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To Be a Writer: An Interview With Jeremy C. Shipp


Jeremy C. Shipp is one of them — that new breed of bright, witty, angry young writers with something to say about the world. His novel Vacation is the highly-touted new release from Raw Dog Screaming Press. Slices of his menacing prose can be found at Chizine, The Harrow and Blood Rose.

3:AM: What makes you write, why do you do it?

JCS: Writing, for me, is the best way to express my feelings, my passion for the world. For a world that makes me feel — on a daily basis — offended, inspired, disgusted, touched. Writing helps me to feel connected. Plus it’s fun, like flying a kite, or ghost hunting.

3:AM: Do you think it can it make a difference in the world?

JCS: I don’t view reality as a place of heroes and villains. This is reflected in my work. In most of my stories and novels, the “villains” are systems, and the “heroes” are people within those systems trying to make the best of things, or even trying to make a difference. In my mind, many of the horrific systems that exist within civilization depend on the devaluing of other people, other life. I believe in the power of internal revolutions. If people treated themselves and others with more love and respect, the world would be a better place. So that’s one of many actions that could help, changing the world from the inside out.

3:AM: You’ve written a lot, published a lot; is Vacation your best?

JCS: I’ve written over 10 novels, over 100 short stories. Each one has been important to me in some way. But if I had to choose, Vacation is my favorite so far. I accomplished everything I set out to accomplish in that story. I felt like I finally found my voice.

3:AM: Make your best case for why people should read it.

JCS: Vacation, like most of my novels and short stories, comes from a place of potent energy inside me. It comes from my love and my horror. Maybe, hopefully, readers will find Vacation somewhere near as satisfying to read as it was for me to write.

jc-shipp.jpg3:AM: What’s it take to become a writer, to get where you are?

JCS: Becoming a successful writer takes a lot of skill, persistence, and barrel load of rejection letters. Rejection is a part of every aspiring writer’s life, and it’s important not to give up. A big part of the publishing game is sending out your work until you find those people passionate about your stories. That can take time. It’s also important to write stories that you’re passionate about. I believe that makes for the best stories.

3:AM: Could you describe the process of writing, how you do it?

JCS: My mind is often overwhelmed with ideas and images that could be the seeds of future novels and short stories. The ones that stick with me, the ones that just won’t shut up — these are the little devils I know I should prioritize and cultivate into a story or book. I maybe jot down smidgens of ideas before I start the actual story-writing, but I’ve never used an extensive outline. During the story-writing process, I frequently go back and edit/rewrite, so that everything’s in an almost constant flux. I’m not finished until I feel happy with basically every word. And even then, I might revisit that world and move things around.

jcs.jpg3:AM: Do you consider yourself a genre writer?

JCS: Most of my stories and novels aren’t easily pigeonholed in terms of genre. I’ve never thought of myself specifically as a “genre writer,” though I am aware of the various speculative elements that I incorporate into my tales. In general, I don’t limit myself within a certain genre box (though I believe it’s important that I’m aware of those boxes beforehand, so I know what I’m doing.) In terms of boundaries, my focus is on the psychological feasibility of my characters — how they act, react, feel.

3:AM: What’s next for you?

JCS: Many new short stories of mine are set to be published this year, in publications like Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens, The Swallow’s Tail, and Until Someone Loses an Eye. Fingers and toes crossed, the future may bring new novels, a short collection, and perhaps even a children’s book. A production company has also optioned an original TV show script of mine, so there are some exciting possibilities there.

Jeremy Shipp lives in a moderately-haunted Victorian farmhouse in Southern California. His online home is here.

Mikael Covey is an ex-southerner who hates racism, an ex-military officer who hates war, and a vehement social critic who loves people. His writing is at Litkicks, Litmocracy, Tuesdays Shorts, Joined-up Writing, and elsewhere. Mike lives in the Midwest with his four-year old daughter. He’s currently working on two novels and his blog site, Literary Monthly.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, June 11th, 2007.