Greetings from the Ethereal Plane,
Let the interview commence!
CP: Can you tell us a little bit about your story “Spidering Down an Alley?” What inspired it and how did it come to fruition?
JJ: Some stories come to me in the morning. Others, like this one, come late at night. I was reading an article about one crooked CEO or another who died before he was brought to trial and I wondered how much information he made off with. There isn’t any good way to get it once the guy is gone. Unless, I realized, you send someone to Hell after him. If you know where someone is going, well, you don’t even have to follow them. You can just meet ‘em there.
CP: While speaking of inspiration, what inspired you to become a writer? And what authors helped carve your path to horror?
JJ: I started writing about ten years ago. I’ve always been a big reader and I thought I’d try my hand at it. My first efforts were much like a teen guitar dork’s first tunes. Terrible. But I stuck it out. A story called “Jimson’s Universe” was my first sale. Science fiction/horror, about a planet made out of human meat by a futuristic mass murderer. Oceans of blood, forests of bone, what have you. I sent it out and the first rejection letter was so good that I framed it, had it for years. ‘Dear Mr. Johnson- This is the most disturbing story I have ever read. Please do not send us anything ever again.” Signed, The Editor. The second submission reply read “Dear Mr. Johnson, This is the best story I have ever read. I had to read it twice to believe it.” Signed, The Editor.
The strange stuff sells. But reactions vary.
CP: What are your goals and aspirations as a writer? What does the future hold for Jeff Johnson?
JJ: I’m just finished with a new noir, the third book in the Darby Holland Crime Series, and this November a stand alone novel, Deadbomb Bingo Ray, will be in a bookstore near you. If it isn’t, order it! Writing is great fun. I’ll be sticking with it, but also television! Good blurbs and starred reviews can land you lucrative work in Hollywood, and that’s what I do to pay the bills. But I love books, I love stories, and I love publications like this one. So onward. My future is in words, and being smart about it.
CP: Tell us something that not many readers know about you.
JJ: Readers of the Darby Holland series and Everything Under The Moon, first in the Gelson Verber Books, often comment of the culinary elements. I was indeed trained by incredibly mean French chefs! I only work in visual art and as a writer, but learning to cook is one of the best things that ever happened to me. It didn’t seem like it at the time, but now? Cooking is the only craft we all do every day. Oscar Wilde wrote that food nourishes the body, but good food nourishes the soul.
Dude was right about all kinds of things.
CP: “Spidering Down an Alley” is a unique story in many facets. What did it take to craft such an artistic piece and how did you go about writing such an odd story without lacking in readability? Was it difficult to craft the story in such a page-turning way?
JJ: Flow is what this question is about. I write the first draft of a story and then let it sit. Write another one, then another. I currently have maybe ten at a time in rotation, in various genres. Go back from time to time and smooth them out. Change the font. Read parts of it out loud. Sometimes, draft number three looks good! Right on! Sometimes, two years later, you’re still carving and tinkering.
CP: Do you have any other works releasing soon that our readers can look forward to? If not, are you currently working on any pieces?
JJ: Lucky Supreme, A Novel Of Many Crimes, is just out! Look for it at a bookstore near you or get it from Amazon. The sequel, A Long Crazy Burn, is out later this year. Deadbomb Bingo Ray, a noir novel, is out in November. I wrote that dark bastard of a book when I lived in Philadelphia last year. And my short story “Cantina Kinjiku,” super creepy, will be out in the next Killer Crimes Anthology, along with Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates! Score. But for the moment, most of my time is being taken up with the option on my werewolf book Everything Under The Moon. It was optioned and I accepted the commission to write the pilot, I did, and now we have meeting after meeting with suits.
CP: If you could meet and converse with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?
JJ: Have to be Robert Sheckley. I became friends with him in his later years. If you want a great read in the mystery world, check out Soma Blues of The Alternative Detective. OR! James Crumley. I’m not a big drinker but he was. I had a chance? I’d get hammered with that guy.
Those are the dead ones. Living writers? Kim Stanley Robinson. I met him once at a convention, great guy.
CP: What is your favorite novel or work, and/or author? Why?
JJ: Impossible to answer! I think The Etched City by KJ Bishop is a magnificent book. Dancing Bear by James Crumley. Lost Arts by Lynn Alley is a kick ass cookbook. Favorite reads depend on the season, and it won’t be the same tomorrow as it is today. A writer has to read, and I mean read all the time. And read everything, too. Books outside of your favorite genre might easily become your most recent favorite. But pound for pound, the most reliably excellent writers for my personal taste that are working today are–
Kim Stanley Robinson
CP: What is your writing process?
JJ: I wake up at around seven, start writing by eight. Eat lunch around noon or one. Then go for a walk. After that, answer emails, then hit up project number two. Right now project two is either the fantasy trilogy I’m halfway through with or short stories. Project one, the morning, is either a crime novel or television. Tuesdays are my day off.
CP: If you could give advice to new, young authors concerning the publishing world, what would it be? And why?
JJ: I get asked this all the time, and my first piece of advice is don’t follow my advice. That makes people pay attention (weird, right?)
- You will find your path, and no two roads are the same. Keep going!
- Read. A working writer reads two books a month and several magazines. There is no exception.
- Finish what you start. Then watch out for writer farms (this ONLY happens with novels, for shorts you’re golden as a rule).
- Editors are most often right. Sometimes, they are not. When you stand your ground, USE EXAMPLES. You need proof! See point 2
- Writing is a business. I’m sorry. It is. But treat it like YOUR business. Because that’s exactly what it is. You show up for work every day, five days a week, and you try not to get fired. If you’re ambitious, you try to do a good job and maybe get a raise. You need to treat writing as seriously as you treat your job. Because when you do? After a little while, writing becomes your job. Its worth it!
- a) Writer farms are cropping up everywhere in novel publishing. This is where a publisher picks up many titles, pays an advance of 500-5000, and does not promote or market it beyond their distributor. Economically, this is the same model as licking envelopes by the box. You can, in theory, make minimum wage, but you will not. Writer farms show solid profits and they’re attractive to money makers. Why? How? 50 writers equals 50 employees working for less than one dollar an hour. FYI bad agents will sell to them to drive their sales numbers up. If you write a novel, do not sell it to a publisher who asks you for a marketing plan. If you have an agent who sells to a publisher that accepts unagented submissions, find a real agent. Agents aren’t as hard to get as you might think. Keep looking.
- Believe in yourself. I don’t even know you and I believe in you. You should, too.
- Buy my books! Buy LOTS of books! Subscribe to this magazine! Subscribe to many magazines! Make your mailbox fun! Make your inbox fun!
*This last is for those wanderers out there. You know who you are. Can’t sit in front of your computer all day? Me neither! Take a notebook and go for a walk. Write where you READ. If that’s your porch, so be it. The park? Easy. The couch or the bed? WAY comfortable! Go get ‘em! Stories are important. The historians of tomorrow will mine the stories of today, no matter the genre, to find out what life was like in our time. Tell ‘em.
I often blog about writing @ willfightevil4food.wordpress.com
And for assorted publishing news you can find me @ jeff-johnson-ebb.squarespace.com
Read Jeff Johnson’s “Spidering Down an Alley” today in Hinnom Magazine Issue 002!
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