Interview with Jedidiah Ayres

Crime Factory Publications is releasing both its Lee Marvin short story anthology LEE and Jedidiah Ayres' FIERCE BITCHES into the wild, this week. Earlier this month, I reviewed FIERCE BITCHES and found quite a lot to like about it, as I usually do when I read the work of Jedidiah Ayres. He's quite the enigmatic fellow Lively, funny,generous, gifted with a tremendous ability to write and a twisted sense of humor and yet thoroughly unassuming. He was kind enough to grand a small portion of his time, so you and I could get to know him better. If you liked this interview, you can learn more about Jed and prepare yourself for FIERCE BITCHES by reading his debut short story collection F*CKLOAD OF SHORTS or simply by visiting his blog HARDBOILED WONDERLAND.

Under what circumstances did you write fiction seriously for the first time? What was the result?

I'd written a couple of novels as a lark and under a pseudonym early in the aughties, but it wasn't until I picked up the first issue of Murdaland Magazine and saw what they were doing - treating crime lit seriously (no winking, no smirking, no apologizing) - that I had a lightbulb moment and knew that I wanted in on that. My novels had been funny in a way that kept the emotional impact muted and kept (me and) the reader safe. All that changed after Murdaland. I wanted to write something that would hurt the reader in a sincere way. The first story that I wrote with that intent and intensity was the Politoburg section of FIERCE BITCHES.

Was there something in your life that incited you to want that, hurt the reader? Were there thing in your everyday St-Louis that made you creatively angry?

Readers want to be hurt, don't they? I do. As much as I want to be comforted, thrilled and inspired, anyway. I don't know that any particular event or circumstance inspired my decision, but as a writer I felt it'd be (relatively) easy to continue turning out tepid comic PI novels or wisecracking tough-guy stories with over the top violent bits that would keep the reader removed from the impact or consequence of the characters' actions, and I made a conscious decision that I wanted step away from that approach and take it seriously. 

I'm still trying to get there. In fact, Politoburg was rejected by Murdaland for being just another 'tough-guy' story, and they weren't interested in that kind of thing.

Many writers (self humbly included) tend to look down on their earlier work. What motivated you to go back to Politoburg and expand upon it to create FIERCE BITCHES? Was it something you always planned or was there a trigger even?

It was always planned. It was conceived as a novel with the POLITOBURG section as the hub with many different spokes either leading out of or into it. I wanted to write in several different voices and styles and collect stories that, put together, told a larger tale. Some of the stories in A F*CKLOAD OF SHORTS were written to be included in that novel (A FUCKLOAD OF SCOTCH TAPE, MAHOGANY & MONOGAMY, MIRIAM). 

Woah! That's some of your best material. Any particular reason why it didn't pan out as a full novel?

It kind of ran away from me, just kept sprawling and I couldn't keep up with it. That, and I was understanding that a book of short stories is not a terribly sexy item for agents or publishers. I've got more stories that may or may not end up written that would link into that universe. We'll see.

Several FIERCE BITCHES. Was it something conscious? Why do you think Southern writers like McCarthy, Larry Brown and William Gay are such an inspiration source for crime writers?

It was conscious, though, it was more an attempt at Old Testament grandeur than McCarthy. And I think that it goes back to the bible for a lot of those Southern Gothic crime-flavored writers - the language as well as the themes. 

Coming back to FUCKLOAD and MAHOGANY, which you mentioned earlier. The mirror stories as I like to call them. They were made into a movie last year, as well as your other short VISCOSITY. How did that come about? And how did it feel to see your characters on screen?

Scotch Tape was originally published in Out of the Gutter Magazine and Julian Grant found the story there. Matthew Louis, OOTG's at the time editor and publisher, put us in contact and Julian and I started our mutual admiration society. A couple of years into his option, he asked me for some psychological insight into the Benji character, at which time I referred him to POLITOBURG and MAHOGANY & MONOGAMY. If you've seen Julian's film A FUCKLOAD OF SCOTCH TAPE then you know he'd performed a wild mash-up of those two stories (in ways that never would have occured to me), plus he's thrown in the musical aspect and Kevin Quain's unique songsmithing. So, I'm astonished by the final product. I recognize bits as coming from my source material, but Julian's vision is the one that dominates the movie. Julian is a ballsy film maker and anybody who sees Scotch Tape is going to know it.

Paul von Stoetzel and I have been talking for a couple of years and when he expressed interest in VISCOSITY  for a short film and it was a no-brainer for me. I knew his taste was excellent because I'd first heard of him in relation to a Dennis Tafoya adaptation, and I was eager to see what he'd do with the material. He rocked it.

You've been a turning stone of your local literary scene. How did you become involved in it? Especially with that brilliant loon Scott Phillips. How did you come to take such an important role?

Yeah, I'm awesome, huh? Scott and I started the Noir at the Bar reading series because it was something we wished somebody else would do. We sat on it for a long time before it became apparent that nobody else was going to. 

Let me rephrase the last part, how have Scott and you met each other? You two seem like the nepharious pair that fuels everbody else's fire. 

I was working at a book store when the movie THE ICE HARVEST came out. The movie cover of the book caught my eye and I noticed that Richard Russo had written the screenplay. I thought, 'damn, if Russo wants to adapt somebody else's novel, I'd better pay attention.' I read through THE ICE HARVEST, THE WALKWAY and COTTONWOOD and loved them all. When I saw that he'd moved to St. Louis I reached out to him and asked him to come do an event at the bookstore. He came in, signed some books and we shot the shit and generally hit it off. He graciously agreed to read some fiction I'd written and responded positively to it. We started hanging out every couple of weeks and about six months later we were writing screenplays together.

Any of these screenplay is being in-the-process of being made into a movie now? Are there some available to read on the net, for your ever-growing fanbase?


OK then, I was trying to get a scoop. Any future projects you can tell us about?
Oh... I've got several I'm working on, but I'm waiting for one of them to demand all my attention. Nobody is waiting on them. Nobody is representing them, so I'm not terribly motivated to finish anything.

Dead End Follies is taking a rather critical (if not clinical) interest in writing advice. What is your opinion on the subject.
Beware of blowhards wielding writing advice.

Mandatory manly question. What's your plan for zombie apocalypse?
Is that a thing? Shit, I've stocked up on snowboots. Wrong apocalypse.

Anybody you'd want to thank, plug to say hi to, now is the moment.

Too many I owe and you should know by now, but I will quickly say:

Glenn Gray - dude deserves a lot more racket than he's gettin.
Cameron Ashley - pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
Kieran Shea - you only thought you knew.

Thanks for answering my questions, Jed! I wish you great success with FIERCE BITCHES for it is a tremendous novell and this is just the beginning for you.


I'm a pop culture blogger and author living in Montreal, Canada with my better half Josie and my dog Scarlett. I am a proud member of author collective Zelmer Pulp and have about a dozen of short stories published to my resume.

1 comment:

  1. I want to apologize about the strange links in the first paragraph. I had issues with the formatting of the piece and now that it's readable, I'm worried about touching it and fucking it up again. They go to the proper place, they just look strange.

    Sorry again,