Greetings from the Ether,
Our friends at the Shadow Booth are making steady progress with their Kickstarter. This literary journal is going to be out of this world and we are very excited to see the dreams of the editor Dan Coxon and these amazing writers come true. We will be interviewing all of the authors involved to help spread the word.
If you haven’t already, please make sure to stop by and visit their Kickstarter! Some Gehenna & Hinnom products may be awaiting you there.
Alas, let’s begin! We’d like to introduce you to Shadow Booth author Timothy J. Jarvis.
CP: You have published many short stories and released your novel The Wanderer in 2014. What exactly about The Shadow Booth piqued your interest? Why are Dark Fiction and Weird Fiction important?
TJ: I was really inspired by Dan’s notion of giving a home to work from the hinterland between literary realism and horror. It’s long seemed to me that that liminal space is one of the most exciting and powerful in writing, but since the solidification of literary conventions in the early twentieth century it’s been something of a no man’s land for publishing – too pulpy to be considered literature, too pretentious for the genre press. So I was really pleased that Dan considered my tale a good fit for the journal.
I think weird, eerie fictions are important precisely because of their slippery, interstitial nature. Horror tends to contain the transgressive force of the Gothic through certainty – the monster is defeated, or darkness prevails. Weird and eerie work will end in ambiguity and thereby open up onto vistas ecstatic and terrifying.
CP: Could you tell us a little about your story “What the Bones Told Hecate Shrike?” What inspired it, how did it come to fruition?
TJ: There are three main things that lie behind the tale. The first is a place, Luton. It’s where I work, teaching creative writing, and I’m constantly telling students when they bring in otherwise good stories with poorly realized middle-American milieu, that they should use the town they live in as a backdrop – it is, after all, an interesting place, more so than its reputation would suggest, vibrant, but a bit fraught, edgy. Realizing I’d not taken my own advice, I determined to write something set there. I then found out that a proposed etymology for Luton is a derivation from the Celtic god Lugh, whose name is thought to have its origins in a word for light, and an eerie idea began to build.
The second was that, inspired by a poet colleague, I’ve become interested in a contemporary innovative verse tradition. I ended up blurring that with the occult to come up with the character of Hecate Shrike – a poet whose disappearance supplies the key mystery of the story.
And the third was a dream I had. In it I looked out of a window to see, spiring in the distance, a tower made of bone. This stuck with me, and I knew I had to make use of it somewhere.
“What the Bones Told Hecate Shrike” is, like a lot of my fiction, set largely in a pub. There’s something powerful in the British tradition of the public house; they are strange places, places liminal, weird and eerie, where the usual laws, of social interaction, of time and space, are suspended for a time.
CP: Can you tell us about your writing process? Any advice for budding authors?
TJ: This is somewhat shameful to admit – given that I’m a teacher of creative writing – but I barely know what I’m doing when I’m writing most of the time. Indeed, I almost cultivate this – William Burroughs’s notion that certain techniques, including the cut-up, are means to get at that which we know, but don’t consciously know that we know, is really important to me. I rarely write the out-and-out surreal, but my stories are usually concerned with things rising up from the roiling sea of the unconscious to disrupt the rational world. Arthur Machen had a great name for this voice from the deeps – he called it the “Shadowy Companion.” There’s something deeply political for me in this upwelling – order has tendencies of the paranoiac and fascistic, where the disorder of the unconscious is liberating and ecstatic.
My approach to writing is generally to jot down, or just make a mental note of, things from life and art that intrigue me, or seem off kilter somehow, and then to combine these with ideas I’ve come up with while writing automatically, without thinking. I aim for outlandish combinations then try to puzzle together the pieces – in this way removing the rational brain as much as possible from the process. But I always allow the real world to creep in, and I’m interested in how plots work, what structures are successful.
I would say the best advice for writers is in some ways the most obvious – read as much as possible, and read carefully – try to work out how successful stories are structured, both on the level of sentence and of plot. And of course set in your tales in public houses . . .
CP: Who influenced you as a writer? How does this reflect in your own work?
TJ: There are too many influences to name really – so many writers have had a profound impact on my work. But if I had to pick the books that made me want to try and write – books that made writing seem potent and luminous, a magic rite – there were three that were really important to me at the beginning: Angela Carter’s lurid erotic picaresque, The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman; M. John Harrison’s The Course of the Heart – a novel in which three loners attempt to come to terms with the traumatic aftermath of a occult ritual practiced as students; and William Burroughs’s Red Night trilogy, which stirs together disparate genres and modes into a delirious and rich stew.
CP: What other ventures do you have planned for the future? What can our readers look forward to?
TJ: Presenting familiar objects as deeply bizarre is something I’ve been trying to do in my recent stories. A particular obsession of mine at present is photocopiers, strange entities which for a brief period of time held the western world in thrall. We’d queue up to spend a moment in their presence, bow before them, treat them with great reverence, ask for favours in hushed tones. And now they’re all being thrown out, scrapped. To me a photocopier is as strange as any god-like entity from the far rim of the cosmos.
Thank you as always for stopping by and please make sure to visit The Shadow Booth and follow us on social media!