The great Stephen Graham Jones was kind enough to take the time out of his schedule to answer some questions for me. Recently Stephen has published It Came From Del Rio and The Ones That Got Away. As well as publishing several novels Stephen has a huge portfolio of work that can be found online. I’d like to thank Stephen very much for joining me here. If you would like to track Stephen you can find him via his website, which can be found here.
The Ones That Got Away can be found from Amazon (UK) or on Amazon (US).
1.) Why do you choose to publish work online as well as in print?
I guess I just consider them the same kind of valid. For me it’s never about the medium you’re getting the story through, but whether or not you’re getting the story at all. The nice thing about print’s that you’ve got something to put on your shelf, you’ve got an artifact, you can give your mom a copy, have that kind of proof. The great thing about on-line, though, is that it tends to last a lot longer, and get stumbled upon more, its readership isn’t so much limited by a subscriber base, and, if somebody likes the story, they link it around.
2.) You have commented on the past about how you can go on 12 hour writing binges. Do you feel that that despite your prolific writing, if you took 15 years to make the same book it would be the same?
Man, if I ever took fifteen years to do one book, I expect that book would be huge and needlessly complicated, just because I’d have wedged story into every narrative crevice, and hammered more in besides. And also I’d never ever show it to anybody, since, if it took that long, and now it was a complete failure — and if it took that long to get right, how could it not be? — then that would be fifteen years of my life plain wasted, unget-backable. And that would suck.
3.) With It Came From Del Rio being the first instalment in a series, why is it that you do not shy away from sequels when so many other authors do?
I guess a lot of writers maybe feel that they’ve told the story well enough in these first couple hundred pages? I don’t know. But those characters that you see over and over in different situations, that’s always my favorite. Lansdale’s Hap & Leonard, McCarry’s Paul Christopher, Erdrich’s Nanapushes and the rest, even the few who lived through Lonesome Dove — how can a writer not want to do that? Or maybe some writers fear getting bored in the same story. How I read that though is they’re afraid the second book won’t match up, that they can’t luck onto that magic again. You’ve got to try, though.
4.) As an English teacher does it feel strange knowing that students can read and purchase your work, or does it allow a connection with them?
It’s great. Lots of them come to class knowing how I do things. Very helpful. And, I guess they can decide even before class if they’re going to hate me or not. That’s maybe helpful.
5.) Do you enjoy doing research for your novels?
I hate research. It’s the most useless thing of all. I wish I could narrow it down to those three minutes where you actually find something interesting, something you can use, and not have to do the rest of the trudge work. Research can hem you in, leave you with you room to move, just because there’s too many facts cluttering things up. Fiction’s not about facts. It’s about things that feel true. Things I can convince you are real.
6.) For The Ones That Got Away, was it difficult to pitch a short story collection to publishing houses, or did your reputation make the process smooth?
I don’t know if it was my reputation, but I never had to pitch Ones. Sean Wallace at Prime, he just called me up, said he’d been seeing my stories around, maybe I wanted to collect them in one place? I said sure. I always say sure. And thanks.
7.) What planning do you do when writing a short story or novel, do you plan each chapter in detail or let the piece flow?
I never plan stories — they’re so short, why bother? they either work or they don’t, so you throw them away or keep them — but novels, yeah, I’ll generally have the broadstrokes down. The big movements. But there’s always still room for surprise at the scene-level. And often huge problems that don’t show up until you get down to the details. All part of the game.
8.) Years on from novels, how do you feel looking back on your previous work?
It’s mostly nostalgia, I think. I still remember what it was like writing this one, or that one, but I can’t imagine ever writing like that again, and can’t even begin who I must have been to have done it this way, to have thought of that. I read them like somebody who didn’t write them, I mean. If I read them. Except I remember sitting there staring at the screen, too. I probably remember DemonTheory the fondest. I wrote it with my new son sleeping on my chest.
9.) When editing and writing The Ones That Got Away, how difficult was it to make sure that the collection flowed together?
It was a trick, definitely. I never guessed it, never meant it, but, like Laird says in the intro, so many of the stories are kid-based, in some way. So I had to try to keep those away from each other, but also not let all the third-person jobs clump together. Sequencing collections is so difficult. Especially the what-to-leave-out part. Which is essentially the what-sucks questions. Honesty time. That’s always the worst.
10.) What tips from your career would you give aspiring writers, or those who are shopping around their own work
I like Bradbury’s advice, of write one story per week, and always be mailing them out. If you wait to submit until you’re good enough, you’ll never submit, and if you wait for rejections to come in before starting the next thing, you’re going to write maybe six stories in your life. Just never stop writing, and read read read, and not just in the genre your heart belongs to. Read the stuff you fully expect to hate. There’s stuff you can steal there, and you won’t feel bad, because you hate those people anyway.