Sitting down with Jerome Stueart
We first met author, artist and traveler Jerome Stueart when he shared his “Scenes from the Road” sketches while taking a Greyhound bus from Dayton, Ohio to Indianapolis. We got a chance to sit down with him to find out more about the man behind sketches.
1. Your focus is writing, but we saw some of the sketches you shared on a recent Greyhound journey. What inspired you to start illustrating?
Back in my 20s, I started out as both a comic strip artist and writer in college, but when I started putting so many words into the comic strip, I decided to develop my writing instead. Recently I missed doing that kind of drawing, so I used the Greyhound bus trip as a way to practice art more and get my skills back up. I wanted to start using my illustrations again.
2. As an author, you’ve written fiction, memoir, science fiction and fantasy. What’s your favorite genre to write?
Each of the genres have their attraction, but fantasy and science fiction allow me to play a bit more. I love the realism of fiction and the voice of memoir though. Memoir has a gritty this really happened kind of voice, and I’ve been experimenting with that voice to tell more elaborate fantasy stories. My goal is to make that fantasy so real through voice and detail of memoir and fiction. So I get to mix them all up lately.
3. What’s your favorite genre to read?
I like fantasy and science fiction with a lot of adventure in it. I grew up borrowing my brother’s Ray Bradbury books, which taught me a story needed to have more than just the adventure and action. Stories needed an emotional core, and a bigger, more universal problem somewhere in it a larger issue, lessons about interpersonal relationships, or diplomacy, or right/wrong. Ursula K. LeGuin, Kim Stanley Robinson, Jules Verne are some of my favorites, but I am in awe of the writing of Kazuo Ishiguro, Kij Johnson and Alice Munro. I really enjoyed the entire Harry Potter series, too.
4. Where do you find your inspiration for your work?
Usually from personal experience. I try to take the emotional core of something that’s happened to me and twist the circumstances, play with them, invert them, until the story is something completely different, but still confronts the same questions that my personal experience did. For example, a questionable online dating experience, you know, those little lies you don’t reveal in online dating profiles– led me to write about a woman who goes to Canada to find out the man she’s been talking online with turns into a bear every evening. She has to make decisions on whether this new revelation makes the whole relationship a lie.
5. We’re curious what’s the longest Greyhound journey you’ve ever been on?
I once traveled three days from Wichita, Kansas to Missoula, Montana. Three days up, three days in Missoula, three days back. Wow. That was a trip! One thing about Greyhound trips they are their own adventures! I have lots of memories from that trip.
6.What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from traveling?
We are the same everywhere. You cannot travel much and hold onto an idea that your ideas are naturally smarter, better or more informed, or that your state, your country, your culture is better than someone else’s. Traveling educates you about how other people think and believe. It erodes prejudice. Our opinions change after we travel about everything.