KJ TAYLOR author of several fantasy novels with a series coming from BWP soon!
The Burning Willow Press authors wish to help you celebrate the best month of the year, October. How you may ask? By giving you a different author from the ranks each day with in depth answers to questions that our staff have decided to ask them. Many will be generic, others not so much. Let’s get to know the authors of BWP! Oh, and did we forget to mention… the staff there are all authors too so they have decided to chime in with some answers of their own.
So first, when did you realize that the voices in your head were telling you to write stories or go mad with all that stuck in your head?
I never heard any voice other than my own, and it started to become fascinated with stories since before I even learned how to read. But I didn’t start wanting to write them down until I was in primary school (that’s the Australian version of elementary school, American readers!). by the time I turned 13 I had decided I wanted to be an author. That was what I was going to do with my life.
I know many writers who jump in all different genres, so what is your favorite to write?
I’m mostly a fantasy author, but since then I’ve started trying my hand at other things in part because I decided I needed a challenge. You can only write so many swords and magic stories before it gets a bit samey.
Currently, there are over a million books that I want to read… and some I have in the past I wish I had written myself, do you have any that you read that you thought about and said, I wish I had written that book?
No, not really. I’ve occasionally read a book and found myself thinking “god I wish I was that talented”, but at the end of the day I think it’s more important to write your own stories, not somebody else’s. If I wrote Harry Potter instead of Rowling, it wouldn’t be Harry Potter.
What is your favorite book not written by you? See that question is not the same as the other one above… to follow up, what was your favorite book that you wrote?
I don’t really have a single favourite book. I re-read the Duncton Wood series by William Horwood until my copies were falling apart, but I also adore Coldheart Canyon and Galilee by Clive Barker, and The Shrine of Jeffrey Dahmer by Brian Masters (that one’s non-fiction). Favourite book that I wrote? I don’t have one. None of them are perfect, but all of them have something I like about them.
When the muse is off doing their own thing instead of pushing you to write, albeit by gunpoint at times, what is your favorite time-waster?
Watching funny movie critics on YouTube and building craft projects. I also draw a semi-regular little webcomic about rats.
What is the one thing that you must do to get into a writing mood. For me, it is listening to 80’s hair metal.
See, that’s the thing. I used to think I could only write if I was in the right “mood”, but nowadays I don’t believe in waiting until you’re “in the mood” any more. Instead I just have designated writing days, where I take my laptop, go to my writing place (chosen because it’s quiet, has PowerPoints, and no distracting WIFI), and get to work. The “mood” almost always comes when I start working. I do however insist on wearing headphones and listening to music while I’m working. It helps to keep me from being distracted by what’s going on around me.
Is editing your story just part of the job or does it literally kill a part of you to “kill your children” as it has been said? What about making revisions?
It used to be like that – I used to throw a fit if anyone so much as suggested changing anything, then spend hours trying to justify to myself why I didn’t have to change it. But that was a long time ago. These days when someone points out a mistake, whether it’s an editor or just a friend, I get frustrated with myself for making the mistake and don’t feel comfortable until I’ve gotten rid of it.
When you read a book by another author do you ever look at it and criticize it or edit it in your head as the way you would have done it yourself?
Sometimes. When you’ve been writing and editing as long as I have, you get into this mindset where you can’t stop seeing the “strings”, as it were. It gets harder to just sit back and enjoy a story without thinking too hard about it. (I can still do this with movies, though).
What would you like to be chiseled into your headstone?
“The World Is Made of Stories, And Mine Has Been Told”.
What was your favorite candy to get at Halloween as a kid?
Nothing! We didn’t celebrate Halloween when I was a kid – I’ve never been trick or treating in my life! It’s only started to catch on here a lot more recently. But I can say one of my favourite sweets as a kid was something called a Caramilk bar – a type of Cadbury chocolate which was caramel flavoured. They took it off the shelves some time in the 90s, unfortunately.
What is your favorite Halloween ritual? And if you do not do that… what is your favorite Halloween movie?
Probably my favourite horror movie of all time would be The Silence of the Lambs, though really that’s more of a psychological thriller.
Beach, Mountains, Country, City? And follow up… favorite season… just a hint here… you should say Autumn.
I’m a city girl at heart – I like exploring in places like Sydney and Melbourne, and for some reason I like a bit of urban grime. Walking on beaches is always nice, though. Favourite season? Probably Spring. Over here it gets unpleasantly hot in Summer and depressingly cold and grey in Winter (and we don’t even get to play in the snow, because it doesn’t snow here). But Spring is nice and bright, and the temperature is just right!
I know my “To Be Read” list is never ending and grows daily… how is yours? And do you prefer paperbacks or e-books?
I prefer paper, and yeah – my stack is pretty big. One of the things about being an author is that people give you books all the time! Sometimes I just want to stand up and say “hey, books are nice, but I wouldn’t mind getting a few CDs and some socks this year…” Notice I did not ask about audio? Pity – I listened to them all the time when I was a kid! I still do; it’s nice to listen to a story while you’re doing the vacuuming.
If you could not be an author then what would you be?
A biologist, maybe. I always had a very analytical mind when I was a kid, plus I was fascinated with animals and nature and such. Also, my mother is a scientist, so I was exposed to a lot of that sort of thing when I was growing up (I remember reading her old textbooks with fascination). Or possibly an historian – I was always fascinated by history as well.
What was your childhood ideal job to be as an adult?
I wanted to be a dinosaur! When I found out that was physically impossible I decided I wanted to be a paleontologist or a vet.
Cats, dogs, both, other?
I like cats and dogs, but rats are my go-to pets! I love their twitchy little noses and tiny grabby hands.
Most newbie authors are told to write emotional state in what they already know… so how did you break away from that newbie status of writing what you know in the beginning?
When I first started out as a teenager, I just copied the books I liked because I didn’t know how to put my own ideas together and didn’t have any life experience. Oddly enough, what inspired me to write something that wasn’t more or less just fanfiction was when I got angry. My crappy first attempts at novels weren’t going anywhere, at least one person in the industry treated me with open contempt, and I felt like I was never going to get anywhere. So I did what I always do when I’m pissed off: I sat down and wrote a sarcastic, satirical little novel which mocked the very same genre I’d been trying to write in. And because I was venting my emotions instead of trying too hard to sound “important” and “deep”, it came out as something personal. Not perfect, of course, but personal. And I think that’s why it was the first thing I wrote which people really responded to. After that I went out into the world as a quasi-adult, learned to know myself better, and started writing material which was far more original.
Advice in one sentence to a new author who is not published yet?
Write because it makes you happy and will make other people happy, and for no other reason than that, and you’ll be best off in the long run.
Do your siblings or other family members support your choice to write horror? Fantasy? Erotica… if you do? SCIFI? Other genres?
My family is very proud of me, though none of them are habitual fantasy readers. They’ve encouraged me to branch out into other genres, which I have.
Do you ever use writing as an excuse to get out of doing things with the family… especially the in-laws?
LOL! I could, but instead I just don’t bother to hide the fact that I’m an antisocial bastard. At family gatherings I tend to wander off a lot.
If you wrote a sex scene in your book, would you be embarrassed to have your mom read it?
Maybe a little. Sex scenes really aren’t my thing, though – when I have tried to write one it’s always made me feel like a creep.
Beta Readers, Proofers, Editors… all are important to produce a better work of literature. So, who would you say is the most important in your team? Or do you not have those in place and are working on that?
I have a few friends I share my works in progress with, partly for fun but also to see if the story is working.
In your day of writing… do you push through it all day or do you take mental breaks?
It depends. Sometimes I write for hours at a stretch and only get up to go to the bathroom or refresh my drink. But every now and then I might get up and start walking around to loosen myself up before starting on an important chapter or scene.
Do you ever get to travel as an author? Do conventions? What have you learned in those endeavors?
I’ve done a bit of travelling, yeah! Furthest I ever went was to San Diego for the 2011 ComicCon, which was a truly incredible experience. I met a whole bunch of people, and even got to do a panel with George R R Martin! I felt like a rock star sitting up in front of all those people. These days I mostly just do the odd convention in Sydney – international travel is really expensive, and I’m not famous enough to have publishers paying for me to go places.
Book signings? Necessary evil even for the introvert?
Debatable. Sometimes a signing will be an exercise in boredom and frustration (even more so if you’re sitting next to someone who’s attracted more fans/customers. I once had to do a signing with GRRM and Brandon Sanderson. Lines out the door for the pair of them). Personally, I think signings are the most fruitful when you do them as part of a book launch party.
What do you have coming out in the next year and who is producing it?
I’ve got the next two books of the Rebel Lion trilogy coming out with Burning Willow Press! (First one should be coming out later this year). Other than that, I’ve got a publisher interested in my first thriller novel here in Australia, so hopefully we’ll have some word on that by then.
What is your go to alcoholic beverage of choice?
At home I generally drink scotch. I like beer, but usually just drink it while I’m on holiday because it’s more of a “party” drink for me.
In the book, Misery by Stephen King, his main character celebrates the end of the Misery books series by smoking a cigar and drinking a scotch so, how do you celebrate a finished story?
I loved that book! Generally, I celebrate with a few drinks, maybe a special dinner. And then I take the next day off to recuperate and maybe go see a movie if anything’s on.
Ideas come from all over. I get mine everywhere… so my question is what was the inspiration for the last (or upcoming) book you released?
My first book with BWP, Power’s Curse, was inspired by a thought I had. I’d noticed a lot of fantasy novels where the protagonists have ridiculous power levels, and I thought “why don’t I write a trilogy of my own which explores what I think the realistic consequences would be of having so much more power than ordinary people?”. I also wanted to explore the old trope of the human being mentally/telepathically connected to a powerful fantastic creature (usually a dragon). And then I thought “…what if as well as sharing minds, you also share bodies?”. You end up with two people in one body, always shifting back and forth, and both of them want to be in charge. And I thought “You know what? In reality, sharing minds with anyone, let alone a creature who isn’t remotely human, would drive you absolutely batshit insane.” So I ended up with an order of obscenely powerful shapeshifting warrior mages who are all hopelessly mentally unbalanced. In short, a recipe for disaster. But at least it means shit gets blowed up real good. :p
Who would you compare your work to and would love to have them read and give you a review of or even better, a tweet and post about it?
I’ve been compared to GRRM a lot because I write dark, violent fantasy with very grey morality, and fans of GoT have definitely enjoyed my work!
Are there any horror or thriller novelist that you admired when you were younger?
I got into Stephen King as a teenager, and later on became a big fan of Clive Barker (still am). As a child I also adored the Deptford Mice series by Robin Jarvis. His books aren’t horror (they’re animal fantasy for kids) … but they’re – excuse my language – incredibly fucked up. Monsters, evil gods, horrific mutilation… I still have no idea how he managed to publish that sort of material for an under 12 audience, but I credit his books for the reason why I write really fucked up violence and gore in my own books today without batting an eye.
While writing, has any of your own stories given you nightmares?
Not that I can recall. When I have nightmares it’s generally shit like thinking there’s someone in my bedroom grabbing at me, or I’m being dragged across the floor by an invisible force, or something bad is happening to my pet rats. Though the funniest nightmare I’ve ever had was definitely the one where I found a “Bestsellers” shelf stocked with really awful books, tried to push it over, and was crushed under a heap of bestselling trash literature. “Help, I’m being suffocated by horrible airport novels!”
Have you ever had any supernatural experiences? If so, have you ever used it as source material?
I don’t believe in the supernatural. But I do believe in the capacity of the human mind to fuck itself over, and I’ve definitely used that. In 2016 one of my best friends died suddenly and violently, and afterwards I was haunted by his ghost. Not in the sense that he appeared in my house moaning and rattling chains, but in the sense that I kept having bad dreams where I saw his dead body, and sometimes during the day I would see a guy who looked a bit like him, think it was him, and have a panic attack. And this shit went on for about a year. Until one night I had another dream where he smiled at me and touched my hand like he was trying to say everything was all right now, and after that I never dreamed about him again. That’s what a real “haunting” is if you ask me – it’s dealing with psychological trauma. And just because it’s all in your head that doesn’t mean it’s not real. And yes, I’ve drawn on that experience ever since. You can’t know what real trauma and grief are like – really know – until it happens to you.
When writing a novel, do you have an intended audience (i.e. adult or young adult)?
Nope. My intended audience is always “anyone who wants to read it and who won’t be affected by the violent stuff”
Have you ever written a scene so scandalous that you hoped your mom doesn’t read it?
Nope. My mum spent her childhood in the countryside beating poisonous snakes to death with a stick. She’s unshockable.
I cannot live without Chapstick. What is one comfort item that you must have?
My little tub of lanolin. I carry it everywhere and use it as a lip balm because it doesn’t have any chemical additives.
Do you ever feel that your characters have a mind of their own and change the course of the planned storyline?
Oh, all the time. If your character doesn’t have a mind of their own, they’re probably just an author puppet rather than a person. Characters have to be people. Hell, I’ve had stories fall apart in my hands because I was trying to force the characters to go against their basic natures. It was like they were actively resisting me.
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