Screaming Spotlight On: Jeremy C. Shipp
The last time I interviewed someone for SCREAMING SPOTLIGHT, I spoke to writer Gregory Lamberson, author of the novel JOHNNY GRUESOME and the non-fiction book about low-budget filmmaking, CHEAP SCARES (both of which are on the preliminary Bram Stoker ballot for 2008). But that was a long time ago, and this particular feature was overdue for another installment.
Which brings us to Jeremy Shipp.
Jeremy C. Shipp’s first short story collection, SHEEP AND WOLVES, is also currently on the preliminary ballot for the Bram Stoker award for story collection. To get the word out there about this talented writer, I sat down with Jeremy (okay, I emailed him) and asked him some probing questions about his writing, and himself.
What follows are the results of my interrogation – I mean – interview.
1. Okay, let’s start at the beginning. What made you want to become a writer? How early did you start writing?
In the 4th grade, I had an assignment to write a fictional short story, and I ended up writing a not-so-short story about an alien named Chomper who chomped things and had an affinity for opera. After that, my creativity was repressed by the education system for a few years. Then, when I was 13 years old, I found my way out of the abyss, and decided to write my first novel. And I’ve been writing almost every day ever since.
Growing up, I sometimes thought to myself, “I want to be a writer when I grow up.” But mostly, I just wrote because I couldn’t stop. Because I didn’t want to stop. Writing, to me, is almost like eating. If I didn’t write, some part of me would die.
2. What was your first professional sale?
I sold my short story “Ticketyboo” to Flesh and Blood Magazine. I can’t remember the year.
3. What authors influenced you growing up? Who are your favorite writers now, in and outside the horror genre?
As a kid, I read a lot of HG Wells, Ray Bradbury, Jules Verne, Alexandre Dumas. Nowadays, I’m into Haruki Murakami, Arundhati Roy (THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS might just be my favorite book of all time), Kurt Vonnegut, Amy Hempel, Francesca Lia Block, and many others. The Bizarro authors of the world are especially awesome.
4. Did movies influence you as a writer? If so, which ones?
In my early years, the books I read influenced me stylistically, but for the most part, my work was influenced by films. I can’t tell you how many times I watched THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN or the original STAR WARS trilogy. Those movies helped shaped my mind into what it is today. Now, as an adult, I feel inspired when I watch films by directors like David Lynch, Terry Gilliam, Takashi Miike, Park Chan-wook, Hayao Miyazaki, etc.
5. Do you prefer writing horror or bizarro fiction? Or do they overlap for you? (If so, how?)
I’d say most of my work could be classified as a combination of horror, bizarro, and dark fantasy. In truth, during the writing process, I don’t think about genre, unless I’m playing around with certain archetypes. I never set out to write a horror/bizarro/dark fantasy tale. It just sort of happens. (The gnomes in my spleen make me do it.)
6. Tell us something about your novel VACATION.
I’ve been writing a novel a year since I was in middle school, and I always felt happy with my books. But VACATION With this book, I felt like I accomplished everything I’d set out to accomplish. was different.VACATION is a journey into civilization’s festering wound. It’s made up of my psychological scars and my love for life. In some ways, it’s almost a psychological and ideological autobiography.
7. Tell us a bit about SHEEP AND WOLVES. What story are you most proud of? Which story do you think exemplifies your style the best?
SHEEP AND WOLVES is my first story collection, and it’s a cousin of VACATION. While VACATIONSHEEP AND WOLVES explores twisted power dynamics on a global level, delves into such abuses and exploitations on a more personal or domestic level. These horrors invade your homes, your jobs, your dreams.
I’m proud of each of my stories for different reasons, but if I had to choose one, I’d probably say “Camp.” I’m always trying to create strange little worlds filled with distinctive characters. And with “Camp,” I feel like I succeeded.
In terms of style, I’d say “Watching” makes a good representative.
8. How can people find out more about you (website, where are books available, etc.)?
Here are some Jeremytastic links:
My officially official site: http://www.jeremycshipp.com
My publisher: http://www.rawdogscreaming.com
My Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/jeremywriter
My Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=794034742&hiq=jeremy%2Cshipp
Manbabies (this one has nothing to do with me, but I thought I’d include it anyway): http://manbabies.com/
My books are available at online stores such as Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1933293594/afterschoolsp-20), and I’m also selling signed/personally inscribed copies here: http://jeremycshipp.com/signed.htm
9. In the story “A Long Metal Sigh” (from SHEEP AND WOLVES), was Aunt Laura based on anyone remotely real?
She’s not based on a specific person, but I’ve known people who think like her. I believe there are those who transform their bodies for the right reasons (like someone who’s expressing their inner self), and those who transform for the wrong reasons (like someone who’s reacting to insecurity and a distorted body imagine). Aunt Laura, to me, is an example of the latter. She’s trying to solve internal problems externally, which, of course, doesn’t work.
10. Do you have a genuine gnome fetish?
I haven’t told anyone this before, but I’m actually a giant gnome. So my affinity for gnomes is just a natural sense of camaraderie with my people.
11. Have you ever encountered a real life “furry”?
No, although I did once see a documentary about a man who made himself into a cat.
12. What should we expect from you in the future (anything in the pipeline now)?
I have stories that’ll soon appear in Cemetery Dance, Horror World, and Harlan County Horrors. And I’m very excited about my new novel, CURSED, which should hit the stores this year. I love this book, especially the characters. I hope my readers will feel the same way.
13. How did you get the nickname JerBear?
A couple friends in high school used to call me Jerbear. Maybe because Jer rhymes with bear. Maybe because I’m furry and cuddly. I’m not sure. Years later, a couple of my cousins started calling me Jerbear, and they didn’t know I had that nickname before. At that point, I decided to accept and embrace my Jerbearitude.
14. Who is your favorite superhero, and why?
Poopman’s my hero of choice. His name is a bit of a misnomer, however, because he’s actually a baby. He shapes the poop to form a man-like body. And after the poop dries, he has a sort of exoskeleton that protects him during his battles with Mr. Clean.
15. If you could have any superpower, which one would you choose and why?
Poopman’s powers are pretty cool, although I’d probably choose the power to grow fruits and vegetables out of my body. That way, I could eat a mango whenever I felt like it.
16. Do you think Smurfette is sexy?
No, but I think Grampa Smurf is quite a handsome and dashing older gentleman. It’s a shame he died in that weed wacker accident.
A special thanks to JerBear for agreeing to be interviewed for this segment. Don’t forget to check out his novel VACATION and his new short story collection SHEEP AND WOLVES.
(NOTE: FOR SOME REASON WORDPRESS IS ACTING STRANGE THIS TIME, AND LINKS DO NOT SHOW UP IN THE TEXT. HOWEVER, IF YOU DRAG YOUR CURSOR OVER WHERE LINKS SHOULD BE, YOU’LL SEE THAT THEY’RE THERE, BUT INVISIBLE).
NOTE #2: IF YOU’RE AN ACTIVE HWA MEMBER AND WOULD LIKE TO READ SHEEP AND WOLVES, WRITE TO JEREMY AT: jeremy(at)jeremycshipp(dot)com FOR A .PDF COPY. HE ALSO HAS A LIMITED NUMBER OF PRINT COPIES AVAILABLE.