– Interview by Linnea Linton
Jeamus Wilkes is a Denver Horror Collective member, host of Jeamus After Midnight Podcast, and editor of The Epitaph.
1. Name one horror author you admire and explain how they help you become a better writer?
Peter Straub. Straub helps me become a better writer because of his beautiful use of language blended with professional execution of creating dread and scenes of absolute terror. His work is un-commercial in the best possible way, yet utterly accessible in readability and makes my imagination’s flesh crawl like no other writer. It helps me become a better writer in knowing that I can aim for the story first, and cut the commercial crap right out. His novel Shadowland is probably my favorite book I’ve ever read, and I read it at least once a year.
2. What author did you dislike at first but grew into?
H.P. Lovecraft. I think I associated his name too much with gaming and protracted paragraphs (that sounds like a swipe at gaming culture when it really isn’t; at one time I just felt like Lovecraft’s world was over-appropriated in it), but when I revisited his work a few years ago I came to appreciate it on my own terms and made my own discoveries in his work. He’s a controversial figure, but—at this point, at least—I’ve decided to appreciate the artist. Chew on the meat and spit out the bones, to use a blunt horror metaphor.
3. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot?
Without question, the tiger. Beautiful, terrifying, graceful, surprising, quiet, bombastic. I’ve loved tigers since I was a little kid. My company, Autumn Tiger Publishing Arts, wasn’t named that randomly. I unashamedly aspire to be an Autumn Tiger. Call it a midlife crisis if you like. I call it a rebirth and the final hunt before the winter of my life finally arrives. Yep. Tiger. That’s my mascot.
4. What kind of research do you do and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I’m one of the weirdos who enjoyed writing research papers in college, so I enjoy the process. With my fiction, I tend to research while I’m writing, so I don’t spend that long researching before I start writing. Knowing my own process, it’s best to just keep writing and not stall out in the planning and research.
5. Have you been published? Describe your outlook on publishing and why you feel that way.
Yes, I’ve had both fiction and nonfiction published. My first fiction published (under the pseudonym Jack Wilkins) was a short story titled “When the Spirit Leaveth the Flesh” for Hellbound Books Publishing’s 2005 zombie anthology titled Cold Flesh, and my first nonfiction published was an essay on horror fiction narratology titled “Unreliable Horrors” for the literary mag Hello Horror. My outlook on publishing is overall positive right now. I’ll submit some manuscripts to traditional markets and publishers, and others I keep for myself and publish under my own Autumn Tiger Publishing Arts banner.
6. Name six of your favorite horror movies or books. Elaborate on your number one.
Whew. This is a hard one, but I’ll do my best (and I’ll stick to movies, as deciding on books would take a few years; movies is hard enough).
The Exorcist (1972)
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
I get a lot of crap for a recent film, let alone remake being my number one flick, but I don’t care. The primary reasons I chose Suspiria (2018) revolved around it being a beautiful film artistically with outstanding performances, terrifying scenes, and a slice of hardcore Cold War East Berlin history. Yes, it’s a remake, but aside from some general influences of the classic original, this newer version/adaptation is certainly its own thing by leaps and bounds. All of the aforementioned characteristics I listed blend together to create an incredible film and story and from start to finish.
The first time I finished watching it, I ordered some Chinese food, and watched it all over again. It was and will always be to me one of my favorite cinematic experiences. It certainly will remain in my number one spot for years and years to come. To say it will influence my work is an understatement. In my fiction, if I can create a shadow or a fraction of the artistic dread woven into a unique story the way this film has, I will have “succeeded” as a writer.