"So I'm having a beer on the couch and I get an idea for a
 story about a haunted beer that gets into a fight with
 a load of spirits.

Did I mention it's my....ahhh shite, I haven't enough fingers."

- Jason Downes, November 2012


 

Five Questions with

Jason Downes

Most of your short stories as well as your latest novel, The Barn, would easily be classified as horror. Yet your first novel, Pony Fleming, seems much more personal. How much of Pony Fleming is rooted in Jason Downes? 

Pony Fleming is really more rooted in my home town than myself. Certainly there are elements of my own life mirrored in Pony’s. His work on the railway and some of the things he enjoys are parallel to myself but as for the adventure he goes through that’s all him.

The character of Pony himself is loosely based on a friend of mine. The name Pony was taken from a fictional TV character used in an episode of a late night puppet show where the same character fancied himself as a ladies man and rather well hung. It was funny and after a few drinks my own pal figured himself to be a bit of a Pony himself and therein the germ of an idea was born and laid waiting in my head for the right time to come forward.

As I was writing the book I was very conscious of  the fact that if I was going to write a book about Dublin, or more specifically the North side of Dublin then I would have to write it as true to form as I could. That included the language, the slang and the areas. Warts and all it had to go in because that’s life in a Dublin suburb. To be honest I feel that the need to write the book was probably my own way of dealing with whatever homesickness there was inside of me. It felt good to walk through those areas and the city even if it was only through the eyes of a story and a man who isn’t real.

As a book it’s a hard to categorize, it’s written with tongue in cheek and humor but it has a lot if drama, the storyline is different in that again it’s a dramatic situation but it’s also humorous so I suppose in many ways it has proved hard to market. I always figured it would go down well with an Irish audience, and for those who have read it it has. I was a little unsure of how American readers would take to it but so far again it seems positive.

So with this in mind I’d say again that Pony is tied to me in ways for sure however he and the story are much more entwined with Dublin and its people than just myself.

I heard a rumor that The Barn is cursed. Can you elaborate on the curse and explain what karmic fuck-up created it?

Well The Barn feels like the book that someone or something didn’t want to see published. Writing the book was easy, it came to me and I got it down in about three months and it flowed very easily and quickly. It was after PMP took it on-board to publish that the curse seemed to arise. I honestly felt that something was working against this novel coming out.

We had all kinds of issues in the editing and formatting process. The editor suggested a change, moving a portion of the story from the middle to the start as a prologue, it was a brilliant idea and really served to improve the book. So off we went with that idea and Eric begins the formatting process. I get the final (or not) manuscript and as I read it I notice that the manuscript he sent is in fact the one before the final edit. So I, with a heavy heart inform Eric, because I know he’s busy and he’s had issues with formatting the book already, and tell him it’s not in fact the final draft I’d last seen. Cue crazy running around looking for the proper final edit. Suffice to say it comes and again, Eric delves into the formatting nightmare. All whilst finishing up his PhD.

So the book goes to the printers and low and behold it gets delayed there. My own author copies reach NJ via Iowa and then Jersey City to my house, and what’s this I find within the box? Ah yes, the curse is now taking lives, a dead stink bug! And then, I have people at work looking to download it and it’s not happening.

What’s next for the curse or The Barn itself? Who knows? Perhaps it will only be bought by brave souls willing to chance the curse reaching out to touch them. Are you brave enough?

What was the first horror book/story you remember reading?

Creed by James Herbert. I read it in one sitting. I became a big fan of his that night. 

Do you feel any competitive pressure from horror films? If not, why not?

Not really they both very different forms of expression and work. Clearly, film has a broader appeal. There are many people in the world who do not like to read, and of those that do, there are many who do not care to read horror. So I don’t really think about how my writing can compete with the appeal of movies because at the end of the day if most of the people sitting in the movie theatre watching The Exorcist or whatever, never read the book, either due to not being readers in general or not liking horror and are just there because their dates wanted to go, then I’ll most likely never convince them to read my work or any other.

How often do you hear it, people saying I’ll just wait for the movie version? It is what is, movies aren’t work to watch. To read you have to actually do it, you have to read. You have to open the book and imagine the world within, a movie does it for you. I love movies but they are in many ways the escape vessel of the lazy minded. For those people the idea of reading a book, in any genre, doesn’t seem worth the effort. And in fairness I myself and I would hazard a guess here, most writers don’t write for that sort of mind. We write for the minds that like to read and if by some chance we can change one or two of the movie minded along the way then even better because the great thing about the book is this, it’s portable, you can pop one in your pocket and have that distraction at any time in anyplace. You can’t do that with a movie theater and guess what?  ipads and iphones and kindles….the batteries go dead.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t take a call from Hollywood asking to make either The Barn or Pony in a big screen adventure. But as for competition I don’t really consider it.

You are a proud fan of Liverpool FC. Why Liverpool and not a team from an Irish league? 

Well I believe that your teams are inherited and in your blood. You can’t help it. My uncle had me cheering for Liverpool since I was 3. Now I do have a team I support in Ireland, and they get a mention in Pony. Bohemians are from the North side of Dublin and play in Phibsboro. They’re the oldest team in the league and my dad grew up right in their doorstep, yet he never gave so much as a second thought to it. He didn’t like football or sport really. I remember though walking around the outside of the ground as a young boy and peeking in through the doors at the stands and pitch. I finally began going there regularly when I was about 13. I didn’t get to go see Liverpool at Anfield until I was in my 20’s but…I soon made up for it.

Most football supporters in Ireland would support an English side and a lot would go and see their local Irish league team. The biggest difference is that the Irish league is not funded like the big European leagues and although that shouldn’t be an issue for support, it appears it is. I always enjoyed the craic at the Irish games but there is something special about Anfield. The songs, the colour, the field that has seen so many special players take to it. The history is deep and the passion likewise, the club has had success and tragedy linked to it hand in hand. Other clubs have this too but again, they aren’t in my blood.

I once heard the passion for your team put like this, and I think it says it all.

You may have more than one car in your lifetime, more than one house, more than one wife, more than one kid, more than one career but you will only ever have ONE team.

Last question ... Ale, lager, porter, or stout; and why? 

Why choose? But since you ask, I’ll tend to drink stout or porter in the winter months, beer all year long and cider in the summer. I feel the stout and porter being heavier are great for the cold months. The cider is so refreshing in the summer heat and the beer, Heineken if you’re asking just goes down well all the time. Ultimately I’ll take most anything on. Beer truly is God’s gift to the world. 

Jason Downes was born in Dublin, Ireland. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and their two daughters. He is the author of numerous short stories and the novels The Barn and Pony Fleming.  

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