Jaym Gates is an author and editor who came to my attention recently and I’ve since been following her work with interest. Thanks for stopping by to answer a few questions, Jaym!
Q. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I’m an editor, author, and jack of all communications trades, which is mostly publicity and public relations right now. I’ve worked with all sorts of clients, including Paizo’s novel line, Scott Sigler, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and the still bemusing time I advised folks from the Finnish government on how to use geekdom to spur cultural evolution.
Q. What draws you to horror generally, and was there a defining moment where you something mad you think “Fuck it, I’m writing a horror story!”?
Yeah, that defining moment is usually when I’m trying NOT to write a horror story. I don’t know, what I write just always goes a little bit sideways and a lot dark. But I’m not a slasher or gore kind of writer. The scariest movie I ever saw was K19 Widowmaker. The grinding, awful, endless inevitability left an impression that lasts to this day. That’s the same sort of thing I try to bring into my writing. That sort of subtle, sleek, quiet horror that’s already giving you a big friendly hug before you even know it’s in the room.
Q. What is your favourite horror story and what about it specifically rustled your jimmies?
Weirdly, it’s a Christian horror novel, “The Oath”, by Frank Peretti. I don’t know if it’s my favorite, but it certainly left a huge impression. Again, it’s not an obvious horror. The antagonist is this unbelievably big presence, but you don’t even SEE it until the very, very end. Before that, all the horror is straight from human nature. The antagonist is just a tool, and that’s really stuck with me. There’s no power as capable of evil as what’s already in us.
The other one is “A Scattering of Jades”, by Alexander Irvine. I don’t know if it would still freak me out as much, but I read it when I was 15 and I wasn’t supposed to be reading that sort of thing…so I had to find somewhere I wouldn’t get caught.
This is the point I tell you I grew up in the literal middle of nowhere, on an honest-to-goodness Native American archaeological site, in a region absolutely rife with supernatural weirdness. And that the safe place to read was our drafty old barn, in the near-dark, when I was supposed to head out into that special darkness you only get in the middle of nowhere so I could feed the horses. Oh, and both of these books played on darkness, open country, and buildings just like the one I was sitting in.
Q. What have you written? And what is your personal favourite of your own work?
I’ve edited a bunch of anthologies: Genius Loci, War Stories, Rigor Amortis, Broken Time Blues, Geek Love, two tie-in anthologies for the Eclipse Phase and Exalted RPGs, and a bunch more on the way. Writing…all short stories, published in Kaiju Rising, Heroes!, Goldfish Grimm, Space!, Grendelsong, Aether Age, and M-Brane SF.
My personal favorite is the story I worked hardest to find a home for. I wrote it based off of a really weird dream I had. Woke up, sat down, pounded out almost 3000 words before I could stop writing. I loved it, it was a totally new thing for me, and I couldn’t sell it to save my life. Rewrote it over and over again, got amazing praise after I read it at an event with Jo Walton and Jeff Vandermeer (how’s that for a first reading!?), rewrote it some more, and the personalized rejections just kept piling up. I finally settled on it never selling, and trunked it…
…at which point Paul Jessup asked me to send it to him, and immediately published it in Grendelson. The story is titled “The Red Sun Rises”, and is a very quiet, sad story about taking a grand journey to die on your own terms. I never name the protagonist, or even give an idea of the gender or personality of the protagonist. You just sit behind their eyes and watch the world end.
Q. Do you have a favourite form or media for story telling? E.g Short story, Novel, Audio drama or podcast, audiobook
I love short stories, and I’ve developed a love of well-done TV. When a graphic story is done well, I really love that, too.
Q. What are you working on at the minute?
Hahahaha, oh god. So I’m editing a trope-busting anthology for Apex, with Monica Valentinelli. Editing a tie-in anthology for the legendary RPG Vampire: the Masquerade. Just announced a “Strange California” anthology with J. Daniel. Batt. And I’m under a contract with Falstaff Books for a short story collection, and I need to write about 20,000 more words by, uh, March.
Q. You’re an editor as well as a writer. Do you have a preference?
Editing gives me a lot more “This is why I do this” moments, especially when I have new authors. Seeing someone get their first publication is amazing. But writing scratches an itch. I’m a storyteller at heart.
Q. What attracts you to editing the work of others? And is there any quality or skill etc that makes a good horror editor, specifically?
I like being able to see what a writer is really trying to say, and working with the author to help them say it as eloquently as possible. As for editorial skill…I think you have to know that fear comes in many forms, and how to develop each of those.
Q. Who is your favourite woman writer?
I don’t know if I can list just one, but Patricia Briggs, N.K. Jemison, Mercedes M. Yardley, Karin Lowachee, Alyssa Wong…er, right.
Q. Are there any projects involving other women that you’re looking forward to or would like to get on board with?
I’m woefully out of touch with what’s coming out right now, alas. But my favorite thing is always in finding that next awesome voice, and I think I’ve got several of those in the anthologies coming out this year.
Q. What book/s are you reading at present and what is in your TBR pile?
Slush. Slushy slush slush. When I’m slushing, I tend to go back to comfort-reads, so it’s a lot of Pratchett, Briggs, Kim Harrison, and Lilith St. Crow.
Q. What challenges have you encountered that are unique to being a woman in the horror genre, or can you describe some of the challenges have you faced that are complicated by your gender?
Without going too in-depth, there’s a reason I was one of the people who helped draft the original anti-harassment statements for SFWA, and have consulted for a number of conventions and businesses on harassment. There’s a lot of background sexism, too, and it just gets exhausting.
Q. Why is Women in Horror month important?
The perception is still that women write pretty, soft, fluffy things, and while that’s fine, some of the darkest and nastiest stories out there are by women. Drawing attention to them is very necessary.
Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read your heart out. Read in your genre, out of it, fiction, nonfiction, history, politics, everything. Even if you ‘just’ want to write fantasy or romance or horror, read everything you can get your hands on. And educate yourself on your industry. There are way too many cries of “But I didn’t know!” out there.
Links of Jaym: