short stories

In Convo with Dino Parenti at StokerCon 2017

Mackenzie Kiera – Hi, Dino! So, what can you tell my readers  to pick up? 

Dino Parenti – Well, two days ago I finished the Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead which just won the Pulitzer and the National Book award in the same year. The book is amazing, it’s beautifully written, wonderful prose, but it is a brutal, brutal book, subject matter-wise, but it’s amazing. Just started reading today The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch. I’m only in chapter one but the book, it’s just awesome. I’m already hooked. She wrote The Small Backs of Children. Lidia Yuknavitch is an amazing writer and that’s pretty much it right now, and really whatever short stories I can get my hands on. 

MK -And what is it you do for the industry? 

DP – Right now I’m a writer and I’m also one of the fiction editors for Gamut. We’re in hiatus right now because we just fulfilled our slots for 2017. 

MK – I know! That’s incredible. Congratulations.

DP – We were getting slammed with submissions. The first time we opened for submissions we closed in twenty-four hours. The second month we closed within twelve hours.

MK – Twelve?

DP – We cap at three hundred submissions. They just rolled in, which we are thankful for. We’ve had some great work come in. I don’t know when we’ll open up for 2018, I mean, assuming we’ll still be up and running at that point. 

MK – I’m sure you will, if you’ve had this much traction in just the first part of the year. 

DP – Yeah, but we are subscription based, so go to the website and subscribe. You’ll benefit from some wonderful and awesome fiction you can really sink your teeth into. 

MK – Go to Gamut! Keep them alive! Now, you, Dino Parenti, are one of the sponsors here at StokerCon

DP – Gamut is a sponsor. Our names are on the gift bags and we’re here and we have this purple tag on our name tag so, we’re fortunate enough to listen to all of the wonderful panels and so far it’s been fun.

MK – Have you been to other StokerCons?

DP – No! No, this is my first ‘con’ ever. And this is my first interview ever. 

MK – It’s a pleasure. Tell me, would you encourage writers to come to StokerCon? I realize it’s only the second day but…

DP – If you really want to meet the writers, you’re not going to find a more open and accepting bunch of people and I mean, people think ‘horror writer’ and assume we’re weird but really…

MK – They think we’re scary.

DP – Right? And we’re teddy bears. Teddy bears with issues but still, teddy bears.

MK – I’ve heard too that horror writers are more empathetic, because if you write horror, you tend to want to connect with what makes people tick, what makes them scared.

DP – Yes! And I’ve been to the literary functions and there are some incredibly stuffy people hanging around so, it’s hard to find down to earth people. The great thing about this field is, it was known as “genre”, but it’s becoming so much richer than that. There’s incredible literary merit in everything you’ll find here, for sure. 

MK – Indeed. I did a study last year where I read the most beautiful horror I could find. BirdBox, When we Were AnimalsMongrels,  The Fisherman. So, I have this theory that the horror authors are making a breakthrough that other writers in other genres aren’t. I have read some beautiful fantasy and sci-fi but it seems to be the horror writers that are making the most drastic leaps. Could you give me a comment on that idea? 

DP – Good craft is good craft, whatever genre you are writing on. Gamut is doing a series of “craft videos”—you can buy them online—and mine was how genre and literary actually make perfect bedfellows. The rules still apply, regardless of if you’re writing a straight literary piece or a “genre” you still have to delve into character arc and motivation. How you employ language, point of view, setting and atmosphere and how they all work together to tell the story. Horror writers get the worst rap because I think it’s hard for people to think that the horrific can also be beautiful or, vice versa. 

MK – Totally. We all need to respect each other as writers. 

DP – Exactly. We’re all in the same boat. [He says this, arms extended, aboard the Queen Mary] Literally! It’s a disservice to pit writers against each other, to say that what someone does in the New Yorker is any different than what someone in Cemetery Dance does. If you could lay them out on a cutting board, all the same stuff is coursing through their system. 

We’re all in the same [totally haunted] boat.

MK – Anything you want to add? 

DP – Read more horror! Read reviews and get your hands dirty. Be brave. Read horror. It may be scary but it’s stuff we all deal with. 

When not scribbling twisted musings into spiral notebooks, photographing the odd puddle or junk pile, or building classy furniture, Dino Parenti earns a little scratch drawing buildings. He’s also one of the fiction editors at Gamut Magazine. When not plowing through slush, he writes. His work can be found in a several anthologies, as well as the following journals: Pantheon Magazine, Cease-Cows, Pithead Chapel, Menacing Hedge, and the Lascaux Review, where he won their first annual flash fiction contest. His short-story collection, Dead Reckoning and other stories, has been recently accepted for publication and slated for an early 2018 release with Crystal Lake Publishing.

*This interview originally appeared in Dwarf + Giant

In Convo with Stephen Graham Jones

Mackenzie Kiera – How many years have you been teaching?

Stephen Graham Jones – Sixteen, I guess. Started in 2000, at Texas Tech University. I had no experience, a lot of nerves, and a good pearl-snap shirt. Turns out those three’ll get you through most situations. They did me, anyway. I’m still teaching, just, now, I understand that a big part of it’s me learning from the students.

MK – Think you’ll ever ‘bleed Colorado?’ or does the South have a different draw for you?

SGJ – I keep thinking I need to write a Colorado novel, yeah. Just need to be sure I have a good and real feel for it. Which is a trick, in Colorado, since so many people who live here aren’t from here. But, I mean—maybe that’s the “it” of it, right? It’s not about walking into a room of ten people who live in Colorado and saying that two of them have a “Colorado” voice or outlook, since they were born here and came up here. I think the way to do Colorado right is to let all ten people in that room be Colorado.

MK – How long have you been writing? When did you first feel that pull to write?

SGJ – My first story was published in 1996, I guess. Twenty years ago already, wow. That pull to get things down on the page, though, that would probably be in my freshman comp class. That was where I kind of started figuring things out, it felt like. Not at all saying I’ve got things all figured out, but that’s probably about where it starts for me, with a professor reading what I turned in and telling me it wasn’t really what the assignment was, but still, it’s kind of all right. There’s something there. I should keep moving that direction, maybe.

MK – Any more werewolves for the future?

SGJ – Definitely. I mean, to read and watch and dream about, always. Just watched a new-to-me werewolf movie today. And I’ll for sure keep writing werewolf stories. I wouldn’t doubt if I do them in a novel again, too. Even, say, a couple of follow-up novels to Mongrels, should I get the greenlight.

MK – What’s next? Mummies, right? Wrong?

SGJ – Mummies never really crest in popcult, do they? I think it’s because we can’t figure if they’re zombies in wrappings, or what. Next, though, I hope that’s werewolves. Back in 2002, the zombie took over from the vampire, and I don’t think the vampire’s ready yet to be the top creature. Werewolves, though, they haven’t really dominated the media landscape since the eighties, I’d say. And the stories you get with werewolves, they’re more vital now than ever. We need to be engaging narratives that remind us that not only are we animal inside, but we’re an animal that plugs into a bigger system.

MK – Any authors you were ever obsessed with? (Or currently)  Why?

SGJ – For a few years now, I read anything CJ Box writes. His most recent, Off the Grid, blew me away. And so have the rest. I don’t know about ‘obsessed,’ though. I mean, until you see me drawing his face on a paper plate then using yarn to wear it over my own face, let’s just say I’m an avid reader.

MK – Any books you prefer to read more for craft than the story?  Vice Versa?

SGJ – Every once and again I get engaged with a novel that I realize isn’t going to do anything surprising story-wise, so, if I’m to get anything from it, I’m going to have to extract technique from it. Sometimes as model, sometimes as cautionary tale. But I’ve never gone back to any of those to read them again, either. More like, getting what technique I can, that’s trying to salvage something good from the read. I’ll always look for story first, though. Those novels, I’ll go back to them over and over.

MK – Mongrels was originally a short story titled ‘Doc’ in After The People Lights Have Gone Off. Was that planned? Have any of your other books started out as short stories?

SGJ – Only one’s done that, and it’s not published, as I don’t think it’s good enough yet. But, yeah, after I wrote “Doc’s Story” it kept kind of padding around in my head, until I had to just get the rest of it down on the page. Never really had a novel sneak up on me like that. Was kind of cool.

MK – Are all werewolves wary of the snow? Are there any that have figured a way around the foot-print issue? What do beach werewolves do?

SGJ – I’ve got a story about a beach werewolf. “Wolf Island,” over at I think a werewolf could maybe make it all right on the beach, though. Run close enough to the water, and the sand’s not firm enough to leave a really crisp print. And the water comes and takes it away anyway. Snow wolves, though, yeah, that’s a problem. I don’t like the idea of werewolves traveling by tree, really, so they’re definitely going to leave prints. Best bet? Stay super-remote, like, way high up in the backcountry. And maybe even stick to well-used game trails, so the elk can thunder through, erase evidence of your passage. Except they’ll smell you and panic. I don’t know. Snow, it’s forever tricky for werewolves. It’s not like you can wear stilts, or boots, or swing on vines.

MK – You wrote this in 14-16 days, yes? How long did it take you to get it to the shelves? I guess what I’m asking is, how long did the whole process take, to bring this book from cub to wolf?

SGJ – Yeah, got the first draft of this down in a couple weeks. Then the second draft, that took probably two months. Then the next draft was a few more months—I was incorporating notes and suggestions from agents and editors, which completely made the novel a novel. But, let’s see. I wrote it in January, but what year? Wow. All right, back from my directories. Looks like it was 2014. And it’s 2016 now. So . . . two-plus years, from idea to shelf, I guess. Seems like forever. But I’ve had ones take a lot longer. Demon Theory was more like seven years.

MK – All these characters are so real. So perfect and crazy and cool. It’s the grandfathers that took hold of me, though. Both grandfathers are eccentric and loyal and fierce. Also noticed that Mongrels is dedicated to a ‘Pop.’ Are these grandfathers based on your own? One more than the other?

SGJ – Yeah, Pop was my great-grandfather. He was around a lot until I was . . . twenty, twenty two? I grew up with him telling me stories, each one more outlandish than the next. But I wanted to believe so much that I just did believe. That story about the hammer, in here? That’s Pop’s story. He used to tell that one all the time. Also, I grew up with my grandfather on my mom’s side. He was more like the . . . well, the other grandfather. Don’t want to spoil anything.

MK – Favorite scenes to write? For instance, are you a sucker for action/family/love/scary/chase scenes?

SGJ – Sucker for two kinds of scenes: good fights and tearjerkers. I think, with Mongrels, my favorite pieces to write were the little flash fictions that come between the chapters. Just these self-contained werewolf moments. And, of those, it’s a hard call. I liked them all. But I guess maybe “The Heaven of Werewolves” stands out. I got to put a werewolf in a white nun habit for that one. That’s always been the dream.

Dr. Stephen Graham Jones was raised mostly in Greenwood, Texas. Currently, he teaches English and Creative Writing for the University of Colorado, Boulder and University of California, Riverside-Palm Desert. He is the author of twenty-three novels, the current of which is Mongrels. He’s also had some 250+ stories published. Dr. Jones lives in Boulder, CO with his wife, two teenage kids and some dogs that are, regrettably, not werewolves.

*This interview originally appeared on Dwarf + Giant