Today, I welcome Kellie Doherty to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk to us about her upcoming release, Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties, how she got her start to writing in fanfiction, quickly disillusioned herself of the romantic notion of writing in coffeeshops, and how sometimes the best way to move forward is giving up on a project. Welcome, Kellie and happy reading!
Kellie Doherty is the author of the Cicatrix Duology (Finding Hekate and Losing Hold) and is currently working on a five-book fantasy series. The first book Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties will be out in early 2019!
During the day, she’s an office assistant and freelance editor, and by night she’s crafting adventures full of magic and daggers...and maybe a few dragons, too.
Find Kellie online:
1. What is your writing origin story?
I’ve always been a voracious reader. Ever since I was young, I devoured books. When we went on camping trips, I’d go to the library and leave with an armload of books only to have read all of them before we even got to the campground. I liked all kinds of stories—sci fi, fantasy, horror, mystery, comics, manga—and eventually all my reading led to me wanting to write. I started writing fanfiction and although it wasn’t in the book-ish realm—Digimon and Pokemon mostly—it sparked my creativity for sure. I credit J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series that pushed me over the edge, though, and inspired me to write my own original fiction.
2. What inspires your writing and how do you keep that inspiration alive?
Inspiration comes in many forms for me. I get inspired by epic things—legendary music like the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, amazing writing like V.E. Schwab’s Darker Shades trilogy, great character building like on Critical Role—but I also get inspired by small things—the colors on flower petals, the cat’s eye shine in the middle of the night, the unique names I’ve come across at work. I also get inspired by my characters, since that is by far my favorite part of writing—character creation. As for keeping that inspiration alive, most of the time it’s pretty easy, actually, especially if I get to create a new character or start a new section of a work-in-progress or even write a flash fiction piece! When the inspiration doesn’t hit, though, I simply immerse myself into the things that I know help me be creative—read a good book, watch some Critical Role, etc.—and that spark will eventually come back.
3. What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?
To me, representation means showcasing all facets of our society so everyone can have someone they can relate to. It means weaving in other diverse cultures and characters into the story so kids, teens, and adults can see themselves in the adventure. I read a lot of stories where men were the leads and women were “damsels in distress”—especially in fantasy and science fiction. Now all of my main characters are female who can take care of themselves. (Even if they are also super awkward in the process.) I also didn’t see many queer characters and being bisexual, I wanted to change that so my main characters are also queer. I really hope that my characters can speak to readers out there and help those readers see a little bit of themselves in my story.
4. What are some of your favorite tropes (or ways to subvert them)?
While I wouldn’t call the damsel in distress a favorite trope, I do like to subvert it at every turn or use it in unexpected ways. My main characters are women and they can kick ass, but they are also in distress in different ways. Whether it’s being haunted by their past or hunted by evildoers, my main characters do need help from friends or family, but it’s not in that all-encompassing way that was portrayed in the damsel in distress idea. I also like playing with the “chosen one” trope and focusing instead on a character that may not have the best assets for the job or even be the most powerful. I also love the evil-in-waiting idea, where the evil was defeated ages ago only to burst forth once again to wreak havoc; the epic quest, where the characters go on this amazing adventure to complete their goal; and the stories that go into what the world would be like after an apocalypse!
5. What is your writing process?
My writing process starts with character creation. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s my favorite part of storytelling so I always start with a character. It doesn’t have to be the main character, either, just someone in the story that will knock on my creativity door and we go from there. After that, I dive into worldbuilding and plotlines and drafting and editing. I like to do my writing at home. I’ve tried the romantic notion of writing in a coffee shop, but the vibe doesn’t sit well with me—either the music is too loud or the people are talking about something vaguely distracting or the seats just aren’t comfortable. No, I prefer to write at home on my couch, with my two cats sitting next to me, my notes strewn about, and a cup of hot tea on the table. I usually write on my computer—it’s just faster, you know?—but I also carry around a notebook and have one sitting by my bed, too, in case inspiration strikes. I have a pretty busy schedule during the week, so I try my best to write during the weekends.
6. What is your best piece of writing advice?
End your last writing session in the middle of an intense spot so you’ll be excited and inspired to come back to it. Keep in mind, “intense” doesn’t have to be a life/death cliffhanger! It can be an emotional scene, a fight between best friends, a sudden crack in the middle of the woods, or a entrance into a new town—really anything that you’ll want to come back to after a long, hard day or if you’re not really feeling motivated to write.
7. What is the hardest lesson you learned while writing?
Sometimes you have to just stop writing that story or poem or book and be okay with it. I wrote a novella for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and while I really enjoyed the characters and the basic plotline, the more I kept going back to the story, the more I just couldn’t get into it. I felt like I had to, though; I mean, I wrote the thing for NaNoWriMo, right? That had to mean something! I couldn’t have just concentrated on this one story for a whole month, wrote over 50K words, and basically worked myself dry all for nothing. But as much as I wanted to, I still couldn’t get into it. So I stopped working on that story and moved on to something else. Doing that, disconnecting myself from that piece, was like a weight off my shoulders, and I was thrilled to work on something new. Maybe someday I’ll try work on that NaNoWriMo story again, but maybe not—and that is perfectly okay. (And don’t worry, I do know that month of pure creativity wasn’t all for nothing; the month was intense but also really fun and made me prioritize my writing!)
8. What do you hope readers will take away from your work?
Wow, so many things! I hope my work can provide a sense of escape from real life, a deep dive into imagination and storytelling to disconnect from the stress of the daily grind. I hope readers will find a character to connect with, to see themselves in, and will learn from their struggles and triumphs. I hope readers will take away an aspect of my characters to use in their own lives—whether it be the awkward girl who finally learns to be brave or the guilt-ridden woman who accepts her past or the fighter who changes tack—I want my readers to be inspired by them. Finally, I really hope my work can help readers to be creative! I was motivated to write because of the books I read and I hope my stories, my characters, my worlds can do the same for someone else.
9. What is a great queer book you have read recently?
Becky Chambers’ Record of a Spaceborn Few! The story is amazing, the characters are interesting, and one big thing at the beginning has an intriguing ripple effect on the rest of the story. Plus her worldbuilding is gorgeous. It’s what I call a “quiet queer” book since some of the characters are queer but it’s not the main storyline or even a secondary storyline. The queerness is just a part of them, one aspect not their whole reason for being in the story, and I love that kind of representation.
10. What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?
Currently I’m working with Desert Palm Press to publish my first fantasy novel called Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties. Basically, a woman gets a pendant fused to her neck and she has to deal with the deadly consequences of being its wearer. It’s the first book of a five-book fantasy series that I’m super exited about—the first four books will have a different main character and the fifth book will bring them all together. Right now we’re gearing up for the launch of Sunkissed Feathers, so that’s what I’ve been focusing on—final edits, design work, marketing, etc. Next, I’ll be working on book two of the series, which focuses on another main character named Orenda Silverstone.
Misti Eildelmann is a Vagari—a race whose innate crafting ability is connected to the creatures of the world. She’s also a Moon Knight. Misti is fighting a banished one when he slips a pendant around her neck that saps her strength. The pendant is dangerous. Deadly even. It harnesses crafting in a way not seen before, so she sets off to find help. Old and new friends join her on this quest, including her longtime crush Dylori Clyofis and a villager named Arias Silverstone. The journey is risky—filled with frightening suncreatures, evil worshippers, and twisted betrayal. Misti is thankful to have friends on this path into the scorching light, but something much bigger is waiting for them in the sunshine. Her pendant is just a piece of puzzle.
OUT FROM DESERT PALM PRESS EARLY 2019
Sunkissed Feathers will be released in early 2019 so keep an eye on my social media for more info! Otherwise, check out kelliedoherty.com to see my other works available for purchase and the platforms in which you can purchase them.