Today I welcome John Claude Smith to my blog. His debut release, The Dark is Light Enough for Me, is a collection of chilling short stories. So, John, why short stories and not a novel-length work?
I thought it a good way of putting myself on the dark fiction/horror fiction reader’s radar. Kind of like opening the door and saying, “Here I am!” My agent is actively shopping around one of my two novels, so it made sense while that’s in motion not to waste time and to get this so-called writing career rolling. Saying I’m a writer of very dark stuff is one thing. Showing the reader what I do has more impact.
Which are your three favourite stories? And do tell us in brief what it is that you love about them.
Tough question. I’ll roll with:
The title story, The Dark is Light Enough for Me, because it’s got deep layers of psychological and supernatural elements that overlap, taboos are being pushed in one perverse sequence—or are they?—and the final outcome is one of psychological satisfaction, though not the obvious choice, but the appropriate one for the main character. I enjoy shining a light on those darkest places within the human psyche and scribbling down what I see. Much like
Plastic, another story that addresses the resonance of one’s soul and how we may never achieve the life we want if we do not embrace our true purpose here, even if it may lead to choices that seem to ignore the human we are for full attainment. Again, choices out of the ordinary drive the main character. Probably a result of my love of the work of JG Ballard, who made it a habit of looking at the choices in situations of peril with an eye toward the psychological necessities as opposed to the need to battle against these perils.
And Clive Barker, whose love of the monster above the human in his earliest work is a huge influence on my willingness to look at a story from all angles and chose the less obvious path.
I Wish I Was A Pretty Little Girl, the title being a mutation of a song title from the death industrial band, Brighter Death Now, this one quite simply is meant to make you very uncomfortable at the beginning, yet by the end, through, again, the psychological ramifications of why this person, a specified serial killer, is the person he is, you may feel sympathy or at least understanding.
Ask me this question an hour from now and I might replace a story or two, though.
Which story was the most difficult to write?
Probably The Perceptive One, which I will admit I would definitely tweak if published again, clean up and smooth out, give it italics for the thoughts of the old man character as the protagonist, Peg, registers them in her head or at least something more to distinguish what’s exactly going on. That said I love her "voice."
What scares you the most? Is this reflected in your writing?
The loss of a loved one via death is tops. I’ve explored it, but not in the way I am thinking here as I state it, never the loss of a child in which the overwhelming grief is explored for the purposes of the story. Only along sideways avenues, where I’ve explored many facets of the loss of loved ones. Writing this, that’s actually a fascinating realization, food for thought.
A sense of incapacitation, at the mercy of bad circumstances as they unfold, that’s a major one, too. I don’t think I’ve totally embraced that except on a psychological level, what with many a character’s need for ‘something more.’ There’s a sense of stagnation there that might relate.
Care to spill the beans on some of your upcoming projects?
I have two novels, The Corner of His Mind and The Wilderness Within, completed; the latter is being shopped around and I really cannot wait for people to read that one because I sense it will shake things up in an interesting way. Another novel is in the second draft stage right now, one which started as my attempt at a straightforward horror novel, but discovering one strange fact about cicadas—they play a huge role in this rock ’n’ roll madhouse of a piece—completely altered that thinking and, as usual, layers started taking shape. There’s even another novel in the early stages that follows that one, dealing with a famous dead poet, but in a very visceral, surrealistic way. And another collection is in the early stages of taking shape.
Advice to writers? Most of us juggle day jobs with family responsibility. How do you cope?
If you are serious, I’ll keep it basic.
1) Make the time to write.
2) Be consistent.
3) Read widely and a lot.
4) Rinse and repeat.
Do you have any particular soundtracks that help you write?
I wish. I often want to use music that would seem appropriate for certain stories or certain moods, yet most of the time, when the writing locks in, I hear nothing but the voices of the characters. Though I will say I had a really strange time writing some early chapters for the famous dead poet novel—which was put on the back burner because I need more research—in which it seemed every night before bed I would go to YouTube and watch Rush videos, which would seem totally at odds with the subject matter, yet it became a weird rhythm I may take up again when I get back to that one.
There are many rich and dark ones which shall remain fodder for your imagination. ;-)
Best comfort food?
Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and pasta, preferably not mixed. My mother used to cook up all day sauce and I always remember coming home to those smells, dipping bread in the sauce, and spaghetti galore. My girlfriend lives in Rome and I’ve spent time there, want to live there, where the pasta is otherworldly!
The one movie you watch over and over again?
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. What a madhouse of drugged out fun! That and Fight Club. Both are beautiful examples of directors letting there imagination and techniques go wild.
All-time favourite holiday destination?
Rome, which I will make more than a holiday destination at some point sooner than later.
Your plans for world domination?
I don’t need the world. Just give me Rome, the woman I love, and all the time needed to write the stories that I hope others into dark literary fiction will enjoy and I’m good with that.
* * * *
John Claude Smith is a writer of dark speculative fiction, music journalism, and poetry. Most of the short fiction veers into horror, while the novels tend to meander into a weird mix of magic realism, psychological and supernatural nuances, and, again, horror. Late 2011 saw the publication of his first book, The Dark is Light Enough for Me, a collection of short stories. He presently exists in the SF Bay Area, though soon he will be in Rome again, where he truly lives.
The novel is available via Amazon in the USA, UK, Germany and France, B&N, OmniLit, Kobo, and various other distributors. Here’s the link for Amazon.com, where you can also check out the reviews which are quite informative.
Follow John's blog here.