Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight on science fiction writer Zig Zag Claybourne. Zig Zag wrote an self-introduction for us, which is great to read:
There’s a clue in the number of names I use (C.E. Young, C. Young, Zig Zag Claybourne, Thor MF Jones) that I believe writers should have the same privileges as actors to inhabit a delightful variety of roles, but generally I go by Zig Zag Claybourne. I love blending genres, upending tropes, and inviting readers to run through a great big playground with me. Most salient fact about my whole life is I grew up watching The Twilight Zone and consider myself a better person for it. You can find my work scattered throughout the web, but if you really want to get to know me, the person, there are 2 essentials: Regarding Lost Socks & Kindling and On the Other Side of the Eye.
Zig Zag, where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)
My work can be found among the usual suspects (Amazon, B&N, etc) and is available through Source Booksellers, Bookshop, Book Depository and other great indie outlets.
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
I’m on Twitter at @zzclaybourne, and please visit me at www.writeonrighton.com for awesomeness regarding craft, imagination, and books via the “42” blog where I and surprise sci fi guests write about life, the creative universe, and everything!
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from Afro Puffs Are the Antennae Of The Universe?
I don’t usually rely on blurbs, but Patty Templeton, a writer whose work I adore, said this about my latest release, and it says EVERYTHING about me: “…the sort of sci-fi that could get Prince’s sexyass ghost to slink outta the celestial void to host a book club.” I lean into fun, intriguing romps that (hopefully) linger with ya. With Afro Puffs Are The Antennae Of The Universe (the sequel to The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan) think “Buckaroo Banzai” by way of Douglas Adams and James Brown after a great night out!
What was the inspiration for Afro Puffs Are the Antennae Of The Universe? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?
When beset by a thousand blazes…there’s a panicked reaction to think any liquid will do. We know that to be untrue. Putting out fires with gasoline is a helluva lot of work. When I wrote The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan my soul was pointed at a spirit of fun and rediscovery, kind of like Miles Davis’s Birth of the Cool in book form, not that I pretend to stand anywhere near the continent, let alone vicinity, of Miles’s genius. I just share his sense of fun. Miles knew how to guide us through fires with sound without letting us stampede one another. The Brothers Jetstream tried to learn from that and blow. Jump five years later: fires in the trash can, fires in the street, fires in the dented pot, fires when we meet. The United States’ psychoses have been at full fever. Injustice. Brutality. Collusion. Incompetence. Covid. Things are cloudy, loud, hot and scary for everybody. Yes, the future feels very uncertain, but feelings are like musical notes; they flow, merge, go choral, skip beats, or change the entire tempo of inner sight. The future is jazz from a powerful horn. The note of hope remains. That’s where the soul of Afro Puffs Are The Antennae Of The Universe led me. This book’s a sequel but it’s not “Hey, let’s see what the characters are doing now” and leave it at that. It’s What Are We Gonna Do Now? How’re we putting out fires, how’re we living? The first book was the brothers. This one’s all about the sisters. And we know sistas put in the work. AFRO PUFFS is Minnie Riperton showing Miles how to take a note to meet its higher self. It’s the Brides of Funkenstein harmonizing us out of our seats and into the hell yeah of something bold. There was never a doubt that this book was gonna have the title it has and be precisely what it is: fun, rough-and-tumble, grinning outward just a tiny bit behind the beat. And there was never a doubt that I was gonna ask you to run in the sand under a bright sun with me. Two reasons: sand’s hella fun and—when we’re done playing with it—it’s great at dousing fires.
What character did you love or hate the most while writing? And why?
I absolutely loved writing Bobo the Mag. Bobo’s an octopus, a thief, and thinks of himself as a bit of an adventurer (“Mag” being short for “magnificent”). I wanted to include him as a full character without totally anthropomorphizing him. I also wanted him to be psychic. Let’s face it, I just wanted a psychic octopus in my story in ways no one else has used psychic octopi yet!
What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?
I’ve been compared to Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams—which I’ll take in a heartbeat—in that both of those writers knew the rules of writing, heated those rules over a low flame, and reshaped them into twisty straws. I love the “let’s see what happens next” type of writing that won’t let me read it on autopilot, love reading it, love writing it. And when I’m done with either, I want a wild, gleeful look in my eyes. There are certain readers who run toward that sense of fun like honey badgers to whatever honey badgers run toward. Likely whatever they want. Honey badgers are fierce that way. We can drink from a regular straw any day, but plop a twisty straw into the drink and suddenly we’ve got a party!
What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?
Never forget you’re doing this to have fun! Writers live half in dream all the time, constantly playing make-believe. It’s the first draw toward wanting to put words on paper. A drive toward career and accomplishments can cloud that sense of fun and make the entire enterprise—when things aren’t going as hoped—an unwieldy, painful slog. Enjoying what we’re doing has to remain paramount.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
I’m working on a fantasy, taking a mother/daughter witch duo from their debut in a short story to their own novel. It’ll be a mix of fantasy and Conan-type swordy bits. A complete departure from anything I’ve ever done.
What do you consider the most challenging part of the writing process? And how do you overcome that?
Finding the soul of a story before ever setting down a word. Some writers focus on mechanics to get started: introduce character, introduce conflict, proceed to next paragraph. I tend to need to feel what the story as a whole will have given me/the reader by the time it’s over. The soul. I’ve learned that finding the soul sometimes takes time, so patience here truly is a virtue. I think that’s the only way I overcame that itch to get a story down. Patience. Knowing that the soul is there, which sounds esoteric but every writer looks for it. Soul’s a combination of intent, theme, and voice. The good stuff.
Thanks Zig Zag, for your very interesting interview!