Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On Writing, with John Robert Colombo

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John Robert Colombo

John Robert Colombo is a prolific writer, translator and editor. His latest book is Jeepers Creepers (Dundurn), which collects 50 chilling stories of the paranormal from our own backyards.

John Robert Colombo talks to Open Book about his newest collection, the appeal of the hair-raising and his upcoming projects.

Open Book:

Tell us about your book, Jeepers Creepers.

John Robert Colombo:

Everyone is familiar with the two words "jeepers creepers," but not everyone knows that these words serve as the title of a new book — my new book! It is a collection of more than three-dozen, told-as-true ghost stories. The stories do not take place in ancient Scottish castles but in today’s houses and apartments across Canada.

OB:

What was the most challenging part of writing this book?

JRC:

A reporter and collector by nature, I take great pleasure in interviewing Canadians about their experiences, especially their experiences with the weird and the mysterious! It is a challenge to have these true accounts told in the words of the witnesses themselves. They are authentic recollections.

OB:

What recurring themes or obsessions do you notice turning up in your writing?

JRC:

Curiosity is the main characteristic and driving force behind the books that I compile, edit, translate or write.

OB:

What is the appeal of scary stories?

JRC:

The appeal of dinosaurs lies in their terrifying appearance and in the fact that they once lived. The appeal of ghosts and spirits is much the same — entities that do seem to be part of us — the inhuman part of us to be sure!

OB:

How did you go about collecting and compiling the stories in this collection?

JRC:

I issue open invitations to Canadians to contribute their experiences of the paranormal. I regard my books as a neutral ground for the recounting of weird experiences, reports of which are surprisingly common.

OB:

Who are some people who have deeply influenced (fellow writers or not) your writing life?

JRC:

I see myself as a psychical researcher or a parapsychological researcher with a pronounced interest in human psychology and in the nature of society. Influences have been R.S. Lambert and George and Iris Owen who made landmark contributions to this field in this country.

OB:

Is there a book you’ve read recently that you wished you had written?

JRC:

No single book stands out as one I wish I had written or edited, perhaps because I admire such a variety of works. Yet I find myself rereading Ripley’s Believe It or Not! from time to time, as I have done since I was a teenager so many years ago! I sometimes wish I were Robert L. Ripley!

OB:

What are you working on now?

JRC:

At any one time I have half a dozen manuscripts "in the works," including a collection of my own poems for next year, a collection of my own aphorisms and a collection of the "quotable quotes" of the late Northrop Frye.

John Robert Colombo the Toronto-based author and anthologist, has been collecting accounts of supernatural and paranormal experiences as reported by Canadians for more than 20 years. Dubbed Canada’s Mr. Mystery, he has previously published The Big Book of Canadian Ghost Stories, The Big Book of Canadian Hauntings, and Strange but True, among dozens of other books.

For more information about Jeepers Creepers please visit the Dundurn website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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