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Ami interviews freefic author Catherine Julia Jefferson
I discovered Catherine Julia Jefferson in 2012, with her story “Put Out the Light”; it was one of those stories that I found out because I saw it on a friend’s update over at Goodreads. I loved that story so much. Then I read “Tessellate” and I knew her writing style was something that fits my taste. Duly noted, so far, I only read read these two stories along with a new short one she posted at FictionPress. The rest of her longer stories are either M/F, F/F or WIPs, and I don’t read those. But her poems are also wonderful as well as her thoughts which she pours out down at her blog.
Ami (A): First of all, Cat, thank you so much for your willingness for this interview. For the sake of our blog readers, could you tell us about yourself first…
Catherine Julia Jefferson (CJJ): Sure, I’m a queer woman, an author of ten completed novels and a few published short stories, an INTJ, and a proud Ravenclaw. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and posting stories online for about seven years. I’m currently a senior in college, studying cultural anthropology and gender studies.
A: I have read your stories, “Put Out the Light”, “Tessellate”, and the short one “Trust Is Simultaneous Equation”. Oh and 1-2 of your poems. I loved them all. I loved your writing style and how you woven your words. I have to admit I am more drawn into trying your m/m stories, but you also write f/f and m/f. Do you actually have preferences and why?
CJJ : Well, I’ve been on FictionPress for a long time. I think I created my account when I was fourteen. Back then, m/f was really all I knew, so it was a logical place to start. I started reading m/m a few years later, and writing that felt… more natural, in a really confusing way. I didn’t come to terms with my own sexuality for another year or so, at which point I became more interested in writing f/f. I recognize that the Internet is a much kinder place to m/m than f/f, so that’s what I tend to post online. My personal preference, though, tends to be for stories that feature a wide range of orientations; I make an effort to include queer female characters in my m/m stories and vice versa.
A: Do you think being queer yourself influence your mostly writing queer romance? In what way?
CJJ : Definitely. As a queer woman, it’s incredibly frustrating to watch television or movies and read published novels where my identity doesn’t exist. Sometimes, it’s more than frustrating; sometimes, it hurts. I strongly believe that media needs to be more inclusive, and I want to be part of that. There’s an Anaïs Nin quote: “Had I not created my whole world, I would certainly have died in other people’s.” For me, that means writing more equitable worlds, populated with queer characters, and that’s why I write so much f/f and m/m. It’s the world I know, but also a world that needs to be represented to the general public.
A: What is your first LGBT literary experience? And how did you discover it?
CJJ : Two come to mind. My first LGBT literary experience was mostly an accident. I was reading a Wikipedia article about Star Trek, I think, and I came across a reference to slash fiction. I’d just turned seventeen, and somehow, I’d never heard of slash. So I clicked the link, read the article, and did a Google search out of curiosity. I stumbled upon the Kirk/Spock archive and spent the next few months reading as much as I could. I started looking for original m/m stories, too. I was completely fascinated, but I thought of queer lit as a ghettoized thing. So, about a year later, I read Michael Chabon’s Mysteries of Pittsburgh, only because I’m a big fan of Chabon and not because I was seeking out queer content. So, the protagonist’s bisexuality and sexual fluidity caught me completely off guard. It was eye-opening, to realize there were LGBT characters in “real” literature—the stuff that wins prizes and ends up in bookstores.
A: Do you think you have authors whose writing influences yours, in any way? If yes, who are they and why?
CJJ : Emily Brontë, Jack London, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Virgina Woolf, Michael Chabon, Robert Heinlein, Christopher Priest, Ursula K. Le Guin, Carl Sagan, Sylvia Plath, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jorge Luis Borges, China Miéville, Christopher Isherwood, and a lot more—not to mention a number of really excellent authors of fanfiction and original fiction online. I’m a very active reader, and when I read a good book, I don’t forget it. Good books should stay with you; they should change you somehow. And all the authors I’ve listed? Their books stuck with me, changed me, and I’d be foolish to think that sort of connection hasn’t had an influence on my writing.
A: All your stories are free – do you want to be published? Or do you think you will take a self-publishing route in the future?
CJJ : I have a… complicated relationship with publishing. I’ve had a few short stories published in literary magazines and anthologies, which is a great feeling. There’s a sense of validation in traditional publishing that you just don’t get when you post stories online. And, there’s a certain romance to the idea of being a career author, seeing your books in bookstores and actually making a living doing what you love. At the same time, I believe in free fiction. I tend to read free online fic more often than traditionally published books these days, and I can’t imagine a time in the future when I wouldn’t have at least some of my writing available free of charge. But… I would like to see my novels published. I’d like to see them in bookstores and make money off of them. I just don’t know if that’s in the cards for me. I doubt I’ll take the self-publishing route, though. I actually interned for an erotic fiction publishing house a couple summers ago, and I saw how much work goes into publishing a quality book. It’s so much labor, and I could never do all of that alone.
A: That is interesting that you said you believe in free fiction. What do you think is the strength of free fiction – compared to ‘traditionally’ published ones?
CJJ : Traditional publishing is about not only polishing but also gate-keeping. In addition to policing literary quality, publishers police content, whether intentionally or not. They want stories that conform to their ideal, and in my experience, that ideal is very specific in how it represents human emotion and relationships. Free fiction overturns all of that. It’s people writing what they want to read. It’s so much more real, visceral, and I think that’s really beautiful.
A: Do you, in any way, follow the rise of male/male romance stories – especially those written by women? I mean, I see in your website bio that you’re an anthropology major and gender studies minor. I wonder what you think of this?
CJJ : I’m definitely fascinated by the trend, but I really have no explanation for it. I think the interest in original slash fic comes out of the popularity of slash fanfiction. And, of course, fanfiction draws from media, where male characters are over-represented relative to female characters. There’s also a tendency in traditional media to give more development to m/m friendships (i.e., bromances) than m/f romances, and as a result of that disparity, it’s really easy to read bromances as romances. Of course, there’s really no single cause. For a lot of women, it might just be about finding the idea of two men together attractive. I don’t know. What I have noticed, however, is that queer women tend to be invested in m/m as well as f/f, while straight women and queer men have little to no interest in f/f. And straight men… don’t seem to be drawn to online fiction at all, really, or at least not on any of the sites that I frequent. It’s just a really interesting demographic phenomenon, and I hope more people will study it.
A: Do you read published male/male romance – aside from slash free fiction or fan fiction?
CJJ : I’ve read the classics. E.M. Forster’s Maurice, Gore Vidal’s The City and the Pillar (which is really not a romance ugh), and a ton of Isherwood. I also spent a few months reading a lot of published m/m erotica. All in all, it was pretty disappointing. I didn’t find anything I couldn’t find in free online fiction (aside from the name value of Forster or Vidal).
A: I know that this question might sound absurd, but which of your stories is your most favorite? And if you can recommend your own story to the readers of slash romance, which would you choose?
CJJ : I really don’t have a favorite. There’s a Steinbeck quote about how a writer must believe their novel is the most important thing in the world—even when they know it isn’t. And I think that’s true. I can’t write a novel unless I’m totally invested in the project. Essentially, each novel is my favorite while I’m writing it because it has to be. As for recommending something, I guess I’d choose Put Out the Light. I know it’s far from perfect—I’m well aware of its rough edges—but all in all, I really am proud of it.
A: Are you working on anything new at the moment? I have to be honest, I want to read “Pickle”, but at the same time I don’t read WIPs. Sooo … will this be continued?
CJJ : Honestly, I started “Pickle” on a whim one night while procrastinating on writing an essay for a queer theory class. The subsequent chapters were also written as procrastination, months later. I haven’t touched the story in about a year, and unfortunately, I don’t have any plans to go back to it. But that doesn’t mean I’m not writing. I’m currently working on a science fiction / noir novel with elements of f/f and m/m. I probably won’t be posting it on FictionPress, though, seeing as it’s oriented toward action rather than romance. In general, I post writing updates on my blog, so if I resume work on “Pickle” or post another story on FP, I’ll say so.
A: And what are you currently reading?
CJJ : Twenty things at once, as usual. John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, Judith Butler’s Excitable Speech, Darko Suvin’s Defined by a Hollow, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s Tomorrow’s Eve, a couple anthro theory textbooks, and a healthy selection of multi-chapter fanfiction.
A: Ah, fanfiction … which fandom?
CJJ : These days, mostly Swan Queen for Once Upon a Time. But sometimes Hannibal, Welcome to Night Vale, Teen Wolf, Pacific Rim, and of course Star Trek.
A: Last, but not least, I notice you also created your own cover and also for others (gosh, I am jealous of your multi-talent!), how challenging is this, compared to writing?
CJJ : It’s definitely challenging. I taught myself Photoshop primarily because I wanted to be able to make covers and manips for my books. It’s strange. I have very strong opinions when it comes to what makes a cover good or bad, but I don’t really have formal design training. Usually, I end up making covers as a means to procrastinate on writing while still engaging with the story.
A: Thank you so much, Cat. Wish you the best of luck on your studies and writing, and I would love to see those novels of yours being finished J
Catherine Julia Jefferson’s stories and poems can be found at FictionPress:
While her blog and the covers she created can be found at her wordpress website: