John Hornor Jacobs, world-renowned author for his work in fantasy, science-fiction and young adult genres, has been fighting an uphill battle to get noticed in his home state of Arkansas, an area not normally associated as a hot-bed for such genres of fiction.
Jacobs, a Little Rock native, may be best known for his first book, Southern Gods (Night Shade Books), a horror-crime noir novel set in Arkansas during the 1950s. The book was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel after its debut in 2011.
“One of the reasons that I wanted to write a book was because I was working at a job that didn’t have any creative intentions,” Jacobs said. “It was just a shitty job.”
After finishing work on Southern Gods, he used his momentum to pen three other books. At around the time he began work on his fourth book, he secured an agent and received a contract ordering sequels to some of his books. With four books sold and four more needing to be written, Jacobs quit his day job at the time to focus on writing full-time.
“George Martin has famously said there are two types of writers: architects and gardeners. Before I had stuff due, I was more of a gardener, [meaning] I had a loose idea and let it grow. Once you have contracts and deadlines, you have to sort of be an architect.”
Jacobs finds it difficult to gain traction in central Arkansas, despite being published from major publishers. The biggest barrier, he says, likely lies in the genre in which he writes.
“There are echelons to the perceived value of types of writing, which I totally disagree with,” Jacobs said. “There are literary writers who’ve sold 300 copies of their autobiography from a micro press and made zero dollars, who will still look down their nose at me because I’ve written horror and fantasy novels.”
Something that could help all local artists, Jacobs says, is to be a little more open minded and to be willing to open up their pocket books.
“There are so many times where I deal with people who are like, ‘You know, I wouldn’t like the kind of book you write because it’s just not the type of book I read.’ And I say, ‘Well, it’s set in Arkansas and it’s about people like you and its set in areas you would know. You might find that you like it.'”
“It’s funny how many people will ask me if I will give them a book, but then they ask me like, ‘Well, when are you moving in to your mansion?’ And I’m like are you shitting me? This is writing. Like, I’m eatin’ rice, y’all. I’m having ramen.”
Jacobs’ book, The Incorruptibles (Gollancz), was just announced as a nominee for best novel of 2014 by the biggest science-fiction magazine in the U.K., SFX Magazine. Jacobs’ next release will be The Conformity (Carolrhoda Lab, an imprint of Lerner Publishing), book three in The Twelve Fingered Boy trilogy, and set to be released April 1, 2015. Fans will be able to see Jacobs at Dragon Con 2015 in Atlanta in September.