Not long ago, I read a fantastically dark and wildly original novel titled Dead Men, the first in a trilogy titled Libros de Inferno (PMMP). The author of Dead Men is John C. Foster and since that novel, he’s had another release, Mr. White (Grey Matter Press), and it’s seen a goodly sum of positive reaction.
“The book has reached outside of the traditional horror audience, which is what I'd hoped for. This is the first novel published by Grey Matter Press and has consistently ranked among their best sellers - a real thrill as their anthologies attract top notch writers.
“Mister White has a long, strange history that began years ago when I lived in Los Angeles and pitched an idea to a prominent film production company. After months of development, all vestiges of what made the idea unique had been squashed, but I never lost sight of the core question, ‘Who watches the watcher?” And…’ what if the CIA has a top secret, terrible means of dealing with rogue operators?” Years later I approached those questions again from a different, supernatural angle, curious to see if I could write a piece that combined the excitement of a spy story with the skin crawling terror of a horror story…the resulting tale, ‘Mister White,’ was published by Grey Matter Press in their anthology Dark Visions Volume Two. I realized after the short that there was more to tell about the hideous Herr Weiss and the novel came to life. Needless to say, I was thrilled when Grey Matter agreed to publish my novel Mister White,” said Foster.
John C. Foster is busy in writing and the short periods between works suggests a work ethic matched in size by only his imagination. There are numerous works on the burner as well as the writer community friends and responsibilities that come along with them.
“I get up at oh-dark-hundred when my shepherd-pit Coraline launches her assault and typically begin writing about two hours later. I’ve discovered that unlike my former life in public relations, I need a couple of hours of consciousness before my mind has spun up enough to write fiction. I divide my work day into roughly three sessions, the last of which is often dedicated to cleaning up what I wrote earlier in the day or attending to writing related work like correspondence, interviews, critiquing another writer’s work and the like.
“Just as I seek out other writers to read early drafts of my stories, writers in my circle of friends will ask me to do the same and provide notes on their work. I'm also part of a writing group, Who Wants Cake, and we take turns submitting WIP's and offering critiques. This is a great experience, everyone is capable and published and brings a different point of view to the process. After the working part of the evening we retire for Mexican food and ongoing debates of incredible importance...which Star Trek is the best Star Trek? Do the new Star Wars movies hold up? Which kaiju flick is the best kaiju flick? Like I said, vital stuff,” said Foster.
As it is for most authors, the egg came before the chicken, err, I mean the reader before the writer.
“It’s the natural outgrowth of being an avid reader, starting around the 5th Grade. I was a terrible student and never did homework, but what I did instead, sometimes during class, was read books of my own choosing. I was the nerd who carried a paper back in his back pocket. A couple times in high school I dallied with writing my own fiction, though much of that particular creative energy went towards creating elaborate Dungeons & Dragons campaigns, most of which would never be played. I dropped out of college (remember, bad student) in my freshman year and soon after drove to Los Angeles to become a screenwriter, despite never having read a screenplay or seen the city. It was in Hollywood’s gentle embrace that I first began to pursue the craft of writing,” said Foster.
For Foster, experiences, locations and other authors aid his writing. It’s the norm of course, but it’s never not interesting to climb inside the brain and peek at influence.
“Stephen King and Roger Zelazny are the most profound influences on my writing, though I frequently nod in the direction of Chandler and Hammett in my work. Edgar Rice Burroughs provided my earliest definition of heroism and while I can’t imagine ever writing such an unabashedly brave character, it’s something that never strays far from my thinking.
“The novel I just completed, Rooster, I wrote very much as a love song to New York, my favourite city in the world. That story also takes place in a couple New England states and I drew heavily on my experiences in New Hampshire and Massachusetts to bring those locations alive. I don’t think this is quite what you meant by the question, but I can say that I draw a tremendous amount of energy from New York City itself and if I feel confidence flagging a walk through town or ride on the subway provides powerful stimulation.
“I’m fortunate to have traveled a fair amount and I move through life like a baleen whale, scooping up details instead of plankton, so I have a deep mental file cabinet of textures to draw on for setting. If I’ve never been to a place I’m writing about, say, the Viennese cemetery in Mister White, then I’ll research the location, looking for those textural hooks that will help me bring it to life. As much as I strive for verisimilitude, however, I won’t let reality get in the way of my story. If I need to make some changes, as I did to the Berlin Night Express in Mister White, then I’ll do it. The Berlin Night Express is a real train but has very little resemblance to the old world elegance of the train in my story. (Considering what happens on my version of the train, maybe that’s for the best),” said Foster,
Most pull from a wealth of wells, but often return to a time in their lives to exhume as must inspiration as possible.
“I suspect I have to choose my twenties because of the tumult and aggression with which I assailed them. Of course I was divorced in my early 30’s and re-entering the dating scene is a rich vein to mine for material, often comedic. But the fear that I dig up in my writing I can trace back to being a little boy afraid of the dark with an imagination big enough to kick his diminutive ass every night when the lights went out,” said Foster.
Future releases pack John C. Foster’s coming year(s) ranging from only just completed to date tentatively set with an impressive number of works.
“I’m working on a horror novel that has been banging around in my head for several years, Pagan. I don’t want to say much about it save that it brings an old and terrifying legend to life in the modern day, with gruesome results.
“I’m hoping to announce some news about my novel The Isle fairly soon. It’s a macabre murder mystery set on a remote island, straddling the line between dark thriller and outright horror. Before that, of course, is Baby Powder and Other Terrifying Substances and Night Roads, already in the pipeline.
“The second book in the trilogy, Night Roads, is written and waiting at the publisher, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing for a late 2017 release. For a variety of reasons we decided to delay publishing that book in favor of my first collection of short stories, Baby Powder and Other Terrifying Substances, which is slated for a January 2017 release.
Inspired by a certain movie, something that Mr. Foster caught onto right away, I asked over a completion ritual.
“Upon finishing a novel I smoke a cigarette, drive into a blizzard and wind up kidnapped...wait, that's not me. As I approach the end of a novel, I tend to double and even triple my normal daily output, so I'm quite spent by the time I hit THE END. Either that night or the next Linda and I go out to eat at Pete's Tavern on Irving Place (named after Washington Irving) and consume endless quantities of Italian food and cheap chianti. In addition to being my favorite red sauce joint in the city, Pete's Tavern has the distinction of being very old. Reputation has it that back in his day, O. Henry used to sit in their booths to write,” said Foster.
Again, Mr. White is John C. Foster’s latest and people are really digging it.
“Several people have asked if there will ever be more of Mister White and what I can tell them is (INFORMATION REDACTED BY ORDER OF THE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY).”
I would like to thank John C. Foster for his time. He was reached via email.
John C. Foster was born in Sleepy Hollow, New York and has been afraid of the dark for as long as he can remember. A writer of thrillers and dark fiction, Foster spent many years in the ersatz glow of Los Angeles before relocating to the relative sanity of New York City where he lives with the actress Linda Jones and their dog, Coraline. Foster’s short story “Mister White” first appeared in the Grey Matter Press anthology Dark Visions: A Collection of Modern Horror – Volume Two before inspiring the novelized version of this thrilling supernatural adventure of the same name. His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies and Grey Matter Press releases. Foster released his first novel, Dead Men, in 2015. Mister White is his second adventure into long fiction suspense. For more information, visit JohnFosterFiction.com or GreyMatterPress.com.