Interview With Josh Storey

Josh Storey
Josh Storey

Josh Storey is the founder of Coal Hill Review and works as a full-time factotum for Quantum Theatre, an experimental foundspace theater company in Pittsburgh, PA. He grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons, which probably explains his penchant for second person narration. Josh blogs at phantasypunk.com, and his story “Seek Him i’th’Other Place Yourself” (which, he claims, “is for Matt”) appears in Issue #12.

How long had you been submitting before you made your first sale?
This is kind of embarrassing, because no one ever says this, but my first submission sold right away.  “Seek Him…” was set to be published in an anthology called Touched, edited by Jeff Deveaux.  Unfortunately, the publisher went through a merger that eliminated their fiction branch (they chose to focus on text books instead), and the shorts had to find new homes.  Luckily, my story found it’s way to Shimmer.  Now the trick is making sure lightning strikes a few more times…

Do you work with a critique or writers group?
I have a few trusted beta readers, and I trade drafts with a few friends, but beyond that there’s no formal group.  Of course everyone wants to be a member of The Inklings, but having a drink at The Eagle and Child is as close as I’ve ever gotten.

Facebook, Twitter, etc. Do you find that these “social networking” sites help or hinder your creativity?
I’m not sure social networking sites help my creativity, though I’m pretty sure they don’t hinder it either.  Productivity on the other hand… It’s very easy to get swept up in the spheres (twitter-, blogo-, what-have-you) and loose hours of precious writing time.  And I’m incredibly good at finding things to do that don’t involve working on a story.  “Oh, this webcomic I haven’t read in years just updated its archive…” Three days pass.  “Oh, I should catch up on that gadget blog…” Two days later. On the other hand, I find tweeting my progress and keeping track of it on my blog help keep me honest.  Too many posts about the kind of lunch meat I’m using in my sandwiches is a dead give-away that I’ve stalled on that short story.

What authors, if any, have had the most influence on your work?
Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Mark Z. Danielewski, Hal Duncan, and James Joyce.  Gaiman made me believe in magic.  King made me believe I could write.  Danielewski and Duncan made me believe I could get away with anything in a book.  And Joyce just confuses the shit out of me, but in an intellectual sort of way.

Favorite short story you’ve read recently?
I’m going to cheat and name two: It’s a toss up between “Twittering from the Circus of the Dead” by Joe Hill, which is a creepy, creepy, creepy twit fic doled out in 140 character bursts, and “All-Or-Nothing Day” by Nick Harkaway, found in the 100 Stories for Haiti anthology.

Did you ever want to write “just like” someone else?  Who?  Or was there any book that made you say “I can do better than this!”?
I used to think I wanted to write just like Gaiman.  Then it was Jeff Vandermeer, then Elizabeth Bear, then Kelly Link…   Now, I mostly want to develop a style that will make someone else want to write just like me.

In terms of books that made me think “I can do better than this,” there have been several.  The one that sticks out most, however, is one I haven’t read.  Let me explain:  I worked in a bookstore for several years.  (Really, how many of us HAVEN’T worked in a bookstore or a library? Somewhere we can just be close to books?)  And one day, while walking by the nonfiction section to clock in, I saw someone had written a biography of Dan Brown.  Dan Brown?  I knew, at that moment, I could make it as a writer.

Do you have favorite characters?  Any characters, yours or others, are applicable.
I love a good scoundrel.  Han Solo, Sawyer (from Lost), or anyone who gets by on quick wit and a sly smile.

Have you ever been disillusioned by a character or a book?
I usually love a story very intensely until I finish the last page.  If it gets me hooked, it’s the best thing ever.  Afterwards, though, when the initial passion wares off the flaws begin to rise to the surface, but there are very few books I’ve ever regretted reading.  There was one book that’s caused me to sell it out of spite — it was a horrible, wretched, waste of dead trees — but I won’t honor it by naming it.

If you could choose any five literary people — real or imagined, living or not, friends or otherwise — for a tea party… who would they be?  A night on the town, karaoke, whatever suits.
It doesn’t matter who I choose, the night would go something like this: Five people I admire gather together.  I try to start an intellectually engaging conversation.  Half-formed words and small bits of drool tumbled out of my mouth, because I am an insatiable fanboy and turn into a giant puddle when confronted by my heroes.

You mention on your blog that you wanted to be Superman when you grew up. I also see that you’ve been reading a lot of Hellboy. Superman vs. Hellboy. Who wins and how/why?
That question just made my day.  If comic books are the myths of our age, then Superman is our Zeus, the king of our gods, and I’m afraid Hellboy has a pretty good track record when it comes to killing mythological creatures.  HB would just reach into his belt pouch, pull out some ancient Middle European relic carved from a piece of Krypton’s moon (or something similar) and trounce the Man of Steel with a few good WHAMs and a couple of quips.  Then he’d have a smoke and walk home.  Sorry Clark.

Of course, in the end, Batman would win.  Since Batman always wins.

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