Jennifer Marie Brissett is a successful novelist, short fiction writer, and recovering software developer. Her 2014 novel, Elysium (Aqueduct Press), received a Philip K. Dick Award special citation. She’s also the author of the acclaimed short story “The Executioner” that has been reprinted four times, most recently in Lightspeed Magazine. Her latest novel, Destroyer of Light, came out in October from Tor Books.
Apex Magazine is delighted to welcome Jenn to our pages for the first time in 2022!
Q1) I discovered while browsing your website that I had read “The Executioner” at some point between its publication in 2009 and now. It’s an incredible story, one that I wish we had reprinted before Lightspeed! Interestingly, it was also your first published work of short fiction. Did you have a sense of its resonance when you submitted it for the Norilana Books anthology?
Back then I was just beginning to take my writing seriously. I was attending online workshops and really working on the basics of the craft when I wrote this story. It was also the year that I challenged myself to write (and finish!) one story per month. I think this was September’s story, if I recall correctly. I had just seen this documentary called At the Death House Door and had really been moved by it. We as a society can demand so-and-so be executed for their crimes, but what we are really doing is paying people to actually do the killing and then to live with it. I wanted to put the onus on an everyday person to have to do it instead and see how they would react. I had no idea that the story would resonate the way that it has. As a matter of fact, when it first came out, a major review magazine pointed to it specifically as one of the “less successful” stories of the anthology.
Q2) I keep seeing descriptions like “brutal” and “emotional” when reviewers describe your fiction. You seem like such a nice, non-brutal person! How do you channel these emotions and conflicts into your fiction? Is there a process of reaching that space in your mind?
Ha! Well, I try to be non-brutal! Anyway, I think that the impression may come from how I try to make a story “real” no matter how implausible its premise. I try to put myself “there” and feel what the people in the story feel and be honest about those feelings without sugar-coating it. One thing I tend to do is whenever I’m in a place in a piece where I feel stuck about how a character is feeling I change their pronouns to the personal. I let myself “be” that person. Then tell the story from that point of view. When I’m done, I simply switch the pronouns back.
Q3) Can you give our readers a good entry point for your short fiction? Do you have a suggested “deep cut” for fans of your work?
It’s hard to say. I’m biased because I love each one of my stories. But I guess a place to start might be A Song For You published by Vice Magazine. The idea for it came to me after I read a news article about the large Styrofoam head caught floating down the Hudson River. For some reason that image made me think: What if Orpheus was an android? Why I thought that I have no idea, but I did. And I think it made a pretty good story.
Jennifer Marie Brissett will appear as one of our featured authors in a 2022 issue of the zine!