Interview by Tania Lasenburg, author Jemiah Jefferson explains how she began writing horror and how not all authors have a glamorous life.
Why did you choose to write horror? Was that a genre you were always attracted too? If so, what pulled you to it?
I didn’t really choose to be a horror writer – it just happened to be the genre that my first published novel was classified as. I had really only begun to read, watch, and enjoy horror when I first wrote the book, so I had a lot to learn and experience!
How would you rate your success not just as a writer but as horror writer?
I don’t really know how to rate my success – I’m far from rich or even comfortable, and I have a day job as well – but I have sold OK, I am now in the position of receiving regular royalties (which helps keep me and my cats fed), and I’ve been published at all, so I have more success than some other people. More than anything I just want to have a life where I can keep writing the things I want to – and I kind of have that, but it’s a struggle.
Has your position as an assistant editor at Dark Horse Comics influence your writing style in any way? Does this specific job help you become a better writer?
My editorial job at Dark Horse hasn’t really influenced my own writing style – if anything it’s just made it harder for me to write “freely”, as I now see every instance of the “printed” word through a strict editorial lens, and I can’t help thinking about the audience and the market all the time… which is not at all conducive to the kinds of stuff I most like to write. There’s a chance that it’s made me a better writer, but I have produced so little, comparatively, since starting this job that I don’t have a lot of material to compare. I try to improve my writing continuously, so if I’m a better writer now, it’s not because of this job – it’s because I’ve been working on improving, and I do work on it, 24/7/365.
Is it true that there are difficulties in the publishing world for African American women? If so what are those difficulties?
There are definitely problems getting published if you’re anyone than someone who is already known and successful. Additionally, the aforementioned “market” is fairly conclusively skewed toward a few “proven” genres, titles, approaches, and names. A publisher who already has an African-American female writer being printed by them will be less likely to pick up a new one, imagining that they’ve “already got that covered.” It’s odd and dismaying and I both understand it and don’t understand it – the market in all its fickleness creates these situations, and publishers are all panicking about this and that, and any reason to NOT pick up something will be taken.
Finally, how do you feel about your books being shelved in an African-American section and not one of horror?
As far as I know, my books are only ever shelved in the horror/science fiction/etc. section and some readers may not even know my sex or race. Which is fine; I want them to be interested in the story. On the other hand, if the fact that I’m black or female or nerdy or whatever gets someone’s interest enough for them to make the purchase, that’s fine! I just want them to sell.