TIH 484: Stephen Graham Jones on Don’t Fear the Reaper, My Heart is a Chainsaw, and The Only Good Indians

TIH 484: Stephen Graham Jones on Don’t Fear the Reaper, My Heart is a Chainsaw, and The Only Good Indians

In this podcast, Stephen Graham Jones talks about Don’t Fear the Reaper, My Heart is a Chainsaw, The Only Good Indians, and much more.

About Stephen Graham Jones

Stephen Graham Jones is a Blackfoot Native American author of experimental fiction, horror fiction, crime fiction, and science fiction. His books include Don’t Fear the ReaperMy Heart is a ChainsawThe Only Good IndiansMongrels, and The Elvis Room.

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They’re Watching by Michael David Wilson and Bob Pastorella

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Michael David Wilson 0:28

Welcome to This Is Horror, a podcast for readers, writers and creators. I'm Michael David Wilson. And every episode alongside my co host, Bob Pastorella. We chat with the world's best writers and creatives about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Today, Stephen Graham Jones returns to the podcast for his first full length episode in six and a half years. And what a reason to do it because Steven just released don't fear the Reaper, the second book in his Indian Lake trilogy. And in this conversation, we not only speak about the second book, but we do in fact talk about the first book, my heart is a chainsaw, which is one of the best novels from 2021. And in addition to that, we talk about a multitude of other topics, including the impact on Steven when he won the Mark Twain American voice and Literature Award. But before any of that is time for a quick advert break.

Bob Pastorella 1:45

From the host of This Is Horror Podcast comes a dark thriller of obsession, paranoia and voyeurism. After relocating to a small coastal town, Brian discovers a hole that gazes into his neighbor's bedroom. Every night she dances and he peeps, same song, same time, same wild and mesmerizing dance. But soon Brian suspects he's not the only one watching. She's not the only one being watched. They're Watching is The Wicker Man meets Body Double with a splash of Suspiria They're Watching by Michael David Wilson and Bob Pastorella is available from this is horror.co.uk Amazon and wherever good books are sold. It was as

RJ Bayley 2:25

if the video had unzipped to my skin, slunk inside my tapered flesh and become one with me.

Bob Pastorella 2:33

From the creator of This Is Horror comes a new nightmare for the digital age. The Girl in the Video by Michael David Wilson. After a teacher receives a weirdly arousing video, his life descends into paranoia and obsession. More videos follow each containing information no stranger could possibly know. But who's sending them and what do they want? The answers may destroy everything every one he loves. The Girl in the Video is the ring meets fatal attraction from iPhone generation available now in paperback ebook and audio.

Michael David Wilson 3:02

Okay with that said, here it is it is Stephen Graham Jones. On this is hora. Steven, welcome back to This Is Horror Podcast has been Thank you. Thank you. It's been over six years, as I was saying, when we were talking or fair, you know, that is the last time that we did a full conversation with you. There was a little clip on episode 300. And, you know, quite frankly, when I just worked that out, I know. I hope Steve is not going to be mad with us. Six years. You do and you nearly ghost me for over half a decade.

Stephen Graham Jones 3:51

Man it doesn't it doesn't even feel like that long. It feels like maybe a year and a half, you know? Yeah, I think it's because I mean, it's because I listen to you all sometimes. So that probably like I think I'm part of it when I'm not part of

Michael David Wilson 4:04

Yeah, well, I mean, you're always part of it in our heart. And because whenever we talk about prolific writers, it's pretty much you and Josh Malerman, who we put right up at the top. So maybe we're just giving you an ego boost because we keep referencing you even though you're not on the code. So you're like, oh, yeah, I'm here. I'm part of this. But, I mean, what have been the biggest changes for you both personally and professionally? In the last six years, seems like a ridiculous question. Normally. It's not been that long.

Stephen Graham Jones 4:46

Yeah. You know, I guess if I was on here last for mongrels. Then the first book I published after mongrels was mapping interior, a little novella I did for Ireland, which was lucky enough to pull some awards and get until A lot of readers hands and and because of mapping the interior, Ellen Detlef said hey, why don't you write a novella for me? And that mapping tear took me four days. So I thought, hey, why can't I have four days, I can steal four days. And so I sat down to do that. And four weeks later, I had not written the novella. I'd written the novel, and I was like, what is up with me? You don't know how to write a novella. That was kind of stupid, I thought. So I put that book to the side that was coming out next year, actually. And, and I thought I read her novella, novella. And again, four weeks later, I had a novel and that that one was the biggest year of lives, actually, which I've already come out. And I put it aside and I'm like, okay, rule is when you get 215 pages you stop, you know, I thought that I thought, Who cares? The story's done. It's a novella, if it's as long as a novella, which is a stupid rule. Because I kept going over and, and so I wrote this little creepy to me haunted house thing, or haunted presence thing or something, and get 215 150 pages, and I stopped, and I was like, Yes, I did it. No, no. But then another line occurred to me that I could tag on to that, that would open up into a novel. And so I call them agent and I said, Hey, what, what should I do? Should I leave this novella and turn it in to Ellen? Or should I make it a novel? And she immediately without even hesitating, she said, make it a novel, they're easier to sell. So I did, I made it a novel. And that was the only Canadians. The first part I'd written was the Peter Lewis section. And I never planned on it being a novel, I plan to be Annabella, which is why it's kind of a weirdly shaped novel, you know. And then, so, and I'm skipping some books, too. I think also in 2017, or 2018, I had my hero come out my first kind of stand alone comic book, and then then the only going to demons. And after the only good Indians, I think I had Memorial ride. No, I had not had the mannequins coming out that novella, right, and none of the mannequins and I thought that was the novella. I finally wrote for Ellen della tour. I guess I wrote I wrote a novella. I told her writer and, and you know, to like, good Indians is a slasher. None of the mannequins is slasher II fun. And then I did my heart is a chainsaw and what 21 Another slasher, the first of a trilogy. And then I had Earth divers come out the monthly comic with IDW is just rolling along. And it's a blast to do. Honestly, how writers maintain like, like Colin Vaughn, how did he do it as many titles as he does, or Jeff Lohmeyer? Because just one title is so much work. I can't imagine doing more than that. Maybe I'll figure it out. Once I've had my feet on the ground in the industry for a while. And after Earth divers were pretty much where I am right now. Don't fear the Reaper is as we record this right about to come out. It may have come out. By the time we record this. I'm not sure. And I've already written the third one I turned it in in August. It'll be coming out before too awful long. And let's see I have also sold I was a teenage slasher, another novel, which is coming out before too long. And what else? What else? What else? I guess that's that's all? Oh, man. That's I don't even count how many books that is. But it's a few few in the last six

Michael David Wilson 8:10

years. Yeah. Yeah. Certainly continue in your reputation of being prolific. And, you know, this is before we've even mentioned any personnel changes, but maybe it's kind of business as usual, on the personal front. And I recall, you know, you saying before, in terms of a social life, it's like, well, you typically skip that so that you can get on with a right and I remember when you were at university, you were very disciplined about that. And it's like, look, I'm here to write that is what I'm doing.

Stephen Graham Jones 8:49

That is that's pretty much still how I tried to be. I do I mean, of course, we're humans. We were social animals. We have to get out and be among people, are we people, I think, but I think I feel like the biggest chunk of my socializing comes from like events and conventions and conferences and festivals and stuff, which is great. I love moving among other writers, and other readers. And that's, that's great for me, but yeah, left to left to my own devices. I just stay home and write and read and watch VHS tapes and stuff like that, you know?

Michael David Wilson 9:21

Yeah. Yeah. And, I mean, you said, you wrote a novella in four days, your novel in four weeks. I know you've said before, you've written short stories in an afternoon. So, of course, I'm wondering when when you say that what level of written do you mean, do you mean purely the first draft or has it gone through several drafts at that point, and then, you know, let's take the novella then. So you've done that in four days. So, how much more are you then putting in before we get the finished published book?

Stephen Graham Jones 10:08

With mapping the interior? Yeah, it took four days. And it wasn't even like four days of constant work, because I was doing a kept a little log on my website about, you know, while while writing this, what was I doing? And it's pretty obvious that I was not only writing, but I found that if I only write the product is pretty useless. I can write eight hours in a row, no problem, but only 90 minute, the first 90 minutes of that is salvageable. The rest of it just to throw away because it's just, it's just me putting random or not random words, but it's me not doing what I consider good work. But um, maybe the interior, yeah, it was four days to write. And then it was probably a total of like, a day and a half of editing, you know, because I didn't get the Ellen gave me some good notes on it. But they weren't like substantive. Like they didn't spin everything in different direction. You know, the, the ending was in place, everything was in place. It was just she had a couple of questions like, can you make this same room where it makes a little more sense to me that kind of stuff. Ellen's Ellen's really good at that. And yeah, story if a story teaches, but story takes me longer than two afternoons. And I've generally throw it away, because I think it's, it's like pushing a boulder uphill. And riding should not be like that already. It's not like that, for me. Anyways, writing for me is, I'm at the top of a hill, and I climb up on a boulder and I ride that boulder down, and it's a big fun time, you know, but if I'm gonna push a boulder up a hill, then I might as well do something else, you know, because if it's not fun, I'm not going to do it. And writing to me, is super, it's a fun, crazy ride, and not work. You know, I'm always afraid of turning writing into work or a chore, which I think is why I never have maintained a schedule with writing. I don't, like I'm afraid if I still if I told myself be at the desk with a keyboard at 8am. So you can get four hours of work done before lunch or whatever, I'm afraid that it would become I would kind of start to dread that I'd be like, Oh, 745 I gotta get to the keyboard. I don't I don't want writing to be that, you know, writing to be an escape from from responsibilities and all the, from the world. You know, like, I feel like with writing, I'm taking books and building a little fort around myself, you know, and I'm just isolating myself this keyboard. And just it's the ball. I love. I love it. It's it's playing with dragons, you know, and playing with dragons is not worth playing with dragons is wondrous and amazing to me anyways.

Michael David Wilson 12:22

Yeah, yeah. And just because we do really like to get into the right in logistics. So in terms of your writing setup, are you doing that on like a regular computer? Are you doing that on in a notebook? Like, do you have an internet connection? Are you listening to music, what's going on in terms of that?

Stephen Graham Jones 12:46

You know, I'm, I'm a big proponent of not ritualizing your writing, which is like, I know, some writers are like, Alright, I'm at my special desk and the cat is over there, the blinds are turned three quarters this way, I've got my glass of whatever here and I got that candle going. And I got my lucky pin here. And now I can finally write. But I think when you do that, you're just stalking yourself with excuses to not write because at the bus stop, you're not going to have your cat and your mini blinds and your lamp and all that stuff. You know, um, and with me, I'm constantly on the road. So I, all I really told myself I need is either a pin or a keyboard, either those two and I can go to town and get a whole lot done. Generally, a laptop on the road. Of course, I used to carry my, my keyboard with me on the road. This one. And I love it all so fast on this doing

Michael David Wilson 13:36

that, but that is a key.

Stephen Graham Jones 13:39

Yeah, I've got I've got two of them one of my study and one of my office on campus, and I'm thinking about getting a third. But um, yeah, it's kind of big to pack in a carry on. So I don't do it so much anymore. I can go pretty fast. And I'm a little keyboard too. And I like to have music too. I really like to be through loudspeakers. I just bought out a pair of Bose speakers and I had to get some bigger speakers because I like it really, really loud. I like like brain meltingly loud, yeah, I consider good music. And what I do for every novel is, uh, before I start writing it, I throw together a really fast playlist, and that playlist, it's usually about an hour and a half long, and that's good, I'm good for with writing. And, and I've only listened to that playlist from someone in that same order when I'm writing that book. And what that does after just a few sessions is conditioned me such that whenever I hear the opening beats of journey, or Rob Zombie or whatever it whoever or share whoever it is that immediately like I feel a trapdoor open underneath my world and I fall into the emotional landscape of the novel, you know, and which makes it really weird when I'm done with that novel, and I allow myself to them listen to that playlist in the car, my bike, walking the dog, whatever. It's weird because I almost lose my breath because I'm back in the world with that novel when I'm listening to that playlist. It's really weird for me.

Michael David Wilson 14:59

Yeah, Yeah, and I mean, I've got a number of albums of soundtracks that I like to put on while writing, but, I mean, unlike you and a number of other people that we've spoken to, I haven't been so strict as to say, Okay, this is the only one for this story, but I think I'm gonna have to try it out. Because, I mean, I can just see how it could condition on another level. I get so much that Yeah. Pavlovian effect. And

Stephen Graham Jones 15:33

it really, it really does. Um, although the only thing I've noticed bad about it is I tend to like end with the same song. I always end with one or not always I tend to end with one of two songs. It's either Johnny Van Zandt brickyard Road, Johnny van Zan is Ronnie Van Zandt and Donnie Van Zandt, little brother you know from from skinning very special in Brickyard is an amazing movie. I mean, Sunday in the playlist on, but often it's meatloaves objects in the rearview mirror, because that always breaks my heart in a good way. And it's like seven minutes long. So I get to end for a long time because but also I have a little like bump out playlist, which makes it like pull it up right away. Yeah, which sometimes I get to the end of like my 90 minute play like writing session, but I still have to do like three more paragraphs or something like that. And and so then I need like three or four more songs. It's through this together. It's only four songs. It's Rod Stewart's Young Turks, which I love. Bon Jovi living on a prayer John Kelly, good John Mellencamp Jack and Diane in bad company, shooting star, those are the four like bump out songs. If I need just five more minutes or 10 more minutes of writing. Then I push a play on that playlist. And it's weird because I'm getting conditioned, where when I hear those four songs, I feel like I'm on a downslope and I know I have to insert you know,

Michael David Wilson 16:48

yeah, yeah, not that great tracks. But the problem for me if I was listening to them, because I don't really listen to music with lyrics while I'm writing, I start singing along and it's like, well, you've just had an awesome rocket helped, but you haven't actually got any writing done.

Stephen Graham Jones 17:07

Danger for sure. That's why I only allow myself to listen to songs while I'm writing that I know super super well, but I don't have to listen to anymore if that makes sense. You know? Yeah. Like I couldn't, I couldn't listen to like a new album, or a music I did not know while I was writing because I'm going to be listening to that music and not using my fingers in the right way. Um, it's got Yeah, it's gotta be stuff that I know. Like, the Footloose soundtrack. I know that inside out so I can that's that's those songs tend to be part of my playlist as well. And you know, meatloaf and Cher and Frank Zappa. Yeah,

Michael David Wilson 17:38

and stuff. Yeah. Yeah.

Stephen Graham Jones 17:41

Yeah. You know, also I have, I have a like before I before all the events I do. Not all the events, but I have a little playlist for before events, too. That gets me in what I consider a good headspace. I'll read it's for song for songs as well. It's weird. Um, I guess that means I need 12 minutes of prep time for any event. It's only two artists. Look at that. It's the first two songs it's Rosanne Cash so her seven year ache and then blooming with heart ache. Both of those books break my heart both both those songs I think are the most books both of them break my heart and they both end with ache, don't they? That's weird. And then it's then it's to Earl Thomas colony song if he's a country singer. I think he I think his voice was like 90% As good as Georgia Genesis. Um, nobody falls like a fallen angel in disguise. But um, yeah. So if you ever stumbled into a green room before I'm about to go on stage, chances are I've got these in my ear, and I'm looking into Rosanne Cash and Earl Thomas.

Michael David Wilson 18:37

Yeah, yeah. And I mean to talking about you doing events, I, I watched one that you had a meet the author event, which was put on YouTube. And one of the craziest stories that you read from that, that really kind of impacted me was this one about a spider's bite. And I don't want to spoil that for anyone, because it's so perfectly done. You can find it on YouTube, I'll put a link in the show notes. But just the way that, you know, you took this physical horror, but then by the end, you've turned it into an emotional one. And it's like, holy shit, the fear of what you're talking about there is so much worse than the spiders by it. And the protagonist is wishing that they don't have the spiders by the end. You know, I love that. And I think we've said before, obviously, when it comes to your stories and subverting expectations, that's, I mean, that's what you're the master of and that's also what you're interested in. You said you don't want to write something conventional or predictable.

Stephen Graham Jones 19:53

Yeah, yeah. Well, I always like, I only want to write novels that are stories that I think I can't write. If that makes sense like in my conception of like that spider bite story you're talking about the it was a hairy legs and all because I have two spider bites. Yeah, it's the one about the spider in the shoe. Is that the one? Yes. Like with with that with that with that story I wanted to kind of in my mind anyways mix you know the the instinctual terror of a spider in your shoe with like Ursula gwynn's The Lathe of Heaven, where that's a guy who every time he goes to sleep, he has this power that rewrites the whole world and he wakes up to a different world over and over and over, you know, and so I thought how can I how can I mix those two because I've always loved later heaven? I don't think it gets read enough. And the best thing I could come up with was you wish so hard that the Spider was not in your shoe that you use it you successfully wish it gone, but it takes a lot of your reality with it and you're kind of sad. Yeah, whatever. It just took that bite, you know?

Michael David Wilson 20:54

Yeah. Yeah.

Stephen Graham Jones 20:56

I do love I do love. I don't want to take the knees out of genre, but I do want to undercut readers expectations, you know, especially slasher slasher reader slasher fans because slasher fans know, the conventions and the tropes inside out. And, and so it's really, really hard to get one past them, you know, because they see things come and they see it rolling up on the horizon, and they know exactly what's gonna happen the next like three beats of the story. So, when I tried when I mentioned slashers I tried to make little gestures that you're seeing the same thing you've always seen coming at you but then when I can distract them for a moment, I try to change that thing. It's coming at them in some way, you know, while still satisfying their desire for effective slasher which is a hard balancing act, you know, um, but luckily, the slasher is such an elastic little genre that it's got, like endless variations it feels like,

Michael David Wilson 21:48

yeah, yeah. And I mean, talking about subverting expectations and talking about the slasher genre. We're going to take this moment to announce the winner of the novel of the year in the This Is Horror awards. And listeners may be able to predict or what could it be? It would be very bizarre if the novel in the year was not by Stephen Graham Jones would never have made conversation. No is of course, my heart is again, so by Stephen Graham Jones. So there it is. If you're watching the video version, he held it up. He's still holding it up, in fact. So firstly, congratulations on that. And I mean, as a kind of comment along the lines of what we're talking about. This is what one might a literary slasher, which of course sounds like a kind of contradiction in and of itself. So you've done it again. And of course, the spoiler is that you're gonna do it for free books, because it's so so yeah, we've got a follow up. Don't fear the Reaper, and it's marketed as a trilogy. So unless you survived, yeah, there it is on the video, don't fear the Reaper. But unless you are subverting expectations by putting out a two book trilogy, then we do assume that that will be that book in the trilogy?

Stephen Graham Jones 23:26

Yeah, that'd be a heck of a subversion. You know, there's only two books, Michael. Yeah. But no, I've already I've already written the third one. I turned it in in August. So yeah, it's coming out, man. I know. I now know how Jade's story ends. Um, I don't know if people are gonna, I don't know if people are gonna celebrate it or like, um, sacrifice me. I don't know.

Michael David Wilson 23:50

Yeah, I mean, we, we hope that you won't be sacrificed. But at the same time, it's a hell of a way for a horror offer to go. I mean, does it get better than that? Really?

Stephen Graham Jones 24:06

I could be like The Wicker Man, you know, that'd be fun.

Michael David Wilson 24:10

That's exactly what I was thinking now. Yeah. I mean, is there a more iconic sacrifice than the sacrifice at the end? The Wicker Man?

Stephen Graham Jones 24:22

I don't think I don't think there is I think those iconic is a good it's, I guess the runner up would be very asters, midsummer, tied up in a bear suit or something.

Michael David Wilson 24:31

Yeah, yeah. Well, a modern day classic that is. mid summer, it's just, it's gotta be one of my favorite films in in the last 10, maybe even 20 years and it's so harrowing from the start. I mean, those first five minutes when she realizes what's happened to her family, and that scream. Holy shit.

Stephen Graham Jones 25:00

Ya know, that's, uh, you know, in both in hereditary and midsummer astir does the same thing where the first sequence that leads up to like the terrible thing like in hereditarians the head getting knocked off by the utility pole, and in midsummer, it's the parents we did both of those. It's like, you know, a novel is usually like this, like, this is the beginning and you go up along sewing line, you reach a tip and then you go down precipitously to the end, you know, I think every astir stuff works differently. You start out up here with that, hi, seen that initial sequence and you're like, You rocked back in your heels, you're like, This is just the beginning, you know, but then after that, he takes a long slow sloped down to the end to like the big surprise at the end of midsummer, you know, um, and it's a it like I talked about how to keep the readers unbalanced and kind of satisfy while also subverting your expectations. I think that's what Astor seems like he's doing, you know, he's saying, you all know how a novelist traditionally shaped or a story is traditionally shaped. I'm going to turn it it's definitely backwards and still give you the the terror and the fright and the dread all that stuff.

Michael David Wilson 26:04

Yeah. Yeah.

Stephen Graham Jones 26:06

But you're talking sacrifice. What do you remember the Sentinel? What does that from 7778. Wow,

Bob Pastorella 26:13

I haven't seen in a long time.

Stephen Graham Jones 26:16

Yeah. At the end at the end, if I remember correctly, that woman is like, Oh, I'm going to be the new Sentinel. You know, that's that's a big sacrifice to watch the like the date of hell or whatever it is for for the rest of her life, you know?

Bob Pastorella 26:28

Yeah. And that was based off of a novel Jeffery convicts or something like that wrote

Stephen Graham Jones 26:34

it. I've never read it. I've only heard about it. But yeah, I think I've heard about it anyways, it's with Oh, I think a Mandela effect my myself on a daily basis. I don't know what's real anymore.

Bob Pastorella 26:47

And should be a paperback from hell.

Stephen Graham Jones 26:49

Yeah, for sure.

Michael David Wilson 26:51

But assuming it exists.

Bob Pastorella 26:55

Yeah. Mandel ourselves. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 26:58

Yeah. If not, then I guess Grady Hendrix has to write it since he's like kind of paperbacks from our guy.

Stephen Graham Jones 27:06

Yes, man. He reads all that old stuff. He's got he's got it. This was a beer. This looks like beer. This is apple. This is apple juice.

Michael David Wilson 27:15

I mean, it was it was a lot isn't necessarily an alcohol. Imagine inviting someone on that right? This is alcohol free.

Bob Pastorella 27:27

Be like the opposite and say this is not?

Stephen Graham Jones 27:32

Yeah. I was I was in the studio. I was in the studio a few weeks ago, maybe two or three months ago recording the acknowledgments for chainsaw and Reaper and biggest in our lives. And so I'm in a little in the booth, you know, with the headphones, the mic and all that junk. And I'm, and I do my first little read, and they come through my headphones, the producer from all the way and he was in New York City. I was in Colorado. And he says, Okay, that sounds good. But we're getting a lot of mouth sounds. And I was like, Well, I do have a mouth this is probably gonna be a continuing problem, you know? And then he had he had the people in the studio bring me a glass of apple juice, and I don't like apples. Yeah, and I drank it. And something about the like the chemistry the pH, I don't really understand it. It made my mouth no longer make mouth sounds, you know. So now I try to juice when I do podcast because I don't smack and sound like a sleep stack as much.

Michael David Wilson 28:22

Right? Yeah. Yeah, I think I think the tips for having your voice sound good with a lack of mouth sounds like Well, the first one I'm breaking right now it's like a good idea to not drink caffeine. But also, we started this at 5am. So it is imperative that I'm drinking caffeine right now. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, chewing gum beforehand is a good idea. I know that you were doing that. I don't know if that was a happy.

Stephen Graham Jones 29:03

No, it wasn't. No, well, no, you know, all through all through high school and I guess junior high and a little bit of college I dipped, you know, so I always had like Copenhagen in my look, I'll go to get I got to I had to get when I went to sleep I put coming I get on my lip just so I could wake up with it. You know that much before. But I Finally Quit. And the nicotine is a little bit hard to kick of course. But what was really hard for me to kick was that sensation of having something in my lip, you know, and so now I always have gum in my mouth, and I stick it I stick it in my lip and it just makes me happy. And I realized I don't need the nicotine. I just need something in my love.

Michael David Wilson 29:34

Yeah, yeah. The final tip and I wonder if this is why Apple Juice is good, but it's actually a good idea to eat an apple beforehand. Really again, yeah, yeah. Again, another thing that I have not done for this podcast because I don't know about you, but I don't wake up at 5am and think, oh, I want an apple right now. out in any way, but

Stephen Graham Jones 30:06

yeah, apples or apples are so complicated. Whenever I see a brown part of an apple, I'm like, That's it. I'm off apples for six weeks, you know, because it grosses me out so much. And so, and also I have to cut on my apples, I can't bite into an apple, I guess I could, like physically I have teeth and I've got a mouth so I can physically bite into an apple. But I don't like to because I never know if it's gonna be brown underneath. And so that absolutely terrifies me like so, so much. So I'm really sure to cut on my apples. But also, like my core, my apple is nearly as big as the Apple because really, I just liked the skin. So I just love the skin. The inside of the Apple doesn't really interest me very much. I love that skin,

Michael David Wilson 30:41

right? Yeah. What about if it's brown bits on a banana? Are you okay with that?

Stephen Graham Jones 30:50

That's like panic, you know? No, I don't I don't I mean, I've had to stop eating bananas because they are way too dangerous. Like, I think they bruise a lot easier. You know? And yeah, and I just can't I can't tolerate that. So don't get mad at us anymore.

Bob Pastorella 31:08

We're shelf life of like, two hours. Oh, no. Put them on the counter. Hey, I'm having banana maybe tomorrow. And it's like, I better eat them now. Because already starting to turn brown.

Stephen Graham Jones 31:21

For sure, for sure. But it's not hopefully nobody catches this for me this weirdness but um, I've also prefer to eat potato chips from a tube like Pringles or laser or something because eating potato chips from a bag. I have such like mental psychological difficulty with that, because I never know what kind of chip I'm going to pull out. You know, is it going to be like a messed up one it's going to be folded like I can't eat folded chips. All the chips are right off. You know, just putting chips if I get a folded on. I get I love even a Chili's good one for salmon. But when you get chips, they're they're they're Greece is hot enough in the back that lots of their chips they put on hold. And so they're all like double chips. And that, to me is a nightmare, because I don't know what's in that fold. You know, it's terrifying to me. So I'm really wimpy as far as I'm really wimpy.

Michael David Wilson 32:08

Yeah. I mean, imagine if you publish this listens to every conversation that you've done to promote this book. And it's like, right, well, we've really curated the podcast we've had that. This Is Horror is one of them. Well known podcasts for horror fiction, and that like the fact that he's just gone on

Stephen Graham Jones 32:37

we're talking about dread and terror. Just fixate on your chips for me.

Michael David Wilson 32:44

Yeah, yeah. And it's a damn good. You helped the I decided, right, we'll just like, weave this segment for the award section into that episode, because it's like if we did just done 20 minutes, right. It's like was that was the most except they announced the award. They then spoke about area, followed up with food. But again, remember Stephen Graham Jones, he's subvert your expectations. You think you get to accept an award and talk about the book. Now? That would be what a conventional author would do if I could even do that. But, I mean, going back to Bofur, then the novels in the trilogy. How did Jade Daniels enter your life?

Stephen Graham Jones 33:44

You know, when I first wrote my heart as a chainsaw, it was called Lake access only I wrote it in 2013. And I wrote it coming out of many, many readings of Jeffrey Eugenides amazing novel The Virgin Suicides. And that Virgin Suicides is told with like a royal first person, a Greek chorus, like a Wii instead of an eye. And it just seems like every word of that is so precise and so elegant. And I'm forever in love with that book. I read it enough times that I thought, you know, I can do this, or I wanted to do this anyways, and but I thought, what if it wasn't about like boring stuff, what it was what it was about? slashers that's what I always think like, yeah, it was interesting. And so I did that. I smuggled that, that that that royal first person that Greek chorus kind of Narrator into a slasher story. And immediately I had Indian Lake and Prufrock and Terra Nova and I think I had the dam a dam didn't have a name and I had camp what I believe to but um, instead of jade been at the center of things there was the way who you think is like the chorus like the communal voice of the people or something. And then at the end, you realize it's been a little it's been a little 10 year old kid and Iron Mask, like the mental health cover of quite right you know, he's he's wearing that kind of mask and, and he thinks he's away. because he doesn't know who his dad is, he's got like 10 people who could be his dad. And um, so he, that for him makes him feel plural until he narrates, like that he was. He was the Jade I guess. But um, it wasn't working either. That novel didn't work that novel dependent upon a species of turtle I had made up and it was kind of a hard sell at the end, you know, to get people to believe in this turtle. And this, this whole, like ecosystem that I had dreamed up and, and so I put the book on the shelf for five years, I think five years. And I read a lot of other books in that five years, including mongrels, I guess. And then after mongrels came out, my agent said, Alright, what's next? And um, what I did was I wrote two novels, I wrote a novel called American Neandertal, which is a science thriller about finding, like 100,000 year old bones in America, which happened to me, maybe Neandertal has a title kind of, I guess, gives away. I love that novel. I love that novel, but nobody else loved it. I mean, my agent loved it. None of the editors we sent it to love, but it's getting roundly rejected. And, um, and then I wrote a novel called Texas is burning a crime thriller Bico big ol novel, like 150,000 words. And it kind of is very similar in terms of my novel, not for nothing, it's set in the same area. And, and I wrote that novel over and over so many times. And we didn't submit it as wide as we did American Neandertal. But it still got rejected by the few people who did see it. So that if none of it ever gets published, I kind of liked it. But something must be broken about it that I can't see.

And I forgot the question was, what was the question? I was going somewhere?

Michael David Wilson 36:44

Oh, I was asking you how Jade Daniels came into being.

Stephen Graham Jones 36:48

yes, I'm trying to that's what I'm trying to get to Jade. And so then, when American Neandertal and Texas burning had both been like roundly rejected, and, and I was like casting a vote like, well, I guess the world hates me, I don't know what I'm going to do. I picked that novabackup off the shelf. And I was like, you know, this, this community, the slasher has potential. And so instead of rewriting that novel, extracted, what I thought were the good elements, I had to share if he wasn't a party, then but I pulled him out. I pulled the community and the environment the setting out, and I'll tell the novel in a completely different way. And I believe in that first version that I tried Jade, styled herself as a journalist in this book, she was writing on the murders, Indian lake was going to be her ticket out of there, you know, take it to the world. And, and it was I thought it was fun, but that used to be in three parts then like Jade told the first third of it. And sure, I've already told the second third, and Lisa told the third third, which I thought was really fun. But everyone I gave that novel to they gave it back and they said yeah, it's okay. But we were everybody said we were really sad when we had to go to the second part and leave Jade and it was weird because I didn't think that I thought she was just a like a delivery vehicle for the story. But everybody who read it told me No she's the beating heart of this world. And so then I rewrote a few more times like not just like touch ups like complete overhaul like start a new file kind of stuff. And I mean, I think I think Martin trains are probably comes 100 to 1000 words I bet I wrote easily three quarters of a million words to get that story down is is it needed to be done and and then So Jay started to get her own story and so with Jade she appeared initially as a tool just a device to like a funnel like a poor pieces of the setup of this world and through but then due to my first readers, she actually became a central and then the driving force and then the emotional core and so I'm lucky like this is I mean, hopefully everyone out there listening to this knows but listen to your first readers, you know, and you don't have to like take what they say as prescription but if they say we were really sad when we left this character, then listen and ask yourself what can I do to make them not really sad you know, and turns out with my heart is a chainsaw it will stay with you

Michael David Wilson 39:15

Yeah, yeah. And then of course with the follow up you know, we of course have Jade in don't fear the Reaper, but we do get some sanctions. We have our perspective. So I mean, after you'd got the feedback from my heart is a change so were you reluctant like, Oh, God, I'm deviating from Jade again. We can have a repeat. Yeah.

Stephen Graham Jones 39:39

No, that definitely had that uncertainty. But um, as I was saying, I think with a project with a novel, you always have to wade into uncertain waters, you know, and so I knew that I couldn't do the thing that people were expecting me to do, which was put the spotlight on Jade the whole time like it was in the first book and changed I knew I needed to have that spotlight shine on more aspects of the story in the world. And also, I wanted to use the switching point of view trick or, you know, jumping heads trick that is used and don't fear the Reaper. I wanted to use that kind of a setup for Book Three too, as a way to keep the reader on their heels a little bit.

Michael David Wilson 40:25

Yeah, yeah, no, that makes sense. And I mean, of course, we've both for them as well. You're experimenting with form and deconstructing and dissecting the slasher? And I mean, I think anyone who's been reading you for Well, who's really read any other books by you is going to know that that's kind of part of what you do. And I've, I find it kind of funny as well, that you wrote the last final girl must be like about 10 years ago now. And for some reason, when when you wrote that as well, like probably just my brain being dumb, I thought, Oh, well, is that gonna be the last final guild that Steven writes about? And at this point, it's like, I think, even if you were to say that, it's like, you're just gonna be writing about final girls forever.

Stephen Graham Jones 41:23

Yeah, yeah. No, I'm, I'm like, I'm like Motley Crue. I'm like, This is my last tour ever. Until next year.

Michael David Wilson 41:32

Yeah, hey, I mean, if it if it sounds to the boat, so the con, is you gotta do what you gotta do.

Stephen Graham Jones 41:41

You gotta do it. But you know, that question you asked. I hadn't thought about it this way. But I think you're right. I probably will always be doing some version of a funnel girl or survivor girl. You know, I think they're pretty essential to horror. But um, the werewolf is my favorite creature. My favorite horror. I don't consider slashers creatures. I consider them like spirits of vengeance. But um, but I've only done one werewolf novel. You know, Marvel's was initially supposed to be three books. I did decide as a trilogy. And I've got the next two mapped out, not mapped out of the pocket page of what happens in each of them, you know, that I initially pitched to William Morrow who did mongrels. But when I pitched that to them, they were like, Yeah, that sounds pretty cool. But we didn't want you to be the werewolf guy. So give us something different, you know. And so then I pitched what eventually became mine has a chainsaw to them. I said, not interested, you know, and so then I landed somewhere else. And completely Yeah, he, of course. But um, but that, I wonder, I wonder if I'll write the more werewolf novels. I've tried twice since then to write a werewolf novel, which is really kind of a rewrite of a world novel I wrote in 1989. And it hasn't come together. Like I can tell him the first 10 pages that something with the conflict is being is going awry. And so I kind of kill it in utero. So I don't get like 80 pages in and feel like I'm pushing that boulder up the hill, you know? Yeah. Hopefully I run another word. If I want. I want to write a vampire novel to have. I've written a whole lot of vampire stories. But I've got some, some possibilities with a vampire novel that I think could work. The problem is, it's not a problem. It's a wonderful time we're living in, but there are so many good vampire novels. And so I have to ask myself, How can I like contribute to this conversation in a meaningful way? Because I don't want to do the same thing over and over, like, as far as I'm concerned, because we're Christian Billman. So unless you're dead, I just don't know how I can do better than that. You know, that blows me away. Every time I look at it. It's just as far as as far as vampires go. But I do have some ideas. And they're all They're the kind of the same kind of ideas I have for mongrels. Which is basically just a list of like with mongrels, I had this list. When I do werewolves, they're going to be like this and not like this. And so I've got a list like that now, which is quite sprawling with vampires. You know, when I do them, they're gonna be like, not like this. And, and I have some different ideas about vampire. Not Genesis, but biology anyway, so that could be productive. We'll see if anything comes out of it.

Michael David Wilson 44:09

Yeah, yeah. And I recall you saying that pretty much your starting point for any, I guess archetype is writing what you want, right? It's like, here's the list of things that it can't be or it can't contain. And then it's almost like that that cliche about when you strip everything away, the truth is what remains the story as well remain.

Stephen Graham Jones 44:33

That's a great way to think about it to case it Yeah, like until you truth. I mean, that's not my idea. Like it's Ellen Datlow. Whenever she asked me for us, and like with the day, I wrote a story for her doll collection. I remember many years ago, her methodology. And she hit me up and she said, I need the story, like about tomorrow, because she knew I could write a story fast and no problem. And so I had my fingers ready to go. And then like three seconds later, she sends me an email with a list of like 16 things Things that I can't do in my doll story because she's tired of seeing that and doll stories. And that was like my first 16 ideas. So I had to go further afield to find something that is really productive to go further, you know, to not allow yourself to do the easy thing, I think.

Michael David Wilson 45:11

Yeah, it had you and Ellen had a conversation about this anthology beforehand, or was that literally first now? Like?

Stephen Graham Jones 45:20

Yeah, always? Yeah. Yeah, I was I was in Santa Fe. I was in Santa Fe, doing a series of events with personal Everett, and somebody's personal ever controlled prisoner. Yeah, the three of us were doing like a series of talks. And, and so I stayed in a hotel for four days, I think it was, and, and, yeah, she writes me on a Thursday, and she says, I need a story. And I think it is has been a long time ago, so that my fax could be crooked. But I think someone had not turned their story in. And she had not initially asked me to be in the anthology, but someone had stood her up. And so she needed somebody to be a fill in, you know, and I was the fill in. And she said, You can do it if you do about a mile and I was like, no problem, you know, so I wrote right up Daniel's theories of dollars, I think it is, which was, which is a blast. Yeah. Well, that's my favorite way to do it is I love to get like a prompt or a theme or some sort of controlling principle or something. And have somebody say, Alright, you got 18 hours, let's see what you can do. Because that's when I think I think, I think we can, like if you give me and I've said this before, maybe to no, like, put me in an airplane hangar, empty airplane hangar and say, Show us how you can dance and I'm running all over and doing my stupid dance and everybody's embarrassed, you know? But give like do a little masking tape area four feet by four feet and tell me stay in that box and do the best he can then my dance is gonna be a lot better with those constraints. You know, give me my license and I'll just go crazy. You know my I'm like the UFO Monster at the End of Nope. I just keep transforming into different stupid shapes. Contain if even if you can give me some like bumpers and. And in bowling, you know, that'll help to help me get to the end better.

Michael David Wilson 47:02

Yeah, yeah. I mean, Ellen Datlow is one of if not the best anthology editor. I was gonna say in horror, but we don't need that caveat. He is one of the best astrology editors. And for a moment, I don't hang on. Are you confirming like, Helens like method is like this kind of Datlow effect where you just like, message someone? It's like, how bad do you want it? If you want to be in it, you got 24 hours, like you just got people like John Langan like, Oh, shit. It's happening again. But no. Regular method, I guess? No, no, I

Stephen Graham Jones 47:47

don't think so. I don't think so. I'd be a great like,

Michael David Wilson 47:50

I mean, I can confirm we've we've got coming on in a few weeks. Like, so. That's great. That's great. Yeah. Steven told me about this. Can you confirm or deny? Yes, this your regular method?

Stephen Graham Jones 48:04

That's great. Like, that'd be great for an anthology to say a toy for our Anthology, we're going to call these 18 writers and see what they can do in 24 hours, you know, think that'd be really cool.

Michael David Wilson 48:14

Like, yeah, yeah. Oh, my goodness.

Stephen Graham Jones 48:19

I was like, three weeks ago, four weeks ago, I got I was getting on like two different planes to go somewhere, I forget where and, and, and I realized that I had three story deadlines that were all stacked up against, like the next three days. And so over those two flights, I wrote three stories, you know, and, and one of them got rejected, because he said it was way too violent for this publication. So I wrote a different one that he accepted. But um, but violence is always the first place I go in my stories, you know, I mean, a lot of emotional truth, but I wanted to get there in a real way, if that makes sense. Which is what I did in that story, which will probably come out somewhere eventually, who knows. But um, but I love it when you don't when I don't have time to stop and think before I write because in to me, thinking is so unhelpful for writing, which is why I listen to music because music occupies like the critical part of my mind, so that I can actually get some work done. Because if you listen to your little stupid inner voice, it's always telling you that's not good enough or you're just stealing us from this person or you how you can feel like all the critics and history and peers and reader, you can feel everybody watching you and you feel everybody watching you. It's hard to move forward. You know, if you can, like I kind of like what Joe Lansdale says pretend like everyone you know, is dead when you write, you know, and I think I mean, Joe's got it down. Everything Joe says is gospel injury pretty much as near as I can tell. However, you know, I was on a plane, a different plane, maybe a year or two years ago, I was sitting in the emergency room in the middle seat, and I pull up my laptop as soon as we can put our trade deals down and I'm taking off right and so I'm sorry. And the older gentleman beside me, looks over at my screen, which always happens we want to see what you're doing and then I'm like so what, but he doesn't look away. He He keeps looking closer and closer until his head is like 10 inches from my laptop screen. And, and what I found was, I was making that story more and more violent to see if I could get a reaction from him, you know. And so then the the juice card comes down, we put my computer away and drink my cranberry juice or whatever. And we talk a little bit. He says, You're a writer, and I'm a writer. Yeah. And tell them some stuff. And we have a lot of conversation. I think, well, now he knows now he knows the answers to his questions. We can enjoy our flight now. But as soon as my laptop again, his head sucks right back down there to my screen. He watched me write the whole story, which was really, really weird. You know? I'm, I mean, it was good to because I didn't I think I didn't go backwards as much. That's always the problem with running is you go backwards, and when you should be going forwards. But for some reason, I didn't want him to see any hesitation on my part. So I just kept Berlin on Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 50:53

What a weird constraint as well. Someone appearing like, well, we got to keep going. Keep going. See now he's got this misconception. He's like, Yeah, right, as they never go over a sentence again. Like, they know what they're gonna write. And that is down and that is it was very cold.

Bob Pastorella 51:15

He's telling his grandson, you, you gotta be perfect. You don't even you don't don't use that backspace. We're going to take it off the computer right now. You don't even need a backspace erasers. No, delete. You keep moving forward. You keep moving forward.

Stephen Graham Jones 51:33

Yes, exactly. Well, that'd be a good name for that anthology that 24 hour biology was moved forward, you know, the big exclamation point?

Michael David Wilson 51:42

Yeah. Yeah. And we, you mentioned, two novels that you've yet published American Neanderthal and Texas is burning. So yeah, I mean, first of all, I'm wondering, how long did it take to write? And I mean, you've said that you've, you know, tried to, you've shown them to different publishers, and they haven't shown interest at at this time? Or what kind of do you do when that happens? I mean, are you thinking, Well, you've got some in the pocket for perhaps later in your career? Or is it like this is done now? I mean, I know, when we spoke before, obviously, moving to much bigger publishers rather than indies, that's kind of less flexibility. It's like, No, you have to put this book out. So I don't know it's that one for for another day, if you want to have more kind of options to then put some inquiry for Trad, Anna. And I just

Stephen Graham Jones 52:51

thought about that. And I honestly don't have a good answer. My, my, what I'm doing now is just throwing them in a drawer, or they're at the, like the archive, like archive of all my papers, which is at the selfless action at the Texas Tech library. Those manuscripts are there. And they're also on my hard drive. But I don't have like, if I probably could get both of those published nowadays, but um, but they also got rejected, you know, and so I think that they were justly rejected. I don't I don't think those articles were wrong. I think they were right, they could see that this book had issues. And so with American Neandertal, I still want to write a book called American Neandertal. But I think I want to build it completely differently this time. I'm not sure how yet I've got a few different ideas. As for Texas is burning. I think that was okay, actually. And maybe, maybe maybe somewhere down the road. I'll go back in and do a ground up rewrite, and figure out why it was getting rejected, you know, and put it together in a way that is better for the book anyway, so better for the reader. I do like it's a story set in Midland, Texas, where I kind of grew up, right during the oil boom, back in 2011. Something like that, you know, to American Neandertal. Segment 2010 I shouldn't write in 2010 and 2011. Maybe that's a bad time for me to try to set things. Yeah, but like I was a trainee slasher said 1989. And it sold immediately. Um, I don't know. Um, and I guess not for the Reapers set in 2019 2019. And chainsaw was 2015 I don't know, I can't figure out when all my books are set. That's kind of a useless enterprise. And he's just like me to do but um, but yeah, I don't like I guess. I don't plan on. I don't have any hard and fast plans or really hopes of publishing them. Because when I write a book, and it doesn't find traction, it doesn't get accepted. I don't think everyone's stupid. This is the best thing ever because the best thing since The Great Gatsby or deliver answer, you know, the builder or whatever. I think well, this is my first draft of my next novel. And what that means to me is whatever mistakes I made here, I'm not going to make it next time out. I'm going to do better next time because I know never afraid of my managers run out of more words, they've always got more stories to tell. It's just Well, I have enough years to tell them all. That's the only real question, you know. Right. But so I'm I'm never afraid of throwing a throwing a story or a novel away, because there's another one already trying to climb over the gate, you know?

Michael David Wilson 55:24

Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, I just wanted to go back as well to you talking about when you set yourself rules before writing my story. And of course, I mean, writing sequels, they can be a difficult thing to get right. And particularly, slasher sequels. I mean, if I think about the history of the slasher, the sequel was either absolutely nearly or they kind of collapsed. So, I mean, what do's and don'ts Did you lay out for yourself before, right in Reaper?

Stephen Graham Jones 55:59

You know, the big the big dump that I laid out for myself was like Halloween to Jamie Lee Curtis is wearing that ridiculous wig, you know, cuz she had her haircut for another role role. So I told myself, no wigs, no, no fake wigs. I think you can pull a wig off better on the page, and you can screen but still no wigs I didn't do anywhere else. But I'll tell you truth, what I learned from Halloween too, which, you know, I think Halloween too is fine. I know John Carpenter says he wrote it with every night a six pack and he doesn't think anything of it. And it's stupid and all that stuff. I kind of like it. I like to kills and I like I like to tell up to the violence game. But it also starts like the moment the previous one ends, and what a and to me that in a present tense narration like I'm using a chainsaw and Reaper, that it messes things up and make things move too slowly. And so what I learned from Halloween, too, was jump ahead by a lot of years. And that gives you a lot more like room to play with things, you know. And so jumping ahead for years, I think was probably the, like Philip K Dick would call it the disinhibited dis inhibiting symbol, you know, or it's not a symbol that is inhibiting action against or setup that allows the next thing to reveal itself. And so that was very key for me. And of course, I took Randy's advice from screen too, you know, it's gotta be the gorier it's got to have a higher body count. And don't always assume the Killer Is Dead. You know. And, and what I love about slasher sequels like fire 13, part two, I mean number a lot of people justly say that's the best pure slasher and the whole franchise, and it would probably is, but what I love about it was that it shouldn't exist. That's why I Cunningham and Savini wouldn't play in the second installment because they said the first installment was complete. There's no story left to mine, but the market demanded it. So the studio had to come up to come to some different people, basically, and say, We want you to sift through the ashes of this story and find a thread you can pull out that's going to be long enough to sustain another installment, you know, and maybe start a franchise I don't think they're thinking franchise, they're just thinking to cash in on the sequel. And I love that and slasher is one of the sequel is not planned, you know, when I can tell that they had to go so they had to stick their arm. So before those ashes that they're holed up to the shoulder as black with ashes. I think that that's great. And with my heritage chainsaw, I never plan on it being a trilogy. You know, it didn't become a trilogy until after I had turned the final copy in. And my editor asked me and my agent, they said, What do you wanna do next? And I said, I'm doing another chainsaw book. And I said, what I said, Yeah, it's a trilogy. And I didn't decide it until long after the fact, you know?

Michael David Wilson 58:41

Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, since we've established that it won't be a two book career, literally, the only way you can now survive it is, you know, when they ask, what's the next one? It's late. It's the fourth book in the trilogy. What do you mean? It's like the fourth book in the trilogy?

Stephen Graham Jones 59:08

Definitely do that. That'd be beautiful. I should try to smuggle a misprint into the first printing of the cover. You have that for fourth? Number four. That'd be great.

Michael David Wilson 59:21

Yeah. Well, I know that we're coming up to the time that we have to give her like, unbelievably already. We are closing in on that. But we've got a question from Robert Stahl via Patreon. And he says, Stephen, you're famous for writing famously fast. Do the ideas spill out of your brain and onto the paper, like water? Or do you ever get stuck for hours like the rest of us?

Stephen Graham Jones 59:59

Took I think they just, like I have too many ideas, you know, and it's I don't know how to get them all on the page, I just have to kind of randomly pick this one or that one, you know. Um, and, you know, for years, I kept spiral notebooks of all my little story premises and minds characters could say, and titles and stuff. And I probably had two or three shelves, like three feet wide of these little spiral notebooks just crammed packed with stuff. And, um, well, not when a library came to me. And one of my my papers, I said, Yeah, take him, I don't care, because I never wants to open them up and look back at them. Because ideas are completely useless. I think, what's what's useful for me is a voice that opens up a world. And then when I can get that voice down, right, then the novel tells itself, and I can write a novel in four weeks, six weeks, whatever, I can write a story and afternoon. But yeah, sometimes I'll get a story assignment. And it doesn't come naturally, the first line. And usually the reason it doesn't is because someone tells me, we want a story from you. And that gives me like, so much room to operate in. And when somebody tells me the story from you about telephones and how they worked in 1987, then I'm like on it. 10 minutes later, I got a story, you know. So I have a little bit of constraints. But give me too much room to play. And I can have a hard time picking which which story? Which which premise, do I activate with a voice basically. And I told you had that story that got rejected, because it's too brutal. That's a good example, when they what it was for was for like a big magazine in Texas, I guess I can't say who yet but. And I said, All right, give us they said all we want from you the flash fiction. And so I sat down real quick and wrote a flash fiction, and it was terribly bloody and everything and they rejected it. And then I had to write another one in my only constraint was not violence. And so of course, the only thing I thought of for like, five weeks were over the top violence stories. And it took me so long to think of a story in which only one person died. And they died way off screen, or off page, and it worked out really good. I liked that story a lot. It's just 1700 words and like that, but I like it a lot. It's not the kind of story I usually tell. And it's exciting. But it did take me a long time to think of a story without like, a knife being crammed into somebody's left eye. You know,

Michael David Wilson 1:02:14

he had. And I mean, talking about brutality, and violence. I mean, Chainsaw, so despite the title, actually, I don't know, the first 75% is quite restrained, it's like, it's restrained. Until it fucking isn't. And that's absolute chaos. Whereas, you know, don't fear the Reaper. That's pretty brutal throughout, you know, from the start. So I mean, was that like a conscious decision? Or is that just more this is how the story spill out.

Stephen Graham Jones 1:02:56

It's more like, to me a trilogy is really just a novel in three parts. And so Book One is Act One, Book Two, and Book Three is act three. And therefore, there's a lot of setup in book one, a lot of exposition, a lot of world building, to get on the page, a lot of character introductions, and that to me, that's why the first like two thirds of chainsaw doesn't move at the same clip that all of don't fear the Reaper does. That's one reason because it's, it's Act One, you know, but um, another reason that don't fear the Reaper gets to move at the frenetic headlong pace it does is the world and the world was already built, the characters were already introduced, and so I could hit the ground running and drop bodies, every few pages, like a slasher typically needs to do, you know, and, and I'll talk, you know, you talked about subverting expectations. I think it could be that a lot of readers coming to don't fear the Reaper, or kind of expecting a redo of chainsaw with like some of the stakes up through something like that, which hopefully, hopefully accomplishes, I don't know. But um, the way I could subvert those expectations was to not give them something on the same scaffolding, as chainsaw was something completely different scaffolding, which was really fun to do. I liked it a whole lot.

Michael David Wilson 1:04:10

Yeah, I think the only thing we can expect from you is something unexpected, you know, so whatever it is, you've done for Book Three, I know that the scaffolding again will be completely different to the other two, so yeah, it

Stephen Graham Jones 1:04:26

is and act three is always where the blood is on the wall, and just run your feet and men. Like don't fear the Reaper gets pretty tall as far as the violence and high action goes. But the third ramp, it just ramps it like it's like that spinal tap, like hopefully it goes to 11 That's my dream for it.

Michael David Wilson 1:04:47

Yeah. Yeah. You tease and as we want it now.

Bob Pastorella 1:04:54

I've got my credit card ready

Michael David Wilson 1:04:59

to do that Is the slide in a trilogy due for release next year? Is that the plan?

Stephen Graham Jones 1:05:09

I don't think I'm released to say yet but um Okay, can I say can I say not? No, maybe if I say not no.

Michael David Wilson 1:05:17

And then I think body language said it Oh, and didn't violate the NDA don't worry about it. Nothing was said I asked a question to calm down. Let's get that lawyers out the way. Let's move on to Dark Mill South which is not normally what I do to make a conversation lighter, but how did he enter your life? And you know what ingredients and inspirations resulted in this absolute beast of an antagonist?

Stephen Graham Jones 1:06:00

You know, it probably comes from three places. One is my respect for Kane hunters. Jason Vorhees, you know, the way he's like so just big and imposing and his chest is always heaving because it's not easy to kill as many campers, you know, all that kind of stuff. The second place is Lily long soldier's poem called 38. About the 38, Dakota man hanged in 1862, which I've read that poem so many times, it's just, it's just beautiful. Third place is that old Jerry Reed song Amos Moses, in which there's a lot in there where he says, um, Doc Millsap raised a kid who could eat up his weight and groceries, but doc Millsap is the, like, the father of the title character. It was Moses. And I don't know why. Like, I don't know how I'm Millsap as a Moses, but it makes it makes sense in the song. And, um, and I've my whole life, I have misheard, that is dark myself. And so that three years ago, I was looking for the lyrics of that Jerry Reed song, he was Moses. And so I typed in dark MuleSoft theory, read lyrics, and nothing kept coming up and I couldn't figure out what was going on. And so finally, I just took out dark male self and all the lyrics came up. And I read through them and I realized he was saying, Doc Millsap not dark myself. And um, but to me, it's always dark myself. He's been in my head for a very, very long time. And he's big, like, like Jason Vorhees, I think, yeah, not much of a speaker. You know, he doesn't he doesn't have quips like Freddie or anything. Yeah, he's not gonna call you on the phone like Ghostface.

Michael David Wilson 1:07:29

Yeah. I know that you've spoken before about the fact that you wanted to do a Friday the 13th book, if I'm, if I'm recalling correctly, you're the inspiration for the only good Indians was that that was originally conceived as basically Friday the 13th on the reservation, but there was some some issues with the hockey mask. Do you know you couldn't, you couldn't do that. So

Stephen Graham Jones 1:08:01

I could, yeah. So I had to had to come up with a different mask, which turned out to be an old kid. And I'll probably keep doing different variations on the hockey mask throughout my whole career, because I want them to read a Jason Vorhees novel. But I don't know if I'll get permission. So I'll just keep doing different other kinds of slashers. But it's hard to come up with an iconic mask, you know, it's really doing.

Michael David Wilson 1:08:22

Yeah, yeah. And I mean, who would imagine that you would originally come up with a Friday the 13th novel that would ultimately win the Mark Twain American voice and Literature Award?

Stephen Graham Jones 1:08:37

No, who would have thought that that's insane, like blows me away? I never never thought that would be in the running. I never thought I'd be in the running for that even.

Michael David Wilson 1:08:45

Yeah, and I mean, winning that award. How has it impacted you and your career? I mean, have you found that you've got people from, I guess, different circles, then reaching out to you and having interest in your work?

Stephen Graham Jones 1:09:04

Yeah, I mean, good answers got as got me all. Mostly, a lot of screenwriters get ahold of me actually. And they, they asked me, they asked me, um, I want I'm looking to incorporate this Native American myth into my story. Can you guide me on how to do that respectfully, and my response is always look, you're using the word myth that's already disrespectful. You know, I don't I don't call Christianity a myth. So maybe you could not call a whole culture religion, you never want to not assume that it's everyone has the same religion within that culture. But number two, let's not call it a cute little cartoon. And, um, those are pretty easy to easy to deal with. Also get called into a lot of projects. I get invited to a lot of projects where people want to do fantasy versions of American Indian stuff, like give us powers and all that and, and I never never do that either, because it's just like turning us into elves basically, and lgnz So American America can pretend we're not there. And that's exactly what America wants. So I'm kind of fulfilling America's fantasy itself. And I don't do that I really don't do hardly I do hardly any of the projects, I get invited to light like that. But um, as for how that Mark trying to try and award or any of the other words that get anyone's got has helped me It probably has raised my profile in the eyes of those people who buy stuff, which is, which is fine. And well, of course, that's what you want. But, um, hopefully, my dream is that the audience comes to not the audience, the world, I guess, comes to accept that horror is in conversation with the issues and anxieties of the day, you know, we're not just this little nightmare carnival here on the edge of things doing blood gags for each other to satisfy our sick impulses, you know, there, there's that component for sure. But we're also trying to process their own fears, paranoia as terrorists, and I mean, maybe we're doing it for society. But in the first place, we're doing it for ourselves for each of like, I'm trying to figure out, like, get Indians is about, should you and your 30s pay for the things you did in your 20s. And I'm asking myself that, you know, am I still culpable for the things that I did that were wrong? 20 years ago, 10 years ago, whatever. And I think those are good things to wrestle with, you know, I think they, they have the potential to make us better people possibly, or to make the world better. But um, yeah, I mean, hopefully getting recognition from literary establishments like that. And, and horror establishments as well just choose people in that horror is not only for those weirdos over there, it's for the world.

Michael David Wilson 1:11:44

Yeah, yeah. And that curse. I mean, this idea of should you pay for what you did decades ago, in the past is a really fascinating discussion and a nuanced one. And of course, one that we completely now don't have time for. But I mean, that that is a whole other episode right there. And, I mean, this time that we've had together has absolutely flown by, I think, more than any, you know, podcast we've done together. And we're gonna have to get you back on, you know, hopefully for the next release, which you didn't say when it would be so. No, no, I didn't know

Stephen Graham Jones 1:12:32

if I started. If I start to say it, if I start to say it, my public publicist will appear on the screen screen and like pull me back into it. You know? Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 1:12:41

Maybe you should say that again, is the ending we've just incorporated video that is the end in no way looking for.

Bob Pastorella 1:12:54

Me like Homer Simpson, like sliding back. Yeah. Which is Yeah,

Michael David Wilson 1:12:57

exactly. Yeah, yeah. Well, do you have any final thoughts for our listeners?

Stephen Graham Jones 1:13:08

Man, um, I guess I would say I don't for the Reapers coming up, but also on that same day, Marianne recurses. our share of Night is coming out when she looks to be a huge, wonderful, good book. She's such a good she's such a good writer, you know, then yeah, I guess. I guess Grady Hendricks just had this had How to Sell haunted house come out and a BM or Times bestseller list, which is amazing for him and for her. And let's see. I'm really excited for scream six coming out here in a couple of months, you know? Yes.

Michael David Wilson 1:13:39

Yeah. Some things never change and you'd be excited for a screen movie is one of those things in life. If taxes and Stephen Graham Jones is a scream,

Stephen Graham Jones 1:13:55

you got it, man. You got it. Like I've always got scream stuff around this even show. It's a little bit I have it on my Kindle too, I guess. Yeah, I've got Ghostface everywhere in my life. Oh, it gets my shirt, right. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 1:14:09

Yeah. Yeah, there it is. Okay, well, thank you so much for this. Steven. This has been great.

Stephen Graham Jones 1:14:18

It's always great talking to you all. Thank you all very much. And thank you all for keeping this going so long. I think a lot of people depend on y'all to feel like when you listen to y'all, it feels like you're hanging out with friends on the convention floor. We know it's great.

Michael David Wilson 1:14:35

Thank you so much for listening to This Is Horror with Stephen Graham Jones. Jonas again next time when we will be chatting with Chris Landon, about his brand new film we have a ghost in addition to his other films such as happy death day, and freaky. And if you want to listen to that ahead of the crowd, if you Don't listen to every episode ahead of the crowd, and to submit questions to each and every guest, then become our Patreon, a patreon.com. Forward slash, This Is Horror. Not only do you get early bird access to every episode, but you can become a part of the writers forum on Discord. So head to patreon.com forward slash This Is Horror and see if it's a good fit for you. Okay before I wrap up, a quick advert break.

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Bob Pastorella 1:15:42

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Michael David Wilson 1:16:52

Now those of you who listened to the Jonathan Jan's episode, will no doubt remember that I said on that episode, I hadn't seen my daughter for over 18 months, and a few days ago, would have marked not seeing my daughter for 20 months. But I can't say that, because I have seen my daughter, I have now had a number of video calls with her. And last weekend, I saw her for the first time, in almost 20 months. We had a brilliant day together, we went to the zoo, we caught up. And it was just a magical moment. Obviously having not seen each other for so long. I was a little bit, you know, nervous as to how it would go and how would she react to seeing me. But as soon as she saw me, she ran over to me. And I picked her up for a great hug. And it was just a beautiful, magical moment. We told each other we love each other that we missed each other so much. And we don't ever want to go that long without seeing each other again. So obviously, you know, I've still got some personal things going on. This situation that I'm in has not been resolved it is not over. But I think we might be getting there. I think we might be getting closer towards the light. And so what a fantastic memory for me to now have to have created a new memory and it just makes everything so much better. You know before then, I couldn't even look at my daughter's things in the apartment because it was too painful that memory that she's no longer with me but now I can look at her toys, I can look at our clothes, I can look at her things again and it's not so painful because I'm in contact with her. At the moment I'm having video calls so far every week. There is a plan to see her again next month. So I just wanted to share that with you all. It is so wonderful and much more wonderful than my voice is conveying right now. I'm a little bit under the weather so and I'm British you're going to have what a brutal combination being British and being under the weather you probably can't tell but I am very very happy when you heard in the Jonathan Jan's episode, how painful it was for me to not be with my daughter. So it is a dream as a dream that I'm living and I said before that I don't 2023 was gonna be a good year for me pass Allium professionally and walk away to kick things off. And I'll tell you this as I've said before, I never take any moment for granted with her. I always act as if each moment I'm having could be my last because one day it will be and you know, three video calls and one in person visit and each time if it's my last interaction with my daughter then I know that it's been a good one. And I mean, that's the way to do it, I guess in all relationships, put everything into each interaction, each relationship and walk away knowing that if that was the last time you saw that person, then it was a good experience. Well, that about does it for another episode of This Is Horror. I will see you next time with Chris Landon. But until then, take care yourselves. Be good to one another. Read horror. Keep on writing and have a great, great day.

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