Jim kindly took some time out of his busy schedule to do a five question interview with us. If you enjoy reading it, come see Jim speak at our convention this weekend!
1. For those who haven’t come across your work before, how would you describe your stories?
THEY’RE THE VERY BESTEST STORIES IN THE WORLD AND YOU SHOULD RUN OUT AND BUY THEM ALL!
Ahem. Sorry. I should never let my id answer interview questions.
The second goblin book opens with a nose-picking injury, which probably tells you everything you need to know about that series. As a general rule, I want my stories to be fun. I like a fair amount of action, and I’ll almost always try to work some humor into them. I like clever characters who can outthink the bad guys. My second series was all about the kick-ass fairy tale heroines. I wrote those books for my daughter when she was going through her princess phase, because I wanted her to know heroes didn’t always have to be big, strapping, straight white dudes.
I do try to work with more serious issues and struggles in the stories–and humor can be a great tool for that–but one of my main priorities is that I want people to have fun reading them.
2. Some people might know you from your cover poses which raised a fantastic amount of money for Aicardi Syndrome Foundation and awareness about sexism in book covers, what did you learn from the experience that surprised you most?
The first thing I learned was that I’m not as flexible as I used to be. Some of those cover poses were physically impossible, while others were completely possible … but would leave you with tight or cramped muscles for hours afterward. The fact that women are often sexualized and objectified in cover art in ways that men generally aren’t wasn’t a surprise, nor was some of the backlash, and the insistence that showing a shirtless man in a comfortable, dominant pose was exactly as bad as showing women in helpless, fetishized, powerless poses.
I did learn that I needed to be more precise in how I talked about this sort of thing, and to make it more clear that I wasn’t trying to say that sexism in book covers (and elsewhere) is all the fault of the artists, but was instead a problem with countless layers, including editorial, marketing, sales, buyers, and yes, even writers.
3.You wrote a series of books about goblins, and often tweet about them when travelling, what do you love about them?
I think my favorite thing about Jig and his fellow goblins is that they’re so unapologetic about who and what they are. They’re crude, rude, ugly, and uncivilized, and they’re completely okay with that. Life makes sense to them. Life may be brutish and way-too-short, but they’ve got a kind of Zen-like awareness and acceptance of themselves as goblins. They fight, they die, they eat random adventurers, they stab each other in the back, and it’s all completely out in the open.
Plus Jig has a pet spider named Smudge who sets things on fire, and that’s just plain fun.
4. You are a tireless campaigner for more diversity in genre writing and a more inclusive fandom. What makes you so passionate about these issues and what do you feel fandom does right?
Fandom has been very welcoming to me, both as an author and as a fan. Like a lot of us, I didn’t exactly fit in with the cool kids growing up. Apparently sewing a Star Trek patch onto your jean jacket doesn’t make you popular in junior high school. Who knew? So when I found conventions and fandom and people I could just geek out with, it was a wonderful experience. In some ways, it was like coming home.
The problem is, fandom isn’t as welcoming and inclusive as we think we are. I started listening and seeing that, while I felt wanted and welcomed here, others didn’t, for very real and valid reasons. And I want people to feel welcome. I want a larger, broader, more diverse fandom, both because I want people to have that same feeling of coming home that I’ve got, and because–selfishly–I think it makes fandom far more interesting and exciting.
I think there’s a lot fandom is doing right, starting with the fact that we’re having the conversation. We’re struggling with these problems instead of ignoring them. There will always be people who assume these problems are made up, and don’t want to deal with them, but I think we’ve got a critical mass of folks who aren’t going to be silenced, and those voices are having an effect. More conventions are taking sexual harassment seriously, for example. More authors and fans are pushing back against whitewashed cover art. More people are pointing out those groups that have traditionally been excluded from our stories, and are taking steps to change that.
5. If you had a TARDIS where and when would you go and who would be your companion?
I’d want to check out the future, probably jumping ahead about a hundred years at a time in the beginning, just to watch how we grow as a species. (And to take advantage of some of that future medical tech. They should be able to cure diabetes by 2114, right? As soon as I get a working pancreas, I’m taking everyone out for ice cream sundaes!)
I’d love to see humanity growing up and spreading out, to visit us on the moon, Mars, and wherever else we end up. Assuming we don’t all wipe ourselves out, of course. In which case I’d go a bit further into the future to see how the superevolved cockroaches are doing in our place.
I’d have to take my wife and kids as my companions, because otherwise they’d never forgive me 🙂 Besides, the TARDIS has a pool, and the kids would love that.