Hi J.R.! Welcome to the blog.
Thanks for having me, so to speak.
Tell us about your book!
Well, it's a collection of thirteen of my short dark fiction works from over the years. The oldest story was published when I was 19, and the collection itself was released when I was 27, so, as you can imagine, there's a fair range of stories included. Personally, I don't read much fiction because I have great difficulty in investing myself emotionally in most stories. I really dislike "genre exercises," which are basically just, as the name suggests, exercises in genre for their own sake. Each story in here meant a lot to me when I wrote it. There was some idea, some emotion, some sadness or some desperation I was trying to exorcise in the writing.
I'm fairly self-deprecating and shy away from self promotion, but one thing I am mildly proud of is the sequencing of the collection - the themes become layered and cumulative. The final novella, "There Must Be Lights Burning Brighter, Somewhere," is sort of the apotheosis of what I've been hinting at and suggesting throughout the whole collection.
As I was checking out your writing, I kept thinking it seems to have something in common with the New Weird. How would you describe your genre?
If only I read more modern fiction, perhaps I'd have a better answer for you! I was recently invited to the Necronomicon Convention in Rhode Island, and this question kept coming up, and I had to stumble through an answer. When people ask about the New Weird, I think they are talking about modern authors striving to create a feeling of the uncanny. H.P. Lovecraft, with his cosmological indifferentism, is usually the touchstone for these writers. I'm not really a fan of much "New Weird" writing, to be honest, or perhaps I've just been reading the wrong authors. I feel like Lovecraft thoroughly mined his territory. I often get lumped into H.P. Lovecraft-land, which I can understand, as I share his cosmic pessimism and his nostalgia for childhood, the fanciful, and "simpler times," and have been obviously influenced by some of his monstrous creations. (Also, many Lovecraft-centered publications have been gracious enough to review and recommend my fledgling collection). But Lovecraft used most of his human characters as ciphers to convey his larger ideas; that's not a knock against him, it's just incontrovertibly true. I find the human interior interesting, especially the depressed, maladjusted sort, and try to explore that a bit in my work.
That is a heavy undertaking - who are some of your literary influences?
Lovecraft, but nowadays I am more interested in Lovecraft's biography and non-fiction writings than in his fiction.
In terms of more "modern" authors, I deeply admire:
T.E.D. Klein ("Events at Poroth Farm," "Children of the Kingdom," "Black Man with a Horn)";
Dennis Etchison ("The Dark Country," "The Death Artist");
Harlan Ellison (too many works to count, but particularly "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" and his general persona);
Clive Barker ("In the Hills, the Cities," "Confessions of a Pornographer's Shroud");
Theodore Sturgeon ("Bright Segment");
Robert Silverberg ("Dying Inside");
Wilum Pugmire (everything, and his inspiration as a marvelous human being);
A very eclectic mix! I recognize some of those names (Ellison is amazing), but I can't wait to explore the authors that are new to me! I noticed quite a few lists and reviews on Goodreads indicate that your book is pretty scary. How do you create suspense and horror in your work?
I'm a little surprised when I get emails from readers telling me that a certain story "scared" or "disturbed" them. I never really write with the goal of "scaring" or "disturbing" anyone. I just write stories that I hope are philosophically and internally consistent. Perhaps my sensibilities and perspectives are skewed and that just results in uncompromising, bleak stories, which some people find disturbing.
I also try and be even-handed in my presentation of characters, so the reader can hopefully find something to empathize with in each character, which I suppose may make things suspenseful in that you don't want anything bad to happen to them.
Real scientific advice, as you can see.
Scientific or not, that is great - I think personal and offbeat advice is more inspirational than the advice we've heard a thousand times! On that note, what is your best advice for writers?
The standard mantra is "keep writing," but I don't really believe that. I've helped ghost edit a couple of collections, and I really do see the same stories and tropes and genre exercises, over and over and over again. So my advice would be try and think up an original story that you are passionate about, that resonates with you in some way, rather than create the 1,500th "buried alive" story. But, then again, that may explain why my output is so few and far between.
Are you working on any new books at the moment, or are you in the musing and percolating stage?
I am v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y putting together the next collection. I'd say I am about 50% done. That's one of the problems of having T.E.D. Klein as a literary idol. I feel no rush, and get terrible writer's malaise and general world weariness.
I look forward to hearing more about it when you're nearing the finish line! Thank you so much for joining us on the Freelance and Fiction blog!
No problem, thanks for having me.
Didn't get enough of J.R.'s POV?
I don't maintain a website or any social media accounts. Ironically, I do greatly enjoy communicating with fans; I just prefer it on a one-to-one basis. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers and the curious are free to email me. And I also maintain a GoodReads account, if that counts as social media.
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