Hiya! Today I have the pleasure of welcoming K. E. Young 🙂
Kerry I am so happy to be joining you here on Chat About Books.
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
I’m a middle aged fat lady who worked as a network engineer for cellular companies (mostly) for 17 years. Some of that was in Europe. I spent 4 years living in Amsterdam… and I still miss it. I loved it there. Now I write. Mostly fantasy, but there are some contemporary thriller stories in there too.
The thrillers were originally stories I wrote as gifts to my mom, who is a fan of thrillers. The heroine, Charley, is an ATF agent. I rather like her. She’s not a simple character.
Fair warning, very few of my characters are simple. In any of my books. In general, people aren’t. Everyone is more complicated than they seem on the surface.
My fantasy novels are all part of a series. They came about because the world in my head morphed as I was writing a book into something I didn’t expect. So I started a new book (Valbore) in this new world. In order to keep events straight, I had to put together a timeline. The one I put together spans four thousand years and has sparked ideas for well over a dozen stories. Some of them are book and some are less than that, but I made notes on all of them. More stories crop up in this world all the time. I faithfully record them all. I have no idea where it will end.
The world the Tasks of the Nakairi are set in a world of magic, but that magic is treated more like physics. For what it’s worth, I’m told the books skirt the line between fantasy and science fiction.
It is a world where the Aria Atlani, children of the Goddess, are exiled from their home universe by a disaster. Thirteen of the Goddess’s brothers and sisters offer her children havens in their own universes. So far, the stories have all concerned Eperu, one of these offered havens. If a problem crops up that the locals can’t solve, the Goddess brings a Nakairu from another haven to deal with it. Earth is one of those havens.
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
To be honest, I don’t know. I sit down with a character in a particular situation or a particular place and it’s all stream of consciousness after that. Even when I have some idea of how it will progress, I’m constantly surprised by what happens.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
Not just people I know, sometimes it’s people I know of. All of my heroines have touches of myself in them of course (just a little), but Sebas from ‘Nexus of Change’ and ‘The Shurshu’ is based on Congressman Adam Schiff combined with Niccolo Machiavelli and Bren Cameron from CJ Cherryh’s Foreigner series. Other characters are based on family or friends. Usually just bit parts and supporting characters though, and they’re never the whole character. Just a seed. Most of my main characters begin as an idea and take on a life of their own. Sometimes, I have to go back and rewrite to take the mutation into account.
How do you pick your characters names?
For my fantasy novels, I look to names in history. Pre Roman usually and not usually European. I’ll also cruise through Arab or Indian names. Some of the names are alterations of a name from one of those sources or a translation of some defining feature into a dead language.
For the thriller stories, I use names from around my own neighbourhood or I’ll look at names common in the area that the story is set.
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
I sit down at my computer, read the last couple pages that I wrote just to remind myself where I am in the story, pop on my headphones with an Epic music playlist, and start typing. On a good day, I can pound out 2000 to 4000 words. On a bad day and the story doesn’t want to come… I move to editing, filling out my world bible for the TOTN series, do research, or playing with ideas for stories. Sometimes, your subconscious is still working something out in that next bit you have to write and it’s best to occupy yourself with something else.
I work very linearly. Start to end. I don’t use an outline because all too often, I have no idea where it’s going. All I know is that my subconscious has something planned.
That doesn’t mean I can’t write from outline. That’s what I do with my technical writing, but with fiction… Writing from outline is too restrictive. My subconscious hates not being able to roam. Since my subconscious has better ideas than my conscious does, I let it do what it wants.
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
Only 5? How do you expect me to choose only 5? Sigh… in no particular order:
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Lois McMaster Bujold
H Beam Piper
James H. Schmitz
Thornton W Burgess
You can add Normandi Ellis too although the ‘author’ part is a bit arguable. She did a prose (slightly loose) translation of the Egyptian Book of the Dead that is a joy to read. Gorgeous language.
I know. That isn’t five. I couldn’t choose.
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
I’m not sure. I had never thought of it. CJ Cherryh perhaps. I want to know how she keeps all the little details straight. The politics in her books can be absolutely byzantine.
Were you a big reader as a child?
Voracious. I learned to read before I ever started kindergarten. I was a non-Mormon in a strongly Mormon neighbourhood so I didn’t have many friends growing up. So I read instead. Later on, after we moved to Seattle, I spent time in the library after school because mom was working double shifts. My first friends in Seattle were the librarians. Yes, I was really bad at the social thing for a long time.
When did you start to write?
I started with writing poetry as a child. Eventually, I realized that I wasn’t very good at it and there were all these stories in my head. I’d be watching TV and think “Well, that was dumb. Why didn’t they do it this way instead? By high school, I was putting them on paper. They were still awful, but there were some really good ideas there. Some stories I wrote as presents for my mom.
I didn’t actually start writing in earnest until I suffered a back injury. There I was, lying flat on my back, I couldn’t sit up to work or use the computer because of a ruptured disc and a bunch of torn connective tissue. Most of my books were in boxes in storage, and I could only watch so much YouTube and play so much WordSearch on my tablet before going insane. But the tablet had a Word-compatible word processor. It lacked a lot of features, but it worked.
I started with a fantasy story I began as a way to pass the time during my commute before I hurt my back.
In the process of writing that story, the world changed and, realizing that I would have to rewrite it from the beginning, I tossed it aside. I started another story, the one that became ‘Valbore’. Eventually, I got back to that first story and tried to finish it. I ended up splitting it into two books when I realized I had more than enough story for two volumes. The first half became Nexus of Change. The second half is The Shurshu (due out Oct 1)
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
Not really. At least, not so far. I get that with movies or TV shows when they’re being gratuitously stupid, but not usually with books. My head insists that a book is the territory of the writer. It’s their world, not mine. Since I’m a bit territorial by nature, my head just refuses to intrude on other people’s territory.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
Yes. There was a cyberpunk story I was working on in high school. I had only planned to do a short story, but the story insisted on being more than that. It had taken on a life of its own. Rather than accede to the demands of the story, I dropped it. I never finished it. Thinking back, it would have made an awesome book (with a lot of polishing of course). These days, if the story insists on going in a different direction than I thought it should, I go along with it. The story isn’t always comfortable (like Valbore), but it’s always a better story than my conscious mind was thinking of.
If you wrote an autobiography, what would your title be?
“Well crud, now what do I do?”
I have these streaks of really good luck in my life, and then streaks of really bad luck. Every time I hit one of those bad luck streaks, my life takes a left turn and I’m left asking myself “Now what do I do?” I always muddle through. Somehow. My life may not be what I expected and planned for, but the universe doesn’t care. You just have to deal with the crap you’re handed. If you can’t adapt, you’re going to spend your life bemoaning your fate. TBH, pulling the victim card for the rest of your life is a good way lose all your friends and at that point, it’s your own fault.
If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?
Bren Cameron from CJ Cherryh’s Foreigner series. A very smart and canny man with a lot of wisdom to impart.
Tell us a random fact about yourself.
I lived and worked in Europe & Britain for four years. Three and a half of those were spent in Amsterdam (mostly working with Brits), but the last 6 months I lived in Sheffield. I still miss the little Syrian restaurant across the street from my apartment and watching the college students making the rounds of the pubs and bars on Friday and Saturday nights. There was some very entertaining viewing. I wished that I had recorded some of it on camera. It would have made great blackmail material.
What are you working on right now?
I’m editing The Shurshu (book 3 of Tasks of the Nakairi) so I can get it released. I have a target date of October 1st (2018) but I’m not sure if I can get it all done by then. I’ll try.
I’m also about 60 pages in to writing Demon Gate (book 4 of Tasks of the Nakairi) but I’ve mostly put it on hold until I can finish the editing on The Shurshu.
There are also random moments working on more Charley Rogers stories and making notes for future TOTN stories.
Tell us about your last release?
It was pretty much a non-event. I had no pre-release hoopla, no reviews, no marketing at all. I dumped 4 books onto KDP in one day Then opened a bottle of champagne and had pizza for dinner. The next morning, I continued work on The Shurshu.
Since then, Mom has been helping out by handling the marketing side of things while I write. She enjoys having something new to learn and do and I can never thank her enough for it.
Do you have a new release due?
Theoretically, on October 1, 2018.
The Shurshu. Book 3 in my fantasy series, Tasks of the Nakairi and a direct sequel to book 3, Nexus of Change.
It is the continuation of Kendra’s story and takes up the story at the exact point Nexus of Change leaves off. At some point, I’ll do a little editing and meld them together, but not until I have the next few stories either done or in the works. There are stories in my head and they want OUT.
What do you generally do to celebrate on publication day?
So far, champagne and pizza, but I’m willing to switch it up. Bourbon and ice cream might be good. French fries and cognac? I’m open to suggestions. They may sound a little odd, but the whole idea is to splurge on something you don’t allow yourself the rest of the time, right? I don’t allow myself French fries because they’re addicting and I don’t want to be craving something that really isn’t good for me. So I make it a special occasion thing. Mind you, bourbon, cognac, and pizza are a different story. A bit more than I usually have, but not unusual. After all, pizza is easy to make.
How can readers keep in touch with you?
My webpage, Facebook, etc. There are links on the website for them all. http://WorldsofKEYoung.com
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
Yes. I see a lot of people who seem to think that writing is easy. It’s NOT. There’s a lot more that goes into it than just letting your brain spit diarrhea onto the page, despite what it may seem from what I’ve already said. It took a long time to write my first book because I was learning more about spelling, punctuation, grammar, plotting, editing, character creation, and a hundred other things, than I spent actually writing. It took me a year to edit Valbore because of all I had to learn.
It’s still not perfect and at some point I’ll revisit it and release an update. Meanwhile, if anyone spots a problem in any of my books, LET ME KNOW! I can’t fix it if I don’t know about it.
During editing, you go over the same stuff so many times that you don’t always see the problems. You see what you expect to see. That’s why you use someone else’s eyes. A writing group, a paid editor, or a writing partner. Beta readers to tell you where your plotting or characters are wonky, where it drags, or needs clarification.
You cannot write in a vacuum. You can’t do it all alone.
That means you have to be able to take criticism. You must be willing to listen and adapt. Your Golden Words are only golden to you. Someone else may think they’re dreck and with good reason. Maybe you missed a word that clarified everything. Maybe you spent too much time describing every little thing and now it’s just plain boring. Maybe you tend to pontificate instead of giving the reader action. There are more reasons than there are words in this answer for things to go wrong and you have to be open to fixing those things. Even if it means your Golden Words get the axe.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions! 🙂
K.E. Young lives and writes in a small commuter city near Seattle on the west coast of the US. She is supervised there by her long haired rescue cat named Slick. Her work history has included periods of time spent as an assistant librarian, a phlebotomist, phone technical support, Call Center Administrator, Sysadmin, taught networking to high school students, Fault Surveillance Technician, Networking Consultant, Network Engineer, Senior Network Engineer, Network Designer, and now Writer.