Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why I Write Fantasy - K.A. Laity

Welcome K.A. Laity, fantasy author, medievalist, and author of weekly serial fantasy!

Amber: Why do you write fantasy?

I have always been fascinated by myths, legends and fairy tales. There’s such a weight of history in those old tales yet they can be endlessly renewed. Even in stories where the mythic is marginal, it supplies a continuity with the past that anchors it to something bigger than itself.

Amber: You’re writing Airships and Alchemy as a blog. Why did you decide to do that? Can readers just go and read?

Yep, it’s also available as a text novel (you can have weekly installments sent right to your phone or mobile device). I have so many writing projects going on all the time, it’s good to have something light and fun to keep people entertained between publications.

AIRSHIPS & ALCHEMY: A novel of magic, mechanicals, mayhem and dogs of various sizes scribed serially by Kit Marlowe [AKA K. A. Laity, the award winning author of Unikirja, Pelzmantel and many other stories, essays and plays].

Amber: Tell me more about how your academic studies and teaching fit into writing fantasy.

Well, when I’m writing fantasy I’m actually pulling on a lot of reality as well: PELZMANTEL, for example, was based on a lot of actual medieval magical practices and medieval poems and sagas. In that respect it’s a bit like what Tolkien did, but I’m less interested in war and a lot more interested in what women were doing — and how the less prestigious people lived. UNIKIRJA involved not only research but a trip to Finland where I photographed ancient rock paintings, thousands of years old. I have done all kinds of research in dead languages, magical practices and medieval literature and culture. It lends a sense of authenticity, I hope.
Amber: What are your favorite fantasy novels?

I like many different kinds: I like the darkness and magic of Clive Barker’s books, the sweeping majesty of IMAJICA and the proto-urban fantasy of WEAVEWORLD but also the historical magic of the Books of the Art, GREAT AND SECRET SHOW and EVERVILLE. I love the sexy fantasy work of Storm Constantine, especially her Grigori trilogy, and the more folkloric urban fantasy of Charles de Lint, who also makes music an integral part of the stories.

Amber: Why do you think readers love fantasy?

The magic, the beauty, the possibilities. I get so bored by stories that reduce reality to mere human existence. It ignores the magical world that physics suggests we’ve barely begun to understand. Mimetic fiction seems a kind of blindness.

Amber: Would you write fantasy even if no one read it?

I have! For many years I did. My first published story was in 1995, but I wrote all my life, mostly fantasy. No one read it because I was afraid to show it to anyone. THAT IS WRONG! Get over the fear. Just share it. You never know what may happen. My first story resulted in a lovely letter from Clive Barker that I framed and hung on my wall.

K.  A. Laity writes so much that she had to create some <>  pseudonyms to keep her colleagues from thoughts of murder. A tenured medievalist at a small liberal arts college, she mostly tries to find ways to avoid meetings in order to write more.
Her books

Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the  
which contains her story “Fear and Loathing in Deptford.”


  1. Cool. I see (or am reminded, to my shame) that I actually published short fiction ahead of Kate, by a Whole Year, but she has definitely been more attendant on her muse (i. e., Less Lazy) than I since (my Really Nice Letter was from Karl Edward Wagner, and Ellen Datlow shortlisted it, so what's my excuse?). And she didn't even mention her plays. Nor did she (as she should, except in rejecting the trendy) note that the Marlowe serial is organically Steampunk (why, by cracky, I remember when that used to mean somethin'). Now, of course, I need to go push some Manly Wade Wellman and some of the less-obvious Muriel Spark fiction on her (and everyone about incorporating music and folklore generally into contemporary fantasy, and you are talking Wellman first and foremost...hmmm, still should send a copy of that work along to Peggy Yocum, too...). Thanks, indeed, for this, Ma'am...

  2. ...though I will take issue (just so Kate knows this is really me) with the little jab at mimetic's not so much blindness, as the observation of world inside the parameters of consensus reality...never cede anything in the art! To love fantasy is not to dismiss contemporary-mimetic, or historical, or any other kind of fiction...take it from the guy who loves sports fiction much more than he does sports...