Author Spotlight: Jeremy Strickland's Creative Odyssey

Welcome back to Mind The Typos!  Today, I am thrilled to feature this exclusive interview with Jeremy Strickland, an eclectic artist and author whose journey through music, visual arts, and literature is as fascinating as his creations. Jeremy's latest work, "Ship Of Theseus," has been turning heads, and we're here to get the inside scoop on his inspirations, processes, and future projects.

1. Could you please introduce yourself and tell us about your book?

Howdy! How are you? I'm Jeremy. I evolved from a fish, and I have at least one vestigial bone to prove it. I'm an obsessive writer, visual artist, musician, and mad creator. My old band, The Minni-Thins, was a Cincinnati Entertainment Award Winner, and my new band, Shiny Red Nothing, is on the verge of releasing our first album, Blackgrass. My art has twice been selected for shows at the prestigious ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, MI, an international competition held every year, turning the city into a labyrinthine art gallery. My first published novel is Ship Of Theseus, the tale of a grieving writer who has a terrifying existential crisis in the haunted apartment of an art dealer before traveling 150 years into the future of another universe to meet Skyrat, the superhero he created when he was seven. It’s a darkly funny, disturbing, action-packed ride, and I'm delighted to tell you that people are calling it "an immersive masterpiece" and "a modern-day classic."

2. What inspired you to write your book, and can you tell us about it?

I created a superhero named Skyrat when I was seven. Through my teenage years, I made countless attempts at comics and short stories starring Skyrat, but the bulk of my superhero's adventures were played out with my cousin, his immense G.I. Joe action figure collection being recast as the actors in my epic vision. When I was 25, I serialized my novel "Tales Of The Birdman" on a now-defunct pop-culture website. Birdman was narrated by Wayne Bird, whom I imbued with some of my own personal history, philosophy, addictions, and mental illness. One of the historical bits Wayne shared with me was the creation of Skyrat, which I wrote into Wayne's backstory.

"Tales Of The Birdman" was way darker than my real life. It was cathartic to write, and seeing how far I could push the boundaries was fun. I thought it was funny. In retrospect, "Tales" is so dark, it was scary to see my reflection in it, and it made it difficult to revisit for a rewrite and attempt at publication. There was a three-part story within the book, however, that I felt stood alone and was the strongest section, so I developed it into a short story. While "Birdman" referenced real pop culture, I decided to make analogues for the short story. Why? I don't remember. I'm glad I did, though, because it gave me G.I. Joes to recast and play with. A good example of this would be recasting an actual band's lyrics with Daniel Dooley and his band Meat Curtain. Dooley's lyrics were a fun way to show readers bits of Wayne's psychology and dark personal history while tightening the narrative.

After finishing "Birdman," my editor and I were excited to get to work on a Skyrat book, and we spent a couple of years bouncing ideas off each other, building the world. Unfortunately, Dale and I had a falling out, and my Skyrat book fell by the wayside with only one chapter somewhat complete. Another 15 years or so went by, and I decided to create an elaborate board game as my submission to ArtPrize. The game was called "Gangs Of Green City," and it was based around the characters I'd created and the world Dale and I had built over countless conversations and faux interviews for my Skyrat book. Because the game had some narrative elements, it required quite a bit of writing, which inspired me to return to that one chapter and write the novel as I simultaneously created the game. What fun! It was a great way to spend my nine-month pandemic layoff.

I was desperate to meet the deadline to submit the book to Eraserhead Press, so I sent it off to them as soon as my new editor, Oliver Brooks, had finished with it. I fixed the errors, but I ignored his honest opinion of the final chapter and how it sucked, not giving satisfying endings for all of the characters I had worked so hard on developing.

Then George Floyd was murdered by ex-officer Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Department. I looked back at my superhero's white skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes, and I felt a little embarrassed. I had made an effort to make Skyrat's world as diverse as possible while I wrote it, but despite having one character based (in small part, by this point) on my personality, I had to have a second that looked like me. Maybe I shouldn't out myself here. I don't know. What I know is that I was about to give my art to a new world, and I needed to be emotionally square with my values as I saw them within the context of this new world. Well, the world didn't need another superhero that looked like me, so I rewrote the book and redrew all of my illustrations so Skyrat was African American.

I took this new version, tacked my "Birdman" short story to the front of it, making the novel a two-part piece, and I resent it to Eraserhead, who sent me a thoughtful and kind declination letter. I should've rewritten the goddamn last chapter!

I self-published the book soon after. Less than a year later, I replaced the book with a second edition which weaved the two parts together in a more thoughtful way and, yes, it had a brand-new ending.

3. What themes or messages do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I'm promoting Ship Of Theseus: A novel as being in the genre of Gutterpunk Literary Fiction."Gutterpunk" because it deals in so-called lowbrow topics such as horror, comic books, science fiction, and bizarro, all with a pitch-black sense of humor and a middle finger wagging high in the air—and "Literary Fiction" because Ship Of Theseus is primarily a character piece that explores themes such as grief, existentialism, and consciousness, among others. One could argue that those themes are what the book is really about, but what I hope readers take away from their experience is that those themes and ideas are there if you want them, but you don't have to be a literature professor to enjoy the adventure. After all, at its heart, Ship Of Theseus is a love letter to superhero comic books (with a hint of 1980s sci-fi action movies salted in).

4. Are there any particular authors or books that influenced your writing style or inspired you?

My influences for Ship Of Theseus were many, some specific and others broad: superhero comic books, but more specifically Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's All Star Superman, Supergods, Moebius, Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's Preacher, and Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' awesome comic, Criminal. Literary influences include Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson, David Sedaris, Elmore Leonard crime novels, and Sensei Ernest Hemingway's famous terse prose. Some mathematical, scientific, and philosophic ideas are woven into the book's fibers, and that part of the tapestry was informed by fractal geometry, panpsychism (the view that consciousness is a fundamental property of the universe), and Tegmark's Mathematical Universe Hypothesis, which posits that the underlying structure of the universe is mathematical. These lists may sound ridiculous, but the thing is, man, I'm not into genre writing. I want the flexibility to explore ideas without genre constraint.

5. Lastly, could you provide your contact information or social media handles for readers who would like to connect with you?

Ship Of Theseus, A novel written and illustrated by Jeremiah Strickland, is available exclusively from Amazon.com. My next piece will be a sci-fi graphic novel mashed up with an epic fantasy poem. It's probably called Sorceresses Of Silicone.

My website is www.shinyrednothing.com.

My Redbubble shop, The Shiny Red Nothing Shop, has art prints and merch like t-shirts and stickers from Ship Of Theseus as well as a ton of other artworks.

I'm on most social media as Shiny Red Nothing, but I am active on Instagram @ShipOfTheseusBook. Hope to hear from you soon.

I hope you have enjoyed this deep dive into Jeremy Strickland's creative journey. His passion and dedication to his craft are truly inspiring. Feel free to connect with Jeremy and explore his unique body of work—you won't be disappointed!. Until next time, keep creating and mind those typos!