Today I am interviewing J.R.R.R. (Jim) Hardison, author of the new YA, horror/comedy novel, Demon Freaks.
◊ ◊ ◊
DJ: Hi Jim! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
J.R.R.R. (Jim) Hardison: Demon Freaks is my second novel novel (I wrote a graphic novel, The Helm, for Dark Horse Comics). My first novel novel, was the epically silly epic fantasy Fish Wielder, which was released by Fiery Seas Publishing in 2016.
I’ve worked as a writer, screen writer, animator, film editor, producer and director in comics, commercials and entertainment since graduating from film school. I started my professional career by co-writing, producing, and even acting in a low-budget direct-to-video feature, The Creature From Lake Michigan. That movie turned out to be so bad, it was actually kind of hilarious, but it also almost ruined my plans to work in film. I guess every cloud has a stupid lining though. Making a bad film can be a crash course in the essential elements of good character and story, and The Creature From Lake Michigan was such a tremendously bad film that I learned A LOT. After a brief stint recuperating as a freelance writer and film editor, I founded my own production company. After seven years of wearing myself out doing that, I shifted my focus entirely to animation and joined Will Vinton Studios. They’re the guys that did the California Raisins and most of the animated M&M’s commercials. While I was there, I directed animated commercial and entertainment projects, including some M&M’s, as well as episodic television (UPN’s Gary and Mike). While working at Vinton, I also co-wrote the television special Popeye’s Voyage: The Quest for Pappy with actor Paul Reiser (many people know him as the guy from Mad About You, but I prefer to think of him as Carter Burke from Aliens).
After that, I got very interested in story theory and co-founded a company (Character) to help the people who work on brands and entertainment properties understand how to more effectively work with story. While doing that, I appeared on NBC’s The Apprentice (although I didn’t get to meet The Donald) as an expert advisor on brand characters. I also did character development work and wrote the pilot episode for the PBS children’s television series SeeMore’s Playhouse, and I authored that previously mentioned graphic novel, The Helm (which was named one of 2010’s top ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens by YALSA, a branch of the American Library Association—just to slip in a little bragging).
These days, I live in Portland, Oregon, with my lovely wife, my two charming daughters, one smart dog and one stupid dog.
DJ: What is Demon Freaks about?
J.R.R.R.: On the eve of their SAT tests, identical twin brothers, Bing and Ron Slaughter, along with the members of their high school band, the Ephits, have to battle a cult of insane golfers who are trying to summon a demon in order to rule the world. You know, pretty typical experience everyone has been through at some point in their life. If I had to compare the book to something, it’s kind of like punk rock Hardy Boys versus monsters and demons. Oh, and it’s funny.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Demon Freaks?
J.R.R.R.: My influences go way back. When I was a kid, I used to read the Hardy Boys novels and watch a lot of Scooby Do. While I enjoyed both, I used to think they would have been better if they were mashed together into the same story. Then, as I got older, my tastes turned more to fantasy and horror. While I read and loved most of the serious stuff, I was particularly influenced by horror that had comedic overtones. For example, I looooooved Evil Dead 2, which had a huge impact on me, as well as Fright Night, Tremors and Shaun of the Dead. Book-wise, I’d say the works of Christopher Moore (especially the Blood Sucking Fiends trilogy), Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files series), and David Wong (the John Dies at the End series) have all been influences.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
J.R.R.R.: Bing and Ron Slaughter are identical twin brothers who think that identical twins who look and act alike are basically stupid and make people want to throw up. They consequently try pretty hard not to look or act identical. Apart from that, their main concern is that they are high school juniors and the can feel the first cold fingers of reality, post high school, poking at them in a dangerous way. The story kicks into gear on the night before their SAT tests, which they are really sweating. If they don’t do well they’re afraid they’ll be doomed to flipping burgers at the McDonald’s their parents own. Bing thinks he might want to go to film school, Ron thinks that their punk band, the Ephits, is going to make them wildly famous, but neither of them is really convinced they know what they want to do with their lives or how they’ll deal with possibly going their separate ways for the first time in their lives.
DJ: What is the world and setting of Demon Freaks like?
J.R.R.R.: Demon Freaks is set in a suburb of Portland, Oregon, in the United States, on our earth. Well, a version of our earth in which demons and magic are real. Which I suppose could just be the regular version of our earth…
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Demon Freaks?
J.R.R.R.: My favorite part of writing Demon Freaks was getting to play with the line between horror and comedy. At first glance, horror and comedy don’t seem like they’d go very well together. I mean, one’s supposed to scare the pants off you and the other is supposed to make you pee them with uncontrollable laughter. And yet, it’s hard to deny the almost magnetic appeal they have when you crash them together. I think it’s because both horror and comedy are about tension and surprise. There are just a handful of tension releasing mechanisms people have, and two of the key ones are laughter and screaming. As weird as it is, they go together, like vinegar and baking soda—you mix them and they just blow up. So, that was my favorite part of writing Demon Freaks. It was like making one of those science class volcanoes.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
J.R.R.R.: So far, readers have been talking most about the Dagger and about the plot twists. As far as the Dagger goes, there’s not a lot I can tell you without giving away too much. And as for the plot twists…well, there’s even less. I can tell you that readers have been saying that the surprises have made them laugh, which is what I was hoping for, and that the Dagger is one of their favorite characters.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing Demon Freaks? Was there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
J.R.R.R.: When I started writing the book, I was thinking a lot about whether life has any intrinsic meaning or not and how that’s a thing you first start wrestling with around the time you get out of high school. Up until then, most of the choices in your life (or at least in mine) get made for you by other people or by chance/fate. Generally, most of your friends are people you were thrown together with by accident rather than people you sought out and chose. Similarly, you probably didn’t pick what school you were going to or what teachers you wanted. You kind of just take what gets thrown at you. But as high school is ending, you’re suddenly expected to know what you want to do with your life and expected to start steering your own existence. That was a huge transition for me that made me really question all of the assumptions I’d made about my life. So, that’s what I was trying to address with the book. It all sounds kind of serious when I lay it out like that, but I tried to have some fun with it.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Demon Freaks that you can share with us?
J.R.R.R.: “Insane cultists, Satan worshipers and evil wizards are like elderly nuns compared to the Golfers’ Association.”
“The way you’re explaining this is making me more confused than I was before.”
“Kaitlyn had always insisted that a person couldn’t be so well gagged that she couldn’t make understandable noises if she wanted to, but that was because she had never before been gagged properly.”
DJ: Now that Demon Freaks is released, what is next for you?
J.R.R.R.: I’m hard at work on the sequel to Fish Wielder. Like all good epic fantasies, it’s a trilogy. While I have the whole thing mapped out in great detail, I’m only about 30,000 words into the first draft of the second book, Fish Wielder II: A Fish Out of Water.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/J.R.R.R.-(Jim)-Hardison/e/B01FIPZCA4
Author Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/c127oX
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Demon Freaks that we haven’t talked about yet?
J.R.R.R.: It’s kind of what I wish had happened to me during my junior year of high school.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
J.R.R.R.: Thank you for having me! It’s always a pleasure.
◊ ◊ ◊
*** Demon Freaks is published by Fiery Seas Publishing and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Kobo
◊ ◊ ◊
About the Book:
It’s the night before the SAT test. The forces of darkness are stirring.
Twin brothers, Bing and Ron Slaughter, know they’ve got to cram like their lives depend on it because their college plans sure do. If they don’t ace the test, they’ll be doomed to spend the rest of their days flipping burgers at the McDonald’s their parents run. That’s why they hatch a plan to meet up with the members of their punk band, the Ephits, spend the night studying at a secluded cabin in the woods, and maybe squeeze in a little jamming. What could go wrong with a brilliant plan like that?
Ancient evil. That’s what.
As a cataclysmic lightning storm rolls in, Bing, Ron and the rest of the Ephits find themselves tangled in a sinister plot to summon a demon. Yes, demons are real. To survive the night, the band must find a malevolent artifact, battle bloodthirsty monsters and stand against the most dangerous and powerful foe humanity has ever faced…the Golfer’s Association.
About the Author:
Hi! I’m J.R.R.R. (Jim) Hardison, the writer of the upcoming horrifically funny YA horror novel Demon Freaks, coming from Fiery Seas Publishing in October of 2017. I’m the author of the epically silly epic fantasy novel Fish Wielder, which Hypable calls “Wickedly funny” and GeekMom says is like “Princess Bride meets Monty Python”. I’m also the author of the Dark Horse comics graphic novel, The Helm, named one of 2010’s Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens by YALSA (the Young American Library Association).
People have asked me, “Jim, why the three Rs?” Well, Rs are a mark of credibility and quality in the fantasy genre. Think of E.R. Eddings (The Worm Ouroboros) and H.R. Haggard (King Solomon’s Mines, She). They each had an R in their name and they wrote great, stirring fantasy novels that are remembered to this day. And then there’s J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin. Those guys each have two Rs and they are among the giants and superstars of the fantasy genre. You don’t get any bigger or more well known in fantasy than those guys. That’s the power of Rs in fantasy. They multiply logarithmically. They are like points on the Richter Scale. And I have three Rs. I’m just going to let that hang there for a second. Three Rs.
So, how did I come to write a fantasy trilogy? That’s a long and convoluted tale. I’ll try to keep it brief. I started my professional career by co-writing and producing a low-budget direct-to-video feature, “The Creature From Lake Michigan”. Making a bad film can be a crash course in the essential elements of good character and story, and “The Creature From Lake Michigan” was a tremendously bad film. I like to think that I learned my lesson well, and after a brief stint recuperating as a freelance writer and film editor, I founded my own production company.
During its seven-year run, I wrote, directed and edited live-action and animation productions, including educational films, television commercials and television pilots. Shifting my focus entirely to animation, I joined Will Vinton Studios in 1997. There I directed animated commercial and entertainment projects, including spots for M&M’s, AT&T, Cingular Wireless and Kellogg’s as well as episodic television (the UPN series Gary & Mike). While working at Vinton, I also co-wrote the television special “Popeye’s Voyage: The Quest for Pappy” with actor Paul Reiser.
I co-founded Character LLC in 2000–a company that advises brands and entertainment properties on their stories. While working at Character I have given story advice to many of the world’s largest brands including Discovery Networks, Target, Verizon, Samsung, McDonalds and Walmart. I even appeared on NBC’s “The Apprentice” as an expert adviser on brand characters. In addition, I’ve done character development work and wrote for the PBS children’s television series “SeeMore’s Playhouse”. After 21 years, I finally completed “The Creature From Lake Michigan” to glowingly positive reviews from lovers of questionable cinema.
These days, I live in Portland, Oregon with my lovely wife, two amazing kids, one smart dog and one stupid dog.