The Writer’s Handful with Jeff Jacobson

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Mondays + Writers = Finally something to look forward to.

Jeff Jacobson will make your skin crawl. Really. Well, not Jeff, exactly—because he is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever want to know—Jeffory Jacobson’s writing will make your skin crawl. His work lives in the creepy shadows, he digs into the muddy plots of our nightmares, preys on our irrational (and our rational) fears. And he’s funny.

SLEEP TIGHT. FOODCHAIN. WORMFOOD. The titles of his novels sound almost innocent…His next one, due out in July, is called GROWTH. How scary can that be? Answer: very. And not just scary, but good. Very, very good.

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Welcome Jeff!

Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not?

Fuck yes. I’m staring down the barrel of a deadline for my next novel, so whether the writing is good, bad, or ugly, it’s gotta get done. This one is about a small town under siege from a nasty threat slithering out of the cornfields. Basically, I’m exploiting concerns and fears about GMOs and the role food plays in our lives, but of course, as usual, the serious stuff is buried inside a goofy plot about monsters eating people.

What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?

The first thing longer than a page that I remember creating was a story called “Creature from the Black Swamp” somewhere around the first grade. I think it was essentially a retelling of “The Creature From the Black Lagoon,” where an adventurer/explorer hero goes searching for Bigfoot, and the monster tears the hell out of everything. Clearly, my writing has really evolved since I was a kid. The first time I ever felt a story take off and leave my control was my junior year of high school. A twist came out of nowhere and knocked me sideways and I felt the hair rise on the back of my neck. Later, I discovered that particular twist has been done a million times and it’s a godawful cliché, but at that particular moment, Sleep Tight Coverwhen I didn’t know it was a cliché, man, it fucking ruled. 

What are you reading right now?

I’m rereading A Feast of Snakes, by Harry Crews, to get a feel for how he tackled the POV shifts in a small town. Plus, it’s just flat-out amazing.  Sometimes I’ll read it out loud before I dive into my own stuff and hope that some of it will leap out of the book and into my own voice.  

What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)

Pretty much every rule I’ve ever read about writing has an exception, so I suppose the simplest advice is the best. I first encountered it from Joe R. Lansdale, but I think he heard it from someone else. Anyway, it wasn’t complicated. “Put your ass in front of a typewriter.” You can argue with just about any “rule” about writing, but you can’t really find a crack in the sentiment that if you want to be writer, you gotta write. The only other “rule” that I try to follow is pretty absolute as well: “If you want to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader.” You could try to argue with that one, but you’d be wrong.

If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

God, how I long to say that my writing is like a Great White Shark, because it’s a fast, sleek, killing machine with a mouth full of teeth. But it wouldn’t be honest. I have too much fun pushing things to ridiculous extremes. So I’d have to say that my writing is more like one of those bears that’s been trained to ride around a circus on a tricycle. It’s sort of threatening when they first bring it out, then you get to laugh at the absurd image, and just when you least expect it, the bear lunges into the audience and rips somebody’s face off so they have to shoot it with tranquilizers before it kills anybody else.

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Jeff Jacobson‘s most recent novel, GROWTH, will be released this summer. His short stories have appeared in All American Horror of the 21st Century, Read by Dawn, and the forthcoming Cemetery Dance anthology Shocklines. He teaches Fiction at Columbia College Chicago and lives near the city with his family and far too many animals.


→Thanks, Jeff, for the chat. Feeling a little afraid of going to sleep tonight now, though. Anyway, thanks everyone, as always, for reading! – PMc←