Horror Writers Association Blog

Interview with Horror University instructor Jonathan Maberry


Here is our fourth interview with one of StokerCon 2017 Horror University instructors. This time it’s bestselling author Jonathan Maberry!

Jonathan Maberry: Act Like a Writer  

The writer is the brand. The writer is the face and voice of his/her business. Successful writers know how to create a brand that both sells their product but also protects their privacy. Act Like A Writer is one of NY Times bestseller Jonathan Maberry’s most successful programs. It teaches writers –however reclusive or introverted they might be– how to create the public version of themselves so that their careers have a winning and manageable face. This program includes business etiquette, branding, public appearances, readings, how to be a good panelist, giving interviews and more.

Jonathan Maberry is a New York Times bestselling author, 5-time Bram Stoker Award-winner, and comic book writer. He writes in multiple genres including suspense, thriller, horror, science fiction, fantasy, and action, for adults, teens and middle grade. His works include the Joe Ledger Thrillers, X-Files Origins: Devil’s Advocate, Mars One and many others. Several of his works are in development for film and TV. He is the editor of high-profile anthologies including The X-Files, V-Wars, Scary Out There, Out of Tune, Baker Street Irregulars, Nights of the Living Dead, and others. He lives in Del Mar, California. Find him online at www.jonathanmaberry.com

STOKERCON: Tell us something about your Horror University workshop that is not in the original description.

JONATHAN MABERRY: I’ll be teaching the “Act Like a Writer” workshop, which coaches writers in how to be the ‘public’ versions of themselves. That matters because of things like social anxiety, inexperience, uncertain expectations, tough crowds, etc. The program has made some real changes in the lives of folks who have taken it. The first time we ran the class there was a woman there who was being treated for social anxiety disorder, and now she’s doing panels and signings and is very active in the public aspects of her new life as a writer. And the folks who have taken the program do significantly better in face-to-face pitches with agents.

STOKERCON: What skills or achievements make you ideally suited to lead this workshop?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I co-created the program with writer-director-playwright Keith Strunk. However, I began working on the concept years ago because I used to be painfully shy. I got involved in theater to try and get past my social awkwardness, and later got into high school debate. Then I taught martial arts and self-defense for decades, and that helped me refine the process of crafting a fun, assertive and yet engaging public persona. I think it’s fair to say that I’ve left my shyness far behind, and I love doing public appearances, talks, panels, lectures, etc. So, a lot of what is taught in this class comes from my process of overcoming my own limitations.

STOKERCON: Why do you feel that your workshop subject is especially important?

JONATHAN MABERRY: The writing life should be fun. But we writers are often a moody, isolated lot. We spend so much time in our own heads, conjuring our own people and worlds, that there is an occasional disconnect with the real world. In this modern digital age of social media, the writer –more than ever before—is the face of their own career. We are the brand and whatever we write is a by-product of that brand. It has become our responsibility to build our fan-base, interact with that community in a meaningful and genuine way, while balancing promotion with social interaction. The Act Like a Writer program helps make process much, much easier and a lot more fun.

STOKERCON: If you could participate in one other Horror University workshop, which one would you choose and why?

JONATHAN MABERRY: Yeah, Rebekeh McKendry is doing a talk on urban legends at the same time as my workshop and if I could clone myself I’d be there, too.

STOKERCON: Do you approach the craft of writing horror differently from other genres?

JONATHAN MABERRY: Each form of writing has its own entry points. When I’m writing thrillers, for example, I usually start with the big concept and the bits of weird science that will form the framework for my story. With a mystery I start with the reveal and work backward. But with horror it always begins with a character and his/her reaction to something that disturbs the natural order of their world or their perceptions. Horror is always a personal thing for me. I wrote my first horror stories –the Pine Deep Trilogy (Ghost Road Blues, Dead Man’s Song and Bad Moon Rising) in order to explore whether I would enjoy writing fiction, having never tried it before even though I’ve been writing professionally since 1978; and also to explore those things that disturb me. I had a troubled childhood, so some of that is in there. And I wonder what might have happened if I’d made other choices –good or bad—in life. Horror fiction allows me to explore those ‘what if’ scenarios. So, it’s all about the experience of real people that turns an idea into a horror story.

STOKERCON: Apart from teaching your workshop, what are you most looking forward to at StokerCon?

JONATHAN MABERRY: StokerCon is home to me. My first real book event was the Stoker Awards Banquet I went to in 2007, when my first novel won the Stoker for ‘Best first’. I got to meet so many of the people whose books and stories I’d been reading, and I made friends that have become deeply important to me. Every year at StokerCon I deepen those friendships and make new friends. The horror crowd is the most receptive and supportive of any professional group to which I belong. They were my first ‘professional’ family and I’m always excited to seem them again.

STOKERCON: What do you most hope that those attending your workshop take away from it?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I’d like people to discover that they don’t have to fear or dislike meeting the public and being the ‘face’ of their career. They can have fun with it, and as a result the skills in the workshop can significantly help them with their careers.


StokerCon will happen from April 27th to April 30th aboard the historic Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. To purchase tickets or get more information, please click here.

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