John G. Hartness is a teller of tales, a righter of wrong, defender of ladies’ virtues, and some people call him Maurice, for he speaks of the pompatus of love. He is also the award-winning author of the urban fantasy series The Black Knight Chronicles, the Bubba the Monster Hunter comedic horror series, the Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter dark fantasy series, and many other projects. He is also a cast member of the role-playing podcast Authors & Dragons, where a group of comedy, fantasy, and horror writers play Dungeons & Dragons. Very poorly.
In 2016, John teamed up with a group of other publishing industry ne’er-do-wells and founded Falstaff Books, a small press dedicated to publishing the best of genre fiction’s “misfit toys.” Falstaff Books has since published over 50 titles with authors ranging from first-timers to NY Times bestsellers, with no signs of slowing down any time soon.
In his copious free time, John enjoys long walks on the beach, rescuing kittens from trees and playing Magic: the Gathering. John’s pronouns are he/him.
John, thank you for agreeing to this interview. I suspect we could do a series of interviews tapping into your knowledge of conventions, the publishing industry, and more. Before delving into your own writings, please tell us about Falstaff Books. What genres do you publish and what is the submission process?
We publish fantasy of all flavors: urban, epic, contemporary, high, etc. We publish science fiction and horror, and we have a romance imprint, Falstaff Crush, that publishes story-driven romance, be it paranormal or not. The submission process right now is to meet me at a convention and pitch me, because we are closed to unsolicited submissions for 2019. We have a lot of titles in production and under contract, so I’m currently only buying from authors that I know, things that come in from agents, or people that I meet at a convention and they have a good pitch. Also, referrals from people I know. It’s a side effect of success that we’ve grown beyond my wildest expectations, and we simply cannot take on many additional projects.
You are known to attend many conventions. However, unlike many writers, you showcase books from multiple Falstaff authors at your booth. With over 150 publications with your company, how do you choose which stories to stock for conventions? Do you find loyal readers often searching for alternate titles?
We do have a ton of titles, but when it comes to physical inventory, that is somewhat smaller. Since we publish a large number of linked novellas, we typically only keep physical inventory on the collected editions. So while J.D. Blackrose’s hilarious Monster Hunter Mom series has five titles in it, we only have to travel with one, the collection of the first four novellas. And I do try to gauge what I’m taking to different cons based on the style of the show and on the amount of space I have. Last weekend at Illogicon, we had three tables for our display, so I took everything and the kitchen sink. This weekend at MarsCon, I have two tables, and not on a corner, so I have to be more judicious with my inventory. In cases where I have to make choices, I will start with the books written by authors who will be at the con, then any authors with a wider platform, then authors that work in established universes.
You’re almost certainly going to lose money. Conventions are expensive, and if you expect them to be self-sufficient, you’re kidding yourself. But when you work the expense into your overall marketing plan and budget, the costs become part of a larger whole, and that’s much more palatable.
Also, know what kind of con you’re going to. If you only write epic fantasy, don’t travel seven hours to go to a horror con. It’s important to have realistic expectations of a con, and to know what you’re getting into. If you are going to a one-day comic con, then you’re going there for no reason other than to sling paper. If you’re going to a three-day fandom con with dozens of panels, you get to present yourself as an expert on the subject matter and be charming and witty in front of the audience. So plan accordingly.
Alright, let’s jump into your published works. Starting with Quincy Harker, how would you classify these stories for readers? What should they expect? Would you like to see this series made into a movie?
I tell people that the Quincy Harker series is like the tv show Supernatural if it were on HBO, and only Dean, no Sam. So twice the f-bombs, half the crying about it. It’s dark urban fantasy with a snarky male magic-wielding protagonist and a fun cast of characters. People should expect a ton of action, awesome one-liners, and a set of heroes they can get behind. And I’d rather get a TV show than a movie, because I think that format gives a little more storytelling room to stretch your legs.
You are well known for the collections of short stories, featuring Bubba the Monster Hunter. Do you think you would have written about this giant redneck with a heart of gold if you didn’t live in the south?
I doubt it. Bubba is pretty darned Southern, and while several of my Falstaff authors have done a great job creating regional monster hunters from the places they live or grew up, Bubba himself came out of me wanting to play with and against the redneck tropes. He’s a giant redneck with a pickup truck and a giant gun, but he’s a long-haired liberal with a gay best friend.
Your Black Knight Chronicles is about two vampire detectives that give me a Hardy Boys meets Dracula / Vampire Academy. When did your fascination with vampires begin? What similarities and differences will readers discover when reading about these vampire detectives?
I guess I fell in love with vampires with the earliest Anne Rice books, Interview with the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat. I’d read a few things with vampires before that, but they didn’t really resonate with me. But Lestat was great, and Louis was so inherently flawed that it felt like there was a lot of ground that she could (and did) cover with those characters. Rice’s vampires were the first ones I encountered that weren’t cardboard, and it’s always been about the characters for me.
In 2019 I’m transitioning the Harker series from four novellas each year to two novels, so fan won’t get content as often, but it will come in larger chunks. I plan to do another two to four Bubba novellas, plus the seventh Black Knight Chronicles book will release this spring. Plus I have two more novels and two horror parody novels in the Shingles series. So I’m looking at releasing five novels and four to six novellas this year.
It has been a pleasure, John! Please tell us where fans can find you online or in the upcoming year at events.
You can find me online at www.johnhartness.com or www.falstaffbooks.com. My facebook group is https://www.facebook.com/groups/johnhartnessbooks, I’m on twitter at @johnhartness, and I’m a cast member of the Authors & Dragons podcast every two weeks with a bunch of other science fiction and fantasy authors where we play D&D. Poorly. My convention list is a sticky post in the Facebook group. I think there are twenty scheduled for 2019.