Stephen Graham Jones is the author of sixteen novels and six story collections, and, so far, one comic book. Stephen Graham Jones has been an NEA recipient, has won the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Fiction and the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction, has won a few This is Horror Awards, and he’s been a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award and the Shirley Jackson Award a few times each. Stephen Graham Jones also made Bloody Disgusting’s Top Ten Horror Novels. Stephen lives in Boulder, Colorado. Please enjoy my interview with Stephen Graham Jones.
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
I write and I teach about writing.
What are you reading at the moment?
House of Fear edited by Jonathan Oliver. A haunted house anthology. Some good stuff. Also reading Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix. It’s all kinds of fun and it’s teaching me stuff I had no idea about.
What’s your earliest memory of reading?
Fourth grade, Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.
If you could encourage young people to read one book in particular, what would it be and why?
Can you remember the first story you ever wrote?
“The Gift.” I was nineteen, sitting in a hospital waiting room for three days.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
Night janitor for the biggest daycare in Texas.
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring writer?
Read outside of your genre, and don’t get mired down rewriting a single story.
Do you read as much as you’d like to?
What books do you feel are important reading for people on your career path and why?
Unexpected books are most important, I think. It’s easy to just read what people give you or to pick up books you expect to like. Those books never change you, though. The books that change you are the random ones you somehow end up locked in a room with for three days, so you figure, sure, whatever, not like you’re doing anything else.
Is there a book that you’ve read more than once? What is it and why did you revisit it?
I read a lot of books over and over. The one I’ve read the most times is The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum (see Jack Ketchum’s reading list here). I’ve read Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich five or six times. Same with The Shining by Stephen King. I used to read VALIS by Philip K. Dick and The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon every year. And Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien. Last few years I’ve read Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock five or six times. I read Kevin Williamson’s screenplay for Scream pretty regular, too.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
Who would you say are the three writers that continue to inspire you?
Joe R. Lansdale. Stephen King. Louise Erdrich.
What’s your favourite genre of book?
Ones that don’t overstay their welcome. I’m cool with long books, but they need to earn their length.
What do you think a world without books would be like?
Without stories to work out our narrative muscles, we soon forget how to manipulate our own narratives so as to argue for this, so as to repress that, and then we’re just stumbling into the future without a single identity. We’re just a big snowball of un-curated events, plunging downhill. And that’s no way to live.
Is there an author whose writing you’re such a fan of, that you’ll read everything they release?
Joe R. Lansdale.
Do you think digital books will ever completely replace real books?
No. Books are a good technology. They’re reliable, durable.
What book do you feel humanity needs most right now?
Science fiction, to seed that kind of imagination in the world, get us to the stars. Because there’s getting to be too many of us down here on just this one planet. That’s what a lot of our horror stories are about, down here. Limited resources. The animal just under the skin of someone we thought we knew.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life? What impact did it have?
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. In fourth grade, at the end of that book, I knew I could hang a lantern on an axe head like that. If I hadn’t read that book to the end, I don’t know if ever realize I can write.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
Horror, science fiction, fantasy, literary, nonfiction, poetry, paleoanthropology.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
I Can Show Myself Out, Thanks.