ABR author Stephen Jones straddles many genres

Feb. 15, 2015 at 9:36 p.m.
Updated Feb. 16, 2015 at 12:31 a.m.

Stephen Graham Jones

Stephen Graham Jones   CONTRIBUTED PHOTO for The Victoria Advocate

Readers of his 2014 book, "Not for Nothing," have told Stephen Graham Jones they were initially hesitant about reading a book written in second person.

"But they usually get 15 to 20 pages in and then forget it's written in second person, which is how second person is supposed to function," Jones said. "It's supposed to pull the reader in."

Jones, the next author in the spring University of Houston-Victoria/American Book Review Reading Series, has pulled readers into his novels and short stories for years.

Although undecided on what he will share at the reading, Jones typically reads short stories and a selection or two from a novel. The author of 15 novels, six story collections and more than 200 stories, Jones has written about vampires, werewolves, aliens, murderers, mad scientists and zombies. While he's well-liked among the horror and science fiction crowd, he also has written about growing up in Texas, Piggly Wiggly grocery store employees and many other topics.

"I do a lot of horror, but I've done young adult, thrillers, crime and what people call literary, which means it doesn't have spaceships in it," Jones said. "I've written everything I can think of."

Jones was once asked why he writes in so many genres.

"I really only write in one genre," he said. "It's the same genre we all write in, I hope. It's called, 'What I would like to read.' And since I read all across the shelves, that's what I write."

Jones, an English professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, won the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Fiction and the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction. He also was the recipient of the 2012 This is Horror's Novel of the Year. His novel, "Growing Up Dead in Texas," was a Texas Monthly book selection.

Jeffrey Di Leo, dean of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences and ABR publisher and editor, praised Jones' versatility as a writer.

"Whether it's a horror short story or a transfixing novel, Dr. Jones provides vivid descriptions and enthralling twists and turns," De Leo said. "We're delighted he will join us as part of the spring reading series to share some of his innovative work."

The setting for "Not for Nothing" is the small town of Slanton, Texas. Disgraced Midland homicide detective Nicholas Bruiseman is so down on his luck that he's forced to take a job as a live-in security guard for the town's lone storage facility. He's hoping for anonymity, a life where he doesn't have to handle anything more complicated than picking up chopped beef sandwiches.

But one day, in walks Gwen Tracy, former high school cheerleader and homecoming queen, who hires Nick as a private investigator because she says she is being threatened and stalked by an ex-convict she met while tutoring at a prison.

Jones said in his first stab at the novel, it was set in Los Angeles and written in third person.

"It was fun to write, but it wasn't really working," he said. "I couldn't put my finger on why, though. I eventually thought the voice was off, so I re-wrote it into first person. Then I realized I didn't know enough about L.A. to set a novel there. So I moved the story back to where I grew up and switched it to second person. The changes got more to the core of that noir delivery."

Jones said second person is tricky because it can either be descriptive or commanding.

"It's fun to straddle the line between those two," Jones said. "Quite often, second person is the protagonist talking to himself or herself. We are just privy to that information."

While readers have complimented the novel's plot twists, that wasn't the original objective. Jones said at the outset of a novel, he intends to be as simple as possible. But once he starts writing it down, the story gets complicated.

"Things snowball, and pretty soon I do have 100 turns," he said.



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