Kathryn Sullivan Interview
Hi Kathryn. Welcome to Fallen Angels. From the looks of things, you are one busy lady. I appreciate you taking the time to speak with us.
Your work Agents & Adepts has been receiving rave reviews. This anthology has fifteen tales in it. Can you tell us how these stories came about?
A number of these stories were written while I was trying to find a publisher for my first book, The Crystal Throne. Some of the characters from that book (especially the Windkin) had back-stories they wanted told, and I also found it interesting to explore some of the history of that universe. The Mead Mistdaughter series is set back when humans were still co-existing with elves. I wrote her stories while I was in the SCA and learning to use the glaive. Those and other stories were published in small zines over the years and I kept being asked to write more of them, so…
Is there a particular story within the anthology that you would consider your favorite?
And then there’s my interstellar operative. First came the story when she was contacted on Earth by a small alien who recruited her and then I wrote one when she was in the middle of training to work uncover. Somehow that character keeps coming back. She’s already had three stories and now I’ve got a longer story that she keeps pestering me to write.
Transfer Student was written not long after I got out of college. I just wanted to see how an alien would work in a dorm setting.
The Demons’ Storeroom is one of my favorites. I tend to read it at conventions because it’s so short and fun. I just like the idea that here’s this wizard who just likes to tend his garden. He doesn’t know a lot of spells, but he does know one very *powerful* spell.
Agents & Adepts was the Anthology Category Winner at the recent Dream Realm Awards. Congratulations!!
How does it feel to know that your work is this well received?
Very happy. And surprised, too. But that definitely encourages me to finish up the next books.
You have a number of works, besides Agents & Adepts, for fans to read. Two of the most recent are The Oracle of Cilens in Beyond the Mundane: Flights of Mind and The Diplomat's Story in Short Trips: Repercussions. Can you tell fans a little about each of these stories?
Oracle is set in Etruscan times because I was very interested in those people and wanted to explore their culture. The Etruscans believed a great deal in omens. Ramtha is the only one in her family who can see other people’s futures, thanks to the goddess Cilens, but it’s an ability she tries to hide. I had a hard time at first writing that story. And then one night I dreamed I was following Ramtha around the marketplace as she was telling her friend what had happened to her. I woke up, started scribbling frantically, and the story was finished a few days later.
You write full novels as well as short stories. Does your writing style differ dramatically from one to the other?
The Diplomat’s Story is set in the Doctor Who (a British TV show) universe. The Sixth Doctor helps stop a war between a human colony and a nearby alien colony. The situation is still rather tense, so before he leaves, he recommends a retired school teacher as the diplomat. Ormsin is in her sixties, she just lost her husband in the attack, but she wants to make sure that the humans and aliens get along.
I don’t think so. I can add a lot more back-story and history to the novels, but
that’s about all.
What are the most rewarding/challenging aspects of writing short stories compared to full-length novels?
Sometimes the most challenging part is keeping to the word limit for the short stories! Especially when the “perfect scene” comes to mind, but then has to be trimmed down or cut altogether. One rewarding aspect is that the short story is often published sooner. Another is when people ask “and what happened to … (Elin, or Mead, or…) next?” Though I get that question asked about the novels, too.
I noticed that you are going to be making some public appearances in the near future. What do you enjoy about getting to meet the public one on one?
First, that someone is actually reading my books. Then it’s fun to see what other interests we share—Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who. At science fiction conventions I’m usually on panels about e-books and it’s encouraging to hear how many people are aware of them.
Besides writing, you have a number of other interests: Anthropology, Astronomy and birds. How did you become involved with these?
My undergraduate degree is in Anthropology and I just never lost my fascination with other cultures, history and languages. It’s fun to transfer those to a fantasy or science fiction context, whether for first contact stories or mythology.
Do your outside interests contribute to your writing?
Astronomy is another interest I’ve had since I was small. I’m not sure if I got into it when I became interested in science fiction or if it’s what led me to be interested in science fiction. It’s one of the reasons I’ve got SETI@Home as a screen saver. And the Astronomy Picture of the Day website never fails to give me ideas for stories.
Birds…well, my father wouldn’t let us have dogs or cats when I was growing up, just parakeets. My brother and sisters all got dogs and cats when they left home, but I stayed with birds. They’re a very fascinating lifeform and very long-lived. I’m owned by a Moluccan cockatoo named Bayla and a Jenday conure named MacGyver. They both talk—Bayla more than Mac—and it’s nice to come home and be greeted with “Hi guys!” (Mac) and “Hellllooo” (Bayla).
Anthropology helps a great deal when I’m setting up my worlds in either a science fiction or fantasy setting. I like to figure out the manners, how that’s reflected in the language, and a bit of the history. I have a short story, The Monster and the Archaeologists in Professor Bernice Summerfield and the Dead Men Diaries where I had a lot of fun using archeology but set in the 24th century. Astronomy, well, that definitely helps in world-building. Transfer Student was influenced a lot by my bird owners.
As an author and librarian, it is obvious you have a love of books. Is there a particular author you can’t pass up a chance to read?
Right now I’m going through a lot of Elizabeth Moon’s books. Other authors I can’t pass up are Lois McMaster Bujold, Janet Kagan, Tamora Pierce, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, Jennifer St. Clair, Steven Lee Climer, and Michelle Levigne.
Given the success you have had with your previous works, what else would you like to accomplish in your career?
Can we get a teaser for what you are working on right now?
I have a picture book coming out from Writer’s Exchange and I’d like to write a few more. I’d also like to work on an audio drama. But first I have to finish up the three books I’m working on.
From Talking to Trees (tentative title)
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Jody Burns saw the green-haired girl step out of midair.
At first she didn't realize that she had seen anything unusual--this was the mall on a Saturday, after all--but then it struck her that this couldn't possibly be some advertising trick. The girl had not been there a second ago. The air had suddenly rippled and she had stumbled through. She was dripping wet, her hair and clothing clinging to her. She looked as if she had been crying, and Jody could hear a half sniff/half sob as she glanced around at the crowded mall.
The girl shook her head and Jody expected to see droplets of water fly everywhere, but instead she only heard a faint rustle and the short hair suddenly looked dry, lightening to a sea green in color. The water beading her light brown skin and soaking her shirt vanished as if absorbed. The girl hugged her bare arms below the short sleeves and looked around as if she was searching for someone.
Jody quickly looked back at the window display before her. Summer pastels were such a relief after the gray winter drabs. She said as much to Amy Evans, but Amy was looking elsewhere. “Well, check out the new style.”
“Eww, seaweed,” Brittany commented.
Jody turned with the rest of the group. The green-haired girl was heading directly for them. She wore a loose, almost knee length, brownish smock and dark brown leggings. The smock had a pattern that reminded Jody of the paneling in the family room. Light and dark wood grain swirls, and the neck and sleeve trim even resembled bark. Close up, her brown skin seemed to have greenish undertones. Wonder if she’s ill, a small thought began before Jody crushed it.
The girl stopped before them. Small beaded cords that held short tufts of hair at each temple clattered softly as she bobbed her head. “Excuse, please. Do you know where dwells a hero?”
“Hero?” Amy echoed.
“Or a wizard. A demon slayer would be best.”
Jody wondered why the girl was looking at her. Maybe it was because she was the tallest of the group of twelve- and thirteen-year-olds. She knew she was dressed more in fashion than the others, but then the city stores she used to shop at were much better than those in small town malls. She seems about our age. Too old to be playing little kid games.
“You mean...The Slayer?” Brittany asked, emphasizing the name. “Someone obviously watches too much television,” she added to the group.
“Weird,” Sadie commented. She made a circling gesture by her temple, and the other girls giggled.
The girl looked from one to the other and finally returned her attention to Jody. “Please. I need help.”
“Definitely,” Amy agreed. “For one, that hair color is so out.”
“Out where?” She seemed puzzled when several of the girls laughed.
Jody actually thought the girl’s hair color was interesting--’sea foam’, she thought the shade might have been called. She tried to remember if she had seen any outfits in that color; it would definitely suit her blonde looks. Unnervingly, the girl focused on her again. “Please. We've held back the evil as long as we can. We need help.”
Why was she asking her? “Uh.” Jody looked around. Weren’t there any security guards in this mall? She’d settle for an older teen or an adult, if she could get anyone’s attention. But everyone seemed to be in a hurry, walking past or around the group of girls.
“And that outfit.” Amy tskked. “Long baggy T-shirts are so yesterday.”
The girl tilted her head as she looked at the girls. “I don’t understand your words. The Watcher of Gates said that the first person who saw me would be the one to help.” She looked again at Jody, who tried not to squirm. “Will you help?”
“Yes, Jody,” Amy said with an unfriendly smile and a glance aside at the other girls. “Will you help?”
Jody could feel the other girls watching her as they waited. Somehow it felt as if everyone in the mall was watching her. This girl might be serious about asking for help, but what could she do? Better to make a big joke of it, as the rest were, and go back to window-shopping.
I have a picture book coming out from Writer’s Exchange, Michael and the Elf.
Thank you Kathryn for stopping by Fallen Angel Reviews. I have enjoyed getting to speak with you. I know I will be going to check out Agents & Adepts. To see more of Kathryn, please check out her website.
Interviewed by: Amanda