With the recent announcement of Macs’ “IPad” there has been a lot of people wondering what this could mean for the future of literature in its pen and paper form, as the lament of the “E-Reader” seems to no longer be sequestered to just your local book store or Amazon. Recently I had the fortune of sitting down with the author of one of the champions of the e-book format, “JASON DARK” scribe Guido Henkel. Bloody-Disgusting talked exclusively with the author extensively about his new series, and about his thoughts on the so called “e-reader revolution”.
GH: Traditionally my background lies in computer and video games. I’ve been a designer, programmer, artists, composer and producer in the game industry for over 25 years and have been working mostly in the realm of role-playing games. I was working on a series of computer adaptations of “Das Schwarze Auge,” a famous German pen & paper role-playing game that were released here in the US as the “Realms of Arkania” series. I was also the project director/producer of “Planescape: Torment,” a game based in the AD&D universe, and a good number of other games. Part of what I did in all those years as write and design these games, so I’ve been a creative writer all my life, but for many years I’ve been wanting to write actual non-interactive fiction.
In addition to my work in the games industry, for the past 13 years I have also operated a website called “DVD Review” for which I have been writing hundreds and hundreds of DVD reviews.
So, as you can see, writing has been an important part of my life for a very long time. It is a passion of mine.
TD: So is “JASON DARK” your first foray into writing horror stories then?
GH: Yes, it is, although some of my previous work in the computer games field incorporated horror elements, “Jason Dark” was the first time I tried my hand at real, non-amalgamated gothic horror. It was something I had hoped I’d be able to do for many years, as this kind of atmospheric horror has always been a passion of mine.
TD: So how long has “JASON DARK” been in development? How did the title start out?
GH: I started writing “Demon’s Night” about 2 years ago. It took quite a while, actually, because I spent an inordinate amount of time with research. To me it was important to include a lot of elements in the story that are true. Real locations, real events from the time period, real people as well as literary references that may fit in. All that took almost four weeks to research. It is much easier now because I now have all those links and bookmarks that quickly take me to this kind of reference information, but back then, I was starting from scratch, of course.
Once “Demon’s Night” was finished I immediately jumped into “Theater of Vampires” and kept going that way. I kept going on ever since, and eventually began preparing for the launch. In practical terms, this meant, revising the existing stories over and over and over again, getting to work with an editor, getting cover artwork in place and building the website, which turned out to be a lot more time-consuming than I had anticipated.
So, all in all, it was a two year process to get where we are now with the series.
TD: That’s quite the process. You’ve got to be excited to finally be out there promoting and watching the story finally getting itself out there to the readers. So what can you tell us about the story of “JASON DARK”?
GH: Yes, it is very satisfying to see it finally all come to fruition and I am eagerly anticipating reader feedback, of course. It feels good to actually be able to refer people to the actual stories as opposed to telling them “I am working on some horror stories that will eventually be released.”
As a series, “Jason Dark: Ghost Hunter” takes place in Victorian England, where the gaslit streets and the fog offer plenty of hiding places for the evils that visit our world. The idea for me is to capture the feel of the classic gothic horror where atmosphere was every bit as important as the monsters themselves. I am a huge fan of the classic Universal monster movies, as well as the Hammer horror films. They had style and a sense of foreboding that is often lost in modern horror, and one that I try to recapture in my stories.
At the same time, the stories spice up the classic stereotypes a little in order to keep the interesting and fresh. Not only may some cliches no longer hold true in the world of Jason Dark but hopefully it will instill new ideas and trends on the subject matter.
As I mentioned before, research was a big part of my preparatory work for the series because I wanted to make sure they stories work on many levels so that different readers can find different meanings in them. Historic references as well as literary ones are included throughout the stories making it possible for readers to associate with all those that they are familiar with. If they are interested in digging deeper they can go to our website and talk to other fans to see which references they have been able to catch. This way I also wanted to give readers the chance to read and re-read the adventures, simply to discover all the references within.
Aside from that, the stories themselves are of importance, of course, and I am trying to create a varied blend of the obvious and, hopefully, interesting new ideas. Of course there are stories about vampires, as in the case of “Theater of Vampires”, but also many other monstrosities and conflicts will be explored in the upcoming adventures. The next one, for example, is “Ghosts Templar,” in which a group of undead Templar knights wreak havoc on a small seaside town. I found the subject of the Templar Knights and their betrayal by the Church so fascinating that I knew I had to create a story about it. And the list goes on from there.
TD: So there are more stories already set aside in your head besides the 2 that will soon be available? Is this going to be a long sweeping story down the line, or is each story going to stand on its own?
GH: I have completed six volumes so far and am currently writing the seventh one. Volume 3, “Ghosts Templar” will be available in about 2 weeks and from there I will try to go to a regular release schedule, bringing out a new volume every month.
It is not really a long sweeping storyline but rather a series of adventures in chronological order. Each story stands on its own and can easily be read out of sequence. While there may be references to previous adventures it will be more for informal purposes than as vital story elements. I’ve chosen that format deliberately because I do not want to force people to have to go back and read everything that lead up to a certain adventure. It would be a big turn-off, I am sure. Instead I want people to just randomly pick up a volume, read it and enjoy it at any time.
Undoubtedly there will be multi-volume adventures down the line. I have story ideas that will require more than the 64 pages the dime novel format allows for, in which case two or maybe even three subsequent volumes will make up a whole adventure. I have not gotten to that yet, however.
For the past 2 years I have continuously been jotting down ideas for stories and I currently have about 50 ideas that I could turn into stories. Interestingly enough, almost every time it is time to start a new one, I have yet another cool idea that excites me so much that I write that one instead of picking one from my “vault.”
TD: Sounds awesome. So it’s going to be very much like the “JAMES BOND” or “SHERLOCK HOLMES” type series where we can just pick up a book and go? But it’s an “e-series”. Why the ‘e’ format?
GH: Yes, it is very much comparable to the Sherlock Holmes stories to that end. in fact the similarities go further, because at their heart, the “Jason Dark” adventures are essentially mysteries with Dark and his friends being the sleuths. The main difference is, of course, that in “Jason Dark” the villains and events are supernatural, whereas in Sherlock Holmes they always used to be human.
This interesting parallel is actually explored in the stories. If you pick up “Theater of Vampires,” for example you will find a scene that drives this home very dearly.
The word “e-series” is really just that, a word we made up to kind of point out that the stories are available in eBook form. In reality, it is a “series” however, as the adventures are available in print form as well as dime novel style booklets. For the time being they are available exclusively through our website, but we are working on additional distribution, hoping to get them into specialty stores as well.
TD: That sounds very cool. I personally see a very bright future for the ‘e format’ in literature. Things like the ‘Kindall E-Reader’ and now with Mac releasing the ‘IPad’ I see there being a huge boom for the format within the culture.
GH: Yes, hopefully the newly announced iPad will help to further increase interest in e-books. Already there are free Kindle readers available for the iPhone, iPod Touch and the PC, giving readers access to their Kindle books, which is very cool. For someone like me that is ideal because now I can truly read wherever I go. At home I read on my Kindle device, on the street I can continue reading the same book on my iPhone. Eventually, I think books will take the same from as music has, in that CDs have been practically replaced by digital MP3 downloads.
TD: So speaking of villains, what forces can readers expect to be facing off against your hero? Tell us a little bit about the characters surrounding Jason.
GH: Without hopefully giving away too much among the villains are lesser demon, as well as a Greater Demon, who is a recurring character. Also among the villains is a vampire queen and her king, as well as the Ghosts Templar I mentioned earlier. Also look for encounters with undead mariners who are under a dreadful curse, and a truly wickedly devious doctor by the name of “Dr. Prometheus” who has made a pact with the devil.
In terms of Jason Dark’s friends, there is Siu Lin, a young Chinese woman he rescues from the claws of a demon in “Demon’s Night.” Since the demon also killed her parents, Dark takes her in and they become practically a team. Then, there is Dark’s friend Herbert, who is kind of a radical freethinking scientist who goes beyond what is normally taught at the Royal Academy. More characters will be unveiled as the stories go on.
TD: The more I here about the series the more dynamic it sounds. I like the fact that it’s not affraid to cross borders into other fictional works. So now that you are on the cusp of getting your name out into the market, what type of advice would you give would be writers who are trying to get into the business?
GH: I like to think that it is an interesting world that I am playing with where history – real and literary – comes together to add color to the mix. Evidently, there are limits as to how far I want to go in terms of referencing other people’s works but you’d be surprised sometimes how just a little bit of salt can spice up the entire story. My hope is that these references will also spawn all sorts of fan conversations on the Jason Dark message boards as people share all the cool references they have discovered and how they compare to other people’s experiences.
When it comes to advice for other writers, I am quite honestly not sure if I am in any real position to give any. After all, this is my first foray into the world of novelization and I have yet to prove that I am a capable writer after all. The verdict on that is still out.
However, what I have found is that one of the most important things is to get your story written. Too many times I have heard people talk about how they want to write, how they begin and then get stuck and all sorts of other stories. The only real advice I have at this point is this: Just write the darn thing! It doesn’t matter if the writing is good or bad at that point. It is easy – and a lot of fun – to go back and massage it, fix it, rewrite it, tweak and tune it after than until it is a polished gemstone, but ultimately you have to get that first draft written first in order to have something to work with. Once it’s out of your system and in a word processor, a story very quickly begins to take on a life of its own and will speak to you, tell you where it needs work, if you let it, and grow into something that gets better every time you revise and edit it.
TD: Indeed. The next great story could is out there right now, but its stuck inside someone’s mind when it needs to be out there on the page. In closing, is there anything you would like to say to the readers?
GH: I hope that people will give “Jason Dark” a look. It may seem a little out of the way, not having the full-fledged publisher distribution, but I think it is well worth it. If you like it, please, make sure to tell your friends about it. Post in your Facebook, your mySpace or on Twitter.
I’m also always interested in hearing what people think of the series. Come on over to our message boards and discuss your impressions, share with us what you liked and maybe what you didn’t like. Maybe you have cool story ideas yourself, so let’s hear them. Maybe you could even become a writer on the series, who knows?
We would like to thank Guido once again for taking the time to speak with us. For anyone who hasn’t done so yet head over to http://jasondarkseries.com and read the first two books in Guido’s awesome “JASON DARK” series now, and keep it locked here for the newest and up to date info on all things “JASON DARK”!