The Special Page

On this month's Special Page:

J.G. Faherty tells us about mentorship for writers


Susie Moloney
Nancy Kilpatrick
Joe R. Lansdale
Christian A. Larsen

Marc Ciccarone
Mylo Carbia
John Kachuba
John Russo


by JG Faherty

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a fan of horror. And quite possibly you’re a horror writer, as well. I know I’m both, and I have been for quite a while.

But if it wasn’t for the mentors I’ve had in this business, I might never have become a writer.

I recently received the Mentor of the Year award from the Horror Writers Association, and it’s one of my proudest achievements in my career, which is why I was more than happy to write this article when Jeanne asked me if I was interested.

Back when I was a fledgling horror writer with only a few short stories and a poem or two published, I signed up for the HWA’s mentorship program. It’s one of the many benefits of membership (more on that later), and I felt I needed some major assistance getting my first novel in shape. At that time, I’d already completed two Borderlands Boot Camp sessions with Thomas Monteleone, David Morrell, F. Paul Wilson, Thomas Tessier, Ginjer Buchanan, Richard Chizmar, and the late Jack Ketchum as instructors. I gained invaluable insight into the craft of writing and editing from them, and in the years since Tom, David, Paul, and Jack have provided further aid, serving as unofficial mentors.

But the HWA program offered something different. A chance to work one-on-one with an experienced author for six months. That’s something no one in their right mind would turn down! So I signed up, and through the luck of the draw I got paired with Deborah LeBlanc, not only a great writer but at the time also the HWA president.

Over the next few months, Deb worked tirelessly with me to not only get my novel in shape but also on several short stories and a novella. I learned an incredible amount from her regarding not just the basics of writing but also the subtleties. One thing that I especially liked, which was also something my Boot Camp instructors were famous for, was that she didn’t pull any punches. If something sucked, she told me. If an idea didn’t work, she pointed it out, and detailed why. If I veered into over-used tropes or banal plots, she let me know. This was what I wanted, and what I wasn’t getting from the various writer groups and critique sites I’d previously belonged to, where people tended to limit their comments to, “I liked it!” “I didn’t like it.” “I didn’t understand it.”

None of those help a writer grow.

Not long after Deb and I finished reworking the novel and I did my final cuts and changes, it sold. So did the novella. That was when my writing career moved to the next level.

About a year later, during a conversation with Tom, Paul, and Stephen Jones at a convention, I mentioned how they and Deb had been so helpful to me. They all had the same response: It’s all about giving back. I learned how they’d been mentored and helped by older writers when they’d been up-and-comers, and how helping other writers wasn’t only a nice thing to do, but it benefited the industry and the genre as a whole, because writers aren’t in competition with each other. We’re more like a team; the more of us do well, the better the industry does, and that means more opportunities in the form of publishers looking for books and magazines/ezines opening up. Plus, horror writers are really like a big family, and family helps family.

I took all that to heart, and in 2011, with a novel published and a 3-book deal with another publisher signed, I immediately enrolled as an HWA a mentor.

Since then, I’ve mentored approximately 15 writers. I’ve seen most of them go on to become professionally published, and a few have done very well for themselves, with some major successes. Each time one of them sells a book, gets a story into a magazine or anthology, or gains Active status in the organization, I get that same feeling my mentors have described to me. A little bit of a warm glow that comes from helping someone achieve their dreams.

For members of the HWA who don’t know about the mentor program, or for writers on the fence about joining, let me say that this is one of the greatest benefits for members. Each year, dozens of writers get to work with established authors. The official time period is six months of individual help, but after that you can sign up again if you feel you need more time. And, while I can’t speak for other mentors, my own business model is that once you are my mentee, you are always my mentee. I’ve had people I mentored two, three, even four years past come back and ask me to look at something, or to get advice about some detail of publishing or editing. And I’m there for them. Why? Because this isn’t a job, it’s not a one-and-done punishment. It’s something I enjoy. My mentors, the ones I started with and the ones I’ve gained over the years, are always there for me, too.

It’s what friends do for each other. More than that, it’s what writers should do for each other, whenever they can.

And it’s not just the HWA or horror writers in general doing this, although I have to proudly say that I personally feel we’re the nicest, most giving genre. The Science Fiction Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, Thriller Writers, and Romance Writers of America all have mentorship programs of some sort.

Of course, if you’re looking to be a mentor, you don’t need to be a member of an organization to do it, or do it through an organization’s formal program. I teach teen writing classes at my local library, which is great because it gets kids started on the write track for writing at a young age. I can only imagine where my career would be right now if I’d had that opportunity at 15 or 16. If you’re a writer, you can set something like this up at your library, or even with a local school. You’d be surprised at the talent these kids have, and I really hope that someday I see some of my students on bookshelves or in the news.

All in all, mentoring has played a major role in my life, and while standing on a stage accepting an award for it was amazing, the real reward is helping a new generation of writers succeed, and hopefully instilling the same ‘give back’ attitude in them, so that one day they’ll be mentoring a new batch of writers.






































jg faherty


The Mentor of the Year Award was established in 2016 to recognize a writer who has offered extraordinary service to the Horror Writers Association’s Mentor Program, which pairs newer writers with more established writers. Mentors work with their mentees on developing their craft and their business, in the interest of assisting writers in establishing careers.

The year, the Mentor Program Chair has chosen JG Faherty as the 2018 Mentor of the Year.


JG Faherty is a multi-award-nominated author of dark fiction, science fiction, horror, and urban fantasy. Since 2010, he has had six novels, 8 novellas, and more than 50 short stories published. His paranormal thriller, THE CURE, was a finalist for the 2015 Bram Stoker Award® for Superior Achievement in a Novel and his young adult paranormal romance THE GHOSTS OF CORONADO BAY was a finalist for the coveted Bram Stoker Award® for YA Horror in 2011. IN addition, his supernatural thriller THE BURNING TIME was a finalist for the ITW Thriller Award in 2013. Both THE BURNING TIME and THE GHOSTS OF CORONADO BAY earned 5-Star awards.

JG's works range from quiet, dark suspense to over-the-top comic gruesomeness. A fan of horror and science fiction since he was able to change the channel on the TV, one of his earliest memories is seeing Planet of the Apes and Night of the Living Dead as a double feature at the drive-in with his parents. Already addicted to Godzilla, Star Trek, and classic sci-fi movies such as Them!, his introduction to horror on the big screen made him an instant convert and science fiction took a second seat to the thrills offered by ghosts, vampires, monsters, werewolves, and zombies.

Throughout elementary, grade school, and high school he read everything dark and scary he could get his hands on, from Poe, Shelley, and Stoker to Wellman, King, Straub, Wilson, and Koontz. He made his first real attempt at writing horror while in college, but when that experiment failed miserably he went another 15 years before trying his hand at fiction again. In the interim, he worked a variety of jobs, including lab tech, R&D scientist, lab manager, photographer, zookeeper, teacher, marketing specialist, and resume writer.