June 22, 2015

The Teeth Behind Us: an interview with Stephen Graham Jones, contributing author in "Nightmares Unhinged"

Hex Publishers, a new Denver-based publishing house, is set to release its first anthology, Nightmares Unhinged, in September 2015. The book will feature eighteen tales of dark and twisted fiction written by a roster of award-winning and bestselling authors that reads like a who’s who of dark and speculative fiction.

Contributors include Mario Acevedo, bestselling author of the "Felix Gomez" vampire series; Nebula Award winner Edward Bryant; New York Times bestseller Keith Ferrell; Jeanne C. Stein, bestselling author of "The Anna Strong Vampire Chronicles" and Bram Stoker Award winner Steve Rasnic Tem. New York Times bestseller Steve Alten will write the book’s foreword.

Another contributing author is none other than Stephen Graham Jones. I had the chance to ask him a few questions about his story and nightmares in general. Enjoy!

Stephen Graham Jones is a prolific writer, having authored five collections and 15 novels. He’s been recognized as a Shirley Jackson Award finalist three times, a Bram Stoker Award finalist, a Black Quill Award finalist, an International Horror Guild finalist, a Colorado Book Award Finalist, a Texas Monthly Book Selection, and has won the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Fiction and the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction. He’s also been a Texas Writers League Fellow and an NEA fellow in fiction.

Gef: How did you come to be involved with the Nightmares Unhinged anthology? Did you have a story already written that fit with the theme, or were you off and running on something from scratch?

Stephen: What I had was a story that I'd taken a couple of runs at, but I kept losing my nerve, the last few pages. So, when Josh and Dean hit me up, I kind of insta-sparked up this story idea—it involved a pig, and cocaine—but then when I sat down to write it, this story kept rising again. So I tore it down, faked like I had the nerve, and wrote it about six times, I think it was. Trick with horror, it's never doing what you think's going to be scary to the audience, but what you yourself are kind of instinctually uncomfortable with. That's the only way to get anywhere worthwhile.

Gef: With the stuff of nightmares, and just human nature in general I suppose, are we as a species just hard-wired for horror?

Stephen: Definitely. I mean, coming up on the savannah, everything wanted to bite through the back our skulls, right? That happens for enough millions of years, then stories about that, they start to kind of resonate. We get a thrill from them, but we also get instruction. What horror gives us today, I think, is that hot breath at the back of our neck. Without teeth behind us, without constant reminders that we're not as important as we think we are, that we're not at the top of the food- or whatever-chain, then I think we as a species start to lose our edge. Let me go another paragraph here, and I'll be talking about Rocky III.

Gef: Do you find the horror genre lends itself better to short stories or novels ... or all of 
the above?

Stephen: You know, look at somebody like Joe Lansdale, who's done probably more horror short stories than horror novels, and then take into account all the horror anthologies—how that seems to be a form that thrives regardless of era or climate or taste—and . . . I don't know: maybe short stories work better for horror, by just a smidge? But, the reason for that, I'd guess, it's that a short story can get by completely fine with no redemption at the end. The novel, however, it needs some upturn by the time you've crossed three hundred pages. And, with horror, finding that upturn—not saying a 'happy ending,' so much, but even just a sliver of daylight, just one single daisy on the whole tundra—it's a lot trickier. Too, though, man, I love it when a horror novel works.

Gef: What (or who) is your worst nightmare?

StephenHave had it a few times: driving down the road, things are going great, and then I look down to the ignition—I'm always driving a mid-seventies Ford, where the ignition's on the dash, right above your right knee—and there's no key.

Gef: Growing up in Texas, do you feel the region has its own flavor of horror, in the way some might look at New England horror or Southern Gothic?

StephenI think there's more people-on-people horror coming out of Texas, yeah. When you go New England, things get creepy—"Should we open this book / go in that shed / follow that trail?"—but there's less Texas Chain Saw-y stuff happening. Whereas, bringing horror here to the Rocky Mountain area, you get more monsters, I think, or more man-vs-nature kind of stuff. Not sure about California. California's a mystery to me. I think, if anything, the horror that rises in California, it's history.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

StephenGot a werewolf novel Mongrels out May 2016 from William Morrow that I'm excited about. It's always been my biggest and best dream to bite the world with a story like that. And, you can usually find me @SGJ72, or my site DemonTheory, or speaking at some podium near wherever you are.

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