Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of your new horror collection, Jagged Edges & Moving Parts! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the collection’s premise, and what inspired the genesis of this project?
Pete Mesling: Thank you very much, for the congratulations and for the interview. As you point out, Jagged Edges & Moving Parts is, first and foremost, a horror collection. My hope is that readers will feel a little like they’re walking through a funhouse on Halloween night. I don’t want them to feel too sure about what’s coming up next, and once they get there I’m not overly concerned with giving them a sense of relief. It’s a fun collection, I think, but a relentlessly dark one.
It got to the point where I had written and published a substantial number of short stories, so I started penciling out hypothetical collections that could arise from those stories. Even when I’m working on a novel, I often pause to write the occasional short story, so these hypothetical collections continued to evolve. Jagged Edges & Moving Parts was the first to feel like a complete work, and so here we are.
BD: How would you describe your creative process in determining which short stories would best fit this collection, and what (or who) have been some of your creative inspirations?
PM: For whatever reason, I’ve found myself writing more and more in the crime mode in recent years, so my thinking in putting Jagged Edges & Moving Parts together—and this is hinted at in the title, I think—was that it should include an unpredictable mix of supernatural horror stories and reality-based shockers, maybe even serve as a signpost for what kind of fiction to expect from me in the future. (The title, incidentally, comes from the television movie that was made during the run of 24. In 24: Redemption, President Noah Daniels, played by Powers Boothe, has the following to say about his presidency: “Nothing about this job lends itself to simple answers, just … jagged edges and moving parts.”)
I didn’t really think about this consciously while I was writing or collating these stories, but I recently went back to Richard Christian Matheson’s classic collection, Scars and Other Distinguishing Marks. That book has no business coming across like a perfectly carved sculpture, when you look at the variety between its covers. Yet it does. I wonder if I wasn’t hoping to create a similar kind of cohesion out of the chaos with Jagged Edges & Moving Parts. R. C. Matheson is one of the giants in whose shadow I work, at any rate. So was his father, but that’s another story.
BD: How do you feel that Jagged Edges & Moving Parts compares to or differs from your previous short story collection, None So Deaf?
PM: The easy answer is that Jagged Edges & Moving Parts includes the definitive versions of some of the best stories from None So Deaf, plus a whole lot of new material. The reason for this is that the publisher of None So Deaf closed up shop before the book had made it into the world as a paperback. It was out for a year as an eBook, but the plan was for a paperback edition to follow. Though it got some great attention from other writers, it never had a chance to flourish among lay readers, which was crushing. That was my debut book, and it ended up feeling like riding a rocket into the heavens only to have it fizzle and spin back down to earth without going into orbit. I was proud of None So Deaf, but I’m even prouder of Jagged Edges & Moving Parts. It’s a much stronger and richer collection, with more of a sense of thematic connectedness.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Jagged Edges & Moving Parts’ stories will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that these stories were important for you to bring to life?
PM: Sounds like a worthwhile initiative. There’s a lot of variety to be found among the stories in this collection, and that applies to the impetus and intent behind them as much as to the stories themselves. With some of these tales my aim is primarily to terrify. Others, I hope, come with a certain sense of wonder. Maybe a few of them will make you stop and think about things like social injustice and the nature of violence. There might even be a laugh or two along the way. I think you’ll find suspense in the recipe for each and every story to be found here, though, so maybe that’s the common thread. If the collection entertains, I’m happy. If it does other things beyond that, I’m delighted.
You know, a great place to get a more detailed sense of the stories in Jagged Edges & Moving Parts is this post I made to my blog recently. It provides a little background on each story without spoiling any of the plots.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
PM: Why, yes. Thanks for asking. In January 2021, my first novel is slated for release. It’s called The Portable Nine, and it ties in to what I was saying earlier about Jagged Edges & Moving Parts being a somewhat cryptic guide to what you can expect from me going forward. The Portable Nine is a global thriller written in kind of a literary pulp style. I think it’s enormous fun. The A-Team meets Quentin Tarantino in the back alley of a Dean Koontz novel. No holds barred. It’s set in the real world, but it uses reality as a playground. It won’t be the last you see of the characters involved, either, by the way—at least most of them.
I also have an all-crime collection planned for later next year, and I’ll probably follow that up with a fantasy novel for young readers. There are other irons in the fire, including more work in the horror genre, but this should be enough to slake people’s thirst for now. I guess the gist here is that folks can expect the unexpected.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Jagged Edges & Moving Parts?
PM: I would cordially invite anyone so inclined to subscribe to my blog. I don’t post terribly often, but I try to make each post count. It’s where I announce publishing news and post links to guest blogs I’ve written. I also post short essay-style writings when the mood strikes. Just enter your e-mail address into the white subscription box at the top of any page on my website. For instance, here’s the main page of my blog.
And thanks again for having me. This has been a lot of fun.