Well coming back to my Stars of Speculative Fiction interviews, it is my great honour to welcome author, editor and hamster wrestler, KV Taylor, to chat about life, love and her debut novel ‘Scripped’, (yes, ‘Scripped’ not ‘Stripped’).
KV, welcome, welcome, welcome, how the devil are you today?
Great! The hamsters are giving me trouble, but that’s the glamorous life for you, isn’t it? How about you?
I’m good, good, (but noticing a tendency to repeat words). I’m very eager to hear more about hamsters and ‘Scripped’ of course but thought I’d start with the trickiest little question of the bunch…
1. What on earth is Speculative Fiction m’dear?
To me, it’s any genre that explores the possible but highly improbable. It’s about all the things humanity doesn’t understand or can’t control, but desperately wants to, I reckon. The apocalypse, alternate realities, outsider points of view, magic, sex, death, the future. You know, asking “what if?” about the good stuff. Speculating, even.
I know it’s a term often used by supposed literary authors to duck genre labels like fantasy and sci fi. But it’s the one term that covers everything I’m interested in reading, but I don’t have a chip on my shoulder about being a genre lover. The word works, so I use it.
I also know you prefer “dark fiction”, which is great, but doesn’t quite cover my bases. I like elves and superheroes and Star Trek, too.
How can ‘dark fiction’ not cover every base? You sure you are feeling OK, I know it is sunny out and all…although elves in Star Trek might be kind of cool…
I’d buy it!
2. Music, music the music – I pretty much know the answer to this one already but I’m not sure all your adoring fans do. Does music play a role in your writing, either in terms of inspiration or whilst you’re writing or both even?
Adoring fans, wow. Man, even my mom doesn’t think I’m cool. (Well, she does, but we both know she’s cooler.)
Anyhow, short answer: yes.
Longer answer: I’m the only person in my immediate family who is not a professional musician. Music was never optional, and it plays a role in everything I do, but writing in particular doesn’t happen without it. It makes sense to me that some people can’t write with lyrics or even sound around them, but I’m not sure I can write without it in any sustainable way. I’ve got playlists for each book–sometimes each character–that I run through while I’m working. I used to burn them onto CDs for the car, but yay for the iPod.
I usually develop them while writing a first draft, throwing in songs that made missing pieces shift into place or that get the mood right. Then I go back and put it on when I need to edit or think through a problem.
Huge music geek, yes, it’s true.
Sound junkie, there’s nothing wrong with that as far as I’m concerned…
3. So, ‘Scripped’, is available for pre-order (Scripped) and I think it’s about time I asked you a little bit about it. Why is it called ‘Scripped’ and what’s the meat of the book (pun intended)?
I see what you did there, and I like it.
So, it’s about this guy called Jonah who wanders a little too far from the familiar in a West Virginia forest. He ends up glamored into the Appalachian version of Faerie. Some of the rules are what you’d expect if you’re a fan of the old mortal-napping fairy tales. Some not so much. On top of slowly forgetting who he is and where he came from, Jonah ends up, for lack of a pre-existing word, scripped.
Scrip is a kind of substitute money. The coal companies in the US paid (and I use that term loosely) the miners in housing and paper credits only good for redemption at the company store in town. On top of feeding and clothing their families with it, they also had to buy their own equipment, which meant they started out in debt to the company and never got out again. You can imagine how ugly things got when they started unionizing.
So this fae version of the company town is the impression all that blood and sweat left on the land. It’s nasty and cold in there, but mortals have sunshine–and their skin is so warm.
Having read the novel I know there’s a lot more involved in it all then that but I think there’s a nice overall blurb for those that might wonder about the title.
Love as an unforgiving master/mistress would be something to bear in mind when reading too…
Yeah, definitely. My brother actually calls the book is a love story, and he’s not wrong. But it ain’t pretty.
4. Back to the music Katey and I have been noticing a little track listing promo for Scripped – where did you get the idea and what made you do it?
Um, good question. I don’t know where I got the idea, it just seemed like a thing I was going to do anyhow, making the list and drawing the connections, so I might as well bring it along for the promo ride. I was a little worried it’d be irritating, actually. You think it’s okay?
Wait, I asked that question then came back to it like, it’s Mark. It’s music. Of course he does. Sorry.
Heh! I think it’s great but then I would wouldn’t I?
5. Who got you interested in writing and who inspires you to write now?
My mom reminds me regularly that she read to me every night and even “did the voices”. She and my Granddad always made sure I had lots of classics around, and my dad has the finest library of fantasy novels ever–plus he was all right with handing me Stephen King when I was barely 13.
I mostly started writing to entertain myself and my best friend when I was really young. I was never into TV, so I’d sit in my room and make stuff up or get in trouble in class for scribbling in my notebook when I was supposed to be learning. It never occurred to me until I was in my 20s that anyone else might be entertained by my stories, but once it did I thought, “Well, if I’m going to write anyhow…”
I’m inspired by authors who arrange words beautifully or cleverly to devastating effect. Steinbeck and Vonnegut and Austen and Fitzgerald. Of course, I’m also inspired by authors who evoke primal emotions, most often the dark ones. My Poe addiction is longstanding, and authors in that tradition–I can’t get enough. And, as a final influence, I have two words: comic books.
My family gives me good material too. They’re good about giving me permission to use their hilarious quotes, and my husband in particular enjoys seeing something he’s done or said pop up in a story. Plus, I have a lot of really good writer friends, and bouncing ideas is about as inspirational as it gets, right?
Good answer, you might get some points there (or are they vouchers these days?). Not sure where you can use them though…
I don’t know, but I hope to god they sell whiskey.
6. So what do you do when you’re not writing or editing then?
Read everything from Dickens to Spider-Man to Regency Romance to GRRM. I do that while I’m writing too, though, I reckon. My favorite thing to do between big projects is playing MMORPGs. I lose concentration with them when I’m in the middle of writing or editing something, but if I’m in downtime I will kill some orcs all day long, man. That’s better than therapy.
I also like to wander the National Gallery and see as many awesome bands live as I can–both of which are nice perks of living in the DC area. Oh, and I draw and play the guitar very, very badly.
Wow, playing the guitar badly, you are really out on your own there aren’t you? 😉
7. I briefly mentioned a little earlier you as an editor, without going into detail. I’d now like you to take this opportunity to discuss your webzine, Red Penny Papers.
It’s a quarterly e-zine in which I (and submissions wrangler John Cash) collect the kinds of stories I (we) like to read, pretty much. Pulpy or sensationalist genre stuff. There’s a quarterly edition for short fiction, maybe five stories a pop, and then once a quarter we try to produce a short serial novella. A lot of my favorite fiction was originally published in magazines or papers like that, and so it’s a bit of a look back in that way.
I like things to get a little bit over the top or absurd sometimes. That kind of thing isn’t fashionable anymore, but I still say it’s good not to take your fiction so seriously all the time. It’s a lot of fun, RPP, and we’ve had some really great writers and artists stop by this first year.
Definitely agree on the wealth of talent you’ve had over there, lots of fun indeed!
8. How do you yourself see the speculative/genre scene at the moment? Are we in a decline or on our way to a new golden age?
I don’t think it’ll ever decline, not really. Publishing is going through some changes, and though they’re painful, they’re in the service of A Better Story. People will always want A Better Story, and we’ll always love the fantastic. I’m not a huge optimist, it’s just that I think the real world is so irritating to us all, the fantasy we need so badly can never truly decline, right?
In a personal sense, I think it’s definitely coming up. There’s an emphasis on diversity right now that’s really making the scene so much more interesting in so many ways, and that in particular has me really excited.
Agreed, it’s hard keeping track of all that’s good in the scene just now, to be honest!
Yeah, that’s exactly how I feel. There are so many people fighting the good fight. It’s hard to despair, even for me.
9. And on we move to tips. What tips do you have for any aspiring writers reading this?
God, I don’t know that I’m the person to be giving tips, but I’ll have a whack at it.
Why does everyone do the fake humility bit? We’re all writers, we all have advice – some of it may suck but…
Well, that’s the thing–most advice does, right?
The only advice I can give with confidence is: read everything you can. When you see an author who claims not to have time to read — whether because they’re so busy with their own super riveting special snowflake fiction or otherwise — turn around and run the other way.
When it comes to writing itself, I only know what works for me, which is to work my tail off. When I get a rejection that makes me want to curl up in a ball and die, I channel that into work. When I get a critical edit or comment, I try and absorb the lesson and practice it until it’s second nature. When someone praises me, I want to be better so I don’t let them down. It’s effing exhausting, but I’m not a natural, so that’s what it takes to get me to that stage of readability. The one where people might let me entertain them with my stories, which is what it’s all about.
But yeah, everyone works differently. That might burn some people out, or just bore them to tears. Which is never good for creativity.
See you did have something to say!
10. So what’s next, what plans have you for future novels and The Red Penny Papers?
This year I have a couple of really cool editing projects coming out. Well, one is pretty familiar to you, as it’s Ishtar from Morrigan Books’ imprint, Gilgamesh Press, which I get to co-edit with Amanda Pillar. It’s a trio of novellas from Kaaron Warren, Deborah Biancotti, and Cat Sparks, so, yeah. I’m in awe over here. I’m also really excited to be co-editing Dagan Books’ Fish anthology with the founder and publisher, Carrie Cuinn, who is truly fabulous to work with. RPP will continue in its usual fashion, of course, being pulpy and absurd, but hopefully in the best possible way.
For my own stuff, I do have a novella project in the works with Dagan, but otherwise things are up in the air. I’m writing and editing and submitting and chewing on my fingernails. The usual.
Sounds exciting indeed!
Well thanks ever so much for agreeing to be grilled by myself and I wish you all the very best with Scripped and your future projects!
Thanks for having me, Mark, it’s been a pleasure, as always.