JON CHAIIM MCCONNELL ON THRUM
Updated: Apr 13
What are the origins of THRUM?
It’s the expansion of a short story “Electricity” that I published in a journal called “Requited” probably 5 years ago now - their archives are down so I should probably post it in full on my website one of these days. But that original short story came to me all in a rush over a Christmas weekend at my in-laws, and I don’t really know how… I had a run of short stories that I could describe as “the real world, with one surreal difference” so that’s just where my head was at. Thinking up a small, weird idea and then challenging myself to take it as seriously as possible.
Tell us about the first time you felt proud about something you wrote.
I remember it very vividly actually - writing Final Fantasy 7 fanfiction on my grandparents’ typewriter in their kitchen. I think it involved Sephiroth standing around and brooding, and I remember thinking it was absolutely brilliant.
If THRUM received a broadway rock opera treatment,
which artists would create the music?
I’d want it to be a clash of two opposites, like Joanna Newsom with Sun O
Elaborate on your writing process...
Endless revision - this book only taking 5 years was a huge relief in a way; I have a 30-page short story that took over 7 years to finish. It’s all very slow. But for fiction generally, it’s a process of iterating from the beginning over and over again, like I’ll get a certain amount of pages in, and then an idea will strike me of how to improve them, and then I’ll go back and work that change in. Then repeat, getting a little further each time. Usually, when I hit that snag it’s because a part of the premise of the book wasn’t able to support the entire length. So I’ll realize that an idea might only have 40 pages of “juice” to it, but I need it to have 200, so that’s how I narrow in on what the next draft(s) need to address.
I know there are “better” ways to draft, and I use those ways for other types of writing I do in order to finish work faster, but I enjoy doing it this way a lot.
What was your recurring childhood nightmare?
Endlessly fighting up the tiers of a neverending parking garage. Imagine Game of Death mixed with the void of an Unreal Tournament map. The dream would usually end with me falling off the top, forever.
What are your literary influences?
The Road was probably my first big favorite where I’d actively try and write to an influence.
And my recent favorites are the ones I’ll endlessly bug friends to go out and read: MEM by Bethany Morrow, The Obscene Bird of Night by Jose Donoso, The Pulp vs The Throne by Carrie Lorig, Beautiful Soon Enough by Margo Berdeshevsky…
But I just started reading All The Pretty Horses the other day and it’s tough not to say Cormac McCarthy is the all-time favorite for me, it all just fits like a glove
What fictional character would you have as a dinner guest?
The rat from Ratatouille. I wouldn’t make him cook the main course but he could bring a side.
Publishing a novel is a tremendous accomplishment. What challenges did you overcome to achieve this success?
The best thing I ever did for my concept of writing and publishing was getting into the short story world, to be honest, submitting work to hundreds of places and getting rejected from almost all of them while trying to insist myself into the online community.
It helped me develop a very thick skin, which is the only way to deal with the biggest roadblock: wanting to quit. Because your friends and acquaintances will get book deals and invitations to cool parties and if you feel like those are metrics to judge your own work by, then what else is there to do but quit? So over the years, I was able to slowly inoculate myself to that feeling and just work my own way forward.
Without that persistence, I would have never recognized how cool this opportunity with Eye Cult Attic was, for instance, and I wouldn’t have ended up with this book that turned out exactly the way I always wanted it to.
Life After Death has been proven by science, describe it:
I’ve always loved the idea of Zeno’s Paradox of death, where you experience the final moment of your life as an infinity of smaller and smaller intervals. But to you, it feels like any other progression of time, while the chemicals in your brain swirl into a state of hallucination.
And I’d love it if that’s where ghosts came from too, in another fun spacetime thing. Where if you’re still “alive” in your infinite final moment, that means time still exists for you, which then also means that you’d have access to space somehow. Like projecting yourself back into the world from a point that other people no longer have access to.
What is your advice for aspiring writers?
My biggest one is something I only recently started to figure out, as life got busier: don’t avoid writing just because the moment, or the desk, or the place isn’t ideal. Even writing for 5 minutes is always worth it, as it’s 5 minutes more than you would have gotten done otherwise.
If I don’t feel like writing, reading for at least 15 minutes always helps me get going. It’s tough to finish reading a book this way, but it works.
On any gift holidays: Beg for AirBnB gift cards and use them to go on long writing weekends. I’ve only had the chance to do this twice, but it was amazing.
If you ever entertain the idea of a writing partner (I have a few, for different mediums/genres), working together in real time online or in person will reinvigorate all of your writing.
Speaking of, going to film festivals or art shows, galleries, any artsy gathering also tends to reinvigorate my work, seeing how hard other people in other mediums are working. For whatever reason, book/writers events and readings don’t have the same effect on me, but give those a try too.
What's next for you?
Sure! There’s a lot, in various stages. I have at least 2 semi-nebulous novels swirling around, and I am very slowly chipping away at an experimental nonfiction book/essay - I published the opening passage of it last year and I’m calling the pieces my “schema.”
Those are my solo projects, and then I have the stuff I’m working with writing partners on - 2 full-length screenplays and a little short film (none of which I want to say more about yet).
There’s a huge sci-fi/fantasy project I’m a part of that involves a cycle of short stories, a graphic novel, and worldbuilding on a Star Wars/LOTR scale that I’ve never attempted before. It’s all new and it’s hard but very satisfying as the pieces slowly fall into place.