Author John F Leonard
Author John F Leonard is a post-apocalyptic/horror author, living in the United Kingdom. He has written several post-apocalyptic books, and has been exploring his creative expression for many years.
This interview is part of my Creating Awesome Series which attempts to examine the experiences, events and locations that may have contributed to the creativity of Author John F Leonard as a writer and artist.
By exploring background, work history and interests, we attempt to peel back the layers of his creative process.
Early Life Experiences
Where did you grow up?
In the midlands. My father came over from Ireland, an economic migrant, and worked all round the country. Eventually got married, settled and had kids.
We lived in a run-down area, very working class. Old housing and failed industry. My memories are mostly dirty red brick and crumbling grey concrete. Splashes of green, isolated pockets. It was pretty grim. That’s hindsight – I didn’t know any different at the time.
Describe a favorite place from your childhood that you can easily visualize? Now explain how this might have impacted your ability to write fiction?
Opposite our Victorian terrace was a long line of scrap metal yards. Behind them, some wasteland and a railway line. As kids, we were forbidden from going there. So, it naturally became our playground.
A dangerous place – screaming trains, scrapyard dogs, down and outs – and all the more magical for it. Wilderness and wildness on our urban doorstep. A spot where dark and scary things were likely to happen.
Thinking back, it felt as if our reality was paper-thin when we were there. I don’t think the feeling has ever really left me.
What era was your “coming of age” years?
Late Seventies, going into the Eighties. An eternity ago that often feels like yesterday.
What is your earliest childhood memory that relates to your creativity or craft?
Struggling to write my name on a pre-school exercise book. Trying to copy the teacher’s scrawled handwriting and not truly understanding how these ‘letter’ things worked. Even as a child, I hated not feeling capable.
Talk about a happy moment in your life that might have contributed to your creative talent.
Entertaining selected work mates with a type-written short story that included fictional versions of our colleagues. I say ‘selected’ because a degree of judgement was needed when it came to distribution – readership had to be limited because the story wasn’t very kind to some coworkers.
A spoof on Dashiell Hammett – ‘The Maltese Chihuahua’. Still got it somewhere, buried in a box, probably getting moldy in the loft.
It was the first time I’d written something with the express intention of it being read and I was delighted by the reaction. I could put words on a page and people thought they were okay. Astonishing!
Long time since I saw those folks. Hope they’re all doing well.
What was your first job and how did it influence your decision to become a writer?
A Saturday job as a teenager. Shop work, not sure about the level of influence. An early observational platform maybe.
Interaction and experience never leave you. It all bleeds into your work, especially if your work is writing.
Interests and Influences
What music do you listen to?
These days, not as much as I’d like to – don’t seem to find the time or the right mood. A wide range when I do. Everything from punk to jazz saxophone. I love music with a melancholy undercurrent.
What is your favorite movie? Why?
Oh, that’s so tough. Can’t do one, some cheating will be required.
Dawn of the Dead – The Long Good Friday – Alien – Train to Busan – The Godfather.
That’s off the top of my head at time of writing – might change on another day.
What is your favorite book(s)?
Boy, this isn’t getting any easier.
The Stand by Stephen King. The Fog by James Herbert. Radix by AA Attanasio. I can’t even cheat here, there are just too many books that are important to me.
Who is your favorite author(s)?
Several and sometimes it might only be for one book. Stephen King, James Herbert, Clive Barker, AA Attanasio, Adam Baker. I’ll stop, another long list is beginning to form.
Who would you consider your biggest inspiration?
I’d say family first. You can’t do much without the support of your loved ones. Then my English and Art teachers at school. After that, it’s artists and authors. Salvador Dali and HR Giger. The writers mentioned above and others.
Let’s throw in Dan Simmons, Lovecraft, Frank Herbert, Tolkien, and Stephen Donaldson for starters. There are more.
What first got you interested in becoming a writer?
Reading and the books themselves – there can’t be any other answer.
The actual objects.
When I was young, there was no internet, no Kindle apps. Television was limited and going to the movies was an organised event.
Books became vaguely religious things.
The people who wrote them were gods. Removed from me, unreachable and unknowable, yet able to touch my mind simply because I could wander up to local second-hand shops and grab them for pennies.
It’s a different world now, but I still have the utmost respect for the creators. The folk who bleed bits of themselves into words and paint and sculpture.
Who is your favorite character, written by you or any other writer, from a book or movie? Please explain how you relate to that character and why they are important to you.
Damn, I’m going to be extremely selfish and name two of my own.
Ronald Hodge from Bad Pennies – he’s utterly loathsome and somehow beautiful. Bad guys are more fun to write, but it’s more than that with Ronald. There’s a depth and deftness to him that was pure instinct and it worked. An instance where it was right, even though he’s very wrong.
That’s another reason, him being so awful, he allowed me to suggest abhorrent, politically incorrect things.
Joe Byrne from Collapse – he’s one of those flawed hero characters. The flaws are personal, they resonate with me.
The novel is also flawed – still decent, in my opinion.
My first published book – a big post-apocalyptic sprawl of words that holds a special place in my heart.
I won’t change anything because it’s the mark of where I started and there has to be some honesty in the world.
What do you fear most?
Time. It’s a liar and thief.
Why is that your greatest fear?
I’m getting old and tired and won’t be able to do justice to the ideas in my head. Infirmity is waiting in the wings and the thunderous tick of the clock growing ever louder. Even now, my energy levels are a shadow of what they were. My tolerance is growing and my patience wearing thinner every day.
We live dystopia on a daily basis. It’s no wonder we’re interested in reading and writing stories about it – how else could we hide the truth from ourselves.
World Building of Author John F Leonard
Where do you get your ideas for your stories?
That’s a good question and I don’t have an easy answer. The past, the future. Now.
Do you write anything outside of the post-apocalyptic fiction genre? Poetry, romance, comedy etc.
Horror, but my definition of that is broad and encompasses post-apocalyptic.
The idea of ‘genre’ pees me off a little. I understand the need for categorization, but it gets tiresome and can be very limiting for everyone involved.
Comedy is wonderful and necessary and worms its way into anything worth reading.
Love is ever present.
I like to include a certain something at the start of a story. A song lyric, an old rhyme, an excerpt from a learned discourse. The reader deserves more than what they think they need or want.
Why did you choose this genre, or what draws you to these types of stories?
It chose me. Horror is the defining quality of most worthwhile creativity. It underpins everything. You can’t appreciate beauty unless you understand ugliness. The best photography, writing, sculpture needs a trace of darkness to create the contrast.
Apocalyptic and Cosmic themes are probably the most attractive and versatile.
Many writers use pieces of their own life in the creation of their characters and the stories they tell. How do you feel about this practice?
Real life, personal experience, is the foundation of believable fiction. You can’t embroider a garment if you don’t have the garment.
Lovecraft and Tolkien created horror and fantasy – their gifts were the art of extrapolation and managed exaggeration. It was them and their lives at the core.
How much real life do you put into your stories?
A lot. It’s meaningless without the touch of reality.
How do you transition from working a day job, generating the necessary creative energy needed to string hundreds or thousands of words together to tell a story?
Sacrifice is the simple answer. It’s no different from drawing, painting, sculpting or any other creative urge. There are only so many hours in a day – you choose how they’re filled. The choice has consequences and that’s why the understanding and indulgence of family and friends is so important to me.
What do you consider to be the greatest threat to human life on planet Earth?
How do you think the world will end?
Rubbing my hands together now.
- I want to give a load of fantastical answers.
- Artificial intelligence will rise.
- God will get bored and smite us.
- We’ll nuke each other.
- The old ones are only waiting for a doorway to open.
- A virus is going to get all uppity and uncontrollable.
Honest answer? I think the world will run its course. We’re a chalk mark. How long we last is down to how hard it rains.
Author John F Leonard Connects With Readers
How do you feel about social media? You and I first met on Twitter and have had a few interactions there, but do you use any other platforms to connect with your audience?
Yeah, I’m on a lot. InstaGrim, Falsebook, Punterest etc.
Not enough time, so I give what concentration I have to Twitter.
Grown to love it and, at times, detest the obligation of loving.
Please talk about any experience you might have with writing for other platforms, websites, publications etc, and does it help your writing ability or your career as a writer. If so, how?
I sometimes work in ecommerce. Consult on website design and online copywriting. It can be a blast – very satisfying and you get to meet great, gifted people.
Not big on submitting to magazines, publishers etc.
The clue is in the word. I don’t really submit.
My old man wasn’t any sort of scholar and still cleverer than most. He once told me you’re never beaten until you admit defeat. I have respect, but ‘submission’ smacks of someone who’s already beaten and I’ll never be that : )
If you could write for any website or print publication, paid or not, which one would it be and why?
I’d like to write some politics for a newspaper. Impartial, unbiased stuff about the nonsense we foist upon ourselves by the idiocy and unfairness of voting.
Other than that, and probably a lot more fun, create a spoof sports pundit. It would have to be football, I love that.
He or she would have lots of guest articles from inflammatory and (quite possibly) insane friends.
I think it’s fantastic that you’re willing to engage with your readers and hear what they have to say. How long have you been doing this and how did you start? How has it helped grow your audience?
I’m no social media obsessive.
Twitter was suggested when I first published a book and so I went there. It’s helped me connect with some good people – readers, writers, artists. I’m grateful to have shared time with them and don’t worry too much about growing an audience. Not anymore. I did at the start, but now I just want to keep my friends and hopefully find others.
How can people find out more and connect with Author John F Leonard?
I’m on lots of platforms, but Twitter is where I live: https://twitter.com/john_f_leonard
My Amazon Author Pages:
UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/John-F-Leonard/e/B01BHUE6Z6
US – https://www.amazon.com/John-F-Leonard/e/B01BHUE6Z6
What are you currently working on that readers might be interested in learning more about, and when can we expect to see it released?
I’ve just published a new post-apocalyptic horror story called CONGEAL.
Elements of cosmic horror in there, but it’s definitely set in a dystopian/apocalyptic vision of the future.