I’ve asked John G. Hartness to my site today because he has stuff to say and I always learn something while laughing and having a good time with it. Take it away John!
Back in the 1980s, Marvel Comics ran a title called What If? and it was frequently a parody comic that featured questions like “What if Reed Richards were bitten by a radioactive spider?” or “What if Captain America died and Bucky lived?” or “What if Gwen Stacy lived?” It explored situations that turned our understanding of the Marvel Universe on its ear, often with hilarious, sometimes with ludicrous, outcomes. Nowadays in comics we call a reimagining of everything we’ve ever held near and dear about a character – Tuesday.
But someone recently asked me in jest that question every writer hates – “where do you get your ideas?” I half-jokingly replied that I have a genius tied up to a trundle underneath my bed and whenever I need an idea, I roll him out and beat him in the balls with a hammer until a good idea comes out. You get to spend the next hour figuring out which half of that statement is a joke.
But the truth of the matter is that most of my characters come from “What if?”s. What if there were more fat, comic-loving vampires? That’s where you got The Black Knight Chronicles. What if Larry Correia were a real-life monster hunter with his arsenal and the attitude and tattoos of my old friend Dr. Nick? Bubba the Monster Hunter was born from that question. What if Constantine were down on a network that could take advantage of the truly poetic profanity of Garth Ennis’s run on Hellblazer? That’s where we got Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter. What if King Arthur was reincarnated as a high school junior, and Morgan Le Fay was the Queen of the Mean Girls? That’s the premise behind New Knights of the Round Table, a novella series I’m launching in August.
Many of my characters come out almost fully-formed once I answer that initial “What if?” Because in answering that question, I can encapsulate enough of their character that I can get the character a solid base for dialogue, motivation and moral compass. Then I can put them in ridiculous situations and see if they can work their way out of them. I can also enjoy watching them grow and change, as the characters in The Black Knight Chronicles have done over the first five books in the series. Book Five, In the Still of the Knight, sees the boys undergo the greatest changes yet, as they finally muddle their way to adulthood.
You see, the Chronicles is really just a coming of age story. My protagonists happen to be forty years old, but they are really just growing up. They became developmentally stunted when they were turned into vampires, and only the addition of Sabrina Law into their lives kick-started their maturation process again. She is the catalyst for everything that happens to the boys, from Jimmy doing laundry more often to Greg wearing less spandex.
And all that came from watching True Blood and wondering “Why aren’t there more fat vampires?”
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 author of The Black Knight Chronicles from Bell Bridge Books, a comedic urban fantasy series that answers the eternal question “Why aren’t there more fat vampires?” He is also the creator of the comic horror Bubba the Monster Hunter series, and the creator and co-editor of the Big Bad series of horror anthologies from Dark Oak Press and Media.
In his copious free time John enjoys long walks on the beach, rescuing kittens from trees and recording new episodes of his ridiculous podcast Literate Liquors, where he pairs book reviews and alcoholic drinks in new and ludicrous ways. An avid Magic: the Gathering player, John is strong in his nerd-fu and has sometimes been referred to as “the Kevin Smith of Charlotte, NC.” And not just for his girth.