Joshua JonesOctober 1, 2023
Joshua Jones (he/him) is a queer, autistic writer and artist from Llanelli, South Wales. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University, and has been published by Gutter Magazine, The Pomegranate London, Poetry Wales, Broken Sleep Books, and more. He has been commended by the Poetry Society and his story ‘Half Moon, New Year’ was shortlisted for the Rhys Davies Short Story Prize in 2021. His ‘poetic installations’ have been exhibited at Glynn Vivian Gallery, Swansea, Ty Turner House in Penarth, and elsewhere. His collaborative pamphlet with artist Caitlin Flood-Molyneux, Fistful of Flowers, was published in 2022. Local Fires is his debut fiction publication.
Local Fires sees Joshua turn his acute focus to his birthplace of Llanelli, South Wales. Sardonic and melancholic, joyful and grieving, these multifaceted stories may be set in a small town, but they have reach far beyond their locality. From the inertia of living in an ex-industrial working-class area, to gender, sexuality, toxic masculinity and neurodivergence, Jones has crafted a collection versatile in theme and observation, as the misadventures of the town’s inhabitants threaten to spill over into an incendiary finale.
In this stunning series of interconnected tales, fires both literal and metaphorical, local and all-encompassing, blaze together to herald the emergence of a singular new Welsh literary voice.
Joshua, many congratulations on the publication of your debut fiction publication – what inspired you to write Local Fires?
I began writing Local Fires in 2019, when I began my MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Before then I was mainly writing and performing poetry. I had wanted to write prose for a long time, but I couldn’t get over the barrier. I felt, because of my Autism and ADHD, which, for me, comes with impatience and short attention span, that I wouldn’t be able to sit down and write.
When I did eventually begin writing the first stories that would make up Local Fires, I was inspired by real memories of my hometown, the people that live there and documented my experiences growing up. The awkwardness of my teenage years, experiences of toxic masculinity, casual homophobia, the generational despair of a town emptied of industry and employment.
Tell us a little about the book…
Local Fires is a collection of interconnected short stories, all set in my hometown of Llanelli, South Wales. The stories contain real streets, real events, that left a mark on me growing up in the town. From the inertia of living in an ex-industrial working-class area, to gender, sexuality, toxic masculinity and neurodivergence, these stories are hopefully versatile in themes and observations, and the town’s inhabitants spill across the pages and into each other’s stories. I think some of them are quite funny too!
What inspires you?
My own, disjointed memory of how I felt navigating growing up, and how I experience the world around me as a queer, neurodivergent person. I’m also interested in urban nature, displacement, psychogeography and the work of Mark Fisher. I always, always find inspiration in music – the first two offerings by Modest Mouse, for example, as well as Arab Strap and XIU XIU.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer and when?
My mum says I always wrote when I was young, but I can’t remember, and I haven’t seen much evidence of it. But I was a big reader since primary school – often getting in trouble because I refused to do my work, and wanted to read instead. I was actually punished for reading! I got into writing properly in college, especially poetry. I began performing spoken word in college after I discovered Arab Strap, whose vocalist, Aidan Moffat, primarily performs spoken word (and in a very strong Scots accent).
Can you name a few books that have left an impression on you?
James Joyce – Dubliners
Thomas Morris – We Don’t Know What We’re Doing
J.G Ballard – Crash
Mark Fisher – Ghosts of My Life
Richard Foster – Flower Factory
A.M Homes – The Safety of Objects
The completed plays of Sarah Kane
Dean Young’s Poetry
Queer Square Mile, edited by Kirsti Bohata, Mihangel Morgan and Huw Osborne
What would be some advice you would give to your younger self?
Be less self-protective, and more open. Listen more.
What is your writing process?
Loud music, lots of coffee!
Do you enjoy other creative processes except for writing?
I like to make collage, and use experimental writing techniques including cut-up text. I have an occasional music project called Human Head. I also create installation art that utilises video, paint, sound, photography and found objects.
What books are currently on your bedside table?
So many! Far too many. But:
Yuko Tsushima – Of Dogs and Wails
Olivia Liang – The Lonely City
Patrick Keiller – The View from the Train
Iain Sinclair – Living with Buildings
In what way have libraries influenced you during your lifetime?
Llanelli library practically brought me up, according to my mother. I would get hyper-focussed on reading, I loved it so much, but we didn’t have the money to keep up with the rate I read. Libraries are crucial to families with very little income. I would do all-nighters in the library when writing my third-year dissertation. When I visit a new city I love to check out the library – when I went to Oslo last year on holiday, I spent an hour or two looking around the central library, which also had a bar/restaurant and a cinema!
Do you have suggestions of how to encourage children and young people to read more for pleasure?
There are so many fantastic writers and artists publishing work dedicated to queer, neurodivergent families and children, and people of colour. There is a world of informative, educational, and relatable books for children and young people. For example, The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta is written in poetic prose and tells the story of a young black boy who is gay, and finds himself through drag. Children and young people will read, they just need to be reached.
What are your plans for future titles?
I’m working on a collection of essays that further develop some of the themes and the ideas in Local Fires, and consider Mark Fisher’s theories of hauntology. They also critically examine art or artists with a connection to my hometown, and cover themes of nostalgia, melancholia and memory.
Also, I am working with writers from Wales and Viet Nam to produce work on the themes of queerness, community and shared heritage, which will hopefully culiminate in a printed publication, as part of the UK/VN season with the British Council.