Moira Katson, is the author of the Light & Shadow Trilogy, which I discovered the first day I used my Kobo Reader. She was kind enough to offer Shadowborn, the first installment for free – and being the cheap bugger I am – I grabbed a copy, starting reading and couldn’t put it down.
Moira has also published another epic fantasy novel, Mahalia, and Shadow’s Reach, set in the Light & Shadow universe.
I’ve asked her here today to let me pick at her brain, and see what we can find.
How long have you considered yourself a Writer? Oh, wow. Hmmm. I’ve been working on stories I have in the pipeline now for about 10 years, but I don’t think I would have considered myself a writer until 2012 at the earliest, when I released my first book. Even after that, it took a while before I would introduce myself as a writer.
What Author(s) or Works first inspired you to write? Who inspires you now? Now, I would say that Guy Gavriel Kay is a huge inspiration: every time I pick up one of his books I get about a half paragraph in, slump onto my desk, and moan, “Oh, no, reading this shows me that I’m horrible at writing.” His books are so beautifully crafted, and a joy to read (as soon as I get past my despair)! As for beginning to write, I can’t remember a particular story that inspired me, but I do remember my mother reading A Wrinkle in Time aloud to me, and I loved all of L’Engle’s work.
Do you ever put yourself into your own stories, and if so where (in the background or the forefront)? This is a fascinating question, and one I had (oddly) never thought about. It’s a mix of “always” and “never.” I’ve never written a character that started out as me, per se—sometimes they’re more courageous, or more or less able to tolerate moral flux… On the other hand, as I write, each character gets under my skin and in the end, after writing them, I’m not the same person I was to start with.
Where did Light & Shadow come from? I wanted to explore the trope of a young woman forced into the role of a political pawn, but from the point of view of someone who was essentially invisible. I was hoping to show, and I hope I did, that both of these woman started as invisible in their separate ways: Catwin was unseen entirely, and Miriel was seen but not thought of as a person in her own right, only regarded as a vessel for her uncle’s ambitions.
What would you say lies at the core of your overall inspiration, your drive to write? As a story comes into focus in my head, it becomes very real and very true to me, and I feel a need to bear witness to it. It’s difficult to say this because it sounds illogical and somewhat “out there.” On the other hand, I have heard some other authors, artists, and musicians describe the phenomenon: it’s like the work of art has come to you and you’re its only means of coming into the world. It beats at the corners of your brain until you let it out, and then you can rest.
Imagine if you will your fiction as a person. Describe them. I imagine it’s a lot like Patrick Stewart – mostly serious with flashes of humor, and very nerdy.
Describe a typical writing session for you? Somewhat self-combative. You have to devote a lot of time to writing because of all the time you spend sitting at your notebook or computer, only a fraction of it will be writing, and only a fraction of that will be good writing. So I sit, and try to make myself write, and try to keep myself from doing things like checking my email—and sometimes it feels like every word is being dragged out of me kicking and screaming, but if I’m very lucky, then I will catch onto a stream of inspiration and type and type and type!
What are you planning to follow up Shadow’s Reach with? Right now I am working on two things, a Science Fiction series called Novum, and a co-writing project about an alternate history involving Joan of Arc. I had not planned on returning to the Light & Shadow universe, but I am now fairly sure that I will do so—Catwin and Miriel have a lot of life ahead of them!
What made you decide to Self-Publish? Originally, it was the story of querying and querying and losing my way. I wasn’t writing anymore, I was just enmeshed in the publishing process! It took several very persistent friends to get me to take the leap, but once I self-published Mahalia, I felt that self-publishing was the correct path to take for the Light & Shadow series as well. I’ve enjoyed being able to determine my own stories without thought to profit—beyond the covers, I had no cost to recoup! I could be as daring as I wanted.
Do you have goals of working with a traditional publisher in the future? Perhaps! My main concern with traditional publishing is the sheer amount of time it takes, but having the right team behind a book can be critical. Right now I’ve been able to assemble my own teams and I’ve had fantastic luck, but in the future, who knows? Publishing is full of great people who love books, and a lot of those work on the traditional side—it would be a privilege to work with them!
What’s your favourite thing about Self-Publishing? Speed from manuscript to publishing, and self-determination in terms of topics to write about!
What’s your least? There are a lot of details to handle. Every once in a while I do think how much easier it would be if someone else handled things, but I have a love-hate relationship with that idea.
What’s the first piece of advice you’d give an author self-publishing for the first time? Two main things. First, don’t be afraid to get help for cover art, editing, etc., but do research on the people you’re hiring; I don’t have horror stories, but there are a lot of sad ones out there. Second, take the time to make the book everything it can be. It’s so exciting to get your work out there that it’s easy to rush things, but it’s so much better to take the time, particularly with editing. I’m a very impatient person, so I sympathize completely, and I hope others can learn from my experience! Take the time to do every kind of editing you can (self-editing, which is a very important skill; having friends read it through; perhaps getting editing if you can afford it or, if not, taking the time to print out the manuscript and check carefully for typos and consistency errors).
What’s the last? Hmmm, I’m torn between “never edit” and “pay people to handle all aspects of formatting and uploading.” Both are equally horrible advice!
On the Person behind the Pen
I noticed you’ve tagged Mahalia as Feminist Literature. Do you consider yourself a Feminist? Has anyone given you slack for representing it in your writing? How about praise? I do consider myself a feminist, and for me that means I do everything I can to make sure that someday, we have a world where everyone starts with the same chance to succeed, prosper, and prove themselves. In my writing, I try to show every character as working within their circumstances to determine their own future, and so far the response has been very positive. (A few people aren’t too happy about LGBTQ characters showing up in the story, but those voices have been very few.)
Where did you grow up, and what was it like? I grew up in a rural area of New England, in a house filled with books. I was lucky to have parents who were such geeks, and to get to travel a lot, living overseas for about a year total. It was a wonderful childhood, and it certainly shaped me!
Did anyone close to you help inspire you to write, or encourage you? I can’t think of anyone in my life who hasn’t been there for me, which is amazing. My parents filled the house with books, my family sent me notebooks and kindle gift cards, my friends beta read my stories. I have been surrounded by people who cheered me on, and it’s been wonderful.
Pets? Tell me about ’em! Or, if none, why not? None at the moment, but perhaps a dog at some point in the future. I’m a cat person, but my husband is allergic…
And last: If you knew someone who could only read one book in their entire life, what book would you recommend (Assuming, of course, they have similar tastes as you)? Oh, wow. That’s a tough one. I think it might have to be The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. That book destroyed me, but it’s also some of the most beautiful character writing I’ve ever seen.