for one’s prolonged and nerve-shredding effort.

But there’s validation now, baby. Oh yeah.

Thank you, Kirkus editors. Long may your ninja-critiques whirl.

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Jonathan’s oeuvre is stacked upward and to the right of this article. Click on a book cover to learn more or buy something to support his writerly affliction.

 

Love for Wistwood from Kirkus Reviews

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For over 80 years, Kirkus Reviews has been known as one of the toughest, most respected, prestigious, and no-nonsense sources of serious literary criticism in the world. They remain a bellwether of discerning excellence across a bloated and increasingly chaotic industry landscape.

For an author to get a glowing review from their esteemed masthead and assortment of discriminating professionals is (for this gent) akin to Christmas.

Every.

Day.

Of.

The.

Year.

Look for exciting developments concerning WISTWOOD in the September 15, October 1, and October 15 editions of the print edition of Kirkus Magazine, which remains the industry standard for literary criticism.

Meanwhile, here’s the entire review of WISTWOOD from Kirkus and a link to their official site:

WISTWOOD

An obscure village becomes the site of disconcerting, otherworldly incidents in this supernatural novel.

A lifelong Californian, Nebraska “Brask” Adams has yearned for a “real small-town experience.” Now that he has a book deal with a publisher as well as an advance, he can escape his dour life, including his devoutly religious, condescending older sister. He opts for an affordable cabin rental in the village of Wistwood, somewhere near Big Sur. At the same time, schoolteacher Schuyler Brody, apparently unhappy with her “insufferable” students, is eying an antiques shop there.

But Shep Daltry has darker motivations. He’s a White cop under media scrutiny for savagely beating a woman of color and mother of five. Though his department clears him of any charges, he heads to Wistwood for a new job, which involves sinister “instructions.”

It appears there are two enigmatic individuals with a plan that seems initially vague awaiting these people’s arrivals. Brask is hardly settled in Wistwood when he senses something off—at first, just a store but soon, the entire village. Yet even if he can convince fellow villagers, will anyone be able to leave?

Parts of Kieran’s chilling story are deliberately hazy, with unknown characters discussing cryptic objectives. But detailed backstories ground the narrative, pitting villagers such as former British rock star Lleyton Grayle against something unearthly. Crisp prose gives largely abstract occurrences a visual component: “When she laughed, brief and mocking, the sounds sprang as arrowheads, razor-sharp and dipped in poison from her lips.” Later chapters offer a few revelations, although the author provides enough clues that most readers will have an idea as to what’s unfolding. The final act is disturbing and decidedly more visceral, with a satisfying, open-ended denouement.

An often mysterious but thoroughly horrifying and macabre tale.

(KIRKUS REVIEWS 7/9/20)

 

 

Revisiting Coppola’s ‘Dracula’ 28 Years Later

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Amid the tumult of our addlepated society, millions are hopefully taking little excursions into the realm of entertainment, now and then, to relieve the inner-cranial pressure that threatens to explode with caldera-like potency not seen since Yellowstone’s last prehistoric tantrum.

Even if your diversions are random at this point in time, do try to find the wherewithal to enjoy such jaunts … while you may.

My diversions of late have been markedly random. Aside from writing them, books seem to hold less appeal to me than ever before. Voices crooning and screeching from my music system only serve to remind me that humans exist, and movies, in general, have been off my Recreational Activity List for quite a while, due to the fact that most of them have nosedived into the Abyss of Substandard Bilge, there to take-up murky residence with (surprise!) most contemporary books and musical endeavors.

Adventures into dusty and near-forgotten archives of amusement, however, have yielded more satisfying results. Stylish old horror films, for example, can distract the mind from current existential quandaries while performing the neat trick of “staying on theme,” emotionally: doom, gloom, terror, helplessness, death, apocalyptic destruction, and, well, monsters.

Anyhow, I opted to forge into such territory the other day and find some goddamned movie to occupy my otherwise fevered brain for a couple of hours. With my bandwidth running low out here in the hinterlands, I turned instead to the cobwebbed alternative of an old DVD player and its attendant collection of discs, scattered in a dilapidated cardboard box in the closet. To spare myself the creeping madness of choosing, Choosing, CHOOSING, I committed to the first jewel-case my fingers managed to grab amid the hodgepodge.

It was Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. Or, one might say more accurately, Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

This was a great “random grab,” if for no other reason than the fact that Beverly Hills Chihuahua was also lurking somewhere in that heaving cardboard receptacle. (A friend had loaned that film to me years ago for a “kick.” I never watched it and never returned it. Perhaps tellingly, a return was never requested, despite ample opportunity).

Dracula it was, then.

What a leap back into the quasi-misspent days of my youth. More to the point, what a head-trip to watch it again, no matter the moment in time.

I remember going to the cinema to see this rapturous, doddering epic as a mere lad in 1992, the year of its release. To say that Coppola’s take on Bram Stoker’s classic novel had been highly anticipated back then would be putting it mildly. The expensive adaptation caused quite a stir, as I remember. Hollywood critics were poised with their own vampiric fangs ready to draw blood. One can see why; the estimable Coppola was still smarting from the rickety reception of The Godfather Part III and his tackling of another lavish production, one considered well out of his artistic wheelhouse at the time, did not inspire confidence from the bone-picking set.

General audiences, however, were far more willing to give the film a chance—rumors of a “new, never-before-imagined” interpretation of Dracula tantalized. The cast list didn’t hurt, either, at least at first glance. Gary Oldman was not exactly a marquee-level name in those days, but was still a respected actor and beguiling choice to play the legendary Vlad Dracul. The addition of Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder was irresistibly befuddling, but quite wise from a business standpoint because they were hot box office properties.

The film became an unexpected hit around the globe.

What I remembered most about seeing it on the big screen 28 years ago was the lush, transporting cinematography by Michael Ballhaus, crafted fluidly under Coppola’s determined and innovative direction. The whole production unfurled in visual terms as an ever-dazzling chiaroscuro, a nightmarish landscape of insinuating, erotic colors and equally tempting shadows. Much credit was also be given to the effulgent-yet-ominous and mesmerizing designs of costumer Eiko Isioka, whose work leapt from the screen in brushstrokes evocative of Fellini crossed with Hieronymus Bosch.

Then there was Gary Oldman’s extraordinary performance, a reading that not only broke the mold as far as the titular vampire’s canonical portrayal in film as a caped Svengali wearing a burial suit, but which foreshadowed eloquently the subsequent, sometimes annoying, trend of exploring the wronged, “good-sided” soul-qualities of characters otherwise relegated to the camp of Absolute Evil (think Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West in Broadway’s Wicked or any number of reimagined comic book movie villains that have since been “origin-storied” out of their asses).

Even diminished on the smaller screen, the film holds up surprisingly well today. The scope is sweeping and perhaps overlong. The script is jerky-jerky at times. Yes, Keanu Reeves is atrocious in the role of Jonathan Harker, exhibiting all the engagement and charisma of that tall, wooden pepper-mill you stopped using in 2003 and stuck in the very back of a kitchen cupboard, towering awkward and alone above other obsolete utensils. Winona Ryder isn’t much better, but quite lovely in spite of her affected, I-just-got-back-from-the-mall-in-Petaluma performance. Anthony Hopkins doesn’t look like he’s enjoying  a single minute of his duties, occasionally boisterous but as dead behind the eyes as any vampire might ever hope to be. Still, Sadie Frost is superb as a supporting player and the sets are so deliciously atmospheric that one is happy to dismiss the miscasting issues and simply revel in the dreamscape Coppola has conjured, particularly since the narrative ends up being sufficiently cohesive and faithful to the novel’s peculiar spirit.

All in all, Dracula remains a feast for the imagination, a welcome respite from the vicissitudes of a world at wars seen and unseen, and I felt as if I could have walked right through the screen, onto the blue-chilling snow, and into that coach on the Borgo Pass, hurtling toward doom and an invitation from Gary Oldman to cross the dreaded castle threshold.

There are worse, far less elegant ways to escape the ongoing tribulations. Dig into your own box of oldies. See what cinematic ghosts may perchance arise.

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Jonathan Kieran’s new, dark, and disturbing supernatural/metaphysical epic, Wistwood, a tale of cosmic horror, is available now at all major international retailers and outlets. Buy it in digital form or in print today. Want a short-cut? Click on the link above and to the right. All of Mr. Kieran’s efforts are there stacked, ready to be purchased and voraciously consumed.

Wistwood Featured by Duffy the Writer

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An article I wrote detailing the impetus behind writing Wistwood, as well as delineating some of the novel’s primary themes, has been published on the outstanding Australian blog, Duffy the Writer. Within the context of the piece I also reference a few of my own literary influences and ponder the timing of Wistwood’s release amid the unexpected onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Invisible horrors, whether in life or in literature, are never to be underestimated.

Have a look at Duffy’s fine blog and my particular contribution HERE.

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Jonathan Kieran’s new, dark, and disturbing supernatural/metaphysical epic, Wistwood, a tale of cosmic horror, is available now at all major international retailers and outlets. Buy it in digital form or in print today. Want a short-cut? Click on the link above and to the right. All of Mr. Kieran’s efforts are there stacked, ready to be purchased and voraciously consumed.

Three Cheers for Goodreads Winners

The Goodreads Giveaway contest for Wistwood has ended and 15 winners were duly selected from a group of 2,109 entrants vying for a chance to acquire a print copy of the novel. The response on Goodreads–the greatest community of devoted readers on the planet!–exceeded expectations, and I’d like to congratulate the winners personally. Your copies of Wistwood are on their way to you via Amazon, with expected arrival dates for each copy slated around May 18-ish, due to the slightly slower priority shipping schedules necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. But you shall have them soon, indeed, and I wish you all a memorable reading experience, whether intrigued by the exalted or the intensely disturbing aspects of this magical, terrifying, and perhaps enigmatic opus. If you like the book, feel quite free to render your thoughts in review; this wordsmith shall remain eternally grateful … perhaps for several eternities.

Otherwise, have a great time meeting Brask, Schuyler, Shep, Marge, The Landlord, and all the other denizens of Wistwood, and (if you wish) be ready to interact with me when it comes to another special contest we’ll be holding in September in the lead-up to Halloween 2020. There’ll be some “extra special” giveaways planned for those who have read the book, those who are reading it, and those who have added it to their lists.

Meanwhile, I’ll be checking in with the Goodreads crowd frequently throughout the Summer, so if you have any questions about the book or the Wistwood screenplay I’m currently working on, do not hesitate to drop by for a spell (no pun intended).

Much thanks and respect to EVERYONE for their interest and support!

Jonathan Kieran (“Jon”)

Big Sur, CA

May 11, 2020

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Jonathan Kieran’s new, dark, and disturbing supernatural epic, Wistwood, is available now at all major international retailers and outlets. Buy it in digital or print today. Want a short-cut? Click on the link above and to the right. All of Mr. Kieran’s efforts are there stacked, ready to be purchased, and tantalizingly consumed.

Wistwood Contest on Goodreads

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Well, well, friends and connoisseurs of evocative, disturbing, atmospheric and horrifyingly twisted chiaroscuros in the form of literary epics, take heed! You may soon be able to experience the dual adrenaline floods generated by letting the savory decadence of my craftsmanship soak into your tastebuds AND by winning something for free.

Yeah, you heard me.

Goodreads is currently holding a contest and 15 blessed and highly favored winners will win print copies of my new supernatural horror novel, Wistwood.

It’s Day Three of the contest and already more than 800 fans have entered, eager for their chance to bathe in the baleful blood of Providential reward, but there’s still 9 whole days left to put your name into the mix. If you’re not a member of Goodreads (and you really ought to be) then hightail it to Goodreads.com and sign-up for all sorts of opportunities (but especially for Wistwood.) 

If already a Goodreads devotee, fly from this site and enter the Wistwood contest forthwith. All it takes is a magical click of the following link:

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Jonathan Kieran’s new, dark, and disturbing supernatural epic, Wistwood, is available now at all major international retailers and outlets. Buy it in digital or print today. Want a short-cut? Click on the link above and to the right. All of Mr. Kieran’s efforts are there stacked, ready to be purchased, and tantalizingly consumed.

Early Wistwood Love from Goodreads

Consumers of literature in all of its breathtaking diversity are guaranteed to be found lurking among the virtual stacks at Goodreads.

How lovely it is to receive some early love from the reviewers there so soon after the release of Wistwood. 

I never thought that a horror book can have beauty in it. I stand corrected.
Wistwood is a poetic nightmare that will take you on an emotional rollercoaster ride. It is a book that every reader must and will experience in his/her own way, there is no way around it. It is an allegory of life itself, intense and disturbing, yet at the same time full of beauty.
A one in a million piece of craftsmanship that will touch you one way or another.

Danke!

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Jonathan Kieran’s new dark, creepy, disturbing, epic, Wistwood, is available now at all major international retailers and suppliers. Buy it in digital or print today. Want a short-cut? Click on the link above and to the right. All of Mr. Kieran’s efforts are stacked there.

 

WISTWOOD: Sometimes …

… the deadliest secrets are the ones we keep from ourselves.

Author Jonathan Kieran returns with the epic novel WISTWOOD, a terrifying, dark fable for darkening days. With a hint of redemption to wash the horror down.

by Roger C. Lindstrom

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When author Jonathan Kieran described his life as semi-reclusive I didn’t take him all that seriously. Until I drove out to his house to take photographs and conduct an interview for our Arts edition, that is. Just finding Jonathan’s place in the forest highlands behind Big Sur was a wild adventure. Civilization ends and scary woods begins. Past hairpin turns, mountains, and boulders tumbling down hills you eventually find his place, forty-five miles from Carmel. No houses are seen from the roads out here. It’s beautiful but it could be a scene right out of Wistwood, Kieran’s new psychological horror and supernatural novel that comes out April 21.
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Jonathan was gathering wood in a satchel when I finally got there but gave me a warm welcome to his secluded ranch property, complete with a winding stream not twenty feet from his back door. I could easily see how someone might be able to write in this amazing spot.
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While able to chat and take some photos to accompany the interview, a newly fallen oak tree limb on the property needed attention, so we decided to postpone the sit down interview. Within a week, the COVID-19 social distancing protocols were in place, so we decided to do everything by email, even though production on our print weekly has now been suspended indefinitely, along with so many other local enterprises. It was still great to meet Jonathan and happy to give him the interview to run with. Jonathan’s frightening, mysterious new novel, Wistwood, will be available for special Amazon preorder on April 7th and officially released in eBook and print on April 21th. Enjoy the back and forth of our online interview!
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You released an elaborate trilogy of fairy tales in 2012 with the Rowan Blaize series, one of those books written entirely in epic verse, which was totally unusual in this day and age. Then you turned out a scathing look at internet comments sections in 2015. The Midwest Book Review praised the book and described it as “… the possible first stirring of internet anthropology.” Now five years later we hear from you and this new novel, Wistwood, is beautiful but chilling. It covers themes like hell on earth, afterlife, human envy, greed, beings from other dimensions, and the idea that darker forces are at work among us. Congratulations on the book, but why so long between works and why this particular novel, now?
 
JK: As far as the interval between books is concerned, I’m not exactly a churn-em out kind of writer to begin with. Craftsmanship is paramount for me, and that requires a definitive, stable period of time and devotion. Plus, an idea really has to take firm hold in my psyche and in my gut before I’ll even consider the burden of writing a long-form work, which is an enormous undertaking.
But, frankly, availability of time has been the biggest issue by far. I started building a house in 2016, with all that that entails, for the purpose of moving into it, staging it, and then selling it. That took over two and a half years. There was really no time or sense of the “settled” sort of quality required to tackle a big new book project. That changed when I sold the house, moved back to the Ventana wilderness, and Wistwood was born subsequently. But I’d had lots of ideas on my mind, for sure, during that interval, and was busy with illustration work and research for other scraps of projects that have been gestating. Really, though, I flat out didn’t have the time to devote to a novel from 2016 through early 2019.
As to your question ‘why this particular book?’ Well, look around the world. Look at humanity—stressed, confused, scattered, and off its proverbial rocker in every sphere from religious mania to social media to politics to environmental anxiety. Pervasively so. There’s a worldwide “disconnect,” I call it, on a number of levels. It creeps me out that humans have more information and innovation at their immediate fingertips than at any other time in the history of our species, and yet we’re more addled than ever, and searching for meaning more desperately than ever. And I don’t think it all comes down to a simple explanation like, “We have too many choices.” I sense something possibly more sinister at work. Organic, but sinister.  I suppose I’m a little bit surprised I wrote such a raw, explicit tale as Wistwood, but not really surprised that this kind of story was lurking in my brain in the first place. That it was hanging around. There’s always been a dark undercurrent running through my work. How could I be too surprised that a heavy-duty psychological horror piece eventually emerged from my strange brain?
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It’s a complete departure from your previous works for sure. How does that square with the idea of trying to build a loyal following of readers, etc?
JK: I know that it might not make a lot of sense to a lot of people, on the face of things. Usually a writer finds one genre and sticks to it. It certainly the smartest thing to do, I imagine, in terms of a commercial perspective. But I’m atypical in many respects. My personal interests and fascinations are broad, eclectic, and always marked by intensity. Even my parents and teachers noted this when I was a child. If I’m interested in something, it’s never just a passing fancy: I’m intensely interested, devoted. And I remain so regarding a fairly wide array of subjects and phenomena.
My abilities are diverse, as well. I can compose and perform music. I’ve been an actor. I’m a fine woodworker. A professional illustrator—that’s how I got my professional start with arts in any form. Research is likewise a passion and I’m a crackerjack at that. Research work is an art form, I believe. A category unto itself. But for me, a vivacious curiosity for answers and meanings, radiant or dark, is at the heart of all these approaches. It’s the common thread. Life’s one big treasure hunt for me, really. I know of no other way to put it than to say that I’m zealously fascinated by what fascinates me … and am lucky to have the ability to interpret and manifest my discoveries in artistic ways, I guess. If people respond, wonderful. If not, my dedication to my interests does not change.
At the opposite end of that assessment, I can say that if something bores me, it bores me utterly. To say that I might be a tad obsessive-compulsive would not be missing the mark. Not unhealthily so, according to those who love and know me best—and believe me, I ask from time to time!—but you gotta stay on top of that stuff, too. Occasional self-scrutiny is good for the soul and the body, maybe more-so for writers. Scrupulousness, however, is not.
How would you summarize Wistwood as a novel for someone unfamiliar with any of your works or for fans who know your other works but might be surprised to see this new type of story from you?
JK: Ideally, novels should not be over-explained by an author. No story should be, in my opinion. Discussion among readers is great. Go for it, readers, and thank you. But from a writer’s standpoint, I think a story should run on its own fuel, if you will. That being said, people benefit from little explanations ahead of time, so Wistwood is the story of a conflicted, maybe even tormented, young guy, Brask Adams. 28. Life‘s been rough on him. He has a sudden change of fortune and wants a second chance at things, a fresh start, in this remote California wilderness town, away from the world’s noise and ruin. But second chances always come at a cost. Sometimes the cost is economic. Sometimes the cost is emotional. Sometimes the cost can be life itself. And sometimes, the cost might be eternal. In Brask’s case, his pursuit of a second chance finds him caught in the middle of supernatural forces he could never have imagined to exist. He’s not a believer in anything. And yet he‘s in this place, in the town of Wistwood, for a reason. He learns, along with a lot of other characters, that the deadliest secrets are the ones we keep from ourselves.
It’s a character study. The narrator is omniscient. Part of the vibe of this story concerns what people are willing to say and present to others as opposed to what’s truly going on in their hearts. That sometimes wild dichotomy. The near-necessity of using varying degrees of falsehood to survive and stay sane in a society. It’s definitely a horror story. Explicit. Graphic in places. Yeah, there’s some metaphysical inquiry involved. Human arrogance is another big theme, I’d say. But, ultimately, it’s about a desperate guy in trouble, a guy who’s seeking answers, like many desperate people do, in places that look promising at first, but which turn out to be much, much worse than their original troubles could ever be.
I hope people respond to the craftsmanship, the storytelling, the characters, the twists, the scares. Life is scary. Books can be scary too. I mean, it’s entertainment. It’s a work of entertainment. With everything of gravity going on in the world right now, certain people might find some escape in it. I know that I love to dig deep into a gripping book when the outside world seems especially off the boil.
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Do you think that this time of pandemic will drive people in greater numbers to rediscover books as an escape or will they be too distracted to read and look for easier forms of entertainment like videogames or movies, etc.?
JK: Who knows? I haven’t got a lot of positive things to say about the general state of the human attention-span, at this point in time. But I don’t want to underestimate people, either. That’s a terrible mistake to make, when outright dismissing people in a cynical way and diminishing what they are capable of achieving under duress, for better or for worse. People can still surprise you in wonderful ways. Our species has proved this time and again over the centuries, mostly in moments that will never be told or remembered. But the effects of humans rising to their various challenges, great and small, go forward in time. The ramifications are still felt, I believe. And that does give one a certain amount of hope.
As for entertainment, people have always sought it in periods of stress because there has never been a prolonged time on this earth when humans have not been under some form of significant stress. This is not the kind of world in which we live. This is not the way the planet itself functions and operates. But for the unique quality of human mercy, and civilization as its corollary, this is otherwise an “eat or get eaten” planet. Wistwood explores this aspect of our world. This unpalatable, difficult truth. For all its great beauty, it is a violent, unforgiving place.
People are definitely hungry for distraction and edification,  but mostly for distraction, these days. The difficulty, or one of them, is that distraction now comes in a mind-boggling array of easily obtainable forms that are not, by any means, of equal quality and beneficence. I appreciate the concept of relativity, but I am not a relativist. All things are not equal, in terms of contributing to the actual health of the human mind and spirit. Wide-ranging crises, like the one we are now experiencing with the COVID-19 virus, often lead people to step away from the chaos and rediscover some deeper values, the less frantic commercial forces vying for their attention. Like I said before, escaping into the world of a well-crafted book, reading the words and entering that realm via your own imagination, is unlike any other form of entertainment. In times like this, some people will opt for greater discernment, some for less. Let the chips fall where they may, because they’re gonna fall.
Would you mind listing your five favorite books of all time and how or why they have inspired you in your own life and work?
Oh, wow. List requests like this are fun, but they’re never reliable for accuracy, at least in terms of constancy. Favorites come to mind in one setting, one little space of time, and then they change frequently, fluidly. But I’ll give it a shot in this moment, though in no particular order:
HOWARDS END by E.M. Forster—This may seem a strange choice for a guy who’s currently releasing a supernatural, psychological horror novel, but Forster’s work has had a big influence upon me, and this classic in particular still resonates. The economy of his writing style—while always managing to be breathtakingly insightful—is a unique voice in all of literature, in my view. He’s practical, he’s subtly witty, he’s penetrative in a masterful way, he’s brutally honest. And this tale of Edwardian class differences and the ultimate value of honoring one’s heart’s desire is perfection. Obviously, for me, the book turns on the fact that the Wilcox family, in their wealthy arrogance, deliberately rejected the mother’s dying wish to leave her house to someone she knew would love and honor it. They tried to interfere with fate, but fate will take its course and become an equalizer of humans—throwing down the mighty and lifting up the lowly. But even that might not last because the world is the world is the world. Fate and karma may punish, but there’s no permanence. People still have to pick up the pieces and use it or lose it. It’s my favorite book.
THE GOLDEN ASS by Apuleius—The only true novel that has survived to us from ancient times, it’s also the first known and greatest picaresque ever. And the ersatz intermezzo featuring the tale of Cupid and Psyche remains one of the most thrillingly gorgeous literary experiences I can think of. I can’t glorify this tale enough, however it was wrought, and there’s much debate on that count, of course. I’m thankful to have existed on earth just to have read it.
My personal styles of thought and criticism and composition tend naturally toward the parodic and the picaresque, and I have to channel that, to an extent, when not appropriate for a certain kind of project, like a horror tale, but it’s always there. Always informing. That’s why I was drawn like a moth to lamplight when I first encountered books like The Golden Ass, Don Quixote, or even A Confederacy of Dunces. I recognized in these works little glimmers of my own tendencies toward satire and smart-assery. And it’s an extravagant pleasure—a blessing, maybe—to encounter familiar voices. We need the affirmation of like-minded souls. Works like this, from any age, codify that experience of confraternity. Quite a privilege.
BROTHERS KARAMAZOV by Fyodor Dostoyevsky—Maybe it seems contrived to include this on a five favorites list, but I do worship the book, and Dostoyevsky’s talent itself. No one can break your heart, or your brain, like a Russian genius. It’s music and tragedy and comedy and faith and nihilism and redemption in one impossible symphony. Dostoyevsky leaves no stone of the human condition unturned in this colossus, and the truth hurts, but it hurts beautifully because of him. I still read the book every few years. It’s a marvel. A sacred text, for me.
A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA by Richard Hughes—This is a tale of spoiled children who are shanghaied by pirates in the aftermath of a hurricane in Colonialist Jamaica, and it’s one of the most surreal masterpieces I have ever been lucky enough to savor. Frightening, funny, ribald, devastating, disturbing. It shows no mercy. It’s like Lord of the Flies on absinthe. I wish more people knew of the book, but it’s also nice to treasure those best-kept-secret works. This is definitely one of those. A weird delight.
SHOGUN by James Clavell—This epic of historical fiction will never fail to make any faves list of mine. I have to include it here, out of reverence, even if it is probably not really in my Top 5 (more like Top 15). It was the first huge, doorstopping book I read as a little kid and it has held up masterfully. Impeccably plotted and characterized, it paints an indelible portrait of that astonishing time and place. It takes balls to attempt a work of this magnitude and complete it so damned brilliantly. I stand in awe. I enjoyed writing little stories as a kid; I was precocious and was reading material way beyond my age group. But this gigantic book riveted me at ten years of age and made me want to sail the seas with Anjin-san and plot to save Toranaga’s fiefdom. Reading experiences like that are beyond price. They form your soul, your spirit. And if you have the inclination, they make you want to write big stories of your own when you grow up.
What’s next for you in terms of work? What can readers expect given your winding path?
Well, a screenplay for Wistwood is being written right now. I’ll be shopping that around. And there are three long-form projects that are absolute “must-complete” works. I’ve been prepping those for years. Lifetime love-labor works. Those are the only three projects I care deeply about finishing before I die, to the point of saying “everything else can go to hell.” But if fortune smiles in terms of time and long life, I’d also like to complete a few lesser goals: a book about my twenty most memorable world travel experiences—and, believe me, I’ve got some gems; a book about my perception of the spiritual/metaphysical crisis now engulfing the Western world is also a plan; I also want to finish a play I’ve started.
But we’ll see about all of that. Otherwise, I’ll be happy in my woodshop, reclusive but always observant. That’s my ultimate contentment, and I’m grateful for it with every breath. Gratitude saves lives. Believe me.
Any guilty pleasures your readers might be surprised to know about?
As far as books are concerned? I’ll read most anything good about ancient Egypt, dinosaurs, and great white sharks. Those things have constituted something of a Holy Trinity since childhood and, in some respects, I’m still just a big kid. One should certainly grow up and embrace adulthood; this world is no picnic. But people should never lose one or two of their childlike qualities entirely, I believe. Ergo, I still laugh my ass off at old Warner Bros. Bugs Bunny cartoons and have been known to secretly fling peas at someone across a dinner table just for the hell of it.
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Jonathan Kieran is the Amazon bestselling author of the Rowan Blaize series of fantasy works, the acclaimed non-fiction work Confessions from the Comments Section, and now the epic new psychological horror novel, WISTWOOD. Click on the book cover at the upper right to preorder and purchase Jonathan’s harrowing new work.

Don’t Force the Mix (and sundry)

If you’re the ‘water’ in an acquaintance that simply isn’t working out, get the hell away from the ‘oil’ as fast as your feet will carry you.

If you’re the oil, don’t worry about it. You’ll just rise to the top.

These words (my own) popped into the windmills of my mildly wheeling brain the other night for reasons upon which I shall not elaborate, due to the fact that said reasons are not really worthy of elaboration, and the remark above explains everything in a nutshell … or in a bottle of salad dressing, if you prefer.

Yet, I have no doubt that we can all relate to this truth, no matter which corner of the globe we happen to occupy at any given time, living life as best we can while the whole extravaganza spins onward through space, hurtling like an over-enthusiastic vaudeville act desperate to make an impression amid hosts of competing performers on the vast, star-glittered Stage of the Cosmos.

In short: don’t waste time with people who don’t appreciate you. Life is over in a blink.

Be the oil in the equation. A bit of self-preservational slipperiness and “density privilege” can come in handy, every now and then.

In other news, much more important and–at long last–rock solid information about the upcoming novel is forthcoming. There have been a few snags along the route as decisions took unexpectedly different twists and turns at various junctures in the past eight months, but all is well in hand and exciting developments are set to be revealed with aplomb and a slew of firm specifics in the coming weeks.

Much thanks for all patience during the interim, and do stay tuned. It will be rather worth it if I do say so myself.

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Jonathan Kieran’s epic new book, WISTWOOD, is slated for release in Spring 2020. Kieran is also the author of the Rowan Blaize series of classically appointed contemporary fantasy books (Brightbourne 2012), as well as the critically acclaimed (Midwestern Book Review, Manhattan Book Review) Confessions From The Comments Section: The Secret Lives of Internet Commenters and Other Pop-Culture Zombies. In addition, Jonathan creates and draws the irreverent Zanzibar Circus cartoon and comic strip. His work has been featured on The Daily Dot.com and in a plethora of other ‘zines, papers, and alt-weeklies. Click on the book covers above and to the right if you want to learn more about Jonathan’s current and upcoming titles or purchase them at Amazon.com.

ZANZIBAR CIRCUS 12.25.19

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Jonathan Kieran’s epic new book, WISTWOOD, is slated for release in Spring 2020. Kieran is also the author of the Rowan Blaize series of classically appointed contemporary fantasy books (Brightbourne 2012), as well as the critically acclaimed (Midwestern Book Review, Manhattan Book Review) Confessions From The Comments Section: The Secret Lives of Internet Commenters and Other Pop-Culture Zombies. In addition, Jonathan creates and draws the irreverent Zanzibar Circus cartoon and comic strip. His work has been featured on The Daily Dot.com and in a plethora of other ‘zines, papers, and alt-weeklies. Click on the book covers above and to the right if you want to learn more about Jonathan’s current and upcoming titles or purchase them at Amazon.com.