Everyone, please welcome Kat Howard to the blog today! She has graciously given us her time as part of the awesome Apex Blog Tour that Andrea from The Little Red Reviewer put together. We have so many great authors and bloggers participating in this blog tour, with reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways. make sure to check out the tour schedule and stop in at the other posts for SFF goodness! I’ve included the cover art of various publications Kat Howard’s short fiction has showed up in. For more, check out her Goodreads page.
Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?
Here’s the thing – I think if something serves the story, then it belongs there. If it doesn’t, leave it out. So, am I going to take the reader to the bathroom every time a character has to pee? Probably not. But, if a character has food poisoning from the romantic dinner her potential love interest has just made for her, I might well go into detail, because the way that the characters react to that situation could matter to what happens to their relationship.
Curse words, extremes of language and situation, work the same way. If it serves the story, if it’s organic to the situation, or to the voice of the character, then yes, I use them in my writing.
I try to read a lot of nonfiction, because the world is a strange and wonderful place, and I like to know things about it. I think reading widely is one of the best things a writer can do. I love biographies and memoirs, and I think Patti Smith’s Just Kids is one of the best things I’ve ever read. I’m a huge fan of Peter Ackroyd’s histories, and I love Marina Warner’s critical writing. I also love Caroline Walker Bynum’s work. Some other favorites in the nonfiction realm include On Monsters by Stephen T. Asma, The Book of Barely Imagined Beings by Caspar Henderson, and How Music Works by David Byrne.
Often various historical aspects (people, locations, events) are used in fantasy and sometimes rehashed in a far-flung future. Are there examples of such historical aspects being used well in the SF/F genre? Examples of what didn’t work for you?
Well, I’m a medievalist by training. I have a Ph.D. in English Literature, and I also focused on religion and history in my time period (1350-1650). This time period, and setting, tends to be a very popular one for SFF writers to use, and I read books that are using that era pretty critically, because I’m familiar with it. I have great respect for writers like Guy Gavriel Kay, who clearly do their research, and then use that research as a way to strengthen their stories.
Unfortunately, many people don’t do research, or do so in an incomplete fashion, or use what they think an era was like – “oh, women had no power back then” or “there weren’t any people of color in Europe then” – both flawed assumptions, by the way, as ways to not include things like diversity in their fiction. Which, look – even if the history did back up those assumptions, we’re writing SFF. We can alter the history. Please do not tell me that it is easier to imagine a wizard than a woman.
I really like being able to speak directly with readers, whether that’s via something like twitter, or meeting in person. Being able to connect with people is a delight. The challenging aspect is figuring out how to balance getting the information out so that people can find it, without overwhelming them with noise.
I’m not quite sure how to answer this, because really, if you want to be a writer, then you need to read a lot, and write a lot, and those are the best activities that you can be doing to further your writing. Beyond that, do what interests you. Find things that fire your curiosity, that you can become passionate about, and do those.
I think the first thing you have to do is know the tropes, and know how they’re being used in the field. Sometimes they can be useful in their conventional, right-side-up fashion. But if I decide that I’m going to write something to purposefully subvert a trope, it’s usually because something about the way that trope is currently being deployed gets under my skin – makes me angry, annoys me, and so I’ll write to explore my feelings about that.
I have a short story, “Dreaming Like a Ghost” coming out in Nightmare in February, and “A Different Fate” in Lightspeed in March. I also have a novella, The End of the Sentence, which I cowrote with Maria Dahvana Headley, coming out in August from Subterranean Press.
Places to Stalk Kat