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[Interview] A Discussion with Stephen Graham Jones

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

by Lindsay Jamieson

Note: Abridged and edited for clarity.

November 23, 2021 [Kelp Journal] Hi, everyone. My name is Lindsay Jamieson. As a fiction editor of Kelp Journal, I’m honored to be here today with New York Times best-selling author Stephen Graham Jones. Stephen has written over twenty books, and numerous short stories, comics, and essays. He has over twenty-four nominations and awards, including the Bram Stoker Award for Horror, three times; the Shirley Jackson Award for Works of Psychological Horror and Dark Fantastic twice; the LA Times Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculative Fiction; and this year’s Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award. He was called a “literary master” by National Book Award winner Tananarive Due, and “one of our most talented living writers” by Tommy Orange. I, too, am a huge fan. I’m so excited to talk to Stephen about his latest novel, My Heart is a Chainsaw, a horror story about a small Idaho town under siege of a brutal, inventive killer. I have lots of questions and compliments, and we might dip into some of his previous work during our discussion. Welcome, Stephen.

[Stephen Graham Jones] Welcome. Thanks for having me.

[KJ] I knew it was going to be a slasher, and I expect to be scared—and I was—and I expected a lot of gore—and there was—but I didn’t expect to be quite so moved.

I want to jump right into a question about the main character, Jade. For the listeners, My Heart is a Chainsaw is written from the point of view of Jade Daniels, a half–Native American high school almost-graduate in Prufrock, Idaho, who uses her love of slasher movies to cope with the injustices—and horrors even—in her own world. Her essays on slashers, which were written as sort of a Hail Mary extra credit for her history teacher, Mr. Holmes, are interspersed throughout the book, and they’re wonderful—you’ll learn all about slasher movies. I was blown away by your ability to capture Jade’s unique female perspective and experience. Her voice is so sincere.

Why did you decide to tell the story from the perspective of a female teenage outcast? And how did you approach that task and execute it so well?

[SGJ] First, thank you, thank you very much that means a lot. You know, my daughter, at the time I was writing My Heart is a Chainsaw, was seventeen years old, and so that was greatly beneficial. I could just steal stuff that I heard her say. And my daughter is also really into slashers, so I should probably give her more royalties! (Laughs)

As for why come from a woman’s point of view instead of a man’s… I guess the simple mechanical answer would be that I needed a Final Girl, you know, for a slasher. Boys can be final girls. A final girl is more of a role than it is a gender assignment, I feel like. I mean, there are slashers out there with final boys, and we still call them final girls because that’s the position they’re in. But in this novel, I wanted to come at the idea of the final girl over all the different retellings of the final girls. Ever since Jess Bradford in Black Christmas, the final girl has become more and more perfect. She’s up on a pedestal. She’s wonderfully beautiful, athletic, intellectual, compassionate. Like everything good a person can be—that’s the final girl. And I think that once she gets impossible to be, she loses her function, because the purpose of a final girl, for me, is to allow the audience members to imagine themselves in that role, and if the final girl gets too perfect, we can’t imagine ourselves as the final girl. So, I wanted to come at that, and it felt more authentic to do it from a woman’s point of view than a guy’s. Like if Jade was Jeremy or something, then I feel like he would be commenting on the final girl instead of inhabiting the final girl, you know? It would be hard for me to do, I think.

[KJ] Jade thinks outside of the box. Both of my children are neurodivergent, and they often come up with creative solutions to problems. If only they were included in the conversation more and weren’t shunned so much, then they might share their opinions more. I know there are a lot of other reasons why Jade struggles in school. But I really feel like it is a great diversity piece, that her outside-of-the-box thinking solves the problem. She’s the only one that can see it. Were you thinking of that as you were writing?

[SGJ] Yeah, I was. I mean, I was thinking about that also paired with the fact that she’s the horror girl, she’s the one who’s always doing horror pranks, and so she does have the answer, but she’s also unintentionally setting herself up to be the person whom people would least trust to deliver that answer, you know? Which is basically like a Cassandra figure—like she knows the truth, but she can’t really get it across. She spent so much time on the periphery of all the social circles that she almost functions like an anthropologist, watching the strange social dynamics happening across the room. She never can be part of them, but she can really extract more from them than you can if you’re in the moment.

[KJ] Did you get away with writing slasher essays in high school?

[SGJ] I didn’t really get to in high school, but in grad school, when I was taking a critical theory class or, you know, all these different literature courses, I found out that I could petition the professor and say, “This is really fascinating stuff,” and I could prove that I understood it with talking. Then I could say, “I want to incorporate this into a story.” And I would usually make a bet with them—not a bet, more like a deal. I would say, “If I wrote a story using this Foucault or Barth, or whoever, theory, and I get it published, can that count as my paper for this class?” And they’d always say yes, and so I’d write a story and get it published. And it kept working out over and over.

[KJ] You open the book with the quote, “The slasher film lies by and large beyond the purview of the respectable.” That’s from Carol J. Clover’s essay, “Her Body Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film.” Then in Chainsaw you reference the Bible and Greek mythology. So is Chainsaw like one of Jade’s essays, but for the readers? And are you proving that slashers are not only within the purview of the respectable, but also part of our collective DNA?

[SJG] It kind of is. Yeah, that’s why I chose that for the epigraph. And also, I should admit here, this is first time I’ve been asked this, but it’s a little dishonest for me to use that, because in that epigraph, there’s not a period after respectable. And the reason for that is that Carol Clover uses respectable as an adjective. There’s a word that comes after it—I forget what it is—but I cut it off there because I wanted respectable to be like the—what is that, the predicate nominative? And I wanted to cut off there, so I then could push back against it with this whole big novel, because I think the slasher is quite respectable, or the slasher likes to dress up like it’s very, very unrespectable. But I think at its core, just like Jade, it probably deserves better.

[KJ] Here’s Carol J. Clover’s essay’s thesis statement: “The premise of this essay, then, is that the slasher film, not despite but exactly because of its creativity and compulsive repetitiveness, gives us a clearer picture of current sexual attitudes, at least among the segment of the population that forms its erstwhile audience, than do the legitimate products of the better studios.”

I found that Chainsaw and also The Only Good Indians are sort of feminist takedowns. There’s this real feminist thread throughout both of those books, at a time when women are being stripped of their rights. Did you write Chainsaw as a response to that thesis statement? And were you at all concerned—like in the second chapter, which introduces the men in Jade’s life, their harassing behavior is bad—it would challenge your readers or turn them off?

[SGJ] No, I mean, I wasn’t worried about turning them off, necessarily, but the slasher has a bad history of the way it treats women. It’s very exploitational. So, I thought it would be fun to dramatize or embody some of that in Tab and Rexall, the two men that Jade encounters in that scene you’re talking about, because they are basically objectifying Jade.

[KJ] One hundred percent.

[SGJ] Yeah, yeah, just reducing her to pieces, basically. And that’s what the slasher does—I mean, I’m not saying the slasher always does that. I’m not saying the slasher should do that, but there’s been a whole long tradition of it happening, and with my books, with The Only Good Indians, and with this one, and probably The Night of the Mannequins, I definitely want to push back against that, because I think for the slasher to continue to get stronger and better, it has to drop away that useless stuff, you know? And the only way to make it fall away is to try to carve it away myself. And hopefully other people who look at it, like, maybe read Chainsaw, or hear about Chainsaw—I’m not saying they adopt a similar angle or stance or anything—but maybe they also will see that there’s some unhealthy stuff with the slasher as well as some wonderful stuff.

[KJ] Yeah, I thought that for sure. I feel like it’s really pro-women the whole way through. I feel like you’re switching things around in such a way that it changes the slasher, and maybe the reader will get the hint.

[SGJ] Yeah, you know, you’re asking me how I got Jade down on the page, and I guess I never answered that, but it kind of pertains here. When I’m a man writing a woman, I’ll give it to my friends. I can’t ask them: is this proper representation? But what I can ask them is: where am I screwing up? And so, I did give My Heart as a Chainsaw to a lot of women friends, and they would say, “Well right here, right here, and here…” And late in the novel—this is kind of spoiler I guess—Jade loses her hair. And the reason for that is because of the responses that women gave me about Jade’s progress through the book. She changes her hair color with pretty much every chapter, and they informed me, “Listen, this girl’s hair is going to fall out if she colors it that much.” And I had no idea. So, then she had to lose her hair.

[KJ] It was kind an allusion to Aliens. She’s coming out like Ripley.

[SGJ] Yeah.

[KJ] Like she’s suddenly this badass. That worked in a lot of ways. But that’s true, I had bluish hair, and it fell out, it wasn’t good. I felt for Jade because I think a lot of us probably did that in our youths.

[SGJ] Yeah, I never told you this: When I was twelve, I decided that being Indian in West Texas was too weird. I was going to be Italian. And I thought I could fake like I was Italian if I got a perm. So, I got my hair permed, like, it was all curly and stupid. And then it looked so stupid that I thought, well I should get a skunk stripe in the middle. So, I tried to bleach a line, and it was… Everything went bad for a few years. (Laughs)

[KJ] This is a little different topic. From your opinion piece in last month’s New York Times, titled “You’re Anxious. You’re Afraid. And I Have Just the Solution,” I’d like to read a quote about the recent renaissance in horror of which, of course, you’re a part: “Horror can shine a light on things we’d rather ignore, can confront us with our failings. Horror can challenge us to do better. “Get Out” didn’t solve discrimination or racism — Black people are still dying in traffic stops — but it did, at least for a couple of hours, make a lot of people see the racism that lurks beneath even the most liberal-seeming facades. And that’s success. That’s art.” I think you achieve that completely in Chainsaw, especially with the sexual harassment issues, and other issues too—and I’ll get to that. But would you speak for a moment on how horror offers an outlet when the real world, as Jade explains, “doesn’t follow the rules” and is particularly scary?

[SGJ] Like the pandemic, for example, we’ve been struggling through it for, shoot, more than a year and a half now, and it feels like it’s never going to end, you know? Or, like, maybe the last presidential reign—if that’s what we want to call it—it felt like it was never going to end. And I think when we engage in a horror story, a horror novel, a horror movie, or horror poetry—whatever it is—we see a character cooking along, and then something bad happens. There’s an intrusion of the monstrous, or rupture of their world, and things are really bad for a while, just like they’re bad for us right now, but that character processes through to the end. It doesn’t have to be a happy ending, though. In horror, it doesn’t all have to end up in an award ceremony like Star Wars. But nevertheless, they get to an end. And I think an audience seeing a character process through the horror to an end, tells us that we’re in the middle now, but there’s going to be an end later. And I think that’s wonderfully helpful in a time when we actually can’t sense the ending, you know?

[KJ] Yeah, I would like to sense the ending instead of the fourth wave, or the fifth wave, depending on where you live. It’s getting pretty redundant and hard to pace yourself, so that’s true, that in a book, there’s an arc, and you can pace yourself through it. I made a list, actually, of the issues in the book (there may be more that I missed): colonization and gentrification, wealth inequality, sexual abuse, racism, and climate change, a little. Jade says, “Can’t I just like horror because it’s great? Does it have to have some big explanation?” For her, there is a deeper meaning. (She doesn’t know it right at the beginning of the book.) But did you set out to conquer those issues in your book? Or did they creep in over time? Or are they just in our lives and therefore in the book?

[SGJ] The way I feel about stuff that always pops up in whatever you write, is that I know that I have a whole closet full of axes to grind with the world, about racism, about gentrification, about all those things you’re talking about. But when I put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, to write a novel, or whatever, I don’t have a checklist of “all right, this is the time I get to talk about class,” “this is the time I get to talk about politics of identity,” or whatever. And I just start writing, and those axes just start falling out of the closet on their own. I think if I were to try to do it, then it would be almost didactic probably, and people might tell me to “Get off your soapbox, Steve. This isn’t the public square at the university. You don’t get the say in all this, you got to just tell us a good story and entertain us.”

[KJ] But you do tell us a great story. It’s a great, entertaining story.

[SGJ] Thank you. But, so, no I don’t intend to, but at the same time, Terra Nova got its name before I realized it was going to be about colonization (in mini). And then when I turned the novel in to Joe Monti at Saga Press, he read it and got back to me and said, “Oh it’s a novel about gentrification.” And I was like, gentrification? What is gentrification? Because I didn’t mean to write about gentrification. But yeah, that’s what’s going on. I was wanting to write about colonization in a small, small space.

[KJ] It’s great because, if people catch that, and they’re not just swept up in the story, which they may be, you can see how gentrification is a modern form of colonization.

[SGJ] Yep.

[KJ] Jade says, or maybe she thinks this, “Maybe since the slasher has been going on for nearly four decades, the only way to still surprise us is by breaking its own rules.” Were you setting up the rules in the essays to later surprise the reader by breaking the rules?

[SGJ] Yeah, basically. If I remember correctly, in Scream 2, Randy and Dewey are having a conversation at a restaurant or a coffee shop, where they’re trying to figure out who the killer could be. And they get wrapped up in arguing: “Well it’s not you, but I am the last person to be somebody, so that means it is me.” So, they’re setting up the rules, and they’re thinking, does that mean the opposite of the rules is true, or is it like a double think? Like, if we’re supposed to think that, does that mean it’s actually you? And it gets so confusing. And that’s what I was playing with for sure here. I wanted to pretend like I was setting up the scaffolding which every story has to follow, but I just want to knock that scaffolding over too.

[KJ] Which was great for someone like me. I’ve seen all of those movies because of my age—that’s what we did, watch those movies—and I saw Scream in the theater, but I didn’t ever study horror as a form. I didn’t ever think it through that way. And so, it’s great because I get the essays and learn the form and see all the connections between a movie like Jaws and a movie like Scream. I’m expecting one thing, but then something else happens. That kept it very dynamic and engaging.

[SGJ] So what I wanted to do was line the reader’s expectations up with Jade’s expectations but without giving a nod to the fact that Jade’s expectations are very limited by her own life experiences, so she’s only looking in certain places because that’s the only place she can look, and so I want to get the reader invested in thinking that Jade is right, Jade is right. But she’s not always right.

[KJ] It was perfect the way you put it together. I didn’t feel at all alienated by the slasher history. And having her explain it a little bit was helpful. Then having it change was exciting.

[SGJ] Good. Well, that exposition device of Jade writing extra credit papers on the slasher for Mr. Holmes for her history class, and those papers showing up between all the bigger chapters, showed up very late in the process for My Heart is a Chainsaw. In all the drafts before that, Jade was saying more or less the same stuff, but she was finding people in her life to foist it off on, like those construction workers at first. She would give out loud essays to everybody, but it was making her come off as overbearing. I wanted it to be a little bit overbearing, but I didn’t want it to be offputtingly overbearing. So, at the last probably 10 percent of this book’s life, I thought, I’m going to strip all that out of Jade, and I’m going to put it in a different place, and the papers offered themselves.

[KJ] There’s a line near the end of the book about how, as a Native American, Jade is circling the drain of history, and she’s “at the bottom of the pile of massacred Indians.” Do you think having that same history contributes to your love of the slasher genre?

[SGJ] You know, it might. I run into a whole lot of Native people who are really big slasher fans, so we could all be. The slasher is a justice fantasy, and I think all Indians in America, whether we’re conscious of it or not, we secretly want justice to be served. We see a lot of wrong that has been committed specifically to us, and we think, what if? So yeah, I think that’s probably why the slasher appeals.

[KJ] I hear so many people complain about the injustices they’ve suffered, and that makes them angry toward other people, and in your book, it’s so clear that you see injustices in other people’s lives. I really appreciate that. It’s an empathetic book.

[SGJ] Thank you.

[KJ] And I felt the same in The Only Good Indians.

[SGJ] I would never want to push the idea that, whatever my axes are, those are the same as everybody else’s axes or resentments or hostilities or whatever it is. But I do think that generally, a lot of our axes line up. Like if you categorize all of our axes, then you can put them on the same hanger.

[KJ] I agree. So, I have some writerly questions:

Something that a lot of writers struggle with—and I know it’s a really important part of a novel—is theme. In Stephen King’s On Writing, he explains that he writes the first draft, and then he goes back, and in the second or third draft, he looks for the theme. Your father-daughter theme is so incredibly tight that it’s even reflected in the actions of the bears. When did you work that in?

[SGJ] Well, thank you very much. I think King is right. You write your first draft with your heart, and you come back with your brain and revise. And what your brain can do is pick out theme or motif. I consider it as threads that run through everything and surface every once in a while. What your brain does on revision is it figures out: I need to pull the thread here, I need to let it go here, you know? And so, the bears you’re talking about, they didn’t show up until the last 0.5 percent of the book.

[KJ] You have a PhD [in English], and you reference Salinger and Twain in Chainsaw. What writers besides horror writers were you forced to read have seeped into your work more than you expected?

[SGJ] From books I got through school, initially, then I read the rest of the writers’ work? The two writers would be Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor. From Erdrich, I realized that you need a constantly pulsing, emotional under-beat thing, and she does that so, so well. But from Gerald Vizenor, I realized that you can be the most pissed-off person in the world, but you don’t actually need to be angry on the page. Be funny on a page, and your anger will have a better vehicle or delivery scheme. Because Vizenor on the page, he’s hilarious, but there’s only so many teeth to his jokes. I think that’s really important to always do.

[KJ] I struggle with titling a book, but you title all of your chapters. How hard is that? And how important do you think that is for the reader’s experience?

[SGJ] It’s really hard, but when you write a fifteen-chapter novel, you can usually come up with a good chapter title for, like, four of those chapters, and the rest of them you just have to fake it. You know, you either have to fake it, or you erase your four good chapter titles, and you just number them. And there’s nothing wrong with numbering. Numbering is its own tension builder. And here, of course, as you know, I was titling all the chapters after slashers, which felt right for My Heart is a Chainsaw being so slasher obsessed, and also in the sequel, Don’t Fear the Reaper. If I remember correctly, there are two types of chapter titles in Don’t Fear the Reaper, but one vein of them is all from the slasher shelf at the rental store. But yeah, titles are really tricky. Like with Mongrels, in the hardcover, there’s a chapter toward the middle called “Layla,” but in the soft-cover, or in the trade paperback, it’s called “Mouth Breathers.” And the reason for that is, I gave myself a rule that for these titles, I could only use titles that existed before the date of the novel, like before the eighties, and I wanted to call that chapter “Mouth Breathers,” but I couldn’t find anything that told me that term was in circulation before the era of this novel. Then after it came out, somebody got ahold of me and said, “This is just like that album Mouth Breathers,” and I was like, what? And so, I called up the publisher and said, “Let’s please rename this chapter title.”

[KJ] Your acknowledgments make me cry. They are these beautiful personal essays. Other writers don’t write them like that. I have the Audible version of The Only Good Indians, and in that one, you read it aloud. It’s you, and it’s just wonderful. What motivated you to do that?

[SGJ] A lot of novels, I think, suffer from the fact that the novelist lives with this character in this world and this story for X amount of time, and at the end, they don’t want to let it go, so they just put a foot pump on the ending, and they go on for, like, twenty pages after the dramatic line has closed. That feels extra. It’s like Tolkien going back to clean up the Shire. Like, the story’s over, dude, we don’t need to go here anymore. A lot of writers hold on because they don’t want to let go. But my hard-and-fast rule is when the story’s over, it’s over. You get out of the room. So, I make myself do that. But I think I still want to hold on, and so I do write these acknowledgments where I try to talk about the backstory of the novel a little bit. I think where I got that idea, generally, is from a writer, Michael Martone. He would publish really short pieces, like two pages, then have eight-page contributors’ notes. He finally collected all those notes into a cool book. That blew me away. I didn’t know you could do that. I thought your contributors’ notes had to be boring stuff. But Michael Martone showed me that it doesn’t have to be boring. And luckily, I’ve been working with publishers who let me go off. They don’t tell me one page. Sometimes they tell me one paragraph, but like in The Only Good Indians, I just didn’t do paragraph breaks, and this one paragraph was like six pages. (Laughs)

[KJ] Recently Stephen King tweeted about The Only Good Indians. I know he’s a hero of yours—how exciting was that for you? And there are a lot of writers—and that number will continue to grow—who look up to you now in the same way. How does it feel to be on the other side? And does that come with a sense of responsibility?

[SGJ] Yeah, it does. You want to pay back into the system which has helped you so much. I do, anyways; I think everybody probably does. I think that’s why I write horror, probably, because I feel it’s helped me so much, and so I just want to give back to horror. I want to give back to reading, but specifically to horror. I try, when I’m able, to talk about independently published books and just-starting-out writers. I think that it’s easier than what we call “logrolling,” which is when you push a book that’s already big and trampling across the landscape.

[KJ] I have some lightning-round questions. Was there a horror movie that was just too scary for you to watch, that you had to turn off and leave?

[SGJ] You know the only movie I’ve ever left for that reason, that I walked out of the theater, was that movie Dad with Ted Danson. That movie was just breaking my heart too much. I could not stand it, so I had to leave. It’s not a horror movie. I still have never watched the end of it. But with horror, if I start a horror movie, and it gets too scary, then I make myself finish it because I feel like I’ll be trapped in that movie for the rest of my life if I don’t process it through to the end. I remember I went to see The Conjuring whenever it came out. And I went to see it at some off time, a matinee, and it was just me in the theater and a dad with, I assumed, his daughter and one of the daughter’s friends. And, probably at about an hour and ten minutes or so into that movie, it gets over-the-top bad—the mom is possessed, and terrible things are happening—and the dad finally looked up, and he’s like, “What? We’re seeing this movie?” And he hauled his girls out of there. And I feel so sorry for those girls because they will never know how that story ends. They’ll always be thinking: This is what happens to the parents. They turn into demons, and they try to kill you. I think it does a disservice to people to rip them out halfway through a horror story. Therefore, I make myself sit through movies that are scaring me, but I do jump out of some horror movies just because the quality is not what I’m looking for at the time.

[KJ] What was the first movie—or maybe there wasn’t one—that scared you so much that it changed your behavior?

[SGJ] Let me think… You know, it might have been Poltergeist. It changed my relationship to dolls. What it changed was how I comported myself around dolls. My mom was big into all those decorations, and so in my childhood room, she would always put a Raggedy Ann that was four feet tall. And so I learned to sleep where I could always watch that doll.

[KJ] That’s so scary, a four-foot Raggedy Ann.

[SGJ] And sometimes, it was a pair. It was a Raggedy Ann and a Raggedy…

[KJ] Andy!

[SGJ] Yeah, Andy. And sometimes, it’d be outside the bedroom door because she would redecorate. Yeah, it was off-putting, for sure.

I grew up with my mother, who, from her father, whom I never knew, had a mounted deer head that was always in our house. And I would have nightmare after nightmare about that deer. And it finally got to where I had to sleep with that deer in my room. If I could watch that deer, then I knew that deer wasn’t walking around the house. I’ve still got it. Since I was a child, it’s been in every room I’ve ever had because I have to watch it.

[KJ] That’s very terrifying. This actually brings me right to my next question: What happened to you with elk? Like, what is up with you and elk?

[SGJ] I’ve been hunting elk since I was probably about twelve. I think that’s when I got my first elk—I was probably twelve or thirteen. And they’re such smart animals, so they’re so capable. They feel intelligent in a different way than a deer feels intelligent. Like a deer feels intelligent the same way a rabbit is intelligent. An elk feels intelligent more like a person is intelligent, to me, anyway. I just really respect elk. I think they’re amazing. Have I had a scary experience with an elk? My first twenty years of hunting elk, I would go out and get lost every time. I have so my memories of elk hunts with me wondering if I was ever going to get to the truck. Will I have to sleep out here tonight? And where we hunt elk, there’s always grizzly bears all around. It’s not just the cold that’s gonna get you, it’s the bears. So, it’s always like a fraught experience. It’s like you have to make yourself vulnerable to get into the place where elks are.

[KJ] I don’t know how you have time—that’s my next question: You read thousands of books and watch thousands of movies. You hunt elk and have time to get lost. And I’m guessing from reading your books that you either play basketball or watch basketball or both. How do you actually consume all that? How do you do it?

[SGJ] Yeah. Well, you’ve been watching me here. Finished one caffeine drink, and I’m on my second caffeine drink. If I sleep about five and a half hours, that’s normal. If I sleep six and a half hours, I’m like, wow, this is amazing, this is what people do? I can’t imagine that.

[KJ] Can you give us a sizzle reel for the sequel?

[SGJ] For Don’t Fear the Reaper? Yeah. It’s four years later, Jade is back in town, she’s had some goings-on since what we now call the Independence Day Massacre. And now it’s late 2019, and it’s winter this time, and bodies are turning up again. And how can one girl be so unlucky?

[KJ] Oh, I can’t wait. When is it going to be out?

[SGJ] August 2nd of this summer, 2022.

[KJ] Here’s a quote for my last question, “Mr. Holmes told seventh period that nobody ever makes it past twenty with the same hopes and dreams that are thought so dear and vital and true at seventeen.” So now you’re a best-selling author, you had a giant digital billboard in Times Square, you have a book out a year, and they’re just gaining momentum. How does that align with your seventeen-year-old dreams?

[SGJ] When I was seventeen, there was a Conan movie, Conan the Freebooter, and I always imagined I was going to be a freebooter. I was just going to go from adventure to adventure, you know, and I was gonna have a sword, and I was maybe gonna fly a plane, and all those things you think when you’re seventeen. I was definitely gonna have a motorcycle. It hasn’t worked out where I have a sword or fly a plane or I have a motorcycle, but I do go from adventure to adventure.

[KJ] You take us on all these great adventures, so thank you for that. I hope your seventeen-year-old self would be pretty stoked to see how things are turning out.

[SGJ] Yeah, I think my seventeen-year-old self wouldn’t care about me making it as a writer. My seventeen-year-old self would be like, “At least you still wear boots,” so I’ve still got that part of myself. (Laughs)

[KJ] Thank you so much! I’m taking notes on things to improve my writing while I’m interviewing you. You always share so much information that’s helpful to writers. And I love this book, and I can’t say this enough to everyone: read this book!

Lindsay Jamieson published her first novel, Beautiful Girl, with Paperlantern Lit/The Studio (now Glasstown Entertainment), under pen name, Lida James. Jamieson has sold/optioned screenplays and was a contributing writer on Jed Weintraub’s feature film, THE F WORD. Her fiction and non-fiction have appeared in several online publications including her short story “Family Map,” in Kelp Journal. She received her MFA from UC Riverside and was the Fiction Editor of The Coachella Review.


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