Interview: Jack Sparks Author Jason Arnopp
INTERVIEW WITH THE LAST DAYS OF JACK SPARKS AUTHOR, JASON ARNOPP
HAVE YOU read the horror book that everyone’s talking about? The buzz about the novel, The Last Days of Jack Sparks, filled my Twitter feed upon its release, and I recently read and reviewed it, after being thoroughly impressed – and scared – by the story.
Intrigued by the authors approach and the immense depth to his writing, I invited Jason Arnopp over to Study Paranormal for an interview. We discuss his inspiration for the novel, how he came up with the idea, what his future writing plans are and his personal favourite titles in the horror genre. Sit back and enjoy, and if you haven’t yet read The Last Days of Jack Sparks, I highly recommend it.
Above, author Jason Arnopp, picture provided by author’s agent
I recently finished reading The Last Days of Jack Sparks and I absolutely loved it. How did you find the process of writing this novel? What were the challenges, if any?
Thanks Fiona – I’m really glad you had a good time! Writing this novel was a blast, because it’s broadly about the supernatural, so that gave me the ideal opportunity to include whatever scary stuff I wanted. Ghosts, possession, exorcisms, you name it, all that good stuff. There were definitely real challenges involved, though, beyond all that fun! I wanted Jack Sparks himself to have a complex personality and for different levels of that personality to be revealed as the story progressed. As a result, I made things rather difficult for myself, to say the least. The middle act of the book, in particular, was really hard to get right.
The story itself is quite dark and foreboding – what inspired it? Do you have an interest in the paranormal or in the occult yourself?
More than having an interest in the paranormal or the occult specifically, I have a preoccupation with death and what might lie beyond death. I suspect I’m not alone in this! One interesting thing about all ghost stories is they’re uplifting by their very nature, because they do seem to confirm some kind of afterlife. The story itself, though, was partly inspired by wondering what the internet has done to our brains. Social media, in particular.
When you began writing the story, did you already know the ending and outcome? Without giving any spoilers, the ending was something of a head-trip! Did you outline the story, or do you let it unfold naturally during the writing process?
Hmm, it’s hard to remember now! But I did have a general idea of how it would end – certainly in terms of Jack dying! I think the specific head-trip you’re referring to may have occurred to me in a flash of inspiration as I went along, but it’s hard to be sure. I outlined a skeletal structure for the story, then set about exploring inside that structure. I don’t like to plan too much in advance, because I think your subconscious mind only becomes fully engaged when you’re working at the literary coalface and are properly inside your characters’ heads.
When I read the novel, I personally found it very unsettling at times. Everything that Jack Sparks went through was very dark and unnerving. Were there times that you felt uneasy during writing?
I do tend to gauge how scary my own scenes are, by whether they send a chill up my spine. Having said that, it can be hard to be judge because it’s impoissible for me to surprise myself! There was one character in this book that I felt very uneasy about killing… but then I did it anyway. Mwah-hah-hahhhh.
Jack Sparks is such a deep and authentic character. I love how well developed and real he feels to the reader. Is there anything of Jack in you or someone you know – or is he a purely imagined character?
Judging by the largely positive reaction to Jack, I can’t help wondering if most of us recognise something of him in ourselves. Perhaps he reflects some of our worst tendencies, particularly when it comes to our use of social media. He might reflect our inflated egos, our tendency to broadcast more than we receive, and our habit of expressing certainty on any given topic, especially when we don’t actually know for sure. I’ll admit to finding Jack worryingly easy to write, but hopefully that’s not because I’m like him! I would much prefer to think that it’s great fun to unleash the ego-driven side of your personality and enjoy the freedom of that.
How have you felt, after seeing the huge amount of love from readers towards this release? Did you feel you were onto something good with this project – or were you taken aback by the positive audience response?
I suppose I tend to hope that if I really like something I’ve written – as was the case with The Last Days Of Jack Sparks – then at least a few other people are likely to enjoy it too. And that has been the case so far. The book has yet to take the world by storm (that particular event is scheduled for next Tuesday, FYI), but a lot of people who have read it seem to really like it. Every day, at the time of writing, a few strangers pop up on Twitter to tell me how much they enjoyed the novel, and that’s a really wonderful feeling. Yesterday, a reader in Pakistan messaged me on Facebook to show me her own Jack Sparks book cover artwork she’d designed herself. That was amazing.
What are you working on at the moment?
All year, I’ve been working on my second novel for Orbit Books. This one will be unconnected to Jack Sparks, with a standalone story. It will, however, be along broadly similar lines in terms of being a supernatural thriller, but also be very different. Possibly a little darker and a little less funny, but it’s too early to say for sure.
For fun, can you tell us what are your favourite horror movies and books? What releases have unsettled you the most?
My two favourite horror movies are The Evil Dead, which I like to watch about twice a year, and John Carpenter’s The Thing, which I like to watch about once every two years. These films unsettle me in different ways. The Thing unsettles me because we can never know what’s going on inside other people’s heads. And The Evil Dead has accrued a reputation for being camp slapstick, partly because of its sequels, but it remains an exercise in super-creepy, gruelling horror. Books-wise, my favourites include Mark Z Danielewski’s wonderfully insane House Of Leaves, Stephen King’s beautifully grim Pet Sematary and Chuck Palahniuk’s uniquely horrid Haunted. I’m always hoping to be unsettled and scared by stuff, but sadly it happens less often than I’d like.
Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
I’m glad you asked! My website JasonArnopp.com is the best place to go. There, you can find out about my rock journalist past and the other fiction I wrote before The Last Days Of Jack Sparks. There are also a couple of free fiction books of mine that you can download for free, which is nice. And despite my mixed views about social media these days, I’m very much on Twitter as @jasonarnopp, where I quack a whole load of nonsense every single day, and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jasonarnoppwriter
Thanks for taking the time to answer, Jason!
You’re welcome, Fiona. Thanks for asking the questions in the first place – I literally couldn’t have done this interview without you!