This Author Spotlight
Queen of the Deep
Kay Kenyon's latest novels are the fantasies Queen of the Deep, about an enchanted ship, both a colossal steam vessel and a Renaissance kingdom; and A Thousand Perfect Things, about a Victorian woman's bid for forbidden powers in an altered India of magic. Her quartet, The Entire and The Rose, was hailed by The Washington Post as “A splendid fantasy quest as compelling as anything by Stephen R. Donaldson, Philip Jose Farmer or yes, J. R. R. Tolkien." Bright of the Sky was among Publishers Weekly's top 150 books of 2007. Her books have been nominated for the Philip K. Dick award and the John W. Campbell award. She is a founding member of the Write on the River conference in Wenatchee, Washington.
1.How did you get into writing and why do you write?
I began writing fiction after careers in copy writing and urban planning. One seemed too superficial and one, maybe too serious. Sometimes I believe that novels have to be superficial or no one will read them, and sometimes I think that stories are crucial to sanity, empathy, and civilization as we know it. I'm enormously grateful to be in the writing life.
2.What do you like best (or least) about writing?
My favorite moment in fiction writing is to discover, upon waking up in the morning, that my brain has been secretly working on a plot issue or snippet of dialogue, and the solution is perfect.
3.What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc?
My process is that I work hard on initial concept, striving for originality and emotional go-power. Then I develop and try out big turning point scenes to see if there's enough there. Meanwhile, character profiles, including backstories, spending excruciating amounts of time finding names. Following this I briefly detail out 60 or so scenes, sort of telling myself the story. After all of this, I begin to write, and while the plot and characters (inevitably) evolve, I always know the spine of my story. When under contract, I write six days a week, 5 page daily minimum.
4.Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”
Ian McDonald, Joseph Kanon, David Mitchell, Naomi Novik, Haruki Murakami.
5.Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?
Outside. No, wait...
6.What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?
I try to care, I really do. But I change opinions depending on which outraged blog post on this topic that I've just read. It rather annoys me that a document is supposed to be consistent about Oxford. For example, if my sister is not my best friend, (alas, true) then the comma is helpful here: "I dedicate this story to my husband, my sister, and my best friend." But "Our flag is red, white and blue" is more elegant without a second comma. It must also be said that overall, comma use is exasperatingly difficult, like peeling avocados.
RYAN: This may be the best answer I've ever received to this question. Bravo, Kay!
7.How did your book Queen of the Deep come about and how did it come to fruition?
There is an ocean, somewhere, but not earthly. A gigantic ship roams endlessly upon it. The ship embodies a small medieval kingdom. My modern protagonist is stuck on it. She is the only one that can see "overboard." Difficulties ensue, including being thought mad, running afoul of the ship's ruling deity, and falling in love with the wrong man. (Notice use of Oxford comma, in this case!)
This was my vision. Indeed strange, but I thought of it as a romp and also a meditation on love, loss, and what to wear during the Italian Renaissance. It came to fruition after I was able to wrestle the plot to the ground, always the hardest part of fiction, for me.
8.What’s your current writing project?
A paranormal espionage series set in the 1930s.
9.What book(s) are you currently reading?
● Walter Jon Williams early novel, Knight Moves
● The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
● Hitler's Spy Chief: the Wilhelm Canaris Mystery
10.Who or what inspires your writing?
Novelists and screenwriters who nail plot and character equally well, such as: Ian McDonald, CJ Cherryh, Alistair Reynolds, Kim Newman, and writers for such shows as Public Morals, The Americans, and Wolf Hall.
Finally, is there anything you’d care to add?
You can check out my books on my website. Some of my books are available at brick and mortars, and all can be found at online retailers. Signed copies at A Book for All Seasons.
Thank you, Kay, for sharing your work and your insights into craft with us. Quite an impressive resume. Please come come back and share the first installment in your paranormal espionage series when it is ready.
Click HERE to read about Kay's Philip K. Dick Award-nominated book Maximum Ice, which I featured previously as part of the Philip K. Dick Award Storybundle.
Stay tuned for our next Author Spotlight, featuring another very special author.