Today I am proud as clown punch to have the Queen of Parody, PJ Jones Get Jack’d. So sit back, grab a pint of laughter, and enjoy!
JW: You are the Queen of Parody. You’ve released a new book, Melvin The Dry Cleaning Zombie and with lines like Damn. I shouldn’t have had sex with that zombie. Readers know exactly what they are getting involved in – fun. I envy that of you. Fun. Everything you do with words is fun. You’re not tearing out your heart as your characters work through the over-dramatics fit for thriller, romance, horror, and the like. Not that you don’t put your heart and soul into your work – it’s obvious that you do – but why parody? What made PJ wake up one day and think “I’m going to write parody!”
That is a question I often wonder about with writers – Why this? Why did Heather Marie Adkins decide to write Paranormal Mystery? What drove my idol, Clive Barker, to write of the fantastique? I know what drove me to write about zombies – a love for all things horror and a deep need to answer a single question (What would it be like to transform into a zombie?). But along those same lines (and more interesting), I wonder why writers who have a passion for X writer about Z. If you have a passion for humor, you should write about humor. If you have a passion for ghosts, write about ghosts.
PJ: Well, Jack, there is a long answer and a short answer to why I write parody. For the sake of your readers, I will try to keep this as short as possible. Once upon a time, I was published under another pen-name. Though my writing has always been infused with humor, my books from before can’t compare to the crude humor of my parodies.
So what changed?
About three years ago I became seriously ill, so ill that I thought I was dying. It took over a year of declining health, to the point where it was difficult to get out of bed, before I was diagnosed with an auto-immune illness. The next few years I’ve spent learning how to manage my disease and control my symptoms. I literally feel as if I’ve been dragged into the pit of hell and then had to claw my way back out, thanks in part to uninformed doctors and insurance bureaucracy. During the darkest times of my illness, I had two reasons to keep on going – my family and laughter. Writing my first parody, Romance Novel, was more therapeutic than words can do justice. I simply took every bad romance novel ever written, and even some good ones, threw them all together and then broke every romance writing rule in the process.
It was great fun, but I believe publishers denied my queries, because it was just too crude. After nearly two years of rejections, my critique group urged me to publish it on Kindle last spring. To be honest, I’d been so out of the loop, I had no idea self-publishing through Kindle even existed.
So far, it has been great fun, and as my health improves, I’m able to write more and more parodies. After getting this second chance, I refuse to waste my time on this earth wallowing in misery when laughing is so much more fun. To me, each day spent laughing is a day well lived.
JW: That is such a great story. Humor is an elixir like no other. And that you were encouraged to go the indie route was certainly a gift to readers. The public needs parody, books that don’t take themselves so seriously, books that can make you LOL in public such that people grow concerned something might be wrong with you.
Funny how publishers seem to have their heads so far up their chukkas they can’t see talent when it smacks them upside the face. The converse is also true – that the publishing industry sometimes thinks it has discovered a veritable gold mine, only to produce dreck. I wonder, when the post-apubalyptic ash settles, how the landscape will have changed. Will the publishers be kicking themselves for not doing more indie scouting? You see this happening, albeit slowly. Every so often a publisher will make an offer to an indie (one that happens to be selling well) and the indie takes the offer. It’s almost as if indie publishing has become the new query letter. Which is why I so often stress to people – you have to be as professional as you can from every angle. You never know when someone “important” is watching you. You also never know when someone “self important” is watching you.
PJ: Jack, someone important is watching me? I knew I should have put on makeup today. Crud. Time to call the Witness Protection Agency again. I just relocated my family. Okay, in all seriousness, I do believe that indies should try their best to show themselves in a professional light. If you don’t know the difference between a preposition and a conjunction, yet refuse to have your manuscript professionally edited, you make the rest of us look bad. Or maybe you spent too much money on editing and have nothing left over for a good cover, so you slap a photo of your grandma’s crusted underwear on there and wonder why your book isn’t selling.
But for those indie books that are selling, certain agents and publishers are scouting for talented authors, as Amazon has proven there’s money to be made in indie books. Last month on Kindle Boards, agents were looking for indies who’ve sold 10,000 or more books. These agents weren’t even suggesting a particular genre. If an agent were to approach me, I’d want one who was genuinely interested in reading and representing parody. It seems that as the publishing industry is undergoing radical changes (some good, some bad), these particular agents are only after the moneymakers. Honestly, I’d feel kind of trashy and objectified if an agent only wanted me for my money. I mean, what about my big breasts and long legs?
JW: Those big breasts and long legs can take you far. Look at what it’s done for all those celebrities who have “written” books. That makes me ill by the way. Snooki “wrote” a book. Yeah, right … how can someone with the intelligence of your average porn star write a best selling novel? How? A ghost writer that’s how. But those fake boobs and lips do go a long way to sell books. Makes me think I should get a boob job and … oh wait, never mind on that.
Now you mention crusty panties – for the right book, that image could sell, sell, sell. And I think that’s one thing new indies don’t consider – how their covers convey the over all emotion or driving force behind their books. It’s a huge deal, those covers. People think they can just slap on a sex-pot female or some guy dripping with abs and the book will sell. But if that cover has squadoosh to do with the story or genre it’ll backfire. I always like to tell indie authors to come up with a single sentence that conveys the truth about their book. If you distill it down to one phrase, what would that be. If that phrase is “My granny’s panties were crusty, but they brought to me the comfort to get me through life.” then there’s your cover.
I’m not sure how I would react if an agent came to me about my books. The deal would have to be really good and I would have to have some control over the final product. I’m just not willing to completely let go of my babies – they mean way too much to me and I’ve put in too much time and effort into them already to just toss ‘em up in the air for an agent or publisher to catch and do a single run and let them die. That’s the beauty of ebooks – you create them, publishing the, and the sell in-perpetuity. What is not to love about that? In fact, the whole reason I started writing was to be able to have some sort of retirement. I was an actor for so long and actors have very little in the way of retirement, so I thought “Hey, I love to write! Why not …” And that’s how it all began. That was over ten years ago. It’s taken me that long to get to this point.
PJ: Fortunately, Jack, I have never seen Jersey Shore, but it does sicken me that these un-reality celebs get so much media attention. Reality celebs are on my EAT list in The Vampire Handbook, “PARIS HILTION, KIM KARDASHIAN, KATE GOSSELIN and any other reality celebrity who equates being a spoiled, selfish bitch with Oscar winning talent – EAT!!!”
Jack, considering the fact that I write parody, it’s not that hard to imagine a cover with crusty granny panties. Oh, dear God, I believe that saying will be stuck in my head for the rest of the day. Crusty granny panties, crusty granny panties….
Interesting that you are an actor. You and I have more than one similar creative outlet. I actually considered pursuing an acting degree when I was younger but my parents talked me out if it. I did ‘appear’ in a a commercial and a movie as a teen and also many stage plays. It was fun, but, crud, it was nerve-wracking getting up on stage night after night. I had actually considered stand-up-comedy for a while but never got up the nerve. In the end, I think writing funny books is far less stressful.
JW: For me acting was my life. It not only fed my belly, it fed my soul and my soul was full for over two decades. It also gave me something nothing else ever could – an insight into the human condition. When you’ve taken apart the character of man time after time, it leads you to understand what makes people tick (and what gives people ‘tics’). I loved it. I cherished it. But Capitalism had an uglier plan that didn’t include the arts in this country and I realized I had to get out before I became one of ‘those’ actors desperately trying to hang onto a career.
Stand up comedy? Not something I ever considered. I did, however, almost run away with a circus. No, seriously! I had a clown class in grad school and discovered I was actually quite good. Problem was, I discovered what life in a traveling circus was really like. It wasn’t pretty. And so my life as a clown ended before it began.
Now … I’m a clown of a different color. A writer. But is it less stressful than acting? I’m not sure. Instead of sweating and aching over a single character – you hurt for an entire world. So I’d call ‘em pretty even at this point. But as an actor, I did perform on Broadway. So I just hope my books wind up represented in NY somehow … someday.
PJ: You performed on Broadway? How VERY cool! I can definitely see how your stage career prepared you for a writing career considering the depth of emotion that goes into playing certain characters. I once played a dying old woman. Believe it or not, it was fun losing myself in her character. I think now that I’ve experienced a life-changing sickness, I could add so much more depth to the role. I’m hoping to carry some of these emotions over into my writing. I’m actually writing a REAL novel right now. I’m about three chapters away from finishing. It’s gettin’ pretty emotional right now, and this is probably the hardest ending I’ve ever had to write. Sheesh. All these emotions and feelings that I spent much of my adult life trying avoid.
Jack, I’d love to see you dressed up as Zombo the Evil Clown. You could scare a lot of kids at birthday parties, and maybe get arrested – or shot if you live in Texas. I wrote a drunk rodeo clown in Romance Novel, aptly named Drunky the Clown.
JW: I did have one of “those” clowns. He’s name was Demonseed and I’m glad he stayed behind in grad school. That monster needed to be locked up (and written about – which I will do some day).
Thank you PJ. It has been an honor and a treat.
PJ Jones spends her days scrubbing pots, collecting clown figurines and chasing five squealing kids around the house. No, that sounds too pathetic.
She lives on a 70 foot yacht and drinks sparkling wine by her pool while basking in the salty air and communicating with the local dolphins. Too far fetched?
She sits in front of a computer most of the day, writing, deleting, then writing some more, until her ass is numb and her brain is fried. Better?
Prior to becoming a full-time chair warmer, PJ Jones not-so-enjoyed a short stint as a journalist and then seven agonizing…eh blissful years as a high school English teacher. Rest assured that none of her sentences will end with prepositions cuz she studied grammers in that there college and she ain’t stoopid.
PJ would LOVE to hear from her readers @ firstname.lastname@example.org or you can visit her blog @ http://pjjoneswrites.com
Read PJ’s Books