I reviewed S.D Foster's bizarro collection, A Hollow Cube Is a Lonely Space, yesterday (click here to read that), and today I have an interview with Shelby to talk about the bizarre side of short fiction. Also, be sure to pay him a visit at: http://morbidomelettes.blogspot.ca/. All right, on to the interview. Enjoy.
Gef: Tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been writing? What drew you to the bizarro-side of fiction?
Shelby: I’ve been writing stories, on and off, since I was a kid, but only started putting a(n) (un)serious collection together in late 2008. I set myself the target of writing fifty stories in two years. (Sloths are embarrassed by my work rate.) Twenty-three of them made the final cut of A Hollow Cube is a Lonely Space. And I write what I write because it’s the type of fiction I most enjoy reading, and the type my prose is best suited to.
Gef: Who have been some of your influences? Who are your favorite authors?
Shelby: Childhood favorites include Lewis Carroll, Dr. Seuss, and the bizarre and bloody stories of the Bible, particularly those in the books of Genesis and Judges. More recent influences are the Soviet-era Daniil Kharms, whose short stories are a patchwork of absurdities, non sequiturs and death; Russell Edson, who writes poetry about damaged apes and women who wear smoked cows’ tongues for shoes; and Walter Moers, whose Zamonia trilogy is Lord of the Rings for lovers of the cartoonish and ludicrous. I’m also an obsessive reader of philosophy and a compulsive viewer of horror and cult movies by directors like John Waters, Ken Russell, Frank Hennenlotter and Lucio Fulci.
Gef: The wit in your writing comes through very strongly, particularly in two of my favorites from your collection, "Slothra" and "The Marvelous Head." Are comedic elements a big consideration with these stories or just a pleasant byproduct?
Shelby: If my stories didn’t make me laugh, they wouldn’t be worth writing in the first place. But if that’s all they did, they still wouldn’t be worth it. The comedy is there to counterbalance the heaviness of the themes: meaninglessness, thwarted ambition, suicide, aging, the unfruitful life of fruit, etc.
Gef: For a bizarro neophyte like me, would you say flash fiction and short stories are the best way to get acquainted with the genre, or should I dive headfirst into a novel?
Shelby: Diving headfirst into a novel could cause irreparable spinal cord damage, so I wouldn’t recommend it. And in the interest of shameless self-promotion I have to say yes, short stories and flash fiction are best: they lend themselves particularly well to the genre. A couple of great bizarro collections are They Had Goat Heads by D. Harlan Wilson and I am Genghis Cum by Violet LeVoit, but if you’re after something longer try Lepers and Mannequins, Seven Seagulls for a Single Nipple, The Crud Masters, Trashland A Go-Go, Gigantic Death Worm, Placenta of Love and Party Wolves in My Skull.
Gef: How have you found working with Eraserhead Press thus far? What has been the biggest preconception busted since becoming a published author, or did you go in without preconceptions?
Shelby: Working with Eraserhead has been fantastic, as I suspected it would be. What I didn’t suspect was that getting a short story collection published would be so straightforward. This was, I guess, due to finding the right publisher at the right time.
Gef: When you put together a collection like this, how much consideration goes into the placement of stories? Are you looking for any kind of rhyme or rhythm, or is that over-thinking things in your view?
Shelby: Rhyme and rhythm are important. My editor, Kevin L. Donihe (author of The Travelling Dildo Salesman), has to take credit for the specific story placement, which he put a lot of thought into. But rhyme and rhythm within stories is equally important to me. One of the ways I redraft my work is by reading it aloud, and making changes based on what sounds best. I don’t do superfluous syllables.
Gef: Can you tell us about any other projects you have in the works? Where else can readers find your stories?
Shelby: There are a few unpublished stories buried in the blogs of fellow authors Spike Marlowe (spikemarlowe.wordpress.com) and Justin Grimbol (buttsharkuniversity.blogspot.com), and a couple more forthcoming in other journals. But the best way to read short stories is in a collection, so I’m hoping to publish another one in the not-too-distant future. I’d love to write something for younger readers, too.
Gef: Just out of curiosity, with "The Lingering Death of Christmas," which came first: the portrait of a blithering family or the notion of asphyxiating Santa in a chimney?
Shelby: It’s difficult to remember which came first—I’d have to exhume my old notebooks to find out. More often than not my stories have their beginnings in very different stories. I write something, loathe it, redraft it, hate it, redraft it, delete it, then use one tiny, undeleted idea to write something new. It’s a preposterously inefficient process.
Gef: For someone who might like to try their hand at writing a bizarro story, what would you offer as a bit of advice?
Shelby: Firstly, like a theological treatise, the action in a good piece of bizarro fiction should have little underlying logic. You’re not writing sci-fi. Secondly, no formal experimentation. You’re not James Joyce. And thirdly, make your story as scatological as possible, because you’re only human.
Thanks for the interview, Shelby.
Now, as for the rest of you, if you'd like a chance to get your hands on a copy of A Hollow Cube Is a Lonely Space, you're in luck because Mr. Foster was generous enough to offer a few copies up for a giveaway. So, from now until midnight on August 17th, you can throw your name in the hat using the Rafflecopter form below. On August 18th, I'll draw some names and announce the winners. Sound good? Great. Oh yeah, and this giveaway is open worldwide. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway