Kirk Jones, author of Die Empty and recently, Aetherchrist via Apex Book Company, got his start in the bizarro scene back in 2010. He was part of the second cohort of New Bizarro Authors along with Nicole Cushing, who also veered into the realm of horror. The shift has been relatively smooth for both authors, but because Jones cut his teeth and stayed with the genre for half a decade, many still identify him as a bizarro author. His 2018 release marks his first foray into the world of dark sci-fi and horror.
CHHR:When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
I was around 13 when I decided I was going to pursue writing a bit more seriously. I was reading Stephen King’s Insomnia, and I really enjoyed the small community in which the protagonist was housed. I lived in a small town as well, so the idea that benign, supernatural forces could somehow help me escape from all of that was really compelling to me.
But the only escape I could find was through books. Creating fantasy or science fiction closer to my own life helped bridge the gap between the fantastic and the mundane for me. Beer helped too, of course.
CHHR: What does your writing schedule look like?
Slow and steady.
One to two books a year. One book that takes 5-7 months. One book typically that takes about 3-4 months.
6-10 hours a week of writing during the summer and winter breaks. 3-6 hours a week during the semesters.
I usually write every other week day and take most weekends off. I do like to brainstorm on weekends when time permits.
CHHR: Do you have any interesting writing rituals? If so, what are they?
When I’m in the brainstorming phase, I like to stand in my kitchen at night and stare at the wall for a few hours with a mini recorder. Just creepily whispering my ideas into the mini recorder so I don’t wake my wife and kids. I do this once or twice a month when I’m coming up with new story ideas.
CHHR: Do you like writing short stories or novels?
Novels all the way.
How is the horror scene where you live?
In my immediate vicinity there’s not much going on. I live in a town with four surrounding colleges. So there’s a bit of a literary community, but horror, as well as other genres, is a bit marginalized in my opinion. There still seems to be a bit of a stigma associated with genre fiction in academia, which is unfortunate.
In a nearby town there’s a book store that promotes local authors, many of which are horror and sci-fi. I’m just beginning to get to know the folks there, so perhaps I’ll have a bit more of an optimistic answer a year from now.
CHHR: Do you use outlines or do you go with the flow?
I used to just come up with an idea and write. Then when I didn’t know which direction to go in, I’d brainstorm just enough to get another chapter out until I reached the end. This was a terrible practice for me.
A lot of my bad writing practices stem from superstition. I was always afraid that if I wrote a full outline with a complete ending, I’d never finish the story. This belief was grounded in experience. There were several stories I never finished because I already had a conclusion in mind.
In retrospect, I think the real reason I never finished those stories was because I simply lost interest.
Now I outline meticulously. I have a vague outline that gets me started.
Then I get detailed chapter-by-chapter outlines.
Then I do preliminary writing for each chapter, fleshing out dialogue and scenery.
Then I put that preliminary writing on one monitor, and write from that on another monitor.
So a lot of stages in my writing these days.
CHHR: How did publishing your first book or short story change your writing process?
It hurt it quite a bit, actually. I became more concerned with writing to get published than I did with writing what I truly enjoyed. I chained myself to the genre I got my start in, bizarro, and had a hard time thinking outside of the parameters of that genre. My understanding of that genre was admittedly superficial as well, so not only did I try to stick to the conventions of bizarro, I stuck to conventions that were growing cliché. Bizarro was growing and I was stagnating in an early, superficial understanding of the genre.
I took my knocks hard back then, but I’m glad to have learned from it and am forever grateful that I got the opportunity I did. Because the experiences I had would have happened to me regardless of the genre I got my start in.
Bizarro was the best place possible to cut my teeth. Because bizarro is such a broad genre, and elements of it can be added to any other genre, people in the movement strike me as more accepting of various writing styles and topics. You don’t always find people in other genres who are as receptive to bizarro, however.
CHHR: What do you think makes a good horror story?
I like atmospheric and paranormal horror that really comfortably bridges the gap between reality and fantasy. The more plausible it could be, the better it is in my opinion. So, some of the creepypasta content out there, stories about the dark web, that kind of stuff. But I also really dig lo-fi horror, horror that deals with supernatural elements stemming from old technology like transistor radios, VHS tapes, televisions, that kind of stuff.
CHHR: What are you currently working on?
The one I’m currently revising and having a few beta readers check out involves a deity trying to rebirth herself in a piecemeal fashion by gleaning binary code from the broken dreams of people online. It compliments Aetherchrist nicely, because Aetherchrist deals with lo-fi dark science fiction (analog) while this new one deals with digital dark sci-fi. While there’s no mention of Aetherchrist in the new text or anything even tangentially related to the mythos of Aetherchrist, the two could be spliced together effectively in a third book, kind of an “old tech” vs “new tech” battle, but I’m not sure if I’ll go that route or not down the road. I have too many other projects that are near completion, and I really can’t afford to sit on them any longer.
CHHR: What is in your TBR pile?
I’m halfway through Breaking the World by Jerry Gordon. I have a manuscript one of my colleagues just finished up that I plan to look at while he looks at my next one. After that:
A Pretty Mouth by Molly Tanzer
Skullcrack City by Jeremy Robert Johnson
Arafat Mountain by Mike Kleine
We did Everything Wrong by C.V. Hunt
Weaveworld by Clive Barker
CHHR: What is the last book that scared you?
Lucas Mangum’s Gods of the Dark Web. The dark web is similar to the ocean. We don’t know exactly how deep it goes, nor do we know what’s down there. We are only limited by our imagination. The frightening thing is, we all know how dark human nature can be, because that darkness exists in all of us. It stands to reason that such a darkness exists online as well.
CHHR: What is your favorite horror book?
I still love Clive Barker’s books of the art (currently The Great and Secret Show and Everville). When we getting that third book, Mr. Barker?
CHHR: What is your favorite horror film?
I still like the first Child’s Play film. Nightmare on Elm Street 4 was one of my first, so I still have a soft spot for that. Cannibal Holocaust because I found that when I first got internet at home, and there was so much hype surrounding it at the time.
CHHR: What type of music do you listen to? What’s your favorite album?
Vaporwave, Synthwave, and new alternative rock as of late. I feel like if I don’t keep up on newer music that I’m stagnating as a human being. So I try to keep up with new music as much as possible. I enjoy a bit of rap as well. G Herbo, Tyler the Creator, Lil Uzi Vert are all interesting, infusing their work with 8-bit melodies.
But nothing has taken the place of Iron Maiden’s Somewhere in Time and Rush’s Hold Your Fire as my favorite albums. But that Boy Pablo kid’s album Roy Pablo was pretty damned good last year. And Mac DeMarco is a heavy hitter today as well.
CHHR: What is your spirit animal?
My wife says it is a rabid ferret.
CHHR: What is your favorite beer?
Smuttynose Short Weisse. Peach was best. I like light beer with a sugar-free, fruity or tart taste. But my drinking days are numbered, I believe. It makes me gain weight so fast these days.
CHHR: If you could have a beer with one author, who would it be?
I wouldn’t mind having a beer with John Skipp again. I had one with him in 2010 when I had my NBAS book published through Eraserhead Press. He was a really down to earth dude. We chatted briefly about the possibility of something existing out there beyond us. He told me a few stories about his early days writing and playing music. It was really inspiring because I was at the bottom just making my way up as an author, and he was at the top, and he still found time to chat with me. Same with Robert Devereaux. We had a nice chat at Bizarrocon in 2010, and I wouldn’t mind going for another round.
My blog: https://bizarrojones.wordpress.com/
Kirk Jones (k3rk Dʒoʊnz): 1. English Director of Nanny McPhee 2. “Sticky Fingaz,” rap artist and actor who played Blade for the television series 3. Canadian who survived a dive over Niagara Falls . . . only to return and pass upon his second attempt. 4. Boring white author of Uncle Sam’s Carnival of Copulating Inanimals (Eraserhead Press, 2010), Journey to Abortosphere (Rooster Republic, 2014), and Die Empty (Atlatl, 2017) who often gets mistaken for the other, arguably more notable, Kirk Jones fellows. 5. Also not Kirk Byron Jones.