To those who are celebrating Easter, I hope you have a peaceful and joyous day!
The weather’s been great this week, providing plenty of warm weather and sunshine. Perfect time to tackle the backyard, which was left to its own resources by the previous owner. Suffice to say, it became overgrown and well on the way in taking over what was a superb collection of trees, shrubs, and flowers. A bit of hard work (well perhaps a lot) and it’ll be back in shape.
This week I’d like to introduce you to a new author, Jonathan Pongratz. His first publication is a novella called Reaper. Jonathan is a writer of captivating horror, urban fantasy, and paranormal stories. When he’s not writing, he’s busy being a bookworm, video game junkie, and karaoke vocalist. A former resident of Dallas, he currently resides in Kansas City with his Halloween cat Ajax. By day he works magic in finance, by night he creates dark and mesmerizing worlds
Reaper is the story of a thirteen-year-old boy named Gregory. It’s Halloween night, and if he proves himself a worthy babysitter of his little sister Imogen, he’ll have the allowance he’s always dreamed of.
But soon he grows aggravated by his bratty little sister when she plays an involuntary game of hide and seek, interfering with his job of passing out candy. His search for his sister leads him to the basement, where strange things start happening. When an otherworldly creature appears and takes his sister away, Gregory’s life is shattered.
Everyone in town blames him for her disappearance, and he scrambles to put together the missing pieces of how this happened to find his sister and get vengeance on the monster that did this. Along the way, Gregory’s terrifying journey teaches him how to be be courageous, brave, and most of all, to fight the powers that be despite the obstacles.
How did you come up with the title for this book? Well, at first I had something more generic, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted the title to revolve closer to the theme of the book and the evil present. Hence the name Reaper.
What inspired you to write this book? Is it part of a series? I’ve always been a huge fan of anything horror, thriller, or suspense. I began writing this story after binge watching some scary Halloween movies last September, and it just kind of happened. I had originally planned this novella to be a standalone, but about a week after I finished my final edits, I woke up one morning and the sequel just kind of popped into my head. I’m very excited to say that there will be a sequel to this book and I am hoping to release it sometime this year if possible.
How much of your book is based on your own experience or those of someone you know? Since I typically write horror or urban fantasy, much of what I write is not based on my own experiences (gosh, I hope my life’s not a horror novel!). However, from time to time I do find some of my characters strongly emulating people I know personally. In Reaper, I didn’t notice that one of the supporting characters was very similar to a good friend of mine. It was when I started plotting the sequel that I had to do a double take.
When and why did you begin writing? Honestly, I’ve been writing pretty much my entire life, starting in elementary school. I always had these strange concepts and ideas that came to me quite easily, and I enjoyed writing them. I write mainly because I’ve always felt a drive to do so.
When did you first consider yourself a writer? I first considered myself a writer when I moved back to my hometown of Kansas City in 2012. I moved to finish my education, and soon after that, I started getting all of these stories and ideas in my head after a few years of not writing. So I started writing them down, and for the first time, I was serious about writing and seeing my ideas through to the very end. I’ve never looked back.
What is the hardest lesson you had to learn as a writer? The hardest lesson for me was the realization that not everyone is going to like your work. Everyone has an opinion, and it can be tough when someone doesn’t understand your concept or writing style. But looking at it from a bird’s eye view, it makes sense. Not everyone likes bigtime authors like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, or Anne Rice. They get bad reviews all the time, so it only makes sense that at some point, everyone will receive a bad review of some sort. I’ve taken a lot of time to build a tough skin over the years, but sometimes you just have to step away and forget the bad reviews you get. It takes time to build a following, but the right peopleare out there. I just focus on the positive and keep writing.
What are some of the challenges you face as a writer? Oh, that one’s easy. Marketing. I think that most writers don’t really think of this when they decide to become an author. Selling a book is tough outside of your friends and family, and I’m still trying to sift through all the possibilities to be honest. I’m pretty savvy with social media, but don’t consider myself a salesman in any way, shape, or form.
Not including your family, who supported your efforts to become a published author? I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my wonderful Scribophile tribe, as well as my alpha and beta readers. Its great to have a trustworthy group of people that can be bluntly honest, and I can always count on them for an honest opinion. Also, my friends far and wide for encouraging me to keep aiming for the sky over the years. I couldn’t have done any of this without them.
Who was your first publisher and what did you learn from them? Actually, I am my own first publisher. I had originally submitted some of my work to a publisher, but the experience left me feeling disappointed, so I decided to publish my own book. In a way, I wanted to prove to myself that I didn’t need a publisher, that I could do this on my own. There’s definitely a lot more involved with self-publishing than the traditional route, but the experience has been invaluable. It’s not for everyone, but I have learned so much from this journey and am proud of myself for choosing this path.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Write as often as you can. Set up a daily or weekly routine and don’t stray from it. Set attainable goals, and work hard to achieve them. When I first started writing, I was all over the place, but setting a routine helped me not only balance my life, but to achieve something I never thought I would be able to. Writing and finishing a book takes a lot of time and effort, but if you are serious about it and discipline yourself, it will happen. It takes a lot of self-faith and persistence, but you can do it.
Who are your favorite writers? Oh, that one’s a toughie. My favorites from the past year would have to be Emerald Dodge, M.D. Neu, and Gillian Flynn. Emerald’s superhero novels are action-packed, gritty, and unforgettable. Her complex characters convey what real humanity is all about, superhero or no. M.D. Neu’s science fiction novels have rekindled my love for the sci-fi genre in book form. I love the way he writes, and his worlds are always vivid and interesting. I had to include Gillian Flynn because Sharp Objects, both the tv series and the book, took my breath away. Talk about a page turner!
What are you reading now? Right now, I’m attempting (emphasis on attempting) to finish off my unread bookshelf at home. There are maybe ten books on it, all varying in genre and author. However, every month or so, I order another book. I just can’t help myself! I’m also rereading a series I read when I was in middle school called Animorphs. I got the idea when I saw that people were rereading their favorite childhood novels like Goosebumps. So far it’s been a very nostalgic rollercoaster ride back to the ’90s, and I absolutely love it!
What makes you cry? I’m probably the least-likely person to cry. However, Steel Magnolias gets me (I love Sally Field!) at the funeral scene every time. What are your favorite TV shows and movies? My tastes in books are directly reflected in my taste for TV shows and movies. I love anything fantasy, sci-fi, and supernatural, but sometimes a good laugh is needed too. Right now, I’d have to say Schitt’s Creek and Black Lightning are my favorite shows.
What kind of music touches your soul? I spent most of my school years in choir all the way through college, so I have a very eclectic and expansive taste in music. Pop, Hip Hop, Alternative, you name it, I probably love it. Though, in relation to writing, I usually listen to ambient music for inspiration. Ambient music gives me a real soundscape to work with while I write, so that’s the genre that I connect with most.
What do you want written on your headstone? Here lies Jonny. He had lots of friends and lots of cats.
Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events, and special offers? Sure! I’m on Facebook and Tumblr for my social media blogs, and I am also on Goodreads as well.
Before I close for today, I’d like to include my thoughts regarding Reaper. While not a genre I normally read, Jonathan’s writing is very smooth and he’s come up with an exciting plot. The characters are well-crafted. Gregory ends up in the middle of a puzzling nightmare. Things only get worse when he uncovers the chilling reason behind the disappearance of not only his sister, but other children–all at Halloween. Who will go missing next time?
This wraps up another week. Next time, I’ll return with more about my own work and another snippet from Carnage in Singapore. If you have any suggestions for a topic you’d like to read about, please let me know. Until the next time, thank you for reading.