Interview with Kate Jonez - Author of Lady Bits
Our video interview had to be canceled, but Kate Jonez was kind enough to answer my questions via email. Check out the interview below, and once you're done, check out the Bram Stoker Award-nominated short story collection, Lady Bits.
KB: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? Was there anything else you had considered beforehand?
KJ: I started out as a painter, but I was just a little bit better than adequate. Thinking back, I could have probably had some success in that field if I had been more sophisticated and not let critiques crush me. Any sort of artistic endeavor takes a thick skin and a persistence that usually only comes with maturity. Anyway, I switched to writing when I was in my mid-30s and never looked back. I do still love to make a book cover. It’s my favorite part of publishing other people.
KB: When did your interest in the horror genre spark?
KJ: I’ve always been drawn to creepy things. As a kid, I liked to talk about ghosts and monsters. I enjoyed scaring other kids, but especially adults.
KB: What horror authors do you admire?
KJ: I love Caitlin Kiernan’s The Drowning Girl and the Daughter of Hounds. Kaaron Warren’s Tide of Stone and The Grief Hole. Alma Katsu’s The Hunger is amazing. She’s got a new one about the Titanic I can’t wait to read, Zoje Stage’s Baby Teeth is really great. She also has a new book coming out, Wonderland. Very excited for that. A writer I’ve just discovered is one of my new favorites. Sara Gran’s Come Closer. S. P. Miskowski writes some amazing stories. I Wish I Was Like You is exceptional. John Claude Smith touches something real and terrifying in his work, even though he writes fantastical creatures. Riding the Centipede blew me away. I probably should mention almost all of the authors I’ve published, because so many of the Omnium Gatherum authors are stunning writers. Stephen Graham Jones is an experience to read every single time. I love Mongrels so much. Paul Tremblay is truly amazing. I’ve been a fan since he was writing detective fiction, and he just keeps getting better. I recommend The Little Sleep and Head Full of Ghosts.
KB: What is a book that really terrifies you? How do you think one accomplishes truly terrifying writing?
KJ: I don’t know that I’m actually terrified by fiction. I get creeped out sometimes, but as an editor, I take books apart to figure how they work, and once you’ve taken a thing apart and put it back together, it’s hard to be afraid. I like stories that get to the guts of a thing and are really honest about what they find. That’s pretty scary when you get to know humans.
KB: On the subject of Lady Bits, how would you describe the collection to potential readers?
KJ: When I sign Lady Bits, I write: This is for all the women who run in the woods without falling down. I get really annoyed with the trope of women waiting around to be saved or being used as the symbol of the good in society that’s in need of preservation. Like moms and good wives and pristine princess children. That is a huge trope in horror, and I just hate it. Lady Bits is my answer to that. The characters aren’t saints. Some of them are nice enough. But every single woman drives her own story.
KB: Could you talk a little about what themes are recurring in your writing?
KJ: One theme that I notice recurring in my work is that all my characters are aspiring to be more than they are, whether it’s financially or class-related or spiritually. I guess that’s an issue I’m trying to work out.
KB: I did have some questions about specific stories. Were “Effigy” and “Mountain” based on real mythology and folklore? What sort of mythology and folklore do you feel the most drawn to?
KJ: Years ago, I wrote a blog about all the different myths and monsters from around the world. I’ve got a big spreadsheet of all of them, and sometimes I go to it for inspiration. The creature in “Effigy” is from the Philippines. A Jenglot is a creature that helps whoever cares for it as long as they feed it properly. Forget once, and you’re in big trouble. Kind of like kids. Leave a kid at the grocery store one time and all of a sudden, I’m the monster. In “Mountain,” the creature is from Greek not really mythology it’s more of a superstition. Calcantaros are vampire-like creatures who prey on people born between Christmas and Epiphany. These people can get attacked at any age, so it pretty much ruins the holidays for them. They’re called feast blasted. In “Mountain,” it happens to a baby, (oh oh spoiler) because might as well get it out of the way.
KB: Which piece or pieces in this collection did you feel the most drawn to, and why?
KJ: I really love the first story in the collection, “Carnivores.” In the 70s serial killing was really celebrated. The story asks what if we meet a serial killer on his first try, and things don’t go well. I’ve been wanting to write that story for ten years or more. I really like how it finally turned out.
KB: Did you decide to piece this collection together on your own, or was it requested? What advice do you have for writers in creating their own short story collections?
KJ: I’ve written lots of short stories, and I did put it together myself. The collection goes in chronological order by the age of the characters. I had to write a few new pieces to make the theme work. I wouldn’t worry too much about putting a collection together. Once you have more stories than you could possibly fit, that’s the time to think about a collection.
KB: Are there any particular sub-genres of horror that you prefer to write in? Why do you think you are drawn to those sub-genres?
KJ: I like supernatural horror. I also like stories based on mythology, especially from the point of view of the monster. I suppose that would be dark fantasy rather than horror.
KB: What is your work like as the Chief Editor of Omnium Gatherum? Can you provide some details about the press?
KJ: has been around for 11 years now. In the beginning, it was all me doing everything. Now I’ve got more people to work with, phew. It’s still a lot of work. We’re expanding into some other areas. Greg Chapman is heading up a new comics imprint. We’re expanding into film and TV, and we may have some more people joining the team in the next few months to help with another imprint. I can’t say too much yet.
KB: What sort of advice would you offer aspiring authors? Do you have any advice in the areas of self-promotion and revision?
KJ: Go to conventions and talk to everyone. Even if you’re shy, make yourself do it. Volunteer if you find it hard to strike up conversations. Writers are a shy bunch. Look for the person standing around looking uncomfortable and go over and ask them what their favorite book is. Join groups like the HWA and SFWA. Volunteer so you get to know people. Meet agents and publishers and everyone you can. Ask questions. Be nice and funny or entertaining if you can. I am much more likely to read your submission if I’ve met you at a convention. If I like you, I’ll want to work with you. I have a feeling I’m not the only one who feels this way.
KB: As an experienced editor, do you have any advice for aspiring editors on how to get started in the field?
KJ: Editing is tricky to get into. There’s a few degree programs around, San Diego State has one I think, but the actual qualifications are a bit nebulous. It’s hard to put a finger on what makes a good editor. You need to know the basics of English usage and grammar. You should read thousands of books. A good knowledge of how to look things up in the Chicago Manual of Style is good too. To get started, maybe join a writers group and edit the other members. Maybe volunteer to edit a book for a small press for free and see how you do.
KB: How do you juggle editing and writing?
KJ: Ugh, juggling editing and writing is a nightmare. I dream of the time when all I had to do was write.
KB: Could you provide details on some upcoming works? Is there anything you’re particularly excited about?
KJ: I’ve been adapting a novella to a film that I’m going to pitch with a slate of films and TV series related to Omnium Gatherum titles. A Thousand Year Song is the story of two sisters who must learn to get along to protect their island from invading pirates. It’s set in the Caribbean in the time of Christopher Columbus.
I used it as an example for a course I’m teaching at the League of Utah Writers Quill’s Conference in August. Sign up, and you can go with me step by step as I create the screenplay.
You can register for the Utah Writers Quill's Conference, which takes place August 13-16, by clicking here.
Kate Jonez Bio:
Stories by Kate Jonez have been nominated three times 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.
Kate 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.
When Kate 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.