Hellnotes: Thank you for being with us today to talk about your upcoming collection Lady Bits. Perhaps it’s best to begin with the basics: Could you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a little bit about what kind of fiction you write?
Kate Jonez: I’ve been a published author for ten years or so. I’ve been writing dark fiction or as I call it “fiction” for quite a bit longer. It took me a while to figure things out and find a voice that wasn’t imitating my favorite authors. Before turning to novels, I wrote screenplays. I find I enjoy the control of creating novels and short stories more. I’m chief editor at the Bram Stoker Award-winning small press Omnium Gatherum. I’ve learned a lot from the talented authors I’ve worked with. In fact, if I had to name the one thing that has made me a better writer I’d have to choose editing.
HN: Your collection has an excellent title (and it looks wonderful on that cover!) which suggests that the stories inside will examine horror through a particular lens. Could you tell us a little bit about what to expect in this collection? While a story-by-story summary isn’t necessary, could you tell us a bit about what kinds of themes you see in your work?
KJ: Many of the stories are loosely based on people, places, or incidents in my life. Unfortunately, all of the supernatural elements are fabrications. Many of the stories have characters with aspirations. Striving to escape the station they’re born to is a frequent trait with characters I create. Somehow, this theme creeps into almost everything I write. The ladies in the stories are not especially nice or vulnerable in the way women are often portrayed in horror. They take care of things in the way many women I know would take care of things if they could get away with it—or so I imagine.
HN: While we would try never to be so gauche as to ask you to name your “favorite” story in the collection, is there perhaps one that you’re pleased to see collected so that it might get a chance to find a larger audience? Is there any story that you had a particularly memorable experience in bringing to life?
KJ: “Carnivores,” the first story in the collection, is something I’ve wanted to write for years. In the 70s and 80s serial killers were rock stars and I always imagined there were guys out there who wished they could have a place in the spotlight but were a little tentative about how to get started. Poor serial killer wannabe.
Although favorites are really hard to choose, I really love the world of “All the Day You’ll Have Good Luck.” I’m working on a novel with Jessup and Laney as teenagers. They’re still grifters working the Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas carnival circuit but there are some new and exciting adventures. Also, in the new installation, not all the boys are horrible!
HN: In addition to writing, you’re also the chief editor at the Bram Stoker Award-winning small press Omnium Gatherum. Can you tell us a little about your press’s guiding ethos? What is it like running a press in a time when barriers to publication are being lowered and different voices can make their mark? Has how you view Omnium Gatherum’s role in the wider field changed over time?
KJ: Omnium Gatherum is a Bram Stoker Award-winning small press that publishes 15-20 horror, dark fantasy, and weird fiction titles per year. Several titles have won or been shortlisted for Bram Stoker, Locus, and Shirley Jackson awards. We are dedicated to artistic excellence and the exploration of fresh ideas and unique perspectives.
That’s the official spiel. I’m very proud of OG and I’m thrilled I’ve gotten to work with so many talented people over the years. Producing books is a wonderful experience. Selling them can be more challenging. There are times I feel like I’m offering up parchment scrolls to people who aren’t quite sure what to do with them. There are so many people who would love OG stories if they gave them a try. We forget sometimes because we spend all day every day with books, but the majority of people don’t read. As the press approaches the ten-year mark, we’re exploring some new ways to get our stories out in the world.
HN: In a 2014 column at Nightmare Magazine, you wrote that “Horror Needs New Monsters” and urged authors to break out of the relatively narrow rut of classic Western vampires, zombies, and werewolves. In looking at the state of genre fiction today, it seems that a lot of new science fiction and fantasy is looking outside of the West not just for their creatures but for the types of stories and the narrative structures they employ. Do you think that horror and dark fiction is doing the same, or is it lagging behind? Where would you like to see the genre develop and what bad habits would you like to see it break?
KJ: I stand by my premise in that article, but I would like to add a little to it. Fresh monsters are important but fresh ideas are even more so. I love when I discover new authors who tell their own stories in exciting new ways. One tip for aspiring authors: throw out your first and second idea. Those are things you’ve probably experience from film, TV, or books. Look for the story that only you can craft and write that (of course there are always exceptions).
HN: As an experienced editor and a writer, you often give very helpful advice to the aspiring authors out there. One thing that we’ve noticed in newer authors is a trend towards shying away from self-promotion because they find it difficult. As someone who not only has to advocate for her own writing but also for the books that your press puts out, do you have any tips for our readers out there that may struggle with doing promotion?
KJ: I’m afraid I don’t have much patience with authors who don’t self-promote. Everything is difficult for creators. In the economy we have now, I don’t think anyone in a creative field can earn a living without some sort of sales and promotion expertise. That’s like a real estate agent who says I really like houses but talking to people is not my thing. As an author, there are thousands if not millions of people competing with you. And that doesn’t even include all the competition from sites like YouTube, or TV and video games. You have to do every possible thing you can think of to stand out even a little. You have to be reaching for excellence in every aspect of your writing career. You have to be the best writer you can possibly be, yes, but you also have to be an excellent sales person and an entertaining performer at conferences or wherever your readers might be. You also need to know your limitations and find ways to compensate for them. If public speaking gives you hives, take a class and make yourself do it every chance you get. If you don’t know how to close a sale, team up with someone who does. Selling your work is something anyone can learn to do. It takes effort though. And there’s no excuse for not extending yourself. If authors are afraid to self-promote, they should probably find something else to do before the machines take over all the jobs.
HN: Finally, what’s coming up on your horizon? Are there other projects that you have on deck, ones you’re working on, or even just strange new ideas that you’d like to explore?
KJ: I’m very excited to put the finishing touches on Santa Muerte a tale of two sisters, one living, one dead, who must battle an evil entity for the soul of Euphrates California. It’s like if Cardi B and the ghost of Nikki Minaj teamed up to make evil Madonna take her drug dealing thugs and leave town—with magic (or maybe not). There’s a fantastic slate of new books from Omnium Gatherum this year too and we just might be moving into a new and exciting area of entertainment if all goes as planned. Follow us on Instagram or Facebook for news.
Bio: Dark fantasy and horror author Kate Jonez has twice been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award-and once for the Shirley Jackson. Her short fiction has appeared in The Best Horror of the Year, Black Static, Pseudopod, Gamut, and Haunted Nights edited by Ellen Datlow and Lisa Morton.
She is also the chief editor at the Bram Stoker Award-winning small press Omnium Gatherum which is dedicated to publishing unique dark fantasy, weird fiction and horror.
Kate is a student of all things scary and when she isn’t writing she loves to collect objects for her cabinet of curiosities, research obscure and strange historical figures and explore Southern California where she lives with a very nice man and two little dogs who are also very nice but could behave a little bit better.
Amazon Page: https://amzn.to/2Usp9og