Kay Villoso was kind enough to allow Dani at Book Geeks Uncompromised to pick her brain with a few questions.
For those that are new to you and your work, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I write character-driven works, mostly epic fantasy (but the occasional sword-and-sorcery and horror novel) as K.S. Villoso (www.ksvilloso.com). People will usually call me Kay, which is perfectly okay! I live in BC, Canada, and do a lot of hiking (which is why you’re going to see a lot of good old-fashioned traipsing around in the woods and mountains in my stories). My background is in Civil Engineering, but I’m currently a full-time writer, full-time homeschooling mom
with secret plans for world domination while also helping my husband with his start-up business.
Do you remember what book or story it was that got you interested in fantasy?
Watership Down is probably this novel, because it gave way to the Redwall series, which has all the epic battles and sword fights you could want, which led me to classic stuff like Lord of the Rings and Earthsea. About the only other fantasy I can think of reading as a child was Song of the Gargoyle by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, but I didn’t really think of it as “fantasy” in that sense–it was just a really cool story about a boy and a sort-of dog in medieval times.
You mentioned in a recent blog post that despite your first book, Jaeth’s Eye, not garnering much attention for two years you pushed on and wrote out the rest of the trilogy, Aina’s Breath and Sapphire’s Flight. What kept you writing through that time?
Pure, stubborn determination
and not knowing any better!
I had always wanted to see this story through to the end ever since I first started writing in 2004, but life always got in the way. Jaeth’s Eye suffered from endless revisions, and I just wasn’t a good enough writer to handle the story way back in the day. After it was published, I still wasn’t even sure I could pull off the end of the trilogy—all those reveals felt daunting, and there were things in my writing I really needed to work at.
Between publishing Jaeth’s Eye and around the time I was writing Aina’s Breath in 2015, we were under some extreme life stress (I was still working a full-time day job and we were doing home construction at the same time, among many other things), so I sort of threw myself at my writing as a crutch. Aina’s Breathwas like a mental barrier that kept me from going batshit around those times—I felt like a zombie, going through the hours—finishing my regular job, going to the house to shovel gravel or do other miscellaneous construction stuff, writing in the evenings, and then just collapsing in bed at night.
I managed to finish that novel in April or May 2015 and then immediately got started on Sapphire’s Flight, but I was sitting on only about a couple of chapters of that novel for a year. I got laid off in May 2016 and the events around that time, and the weeks that followed, lit a pure white rage inside me. I continued the novel while attempting to go back to school, but I was becoming extremely frustrated with myself. Later on, in October, I was sitting in Chemistry class while reading Senlin Ascends (thanks, Josiah!) and the teacher gave us back our results for the first test. I had studied really hard for it, but somehow, I still almost failed. Josiah was just starting to get attention during this time as an indie-published writer and I realized that I really needed to get my shit together. I needed to stop doing things half-heartedly, to stop trying to play it safe—I had wanted to be an author my whole life, what was I doing? If I can only do one thing right (which is writing), even if I’m not that great at it yet, then shouldn’t I be focusing on that instead of all the stuff I didn’t even like doing?
I quit class that same day (well, I was polite, I stayed until the end and then just handed in a withdrawal form later) and took Sapphire’s Flight from Act One to completion two months later. My dear friend Julie Midnight loves to call this productive rage. I think I’ve been on it since.
In that same vein, looking back what did you learn from your experience in publishing your first book and then subsequently your first full series?
So much! I learned a bit more about book marketing and sales, and quite a bit about the business side of things. I’m still winging quite a lot of it, but despite the steep learning curve, it’s all been a lot of fun.
Writing-wise, I’ve learned quite a bit about pacing and structure, and am hopefully improving on those parts. I learned to write better action and battle scenes, and to be a little bit less rigid about my own writing—in other words, let my voice speak louder. I also learned that the Internet is not such a dark, scary place full of critics, but that there are some very kind, friendly, and wonderful readers and other authors who support each other through it all, which has helped a lot in getting me out of my shell this past year (holy shit, it’s already been a year!).
On your website, you also mentioned that that write in part to explore maps. As you explore and create different maps, do the maps impact the stories for you or do the stories entirely drive the map creation?
A bit of both! Sometimes I’ll map out something that I’ve written out already, but sometimes I’ll be fleshing out that map and still creating a story in my head while I do it. There’s still so much I haven’t explored! Every time I name a city, I might get a background for it already.
There’s a reason I didn’t do an “entire world map” for example and instead just did one of every country that showed up in the series. I still left a lot of room to explore (the center of that continent, I think, has some blank spaces, and we don’t have a map for Gaspar yet). I love the idea of discovery. I’m writing a new story right now…did you know there’s an unnamed city in Hafod just above Blackwood? There’s just a dot there, no city name. Mysteeeeries…
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Repetitive strain injury from typing too much. It sucks to write when it hurts. ;)
It also used to be really easy to derail me mentally, but lots of support and booze has greatly helped with that…
Why don’t I have The Ikessar Falcon in my hands yet?! JK… :)
It has to go through my extremely critical beta-reader first, but it’s coming…it’s a freaking behemoth! :D