Writer of the Month
MARCH – ALT.FICTION
To celebrate the sixth year of the fantastic upcoming Alt.Fiction Festival for writers and readers of science fiction, fantasy and horror, Writing East Midlands is featuring four Alt.Fiction writers as the March Writer’s of the Month.
Alt. Fiction will bring together some of the UK’s leading talent in the genre, and present a full programme of readings, panels, workshops, podcasts and much more, giving you the chance to hear from your favourite authors, find out more about the world of publishing and learn about the writing process. Alt.Fiction will take place over the 14th and 15th of April at the Phoenix Digital Arts Centre in Leicester, and is a weekend not to be missed for book lovers and budding writers, for more information please see here.
Kim Lakin Smith
After attaining a first class honours degree in English Lit and Creative Writing from the University of Glamorgan, Kim was awarded a studentship to study for her MA in Writing at Nottingham Trent. There she was tutored by the multi-award winning author, Graham Joyce. She also became fascinated by the internet, skills she later put to use in her work as a copywriter, advertising exec, and website designer. But it was her desire to write fantasy and science fiction novels which soon took precedence. Inspired by the time she spent living in Nottingham, a place she truly felt at home, Kim wrote Tourniquet: Tales From The Renegade City and was delighted to find a home for it with Immanion Press.
Keeping her roots in dark fantasy, Kim explored new interests in mechanics, geology and bioengineering. Her 1950s gaspunk short story, ‘Johnny and Emmie-Lou Get Married’ was published in Interzone #222 and shortlisted for the 2009 British Science Fiction Association short story award.
The notion of the lone warrior in an apocalyptic setting dominated Kim’s short stories, ‘The Killing Fields’ from the anthology Celebration (Newcon Press, 2008), ‘The Harvest’ from the anthology Further Conflicts(Newcon Press, 2011) and ‘Deluge’ from the anthology Pandemonium: Tales of the Apocalypse (Jurassic, 2011). Meanwhile, Kim’s gothic inclinations showed in her more traditional horror stories including ‘Unearthed’ (Black Static #12), ‘The Shadow Keeper’ (Black Static #13), ‘Heart Song’ from the anthology MythUnderstandings (Newcon Press, 2008), ‘Field of the Dead’ from The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women (Robinson Publishing, October 2012) and the biopunk tale, ‘The Island of Peter Pandora’ (Snowbooks, 2012).
This blend of dark fantasy and post-apocalyptic SF came to the fore in Kim’s second novel, Cyber Circus(Newcon, 2011.) Originally conceived of as a twin novella to her short story ‘Black Sunday’, Cyber Circusgrew into a novel in its own right. The story of a floating circus of bio-engineered freaks in a post-apocalyptic future is currently shortlisted for the 2011 British Science Fiction Association Best Novel award. Kim’s Young Adult novella, Queen Rat (Murkey Depths, 2012), will be launched at this year’s SFX Weekender event.
Writing East Midlands chatted to Kim about her writing:
Can you tell me a bit about your recent book Cyber Circus?
Cyber Circus is a dark SF story, very much in the vein of what is sometimes referred to as science fantasy. It is the story of Cyber Circus, ring master Herb, and his troop of bio-engineered freaks and outcasts – including lone Hawkeye soldier, Hellequin, and the bio-prettified courtesan, Desirous Nim. When Nim’s ex-employee and brothel owner D’Angelus decides to reacquire her by any means necessary, Hellequin is forced to fight once more while the circus quite literally takes flight across Sore Earth’s poisoned landscape.
I am over the moon that Cyber Circus has been shortlisted for the British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Novel 2012.
Being a writer based in the East Midlands, how do you feel about writing in the region and what Alt Fiction has to offer?
At the very first Alt Fiction event I was fortunate enough to meet the wonderful Storm Constantine who owns Immanion Press. Mustering up every ounce of courage I possessed, I approached Storm and spoke to her about a gothic fantasy novel I had just finished writing called Tourniquet. Within two weeks, Storm had read Tourniquet and wanted to publish it. And so began my writing career.
What is so special about Alt Fiction is the way it nurtures new writers. Alt Fiction is geared around writing workshops and panels featuring established writers, agents, publishers and editors. It is also a great opportunity to get chatting with these same folk one-on-one, usually in the informal setting of the bar.
Writing East Midlands is a fantastic organisation and local writers are very lucky to have its support.
What inspires you as a writer?
One of my strongest inspirations is music. The combination of melody, lyrics and video can be an exceptional force of inspiration. I owe a huge debt to bands like Sixx A.M., Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson and Metallica. I am also passionate about research and will spend a long time investigating a time or place and allowing myself to go off on all sorts of tangents. The best stories come from an unexpected combination of ideas.
What would be your Dessert Island book, and why?
The Explorer’s Handbook: How to be the Best Around the World by Anita Ganeria. If I am to be marooned on a desert island, I think it only practical to know how to avoid a sea wasp, remove a leech, crack a coconut, avoid altitude sickness, survive a volcanic eruption, and herd reindeer.
But if you are going to make me talk reading material, I’d be happy with Daphne du Maurie’s collected works and Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines series. That way I have action adventure covered alongside gothic romance, steampunkery, dystopian SF, and classic literature.
Can you tell us about your writing process, are you a detailed planner, or do you like to let an idea sweep you away?
For me it is really essential to have a concrete idea about how a book/short story is structured before I begin. In some cases this means storyboarding the entire plot, usually via index cards – I like physical pieces of paper in front of me instead of using programs such as Scrivener. Other times, I have the ideas stored in my head and it’s just a matter of connecting the dots. I prefer to write with pen and paper. It’s incredibly liberating – you can pretend no one will ever read it – and by far the fastest medium for me in terms of word-count. Also, it is far nicer to sit in a chair in front of a window to write.
What advice would you give to a writer wanting to get published in the genre market?
Know your market and stick to it. By this I mean decide what kind of book you are writing – high fantasy, paranormal romance, space opera, etc. That’s if you want an (comparably) easy ride.
Or, you can do what I do, and write the kinds of warped-genre stories you would choose to read yourself. Just be aware that in doing so, you make it more difficult for a commissioning editor to persuade the sales team that your product is marketable.
What are your future plans?
Three new books are in the pipeline – a new-adult tech thriller, a YA urban fantasy, and an adult novel that combines my breed of SF with epic fantasy. I am beyond excited to be working on these ideas after a brief hiatus to write a number of short stories coming out this year. My plan is to lose myself to the wildness of weird worlds and words and hopefully emerge battle-scared but all conquering in the not so distant future.
To read an extract from Cyber Circus, please see here.