The Best Reader + TIME

Guest Post: Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry

Scary Pictures

I write for a living but I think in pictures. I’ve always been a visual learner. When I conceive of a story, I usually get a line or two accompanied by a whole slew of images. As I outline my books, I often build the pace around visual cues –and I block out my scenes as if they are on a big movie screen in my head. Readers and reviewers tell me that my novels play out like movies to them. I find that genuinely satisfying.

No doubt there’s a connection between my visual sense and my childhood. I’ve always wanted to write, but before I actually had a decent command of language I was telling stories using toys. After I discovered comic books, I began drawing my own. I was also addicted to TV and movies. I grew up in the sixties with shows like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, Dark Shadows, Outer Limits, Star Trek, and reruns of The Twilight Zone. I watched every movie they played on TV, from the sword-and-sandal Steve Reeve epics to old Universal monster flicks to John Wayne westerns. By the time I was nine I was bluffing my way into the movies to see films I should never have been allowed to see. Like Night of the Living Dead, which premiered when I was ten.

For a long time I thought that I would become an artist rather than a writer, and specifically a comic book artist. I wanted to be both Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. I wanted to be Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams. I have thick folders of old sketches. All sorts of stuff, from pictures of animals to character concepts to portraits. Some of it’s pretty good, a lot of it –sadly—isn’t.

The thing about my art is that it’s wildly inconsistent. I’ve done a few pieces that were good enough to have prints made. My Bruce Lee portrait, a study of a Crow, and my interpretation of Gandalf all sold out signed/numbered limited print runs of 500 each. Unfortunately my good days are like little islands in a sea of mediocre days.

That’s a hard thing –the point where you realize that you have a talent, but there just isn’t enough of it to open a doorway into a career.

Luckily, my first love was really storytelling, and I have made a very successful career as a novelist, short story writer, magazine feature writer and –yes—comic book writer. (But they don’t let me draw my own comics… and I can see their point).

I do enjoy drawing, though, and I wanted to share a few of the pieces I’ve done that I either really like, or that have interesting back-stories.

BRUCE LEE: This is the picture that is permanently set on Bruce Lee’s tombstone. I drew it right there, sitting cross-legged on the grass in Lakeview Cemetery in Seattle.

GANDALF THE GRAY: In eleventh grade I talked my AP English teacher into adding The Lord of the Rings to the official reading list. I had to make a real case for it, and somewhere I still have the paper I wrote. And I had to stand in front of the class and defend my choice. A number of years later I met an old friend for lunch who recalled that incident. Afterward I sat down and drew this.

CROW: A lot of people tell me that this looks more like a raven. We don’t have ravens in Philadelphia and I drew this while looking out the window at a bunch of crows. Maybe there was raven traveling incognito.

UNDEAD (for Ghost Road Blues): This is a concept sketch I did while plotting out my first novel, GHOST ROAD BLUES. I had an image in mind of a vampire pretending to be a scarecrow in order to play a very ugly prank on his victims. I think the visual quality of that novel helped it to become a success, and it won the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel and was a finalist for Novel of the Year. This is one of several drawings of this kind of monster. I may actual use this for a middle-grade novel in a year or so.

HUNTING FOR MONSTERS: This is another concept sketch, this time for BAD MOON RISING (third in the Pine Deep Trilogy, of which GHOST ROAD BLUES was the first. The middle book is DEAD MAN’S SONG). I had a scene set in a cellar and wanted to capture the spooky, claustrophobic feel of the scene. Even though the scene –as actually written—is a bit different, that scene started with this sketch.

AIRMEN OF LOTT: Another concept sketch. This one’s for a Steampunk story that I’ve had cooking in my head for a while. I’m developing a Young Adult story –or possibly a series—that’s a collision of alternate history, fantasy and Steampunk. It’s still in development, though.

Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (October 25th, 2011)
Reading Level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 320 pages
A prison doctor injects a condemned serial killer with a formula designed to keep his consciousness awake while his body rots in the grave. But all drugs have unforeseen side-effects. Before he could be buried, the killer wakes up. Hungry. Infected. Contagious. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang… but a bite.

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository

Book Trailer

book, Dead of Night, guest post, Jonathan Maberry, St. Martins Griffin, and more:

Guest Post: Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry + TIME