K. A. is the award-winning author of Pelzmantel (Immanion Press 2010) as well as Unikirja (Aino Press 2009), a collection of short stories and a play based on the Kalevala, Kanteletar, and other Finnish myths and legend, for which she won the 2005 Eureka Short Story Fellowship as well as a 2006 Finlandia Foundation grant. With cartoonist Elena Steier she created the comic Jane Quiet. Her bibliography is chock full of short stories, humor pieces, plays and essays, both scholarly and popular and she also writes as Kit Marlowe and C. Margery Kempe. Currently, she is also working on her serial novel, Airships & Alchemy on Textnovel.com.
Textnovel: We are very honored to have Kate join us for a brief interview today. To start off, where do you get your inspirations and what makes you passionate about writing?
Kate: I get my information from everywhere; the world is my bison, by which I mean I make use of every bit of my life like the Lakota made use of every bit of the buffalo. Strange things collide and make stories. The wonderful writer Russell Hoban calls it, “being friends with your head.” You have to have an open playground up there. What makes me passionate is what animates every artist: there are things in my head that only I can see and I want to share them.
Textnovel: Where is your favourite place to write?
Kate: My favourite place to write is in a pub on the banks of the Thames. There is no city like London and no river like the Thames. When I can’t be there, any place will do. Give me a few minutes and a scrap of paper and I will be writing. Mostly I sit at my desk and write.
Textnovel: How long have you been writing? What were the major steps that got you where you are today?
Kate: I’ve been writing since I learned how to make words. I wrote for school and I wrote for friends, but early on I got the message that it wasn’t a practical way to live your life. But I never knew what to do, just what I didn’t want to do. I kept writing while I did other things, but what finally got me writing seriously was when I won Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions short story contest. He wrote me the most wonderful letter: it meant more than the prize! And when I met him not long afterward, he ran out from behind the table where he was signing and gave me a big hug and told me how everyone in the office loved my story.
Textnovel: Out of all your novels and works, which is your favourite one and why?
Kate: The next one! Always the next one. I’m very fond of The Mangrove Legacy because it was such a life saver for me, a little spot of humour and madness in a very difficult time of my life. My new novel Owl Stretching (that’s sitting with my publisher now as I agonise) is my favourite at the moment, because it was inspired by Kurt Vonnegut and the realisation that there would be no more KV novels. But I’m already planning the next one and it’s my fave because it’s still an idea...
Textnovel: Who is your favourite author or what is your favourite book?
Kate: Oh, too much, too much — I have favourites in every genre and time period. I can’t compare Beowulf with Pride and Prejudice or Imajica because they’re all doing such different things. I will say one of the most influential books in my life has been Alice in Wonderland and of course also Through the Looking Glass. They have forever warped my mind (in a good way!). I have many many favourite writers, but two who are in the top of my mind at present (because they figure in the next novel) are Angela Carter and Kingsley Amis.
Textnovel: What's a regular day like for you?
Kate: I get up and do some exercise because if I don’t do it before I wake up it doesn’t get done. If I’m going to campus, I might check Twitter while I eat breakfast — it’s where I get most of my news. Between teaching and meetings I check email and Facebook, if my office hours are slow, I’ll use the time to write blog posts. After I walk home I make some tea and relax for a bit, as it’s about the only time I have to read, then it’s pretty much writing the rest of the night. I bounce around between projects and social media, as Facebook and Twitter keep me from living inside my head all the time :-)
Textnovel: What is your favourite English word of all time?
Textnovel: For an aspiring writer, what advice would you give?
Kate: Grow a thick skin! For years I wrote things and hid them in a drawer in my desk. Foolish! So what, one editor doesn’t like something you wrote? There is nothing you can write that everyone will like. You just need to find the people who do like it. And they’re out there, so persist as Octavia Butler wrote, just keep at it — do it for the joy it brings. Everything else is gravy.
Thank you very much for your time! We wish you the best!
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