Authors are readers, and Jamie Wyman is no exception. Slated on Sad Puppy’s list of authors ultra conservatives should never read, she has an interesting perspective on reading and writing. I’m pleased to have gotten a chance to sit down and have a talk with her. Here’s the discussion!
Trillian: Reading is a love of many authors. What sort of books do you love reading and why?
I’ve got a pretty geeky list. I love Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black series, pretty much anything by Christopher Moore. Neil Gaiman, Delilah S. Dawson (and her alter egos Ava Lovelace and Lila Bowen); the steampunk of Leanna Renee Heiber, Cherie Priest and Beth Cato; Allison Pang, Karina Cooper…. I could be here a while, but these are the ones that really push my buttons these days. Last books I read were LONDON FALLING and THESE SEVERED STREETS both by Paul Cornell.
I really dig urban fantasy. horror and speculative fiction. I think that’s mainly because those are where I find rich, resonant voices. That’s what really pulls me into a book. All of these authors that I’ve mentioned have got something in their pacing, their words, their voice, their characters that is just luscious and delicious. That is what hooked me. Good stories keep me coming back.
Trillian: Is there anything that bothers you about these books? What stereotypes ruin the reading experience for you?
I dislike the hetero-normative boy-meets-girl tropes in most modern romance or paranormal romance. I could never get into the role of a woman who’s usually hiding her intellect or interests in order to impress a guy. The departure from that in Ava Lovelace’s Geekrotica books (THE LUMBERFOX and THE SUPERFOX) was truly refreshing. Her characters are not cookie cutter tropes that seem to be every where in rom-com movies and books; they’re like me and my friends. And? Lovelace makes consent HOT!!
Which brings me to my biggest pet peeve in modern urban fantasy/spec fic: THE RAPE TROPE. So often authors (mostly male, but some female, too) use rape as a gateway to make their female main character earn her stripes, to prove that she is a Strong Female Character, or to make her “fall” so that she can claw her way back up. Or if the lead is male, a female close to him is raped to galvanize him against our villain (who, by the way, just became even worse because, dude, rape!) I hate how rape, sexual abuse or assault are treated so flippantly, and the aftermath of that trauma is not given the weight it’s due.
Trillian: When you are writing your novels, how do you address the issues you find with mainstream urban fantasy? How have these issued challenged and changed your writing?
I make sure my characters are three-dimensional people that a reader can connect with. I also try to write the lessons I wish media would tell in terms of gender roles and give those living alternative lifestyles a place to see themselves.In terms of the the rape trope? Well, I try to give EVERY trauma I write–be it a character who has just killed for the first time, or someone who is living through the hell of abuse– the time and attention it deserves. People live through that. People have to cope. I try to be sympathetic to all of the facets of that trauma.
Basically, at the end of the day, I try to write deep, complex people rather than two-dimensional names on a page.
Trillian: Homophobia in fantasy is an issue many struggle with. Bisexualism plays a large part in your novels. Was your choice to have a bisexual main character a happy accident or deliberate choice? Why?
I wouldn’t say bisexualism plays a large role in my novels so much as I write material that is inclusive and sex-positive. I myself am bisexual and I see a lot of erasure of bisexuals in media. Often people will treat a character as gay or straight solely based on the gender/orientation of the current/last person that character was with romantically. Dude, we’re still bisexual regardless of who we’re currently with. And it happens in movies, books, television… bisexuals are seen as fence-sitters, greedy or confused rather than people with a legitimate orientation. It’s something I’m tired of seeing and refuse to perpetuate.
As far as Catherine Sharp, the lead in my Etudes in C# series, being bisexual; that was something that grew organically when I was outlining the original novel. I didn’t set out to specifically write a bi character. It just worked out that way and when it did, I ran with it rather than try to shove her into the more socially acceptable straight label that she clearly wouldn’t have fit in anyway.
Trillian: Writing about social issues can be difficult–what problems have you faced in your effort to pursue themes many consider controversial?
I think there’s a fine line between writing about social issues and being on a soapbox. So, I don’t set out to change hearts and minds. I’m writing about an experience that a person is having. Their sexual identity, their occupation, etc, all of that plays into how they will react to that situation and what the experience will do to shape them. So, when I put a bi character in a novel, or if I write a story where the main character discovers polyamory, or if I write about a soldier dealing with the trauma of killing for the first time, I make the character the focus of the piece, not the issue. The experience they are going through, showing my readers what that person is going through is far more effective storytelling than telling a reader how to think or feel. Books? They’re a great place for a person to experiment with different ways of thinking because it’s all in your head and no one can judge you. If a reader can connect with a character living through something on the other side of their own beliefs….that’s where compassion is born. And if we can breed compassion through storytelling…maybe there’s hope for the world.
Trillian: Homophobia is one of many social issues in fantasy fiction. Fantasy has been dominated by male authors for a long time. Has your experience as a woman writing fantasy fiction changed how you perceive books–and write them?
I’ve been very lucky that the readers and authors I’ve met at conventions have been amazing people who don’t, in general, treat me any differently than anyone else on a panel. Professionally, my agents and editors have never made my gender an issue. On the rare occasion that a person in an audience has been patronizing to me when I’m on a panel with all men….well, my next answer usually is enough to solidify that I belong on that panel.
I did end up on a Sad Puppy list of SJW authors to never read. I look at that as a badge of honor, really.
And no, I don’t change the way I’m going to write to either compensate for or excuse my gender.
It also doesn’t hurt to have a gender neutral name.
Trillian: What is your favorite book? Why?
Hands down I do not have an answer for this. I’ve got a few that are books that if my house was burning down I would take it with me, but choosing among those? Can’t do. Those books are The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (I read that at least once a year!) , Fool by Christopher Moore, Lamb (also by Christopher Moore), and Sacre Bleu (also also by Christopher Moore…. hm… pretty much anything by him now that I think about it.)
Trillian: You’re working on a kickstarter to help fund your next book. Please tell us about the book!
UNINVITED is the third book in my urban fantasy Etudes in C# series. It’s technomancer Catherine Sharp’s birthday and she’s got a strange present waiting on her doorstep. Marius is back and he’s in trouble. The lords of several underworlds are after the wayward satyr, and with multiple supernatural factions expending all of their resources to trap him, he needs help that can only come from the aid of a “bigger fish”. Things only get worse for Cat when she discovers that the Sileni, an ancient order of satyrs, want to get to Marius with almost as much ruthlessness as those who want to kill him. Family intrigue, seething deities and desperate zealots make helping Marius nigh impossible. There’s also his personality to contend with.
Trillian: If you could send any current author (still living) back in time, which author would you send back, why would you send them back, and what would you hope their writing would accomplish in the era you’ve send them back to?
Most authors I’d send back I enjoy too much to lose, so I’d have to have a way to get them back. Maybe I’d send Lou Anders back to the time of the Vikings so he could experience some of the world his Frostborn uses. Or Paul Cornell back to the 1940s…. but that’s mainly so I can take his place and write for Doctor Who. 🙂
Thanks for having me!
WILD CARD (Etudes in C#, No. 1) – It was bad enough working a dead-end tech support job, but for Catherine Sharp, the real hell is being owned by Eris, the Greek Goddess of Discord. Since that fateful day almost 10 years ago, Cat has performed random tasks–most of them quasi-legal–for the goddess in her free time in hopes that she’ll earn her soul back.
When Coyote, the Native American trickster himself, claims to have won her own soul in Mayhem’s weekly poker game, Cat decides to get in on the action. With five sneaky gods upping the ante, Cat will need to find a way to collect the winning chips that could save her soul.
Marius, a snarky satyr with his own debt to Eris, might finally come in handy for something. If they play their cards right and work together, Cat and Marius may just get their freedom back. Assuming they don’t kill each other first.
Jamie on the Net
After a misspent adulthood pursuing a Music Education degree, JAMIE WYMAN fostered several interests before discovering that being an author means never having to get out of pajamas. (However, she can eat/spin fire, tell you a lot about auditioning to be a Blue Man, and read/write in Circular Gallifreyan.)
Jamie also works as an editor. In addition to freelance work, she works with sci-fi/fantasy publisher Dragon Moon Press.
As an author, Jamie’s favorite playgrounds are urban fantasy, horror and creepy carnival settings.
When she’s not traipsing about with her imaginary friends, she lives in Phoenix with two hobbits and two cats. She is proud to say she has a deeply disturbed following at her blog. Send chai.