I’ve had a really odd trajectory in life. I started out as a Mexican wrestler and clinical hypnotist before becoming a rock singer in The Black Math Experiment. When that band broke up I was invited to start contributing to Houston Press as a music blogger, and from there ended up being a full-time writer. Carmilla Voiez got me into fiction. She had an anthology she wanted me to contribute to, and I penned a short story about a headless stripper that was well-received. People seem to like The Rook Circle, so I’ll probably keep doing this for a bit,
Q ~ What’s something that you never leave home without?
My Livestrong bracelet. I was handed my first one at the funeral of my best friend who had died from cancer by a mutual survivor friend. I never take it off. When one breaks I immediately order more. All the broken ones are in a little glass cat that also has a rose fromher grave.
Q ~ What’s your favourite pass-time?
I like Doctor Who radio plays, especially Paul McGann’s, and Welcome to Night Vale. I’m also a big walker. I walk everywhere. I drive only when forced. Houston is a city that has been built to pretend walking never happens, so when I do it feels like I’m exploring open secrets. I work out my worst writing blocks walking.
Q ~ How do you think people perceive authors?
I think it’s hard to divorce creator from creation. I met Charlaine Harris once, and no matter how many times you see that photo in the back you just never expect the person who wrote Sookie Stackhouse to look like a jolly Southern lady who fixes scraped knees with buttermilk pie. God alone knows what people think when they meet me. I do remember my favorite review I ever got as a live musician though. “Met Jef Rouner. He is very, very Jef Rouner.”
Q ~ What is your favourite genre to read? To write?
My favorite books lately tend to be non-fiction. I’m re-reading Richard Shenkman’s presidential history book and after that I’ll probably dig into State of Play, which is a collection of video game essays on game culture. Fiction-wise I’m still finishing up Lev Grossman’s Magicians series.
I stick with horror when I write, but I have a strict formula. Every story must be able to make a reader laugh out loud at least once. I also strive very hard to make characters you can care about. To me horror should be frightening because it strikes a chord in a person emotionally. Revulsion isn’t my bag.
Q ~ How did you begin writing? Was there a single catalyst or a series of events?
I got started in high school thanks to a very supportive teacher who thought my story about possessed teddy bears was cause for celebration rather than alarm. I did all Black Math’s press releases with a lot of surrealism and narrative fun, which is what got the attention of the local press.
Q ~ What’s the best interaction you’ve ever had with a fan?
I mentioned on Facebook I was working on a short story called “Earworm,” and someone wrote me the next day that they’d had a nightmare about it just based on the title.
Q ~ What is one thing that you absolutely need when writing?
Coke Zero and a recording of rain at the beach.
Q ~ Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Pantser. I would rather do anything besides write an outline. I had to write one when my latest story got bogged down and I didn’t know where to go. I was in a foul mood for two days. Karen Slaughter told me once she does the entire book in her head before she ever sits down to write. That would drive me nuts.
Q ~ Can you tell us a little bit about your latest release and what inspired you to write it?
At first I was just going to release shorts one at a time, but a fair number of fans asked for collections instead. So I decided to go the Books of Blood route and try to have a collection series that is thematically linked with an evolving wraparound story woven within. Individual stories are inspired by different things. “Nevaeh” by a bad funeral, “Ceridwen’s Cauldron” by covering the MRA movement, and so on. There are actually liner notes in the back for anyone who wants an in depth explanation.
Q ~ What was the most difficult part of the process?
I’d say putting the grunt work in every day. It may sound romantic to claim you were so fired by inspiration you hammered something out in a blackout fury of creation, but the reality is you just have to make yourself plod along one word at a time until you have a book.
Q ~ What is your process for choosing character names?
I’ve got a wide circle of friends online, and my wife is a baby nurse so she brings home interesting names for me to use sometimes. I also make it a point to seek out names that are uncommon in America but common in other parts of the world. It’s a handy way to diversify your cast and keep it from being too white. I work very hard on not make a white male my default protagonist.
Q ~ What are you working on next?
The Rook Circle Volume 2. There will be six in the series. I’ve got a previously published story about a witch who magically castrates guys who send her dick pics that will be a part of it, and I just finished one about a guy in Hell being sentenced to serve his term in a video game I’m really, really proud of. Hopefully it’ll be out this year.
Q ~ If you could give aspiring authors one piece of advice, what would it be?
Joins a writer’s group. Do it yesterday. Nothing, nothing, NOTHING will serve you better than communicating with other authors.
About the author:
Jef Rouner (formerly known as Jef With One F and Jef Withonef) used a brush with rock and roll almost-fame in the Black Math Experiment to trick the editors of several news outlets into letting him pretend to be a journalist. You can usually find him talking about feminism, goth music, Doctor Who, and video games over at the Houston Press art blog. He pens bizarre short stories because no one tells him not to, and currently resides in Houston with his wife and daughter.