Darkness This Way Comes
While reading local author Jonathan Moore’s first novel, a sci-fi horror-thriller and Bram Stoker Award nominee called Redheads (2013), a sense of dread struck me every time I heard a noise outside my room. I felt like hiding in the closet, but even that didn’t seem safe enough. His brand new May 6 release, Close Reach, is equally petrifying, pitching the reader at once into the wind-surging, wave-embattled no-man’s-land of frigid Antarctic seas, where our protagonist Kelly frantically eyes her radar screen as something of unimaginable terror relentlessly closes in on her yacht. The man behind the disturbingly haunting pages sat down for a chat with A&S:
Do you have a thing for redheads? What inspired that first novel?
I do a lot of Wikipedia surfing, and I read that redheaded people are more susceptible to pain. That lodged in my brain. For such an off-the-wall thriller, Redheads has a personal genesis. My wife’s father had a stroke. She and I were standing in the kitchen, and she was crying and talking about how it didn’t seem real, and she felt like there was some place she could go — a way to get back to how things had been before. I started thinking about how grief separates you from reality, and you can’t get your hands around it all at once. From there, it went to the opening of Redheads.
What inspired you to write your latest novel, Close Reach?
I got the idea for that in September 2011. My wife, two friends and I entered our boat in the annual Lahaina Return race. To get to the race, we sailed first to Manele Bay on Lanai, which was a miserable experience. It was not a day I ever would have picked to go upwind across that channel, but we had to get to the race. We decided to leave at night, with the theory that the wind is a little calmer at night, but it wasn’t. We were in the middle of the channel and it was pitch black; there was no moon. We were getting hammered by wind and waves, and the engine caught fire, so we had to shut off the engine. We only had the sails, and I was steering by the stars. It was just an awful time, and I was thinking: What could possibly make this worse? That’s where I got the idea for Close Reach.
You seem to know intimately the places you mention in your books, from Hawaii to San Francisco, the Azores and Edinburgh, and you seem quite familiar with chemistry, biology and technology. Do you write from experience or research?
I’ve been to most of the places I write about. I also do my research and talk to a lot of people. I read a lot of books on storm tactics, and watched videos and movies. My dad is a computer scientist, and he put me in touch with a guy in charge of research for the NSA, who was able to tell me if the computer parts of Redheads sounded plausible. My best friend is a cardiologist, so he helped me with things in Close Reach. My sister is a biologist, so she read one of the original versions of Redheads where a scientist is analyzing DNA, and she said no, you’ve got to rewrite this.
While writing, how much do you suffer the agony your characters suffer?
With Redheads, it’s so unrealistic that I didn’t have much of an emotional reaction while I was writing it. With Close Reach, it was very different. There were some scenes that left me feeling weird and sad. When you’re a man and you have two women in a cage for a third of the novel waiting to be raped, you want to handle these things very carefully, so I had to imply more than I actually showed.
Moore handles the touchy theme gingerly, giving his readers a soft but steely heroine with a moral conscience. He’s just finished his third novel, a murder mystery set in San Francisco (keep up to date at jonathanmoorefiction.com or like Jonathan Moore Fiction on Facebook).
The author has nurtured a love for writing since before he could even spell. He studied creative writing in high school and college before teaching English and opening a Mexican restaurant in Taiwan.
He eventually attended law school, and just made partner this year with his firm Kobayashi, Sugita & Goda.
He writes early mornings, evenings and weekends, and still finds free time to go sailing and traveling with his wife, Maria Wang, a fellow attorney and avid reader who dedicatedly lends a critiquing eye to Moore’s pages.
“There was a hard target coming at her fast from her starboard quarter. She jerked around and stared into the dismal gray fog until she saw La Araña emerge from it like a ghost passing through a wall. Its bridge-top rack of yellow spotlights was lit up; the naked corpse still swung from the bow on an ice-crusted rope. The body and the ship each shimmered and glittered beneath a diamond-dust coating of frost. (The fishing trawler) had just been loitering in the freezing, fog-bound shadows behind the iceberg, waiting to pick her out with its radar …”
— JONATHAN MOORE, CLOSE REACH
“At least once a day, Chris Wilcox got the idea there was a place he could go, an old familiar house, and if he walked into it, he would find the life he thought he’d lost. This vision was crowded with friends, their voices a blur of toasts and cheers, and at its center was Cheryl, waiting for him.
—JONATHAN MOORE, OPENING OF REDHEADS
“He started to the kitchen for candles, and as he was turning away from his desk and towards the door, he saw something pale glide past the window behind his desk. He whipped around. It had been at the edge of his vision; now there was nothing. The only movement was the forest itself, branches whipping in the storm.” — JONATHAN MOORE, REDHEADS