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Midwestern Gothic staffer Giuliana Eggleston talked with author John Jodzio about his short story collection Knockout, reconciling shockingness and logic, the satisfaction of performing his work, and more.
Giuliana Eggleston: What’s your connection to the Midwest?
John Jodzio: I was born in Chicago and grew up in Minnesota in a small town with a population of 2,000. I’ve lived in Minneapolis most of my adult life. Unless there’s some apocalyptic event where every one of the 10,000 lakes in Minnesota dies, I’m probably here for the duration.
GE: Your new short story collection, Knockout, is full of dark humor and seedy characters. What inspires you to write about them?
JJ: I don’t know if I’m ever really thinking of my characters as seedy when I start writing about them, but for some reason they usually end up there. In the end, I’m really drawn to weirdos and people living off their wits – probably because my real life is pretty fucking boring.
GE: The stories in Knockout are somewhat shocking, from a guy stealing a tiger to sell for meth to a man buying a used sex chair from his neighbor. How do you go about writing these somewhat wild stories while still making them seem logical within the frame of the story?
JJ: I’ve found that when you have shocking stuff happening in a story you had best balance it with a matter-of-fact tone and some strict-ass realism. I think it also helps that all of the things I write about could actually happen in the real world, even though they probably never ever will.
GE: Are any of them based on real life events? Do you draw your inspiration from specific sources?
JJ: Most of my stuff comes directly from my imagination. Any of the real stuff is usually bits and pieces of things I glue together to make a story more fun or interesting. For example, Jayhole, the horrible bounty hunting/scrapbooking roommate in the story “Duplex”, is an amalgam of all the bad roommates I’ve ever had.
GE: You have written two other books of short stories, Get In if You Want to Live and If You Lived Here You’d Already Be Home. What is the process like creating a collection of short stories? How do you know when you are done? Is it difficult deciding which stories should appear in a collection together?
JJ: I think other people probably have a much more complicated or smart way of doing this, but generally I’ve always just waited until I get about 150-200 pages of really good work and then I’ve put things in an order I think fits. I have a pretty consistent tone/voice so my stories seem to fit together decently even if the subject matter varies.
GE: You have a great video of yourself reading aloud “I Came to This Orgy to Honor My Pet Snake, Tito” for Button Poetry. Does reading your stories aloud change them at all? Do you enjoy performing your work?
JJ: I enjoy it a lot — my work tends to be pretty funny and has scandalous moments in it, it’s usually fun to read for a crowd. Especially crowds that have a couple of vodka sours in them.
GE: Do you have any authors that inspire you?
JJ: There are tons. Lindsay Hunter, author of Ugly Girls, Don’t Kiss Me, is fucking amazing. Love, love, loved Catherine Lacey’s last book, Nobody Is Ever Missing. Obviously I’m a huge fanboy of George Saunders. J. Ryan Stradal’s book, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, if you haven’t already read it, is incredible. Some others inspirers = David Sedaris, Miranda July, Diane Cook, Adam Johnson.
GE: What’s next for you?
JJ: I’m at work on a novel now. It’s about a reluctant detective with a missing upper lip and a laughing gas. It is kind of an exciting mess right now. The last sentence I wrote for it is: “Tommy is a better drug lord than the other drug lords in our town because he only makes us swallow ten regular size condoms instead of ten extra large ones.” Stay tuned.
John Jodzio‘s work has been featured in a variety of places including This American Life, McSweeney’s, and One Story. He’s the author of the short story collections, Knockout (Soft Skull Press, Spring 2016), Get In If You Want To Live and If You Lived Here You’d Already Be Home. He lives in Minneapolis.