After being blown away by his incredible novel Fuck Happiness (my review here), I was thrilled to interview author Kirk Jones. Let me just say, he did not disappoint. Here are his verbose, but fascinating answers.
ZÉ BURNS: How did you discover bizarro fiction?
KIRK JONES: I spent a lot of time searching random strings of words on Yahoo when we first got our personal computer, always centering around the word “shit.” The internet felt like the wild west back then, and I loved it.
So finally I settled on searching “weird shit.” I was getting tired of rotten.com and websites where there was so much gore between the weird phenomena. I wanted somewhere I could go to see more weird and less gore. Carlton Mellick III’s web page came up in the search results. So did Eraserhead’s old web page and forum. Back then I gravitated towards anything that seemed obscure. So small press, indie bands, foreign films, things like that. I started looking into the other authors associated with bizarro. There was this home movie about a haunted house with Kevin Donihe in it online, and I found an old song by CMIII titled “Chuck Norris,” and a clip from a zombie flick where CMIII was a priest (Man I hope this stuff is real and I didn’t imagine it. Ha!).
The cool thing about bizarro back then was that if you dug, you could find a lot of information tangentially associated with the genre. EP [Eraserhead Press] was available on the web, but then you could find all of this obscure, genre-bending, medium-bending stuff by the authors. It felt like this rabbit hole that had no end, and it always kept me digging deeper.
I picked up a few books on Amazon to check the genre out, then noticed the submissions tab on their page. I submitted and Rose contacted me shortly thereafter to participate in the NBAS [New Bizarro Author Series]. I didn’t make the cut the first year, but Kevin Donihe kept working with me until Uncle Sam’s Carnival was ready for publication.
I think over time the mystery that initially surrounded bizarro, at least for me, had died out because social media makes us all so visible now. I feel sad that other prospective readers in the future won’t have that experience of digging fervently for more information on what seemed like an obscure genre. I almost feel like we’re too visible to be cult now.
ZB: What inspired you to write Fuck Happiness?
KJ: It is an amalgamation of a few ideas I have had over the years. The beginning of the book is from an essay I was working on years ago. The idea of moving through space and time by accessing inner space was something I had tried to do with Masturbatory Entropy about a decade ago. The non-sequitur phrases (the thought and speech vaccines) were from a project I did years ago where I focused on stylistic aesthetic, even if it meant sacrificing coherence. The surreal elements were inspired by authors like D. Harlan Wilson and Bradley Sands. The idea of misery as salvation was taken from a self-help parody I had been working on years ago.
I had a bit of spare time on my hands and all of these ideas that were strong enough to stand on their own, but I didn’t have time for them. I took the ones that worked well together (there are still a lot of ideas for other books or projects that got left on the cutting room floor) and Fuck Happiness was the end result. So ultimately this book was an attempt to de-clutter my inventory of good ideas that I had before moving on to a few larger projects that I’m still working on now.
ZB: You describe yourself as the fourth most famous “Kirk Jones.” Do you ever see yourself climbing higher on that list?
KJ: I’ll probably never beat out the Nanny McPhee guy. The other Kirk Joneses are fair game though.
ZB: You said this might be your final bizarro novel. Why are you leaving the genre?
KJ: My books generally feature bizarro elements, but I spent a lot of time broadening my horizons and exploring different genres. I think too much time in genre limbo can hurt personal branding. So I need to focus now.
I’ll carry the experiences and tools from bizarro forever, but right now horror with an occasional splash of sci-fi is where I’m most comfortable. That’ll be where I am for at least the next five years.
I may continue to write bizarro, but I’m thinking of either doing it under a pen name, or switching my mass market-friendly writing to a pen name. I’m not sure which way I’m going to go with it all. But never say never, you know?
ZB: What can we expect to see from you in the future?
KJ: Apex is reviewing my next horror book right now. It is the converse of Aetherchrist. Aetherchrist was lo-fi horror. Godwomb is more about digital horror.
After that I’m currently editing a horror book about a would-be serial killer who can transfer his consciousness into photographs, so he basically has these spaces where he can mutilate copies of people without any repercussions. The real person isn’t impacted by what happens in the photographs, and the killer keeps the photos as a souvenir.
He’s obsessed with a silent film actress, and tracks down as many photos of her as he can. In his research he learns this actress had a camera that basically captures the essence of an object’s soul in its photographs. The pictures are essentially like voodoo dolls. So this killer wants to see what he’s capable of by getting his hands on this camera.
The manuscript is done and I’ve had a few people read it and give me feedback. I’m half way through the edits. It’s my first book over 300 pages, and I’m really excited about it.
Then I have another YA fantasy novel I wrote about a decade ago that I’m adding to and sending out to market this summer as well. It’s just a story that explores the cognitive dissonance associated with our dreams and delusions of youth and the harsh reality of adulthood, but it’s a hopeful tale that reminds us magic is real, even when we think it has abandoned us.
After that I have three more horror book ideas. I’m not sure which I’m going to work on next, and they aren’t along far enough for me to “sell” to potential readers. So I’ll just be quiet about those. But I hope to finish one of them this summer.
Thank you to Kirk Jones for his time and his wonderful (and unique) answers. You can find him at:
And his latest books: