Everything you wanted to know about HORNS and weren’t, apparently, afraid to ask:
When is the book out?
February 16th (not the 9th, as has frequently been reported, including by yours truly).
What’s HORNS about?
HORNS is about a decent enough young man named Ignatius Perrish, a guy who has always tried to do the right thing, only to see his whole life abruptly torn away from him. His girlfriend, the person he loves more than anyone in the world, is killed, and although he’s never charged with the murder, everyone, including his family and friends, believe Ig is responsible. Then one night Ig goes out drunk to rage and curse God, and when he wakes, he discovers he’s grown a pair of horns, and that people have a sudden compulsion to confess their darkest secrets and ugliest impulses to him. It isn’t long before Ig turns his terrible new powers to finding the man who killed his beloved, and taking his revenge.
The way you fuse the believable and unbelievable is my favorite aspect of your work, so is it a tradition set to continue with Horns, given another outlandish premise?
I think the best way to approach fantasy is to ground it in the fine details of everyday life. If I want to describe a devil sitting on a rock in the sun, I’ll probably start with the buzz of the locusts in the trees, and the smell of hot slate and dry summer grass, before I get around to the horns and the pitchfork.
Will HORNS be available on the Kindle and as an eBook?
The same day the hardcover comes out?
You aren’t coming to The South/The Midwest/Canada on your book tour? Why do you hate my part of the world?
I’m only on the road for about a week in February, and a couple weeks in March, and so there’s a real cap on how much territory I can cover; and because I’m a New England author, I always tend to start and finish in my proverbial backyard. That said, there probably will be a Canada swing before I’m finished traveling for HORNS and I’ll be in Texas in 2011 as a Guest of Honor for the World Horror Convention. With a little luck, it won’t be three years between HORNS and the next book, so a visit to both the South and the Midwest are likely in the near future.
You were working on a novel called The Surrealist’s Glass. What happened to that?
The Surrealist’s Glass and HORNS are very different novels (the biggest difference being that HORNS is good, and The Surrealist’s Glass wasn’t). Yet they had similar underlying concepts. In The Surrealist’s Glass, my hero wound up in possession of an unlikely lens; when he looked through it, he could see people’s secrets. In this way, they served a similar function to Ig’s horns. And several scenes in HORNS appeared in a cruder earlier form in Glass.
So The Surrealist’s Glass will never be published?
In one sense, no. In another sense, Glass was a confused, corrupt, first draft of HORNS; the best elements of Glass made it into print after all.
I’d add that years and years ago I wrote an epic fantasy novel called THE FEAR TREE… and that also involved someone with a power to divine people’s most closely guarded secrets. I’ve been playing with the concept for a decade, but only finally got it right with HORNS. And if that sounds strange, all I can say is I think it’s pretty typical; writers tend to revisit the same themes, tropes, places, and concerns, again and again, until they figure out how to use them in a satisfying way. So, for example, many of the ideas in Locke & Key existed first in a pair of unpublished novels: The Briars and The Evil Kites of Dr. Lourdes (yes – that was the actual name). It just took a while for all the elements to gel.
How much of your writing gets left on the cutting room floor?
I don’t know. I don’t want to think about it, I’ll get depressed. I probably write twenty pages for every one that gets published. Seriously. I spill a lot of ink and have laid waste to acres of trees.
I will say that at this point, my first draft scripts for Locke & Key aren’t usually all that different from the final draft scripts. But I’ve been writing about those characters for a while now, so it’s easy to fall into the right rhythms.
How many drafts did Horns take?
Not counting Surrealist’s Glass? The usual: 5. Three big rewrites, two little ones.
The signed traycased edition of Horns through PS Publishing offers “a little extra something” from you, Joe. Any hints?
PS Publishing will be including a chapter from The Surrealist’s Glass, and a chapter from an earlier draft of HORNS, featuring a character who was dropped from the book. There will also be a brief introduction to the bonus materials, titled “Fucking Up.”
Did you have any concerns about having a “sophomore slump”?
Yes. That’s what “Fucking Up” is about, and is really the reason why it took so long to get something new done.
No special website for Horns?
No, but there’ll be some fun online doodads to promote the book. Stay tuned.
Is there another novel floating around that you have nearly completed?
Yes, but I don’t talk about works-in-progress; the one time I broke that rule was The Surrealist’s Glass. Which I think says it all right there.
What influences molded your version of the devil? Movies? Stories? The Bible? And how does yours differ?
Actually, I was probably less influenced by historical depictions of the devil, and more by a famous fictional depiction of a man who wakes up one morning as a cockroach. I’ve done a lot of thinking about “The Metamorphosis” over the last few years; it was an influence on HORNS, and also on an earlier story, “You Will Hear The Locust Sing.”
Curiously, my thinking about the devil was also colored by a couple of Michael Chabon essays, to be found in Maps and Legends.
Any connections between Horns and Heart-Shaped Box?
At one point in the book, someone is listening to Jude’s Hammer on a boombox. That’s about it for explicit connections. Thematically, however, the books share many of the same concerns: the redemptive power of music, the way the present is always under the sway of the past, the secrets loved ones keep from one another.
Is it important to you to continue supporting small independent publishers such as PS? And how cool on a scale of 1-10 are Vinny Chong’s illustrations for their edition of Horns?
I care about the small presses because they’re operated by guys who routinely risk losing their shirts to publish certain books, not because they think they’ll make money off them, but because they love them and want everyone to read them. Also, I wouldn’t have a career without them: that simple.
That said, y’know, I think my big publishers are the shnizit as well. A guy couldn’t want for better editors than Jen Brehl and Jo Fletcher, or ask for more support than I’ve received from William Morrow and Orion. I’ve been lucky, throughout my career, to always find myself working with people I respect and like.
You can’t rate Vincent Chong’s work on a scale of 1 – 10. People have tried, but the needle hit 10 so hard it broke the gauge.
What else do you have coming out in 2010?
A whole bunch, I’m happy to say. There should be 9 – 10 issues of Locke & Key before the year is done – the rest of Crown of Shadows, and all of the new arc. I have a short story in Christopher Golden’s upcoming zombie anthology, The New Dead; my entry is titled “Twittering from the Circus of the Dead.” I’ve also got a story called “The Devil on the Staircase” in Neil Gaiman & Al Sarrantonio’s anthology, Stories. “The Devil” was actually written before HORNS, and was the story that broke me out of my extended slump, so I have luvvy feelings for it. It takes a very different view of the red man with the pitchfork, however. Finally, I’ve got the back page essay in the fourth issue of Criminal: The Sinners – but you don’t want to start with issue 4, so you better go out and buy up all the back issues while you can.
I have a few other projects going at the moment, but that’s all I can talk about for now.
Thanks for the great questions, and here’s hoping you have some fun with HORNS.