Today, we’re joined by K.D. Callaghan. She’s a wonderfully talented author who writes mostly epic fantasy (a genre near and dear to my heart). K.D. has a few publishing credits to her name, the biggest one being Room magazine’s Issue 37.3 Geek Girls. She’s also the Art and Literature Editor over at Paper Droids. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I’m a fantasy writer, focusing mainly on epic fantasy but I’ve been known to branch out into urban and YA fantasy from time to time. Even though I’ve been reading fantasy since I was ten, I was always a bit dissatisfied with the genre, in ways I wasn’t able to articulate when I was younger. The treatment and erasure of women, people of colour, LGBTQA+ identities, etc. are all issues I’m passionate about and it hurts to see how my favourite genre mistreats a lot of them. As a result at lot of my work focuses on building and portraying realistic and diverse fantasy worlds and characters.
I also write book reviews, news articles, and opinion pieces for Paper Droids, where I’m the Art and Literature Editor.
What inspires you?
Finely crafted stories always inspiring for me, be they movies, TV, books, etc. I love it when I don’t just get an emotional impact from a story, but when, as a writer, I can sit down, look at all the moving parts, and go “holy shit, that is brilliant.” Seeing work like that—particularly work with subtle character growth that you don’t even notice until ages later—pushes me to up my game and keep improving.
I also find the work of writers like N.K. Jemisin, Malinda Lo, Jay Kristoff, Kate Elliott, and Saladin Ahmed inspiring, because they’re doing the sort of work that I want to do, engaging in the representations that I want to see. Their work makes me believe that, not only can I do what I want to do, but that fantasy, as a genre, can actually change.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
When I was ten years old my cousin told me I had no imagination.
Yeah, that burned. (Especially since my drawing skills end at stick men)
The night after she told me that I started writing my first novel as a way to show her that I did, in fact, have an imagination—and it’s a damn good one, too. I may have started writing to prove her wrong, but I kept writing because I ended up loving it. That was the same summer I read Terry Brook’s The Sword of Shannara for the first time and discovered fantasy. I loved the freedom fantasy gave me, the ability to do whatever I wanted and to go wherever my whims took me. For a painfully shy and self-conscious young girl living on an island in Northern Ontario with no friends nearby, it was both a revelation and an escape.
When I realized that people actually make a living writing that was when I decided it was what I wanted to do with my life.
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in our work that you’d be willing to reveal?
Trope reversal, I guess? I read a lot of fantasy and I just get so freaking bored with it sometimes that I just can’t help myself – I start actively writing against the tropes, going “what would happen if it went like this instead?”
Asking “what if” and questioning everything from character details to story structure has proven really fruitful in my fiction and provides the basis for a lot of my work.
My work for Paper Droids tends to focus on book reviews and literature related articles, examining topics like feminism, agency, and diversity in Science-Fiction and Fantasy literature, so I guess me being a passionate nerd is kind of a signature too.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Remember the joy. In and among the lessons, the books, the instructors, and everyone telling you what you’re doing wrong and what you need to do better, and that you’re never going to make any money at this, remember the joy you take in creating. Remember why you started doing this in the first place and don’t let it go. You’ll find you have very little reason to keep going if you let go of that joy.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with a really wonderful, open-minded group of women over at Paper Droids, so it hasn’t been much of an issue in my work life so far. I have had a couple of friends react negatively, though more out of ignorance than any malicious intent. In those cases, I find a gentle interrogation works best, asking why they think that, asking for explanations of what they mean, and then gently explaining asexuality to them.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
That asexuality is all or nothing. Most people I know have heard of asexuality at some point, but it’s seen as an “off” switch. You’re either asexual and don’t feel attraction ever, or you’re sexual and one of the allosexual orientations applies.
This misconception is actually why I spent four years questioning my identity and trying to figure it out before I discovered demisexuality. There’s very little understanding out there of asexuality as a spectrum or something that’s nuanced and complex encompassing a variety of identities.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
You are the only one who knows what you’re feeling. It’s okay to question, and it’ll probably be a long frustrating process trying to figure it all out, but remember: everything you’re feeling is normal and valid, and the people who try to invalidate you are not inside your head. They can’t feel what you’re feeling, and the only one who has the right to name your emotions is you.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
My tumblr is really just a place where I reblog stuff, and I hardly ever remember I have a Twitter account, so your best bet right now is to frequent Paper Droids, where I’m the Art and Literature Editor.
Thank you so much, K.D., for participating in this interview and project. It’s very much appreciated.