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SFFWRTCHT: A Chat With Author Jeremy C. Shipp

Bram Stoker award nominated author Jeremy C. Shipp has two published novels, Vacation and Cursed, and two short story collections, Sheep and Wolves and Fungus Of The Heart. His short stories appear in various venues with three forthcoming in Cemetery Dance, Withersin, and The Burning Maiden. Residing in Southern California in  a moderately haunted Victorian farmhouse called Rose Cottage,  he spends much of his time with his wife fending off Attic Clowns and Gnomes and can be found on Facebook, through his website, and on twitter as @jeremycshipp.

SFFWRTCHT: Tell us how you became a writer.

Jeremy C Shipp: I wrote my first novel when I was thirteen. That’s when I first felt like a writer. I’ve written constantly ever since.

SFFWRTCHT: Who are your influences?

JCS: As a kid, I was greatly inspired by writers such as H.G. Wells, Alexandre Dumas, Jules Verne. More recently, I find myself inspired by Haruki Murakami, Arundhati Roy, Kurt Vonnegut. I’m also influenced by creators such as Terry Gilliam, George Lucas, and Jim Henson.

SFFWRTCHT: What’s your favorite book of all time?

JCS: I have so many favorites, but I suppose if I had to choose one, I’d choose The God of Small Things by Arudhati Roy.

SFFWRTCHT: One of your novels, Cursed, is about a guy who comes to believe he’s part of a group of cursed individuals. Vacation is about a guy whose corporate sponsored vacation becomes a nightmare. How many novels removed from that first you wrote at age thirteen is your first published novel?

JCS: I wrote about seven or eight novels before Vacation, which was my debut novel. I’m glad I wrote some practice novels first. Vacation and Sheep and Wolves are set to be published in German, and Cursed is set to be published in Indonesian. The foreign publishers approached my publisher about my books. A foreign rights agent is also very helpful.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you ever plan to go back to any of those first novels?

JCS: I think of my first novels as learning experiences. I have so many new ideas, I don’t feel the need to revisit them.

SFFWRTCHT: How does the writing process begin for you? Do you outline? Sketch on napkins? Dive right in? Sketch characters?

JCS: I never outline, although I do brainstorm from time to time. I usually know where my stories are headed, but I don’t like to map out exactly how I’m going to get there. My ideas spawn from real world events, dreams, major and minor events in my life. And sometimes an idea pops in my mind, and I have no idea how it got there or where it came from. I don’t really do character sketches. My characters sort of reveal themselves to me as I’m writing.

SFFWRTCHT: What’s your writing day look like? Do you have a day job? write mornings? Evenings? Scattered times?

JCS: I have a couple different day jobs, but I make my own schedule. I write mostly at night.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you labor over every word or allow drafts to polish it or both? Use any special software or tools?

JCS: I do tend to obsess and labor over every word. I try to make every sentence, every word count. I edit as I go. I also go back and re-edit later. I write in paper notebooks part of the time, but I do most of my writing on the computer. I use MS Word most of the time.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you come from a family of writers or are you the first?

JCS: None of my family members are professional writers, although there are some awesome writers in my family. My grandfather, for instance, was always writing when I was a kid. He wrote many Christian stories. He was a minister. He started his own ministry, and his members read his work.

SFFWRTCHT: Did you study writing in school or learn your craft outside of that?

JCS: I have a BA in creative writing, so that experience helped, especially the workshops I also learned to write by reading and by writing and by taking to heart advice given to me by editors/other writers.

SFFWRTCHT: Your stories are quite varied, at least those I’ve read so far. A man cheats on his girl who takes revenge by becoming a vampire.  You have a private eye tale with a 40s feel which quickly comes to be more science fictionish. Do you tend toward the odd or strange?

JCS: My work has always been weird. My imagination has always worked that way, even when I played pretend as a kid.

SFFWRTCHT: Does faith play a role at all in your work?

JCS: You could say that faith does play an important part in my work. I also find hierarchical thinking to be extremely horrifying. Lack of empathy is also terrifying. The hierarchical thinking that I’m referring to has to do with people believing that one group is better than another Thinking that one person deserves more respect than another, basically.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you use a critique or writer’s group or just a core of select beta readers?

JCS: At this point, only a select group of people critique my work before it’s published. My wife is my best beta reader.

SFFWRTCHT: You seem to put out free stories quite a bit. Is it helpful to give away stories in unpaid markets?

JCS: I have given away reprints to unpaid markets, but I try to sell first rights to paying publications. I’ve also posted a few free stories on my website, which has helped me gain new fans. Here’s a free PDF copy of my horror story “Camp”

SFFWRTCHT: What was the inspiration behind the disturbing and sad story, “Those Below”?

JCS: “Those Below” was inspired by all the racism that I’ve witnessed. My goal was to write a zombie tale with a twist.

SFFWRTCHT: Did Cursed’s Cicely spring completely from your imagination, or lend traits from real person/s?

JCS: Cicely’s one of my favorite characters. She is, in part, inspired by various friends and family members. My wife and I often have absurd conversations that are similar to those of Nick and Cicely.

SFFWRTCHT: Is horror an escape for the reader? What about the writer?

JCS: Horror can be an escape for the reader and the writer, but that’s never how it’s worked for me and my work. In my mind, my stories are funhouse mirror reflections of reality. For me, writing horror helps me to process the real horrors of the world, to find light in the darkness.

SFFWRTCHT: What projects do you have coming that we can look forward to?

JCS: I’m working on a new story collection and a new novel. I also have short stories forthcoming in Cemetery Dance, Withersin, and The Burning Maiden.

SFFWRTCHT: So what’s all this talk about Atomic Monkeys and Gnomes for those out of the loop?

JCS: The attic clowns are evil clowns who live in my attic. I often talk about them on Twitter. The attic clowns are powerful, but the gnomic shamans wield magic sporks that can transform clowns into parsnips.

SFFWRTCHT: When did you first realize the attic clowns existed, and how often do they invade your stories?

JCS: The attic clowns showed up about five years ago. They came out of an antique mirror I bought at a mime’s yard sale. The attic clowns recently defeated my muse in an epic battle and now they’re in charge. So, now I’m writing a book all about attic clowns. I have no say in the matter.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the forthcoming space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host ofScience Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.