Smoke & Mirrors: An Interview with Jake TS Wryte

by Eva Wong Nava Read the Story June 17, 2019

You’re based in Africa. Tell us about life in the part of Africa—the “Darklands of Africa,” as you’ve called it—where you live. 

I’m back and forth between two areas and both fit my description of the Darklands. The first is city life, where, unfortunately, my writing is frequently interrupted by scheduled power cuts that can last anything from three to eight hours a day, sometimes daily, sometimes weekly. I’ve had entire weekends without power and with winter coming it’s bound to get worse. This is also one of the reasons I chose “Writing in Darkness” as my blog title (although I’ve made a habit of forgetting about my blog). The other area is a farming community. One of the farms, until recently, didn’t have any electricity. The owner had to pay to have special provisions made, and even now the house is still without power. Aside from that, I used to start working at five a.m. up until at least seven or eight p.m., although it often stretched on to eleven p.m., which meant I only got home after midnight and literally had to write in the dark.  

Are you part of a writing community? If you are, tell us why being part of a writing community is important to you. 

Yes, I am. By nature, I’m a very mysterious person (I’ve heard it so many times from people, I now believe it) and this transfers to my stories. The result is that my stories often end up being confusing because I’ve left out so many details that the reader has no way of figuring out what the story is about. My writing community is quick to point this out and I’m getting better at putting the crucial plot points and character development onto the page and writing stories that make more sense from the get-go. When I started out as a writer, I always got advice like “writing is a solitary act” and “you’ve got to do it all on your own”. Now I know better. Not only has my writing improved drastically, but I’ve also made new friends who share my interests, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Writers are always interested in how other writers hone their craft and what their processes are. Tell us where your stories come from and what types of stories inspire you.

I’m an empath, or as friends have jokingly suggested, I’ve got a wicked sixth sense. Being an empath (deeply experiencing the emotions of others, especially those who are nearby) coupled with my own past and experiences in general are what generate my stories. But the interesting thing is that those aren’t the catalysts. Those emotions and memories get filed in the sub-conscious or dream-space, which is why I rely, perhaps too much, on triggers. It could be anything: a picture, a character that comes to mind, a snippet of dialogue, but more often than not,it is a single line at random in a story I’m reading that sets off the spark. I usually have to drop whatever I’m doing and write instantly, otherwise I might lose the idea completely, although I have gotten better at retaining these ideas and mulling them over as I’ve grown as a writer. Another strange tendency I have is that I’ll often read outside of my genre. If I’m writing horror, I’ll read romance; if I’m writing fantasy I’ll read a thriller—that type of thing. Rarely do I read the genre I’m writing in at that moment.

I tend to be drawn to stories that have emotional resonance (no surprises there). I find speculative fiction is my favorite. I’ve recently made the switch from being a horror writer to speculative fiction and I love every moment of it.

When I read “The Space of a Decade,” I’d thought the writer was a woman. Tell us what inspired this piece and why write it in a female voice? Could this story be as impactful if it were narrated in a male voice?

Thank you. I’m very happy that the female voice was accurate and believable. I’m not sure what inspired “The Space of a Decade,” all I know is it was triggered by something I read in another story—which I also can’t remember since I had to drop everything immediately and start writing. For some reason, a strange relationship between two characters comes to mind.

I’m guessing that must’ve set me off. As for the voice, I didn’t purposely choose to write it from the female perspective. The story itself just demanded it and she was the character that “spoke” to me. If I’d written this from the male perspective, I think I would’ve lost all the emotion and impact in this piece since I would’ve focused too much on world building—I mean, where does he come from? But I couldn’t have written it from his perspective because up until the second final draft he didn’t so much as make a peep. It was only while editing that he revealed some lines of dialogue that shaped the entire backstory, which further strengthened the female voice and meant another rewrite.

What are you reading now and what are you working on next?

I’m currently reading two old thrillers (The Quiet Game and 24 Hours) and a dark urban fantasy (Finding Perdita).

Writingwise, I’m busy with three flash stories. One is a fantasy set in modern times, one a speculative piece I’m really enjoying since my MC is a strange one, and the latest one is definitely speculative, but I’m not sure if it’s leaning toward horror or mystery or something else entirely. I’m bound to find out.

About the Author:

Jake TS Wryte is a full-time writer from the Darklands of Africa where the creatures of his imagination have a bounty on his head. You can find his fiction in Hell's Bells — 15 Tales of Wicked Tunes, Mad Musicians, and Cursed Instruments, Hell's Heart — 15 Twisted Tales of Love Run Amok, Flash Fiction Magazine, and 101 Words. When not reading or writing, Jake can be found hiking remote areas and wishing he hadn't gone there in the first place, or avoiding assault by his rescue macaw. You can reach him on Twitter @jaketswryte and Facebook as Jake TS Wryte.

About the Interviewer:

Eva Wong Nava lives between two worlds. She writes fiction for children and adults, and hopes to find catharsis, poetry and meaning in the written word. Her stories have appeared in various places and she has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize by the editors of Ariel Chart. Eva is the founding editor of CarpeArte Journal where good stories and art are housed. She can be found on Twitter here.

About the Artist:

Paul Bilger's photography has appeared at Qarrtsiluni, Brevity, and Kompresja. His work has also been featured on music releases by Dead Voices on Air and Autistici. When not taking pictures, he is a lecturer in philosophy and film theory at Chatham University. He is the art director at SmokeLong Quarterly.