Discussing Mongrels with Stephen Graham Jones

Posted April 7, 2016 in

It was Jones’ fascination with werewolves and his knowledge of their disheveled history that, no doubt, led him to write his own werewolf stories. Back in 2009, Jones published “Wolf Island” on Juked.com: a short story about a man and woman stranded on an island, one’s discovery of the resident werewolf and the other’s run-in with a fearsome killer whale. Before that, Jones had worked on, though never published, an unnamed werewolf novel. These two works were trying, in their respective ways, to commune with the werewolves that Jones has always admired. And commune they very well might have, but what Jones wanted, more than anything, was to bring order to the functionality and lore of the werewolf—no small task. “[A] large part [of my stories] is me resisting all the other werewolves I read about and trying to supply a cleaner werewolf, one that I can believe in,” says Jones. “What I’m trying to do with Mongrels is establish [werewolves] as a species that makes sense, even though the idea of transforming from human to werewolf is a pretty gamy proposition.”

This leads us, most directly, to Mongrels: Jones’ comprehensive corrective Bullington to a millennia worth of wrongs, the seeds of which began back in 2013 when a friend, Jesse, asked Jones to contribute to an H.P. Lovecraft-themed anthology, Letters to Lovecraft. “[Burlington] wanted all of his writers to select a passage from H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘The Supernatural Horror in Literature,’ and write a story from it,” says Jones. “So I opened up my copy, and I searched to see if Lovecraft said ‘werewolves’ anywhere, and he did in one place. So I wrote Jesse back and said, ‘Yeah I can do this; I can write a werewolf story.’” Jones’ contribution went on to feature in one of his short story collections, After the People Lights Have Gone Off, as “Doc’s Story.” “I kinda modeled it on Neil Gaiman’s issue of The Sandman called The Hunt, where a grandfather is telling stories to his granddaughter,” says Jones. With much shaping and revision, “Doc’s Story” eventually evolved into the first chapter of Mongrels—a grandfather telling his grandson a series of “all true” stories about life, love and werewolves. “I did the first draft of Mongrels in 16 days, and it surprised me that it held together a little bit. It still needed a lot of work, but it was nice that it came together; it was like it wanted to be together.”

As a reader, Mongrels stands as a pinnacle work. It takes all the lore, stories, myths, a fresh batch of new ideas, combines the lot and looms as easily one of the strongest, most engaging werewolf works to date. The werewolf, as it now stands, is closer to having its “biblical” text than it ever has been before. With this fiercely-fanged work backing him, Jones hopes to initiate a shift in the public’s consciousness. “My goal, for the werewolf in general—and maybe Mongrels can be a part of it—is that we step into a werewolf renaissance,” Jones says. “We’re just getting out of the zombie renaissance, and before that, vampires were big. I think it’s the werewolf’s turn.” But Jones does not believe that this goal can be achieved alone. It will take others like himself, other works like Mongrels, to complete the shift. “I think that if some of us can map out the werewolf with enough detail and make it into a person that the reader can engage, then the werewolf has a chance to catch on.”

I believe that Jones, through Mongrels, is connecting the human and the werewolf, making them a symbiotically synonymous thing—creating a space for us to see the monster in the mirror and find hope in that, to stand naked under the night’s sky and find freedom in that. Ultimately, “We need to acknowledge the animal side of ourselves, that we have these beastly compulsions and we have to figure out how to moderate them and give them room to run,” says Jones. In the end, “Everybody should believe in werewolves,” for they come from within.

Mongrels is slated to be released on May 10, with the launch party being held at George R. R. Martin’s Jean Cocteau Theatre in Santa Fe. Jones says, “I don’t doubt that I’ll come through Salt Lake City to do a reading at King’s English or Sam Weller’s,” in the coming months. Until then, listen close for that clawing at the gate, that breathing just outside your window, the padded footstep on the other side of your door, that growl from within. Close your eyes, listen close.

For more information on Stephen Graham Jones and his many projects check out www.demontheory.net.