Interview by the Young Adulting Editors with Louise Brecht
Jo Treggiari was born in London, England, and raised in Canada. She spent many years in Oakland, California and New York, where she trained as a boxer, wrote for a punk magazine, and owned a gangster rap/indie rock record label. Her novel Ashes, Ashes, a YA post-apocalyptic adventure published by Scholastic Press, was a multiple award nominee and bestseller. Her acclaimed novella Love You Like Suicide, appeared in the Fierce Ink Press anthology Becoming Fierce: Teen Stories IRL and as a limited edition of the long-running zine Cometbus. Her most recent books are the YA thrillers The Grey Sisters (2019) and Blood Will Out (2018) both of which are published by Penguin Teen Canada.
What do you love about writing horror and grim stories?
I grew up reading Stephen King and Clive Barker so I do have a deep love for the genre. I think I write the kind of books that I would like to read. So much of human character is revealed by facing hard challenges and writing thrillers lets me put my characters into terrifying situations where they are tested. I think my writing style lends itself to fast-paced, immersive stories with plenty of creepy atmosphere.
Tell us about the special issue of Cometbus that you published, titled Love You Like Suicide.
Aaron Cometbus is an old friend of mine from the Bay Area/Northern California. We’ve been pen pals for a great number of years. I just asked him one day if he wanted to read this punk-rock creative non-fiction novella I had written that was set in the time when we first met (the early 80’s). Much of Love You Like Suicide is autobiographical and consequently was very hard to write. Anyway, he said yes, loved it, and asked if he could release it as a limited edition Cometbus zine. I think there were 800 copies, of which I only have 1 or 2 now. I’m a huge fan of his work and I was truly honoured that he thought my writing was good enough for the Cometbus banner.
What does being punk rock mean to you? Do you consider yourself a punk rock author even now?
I’m quite nostalgic about punk rock because it encapsulates a time in my life that was very political and creative. It wasn’t just about the music; we really wanted to change the world. We were angry and motivated and we made lifestyle choices that reflected our beliefs in a socialist and humanist future. I’m definitely still punk rock in the way I choose to live my life and I guess that includes my author life.
Is there anything you want to tell our readers about your amazing Lexicon Books and what it’s like to wear a bookseller hat?
Lexicon Books is the bookstore I co-own with another writer and an aspiring illustrator. We are located in gorgeous Lunenburg, Nova Scotia and we are small but mighty. The bookseller hat (kinda)validates my insatiable appetite for books and allows me to live a life surrounded by the written world.
Although the mountain setting in The Grey Sisters is very specific, its precise location is a bit of a mystery. Did you obscure whereabouts for a particular reason?
Lately (in my last two books), I have made up the location. I do draw from places I know or have lived but I prefer to keep it mysterious; in part because I am writing about awful things happening to people. I did a lot of local research in particular for The Grey Sisters, and some of those historical elements and human experiences (seen through my lens) are woven into the fabric of the story, but there are no big mountains in Nova Scotia and I really needed some!
Our reviews for Jo Treggiari’s books: