An Interview with Amy Jones, Author of "Wolves, Cigarettes, Gum," Issue 36.3

Interview by 
Lindsay Glauser Kwan

We are happy to announce that the short story "Wolves, Cigarettes, Gum" that was published in Room magazine's “Crime” issue is going to be included in this year’s Journey Prize Stories 26.

 “Amy Jones finds the humanity in her characters' mistakes and the humour in their self-destruction; the result is a fast-paced, funny, and memorable story that surprises the reader with its darkness,” explained Meghan Bell, assistant editor of the Murder, Lust, and Larceny issue. “'Wolves, Cigarettes, Gum' was an obvious choice for our "Crime" issue, and for a Journey Prize nomination. I'm thrilled that the jurors agree, and encourage everyone to check out Amy's work.”

Lindsay Glauser Kwan spoke with Amy Jones about her characters, crime and the confidence she gained from her story's inclusion in this year's  Journey Prize Stories anthology.

ROOM:  Last year, your story "Team Ninja" was included in Journey Prize Stories 25, and now this year, "Wolves, Cigarettes, Gum" is going to be included in Journey Prize Stories 26.  How do you feel about being selected a second time around? 

JONES: It's such an amazing and surreal experience, I mean you always hope it will happen but you never think it actually will. Seeing your name in that book, it kind of makes you feel like maybe you're on the right track after all.

ROOM: In some ways, the story explores the motivations of four thieves of different scales from a teenage shoplifter to an unsuspected armed robber. What inspired the story?

JONES: I'm fascinated by crime and what drives people to commit it, where people draw the line between what they will and won't do, and how people define their own morality. The story started with the character of Annalise and just kind of moved on from there.

ROOM: In the end, I had the sense that the characters’ motivations were all pointed to an unfulfilled desire. What do you think their motivations were?

JONES: I'm always a little reluctant to come right out and say what my character's motivations are just because I think it's open to interpretation. I like I hear what other people think--I'm usually surprised but then I'm like, oh yeah, that totally makes sense! I like the unfulfilled desires thing. Let's go with that.

ROOM: Where did the idea of the characters come from? Do you base your characters on people you know?

JONES: I guess my characters are all partially based on people I know in some way. I think sometimes the most familiar, ordinary people are the most interesting. They're the people you see at the grocery store or out walking their dogs or sitting in the car next to you at the traffic light and you wonder "who is this person? Where are they going? What's their life like?" At least, I do.

ROOM: The title is actually a riddle that the character Annalise presents in the end, but I thought it related to the four characters in that they all had different roles in the robbery. Each person had to work together to get the job done. Were you thinking of the characters as a pack?

JONES: I don't think I was thinking that at the time, but I like that you did! With the riddle, I was thinking about how seemingly disparate things could have something in common, and that was kind of the case with the characters. And I mostly just liked the way those three words sounded together for the title!

ROOM: Your short story collection What Boys Like and Other Stories (Biblioasis, 2009) won the Metcalf-Rooke Award. What are your thoughts on the short story as a genre? What are you working on now?

JONES: I love short stories--I love the way it feels to write them and to read them. People talk a lot about short stories and how they fit into the literary world, but all I know is that I love the way it feels to write short stories, and to read them, and I suppose that, in an industry where everything seems to be a risk, why not just do what you love?

That said, I am trying my hand at a novel, just to see what it's like. But I'll never stop writing short stories. They're my first love.

Want to read more of Amy Jones’ work? Wander over to Little Fiction and read her story Rescue on the Atlantic! online.

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