Q&A with Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam

July 27, 2021

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Jason Sizemore is the owner and editor-in-chief of Apex Magazine and the Apex Book Company. You can follow him online via his Twitter feed @apexjason.

Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam is everywhere. Her fiction appears in Levar Burton Reads, Lightspeed, BCS, F&SF … everywhere, it feels, except for Apex Magazine. With the Kickstarter and an opportunity to invite writers to be a part of our 2022, I asked Bonnie if she would contribute a story to the zine. She said yes!

Should we reach our first stretch goal, Apex will FINALLY be added to Bonnie’s impressive list of bylines.

Bonnie is a busy writer, so I’m grateful to her for taking the time to do the interview.

Q&A

JASON SIZEMORE: Do you and Levar Burton hang out? Talk a little about the process of working with Mr. Burton and hearing your words narrated by Mr. Reading Rainbow?

BONNIE JO STUFFLEBEAM: What an experience! I got an unexpected email from Julia Smith, the producer of LeVar Burton Reads, inviting me to be LeVar’s featured writer at his live Dallas event for my story “In the City of Martyrs.” I had no idea that this was an email that one could get, so I was immediately ecstatic to both appear live and to have my story appear on the podcast. The night of the show, I got to meet Julia and LeVar, both amazing and talented professionals, then got to hear LeVar read my story to musical accompaniment. After the reading, we did a Q&A with LeVar and then with the audience.

What I remember most from the event was LeVar’s generosity; he offered to meet-and-greet the very large group of people who came to support me. Also, the audience questions for the Q&A were perceptive as hell. The audience was clearly full of serious readers, and I’m not sure there’s a better feeling than to be surrounded by people who share that passion. Then, of course, there was the magic of hearing my short story read by a man whose voice I grew up listening to. Normally, I can’t divorce the reading of my own stories from the fact that I wrote them, but hearing LeVar read my work with a balalaika setting the story’s mood throughout, I got goosebumps.

JBS: Strange Monsters looks fascinating. Your website describes it as “a collaboration of imaginative fiction and poetry set to contemporary jazz.” I’d love to see more music intertwined with genre fiction and poetry. What was the world’s reaction to this project? Any plans for doing another?

BJS: I love collaborations across artistic genres, too. There’s something magical about translating words into music, or into art, and vice versa. The people who listened to the album had great things to say, though it’s such a niche project that there’s not an easy market for albums of music and short stories. It was mostly a passion project, so I won’t be doing any more, but I still have several copies of the original that I give away at cons and sell at special events.

JBS: You’re a prolific writer. Just look at the size of that bibliography page! Can you give us a good entry point into the work of Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam? What about a Stufflebeam Deep Cut?

BJS: I’m proud of the story that appears on LeVar Burton Reads, “In the City of Martyrs,” which is a good entry point for readers of fantasy and is available both in print online and can be downloaded through the podcast. It’s about a man who glimpses a woman in the city center one day and becomes convinced that he knows her from somewhere; his search reveals much more than he bargained for. I write some humor-adjacent stories, like my dark humor sci-fi story “The Wanderers,” about sadist aliens who come to conquer Earth only to find it empty. A deeper cut might be the horror story “Water Under a Bridge,” which appeared in Southwest Review and is about a woman on the anniversary of her sobriety whose house is attacked by a troll. Or the horror story “Hammerville,” which appeared in Vernacular Press’s Evil in Technicolor anthology, about a group of female monsters based on creatures found in classic horror, going up against two versions of Dracula.

The Stretch Goal

Want to see Bonnie’s work along with Lavie Tidhar, Jennifer Marie Brissett, Gabino Iglesias, and Samit Basu in our 2022 issues? We’re less than $1000 from making it happen! If you’ve already backed, consider sharing the Kickstarter on social media.

Be on the lookout for Q&As with Lavie, Jennifer, Gabino, and Samit in the coming days!

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