MM: Your most recent novels are The Long Trial of Nolan Dugatti and Ledfeather, both published in 2008. In today’s culture it seems like every novelist wants to get into screenplays and movies. Are you working on turning any of those novels into screenplays? Which of your novels would make especially good movies, and why? Hey, maybe a Hollywood producer will read this, ya never know…
SGJ: I have one novel, Zombie Bake-Off, which I've also written as a screenplay. And it works, I think. Another that I'm working on now, I wrote it as this huge-o novel, then decided it was too bulky, so used a screenplay transfer to try to slim it down, ferret out the dramatic line. And did, I think. So now the plan is to suck it back across to a completely different novel than the original. And, this one novel I have, Seven Spanish Angels, it'd be fun on screen. So long as Jennifer Lopez could be in it. And All the Beautiful Sinners, I sucked it into a graphic novel script, and, in doing so, kind of stumbled onto all this fun visual stuff happening, which kind of suggests to me that it might work on-screen. Nolan Dugatti wouldn't, though, I don't think, and Ledfeather, I'd have a hard time trusting it out, and Fast Red Road, it'd make a great Heavy Metal kind of cartoon. Not something I could adapt across, though.
Really, I think novelists are the worst for adapting their own stuff. Just because every little thing matters. They're too intimately involved with what pulling on this or that string means forty minutes later. Better to let somebody who hates the story have a go at it, I say. Maybe they'll fall in love with it along the way, even. If you've written it well enough in the first place.
MM: You maintain an active Facebook presence. Most successful writers these days work very hard to keep in touch with their readers by interacting more online. Has interaction with your readers changed any aspect of your writing – for example, the topics you cover in your stories or books?
SGJ: Hasn't changed anything, I don't think, though of course it takes discipline to write when there's so much fun stuff happening just an alt-tab away. Trick is to make the stuff you're writing even more fun, I think.
MM: According to your Wikipedia page, “At public readings he's said that his short story ‘Bestiary’
SGJ: Just that where I grew up – outside Midland, Texas – you spend a lot of time shooting stuff. So that story, for me, it's just kind of an apology to all those buried and blown-apart animals. None of the eaten ones, but, yeah, all the ones that I just wanted to see closer, I don't know. Maybe it's what you were talking about earlier, that loss of innocence thing. At a certain point – way too late to undo any of it, of course – I kind of cued in that this really wasn't any way to live in the world. In any world. So now I just try to shoot things for the freezer, because getting that high-meadow grass secondhand, it's got to be better for you than all the glowing stuff in the food at WalMart. Unless of course elk have some secret discount store up on the mountain.
MM: Let’s find out a little more about the man behind the books. Tell us about your early years. Did you grow up in the country … a town … a city?
SGJ: Country. Place called Greenwood, mostly. West Texas. Dry, hot, pretty fun. Grew up working cattle and plowing cotton and moving from house to house, trailer to trailer. And playing a lot of basketball. And building and unbuilding all these series of trucks. Riding pumpjacks, running from dogs, hiding sick rabbits in my bathroom, having all kinds of encounters with snakes. Having nobody live within bike distance, usually. Running through the pastures at night. Mesquite, barbed wire, quail. Old sheds with intricate drawings of prison floorplans in them. Sandhill cranes blotting out the sky once when I was twelve. Driving to town to stand behind Long John Silver's at nine on Friday nights, so we could have all the fish they were going to throw out. Copenhagen, Motley Crue, headlights in the dust that never settled. Sleeping on top of oil tanks, or in the cool furrows of fresh-plowed cotton fields. Meteor showers. Truckbeds spilling over with pie melons, to lob into caliche pits. Butane pumps popping all night. Coyotes everywhere. Racing trains, turning our headlights off in the fog, listening to old peanut-eating men tell stories at the gin. That kind of stuff.
MM: What’s a typical day in the life of Stephen Graham Jones like? Are you married, and if so, does your wife get to read your books before everyone else?
SGJ: Yeah, married. And no, my wife doesn't read my stuff before it's published. She could, but, I mean, I write so many that what's the point, right? Best just to hit the stuff that makes it upstream, gets to be a real boy.
MM: You have a lot of demands on your time: your writing, your family life, fan interaction, and your day job at the university. What do you do to blow off steam … or get away from it all? Or do you even need to do that sort of thing?
SGJ: Used to be it was basketball, but now my driveway's all stupidly slanted. Then it was hackysack, but that led to microfracture surgery for my knee. Now I guess it's road biking. Just because, on a mountain bike, I'm always trying bigger and less-sure jumps. So it's best if I just try to race the clock out on the asphalt, I think. Though I also love pawn shops, garage sales, anywhere there's junk. I want to draw it all close, hold onto it forever.
Stay tuned tomorrow for the final portion of the interview!