Interview: Kellie Doherty

Today we well welcome Kellie Doherty, Alaska-based author of Curling Vines & Crimson Trades. Welcome to the blog, Kellie! What made you decide to rock up today?

Kellie Doherty, with wonderful orange and red hair!

Thank you for having me for this interview! Today, I’m celebrating my new release, adult fantasy Curling Vines & Crimson Trades. The novel centers on a rare goods trader named Orenda. Her wife gets kidnapped and Orenda has to do these nearly impossible tasks and trades just to get her wife back. Then the unthinkable happens, her best friend Jax tries to kill her. She has a task list too and her final one is to kill Orenda. In a race against the coming dawns and battling at every turn, Orenda has to try to save them all before the sun rises on her wife’s final day. Curling Vines came out on November 30, 2020, from Desert Palm Press, and I’ve been shouting about the new release pretty hard since then. However, I really love interviews, so I’m also here for fun!

What started you writing?

Fanfiction! I loved watching Digimon and Pokemon when I was younger and I wanted to be in their worlds longer, to have more adventures with the characters I loved so much. I turned to writing fanfiction to fulfil that need, and it really sparked my writing career. Fanfiction holds such a dear place in my heart that I still write it to this day! It’s fluffy and fun. Something I can dip into when I need a break from my original stories for a little while. After I felt comfortable in the already created worlds of others and crafting original characters to play in those worlds, I branched into original fiction and created worlds all my own. That was a thrilling transition. Do you know how equally time-consuming and awesome worldbuilding can be? It’s intense! I also started writing stories because I didn’t see many queer female characters in science fiction and fantasy so I wanted to add my own positive representation of my LGBTQIA community into the genres I adored. That’s why all of my main characters are queer ladies!

What’s your writing space like?

I write at home curled up on the couch with a cup of tea and my cats purring beside me. Sometimes they push my computer out of the way so they can sit on my lap and snooze while I awkwardly hold my computer against my knees to write. I let them, of course, because I’m a pushover when my cats are involved. Technically I can write almost anywhere—airports, coffee shops, libraries—but I’m most comfortable at home. I also scribble notes on characters, plotpoints, and worldbuilding during breaks at work and in the middle of the night. (Though in the middle of the night my handwriting is nearly unintelligible.)

What do you like to read in your non-writing time?

Science fiction and fantasy! I am a huge geek for dragons and magic, spaceships and tech. The escape it gives me is honestly priceless. I like high adventure stories with big (and small) stakes, but I also enjoy character-driven stories as well. It just depends on my mood at the time. 

What are the three books you’d take to a desert island? Why would you choose them?

Mm, my first pick would be Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon since it’s such an epic story with so many varied characters and points of view. It’s also a thick book, which means it would take me a while to read if I got stranded there. Second I’d bring Becky Chambers’ novella To Be Taught, if Fortunate because her prose is beautiful and her characters try to see the good in each situation they’re put in, even when—and especially when—it gets tough. I feel like that kind of story would be super helpful in a desert situation. And finally, I’d probably bring a tropical island food book of some sort so I’d know what’s edible! Knowing me I’d probably snack on a poisonous plant…

Writing is an intrinsically solo occupation. Do you belong to any groups or associations, either online or in the ‘real’ world? How does that work for you?

I belong to a local writing organization called the Alaska Writers Guild, and I really appreciate the smaller events they host throughout the year as well as the larger annual writing conference. As you know COVID-19 made the in-person events grind to a halt, but the Alaska Writers Guild swung to virtual pretty smoothly. I also have a weekly writing group that meets over Skype! It’s lovely to have a two-hour chunk of time where we can critique our work together, and I honestly believe we’ve all become better writers because of it.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Oh boy, I lead a rather busy life outside of my writing career. I have my own freelance editing business—Edit. Revise. Perfect.—that keeps my editing eye sharp! I have a lot of different clients and some ongoing contract work too, with both fiction and nonfiction work. I feel really fortunate to have one foot in the business side of publishing like that, even while I have a full time job in a different field. I have two fabulous black cats—Raven and Cinder—who like to dash around at midnight, pounce on hair ties, and curl up on me while I’m writing. As for exercising, I do get at least 7,000 steps per day and I do Zumba every now and then, but I miss swimming. I used to do water aerobics, pre-COVID, and it was just so much fun! Hopefully once the virus settle down a bit, I’ll be able to get back into the water again. Hmmm, what else. Well, I probably watch too much YouTube—Critical Role is an obsession of mine—and I play video games like Minecraft and Zelda. I’ve also been playing the same Dungeons & Dragons campaign with a group of friends for nearly four years, which is pretty fabulous.

Tell me a little bit about your most recent release. What gave you the idea for it? How long did it take to write? What did you enjoy about writing it? What did you hate?

Like I said earlier, I’m celebrating the release of my new adult fantasy novel, Curling Vines & Crimson Trades! I got the idea for this five-book fantasy series when I was a teenager, but I didn’t feel comfortable writing it until a few years ago. The idea—having four main characters each with their own standalone books with their own stories and challenges, triumphs and failures, only to bring them all together in the final fifth book—seemed too big for me. And it was back then. It might still be too much for me now, honestly, but I wanted to challenge myself and I knew that if I didn’t start it soon, it would haunt me for the rest of my writing career. And I also wanted to pivot into writing fantasy since I’m such a huge nerd for it. Anyway, for Curling Vines, the story is focused on Orenda Silverstone and for her story, I really wanted to do a deep dive into what a person would do to save their loved one and discover how someone who believes they’re broken moves past that feeling. Curling Vines took me about six months to write but then I submitted it to my writing group to critique so the second draft took a little bit longer to hash out. For the enjoyment factor, I loved writing the interactions between the characters, especially Orenda and Lyra. They clash so often! It was fun for me. For the hate factor…hmmm, that one’s a bit harder to pin down. I don’t really hate anything about writing. One thing I can get lost in is the research aspect. For example, for this story, one of the characters Jax fights with a staff and since I had never written about staff fighting before I had to research. And I say, “had to” loosely there; I actually liked researching staff fights! The problem? I remember one night I literally spent my whole writing time—like three hours—researching…I didn’t write a single word. Research is important, don’t get me wrong, but I need a timer or something so I don’t deep dive like that again and forget to actually write the story!

Curling Vine & Crimson Trades

Book cover: Curing Vines and Crimson Trades by Kellie Doherty

Rare goods trader, Orenda Silverstone leads a happy life with her wife and friends. She’s an Elu—a race whose crafting is centered on protection—but her power is broken. Now, her sword is her strength. When her wife gets kidnapped and Orenda has to use her trading skills to complete some nearly impossible tasks to get her back, a good sword arm won’t be enough. Orenda’s time is rapidly coming to a close. She needs help. But she’s been forced into silence. Two sun goddess worshippers, twins Lan and Lyra, decide to join Orenda’s quest in order to guard one of the rarer items to its destination. Orenda’s not sure she can turn her back on either one, but with no other options, she competes against the sunrises to complete her tasks before her wife is killed.  Then, the unthinkable happens. Orenda’s best friend, Jax, tries to kill her. Between racing against the coming dawns and battles at every turn, Orenda’s list now seems insurmountable. No longer certain of who is friend or foe, she must come up with a plan to save them all before the sun rises on her wife’s final day.

Meet Kellie!

Kellie Doherty is a queer science fiction and fantasy author who lives in Eagle River, Alaska. When she noticed that there wasn’t much positive queer representation in the science fiction and fantasy realms, she decided to create her own! Kellie’s work has been published in Image OutWrite 2019, Astral Waters Review, Life (as it) Happens, and Impact, among others. She’s currently working on a five-book adult fantasy series. The first book Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties (Desert Palm Press, March 2019) won a 2019 Rainbow Award. The second book Curling Vines & Crimson Trades launched on November 30, 2020, and an excerpt from Curling Vines won first place in an Alaska Writers Guild Fiction contest in 2020. 

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release day! The Flowers of Time

Today is the book-birthday of The Flowers of Time!

You can find the buy-link and read all about the book here…there’s an excerpt and a clip of me reading it.

Plus, to celebrate the launch I am off on a blog-tour over the next ten days. You can see the schedule below and the things I’ll be talking about.

I’m also hosting some lovely people here on own site to talk about magic, gender and journeys (not necessarily all at once!) in their own books. I’ll be putting a post up introducing them tomorrow.

Today though, I am over at Queer Sci-Fi, answering questions about my writing process. And other things. Because otherwise that would make for a short interview! Thank you so much to the QSF guys for hosting me.

Finally…scroll down to enter the Rafflecopter draw for a universal e-reader cover and a leather-bound notebook, not at all unlike the book in the story!

This week you can find me at:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

booktrailer: the flowers of time

I’m quite proud of this, actually!

The Flowers of Time has been a long time coming. I first started mulling the idea of writing about plant-collectors a couple of years ago when I read a newspaper article about Europeans stomping round the world in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries ‘discovering’ new plants. I knew I wanted Ella Fortune (from Lost in Time) to have her own book and it seemed like the kind of thing she might do in the 1920s after she’d finished being an ambulance driver in France and started a newspaper. Initially I thought this might be it.

However…when I started writing, the characters didn’t want to be in the twentieth century at all, they wanted to be in the 1780s. This was a completely new era for me and cost me a lot of research-time. I relied heavily on ‘Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India‘ by Shashi Tharoor for background, plus ‘She-Merchants, Buccaneers and Gentlewomen: British women in India 1600 – 1900‘ by Katie Hickman about women in India and ‘The Honourable Company: a History of the English East India Company‘ by John Keay. I recommend these three as giving a reasonable overview of the pre-British Empire period. I also did a lot of reading about the Victorian flower-painter Marianne North ‘A Vision Of Eden: The Life And Work Of Marianne North‘ and found ‘Among the Tibetans‘ by Isabella Bird illuminating.

So then. Having dealt with the change in time-period, I started out with Jones, who I knew was non-binary and Edie, who’s sexuality can best be described as ‘pragmatic’. And as their journey over the mountains progressed it became clear that Jones was probably demi/gray asexual, as well. And then the paranormal intruded, which I find it often does once I start writing. And by the time I got to the end, I was in a real twist about how they were going to get their happy ending and be able to come back to England as a couple and both be settled in their own skin.

Anyway. Here it is. I hope you enjoy it. You can buy it here.

flowers of time is out to beta

So! The Flowers of Time has gone off for beta readers to run their eyes over and I’m left working on the blurb. This is the bit I hate the most. I don’t think I’m alone in that, but so far it’s a bit of a struggle.

Jones is determined to find out what caused the unexpected death of her father whilst they were exploring ancient ruins in the Himalayas. She’s never been interested in the idea of the marriage bed, but along with a stack of books and coded journals he’s left her with the promise she’ll travel back to England for the first time since childhood and try being the lady she’s never been.

Edie and her brother are leaving soon on a journey to the Himalayas to document and collect plants for the new Kew Gardens when she befriends Miss Jones in London. She’s never left England before and is delighted to learn that the lady will be returning to the mountains she calls home at the same time they are planning their travels. When they meet again in Srinegar, Edie is surprised to find that here the Miss Jones of the London salons is ‘just Jones’ the explorer, clad in breeches and boots and unconcerned with the proprieties Edie has been brought up to respect.

A non-binary explorer and a determined botanist make the long journey over the high mountains passes to Little Tibet, collecting flowers and exploring ruins on the way. Will Jones discover the root of the mysterious deaths of her parents? Will she confide in Edie and allow her to help in the quest? It’s a trip fraught with dangers for both of them, not least those of the heart.

My issue now is what to work on next!

Fashion Museum, Bath

Firstly apologies for the lateness of this post. However, I’ve been collecting blog material! We’ve been on holiday near Bath and we went to the Fashion Museum earlier in the week. I was primarily focused on looking at clothing from the 1770s and 1780s for Edie and for Jones.

The trouble with collections of historical clothing is that you only get the really expensive things or the things their owners didn’t like much that survive. And you don’t get a great deal of working people’s clothing, because they literally wore it until it had holes and then it got cut down and repurposed. Clothing was so much more expensive and energy-intensive than it is today. Everything was woven and sewn by hand.

These gowns and petticoats from the 1770s and 1780s are much more Edie’s sort of thing than Jones’, although I do imagine Jones stuffed in to the one with the blue quilted petticoats when she was visiting her aunt in England. And perhaps the one with the yellow gown and stomacher for more formal occasions. I can definitely see Edie in the pale pink effort with all the embroidery on the front when she first meets Jones at the ball. (High waists a la Jane Austen only came in around about 1794 as far as I can make out).

Once the pair of them are travelling, they revert to much simpler clothes. I imagine Jones wearing something like this… it’s based on a working man’s coat from about 1780, made of wool.

I am still in debate with myself over whether Jones would wear local clothing once she gets home to the mountains. I think she might need to stay in western garb because I am not confident enough to write about regional clothing without getting it wrong and that seems disrespectful.

Edie doesn’t feel right going for breeches, however comfortable they might be. So she compromises by wearing ‘stays’ or ‘bodies’ (which is what she calls them) that lower class women, who had no help getting dressed, wore. They lace up the front rather than the back, so you can do them yourself. This is really interesting little video of a working woman getting dressed.

The little things… how you deal with menstruation, what pins you use in your hair, how often you change your stockings… those are all things that tend not to get referenced in contemporary texts because it was all such normal stuff that you didn’t need to. Everyone knew about it. There’s a good blog post about Georgian personal hygiene by the Word Wenches and I think I may have mentioned Madame Isis’ blog before.

Next week I am back to regular scheduling and I am interviewing Naomi Aoki!


PS: As we came out of the museum and went to find the old fashioned sweetshop, we fell over a coach and four. Netflix are filming the Bridgerton series of books by Julia Quinn.