Interview: Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam

Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam’s stories and poems have appeared in over 60 magazines and anthologies such as Fantasy & Science Fiction, Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, and Lightspeed, as well as in six languages and on the podcast LeVar Burton Reads. She has been a finalist for the Nebula Award and placed for Selected Shorts’ Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize. She curates the annual Art & Words Show in Fort Worth and lives in DFW with her three literarily-named cats: Gimli, Gamora, and Don Quixote. You can visit her on Twitter @BonnieJoStuffle or through her website: bonniejostufflebeam.com. “Every Song Must End” is Stufflebeam’s first appearance in Uncanny.

Uncanny Magazine: “Every Song Must End” features two polyamorous couples navigating how to make their lives fit together under a variety of circumstances. It is a story about loss and comfort, about new love and old love, about balancing relationships with dreams of going to Mars. Did you find it difficult to make all these pieces come together, or did it happen organically? What did you find challenging about writing this story?

Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam: Most of it happened organically. The stormy elements were more difficult to feed into the narrative and took tinkering to make them more organic and less a feature I was forcing into the story. I wrote this story over a long period of time, during the buildup and dissolution of a relationship of my own, so it was overall a challenge to write, as it felt very personal. There were times I didn’t want to work on it, and other times when I felt like working on it was the only thing I wanted to do.

Uncanny Magazine: Each section of this story features a song. Why did you decide to structure the story this way? How did you choose the songs?

Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam: I’ve always connected deeply to music, and while writing this story, I was getting to know a new friend who shared both my love of music and my taste in music. I wanted to write a story with an added element for people who feel a similar fondness for music, and it became a fun challenge to theme each section based on the song I chose for it.

I chose the tracks from songs I was sharing with my friend at the time, songs that were part of a playlist that I was listening to obsessively. As a result, these songs are ones that make me feel both broken and alive. I hope the readers who choose to listen to them find them moving too. I’m excited to share them with people who may not have heard them before.

Uncanny Magazine: I love all the references to gardening and the way the state of the yard mirrors the state of the protagonist: moldy and neglected, or full of nourishing vegetables, or ravaged by the storm to become a blank slate… ready to start anew. What drew you to this extended metaphor—are you an avid gardener?

Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam: I used to be an avid gardener! Gardening in north Texas is difficult, especially as the weather becomes more unpredictable. I grew up in my father’s vegetable gardening eating raw onions and fresh tomatoes hot from the hundred-degree heat, and I’ve made sure to always rent houses over apartments so that I could keep a garden. Lately I’ve been sticking to a bare minimum: a few flowers, peas, asparagus, and some kale seem to be all that I can keep alive. I keep trying to grow tomatoes again. They don’t like me much these last few years.

Uncanny Magazine: You are a prolific author of both poetry and fiction—do you find there are certain themes or ideas that you return to repeatedly? Is there a theme or idea that you would like to write about, but haven’t yet?

Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam: I write a lot about family and what it means to confront legacy, the various qualities—good and bad—that are passed down. In that same vein, I write a lot about mental illness and the often harmful myth of full recovery. I like stories that offer hope without perpetuating the idea that people with mental illness should search for a cure over strengthening their coping mechanisms. I write a lot about sexuality. I imagine I’ll continue to explore those themes. I’m currently writing a lot of stories like “Every Song Must End” that explore nontraditional relationship structures, and I’d like to get deeper into those ideas. I also aim to play more with classic horror tropes, as I’ve recently developed a love of horror movies.

Uncanny Magazine: If given the opportunity, would you want to go to Mars?

Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam: I don’t think I would. If I could visit and come back, I would consider it. I’m a fan of trying new things. But living there? I like this planet—and the people on it—too much.

Uncanny Magazine: What are you working on next?

Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam: I’m working on a ghost story with a science fictional twist as well as edits to an older novel about a cursed ballerina in imperial Russia. I’m always working on a variety of writing-adjacent projects: arranging my Art & Words Show, teaching local classes, and traveling/exploring with an eye toward inspiration.

Caroline M. Yoachim

Caroline M. Yoachim is the author of the 2017 Hugo and Nebula finalist short story “Carnival Nine.” Her fiction has appeared in Lightspeed, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Uncanny, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Clarkesworld, and Asimov’s, among other places. Her debut short story collection, Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World & Other Stories, came out with Fairwood Press in 2016. For more about Caroline, check out her website at carolineyoachim.com

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