These ‘about me’ sections, or even sections that inform you about blogs, have never been my forte. Much to my chagrin, I was never taught the unwritten rules of what you are supposed to say. The links at the side of the blog – Twitter and Goodreads, for example – are liable to tell you more than I could ever say in words.

Mostly, this will be a book blog. I read a lot, and I love to share my views on my most recent reads. I try to read a little bit of everything, but if you look closely you’ll notice I will occasionally become obsessed with one specific genre for a short period of time. Old books, new books, yet to be released books – I read them all. If you’re an author looking for advance readers or just wish for more reviews of a book you’ve already released, please feel free to contact me. There is a contact form at the side of my blog – if you scroll down below the Twitter and Goodreads sidebar you will find it – so drop me a message and I’ll be sure to get back to you in double time. After all, finding new authors is what makes the book world go around.

Thanks for taking your time to read this. With a little bit of luck, you will find my blog much more interesting than this mundane introductory section.

Monday, 12 June 2017

MASHED Interview with J. Donnait.

MASHED is an anthology of 17 sensually sinister stories curated from over 200 submissions from around the world.

Each story is a unique blend of horror, humor, food and sex, resulting in tales that will leave you both scared and slightly turned on, while laughing out loud and contemplating whether or not you should have your next meal.

Stories including:

“A Woman’s Corn” – By J. Donnait
“Charlie’s Chunky Munching Meat” – By Stephen McQuiggan
“Halloween Nosh” – By Brandon Ketchum
“Biscuit: A Love Story” – By Grivante
“Burnt Scrambled Eggs” – By Devon Widmer
“The Disagreeable Dinner” – By Mark Daponte
“Sugar” – By Darla Dimmelle
“The Henry Problem” – By John Grey
“Nibble, Nibble, My Wolf” By – J.L. Boekestein
“The Wrath of the Buttery Bastard-Taters” – By Alex Colvin
“Sauce” – By Steven Carr
“The Care and Feeding of your Personal Demon” – By Maxine Kollar
“P.A.C.D. : The Kitchen of Tomorrow, Today!” – By R.A. Goli
“Arabica” – By Cobalt Jade
“Toilet Manners” – By Eddie Generous
“The Stray” – By Calypso Kane
“The Tall Man in the Hat” – By Nicholas Paschall

Do you like food? Sex? Horror? Humor? Then this book is for you! Guaranteed to leave you scared, aroused and possibly a little hungry.

From the twelfth to the twenty-fourth of June, get inside the minds of twelve of the authors from the anthology. Find out what inspired the stories, what other projects the authors are involved with, and generally get to know the authors better.

Today, get to know more about J. Donnait and A Woman's Corn.

In the age-old first date manner, tell me a bit about yourself.
My name is Justin Donnait. I’m from Toronto, Canada, born and raised. I love playing hockey, and I adore taking naps. I’m obsessed with The Office (American version) and The Beatles, and I’m engaged to a beautiful, spicy Mexican girl whom I have a six-year-old daughter with. I do enjoy a hearty plate of poutine, and while I like maple syrup, I don’t put it on everything. I try my hardest not to say ‘eh’, but I’m Canadian, so it just comes out sometimes. I also apologize when I’m not at fault. I’m sorry.

Who has influenced you most as a writer?
Stephen King. I wouldn’t say I’m well-read, but I’ve read enough throughout university and afterward to get a pretty good feel for what I like and what I don’t like, and why. I appreciate Lovecraft for what he’s done for the horror genre, but I can’t devour 18th Century prose of any kind. It’s just not approachable to me. King embodies all of the things I like. He’s cynical and informal, can write meat-and-potatoes paragraphs and then effortlessly segue to something more flowery for mood/setting without coming off as an impostor. The part of literature that I’m not a fan of is when I can smell bullshit and see the fumes coming from the page. Everybody has their own style and their own way to tell a story, and trying to write a story in the ‘same vein’ as somebody else always strikes me as phony. A great author is someone who can tell a good story by being honest, both to the format of the story and to themselves. King doesn’t strike me as someone who takes himself too seriously. Nobody writes characters and people better than King. You love the heroes and hate the antagonists. A perfect example are Stu and Frannie in The Stand: after one hell of a climax in Las Vegas when Randal Flagg is destroyed, my heart literally raced faster during Stu’s trek back home to his girl. Why? Because I cared about both of them and needed to know what happened to them. And, of course, King’s stories are terrifying.

What are your favourite books and why?
If we’re talking about the book that’s both scary and makes you ask questions when you’re done, then William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. It’s such a great allegory for mental illness and what the human mind is capable of conjuring up, as well as anxiety and what that can look like physically. Or you can take it as a straight-up possession story. Mental illness or demonic possession—which one is truly worse? Father Karras is also such a tortured soul that his sacrifice at the end is heart breaking.

The Stand. So many amazing characters, such a great story. I haven’t read a book that was so big, so fast.

IT, for the same reasons as The Stand, but the pace as the story reaches the climax, that constant flip from past to present—just incredible.

I love Ray Bradbury’s horror stories, from the shorts to The Halloween Tree. I don’t know what it is about him, but his stories are just so much fun. He has a quirky way of writing that teeters between the line of adult English and silly children words. I never feel like I’m reading something for big boys like me, but I’m also not reading a kid’s story.

Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story is such a fantastic book. As a kid, I was raised on the two films, and when I read the book for the first time a few years ago, I was completely blown away. The book is almost always better than the movie, and in this case, it’s true. The world of Fantasia is enormous, and you only get a fraction of it in the movies. Imagination is so important in fiction, and the people and places that Ende conjures up are fantastic. I also really like the premise, which is so simple and profound: people in the real world aren’t reading anymore, so the make-believe worlds bound to paper are disappearing because nobody cares about them. Pretty telling for this day and age, and it highlights the importance of a) literacy; and b) imagination.

I also love reading Rock & Roll biographies, and the one I always reference in conversation with friends at the bar is Geoff Emerick’s Here, There, and Everywhere. It’s one of a trillion Beatles bios, but it’s told from the perspective of the long-time engineer, Geoff, and focuses more on the technical side of how he created elaborate sounds and pioneered modern techniques in the recording studio. It’s a really personal, neat account of his time recording the greatest band ever. So many wonderful anecdotes that don’t make their way into the more generic Ringo-was-born-in-Liverpool-in-this-year biographies.

When did you realise you wanted to be a writer?
I was in grade 12.1, doing a victory lap because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life once I graduated. It was a stall tactic before having to decide whether or not I went to university or entered a trade. I took Writer’s Craft and instantly fell in love. As a kid, I poured hours every day into my figurines and Hot Wheels, making people and places up, creating conflicts and resolutions. Writing was the same thing without the props. When the semester ended, my teacher pulled me aside and told me to pursue writing.

Fast forward through university and then four years of full-time retail work, I finally started spending half an hour each night jotting down ideas for short stories. I was so tired of working the 9-5 for a company I didn’t give a shit about that I decided that if I was ever going to go after a passion I was so afraid of chasing, I needed to do it now. 30 minutes of jotting ideas down eventually turned into 2 hours of fleshing point form out into sentences. 2 years later, and I’ve got 2 short stories published, a dozen that are finished but haven’t been submitted, and I’m currently chipping away at a novel.

I love putting people on paper and seeing what happens to them in certain situations. It’s the same, to me, as pulling out the old toy-car matt and zipping around the town with my Hot Wheels, except writing is so much more fun.

Do you have any interesting writing quirks?
I like knowing where I’m going. I rarely start a story without knowing what the end looks like, or at least have a faint understanding of it. Figuring out how I’m going to get there is the fun part.

I try and put down at least 2,500 words a day. Other than that, I can write indoor or out, with noise or without.

How did you become interested in writing this particular genre?
I’ve always loved horror. I watch every horror flick I can get my hands on. As a kid, I’d sleep over at my friend’s house and we’d get his parents to rent Friday the Thirteenth or Halloween (my parents would NEVER do that for me) and then spend the rest of the night cowering under the covers, terrified of a masked lunatic that might be lurking outside the bedroom window. The first books I read in my free time were all King, and that lead me to Cliver Barker and the gang. There are so many different ways you can scare a person, so the adventure with every story is figuring out how you’re going to do it. I love being scared. I love being creeped out. I wanted to make others feel that way, too.

I also suffer from pretty severe anxiety that has developed into hypochondria, agoraphobia, and OCD, with the three of them exchanging places or joining forces whenever they feel like it. Writing is the most therapeutic activity for me, and writing horror is just a way of giving anxiety and mental illness another face—be it a killer, a monster, a demon, or any other little imposing asshole that makes a person’s life a living hell.

What was the inspiration behind your MASHED story?
My dad was born in a small town in northern Ontario, Trout Creek, and I’ve spent a lot of summers up there. The population is about 200, and the town is nestled against the hills of Algonquin Park. The town has a lot of history and a lot of strange characters, and it’s just the perfect setting for a story in which weird things happen. A lot of story ideas that I haven’t fleshed out take place there. It’s sort of like Castle Rock in all of those King stories.

Anyways, I wanted to write about a lover’s quarrel. The first draft was about a woman who has her heart broken by a man she doesn’t know is the devil. She tries to get her revenge, but ultimately gets fed what she tried to dish out. I liked it, but it was missing something. So I made her a witch. Then I saw a listing for the anthology and thought it would be worth a shot submitting this story. I added a little more of the culinary angle, and that’s that.

The supernatural, the divine—they’re all so much fun to write about because the rules are so loose, or not there at all. Anyone can do anything, so you can really let your imagination fly.  

With over two hundred submissions, what was your reaction upon finding out your story had made the cut?
I was so happy. It was pretty surreal. It was only my fifth or sixth submission, so I didn’t expect anything. I tried to tell myself that I was new to this game, and that it would take a lot of rejections before success. Great writers like Scott Snyder and Brian K. Vaughan (of comics) have spoken about how they had drawers full of rejection letters before they finally got published. It was tough not to take the rejections personally—not against the publisher, but myself. I’d get the email, Thank you, but… and I’d think to myself, am I any good? Am I wasting my time? The last rejection before MASHED was about as kind a rejection as you could get. Lots of great feedback, and I was basically told that they wanted the story but there were just too many other stories that better fit the anthology. So when I got the email from Kevin saying that my story was accepted for MASHED, I took a screenshot and showed my fiancĂ© and beamed to my parents. Everyone was really stoked for me. It was gratifying knowing that someone liked a story that I had to tell. As a writer, that’s all you can ask for.

Each story is a mix of horror, humour, food, and sex; what kind of reaction should a reader expect to have upon finishing your story – will they be more turned on or terrified?
As a kid, I always wanted to make people laugh. I was the hellraiser and the thorn in every teacher’s side because I didn’t want to learn; I wanted to be disruptive and make the other kids chuckle. At the tender age of thirty, I haven’t changed much. I want the reader to laugh, but I also want the reader to think, huh, that was cool. This story wasn’t so much about the scare. If the reader should inadvertently become aroused by a sexy witch or a handsome devil, then hey, that’s cool, too. Ultimately, I just want the reader to be entertained and have fun.

Do you have another writing project in mind or in the making? If so, can you tell us a little about it?
I’m currently working on my first novel. I quit my job late last year and moved back in with my parents, which is so embarrassing that it sounds like the premise for a depressing comedy. I traded in my social and physical freedom for the chance to not worry about rent so that I could focus on writing full-time, to give the only passion I have more than the college try.

The novel, stripped down, is a post-apocalyptic supernatural horror. It’s centred around the Presidential election, and what would happen if a more sinister force infiltrated the winning candidate and ushered in the end of the nation. Think The Omen: III except the evil isn’t genetic and the end-days are carried out. The idea came to me way before Trump became the Republican nominee, so it’s definitely not a political commentary on anything that’s going on in the US. However, with everything that has happened since November 8, 2016, I’ve had to turn the story on its head with the surreal and the weird just so that it’s not outdone by the day-to-day happenings of reality, not just in the US, but the world. I’m not a political person by any stretch, so the focus is definitely on the survivors and the source of the evil, not the politicians or policies or any of that mumbo jumbo. We get enough of that in our real lives; I don’t want to shove it down the throat of someone who wants something different.

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