Episode 33: Thinking in Different Dimensions of Story (or Choosing Fencing over Law School) with Kat Howard

In Episode 33, we talk to award-winning author Kat Howard about doing research for fantasy fiction, retelling familiar stories from new perspectives, collaborating on a comic series, learning from different genres, digging into the revision process, finding inspiration in poetry and nonfiction, and much more!

Kat Howard is a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and horror who lives and writes in New Hampshire. Her novella, The End of the Sentence, co-written with Maria Dahvana Headley, was one of NPR’s best books of 2014, and her debut novel, Roses and Rot was a finalist for the Locus Award for Best First Novel. An Unkindness of Magicians was named a best book of 2017 by NPR, and won a 2018 Alex Award. Her recent short fiction collection, A Cathedral of Myth and Bone collects work that has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, performed as part of Selected Shorts, and anthologized in year’s best and best of volumes, as well as new pieces original to the collection. She’s currently the writer for The Books of Magic, part of DC Comics’ Sandman Universe. Her next novel, A Sleight of Shadows, is the sequel to An Unkindness of Magicians, and will be out in 2020. In the past, she’s been a competitive fencer and a college professor. You can find her @KatwithSword on Twitter and on Instagram and learn more at her website.

This episode was recorded on October 26. Because we recorded via Zoom, there may be occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @WritingRemixPod.

People and Texts Mentioned in the Episode
  • An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard
  • A Sleight of Shadows by Kat Howard
  • A Cathedral of Myth and Bone by Kat Howard
  • Books of Magic (DC Comics) by Kat Howard (writer), Tom Fowler (penciler), Marissa Louise (colorist), Jordan Boyd (colorist), Brian Churilla (inker), Craig Taillefer (inker), Todd Klein (letterist), Molly Mahan (editor), Amedeo Turturro (editor), Chris Conroy (editor), Maggie Howell (assistant editor), and Kai Carpenter (cover artist)
  • Becky Krug
  • Fran Wilde
  • Amy Meyerson
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Lightspeed Magazine
  • Marissa Lingen
  • Richard Siken
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carré
  • Tana French
  • Bobbie Louise Hawkins

“I had to make sure that I was telling the story that needed to be told, not the story that I wanted to tell.” @KatWithSword

“I never really grew out of that grad school research urge, so even though I write fantasy fiction and things like that, I’m always like, let me make a huge stack of books that I can read and take notes on before I start writing this novel.” @KatWithSword

“All the things that I really loved about reading the works of literature and studying the literature of the medieval period or myths, fairy tales, all the stuff like that, I feel like it’s in my writerly DNA, so it keeps popping up back in my work even when I’m not necessarily doing it consciously.” @KatWithSword

“As the writer, you figure out how to tell the story to your artist. And then your artist figures out how to tell the story to your readers…It’s very much a collaboration in the effort of how do we get this on the page in a way that’s interesting and effective and that takes full advantage of the fact that this isn’t just a written medium…Starting to think in different dimensions of story…was really interesting.” @KatWithSword

“There are definitely still things I do [in short fiction] because it [offers] different possibilities than long form fiction. I think it’s a lot easier to experiment with voice or style…It’s a way to be adventurous.” @KatWithSword

“Drafting isn’t fun, but revision is great.” @KatWithSword

“One of the things I have to do is go back and remind myself that, for most people, literary allusions and conversation is not actually plot.” @KatWithSword

“If I feel like I’m stuck in my own progress, I’ll grab a collection [of poetry] off the shelf and start flipping through it. That jumpstarts things for me.” @KatWithSword

“I find that there’ll be ideas in the nonfiction that work for fiction…I think of it as like being a magpie, collecting a bunch of shiny things…that fit in the back of my head until I need them for stories.” @KatWithSword

“I write better if I’m reading a lot.” @KatWithSword

“I definitely recommend fencing over law school.” @KatWithSword

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