Name Katie J Taylor
Where are you from Canberra, Australia
A little about your self `ie your education family life etc
I was born in Canberra, and have one sibling – a younger sister. I went to Miles Franklin Primary, then Radford College (where I currently work), and have two degrees from the University of Canberra, where I was also named Young Distinguished Alumni of 2011. Right now I live in a yurt with three rats and two canaries.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news
I have just recently signed a contract with HarperCollins for five books: the four book Drachengott series, and the standalone satire Ambit and Snarl (working title only). I also have a book coming out next year with Satelye Publishing entitled Tales of Cymria, which is a companion novel to my two trilogies currently published with Voyager – The Fallen Moon and The Risen Sun.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I was a lonely, unhappy child who couldn’t really relate to anyone properly, so I retreated into fantasies – my own, and the ones I found in books. I started writing those fantasies down when I was still in primary school, and attempted my first novels at thirteen. I eventually wrote my first published work at about seventeen, and after a year of obsessive hard work I managed to sell it to Scholastic – signing my first contract at eighteen. I didn’t tell them I was a teenager, because I was afraid they wouldn’t take me seriously.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Some time during highschool when I really started making serious efforts to write novels. In the end, it was all I really cared about – that and collecting movie soundtracks.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I had tried to publish some “serious” works, but had been knocked back. Ultimately I decided I wasn’t ready and needed to work at it some more, which I think was a surprisingly mature decision considering the age I was at. I was feeling grumpy and disillusioned, so I sat down and wrote a parody of the books I loved, just for fun. I never considered publishing it until, typical of these stories, I showed it to some friends and they told me to send it off. Which I did.
Some years later I became angry and disillusioned again – so I sat down and wrote another satirical work, currently titled Ambit and Snarl, and now due for release in 2015. Apparently, anger produces satire. I’ve never written that kind of work when I’ve been in any other state of mind. At least I channelled my bad mood into something productive.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I think that I tend to write in a fairly matter-of-fact style (I could be wrong about this – no-one is really qualified to judge their own prose), straightforward and easy to read. I don’t believe in prettying up my writing with fancy words and elaborate imagery. Up to a certain point, prose is there to get the story across to the reader – not to look pretty. It’s a fairly pragmatic sort of approach, which is quite in character for me. That said, I still have a romantic streak which probably also comes through, and a weakness for melodrama.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I suck at titles – so far most of mine have been chosen by the publisher after the one I came up with didn’t make the grade. For instance my first published work, The Land of Bad Fantasy, was originally called “Spouff”, which was also the original name of the universe it took place in. I had to change it because a) Nobody knew what it meant, and b) It was derived from the word “spoof”, which means “parody”, and also something obscene, which I’d never heard of at the time. I was only a kid after all.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
A recurring theme of mine seems to be the search for truth, and freedom – of the body, mind and spirit. My characters are often caught up in some kind of struggle over who or what to believe, which I think probably reflects my own struggles. I was introduced to religion as a child, and again as a teenager, and ultimately decided it was not only nonsense, but harmful nonsense. Like most self-righteous teenagers I felt pretty pleased with myself for seeing though the dogma presented to me, but at the same time it was very painful accepting that there really was no god and probably no afterlife either. I’ve now come to terms with that, but I keep exploring it in my writing, and by now I’ve matured enough not to paint religious people as stupid or deluded. Gods know we all cling to stupid beliefs, and they aren’t necessarily religious ones. And that includes me. In my books there rarely is a single “truth”, and nobody really is right in the end. It’s all open to interpretation – just like real life. But I’m not by any means above writing about terrible things being done in the name of absolute truth – because that keeps happening in real life.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
I aim for at least a reasonable level of realism in everything I write, but I’m prepared to bend the rules from time to time, generally for dramatic convenience. I do research what I need to, though. Ironically, while writing The Dark Griffin I looked up how long broken ribs take to heal, and put that in the book, only for the editor to tell me said ribs healed too quickly! I didn’t bother to argue. But as far as realism is concerned, the part that concerns me the most isn’t physical realism, but emotional realism. So when my characters go through traumatic experiences, I give them PTSD. When someone lies to someone else, they get upset and don’t want to trust them any more. Characters say and do irriational things when they’re angry. And so on. Readers can accept magic and the supernatural. But characters who don’t act like real people can kill a book.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
They always are, whether intentionally or not. “Write what you know” goes deeper than most people realise. I’ve occasionally given cameos to real people I know, but most of the time it’s not until after the fact that I realise a character shares a resemblance to someone I know – or to myself.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I think William Horwood is probably my biggest influence in many areas, which makes me sad that he’s so little known. I read his Duncton Wood series over and over again as a child, and I still come back to them today. Looking back, I’ve realised that a lot of the things I do in writing remind me of him.
I also have a mentor, in the form of Jackie French. I read her books as a child, and when I was just starting out as a writer we met in person. She bought me lunch and gave me some good, sensible advice which I still remember to this day. It really inspired me.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
A biography of Roald Dahl. It’s fascinating – Dahl’s actual life was at least as interesting as any of his books.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I’m particularly impressed by Michael Grant, who is only semi-new since he co-wrote the Animorphs series I adored as a child. But his new solo YA work is excellent. In fact, when I sent my own new YA series to my agent, I told her to send it to his publisher first.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Right now I’m finishing off the last installment of the Drachengott series – I have to hand in the manuscript by the end of the month, so there’s a bit of pressure there. Meanwhile I’ve been writing more installments in my YA series (it’s currently ten books long). I really hope that project gets off the ground; it’s so easy and fun to write that it could turn into a franchise with a bit of luck and a decent marketning campaign.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Feedback from readers is really important to me. I generally write alone and don’t get much of a feel for how people are reacting to what I produce (I don’t read reviews). But when someone takes the time to actually contact me and tell me what they thought, that really makes me happy. Recently I’ve been talking to a long-time reader who frankly told me how much she adores one of my characters and asked me a whole string of very specific questions – things like “what happened to that character?” and “what did that bit mean?”. I really enjoyed talking to her, because for one thing it reminded me that I’m not the only one who cares about my books. Plus it was nice to be asked something other than “where do you get your ideas?” or “how do you get published?” for once!
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
It’s more of a calling – it’s certainly no way to make a living, unless you’re very, very lucky. I’m certainly not making a living from it; I have a real job as well.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Hmm… I don’t think so. I can’t think of anything. I write things so much faster than anyone can publish them that I have plenty of time to go back and change anything I want to.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Like pretty much every author ever, I read endlessly (and watched movies), until it got to the point where I started to feel a frustration that I wasn’t in charge of the stories I was reading and watching. I started wishing different things had happened. This was why my first works were essentially fanfiction, even though the Internet hadn’t been invented yet and I didn’t know what fanfiction was. Everyone’s first works are fanfiction, whether they know it or not (shut up, G.R.R.Martin – it’s true). As the famous quote goes, if there is a book you desperately want to read but it doesn’t exist, then you must write it.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
You mean an extract? Okay!
‘What-?’ Rutger started to say – too late. The light had brightened, and what he had thought were two of the hanging corpses stepped forward. They wore rough leather tunics with hoods which covered their heads, but the thing which made them stand out the most was on their chests. A pair of red gemstones, each one of them set into an amulet. They glowed faintly in the light which made a halo over each of the two men, like a pair of glaring eyes.
‘Jüngen!’ Rutger heard himself say.
One of the pair pointed accusingly at them. ‘How dare you enter this sacred grove?’
Horst started to back away, axe raised. He was too late.
The two Jüngen joined hands. The light around them intensified as their linked hands rose, and an instant later a great flash blinded Rutger. He cried out as he fell back, but his voice was drowned out by the great screeching roar from above.
A pitch black dragon had appeared, hovering over the Jüngen’s heads, its eyes glowing blood-red. Light crackled over the creature’s wings, and it roared again.
The Jüngen let go of each other, and the second of the two spoke to the dragon. His words were a short, cold command.
The dragon snarled, and launched itself across the clearing. One moment it was hovering and the next it was rushing straight at Rutger and Horst, fangs and talons gleaming.
~From the first book of the Drachengott series, Wind, due out in April 2015
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I hate writing travel sequences. They’re boring. I also don’t really like writing descriptions of landscapes. Ironically I’m identified as an Epic Fantasy author, and travelling sequences and detailed descriptions of landscapes are both things people like me are apparently supposed to be into. But I treat landscape descriptions as a painful duty, and skip over travel as much as possible. A critic once praised me for my ability to keep a story moving, but I don’t think it’s a special ability at all – if I’m writing and start to get bored, I take that as a sign that it’s time to skip on to the next interesting bit. If I’m bored, I assume my readers would be too. If nothing else it probably comes through in the prose.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
That’s a tough one. I have a few favourites – Clive Barker, China Mieville, Brian Masters and William Horwood, to name a few. I think the common demoninator with most of them is the dry, British restraint present in their writing (all four are from the UK). They are all quite unsentimental, which is something I seem to relate to quite well. I’m Australian, but I often think I have a rather British attitude to life. Come to that, people keep telling me I have a British accent! Not that I mind – I like British accents.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I travel to conventions every year, but I can’t afford to go on “research trips”, much as I’d like to. I do enjoy travelling, but I don’t really have the budget for it.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I don’t know – I haven’t seen ’em yet! But my Fallen Moon trilogy featured covers drawn by my good friend Allison L Jones, who was recommended to the publisher by yours truly. She also drew the maps for the Risen Sun trilogy.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The actual writing is easy. Other writers hate me because I don’t need to write more than one draft, don’t get writer’s block (I don’t even believe it’s a thing), and can write a 50,000 word novel in four days. The stress of trying to publish something is what always gets to me – I don’t handle stress that well. Editing is just tedious busywork.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Nothing springs to mind.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Keep writing, don’t get hung up on a single project (your first big project usually turns out to be junk – mine did), and accept that about 80% of successful books are worthless trash. That last one isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. Unfortunately.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I think everything I have to say to them should come out through the books. I myself am not that interesting or any more enlightened than the next person. But if I must, here it is: Don’t be defined by what you can’t do.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Er, I remember reading the Spot the Dog books when I was little. And my dad read the Mog series to me and my sister (with his own hilarious additions). Later on I moved on to things like the works of Roald Dahl, and The Wind in the Willows. I also adored the Redwall series by Brian Jaques, and the Deptford Mice series by Robin Jarvis (it’s surprisingly dark and violent for a children’s series).
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Lots of things! I like dry humour better than slapstick (though I still get a laugh out of things like South Park). As for crying, I do that over the usual things – sad movies, one of my pet rats dying, etc. Though I did once write a scene in a novel which actually made my cry while writing it – not a common thing for me. I’m usually pretty unsentimental that way.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I always wanted to meet Douglas Adams, but he died while I was in highschool. Around that same time I got the chance to meet Terry Pratchett, but didn’t take it because I was too nervous. I doubt the chance will ever come again, and I really regret that. Them aside, I would really like to meet Clive Barker (I’m sure I will), and William Horwood (very unlikely).
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
“I loved the world” – because it’s true.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I collect soundtracks, design and sew toys, and enjoy cycling and long walks.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
My favourite movie of all time is Monster’s Ball, though I’m not sure why since it’s the kind of movie I usually find tedious. I like science fiction and comic book movies. And of course I love the Game of Thrones TV series. I recently discovered the Hannibal TV series as well, which is great (though increasingly outlandish). I also love Vikings (I got to meet one of the actors in Melbourne!)
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Cheese, blue, and all kinds of things – I listen to film and game soundtracks, pop music, heavy metal, and a bunch of other things. But my favourite band is the Finnish epic metal act called Nightwish (I once saw them live in concert!)
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I also have a day job as an archivist, which is another career I’m quite well suited to. When I was a kid I wanted to be a paleontologist, but I sincerely doubt I would ever have had the patience for that. Before then I wanted to be a dinosaur.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
http://kjtaylor.com/ is my official website, and I have a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TailorWhoStitchedTheWorld and Twitter account https://twitter.com/WorldStitcher