Author Spotlight – Kellie Doherty
Joining us for today’a Author Spotlight is Kellie Doherty!
Kellie Doherty is a queer science fiction and fantasy author from Eagle River, Alaska. Living in Alaska gave her an appreciation for nature, a hankering for a good cup of tea, and a passion for all things below zero. During those dark winter nights, she kept herself busy by writing stories and creating characters.
When she noticed a lack of queer characters in science fiction and fantasy stories, Kellie decided to create her own. She’s currently working on a five-book fantasy series, and the first book, Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties, was released on March 27, 2019 by Desert Palm Press. You can find out more on her website kelliedoherty.com and follow Kellie on Twitter @Kellie_Doherty.
Thanks for joining us today, Kellie. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
I recently finished Becky Chambers’ Record of a Spaceborn Few and I couldn’t put it down. The book has so many amazing things—fun characters, interesting storylines, great twists—and I can’t sing her praises enough. She’s the queen of quiet yet powerful moments, and I love how the found family idea seeps through her work regardless of who the main characters are.
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
I’d play a tiefling cleric, and my weapon of choice would probably be warhammer. Why? Because I do actually play D&D and that’s my character! But even if I hadn’t already been playing D&D, I’d pick a cleric anyway just because I really enjoy the healing powers they have. A party member is wounded in battle? Cure wounds. Someone just died? No problem—revivify! And the non-healing spells they have are amazing—bless and bane are twin wonders, guiding bolt deals damage and lets another attack have advantage, guardian of faith is a great protector. As for choosing warhammer, I like to get into the action and tank some, so having a melee weapon is perfect for smashing. I’m a protector at heart, so dealing damage and saving lives? Yeah, I’d be a warhammer wielding cleric for sure!
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Why?
I write my stories on the computer—with my character ideas, worldbuilding documents, plot points, etc. in Word—just because I’m much faster at typing than hand-writing. But I also carry around notebooks and hand-write inspiration or random thoughts whenever they come to me. Like all writers, I get flashes of inspiration at weird times, like while at work, in the middle of the night, on the road, etc. and if I don’t write my thoughts down, I’ll never remember them.
And how do you like to work – in silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps?
I used to work in silence, and for my science fiction duology Finding Hekate and Losing Hold, I did just that—utter creepy silence. It worked for those books, that setting, that…feeling. In an alternate universe I would’ve said it’s because “space doesn’t carry sound,” but really, I just didn’t know that I could write with music on back then. Shortly after Losing Hold came out, I was working on a short story piece for a holiday gift to my readers and couldn’t get into the project. My mind wasn’t in it, so I started listening to some music to distract myself. Pretty soon ideas for that short story piece clicked into place and I was able to write again! (You can read that free short story called A Desert Welcome on my website. http://kelliedoherty.com/other-writing-projects) Ever since that day, I’ve used music to help me write, usually lyric-less and from fantasy or science fiction films. For Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties, I had a Lord of the Rings soundtrack mix on repeat pretty much the entire time. Having that soundtrack mix on in the background helped me get into the fantasy mood and allowed me to focus on my writing!
Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit? Tell us something unusual about your writing method!
I used to not use outlines. To me, outlines reminded me of school essays and final papers, long nights spent pouring over textbooks, highlighting specific passages, flagging certain pages. They reminded me of something I had to do to get the grade—and yeah, sometimes it was fun (I did take a Tolkien class in college and a design class in grad school), but it was also stressful. I didn’t want my fiction to mirror that stress, I wanted my fiction writing to be fun! So the first two books I wrote, I didn’t really outline…I just wrote and re-wrote. And it worked! But then I decided to write a fantasy series with interconnected main characters spanning five books and I knew I had to use an outline. So, begrudgingly, I created one. Well, five actually, one for each book. And you know what? Being a plotter is kind of fun! Seeing the world, the story points, and the characters set out is pretty nice. Plus, it’s not as stressful as I had originally assumed, because for me, the outline is just a guideline. I don’t have to follow it as rigidly as I did back in school. So maybe I’m somewhere in between? A pantter.
What are your most significant non-book fantasy influences?
Critical Role, the group of nerdy ass voice actors who play D&D on Twitch, is a constant fantasy inspiration for me. I discovered them back in graduate school and haven’t stopped watching since. The show has some amazing storytelling and characterization! When I got stuck while writing Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties, I would watch some Critical Role to spark my fantasy mind-set back to life. I do have other sources to pull from—I recently got my sister into Supernatural so that’s been a fun blast from the past—but right now, Critical Role is my most significant non-book fantasy influence.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
The last thing I watched on TV was actually Supernatural! Like I mentioned, I got my sister into it and we watch it on the weekends. It’s a pretty fun show, and I’ve always like the dynamic between the brothers. I’ve watched it before but I’ve never finished it, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens later on in the seasons.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write or otherwise do any work. How do you choose to spend the day?
An extra day? I would honestly love that! Does reading count as work? Like most writers, I enjoy losing myself in a good book. I’d hang out with some friends I haven’t seen in a while, and I’d play with my cats, too. I’d also love to bake some bread or cookies and have a game night with my family. So it would be a busy day off, but a fun one, too!
If you could choose one punctuation mark to be made illegal, which would it be and why?
Ooo, would the lack of a punctuation mark count? If so, the lack of the Oxford comma annoys me to no end. Separate things, people, please! If not, we can ax the semicolon. I know it serves an important purpose, but I really don’t like how it looks on the page. (I do like Project Semicolon, though, so they can have all the semicolons they need.)
In no more than three sentences, tell us a little something about your latest release!
Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties is an adult fantasy centered on a woman named Misti who gets this mysterious Blood pendant attached to her skin and she has to deal with the deadly consequences. It’s filled with action, twisted betrayal, the bond between siblings, a dash of romance, and the importance of preserving when all else falls through.
If you could co-write or co-create a series (like The Expanse, or the Malazan Book of the Fallen), who would you choose to work with and why?
I’d love to be part of the creative team working on the Critical Role comic series from Dark Horse! The characters of Campaign One are so dynamic and to work on their origin story would be so much fun!
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Most helpful advice: Setting is a powerful tool. It can set the mood (think dark and stormy vs. sunny and bright) and look different for each character’s point of view (a character might love rain, when another one hates it…they’d view a storm very differently).
Least helpful advice: Don’t use contractions. (TERRIBLE ADVICE, RIGHT? I mean, maybe for one character or a super formal species or in non-fiction/technical writing, but in fiction? Sheesh.)
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
Oh goodness, I am not a history buff by any means, but I guess I’d like to see Gaelic Ireland. I’m half Irish so seeing Ireland during that time period would be interesting, especially how they viewed their animism and mythology.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
I trick myself. I tell myself that I only need to write one sentence that day and then I can stop. Anyone can write one sentence, right? The thing is, once I write that one sentence it usually morphs into a paragraph and then that paragraph expands into a scene and then that scene transforms into a chapter, etc. You get the idea. I trick myself into thinking I just need to write a very small amount, and then it naturally progresses from there. It usually works. On days that it doesn’t work, I immerse myself in brainstorming mode instead—why is this chapter giving me an issue, do I really need it in the story, what can I add to make this more interesting to me, should I just skip it and come back later—and that usually gets me in the writing mood anyway.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
Have you ever read the comic book called Serenity: Those Left Behind from Dark Horse (2006)? I don’t know how obscure/underappreciated it is since it’s in the Firefly fandom, but it’s something a friend got me back in 2014 and I still read it to this day. I love Firefly and Serenity so finding a comic that’s a continuation of their journey amazed me. Those Left Behind is a quick read, but it brings the motely crew of the Serenity to life and is a nice snapshot adventure! If you liked Firefly or amazing science fiction centered on found families, try this comic.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with what we like to call a ‘shark elevator pitch’? (It’s exactly the same as an elevator pitch, but with sharks.) (Well, one shark. Which, by the way, is currently picking between its rows of teeth to try and dislodge the remains of the last author who stepped onto its elevator.)
Ahem. So: why should readers check out your work? A shark elevator pitch of your own book(s) in no more than three sentences – go!
My science fiction and fantasy work features queer female main characters, ladies who are fearless and fierce, broken and awkward, who save their friends but need their aid, too, and who aren’t afraid to shoot or slash some folk to get what they need. My scifi Cicatrix Duology centers on a spaceship captain who is being hunted, put under immense pressure by her crew, and is slowly breaking apart. My fantasy series the Broken Chronicles only has one book out thus far, Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties, which focuses on a woman who gets this mysterious pendant stuck to her skin and she has to deal with the deadly consequences.
Brilliant! Thanks again for joining us, Kellie, and good luck with your latest release!
Kellie Doherty is the author of the SF Cicatrix Duology, which includes the novels FINDING HEKATE and LOSING HOLD. The first book in her new fantasy series, The Broken Chronicles, is called SUNKISSED FEATHERS AND SEVERED TIES, and is available now.