Sneaking Past the Gatekeepers: in convo with Stephen Graham Jones
  Conversations    May 31, 2017     Mackenzie Kiera

 

Editor’s note:  StokerCon is the annual convention of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) when, among other things, they honor the Bram Stoker Award winners. This year, the 4 day event was held at the historic and very haunted Queen Mary. We sent our own intrepid Mackenzie Kiera into the mouth of the beast to look around, and haven’t heard from her since. Luckily, she dashed off a few reports before… bazzzinga – no more Mackenzie. Ah, well.  

 

Mackenzie Kiera – Dr. Stephen Graham Jones. Good to speak with you again, thanks for meeting with me.

Stephen Graham Jones – Absolutely.

 

MK – Sir, was hoping you could tell my readers at The Last Bookstore what books to pick up? Give us some ideas. What are you currently reading?

SGJ – Currently reading Elizabeth Hand’s Wylding Hall and audiobooking John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire.

MK – He’s so cool. I like Red Shirts.

SGJ – Red Shirts is amazing, that’s one of my favorite all time novels.

 

MK – What else have you read this year?

SGJ – This year? Man, my favorite has got to be Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism.

MK – I’ve heard good things about that book.

SGJ – I love that book. And, just got to hang out with Grady. He’s a cool dude, smart. I think I’ve read that book three times this year.

MK – This year? You don’t have to put it down or…?

SGJ – No, no what happened was, I finished reading it, then started another book and thought: “This sucks.” So, I just went back to reading what I knew I liked. Also? He and I are the same age and it’s set in 1988, I think? So, it feels like a landscape, a cultural landscape I’m familiar with, I guess. Same way Ready Player One spoke to me.

MK – Because you’re from the future?

SGJ – Ha! No. I was born the same year Earnest Cline was born so, for some reason it’s comforting to read about my growing up through people who also grew up in the same time.

MK – So, in the late eighties, you would have been an adolescent. I heard you say once that writing adolescent characters was something you preferred if not what you bend towards.

SGJ – I do, I don’t know why but that’s where I’m really comfortable.

MK – How many of your books are in that age range?

SGJ – Counting Mongrels, five. So, five of sixteen.

 

 

 

MK – Why not more? If that’s where you’re comfortable.

SGJ – Um, probably, you know, when I published The Ones That Got Away in 2010 I guess, I didn’t realize it but some of the reviews said, I mean, they liked it and all but some of the reviews said: ‘This really is a neat way of haunting up childhood.’ I guess I didn’t realize that all those stories are from, like, a kid. I didn’t even know I was doing that so, that told me I probably need to do that less.

 

MK – So, what do you think of YA horror?

SGJ – It’s totally a thing. Gretchen McNeil who is here I believe, she does YA horror. I just read Wolf Road for my class at UCR, and that’s totally YA horror/science fiction. Yeah, I like YA horror. It’s fun to see what you can sneak past the gatekeepers.

 

MK – Totally important. Are you allowed to tell me what’s next? Can you talk about Mapping the Interior?

SGJ – Yep, it’s about a family trying to hold together after the father died, they are living a few hours off the reservation but then, one night, the oldest son, he’s about twelve, he sees his dead father walk through the living room. Decides to chase him or, follow him. And then, yeah, things happen. Also, there’s this. You seen this yet?

MK – No, tell me.

SGJ – It’s a comic book called My Hero and it’s coming out in June.

 

MK – So you have two things coming out in June. Awesome. What made you write this one?

SGJ – I wanted to engage the comic book form, and I wanted to do it in a way nobody had and, well, a comic book without pictures is a way no one has done comic books before.

MK – You really got to play.

SGJ – Yeah! Yeah, I did get to play.

MK – May I take a picture of this?

SGJ – Yep. Absolutely.

 

MK – It’s like you were trying to find all of the corners no one ever writes in.

SGJ – I was trying to get people to read words as images.

MK – You succeeded. So you have those two coming out and also, you were writing a slasher?

SGJ – Just finished it, it’s going to New York on Monday.

MK – Good luck!

SGJ – Thank you. Thank you. I’ve also got a crime novel called Texas is Burning, going to try to get it in bundled in with the slasher somehow. And what else? I have another novel called Washed in the Blood. I wrote it in a month and, I mean, it was a month four years ago, I just never sent it out. It’s about bow hunting in West Texas.

MK – You always come back to West Texas in your writing, don’t you?

SGJ – I do. Really I think we all, as writers we have only one place where we know all the emotional contours of that place, and for me, that’s West Texas. So, any other place I’m writing about, peel back the scrim and it’s West Texas, whether it’s off planet or inter-dimensional.

MK – So, you have a lot of desert planets, then?

SGJ – I do. And a lot of tumbleweeds.

MK – “The Night Cyclist” though, that’s Colorado, isn’t it?

SGJ – It is, and I have another that’s based in Colorado, coming out in Gamut soon, I believe.

Mk – What was the other one you had in Gamut?

SGJ – That was “Love is a Cavity I can’t Stop Touching.” Also, I think I’ve had another in there, um. “Spider Box,” “Second Chances,” and another called “Teaching a Sociopath to Cry.” Oh! And “The Lazarus Complex.” But the one coming up is “The God of Low Things.” It’s about prairie dogs.

MK – How do you teach a sociopath to cry?

SGJ – I think that’s what it was called. I don’t know. I wrote that one at a talk, and I mean, I got bored at the talk so, I wrote a short story. As you do.

MK – I remember that. You had a whole bunch of paper in your fists and you were just, “Hey, guys. Wrote a short story.” And then you disappeared. So, wait, you teach for the University of California, Riverside and also for Boulder. Don’t you have a new title for CU Boulder?

SGJ – Yep, I’m an endowed chair now.

MK – Congratulations. Any other books you can recommend? Before we sign out?

SGJ – Scary books?

MK – Up to you.

SGJ – Man, I just finished Bracken MacLeod’s Stranded and that book impressed me a lot. But I mean, all of the Stoker Con finalists have amazing books.

MK – And you are one of the finalists?

SGJ – I am, I am. For Mongrels.

MK – Well, best of luck to you sir, and thank you for meeting with me.

SGJ – Thank you.

 

 

Dr. Stephen Graham Jones was raised mostly in Greenwood, Texas. Currently, he teaches English and Creative Writing for the University of Colorado, Boulder and University of California, Riverside-Palm Desert. He is the author of twenty-three novels and some 250+ short stories. His latest novella Mapping the Interior and comic book My Hero will be available June, 2017. Dr. Jones lives in Boulder, CO with his wife, two teenage kids, some dogs and too many old trucks.

 

 

 

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