Stephen Graham Jones has been making a name for himself over the past few years with a series of provocative, brilliantly written dark, edgy stories and novels. Now he’s poised to break through with his latest, Growing Up Dead in Texas. What’s it about? A fire in Greenwood Texas that “turned families on each other, a fire that it’s still hard to get a straight answer about.” Packed with “small-town paranoia” and “more secrets than your average graveyard,” Growing Up Dead in Texas is a story “about finally standing up from the dead, and walking away,” only to be pulled back into a mystery decades in the making.
Jones told Omnivoracious that Growing Up Dead in Texas is “the first of my novels to actually say it's set exactly where I grew up, I guess. Greenwood, Texas. But they all have been. I only know the emotional contours of a single landscape, finally, and it's West Texas. Nothing feels so right as there, to me. For a while I've been circling it, though…. I could write a novel set on Mars, in 3046, and it'll still be my same West Texas: dry, dirt blowing, can see all the way to the curvature of the planet. People moving slow because the sun's just baking them in place. Your enemies just specks, but definitely moving your way. For days.”
But unlike prior novels Growing Up Dead in Texas isn’t horror “which is where I'm most comfortable. And the delivery's a touch different, too. All my other fiction's been obviously fiction. This one's not shaped like that, though. Texas is shaped like memoir. But not of me, really. It's a memoir of 1985. It's a memoir of a community. Of Greenwood. Of a childhood. A family.”
The novel is not just rooted in its setting but steeped in it. “The characters tend to be expressions of the place, I suppose. I don't mean to do that, but I'm not sure I can help it. I know people from Alaska and people from New York, though, and, they're each cool, but, to me, every single thing is different about them. To say it different, I tend to be most comfortable sitting around with people who grew up out in pastures like I did…It's not that we understand the world better—probably the opposite—it's that we can leave so much unsaid. And not talking, man, that's always best for me. To wrap that back around to fiction, then, I think if you can characterize the place such that the reader really cues into the emotional slant and slurry of it, then when a character slouches up across the fence, stands there in road, you don't have to explain him or her so much. They're just there. It's the only place they could be. Now the story can move on, not have to slow down to give their whole boring backstory. Their whole backstory, I mean, it's the way their pants are worn down behind the heel of their right boot, from driving. And that now they aren't driving. Let's move on. There's things to see.”