How many Bram Stoker Award nominated authors would be willing to subject themselves to thirteen asinine, moronic, borderline psychotic questions from yours truly? I can think of only one: Jeremy C. Shipp.
He is the dark Elvis/giant gnome king of Bizarro fiction and a nice guy to boot. My review of his latest work, Fungus of the Heart is forthcoming. I'll give you a spoiler: it is bizarre and fantastic.
MTM: Welcome, Jeremy. I have many earth-shaking questions, so I'll jump right in before you change your mind.
I have an uneasy truce with the spiders, but I hate leprechauns with every fiber of my appendix. Does this make me a hypocrite?
JCS: I don’t think so. For the most part, spiders are compassionate, trustworthy creatures who’d give you the shirts off their backs, if they weren’t nudists. Leprechauns, on the other hand, steal gold jewelry and fillings from tourists and sell their loot on the black market so that they can buy double rainbow shotguns, which they use to hunt baby manatee angels. Not cool.
MTM: For someone new to Bizarro fiction, such as the writer of this blog, what does one need to know before delving into your stories?
JCS: If you're a fan of Terry Gilliam, Takashi Miike, David Lynch, then you’d most likely enjoy Bizarro fiction. I write bizarre, dark tales with a heart. My tales are funhouse mirror reflections of our own world. And so, the realities I create are familiar and unfamiliar all at once.
MTM: Pick three favorite stories from your own writing. Which one would you eat first and why?
JCS: If we’re talking short stories, three of my favorites are Camp, Boy in the Cabinet, and The Sun Never Rises in the Big City. I’d definitely eat Boy in the Cabinet first, because the story includes mason jars full of fruit preserves and pickled delicacies. And I would refuse to eat Camp, because I’m vegan.
MTM: The title of your new work, Fungus of the Heart, is both sweet and vaguely repulsive. Oddly enough, my wife sometimes uses those same terms to describe me: sweet and vaguely repulsive. Why did you decide upon that as the title?
JCS: I chose Fungus of the Heart, because I find the image to be emotionally evocative and I find the idea to be thematically fitting. Characters throughout the collection have fungi growing in their hearts. My characters suffer from the fungus of loneliness, the fungus of heartbreak, etc.
MTM: You have mentioned in previous interviews concerning your work that Vacation is a map to your brain, Sheep and Wolves is a map to your fears, and Cursed is a map to your heart. Where does Fungus of the Heart fit in that respect and are you worried that someone will use those maps to break in and make a bunch of long distance phone calls while you are away?
JCS: Fungus of the Heart is a map to my relationships. Of course, the relationships in these stories don’t reflect my relationships in a literal sense. Instead, my relationships spawned questions in my mind, which ended up inspiring stories. Some of these questions: how far would I go to save the life of a loved one? What is love without respect? What is true friendship? As for the second part of your question, I’m not too worried about humans breaking in and making long distance phone calls. The attic clowns would probably devour their souls before they could talk for very long.
MTM: Sam Elliott’s wooly mustache or Hugh Jackman’s wolverine lamb chops?
JCS: In a battle to the death, Hugh Jackman’s lamb chops would definitely end up devouring the mustache, as the lamb chops are actually Tasmanian devils.
MTM: What book or books are you reading right now?
JCS: The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, and a few others.
MTM: Finish this scene: “Cthulhu, Michael Myers, and Bruce Campbell walk into a bar.”
JCS: Bruce Campbell says, “Why the long face?”
Michael Myers says, “Damn. Don’t tell me I accidentally put on my horse mask again.”
And Cthulhu laughs. Not because he finds this bar situation funny, but because he always laughs a little before destroying a world.
MTM: I like to put a pair of glasses on my Schnauzer and pretend he is James Lipton interviewing me. What are some of your guilty pleasures?
JCS: Too much peanut butter, Taylor Swift music, Project Runway, dressing up as an attic clown and laughing at myself for hours on end.
MTM: One of my favorite profane terms is “fecktwat.” I try to use it every chance I get in my writing. Not coincidentally, I am no longer allowed to contribute to my kids’ school paper. What is your favorite curse word and why?
JCS: My favorite swear words are “holy mackerel!” and “dagnabit!” I love fake swear words that make me feel like an old cartoon character.
MTM: The best way I can describe the stories collected in Fungus of the Heart is to say it feels like I am reading a Salvador Dali painting. Is there ever a time when you are not taking mental notes and giving slow birth to a bizarre or heart warming tale?
JCS: I have a feeling that my subconscious is always coming up with new stories, even when I’m busy canning pickled delicacies or trying to protect baby manatee angels from leprechauns wielding double rainbow shotguns.
MTM: Your novel, Cursed, was nominated for the Bram Stoker award. Congratulations! I picture the ceremony being held in an ancient Romanian castle with at least one hundred Bela Lugosi clones wearing the full Dracula costume in attendance. How accurate is this?
JCS: There were actually only ninety Bela Lugosi clones, and they all had wolverine-style lamb chops. The ceremony was held in an ancient Tasmanian castle. I still don’t understand why.
MTM: Barring some sort of apocalypse or Attic Clown takeover of literature, what is next for you after Fungus of the Heart?
JCS: Strangely enough, my next project is an Attic Clown takeover of literature. I’m also working on my first middle grade fantasy novel, as well as a few other projects. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to start production on my Charles in Charge musical starring Cthulhu as Charles and James Lipton as Buddy.
MTM: There is nothing about your answer that I do not love with all my pancreas.
Big thanks to Jeremy for being a great sport and taking time out of his crazy, honeybee-like schedule for this interview.
Click here for a collection of Jeremy's online short stories, then pick up his latest book, Fungus of the Heart.
From the author's web page:
Jeremy C. Shipp is the Bram Stoker nominated author of books such as Cursed, Vacation, and Fungus of the Heart. His shorter tales have appeared or are forthcoming in over 50 publications, the likes of Cemetery Dance, ChiZine, Apex Magazine, Pseudopod, and Withersin. Jeremy enjoys living in Southern California in a moderately haunted Victorian farmhouse called Rose Cottage. He lives there with his wife, a couple of mighty cats, and a legion of yard gnomes. The gnomes like him. The clowns living in his attic--not so much.
Feel free to contact Jeremy via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeremy as a poorly rendered werewolf.