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Meet C.A. Yates

Every Friday, we meet a member of the BFS and peer deep into their soul (or, at least, a form they filled out). Want to be featured? Email us: online@britishfantasysociety.org

Name, including preferred pronouns
Chloë Yates (I write as C.A. Yates – very mysterious) and my pronouns are she/they.  

Which region are you based in?
I live in the middle of Switzerland, but I’m from South East England.

Genre you write 
Fantasy and horror

Are you drawn to any specific SFFH sub-genres?

I’m not sure. I’d like to try anything and everything. Gothic and folk horror certainly feature, and I like some humour in there too (I think my stories are pretty jolly, but I’ve been told otherwise). Weird and wonderful is always my aim. 

Your influences

Tell us about the book/film/thing that got you into SFFH: What was it? How old were you? What impact did it have on you?

My parents are massive genre fans. Between them they cover most bases, so I got the bug from them. The first proper book I ever read was Jane Eyre, which is a pretty scary novel when you think about it. I was about five and a half, and a very precocious reader. You know, I think my Mum’s love of Anne McCaffrey might well have swayed me at a tender age. Mimi is a cool customer and seeing her that enthused over a writer made a big impression. I think I remember liking the love story elements of McCaffrey’s dragon books – I haven’t read them for years so I’ve no idea if they hold up, but I’ve always been a sucker for even a whiff of romance. Counter to that was my grandmother, Bobby, who lived with us, and let me tell you, that sweet little old lady? She was an acerbic and bloodthirsty character. I remember coming home late one night and she was cackling over the movie Nightbreed, and it was not a nice bit… ! My first real appreciation though, an obsession that was all my own, came via Gerald Durrell’s The Talking Parcel when I was about six years old. I took it out from the library so many times that I felt obliged to repair some of the wear and tear on it. 

How does that early influence show up in your work now?

Probably that I don’t feel confined to genre boundaries. Interstitial, blended, whatever you want to call it, I write the story I write.

Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?

Honestly? It comes from everywhere and anywhere. Stuff just swirls around and melds into whatever shape it feels like up there in the old brain pan. Art is a huge influence, as is music and poetry. The Cure is always in a story somewhere whether it’s a title, a turn of phrase, or an image – often only recognisable to me. Surrealism, with a dash of Dada, is very much my taste too. Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, Leonor Fini, Lee Miller, Hannah Höch, Hilma af Klint, Yves Tanguy, Giorigo de Chirico, Max Ernst, Dorothea Tanning, they all excite my brain. Arthur Rackham, Aubrey Beardsley, Kay Nielsen, Gustave Moreau, and Gustave Doré all have a place in there too, possibly because my Dad is an illustrator. Then there’s William Blake and the other Romantics, the Pre-Raphs, Emily Dickinson, Charles Baudelaire, Jane Austen, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Agatha Christie too. All of that? Just the tip of the iceberg! I read all sorts of things, try to see and experience all kinds of art, and I watch the mountains and remember the sea. That’s the sort of stuff I carry in my heart, which is where the work comes from, if that doesn’t sound to fancy pantsy.

I take a lot of inspiration from friends who are writers. K.A. Laity, Penny Jones, Sophie Essex, Priya Sharma, Alasdair Stuart, Tracy Fahey, Cate Gardner, Julie Travis, Laura Mauro, Sarah Pinborough, James Bennett, Jen Williams, Andrew Hook (go out and buy his collection Candescent Blooms this very moment. It’s one of the finest books I’ve ever read), the list goes on and on. I’m very fortunate to have met so many other writers (part of the benefit of redcloaking at Fantasycon since 2014) and they spur me on, whether they know it or, most often, not. 

Now this might sound strange, but I really like to set a scene around me when I work. Hence the Lava Lamps etc. During the pandemic, I discovered The Spooktique. It’s a small business, creating horror themed fragrances, and I got hooked on the Wax Melts. The Monster Mash is to die for… (It’s run by Jess Jordan and Ray Cluley who are both involved in the genre scene.) 

Who do you look to as a genre hero? Why?

Okay, stay with me… Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote. She may not be “real”, but she’s a character who holds a great deal of meaning for me. An older woman, on her own, no kids but who had a very happy marriage before she lost her husband. As a childless woman in a long-term marriage myself, I have to say it’s uncommon to see someone like her presented so positively.

She’s finding meaning and getting on with life as best she can after an unexpected and heartbreaking change of course. Life throws you curveballs and suddenly you look around and you’re nowhere near where you expected to be. It’s tough, but the trick is to absorb the impact, assess the damage, and then do your best to heal around the wound. Probably more of an extensive renovation than a trick! JB Fletcher uses the “silly writer lady” expectations of others to her advantage, and she knows how to stand up for herself and her work – which is often looked down on by people she encounters, and she gives precisely zero shits about what any of them think. JBF is a Modern Marple on a Half Shell. She is kickass, withering, funny, and an absolute whirlwind of anarchy. There’s been a murder? You’d best get out the way, son, she’s coming through. We could all be a little more Jessica Fletcher.

Also, a quick shout out to Solve-Along-A-Murder-She-Wrote. Absolute heaven for Fangelas and a bloody good night out.

Your work

You’re stuck in an elevator for 60 seconds with that hero, and they want you to describe your work. Give us the pitch.

If I were in an elevator with her I’d be counting down the minutes until they’re drawing an outline of my body on the floor! But for our purposes – I write odd stories, stories no one else can tell. From gentleman foxes and aggravating angels, to operatic fish and frustrated ghosts. And there isn’t nearly as much cannibalism as some people seem to think.  

What are you working on right now?

I’m writing some (hopefully) linked short stories and tinkering with a longer piece too. I have no idea what anything actually is quite yet, but it’s all starting to spurt out so get your anoraks on.

Thinking about all of your stories/work you’ve done, which one sticks out most in your mind? Why?

The story I wrote for the Dreamland anthology from Black Shuck Books, “Fill the Thickened Lung with Breath”. Sophie Essex was editing and the sub call gave suggestions that were so up my street that I was desperate to get something in. So to not only get into the anthology, but to be alongside incredible writers, and then to have my story nominated for a BFA? My mind is still BLOWN. Another story I wrote for Sophie came out recently, “Turn Again, O My Sweetness”, in At The Lighthouse from Eibonvale Press. I love that story. It’s deeply personal and fittingly odd. I feel like I do some of my best work with Sophie in mind. 

Where and when do you create/are you at your most creative?

At my desk (pictured left). I have a pretty full desk, lots of bits and bobs on it, candles, crystals, stickers, the odd effigy, a taxidermy beetle, pictures all over the walls, plants, a small bust of Beethoven, lava lamps. It’s bloody heaving and I love it. I have OCD, so focussing can be a problem for me. At my desk, in the slightly bananas world I’ve created, I am at home and safe. It’s there I can do my freest (is that a word?) work. 

What’s the best advice you’ve received about creativity?

Stick your bum in a seat and get on with it. If you wait for the right conditions or the muse to strike, you’re going to be waiting a long time. Get your first draft done – and it doesn’t really matter if its crap. Most writers will tell you the magic happens in editing. 

What’s your writing soundtrack?

Something that fits the mood of the piece or just what I feel like listening to in the moment – and I listen to pretty much anything. When I really need to get down to it and concentrate though, I quite often listen to Drum and Bass. Moleman is my go to, although I’m trying to branch out, but have no knowledge about the genre so suggestions would be most welcome. Something with a good strong beat. It works to block the world out pretty well for me.  

The quickfire round

Sci-fi, fantasy or horror?

Fantasy

Quiet or loud?

Quiet

Dark or light?

Dark

Strict lines or genre blend?

BLEND IT UP, BABY!

Awards or bestseller?

If Guillermo Del Toro read something of mine and liked it, awards and bestsellers wouldn’t even feature. Actually, now I think of it, I wrote a short piece about Crimson Peak and he shared it on social media! How could I forget that? If you fancy a read, it’s not bad (and it’s reasonably short).

Fiction or non-fiction?

What is wrong with you? Why would you want to hurt people like this? Non-fiction… I think. 

Poetry or prose?

I write more prose so I’d say the former, but I do love both reading and writing poetry. I’m making this quick fire business into a smouldering ember of a thing instead. Sorry. 

Awards or bestseller?

If Guillermo Del Toro read something of mine and liked it, awards and bestsellers wouldn’t even feature. Actually, now I think of it, I wrote a short piece about Crimson Peak and he shared it on social media! How could I forget that? If you fancy a read, it’s not bad (and it’s reasonably short).

Fiction or non-fiction?

What is wrong with you? Why would you want to hurt people like this? Non-fiction… I think. 

Poetry or prose?

I write more prose so I’d say the former, but I do love both reading and writing poetry. I’m making this quick fire business into a smouldering ember of a thing instead. Sorry. 

Plotter or pantser?

Plonster. I try to bash out a crappy first draft and then the real work begins from there. I find it easier to work on something that already exists, even if its basically excrement, rather than agonise over every fresh sentence right off the bat.

Reading or listening?

Reading

Notebook or computer?

I have way more notebooks so, if we’re going on quantity, definitely those. 

Favourite SFFH book of all time?

I usually say Frankenstein, because it’s such a wonderful timeless book, but Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir blew the top of my bloody head off. As did This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. I am obviously experiencing a period of change. It’s probably the perimenopause. Everything else is.

Last book you read?

Glitterati by Oliver K Langmead. Gloriously crackers with a lot to say.

Any SFFH author on auto-buy?

I want to say yes, but can’t think of who. Let’s blame perimenopause again. 

Favourite podcast?

I don’t really listen to them because my mind wanders, but Kathy Burke’s Where There’s A Will There’s A Wake is brilliant. I just did a recording with The Tiny Bookcase that should be out later on this month. It was my first podcast! I’ve done narration before but never been interviewed in person like that. Ben and Nico were lovely and you should definitely look them up. I think Ben is a BFS member too. 

The home stretch

What’s the best thing about being a SFFH writer?

It’s fun! You see life in all its colours and possibilities, even if that means ash and bone. Anything and everything is an experience waiting to be exploited in your narratives. It’s freeing and adventurous – and it has saved my life. I’m agoraphobic, and without writing over the past decade, I might well not be here now. It has given me a place to go and a community when I really needed it.

Time to plug your stuff! Where can we find you and your work? What have you got coming up? Consider this your advertising space.

My website is www.chloeyates.com and it badly needs an update. My head of webonautics is slowly working on it. I’m mainly on Instagram these days, sometimes on Not Twitter, both as @shloobee. 

My debut collection, nominated for two British Fantasy Awards in 2022, We All Have Teeth is available from Fox Spirit Books direct, (or via the big river place). There you’ll also find a lot of anthologies I’ve been in and work by other members of the Skulk you really should check out. 

My most recent publications have been:

  • The aforementioned “Turn Again, O My Sweetness” in At The Lighthouse , edited by Sophie Essex for Eibonvale Press 
  • “The Ripe Fruit in the Garden” edited by Steve Shaw in Great British Horror Vol 8: Something Peculiar from Black Shuck Books
  • “Into The Darkness They Go, The Wise and the Lovely”, edited by Shona Kinsella in Portraits of Patriarchs, produced by the BFS. The stories are all inspired by the inaugural BFS Writing Retreat at Gladstone’s Library in March this year. I was one of the lucky names drawn out of the hat and it was one of the best things I have ever done. Go there. I dare you not to fall in love with the place. 
  • I also feature on an upcoming episode of The Tiny Bookcase podcast, where I both read a story on the theme “Susurration” and chat about goodness knows what! It was a great time, and the hosts are smashing. 

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