Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An Interview With John Jodzio

John Jodzios short story, Octane, appears in STORYGLOSSIA 37. Here, John takes a few moments to discuss humor and sadness in fiction, the art of restraint, his forthcoming collection If You Lived Here, Youd Already Be Home, and what hes currently working on.

Anne Valente: Where did the premise for this story come from? That opening line is fantastic.

John Jodzio: This story was pulled together from a million different places. A friend who used to mix up fuel for an oil refinery, the inordinate number of men who look like warlocks at my neighborhood gas station, a newspaper story of a wife who cremated her husband in an barrel in her backyard. A bunch of these strange things somehow got mashed together into one.

AV: There's so much great humor in this piece, both subtle and poignant in how it brushes up against the sadder moments as well. How do humor and pathos work together for you, especially in this story?

JJ: What's funny to me is the fun way that the narrator's sadness over her husband's death bubbles up in her dealings with the other characters in the story. Everything that she says/does is borne out of this despair and out of her inability to confront his death directly. To me, the humor in the piece can't escape her sadness and her sadness can't escape the humor.

AV: The sadder moments are well-rendered, with the restraint to trust the reader in understanding. Are these poignant moments difficult to create? Is there ever a fear of overwriting, or a need for revision to achieve that restraint?

JJ: I am enormous fan of restraint. Poignant moments are always difficult to achieve, but they are especially difficult to achieve when they are overwritten. In revising a story, I think the one thing I am always certain to do is strip any sentimentality the story has in it. And I know that when I read things, I certainly enjoy filling in the some of the white space on my own.

AV: That final line is so wonderful, in linking gas and fuel lines to the human heart. How do you know when an ending is the right ending?

JJ: For this story, it was the realization that everything here was wrapped up in that metaphor and returning to that. For other stories, it is more of an emotional thing, finding some way to express the momentum in the story that was inevitable from its first line.

AV: Your story collection, If You Lived Here, You'd Already Be Home, is forthcoming from Replacement Press in 2010. Can you talk a little about the collection?

JJ: The collection comes out in mid-March. It's a fun batch of twenty stories that I've written over the last couple of years. If you even remotely enjoyed "Octane," the collection is probably right up your alley.

AV: What are you currently working on? Any stories forthcoming that we can point readers to?

JJ: I am starting to slowly outline a novel. We'll see what happens. I haven't ever written a story longer than twenty-five pages, so it's certainly up for debate if I can figure out how to push myself to a longer form.

Upcoming stories? I've got one on tap at Flatmancrooked called "Homecoming" and then "The Moonlighter" will be up at Five Chapters at the end of December.

John Jodzio is a winner of the Loft-McKnight Fellowship. His writing has appeared in a number of places, both print and online. A collection of his short fiction, If You Lived Here, You'd Already Be Home, will be published byReplacement Press in March 2010. Find out more at

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