We are pleased to welcome with us today Katie MacAlister, author of many urban fantasy novels, including both the Silver Dragons and the Aisling Grey series, which are two of my favorite funny, light-hearted fantasy romance series. Her latest novel, Steamed: A Steampunk Romance hits shelves today. Katie will be stopping by throughout the day to respond to comments and questions, and we’ll be giving away two copies of Steamed. So, make sure to thank her for stopping by for a chance to win.
SB Frank: Welcome Katie, let’s start off on the topic of humor in fantasy. Can I ask who are some of your favorite funny fantasy authors or series?
Katie MacAlister: I tend to lean toward books that mix fantasy with other elements, like mystery, romance, etc. Some of my most beloved authors do that with ease — people like Charlaine Harris, Judith Merkle Riley, and a mystery writer who wrote a very humorous series that blended fantasy with wacky characters: William Marshall’s Yellowthread Street series.
Hm… I’ve never read Marshall. I’ll have to add it to my reading list. Out of the scores of novels and stories you’ve written, do you have a personal favorite character or series?
Usually I’m fickle enough that I am most smitten with the characters in the last book I’ve written. However, there are a couple of characters that I have an abiding fondness for, and usually it turns out that those are the characters that I wrote to satisfy myself: Jim the demon dog from the Dragon books, Christian from Sex and the Single Vampire, Jack from Steamed, and Baltic from an upcoming Light Dragon book.
Ah, Jim, the demonic Newfoundland. He steals the show for me, too. What is it that you like most and least about the act of writing a novel or story?
World building is the best part of writing, hands down. I love creating a new world, working out a mythos that makes sense, and indulging in my (sometimes unbridled) love for research. I will happily research mythology of various cultures for weeks while setting elements into place in my worlds.
The least favorite part of writing is a tossup between plotting an outline, and entering the edits that I’ve made on a hard copy. Honestly, there is nothing more tedious than going through a printed manuscript, and entering all the edits into the Word file. It’s mind-numbingly tedious and usually makes me so sleepy, I have to stop and go do something else.
Wow, I was actually expecting your favorite thing to be creating your trademark wacky characters, though they are often tied up in the world setting and it’s clear you have fun with that, too. I understand that you got your start as an author by cutting your teeth on a software book. Were you a software expert prior to becoming an author? A technical writer? How did that come about?
Alas, I was experienced in both reviewing and beta testing software, although I wasn’t a writer. One day a publisher asked me to write about my field of knowledge, and giddy with delight, I accepted. Although writing the software books was pretty dull, I am grateful for them because they made me realize that I really did want to write fiction, instead.
The day that the first software book was finished, I swore I was going to write a romantic historical mystery, and that’s exactly what I did. By the time I was done with that, I realized I had absolutely no knowledge about how things worked in the fiction world, and set about educating myself. But I knew I wasn’t going to go back to non-fiction — I just had far too much fun building worlds and tormenting characters to return to that.
Speaking of tormenting characters, Steamed has two main characters, Jack Fletcher and Octavius Pye, who alternate as first-person narrators. Was it fun to write both sides from first person? Is it something you’ve done before? Something you plan to continue? Do you have a contract or release schedule planned for other novels in the series?
When I set about writing Steamed, I knew I wanted to have both narrator’s perspectives in the book, and actually started writing it third person to accommodate that. But it just made both Jack and Octavia too distant, so I switched to dual-first person. I mentioned this to my editor Laura, and she was hesitant about the idea. She felt readers that would be confused about the dual voices, but I knew that Jack and Octavia’s voices were going to be distinct enough that readers would be able to tell right away who was narrating each chapter.
So I toddled off and wrote the book, and waited to hear what Laura thought of the dual POVs. Luckily, she fell as madly in love with Jack as I was, and she actually wanted more scenes from his POV. So I went back and adjusted a few things, added some new Jack bits, and voila! It worked.
I’m really pleased with the results of the dual POVs. I’ve always worked hard to make readers feel like they knew what a hero was thinking in a solo first person book, but there is an inevitable amount of distance that comes from filtering events through one person’s eyes, so this gave me the chance to really bring Jack straight to the reader.
I’ve done one other male first person POV book — “Stag Party” in the Ain’t Myth-Behaving anthology. I loved writing for the hero in that book so much, and his voice was so strong (I had intended to write it from the heroine’s POV, but he just took over), that I wanted to repeat the experience with Jack.
As for whether that will continue in subsequent steampunk books… it’s quite likely. I’m not sure at this point if the next book will be a continuation with Jack and Octavia as main protagonists, or if they will be secondary characters as the storyline continues to unfold, but there will be more steampunk books. In fact, I really need to sit down and write out an outline for one, because that’s going to be the next book I write. Urgh. Plotting!
There always seems to be a dearth of romantic comedies starring zombies, but in the recently released My Zombie Valentine, you manage to fill the void admirably. I especially love when the man-eating head goes home with the precocious… heh heh …anyway… Oh, yes, is this a continuation of a character from previous short fiction? A story you plan to continue either in short fiction or in a future novel?
Bring Out Your Dead was originally published in the Just One Sip anthology, published some years ago. I wrote it because readers were clamoring for the villain in a couple of my vampire books to have his own book, but he really wasn’t cooperating so far as a story was going. I really had intended to match him up with a secondary character in Sex and the Single Vampire, but she absolutely refused to let me do that. So I found someone else for Sebastian, incorporated some characters from previous books, and hoped that would satisfy the readers who wanted his story.
Unfortunately, when Just One Sip came out, I got letters telling me they wanted more Sebastian, so I keep bringing him back in secondary roles, just to satisfy them.
As for the revenants… I get requests for them to make a reappearance as well. I’m not sure that’s wise, given that I’ve just written a story that will launch a new series featuring liches and necromancers, and everyone knows zombies and liches don’t get along.
I know I always try to keep mine separated. Honestly, I never even realized that Sebastian was the same character until you said that, though it’s obvious in hindsight. Now, I have to go back and reread the story. My Zombie Valentine. Well worth reading. Thanks so much Katie for stopping by today and throughout the day to respond to comments and questions as well as for donating two copies of today’s released fun-filled steampunk adventure (that I enjoyed reading very much): Steamed, for two lucky commenters to this post.
FanLit thanks Stephen Frank for conducting this interview for us!