Author Interview with the talented Kara Dalkey
Updated: Nov 5, 2021
We are thrilled to be able to chat with our newest author to join the Eerie River family. Kara Dalkey, Author of "A Sword Name Sorrow", sits down with us for a one on one interview where we chat inspiration, writing and the upcoming book!
Thank you so much for sitting down with us! So, tell us all about Kara, and what started this writing journey?
I didn’t start out knowing I was going to be a writer. When the small voice in my head finally revealed what I wanted to be, it just said “Let’s do something creative!” Big help. So I tried being an artist and a musician (I played electric bass, left handed, in several small bands). It wasn’t until I was living in Minneapolis in my late twenties and doing some comedy scripts for a show on a small public radio station that I began writing a lot. Some friends who were already published authors and had a writer’s group invited me to join. I hadn’t believed that I had enough ideas to fill a novel, but I figured it would be fun to try. With the writer’s group guidance, I finished The Curse of Sagamore, a funny fantasy novel. Because other members of the group had an agent and publisher, I was able to also use their agent, and eventually, publisher, and here I am sixteen books and over 20 short stories later, an author.
Reader, I was very, very, lucky. To have joined a group of very good, experienced writers, to have begun writing in a time when publishers were hungry for stories. I managed to stumble into finding what I was good at and have it become a fulfilling vocation.
You have a novel “A Sword Named Sorrow” that will be published through Eerie River Publishing this November. Without giving too much away, tell us a little bit about the book and where you got your inspiration from.
I was born and raised in Southern California, so I absorbed some knowledge of its history. If the stories are true, the very discovery and exploration of California was inspired by a fantasy novel Las sergas de Esplandián, written around 1510. California seemed always a world-between, with its ties to Latin America to the south. At the time I was conceiving of the book, there were questions in publishing as to why there wasn’t more representation of latinx themes and characters in genre fiction, and I thought it would be a good blend. For the world building, I changed many things including how religion in Europe was more a blend of Roman paganism and Christianity than in ours. The existence of magic leads to those wishing to do terrible things to enhance their powers and I played with how that affects the political situation in this fragile little colony on the far side of the known world, where they must rely on ancient witches and desert demons for protection.
Are any of the characters based on yourself?
Like Coraza, I know what it is to want to be good and useful in world where one is odd and shy.
Do you have any writing rituals?
Procrastination? Not really. When I’m reluctant to write, I remind myself that a book or story will go nowhere if it is unfinished. That usually pushes me to keep going.
What piece of writing are you most proud of and why?
This is a hard one (like, which of your children is your favorite). I wrote a novel called Genpei, based on the civil wars of twelfth century Japan, blending in the folklore and mythology surrounding the people and battles of the time. It was the hardest book I’ve ever written. All the historical accounts were written later than the actual events and most of them contradicted each other. I finally managed to tease out a coherent narrative, writing in the style of ancient Japanese novelists (as translated). That I finished it was a miracle. That it turned out good and was published was even more amazing. So even though it is not my best known work, I believe I am proudest of Genpei.
Was there a specific book or series that inspired you to write? If so, why?
I’ve been a voracious reader for as long as I can remember. I was one of those kids who would bring armfuls of books home from the library. The first book I bought for myself was Little Women. My father gave me a collection of science fiction stories when I was eleven. My mother gave me The Hobbit when I was fourteen. No specific book gave me the spark to write, but all the reading I did gave me the urge to try.
What is your favorite genre to read?
As you can tell from my answer above, fantasy and science fiction are primary. I also have liked mysteries.
Any advice for people just starting out or considering becoming an author?
As mentioned above, I think being a reader really helps in that you absorb the rhythm of fiction and story. Then write. A lot. Practice. Write what you enjoy. Write stories of the sort you wish there were more of. For some, joining a writer’s group helps. It did for me, but it’s not for everyone. There are lots of books out there with writing advice so read a few. Getting published is not easy. Learn to live with rejection and push on. As the I-Ching says, perseverance furthers. I could go on and on, but that’s a start.
It’s almost cliche that authors live on black coffee and hard liquor. What are you drinking right now?
Coffee from the Keurig with hazelnut creamer and sugar. I can’t drink much alcohol because I inherited my mother’s tendency to get the hangover before the buzz, so it’s coffee and tea for me!
Ok, now the hard question.
You wake up one morning in a world you created. Which world is it and why?
Hah! Many authors would fear running into their characters because of the awful things we put them through. Since I write historical fantasies, I can’t exactly claim those as worlds I created. When I was doing stories for the Liavek series of anthologies, it was a shared-world project where we each got to contribute to the creation of the world. Part of the emphasis was that it be a world people would want to live in—so perhaps Liavek is what I would choose. The world of the Sagamore books, however, would certainly be very silly and fun.
Kara Dalkey is the author of sixteen published novels and more than twenty short stories of fantasy and speculative fiction. She was born in Southern California and studied Anthropology at the University of California at Los Angeles. She always knew the creative arts were her destiny and she has been an artist and musician before becoming a writer and author through membership in the Scribblies writers group in Minneapolis. Most of her work is historical fantasy, and she is best known for her books Little Sister and Heavenward Path, set in Heian era Japan, as well as The Water Trilogy set in Arthurian Britain. A Sword Named Sorrow, although an alternate history, is drawn from the rich historical heritage of the state of her birth.
Ms. Dalkey currently lives in the beautiful Puget Sound region near Seattle.