The Fear in Silence

[Dozens more interviews available in the main Interview Archive]

Interview for The Fear in Silence 3/01/03

The Fear In Silence: Tell us a little about yourself.

JL: I’m a 29-year-old author/editor living in suburban Maryland. I’m probably best known for my work as editor in chief of The Dream People webzine and my editorial work on four recent anthologies. I’m also now functioning as Head of Promotions for Eraserhead Press, a publisher of the most bizarre and extreme fiction out there. When I’m not writing nightmare-inducing weirdness I like to cook Thai and Indian cuisine, play games of strategy, and watch obscure films. Little-known fact: it used to be that I had to write naked, but I’ve overcome that compulsion.

TFIS: How did you get involved with writing and editing?

JL: Originally I had an intense focus on visual art, which shifted to music during my teen years. Most of the last decode was spent in the gothic/industrial music scene in Washington, D.C. Of course, I tried my hand at making money from my interest and became a certified audio engineer. But a funny thing happened. Between sessions in the studio I began to work on a screenplay I had started years earlier. In a matter of months I’d finished the thing and started drawing studio interest, which convinced me to ditch the audio thing and write full time. Financial suicide, yes, but very fulfilling. After a year and a half—and three screenplays being drawing interest only to get turned down, I shifted to something a bit more practical: writing freelance articles. Soon after I saw the Fiction International Emerging Writers competition announced and decided to try my hand at fiction. This was the pivotal moment, because I came in second place, got a huge payment, and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I’ve been writing fictional works ever since and haven’t looked back. And, when I saw Eraserhead Press needed somebody to run their webzine, I jumped right in. On top of that, all my anthologies have sprung from doing the webzine.

TFIS: What do you find most challenging about writing?

JL: Any self-employed person working from home will tell you that’s it’s hard to stay focused. There’s always something that needs to be fixed, some family development, some errand, every kind of distraction you could want. If you stay focused you can accomplish anything, that’s what I’ve learned. After three and a half years of hard work I’ve managed to get almost 250 different works published, and I’m not trained as a writer. William Burroughs said of Jack Kerouac, “He was a writer in the sense that he wrote. While everybody else was talking about it, he was actually doing it.” Sounds easy, right? I’m discovering that between all the correspondence and networking and hundreds upon hundreds of submissions to publishers that, well, I’m forgetting how to write!

TFIS: Some writers suggest their stories come from dreams, experiences in everyday life, news articles, and all sorts of different things. Where do you find most of your ideas come from?

JL: I have incredibly psychotic dreams, those are the only kind for me really, but strangely I’ve never tried to put them into story form. I’d guess that my sickly childhood and the constant near-death experiences of my parents shaped things darkly early on in life. My two motivating forces, however, are perception and dysfunctional relationships. If I can screw with perspective in the narrative format I’m happy, so a lot of ideas come form misheard song lyrics or news clips, misunderstood conversation. Really weird stuff comes about that way. Also…I’ll admit: bickering is a turn-on for me. I love to write about couples having gratuitous verbal differences. Of course, I do often slip in political and societal subjects in the hopes of getting some thinking/discourse happening out there, but you have to entertain people first—I hope I do that much at least!

TFIS: Any writers who’s work you admire?

JL: Yes! Probably too many to list here. There are certain wordsmiths that, when I read their work, after just a paragraph or maybe a sentence I become too inspired and have to start writing. Hard to get through one of their novels that way but it’s like a TNT going off in my muse’s soul. Chuck Palahniuk, Clive Barker, Bret Easton Ellis, H.P. Lovecraft, Dostoevsky, Mark McLaughlin, William Burroughs, Jeffrey Thomas. Keep an eye on Jeffrey and his brother Scott Thomas—they’re dangerous men destined for literary infamy.

TFIS: Any new projects being developed?

JL: It’s scary how many projects I have—my workload is like a hydra continuously sprouting new heads. Editorial projects include editing the forthcoming anthologies The Wicked Will Laugh and Sick: An Anthology of Illness, writing introductions for the works contained in the Scary! Holiday Horrors anthology, and layout/graphics for Vincent W. Sakowski’s new e-book. Collaborative works include an untitled novel and short story collection (One for the Sickies) written with Perry McGee, The Wrong Side of the Afterlife series with Abel Diaz, the Chim & Him collection with Hertzan Chimera, Paul Pinn, Mark McLaughlin and others, a sci-fi walrus erotica collection with Jon Hodges, J. Scott Malby, Kevin L. Donihe, and others, a series of works with Brutal Dreamer, and finally the biography of tragic porn star Everest Python, written with Mark McLaughlin. I feel the need to warn folks that Vincent W. Sakowski and I will be debuting our collab story at World Horror Con 2003—I won’t describe it for fear that I might vomit (I’m serious about that). My own novella collection, titled Discouraging at Best, is under consideration with publishers at this time.

TFIS: Where can readers find your work?

JL: Three of my e-books (Just Kill Me, Angelina Jolie Ate My Left Testicle, and Three Pieces Guaranteed to Rot in Your Drawers) are available through bizarrEbooks.com—two of them are even free! Another e-book, Skin for the Bloodless, is downloadable at my personal site. The Scars are Complimentary, a poetry chapbook, can be purchased through Project Pulp or Shocklines. Another chapbook, Hell on the Installment Plan (also featuring Abel Diaz, Susanne Brydenbaugh, and Tim Curran), will be available in a matter of weeks as well. Two anthologies I edited are out now: Of Flesh and Hunger (Double Dragon Publishing) and A Slap in the Face (bizarrEbooks). Some of the publications/anthologies my work is currently in are Cemetery Poets: Grave Offerings, The House of Pain, Dust Devil, Bewildering Stories, The Muse Apprentice Guild, and Wicked Hollow. A multitude of future publications are listed in detail at my official web pit: Chicken Soup for the Soulless—http://www.johnlawson.org

Thanks for giving me this opportunity to spread the illness!

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