An Interview with Jersey Devil Press


Jersey Devil Press

an interview with Associate Editor Laura Garrison

One of the reasons we love Jersey Devil Press is because they publish incredibly unique fiction and poetry—the kind of material that readers are still remembering weeks after encountering. A special thanks to Laura Garrison for providing this interview that defiantly reflects the unique character of JDP.

Can you tell us a bit about the origins of Jersey Devil Press?

Hell, yes! In 1735, at the edge of the Pine Barrens in New Jersey, Deborah Leeds was preparing to launch a small person out of her uterus like a wrinkly red squash from a potato gun (for the thirteenth time!), when she—Oh! Sorry. Jersey Devil PRESS was founded by Eirik Gumeny, with assistance from Monica Rodriguez; the first issue of the monthly magazine was published in October 2009, complete with Eirik’s own hilarious account of the legend of the Jersey Devil. Incidentally, that issue also contains a wonderful tale about a werebear written by Mike Sweeney, who is the current online editor of JDP.

What makes Jersey Devil Press different from other genre publications?

Eirik started JDP as a kind of Island of Misfit Toys for fiction—a comfy place where zany stories that are well crafted but too “out there” for most other magazines can lounge around in their jammies without feeling self-conscious—and we like to think we’re staying true to that goal. But we’ve also published some subtle stories that are free from any glaringly bizarre elements, because a great story is a great story.

Jersey Devil Press produces a number of themed issues, like the speculative poetry and writing Lovecraft like Neil Gaiman issues, and also sponsors a novella contest. Can you talk a little about where the decision to expand came from, and what you hope to achieve for writers and readers through these specialized publications?

Essentially, a themed issue is born when one of us (usually Mike) says, “Hey, I really like ‘X’! I want to read more stuff like that and show it to other people.” We always hope writers and readers will share our enthusiasm for a particular theme.

The novella contest is our effort to shine a spotlight on an often-overlooked genre. We love short stories and flash fiction, but sometimes we want to spend more time getting to know the characters and their world and letting the plot unfold.

We like trying new things to see what inspires people; a while back we had a lot of success with Eirik’s Brilliant Disguise feature, a series of fiction inspired by Bruce Springsteen lyrics. Our writers came up with a lot of very cool stuff for that.

What are you looking for from authors who submit?

An ideal submission has all of these things: great pacing, a distinctive voice, memorable characters, a clear sense of place, an intriguing plot, and excellent command of grammar and sentence structure. We also enjoy cryptozoology, time travel, outer space, miscellaneous adventure, unusual hobbies or occupations, and poop jokes.

When submitting, what is the one thing you’d recommend authors not do?

Fail to adhere to our guidelines, either through ignorance or by taking them as a personal challenge. The second thing would be to come across as pretentious, rude, needy, or psychotic in the cover letter. You’re basically on a blind date here, so let’s keep that shit bottled up, mmmkay?

How to determine what selections will be included in Jersey Devil Press?

All the editors can read everything that is submitted through our submissions manager. We vote and voice our opinions in the comments section for each submission. Every story is judged by its own merits; we are not swayed by anyone’s previous publications or lack thereof. The online editor makes the final calls about which stories to include.

Who are some of your favorite authors/books?

You can find many of them in our own pages. To that eclectic list, I would add Ray Bradbury, Roald Dahl, Daphne DuMaurier, Neil Gaiman, Edward Gorey, Elizabeth Hand, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Joe Hill, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, Kelly Link, H. P. Lovecraft, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, Karen Russell, John Swartzwelder, Jules Verne, and Bill Watterson. The other editors would have different lists (although I suspect there would be some overlap).

What has surprised you most as an editor in the process of publishing Jersey Devil Press?

I am continually surprised to discover what the human imagination is capable of generating. Sometimes I’m surprised in a way that makes me blissfully happy, as if I’ve just gotten an unexpected hug from a giant panda. Other times I’m surprised in a way that makes me angry or sad, and I feel like I need a hug from a giant panda.

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