Today we have K. J . Taylor joining us for a chat. Katie has a new book in Cymrian Saga coming out in a few months.
K.J.Taylor was born in Australia in 1986 and plans to stay alive for as long as possible. She went to Radford College and achieved a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications at the University of Canberra, where she returned to obtain a Master of Information Studies in 2012. She now holds down a “real” job as an archivist.
She published her first work, The Land of Bad Fantasy, through Scholastic when she was just 18, and went on to publish The Dark Griffin in Australia and New Zealand five years later. The Griffin’s Flight and The Griffin’s War followed in the same year, and were released in America and Canada in 2011. The Shadow’s Heir, The Shadowed Throne and The Shadow’s Heart have now joined them in both Australia and the US.
If this book is part of a series, could you tell us a little about it?
This book is a part of a series called the Cymrian Saga, which is set in a world where humans live alongside griffins (and later, other magical creatures). This world is tyrannised by various gods, and racial conflict is a major issue. Essentially, it’s about the struggle for freedom against racial prejudice, religious oppression and human tyranny – a struggle which brings the protagonists into conflict with other people, griffins, the gods, and even themselves.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
Kearney “Red” Redguard is an everyman, with no special powers or important status. He’s physically strong and knows how to handle himself in a fight, and is pretty resourceful, and that’s more or less it. The only thing that sets him apart is that he’s the last surviving member of a once-respected family (of commoners) which has since been disgraced. After being framed for treason, Red is the first to discover that his homeland is about to come under attack by an extremely dangerous enemy, but who listens to the word of a traitor? Red will have to race against time in order to warn his people, and fight for survival at every turn. He’s also a redhead, which is considered lucky in his world. And he’s going to need all the luck he can get.
What are your thoughts on writing a book series?
That it’s actually easier than writing a standalone book, and especially if you’re writing spec fic. Speculative fiction means building a world, which takes time and effort. Once you’ve created that world, you open up a whole lot of possibilities for stories to tell in it. This is why standalone spec fic novels are so rare. Added to that, you tend to get attached to the characters and keep wondering what will happen to them next. Plus it’s fascinating to see how your world changes over time. This series starts in medieval times, then progresses toward the Renaissance – you see such things as guns, clockwork and eyeglasses be invented and then slowly improved upon. Clothing and architecture changes, and so does the language and the names of places (for instance, in the very first trilogy there’s mention of a place called Wolf’s Town. At some point the name is changed to Wolfton. Fruitsheart becomes Fruthart. And so on).
What genre are your books?
High, or “Epic” fantasy. Which ironically enough isn’t a genre I like to read. I loved fantasy novels aimed at a YA audience when I was a kid, but never really found anything in that genre for adults that I particularly latched onto other than Game of Thrones and a couple of China Mieville novels, which are really more steampunk than traditional fantasy.
What draws you to this genre?
I’ve always loved fantasy as a concept, I think initially because I liked the escapism and the idea of being special and having important, world-changing things to do. That sort of thing appeals to most kids for some reason! These days I write fantasy because I like the freedom, and because I’m trying to do something different with the genre. I do not like destined heroes, prophecies, magical swords or plots concerned with saving the world from the ultimate evil. Nor do I like “Good Vs Evil” stories where characters are assigned roles as “goodies” and “baddies” and given no further development than that, or where entire species are classified as “monsters”. I prefer to write about human beings thrust into circumstances beyond their control and pitted against other human beings with opposing goals. Red isn’t a prophesised hero – he’s an ordinary guy who has to do the best he can with what he has. The only point at which he’s singled out as “special” is when a noblewoman declares that his red hair is “a sign” that he was sent to her by the sun god. Which isn’t true; she’s just superstitious.
Why do you write?
Because the alternative is a grey, meaningless existence in which I might as well be dead. To put it bluntly. Terry Pratchett once wrote that “he had always been a man with a badge, and he wasn’t sure if he could be one without the other”. Being an author is such a big part of who I am as a person, that not writing would rob me of my identity.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
The hardest part of that is keeping yourself motivated and dealing with occasional bouts of boredom. I don’t believe in “writer’s block”, but I do believe that sometimes you just plain get bored with what you’re writing. I know when I’m getting bored because I become very easily distracted and inclined to play with my phone when I should be writing. But it always passes sooner or later. Before then, I have to put up with the irritation involved! I get annoyed with myself for being unproductive.
If the feeling of boredom doesn’t go away and you never feel inclined to go back to a particular manuscript, this could mean that either a) You’ve gotten bogged down in a particular part of the story and it’s time to cut to the chase and move on to the next plot point (when this happens to me, it’s usually during an obligatory travel sequence. I hate travel sequences, which is why I usually summarise an unimportant journey in a couple of paragraphs rather than wasting entire chapters the way some people like to do. No I’m not sorry, Tolkien). Or b) It could mean the novel just plain isn’t going to work and it might be time to strip it for parts and move on to something else.
What is your favourite motivational phrase
Never be defined by what you cannot do.
Which famous person living or dead would you like to meet and why?
When I was a kid I got the chance to meet Terry Pratchett, and let it pass me by because I was too intimidated by the prospect of meeting one of my personal heroes. He died before that chance came again, and I’ve regretted it ever since. I also wanted to meet Douglas Adams, but again, he died before I got the chance. I wanted to shake both of these authors by the hand and tell them how much their writings had meant to me.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
Honestly, I have NO idea. I’ve never been good at picking actors to play my characters. Hell, one fan said he wanted Johnny Depp to play one of my characters – a guy by the name of Arenadd, who some reading this may be familiar with – and I went “what, really?” Someone else suggested Tom Hiddleston for the same character.
I think I’d prefer a relative unknown to play Red, rather than a big, recognisable star. Whoever played him would need to be able to portray the physical side of him (he gets caught up in a lot of fights and other dangerous situations in this book, and is shown to be very strong and resilient), while also being able to show the kind heart which lies underneath his gruff exterior. Red can be a bit of a thug, and he’s not above beating the snot out of someone who deserves it, but he’s very gentle with children and firmly believes that it’s wrong to hit a woman or hurt anyone who can’t fight back. He can also be very thoughtful at times, and actually knows how to read, which is unusual for a commoner. He’s uneducated, but not stupid.
Does your computer have a name?
Trilogy! Because, as a fantasy author, everything I write has to come in groups of three. Union rules, you know. Union rules also dictate that every fantasy novel must have a map in the front. Well okay, actually it was the publishers who insisted on that. They also insisted on the trilogy thing, come to that. Trilogies are easier to market.
More information about K. J. Taylor
You can purchase her book ‘Tales of Cymria’ HERE
Her achievements so far include being named Young Distinguished Alumni of the Year from the University of Canberra in 2011, winning the Critic’s Award that same year, and being shortlisted for the Aurealis Awards in 2009 for The Dark Griffin.
If you’d like to meet K.J.Taylor in person, all of her upcoming public appearances are listed here on the site, on their own page. If you are hoping to invite her to make an appearance at your school, club, or other organisation, she is listed on the Invite-a-Writer site and you can book her through that.
Signing off – Tarran