Issue 039 is full of amazing stories by women-identifying authors. Jerica Taylor is one of them and today we chat with her about her story “The Pet Owner’s Guide to Reptilian Hauntings“.
LSQ: The opening of this story really makes the reader feel how hectic Maggie’s life is. Do you have any advice on writing effective openings?
Jerica: I almost never write beginnings first. I’m definitely a “write the story to know what it’s about” type of writer, so I remember writing Maggie finding Howard first. A good beginning can hook you into the character and their situation right away, and so I considered what would make everything worse for her. I’ve been where she is – you’re struggling to keep a handle on the basics, and something happens that you normally would respond to with grace and empathy, but it’s just too much, it’s just one more hassle you have to deal with.
LSQ: So I have to ask: where did the ghost gecko idea come from?
Jerica: Agatha actually came first, the odd collector of lost spirits. I had recently lost one of my senior cats, and I was idly thinking about whether or not pets could be ghosts the way we see ghosts in speculative fiction. It would have been too hard for me to write about a ghost cat, that close to losing my kitty, and I also expect a ghost cat would be easier to have an emotional, empathetic response to, even if you weren’t a cat person. But a gecko was just a little less emotive. Not that people can’t love and mourn any animal in their care. It’s not exactly grief Maggie feels over the loss of her son’s pet. It’s an annoyance, and so when Howard’s ghost appears, she’s not comforted by his visitation, she’s flummoxed.
LSQ: Are there any writers who have influenced your work?
Jerica: I read Douglas Adams at an impressionable age and have a great fondness for the wacky trying to disguise itself as normal. Contemporary romance taught me the importance of side characters and their intersections with the main characters in making a story’s world feel real. I’m incredibly inspired by Kelly Sue DeConnick, and her Bitches Get Shit Done text reminders have gotten me out of a rut more than once.
LSQ: Are you working on anything else at the moment? If so, can you tell us a bit about your other projects?
Jerica: Right now, I’m working on a draft of a story that’s like Pacific Rim x Ocean’s 8. An accident with alien technology tangles two cryptographers up in mind-sharing, and they collect a team of other awesome ladies to help them steal a spaceship to escape their corrupt research organization. I’ve never written a heist, but it’s a lot of fun to imagine the mischief this team gets up to. I’m also writing a short story about a psychopomp who plays in the band whose songs carry spirits to the next world.
I’m almost finished a queer romance novel about a trash fire exorcist who crashes into the stable, controlled life of a single dad witch. Incidentally, it’s sort of set in the same universe as this story. There’s a community whose purpose is to mend various magical problems, large and small, and it’s where I imagine Agatha would live and use as her base of spirit-collecting operations.