By Basil Sands
DARKNET is John R. Little’s fourteenth book. Primarily working in suspense, horror, and dark fantasy, his novella Miranda, won the Bram Stoker Award. Two of his other books, Ursa Major and The Memory Tree, were also nominated for the same award. In addition to novels, John has published dozens of short stories over his career. He lives in southern Ontario and writes as much as possible. You can find out more on his website or on Facebook, where he loves to interact with his readers.
John, tell us about DARKNET.
The novel is about a woman who has no way to escape from her abusive husband. She’s desperate to find a way to have a new life with her ten-year-old daughter, but she can’t find a way. However, she learns about the dark side of the Internet, where anything is possible, including hiring a contract killer. With no other option, she starts a conversation with an anonymous killer, but that soon results in consequences for her that she could never have predicted.
Although based in real technological situations, the novel is really about a scared woman who is trying desperately to save her daughter.
DARKNET addresses some very dark sides of human personality, including abusive relationships, sociopathic behavior, and revenge. What was your motivation for writing on such themes?
I’ve wondered that myself over my career. I think that some writers are born to write romances, some crave the wonder of science fiction, while I’m drawn to the darker side of the human condition. I’ve loved reading horror and other types of dark fiction my whole life, and those are also the movies I watch. Why? I think it’s just something in the genes. They control how tall I am, the color of my eyes, and the type of stories that fascinate me. I don’t know how else we find at such a young age that a certain type of fiction appeals to us more than others.
How did you research for DARKNET?
In my day job I’m a computer consultant, so I have a very strong background in the technologies that form the basis of DarkNet. For the areas I wasn’t personally familiar with, I have peers with deeper knowledge who were kind enough to fill me in. I also read many news stories and other articles related to the dark Internet and even signed up myself for the journey that my protagonist took (although I stopped short of actually trying to hire a contract killer). I was fascinated that these web sites exist and can’t be touched by law enforcement due to the technology that creates anonymous communication and even anonymous currency to pay for anything illegal.
Your other works, fourteen in all, are all primarily suspense, horror, and dark fantasy. When did you first become drawn to this genre and what pulled you in?
I remember the very first movie I ever went to see was Village of the Damned when I was ten years old. That was a frightening movie based on the book The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham. It scared me a lot, but I was hooked. I never looked back and have loved dark movies and books ever since.
When I first started writing, for some reason I wrote science fiction. For about thirteen years that was all I wrote and it was mostly unpublishable garbage. My mind just doesn’t work that way, even though I love to read science fiction. I finally got clued in and tried a horror story. It sold quickly to Cavalier magazine for $250 and I knew I’d found my place.
When did you first realize you would be a writer?
When I was twelve years old, two of my older sisters bought a portable manual Brother typewriter. The minute I saw it, I knew I had to use it. At the first opportunity I borrowed it and wrote a mystery story about a guy who wins the lottery. He’s overjoyed and throws everything he owns in the fireplace to get rid of any reminder of his old life. Unfortunately, the lottery ticket was in the pocket of a pair of pants he burned.
It wasn’t very good, as you’d expect, but I never stopped writing after that day. There was something inside of me that just loved watching words appear from my fingertips.
I sometimes wish I still had a copy of that first story. It was lost decades ago, though.
Do you remember your first attempt at story telling? What was it like?
It was that short story I just mentioned. I loved it. I think the whole story was only about five hundred words or so, but I showed it to my parents, who were stunned that I could write something that was actually interesting. I remember enough to know there was a big twist, when the guy found that he’d burned the lottery ticket. Even today I try to incorporate big surprises or twists into the plot of my stories. I think it makes them more interesting.
If you could go back in time what, if anything, would you want to change about how you’ve approached your writing life, or for that matter your life in general, that may affect how audiences receive your work?
In retrospect, I wish I’d spent the first thirteen years I was writing on the genres that I became good at: suspense, horror, and dark fantasy. Having spent that time on science fiction helped craft my style, but I believe I would have had more work published sooner if I’d found the dark side of writing earlier. Writers should always write what they love.
And finally, the deep question everyone who reads these posts is dying to know about you, your psyche, and the mysteries of the universe. You are driving down the road on a dark winter’s night, tall snow banks obscuring your vision, like driving through a tunnel. Suddenly a team of the Dark Lord’s Hockey Players steps into the snow tunnel, blocking your way. They got scary looking death’s heads adorning their black uniforms, sharp spikes sticking out of their shoulder pads, opaque visored helmets, and blood dripping from their hockey sticks. They all seem to be breathing like Darth Vader, and their body odor is detectable even with your windows up.
- What is (are) the first word(s) out of your mouth? Is this a joke? Is there a hidden camera here?
- What is your strategy to escape from them? It sounds like my car is working fine, so I’d gun the engine and try to blast right through them.
- If you get stuck in the snow, what is the nearest weapon with which to defend yourself? Probably the newest Stephen King novel, which fortunately probably has quite a heft to it.
- What would you want your wife to know as they take you away, to hell’s ice rink? LOL! I can’t think of anything that isn’t mushy and sentimental, so I’ll just leave this one to the imagination.
To learn more about John, please visit his website.
He lives in Anchorage Alaska with his wife and teen sons.