Joyce Carol Oates draws on her Princeton connections—including Sheila Kohler, Paul Muldoon, Edmund White, and her former student, Jonathan Safran Foer—for contributors to her crime anthology in the Akashic series, New Jersey Noir.
How did you connect with other contributors?
Johnny Temple, the publisher of Akashic Books, and Otto Penzler were helpful in supplying me with names of writers appropriate for the anthology whom I did not know. Then there were writers who learned of the anthology and asked to be considered, like S.A. Solomon, who sent a brilliantly atmospheric story set in Newark. I’ve long admired the unclassifiable Jeffrey Ford, who lives in New Jersey, so this was a great occasion to contact him.
Unusually for this series, you include poets. Did you try to include ones who possessed a noir sensibility?
The poets in the volume are very, very good poets—that they are my friends also is a wonderful coincidence. I’d invited them to participate because they do indeed possess noir sensibilities, in very divergent ways.
Were there any writers you wanted to include who didn’t submit stories for this anthology?
Yes, five or six writers never came through for us, though they’d promised to send work. (Their names shall be unspoken!) Of course, Johnny and I had hoped for African-American contributors. We tried, tried, and tried—but with no luck. Ask me why: I have no idea.
Any plans to write any more novels under your Rosamund Smith pseudonym, last used 10 years ago?
When I moved to Ecco Press, my editor there, Daniel Halpern, wanted to continue with another pseudonymous writer of suspense fiction, and so “Lauren Kelly” was born, who wrote several novels—Take Me, Take Me with You; The Stolen Heart; Blood Mask. I hope to continue with Lauren Kelly sometime soon.
Is it difficult to make room for editing tasks in your busy schedule?
No, editing is invigorating. Mostly it means reading—reading work I would not ordinarily see—and I love reading, so this is wonderful. My hands-on “editing” is usually minimal.
As editor, have you ever rejected manuscripts as being completely unsuited to the project?
Very rarely. I think that Johnny and I deliberated over a manuscript or two, which we had solicited, and decided in the end against it. It’s rare that I reject a manuscript; indeed, as a long-time professor of writing and of English, I’m conditioned to constructive criticism—helping writers rather than rejecting them. But the stories of New Jersey Noir are so striking and so various—so entertaining, disturbing, and haunting—the overall experience of bringing them together was highly positive.