Saturday, September 17, 2011

Katharine Kerr - Author Interview Series

What authors/books did you read as a child? When did you first discover your love of books?

Anything I could get my hands on. I learned to read at home when I was four. I kept on reading from then on. My grandmother and I would walk to our local library and load up on a week’s reading at a time. I don’t remember all the authors at this lapse of time, but I did love horse books in particular. Also classics like Mary Poppins, Wind in the Willows, the Moffats series - I indentified with Jane Moffat, odd of me since I was an only child - and various other chapter books.

When did you first realise you were a writer? What do you hope your readers will take away with them from reading your books?

When I was 8, I started writing “books” on bits of paper and stapling them together. When I was 13, I discovered SF and decided then that I would write SF and Fantasy when I grew up. Oddly enough, I have stuck by that decision.

Good stories first, involving interesting characters that seem real, and then something to think about after the story’s over, such as moral issues or bits of history.

Do you find it difficult to read purely for pleasure? Does everything you read come under your ‘writer’ microscope?

Yes, it is difficult. I tend to analyze as I read and then think about the book after I’m done. If the book was less than sucessful, I think about what I might have done differently if I were writing it. If it was excellent, I wallow in envy for a bit.

Do you have to avoid reading certain types of fiction while writing your own? Does what you read while writing have an effect on what you write? In what way?

Not any more. When I was first working on the Deverry series, I did avoid other epic fantasies, but fortunately that didn’t last. The reading that does affect my writing is the research I do. Even for the current Urban Fantasy that I’m writing, I do research, mostly into magical traditions, but also into details - such as Ari’s gun collection in the Nola O’Grady books.

Name five authors or books that have influenced or inspired your own writing in some way.

No fantasy writer can pretend Tolkien didn’t influence them. Some try, but they’re silly. Proust’s interweavings have definitely influenced the way I like to tell a story, and Henry James’ examinations of consciousness have, oddly enough, influenced the way I depict magical actions. Heinlein’s early “boy’s books” fired up my desire to write SF that had real women in it. Ursula Le Guin showed me that this could be done.

What makes a book ‘too good to put down’?

Believeable characters whose story interests me. They don’t have to be in mortal danger or anything like that. An emotional tangle or moral dilemma will do.

What makes you put down a book without finishing it?

Paper thin characters and too much Raw Exposition. In particular, lots of exposition crammed into dialogue.

Do you have a favourite author? Who is it and what is it about their writing that draws you to them?

Marcel Proust. I love the minute dissection of character and the dream-like evocation of a France that was long-gone even in his own day.

What was your 2010 ‘best read’? What was it that made it number one?

Kate Elliot’s Cold Magic. The world-building is amazing, nominally steampunk, but it goes well beyond that set of cliches. Magic and politics are mixed together in a really intriguing way.

What do you think of the non-traditional publishing methods – eBooks etc? Do you think the new technology will encourage more people to read? Do you think there’s a future for print books?

I'm afraid I don't have a crystal ball . I have no idea what the answers to these questions are. No one will really know for another 20 years, probably - not that this lack of real information is going to stop people from spouting off on the subject.

Katharine Kerr describes herself as an inveterate loafer, baseball addict, and rock and roll fan, who begrudgingly spares time to write novels. She is perhaps best known for writing the Deverry series of historical fantasies or fantastical histories, depending on your point of view. She lives near San Francisco with her husband of many years and some cats.

You can find out more about Katharine here.


  1. Very cool, Lisa - thank you for this, I remember the Deverry series from when I was in highschool and I loved it. Great to see some insights into Katharine's reading.

  2. Yes, that's what inspired me to do this series. I think most readers are interested in seeing what their favourite authors read.

    Thanks for commenting Ashley.