Monday, April 5, 2010

Interview with Author Jeremy C. Shipp

Jeremy C. Shipp is a weird author of Bizarro, horror, dark fantasy, and magic realism. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in over 50 publications, the likes of Cemetery Dance, ChiZine, Harlan County Horrors, Apex Magazine, Pseudopod, and The Bizarro Starter Kit (blue). While preparing for the forthcoming collapse of civilization, Jeremy enjoys living in Southern California in a moderately haunted Victorian farmhouse with his wife, Lisa, and their legion of yard gnomes. He’s currently working on many stories and novels and is losing his hair, though not because of the ghosts. His books include Vacation, Sheep and Wolves, and Cursed. And thankfully, only one mime was killed during the making of his first short film, Egg.

Fatally Yours: When and how did you fall in love with the darker genres of horror, fantasy and sci-fi?

Jeremy Shipp: In truth, I can’t recall a time when I didn’t love dark tales. My favorite movies as a kid included Dark Crystal, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Return to Oz. And when I played pretend with my brothers, our recurring characters consisted of a mummy, the grim reaper, and a floating mouth that could eat people and transport them to another dimension.

Fatally Yours: When did you realize you wanted to pursue writing? Have you always known you wanted to be an author?

Jeremy Shipp: In 4th grade, I wrote a rather long short story about a semi-friendly opera-loving alien named Chomper. That’s when I first realized how much I loved the writing process. Then, when I was 13, I wrote my first novel, and I’ve been writing about one book a year ever since. I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer. As a baby, one of my favorite toys was a pen.

Fatally Yours: How did you start your writing career and what was the very first thing that you had published? 

Jeremy Shipp: When I was 18, my high school creative writing teacher took me under his wing and encouraged me to send out my work. So that’s what I did. The first story I sent out was a horror comedy called “Love Thy Demon,” which was soon published in an online magazine.

Fatally Yours: Do you follow a certain routine when writing a novel? Do you put in a certain number of hours per day?

Jeremy Shipp: After an idea wriggles its way into my skull, I brainstorm my brains out. Then, I start writing the novel from the beginning. And I carry around an Idea Notebook everywhere I go. My novel-writing process also involves eating copious amounts of peanut butter. I try to write at least a few hours every day.

Fatally Yours: The worlds you create are usually surreal distortions of reality. How do you come up with such imaginative worlds and make their issues so relevant to our own reality?

Jeremy Shipp: When writing a tale, I let my imagination run wild and I let my muse dance a strange jig, but my mind is always rooted deeply in reality. And so, my stories are funhouse mirror reflections of my life and of our world.

Fatally Yours: Do you hope to convey a certain message to your readers through your writing? When a reader is finished with one of your books, what do you hope they take away from it? 

Jeremy Shipp: I want my readers to explore the evils of our world. Evils like racism, sexism, class stratification, factory farming, hierarchical thinking. And, above all else, I want my readers to recognize the light in the darkness. There is evil everywhere, yes. But there is good everywhere too. And that’s a wonderful thing.

Fatally Yours: Does your writing ever involve any kind of research or do you make it up as you go?

Jeremy Shipp: I’m always researching various topics and interviewing people. Even when writing a story set in unfamiliar reality, I want the details of that reality to ring true. For instance, I recently spoke to a guy who eats raw animal organs, so that I could realistically describe the taste of brains.

Fatally Yours: Where do you get inspiration for your stories?

Jeremy Shipp: I’m inspired by the wide, wide world of twisted social systems, and I’m inspired by my small world of family and friends and strangers (the stranger the better).

Fatally Yours: Tell us about Cursed, your novel that is on the Stoker Awards final ballot. 

Jeremy Shipp: Cursed is the story of Nicholas and Cicely. They’re cursed, so they decide to create a support group of sorts for cursed individuals. Together, this group of oddballs and outcasts attempt to figure out who cursed them, why, and what the heck they can do about it.

Fatally Yours: What are your favorite stories that you’ve written?

Jeremy Shipp: Right now, I feel especially fond of Camp, Those Below, Dog, The Sun Never Rises in the Big City, Fungus of the Heart, Monkey Boy and the Monsters, Ula Morales, and Agape Walrus.
Fatally Yours: How do you feel about the trend of ultra-gory horror novels as opposed to the classically more psychological tales? 

Jeremy Shipp: I’m actually rather wimpy when it comes to reading and writing and watching ultra-gory tales. For instance, I could barely read American Psycho, and my soul ached for weeks after watching Martyrs. I don’t have a problem with ultra-gory horror novels, but as far as my own preferences go, I don’t like reading or writing stories where violence exists for its own sake.

Fatally Yours: Who are your main influences?

Jeremy Shipp: I started writing novels when I was 13, and back then, my main influences were Ray Bradbury, HG Wells, Alexandre Dumas, Jules Verne. These days, I’m inspired by many of my favorite writers, including Arundhati Roy, Lois Lowry, Franny Billingsley, George Orwell, Jeff Kinney, Francesca Lia Block, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Kurt Vonnegut, Amy Hempel, Aimee Bender, Haruki Murakami.

Fatally Yours: What are some of your favorite books and films?

Jeremy Shipp: Some of my favorite books: The God of Small Things, 1984, The Giver, The Mighty Book of Boosh, Wicked, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, American Born Chinese, The Folk Keeper, Let the Right One In, Slaughterhouse-Five, Like Water for Chocolate, Kafka on the Shore, Original Wisdom, Ishmael, I Was a Teenage Fairy, A Clockwork Orange. Some of my favorite films: The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, Princess Mononoke, Oldboy, Memento, Happiness of the Katakuris, Fight Club, the original Star Wars trilogy, Spirited Away, Kung Fu Hustle, Lagaan, Lord of the Rings, Ponyo, Totoro, Dead Alive, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, City of Lost Children, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Up, Robin Hood, Enchanted.

Fatally Yours: What is one horror novel you think more people should read?

Jeremy Shipp: Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

Fatally Yours: What was the last book you read?

Jeremy Shipp: Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata, which is a superb novel about family and illness. One of my goals right now is to read all the Newbery Medal winning books.

Fatally Yours: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects and/or new novels you are working on? 

Jeremy Shipp: My newest story collection, Fungus of the Heart, is coming out later this year. I also have short stories forthcoming in Cemetery Dance, Rosebud, Apex Magazine, Agape Walrus, Wicked, and other publications. In addition to this, I’m working on a new novel, a comic book series, and a short film. You can learn more about all my projects at

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