Q&A with John Mantooth, The Year of the Storm, and C*ntest

Today, please help me welcome author John Mantooth to Preternatura! John is a fellow Alabama author, and his debut novel, The Year of the Storm, came out a couple of weeks ago. It’s a dark, rich story of growing up and coming to terms with the path, and believing what we need to in order to make that happen. John is an award-winning writer in the short-fiction realm, with stories in the Tor Books 2010 anthology Haunted Legends, Fantasy magazine, Crime Factor, and other publications. His story anthology, Shoebox Train Wreck, came out last year. You can learn more about John by visiting his website.
ABOUT THE YEAR OF THE STORM:  When Danny was fourteen, his mother and sister disappeared during a violent storm. The police were baffled. There were no clues, and most people figured they were dead.  Only Danny still holds out hope that they’ll return. Months later, a disheveled Vietnam vet named Walter Pike shows up at Danny’s front door, claiming to know their whereabouts. The story he tells is so incredible that Danny knows he shouldn’t believe him. Others warn him about Walter Pike’s dark past, his shameful flight from town years ago, and the suspicious timing of his return.  But he’s Danny’s last hope, and Danny needs to believe….
And now, let’s hear from John…
Give us the “elevator pitch” for your book.  
Nine months after Danny’s mother and sister disappear in the woods behind his house, a tortured Vietnam vet shows up at his door claiming to know their whereabouts.

Describe your favorite scene from the new book–and why is it your favorite?  


There’s a scene near the beginning of the book when the narrator, Danny, describes seeing his best friend from childhood in a bar.  There’s a really sad moment where they almost reconnect, but then some other people come in and the moment is lost.  I’ve never had that happen to me, but when I wrote it, it felt very true, and in some ways, it sums up what the book is about.  
What’s on your nightstand or top of your TBR pile?


I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t read Frank Bill’s newest one, Donnybrook, but it’s been purchased and moved to the top of my rather large TBR pile. 

Favorite book when you were a child.  
I had two.  My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Drone, read them both aloud to the class.  She read The Secret Garden and James and the Giant Peach.  I was hooked from that point on.  If you’re still out there, Mrs. Drone, thanks!  You changed my life.

Book you’ve faked reading (Moby Dick is leading the votes on this question!): 
Anything by H.P. Lovecraft.  I’ve read a lot of the fiction influenced by him, but never one of his actual stories, though I don’t think I’ve admitted that until right now.

Book you’re an evangelist for:  
I think everyone should read Ron Rash’s One Foot in Eden.  That book floored me.  Another book I talked about for days after I finished was Holly Goddard Jones’s The Next Time You See Me.  Of course, her collection Girl Trouble is phenomenal too.  In my opinion, she’s one of the best writers working today.  I also like to read some young adult, and one book that I think a lot of people may have missed in that genre is Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork.  It’s a book everyone should read.

Book you’ve bought for the cover: 
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.  Great cover, even better book, as I discovered. 

Book that changed your life:
Well, I’ve already mentioned The Secret Garden and James and the Giant Peach, but I’d also throw in Different Seasons by Stephen King.  Without that book, I probably wouldn’t have become a writer because that book led me to discover the other books on my dad’s bookshelf, which made me really catch the bug.

Favorite line from a book: 
From the acknowledgements of This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff: “My first stepfather used to say that what I didn’t know would fill a book. Well, here it is.”

Book you most want to read again for the first time: 
All of them. 

Favorite book about books or writing: 

There was a textbook I had in college called The Story and Its Writer that I really loved.  Basically it had great short stories followed by thoughts from the writer.  I read my first Flannery O’Connor story, “Good Country People” in this anthology.  I’d like to get my hands on it again.

Thanks, John! Now, for those of you who don’t know Alabama, let me tell you that it’s prone to tornadoes, which is an inciting incident in John’s book. Everyone I know (self included) has at least one tornado story. Do you live in a part of the country prone to tornadoes or hurricanes? Have you ever been close to one?
One commenter will win their choice of either a copy of The Year of the Storm, or you may choose to take a chance on a mystery book–or two–from my towering TBR mountain. Tell us some stories!

12 thoughts on “Q&A with John Mantooth, The Year of the Storm, and C*ntest

  1. I grew up in GA and now live in Ohio so I’ve lived through a lot of tornadoes. Thankfully none of them have touched town near my house, but we would spend nights in the hallway with our blankets and pillows growing up. One time a tornado blew down US 41 and when we drove by a few days later, we noticed a lot of changes! The local BBQ place used to have a big bull statue on top of it and we kids thought it was hilarious that the bull was now across the street on the Folks restaurant . Pretty sure the BBQ owner wasn’t as amused as we were.

  2. Oh, the nights spent in the bathtub… yes! I remember those!

    My most vivid tornado experience/memory was my graduation from high school. We were outside (but of course!!), in early June, in North Carolina, and of course all sweating bullets. They were having the ceremony in the baseball field area, if I remember correctly, which was enclosed by one of those low, maybe waist-high fences. Well, lo and behold, but what should come rumbling on by?! You betcha! We heard the sirens going and the sky just got black, everyone started running, and of course 400 graduating kids AND all of their family members cannot fit through one little gate entrance, so… needless to say, I jumped the fence in my white dress. Have it all on tape somewhere at my parents’ house too, I think…though no one has a VCR to actually watch it anymore 😉

    God, I hate tornadoes.

    This book sounds really great! My in-laws live in Mobile, so my MIL pretty regularly introduces me to Alabama authors (through their books, not in person). Would this one be classified as a YA novel?


  3. Tornadoes are the storms in my area too and I’m scared of them. Remember the scene in Twister where they talk about horizontal rain? I drove through that once and found shelter in a gas station and hid in their bathroom. The tornado touched down about a mile away.
    I have a very healthy respect for storms!

  4. Weatherwise the Netherlands are quite save usually. No tornadoes, twisters and such. Sometimes there’s a flood scare, but even those have been nothing but scares so far.

  5. I live in the Midwest so we are always under tornado threat during the spring/summer. This has been a very rainy spring and we are constantly having thunderstorms now 🙂 Thanks for the fun post and congrats to John on the new release!

  6. Where I live, we don’t get tornadoes but we’ve seen the occasional heavy storm. There’s one happening right now.

  7. When I was little I lived in Ohio. Back then everyone had a storm cellar. It was always stocked with food and water and emergency supplies. Well, one day we had the warning and my mom rushed us into the cellar, but my dad stayed behind to watch the tornado. I remember her yelling at him to get downstairs into the cellar. My mother never stopped talking about his crazy desire to ‘observe the beauties of nature’. I don’t know why they don’t build storm cellars like that anymore.

  8. In norther New York State, tornadoes aren’t common fare, but I do have a story about one. Around ’96 or so, one hit our area up near my parents’.

    At the time, my (now) husband ad I were working at his office on some weekend computer updates. At time to go, we went out to the car, discovered we’d locked the keys in it, with the sunroof propped just enough we couldn’t get them out…. So I called my dad because it was raining a bit and looked to get ready to pour.

    Well, he drove down with the tornado on his tail to help us unlock our car. And there are still some houses and buildings that need repairs, over 15 years later in the Mechanicville area from that storm