Kathryn Olsen (aka Kaki) has been to 17 countries on five continents.
After an illustrious upbringing in Massachusetts, she studied English at Brigham Young University. As a result, she’s been known to find theological flaws in zombie lore and Peruvian sacrifice metaphors in Superman movies.
When not working a desk job or overanalyzing media, she enjoys writing about anything from possessed iPhones to dragon-smuggling androids and has been called upon to lecture on writing by various organizations.
Her debut novel, Swan and Shadow, was published in March, 2016.
you enjoy — what you do for fun or personal satisfaction besides writing?
I play piano very enthusiastically. I had to give it up when I was
13 to focus on violin, but found a teacher when I was older. Now I’m
working on Chopin, Beethoven, Bach and, because I’m a geek, music from The
Desolation of Smaug. I also travel as much as my paycheck allows and
am getting ready to hike in Austria.
realize you were an author? The first time I realized I wanted to write
professionally was when, as a library page, I started fantasizing about someone
checking out or shelving my books at a library. The first time I realized
people would take me seriously was when I wrote a spoof of a Star Wars satire
fan film and the man who came up with the original found it and sent it to the
cast and crew of the project before asking me to help with associated projects.
That was when I had strangers recognize me at sight and a random indie
director hugged me after saying he loved my stories. Until my book launch
on March 11 of last year, I thought it was all a fluke, though.
3. Have you done
anything writing-related, but besides actually writing your books, that seemed
to get a lot of positive response? Something that encouraged you? I
started out as an essayist for a site called iEmily. They had people who
wrote personal nonfiction and I got good responses on such topics as overcoming
self-injury and being a religious minority in Boston. My first “break”
was when my college writing professor sent my essay on being promoted to
concertmistress in 7th grade to a feminist magazine and they sent me an offer
to publish it.
struggle with the most while writing? And how do you defeat it? When I
get an idea for a major plot point, it takes an act of God to get me to change
it. Swan and Shadow had a different ending that made my beta
reader cry and utterly annoyed my acquisitions editor. I explained the
reason for the ending, sent her the synopsis of the sequel and came very close
to telling her too much information about how much this ending fixed my anger
towards my crazy ex. She still wanted the ending to be more empowering
for women in a specific way and I compromised by meeting her at a completely
different ending that neither of us had originally intended.
of your writing? (For example, is your purpose to encourage old-fashioned
values, encourage romance, or do you have different purposes in different
books?) My first Aussie fan pegged it. “It’s all about owning your
own fate.” I had been a violinist for ten years when my mother finally
told me that I have a motor disorder that is supposed to prevent me from having
enough coordination to play a musical instrument. I call it the greatest
favor she’s ever done for me because by that point, I played two instruments,
was in three orchestras and had toured internationally with my lack of
coordination. All of my books are about people redefining the parameters
of their hardship.
thoughts/feelings on ebook vs. print book? I love that both are
available. For example, my old college roommate sent me a picture of the
library book by Kaki Olsen that she’d just entered into her system. On
the other hand, every time I do a signing, I have a few people who want to
think it over before buying. They’ll take a bookmark and a few days
later, they’ll have impulsively bought it to read on their Kindle. I
don’t care how you read. I just want the world to read until they go
half-blind. This is also why I have a site specifically for my book
recommendations coming out soon.
have out? Are you planning a specific number altogether, either in this
series or separately? I have two so far. Swan and Shadow is
my only published novel, but I was in an anthology on the writing process.
Swan and Shadow has a sequel planned and partially written, but no
more. Other series have up to ten books plotted out. I even have a
plot bunny for a mystery series based on lines from “I Am The Very Model of a
Modern Major General” that could go on for the number of attributes in that
characters/stories/scenes, etc. based on anything in real life? Almost
all of my characters have real-life inspirations. Ethan is based on a boy
I had a crush on in 10th grade, for example. Maeve is my older sister.
Aislin is a manifestation of my ambivert tendencies. But you’ll
find Armenian and Greek characters based on people I befriended in high school.
In a book that I’m currently editing, my roommate griped that eight of my
characters were all sassy Bostonians, which worked for one character, but
wasn’t appropriate to a high fantasy. You can find experiences drawn from
my own life throughout everything, though I occasionally have weird references.
For example, there’s a character in an upcoming short story named Laura
who has bionic eyes, which is a reference to Jonathan Coulton’s “The Future
Soon.” Or I did genealogy work for the Byrne family in Swan and Shadow
and put in some of the actual family lore from what I found.
projects? I am currently editing an anti-fairy-tale in which fairies
talked a prince into breaking a marriage contract, which led to the
largest-scale war in centuries. Now that prince abdicated, his younger
brother died in battle and the new king is to be the brother who thought he’d
live his life out as a scholar or diplomat. I’m also editing a book that
covers a magical civil war in modern Philadelphia. My upcoming short
story with Laura of the bionic eyes is actually the tale of a time-traveling
android smuggling the last dragon egg off earth and to a new world. I’m
currently writing a book about a girl who stumbles into a mystical world
and, rather than finding wondrous kingdoms and creatures, she’s imprisoned as a
spy for six months. And I’m also writing a book in which a girl, orphaned
at 8, grows up to fight the war against the people who killed her parents,
while secretly, her parents actually are running the revolution that she plans
on annihilating. And while I have many plots running around in my head,
one day a week, I put aside my writing and editing and do research for a 1920’s
murder mystery that takes place on the trains of rural England. I’m
having fantastic fun with all of them.