Kay Kenyon is the author of eleven science fiction and fantasy novels. She is best known for her world-building, especially for her series The Entire and the Rose and for A Thousand Perfect Things. She lives in Eastern Washington with her husband and demanding orange cat.
Tell us about your latest book.
A Thousand Perfect Things is a fantasy about an alternate 19th century, where there are two warring continents on a re-imagined earth: scientific Anglica (England) and magical Bharata (India). The main character is Tori Harding, a young Victorian woman and aspiring botanist. She is emboldened by her grandfather’s final whispered secret of a magical lotus in Bharata that confers great powers. Her quest is to find it, braving the jungles and dangerous courts of rajas, as well as a magic-infused world of demon birds, ghosts and silver tigers.
Henry: Terrific premise! And I love the cover art. BTW, in our yard, we’ve got loud birds and birds that eat our apples and birds that poop on our solar cells. So, all birds are demon birds.
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
My hope is always to entertain, to sweep a reader up into a fascinating world in which they can live for a while, vicariously. I also treat the question of how far one should go in search of perfection. When is the world itself enough?
Henry: There’s that great quote, “Perfection is the enemy of good enough.”
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
With novels, especially if they are a bit complex, the most difficult aspect for me is plotting. How to keep the story moving, not just by increasing the obstacles, but with meaningful developments that link the character to the plot.
Henry: I’d be curious to know if you use any form of diagram or chart to track the plot strands.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
Not to expect perfection! To accept the judgment of the marketplace and find a balanced footing amid all the pressures of deadlines, marketing and the chaotic world of publishing.
Henry: Ah, yes. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…”
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
Being scolded for killing off a character. Each time readers respond strongly to something they feel I should not have done to a character, I am reminded how real stories are to readers, and how remarkable it is that they care about the people who live in those stories. I love this.
Henry: Now imagine being George R.R. Martin for a day…
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Work hard on plottting. The first ideas that come to you are likely warmed-over, delivered up by your subconscious as the easy answer. Dig deep for new twists and more believable, memorable stories. By going deeper into your own heart, you will also find writing your story more personally meaningful.
Henry: Terrific advice!
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?
My fingernails must all be the exact same length, therefore a bit of filing done as I sit down in front of keyboard. My cat, who is often on my lap by this time, thinks I am simply sharpening my claws.
Henry: We must allow our cats their delusions. Dogs have masters, but cats have staff.
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
I quite love the character of Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Seriously, this guy carries the art of self-justification to brilliant heights. It’s ironic how Milton, a man of the church, wrote such a fascinating evil creature, far outshining the heavenly characters.
Henry: Isn’t that the way of it? The sinister characters can often be the most interesting. Perhaps because through them, we can vicariously be bad for a while without consequences.
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
Her last book was her best.
Henry: Best. Answer. Ever.
Where can readers find your work?
Bookstores and at Amazon, in ebook and print. For more information, please see www.kaykenyon.com.
This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.