Regulars at my blog will know that I love me some John Foster fiction, and it just so happens that Mr. Foster has a new book out early in November through Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing. Night Roads is book 2 in the Libros De Inferno series, though I believe that you can also read this as a stand-alone novel. But really, buy the first one, Dead Men, because it is pretty damn good. Anyway, I always like to have John stop by when he has something new out because he is a top chap and he writes damn good books.
TGR: John, it has been a while since we last talked. How has 2017 treated you thus far and what have you been up to?
2017 has been a good year for me. My first collection of short stories came out through PMMP earlier this year (Baby Powder and Other Terrifying Substances) and I’ve done a lot of events around that. After years of accruing rust I’ve returned to training in Muay Thai, which feels great. I’m working on a new novel and learning new things about the form, a process I hope will never stop.
TGR: Your new book, Night Roads, is out early November through PMMP. The cover art is again by George Cotronis and it is superb. I think it really captures the southern gothic vibe of the series perfectly. You must be pretty stoked with how it looks?
I love it – George does great work. Not only does it capture the vibe (there’s a haunted house in this story) but it gives Hoodoo Girl top billing. She is, without a doubt, the coolest character in the book.
TGR: Where did the Libros De Inferno idea originate?
Through my naiveté. The first book, Dead Men, began with this image of two guys in a car (John Smith and Alice) and as I began to understand how horrendous and violent they were, I needed a story big enough to contain them…as it turned out, the initial story (Dead Men) was the opening salvo in a much larger story that deals with, well, let’s just say things have a chance to get much worse for all of us. The Libros de Inferno itself came into being as I fleshed out my notions of magic and the supernatural in this dark and mystical version of Americana.
TGR: You did a reading from Night Roads at the KGB Bar earlier this month. How did it go down with attendees and what can readers expect from this next instalment?
I think it went well, but I was so focused on two things that I didn’t pay as much attention as I should. 1. Don’t fuck up while reading. 2. I was having my first beer in a month as soon as I finished reading, because I’d just completed a 30-day elimination diet. Like too many writers, I was focused on beverages.
Readers will see more of Hoodoo Girl and Sheriff Joe, as well as the Dead Men Smith, Alice and the Ghoul, who have a powerful urge to kill one another. They will also encounter the fourth Dead Man and let me say, he’s nastier than the lot of them. We’ll also meet a number of new characters, including a snake-mean voodoo man who calls himself Slow Mo. If we’re thinking of story arcs, this one mirrors Mad Max (the original) in some respects. In Night Roads, things fall apart and evil is ascendant.
TGR: Did you outline the two books from the start or did you concentrate on Dead Men first, see where it went, and then outline Night Roads?
I don’t outline-it stifles my creativity. In some ways I envy people who can write successfully from an outline. Generally I can see guideposts up ahead and try to find my way to them through the honest actions of the characters. Along the way I make discoveries and keep a running series of notes. I have a loose structural idea for how each book should unfold within the larger story and an idea of the types of American supernatural experiences I want to delve into, but much of it is about determining the needs of my characters and then letting them loose on the page. When they collide and destroy my preconceived notions, I do my best to roll with it and follow the story as honestly as I can – because of that, writing books like Night Roads is exciting the entire way through.
TGR: I imagine book 2 would be easier to write as you have already developed the characters in book 1. Is this the case? Is it a smoother ride from a writing point of view?
In some ways it was easier, simply because I’ve got several novels under my belt at this point, whereas Dead Men was my very first book. But Dead Men left a lot of storylines waving in the air and corralling them into a coherent book presented challenges, as well as learning where to introduce new characters that would heighten the challenges faced by John Smith and Hoodoo Girl.
TGR: Will there be a book 3?
There will indeed, in fact, I already know the very last scene in the book…if I have the guts to write it. We’ve spent a lot of time in the south, dealing with southern traditions of hoodoo and voodoo and the like. Book 3 will take us into the cold north where good old New England witchcraft will assert itself. Characters who have been enemies will become allies and some who were allies will become enemies. Book three is for “all the marbles” as the saying goes, and promises a rough ride.
TGR: Can Night Roads be read as a standalone novel?
I try to write everything to be read as a stand-alone story, though clearly this book has frequent references back to events in Dead Men. I introduce new and powerful characters early in on Night Roads, which drive the story, and help it stand on its own. That being said, there is a clear progression of events in the books, with the story getting larger and darker in each iteration. I think of them loosely as Book 1, before “things fall apart.” Book 2 is where the world as we know it begins to crumble, very similar to the state of things in the original Mad Max film (albeit for different reasons). Book 3 is akin to the Road Warrior in that the new, awful reality has taken hold and our characters must struggle to survive in this horrifying world. But it’s not about gasoline and digs into the underbelly of America instead of Australia.
TGR: John, let’s say Hollywood comes a knocking’ and Dead Men and Night Roads will become movies! Who stars in it, who directs it and why?
A few years back I would have wanted Chloe Moretz for Hoodoo Girl, but she’s older than the character now so Kiernan Shipka from The Blackcoat’s Daughter or Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones would be perfect. I think it will be hard to cast John Smith due to his physicality, so we’d need to find actor with enough internal intensity to carry it. Jon Bernthal from The Walking Dead might be a good choice. Josh Brolin could do it. Mike Colter from Luke Cage would also be an interesting; he comes off as such a nice person that I’d like to see him do something darker. Christopher Eccleston would make a great Alice. Rachel McAdams for Spike and Matthew McConnaughey for the Priest.
My dream director would be David Fincher.
TGR: What other works in progress do you have going at present and what will we see from John Foster in 2018?
Let’s see, there are a bunch of short stories that should come out in 2018 in various magazines and anthologies. I’ll do another short short for the What Are You Afraid Of? Yule episode, which Linda Jones (a professional voice actor) will read on air. My novel The Isle will be published by Grey Matter Press in Spring 2018 and the concluding novel in the Libros de Inferno trilogy will come out…you know what? I’m going to let Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing make that announcement. I’m knee deep in a horror novel with the working title of Pagan at the moment and there’s a crime novel…but I don’t want to jinx it.
TGR: What have you read in 2017 that has really impressed you?
Peter Straub’s Mystery and Charles L. Grant’s The Soft Whisper of the Dead – which will surprise no one who has already read them as both men are masterful writers. I also discovered (late to the party) the brilliant novel Eutopia from David Nickle and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I already have the next book he’s written but I’ve been sitting on it because I don’t want to devour it too quickly. Experimental Film by Gemma Files knocked my socks off. I loved her deep dive into the intricacies of the Canadian film world and how she wove the supernatural into it.
TGR: John, what will it say on your tombstone when you pass?
TGR: John, I’m thoroughly looking forward to this book. Thanks, as always for stopping by. Where can folk find you on the interweb?
People can find me at www.johnfosterfiction.com. Thank you!
Dig on some John C. Foster here at Amazon