Interview: Stephen Graham Jones On Writing, The Only Good Indians, and inspirations. | More2Read
 

Interview: Stephen Graham Jones On Writing, The Only Good Indians, and inspirations.



Stephen Graham Jones is the author of sixteen and a half novels, six story collections, a couple of standalone novellas, and a couple of one-shot comic books. Stephen’s been an NEA recipient, has won the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Fiction, the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction, a Bram Stoker Award, four This is Horror Awards, and he’s been a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award and the World Fantasy Award. He’s also made Bloody Disgusting’s Top Ten Horror Novels, and is the guy who wrote Mongrels. Next up are The Only Good Indians (Saga) and Night of the Mannequins (Tor.com). Stephen lives in Boulder, Colorado.


 


The Interview with Stephen Graham Jones


 

Lou Pendergrast

Welcome and congratulations on your work Mapping the Interior, it won a Bram Stoker Award for Best Long Fiction in 2017 and a finalist for World Fantasy Award for Novella in 2018 and in my best of horror reads this year.
Tell me a bit about the seed and inspiration behind this transcending horror tale.

 

Stephen Graham Jones

Guess I’d had the title lodged in my head for a year or two by the time I finally wrote the novella. Never had a story to go with it, though. It was just a kind of jab at Lewis and Clarke. But then Ellen Datlow solicited a novella from me, and there was a pitch-it part of that process. Which isn’t the way I usually do it. Usually I just take off, see where I get, then find the right market, the right editor. Was fun to do it this way, though. I just kind of reached back for a title, came up with this one, then dreamed up a story to go along with it. Instead of mapping the interior of the North American continent, what if it was a kid mapping his house out?
But why would he be doing that?
To find a ghost, obviously. But, the ghost has to matter to him too, so: his dad’s ghost, then. There needed to be some physical and familial jeopardy too, that’s how these things go, so I made the ghost hungry, and hungry for the little brother. After that it was just a matter of running away from scary dogs, pretty much. Wrote it in four days.

 


 

Lou Pendergrast

You have a forthcoming work available for preorder now named The Only Good Indians.
What was the seed and inspiration behind this?

 

Stephen Graham Jones

Wanted to write a slasher, but in a way the slasher hasn’t been done before.

 


 

LP

What do you hope to communicate with this work?

 

Stephen Graham Jones

Horror, man. If someone hesitates before turning the living room light off, if they’re counting the steps down that dark hall, then I’ve done what I’m here to do.


LP

You work Mongrels
What was the seed and inspiration behind this?

 

Stephen Graham Jones

Mongrels, I’ve just always been head over heels for werewolves, since a young age. Mongrels is my . . . I think it’s my third attempt at a werewolf novel. Took me that many tries to get it down on the page like I wanted.

 



 

LP

What do you hope to communicate with this work?

 

SGJ

That being a werewolf’s not all about moonlit duels on the parapets of castles. There’s also passing the credit check down at the used car lot.

 


 

LP

Talking about writing in my interview with Cody Goodfellow and what he hoped the reader would take away from reading, he mentioned what he hope to communicate with his writing this:
“I want to bring horror up to date in addressing our real fears… so much of what passes for modern horror, for all its graphic gore and “edgy” modern trappings, is essentially comfort food that diverts us from what we really fear, which is that the system is designed to consume us and the world, and it’s all starting to fly apart, and we’d rather read a gnarly horror book about it, than consider how to weather, if not avert, it.”
I would love your input on this and writing with fears and horror in framework of fiction.

 

SGJ

For me, I just deal with my own fears. That’s the only way I know to make a thing scary. And I”m scared of getting eaten and digested, I’m scared of dark places, I’m scared of not being in control of myself—one of my most persistent nightmares is of being a ‘rider’ in my own body as it moves through a crowd of people.

 


 

LP

In an interview with Benjamin Percy back in 2013 he mentioned this:
“Read your brains out and write your brains out. If you want to be a professional athlete, you need to spend tens of thousands of hours devoted to studying games, homing your technique, getting injured, getting better, and the same goes for a life at the keyboard. Many are talented, but few are driven and bull-headed enough to put in the work required, to go the distance.”
What works for you and what advice you would love to add or emphasis on in your advice on writing for the aspiring short story and novel writer.

 

SGJ

My advice is write every chance you can and read far outside your intended genre. Walking through fields you don’t necessarily know, burrs stick to your pants legs, and then come home with you, to the shelf you prefer. It’s new DNA, and your home-genre is always desperate for just that. Otherwise it’s just recycling its own usual stuff. And, as for writing every chance you can: I’ve never understood how writers can say they don’t like writing. To me writing is a gift, it’s a joy, it’s a pleasure I didn’t even have to earn, really. I just choose it. I get to set in my chair and go other amazing places. It doesn’t get any better than that. Yeah, the words don’t always go like you want, the story doesn’t always gel, the middle’s saggy, all that, but that’s all stuff craft and technique and just stubbornness can solve. The writers who finally make it, they’re generally not the ones whose talent shone through. They’re the ones who wouldn’t quit, no matter that the world was insisting they quit. Real writers are going to keep writing. You can’t break them. They can break themselves, though, of course.

 


 

LP

 

Stories to film and TV series, there are many movements in that direction in presents era we live. Any of you tales had interest to be adapted?
What tale would you love to see on the big screen?

 

SGJ

They’d all be fun, and some are in various stages of that kind of stuff right now. But . . . Demon Theory, say. It’d be excellent for that one to find it’s way to some sort of screen. Maybe the small-screen, with Pop-Up Video kind of footnotes you can turn on or off.

 



 

LP

On the film realm, which movies have impregnated your consciousness and you find you rewatch?

 

 

SGJ

Scream‘s the main one. And for some reason Doc Hollywood. And, when I want a kind of comfort watch, my go-to movies are Switchback and Deadfall

 



 

LP

Into the realm of novels and characters from fiction.

Which novels your reread and which characters from fiction have lasting effect on your conscious?

 

 

SGJ

I’ve reread Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door thirteen times now, trying to figure out how he does what he does there. I used to reread VALIS a lot, and The Crying of Lot 49. I’ve reread Erdrich’s Love Medicine plenty of times too, and have burned through The Shining probably seven times.

 



 

LP

A few characters from three novels I would like to mention.
The boy or The kid, The Judge or Anton Chigurh?
Blood Meridien and The Road, and No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy.
Why these ones?

 

 

SGJ

I like the kid, from these three. Kind of an almost-mute witness to all the savagery and depredation.

 


 


 

LP

Any reads from 2019 you recommend readers have under their radar, and why?

 

 

SGJ

I really dug Richard Kadrey’s The Grand Dark, yeah. So, so finely written, moment by moment. You just immediately lose yourself in that world, that city, that story. And Katherine Arden’s The Winter of the Witch, the third in the Winternight trilogy, which is the best fantasy I’ve read since . . . man, since Jemisin’s Dreamblood duology, I guess. And, for horror, Jonathan Raab’s Camp Ghoul Mountain Part VI. It’s got a slasher heart, and a slasher mask as well, and blood just everywhere. If you’re into slashers, it’s the novel for you. And if you’re not into slashers, you should be.

 


 


LP

Thank you for your time and this chat.

 

SGJ

Thank you.

 


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Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 29 October 2019