Interview With Jane Kindred

Jane Kindred is the author of The Devil’s Garden, available from Carina Press in June 2011.  A true girl of the West, Jane was born in Billings, Montana and spent most of her childhood in the dry, hot cradle of the Catalina Mountains in Tucson, Arizona. Although she was repeatedly urged to learn a “marketable skill” in case she couldn’t find a man to marry her, she received a B.A. in Creative Writing anyway from the University of Arizona.  She now lives in San Francisco with her son and her partner, two feline overlords who are convinced she is constantly plotting their death, and a cockatiel named Imhotep who punishes her for sins in a past life.

1) You grew up in Arizona.  What was so inspiring about the wayback of a Plymouth Fury that provoked you to start writing?

My two older sisters were closer to each other in age and I often got relegated to the back, so I took to entertaining myself with stories. The Fury (technically a Fury III) also symbolizes for me the many Sunday morning drives to church amid much bickering. To escape from the family drama, and from the tedium of endless church services (we belonged to a charismatic post-Pentacostle sort of church in which godliness was apparently measured by hours spent in public worship), I tried to bury my nose in a book, but the only book I was supposed to be reading was the Bible, so I started writing the stories down in a notebook tucked inside it while I was allegedly taking notes on the sermons for my later edification.

2) What is your favorite electronic or digital tool to use for writing?

I’m either a purist or unimaginative when it comes to writing tools: I just use MS Word, with a liberal application of revision tracking.

3) What is your favorite non-electronic writing aide?

I don’t really use pen and paper anymore, unless I find myself stumbling into some kind of post-electromagnetic pulse apocalyptic world without computers, so I guess I’d have to say taking a shower. That’s where my muse lives, apparently, so if I’m stuck in a plot hole, I go take a shower and she usually gives me a mini-epiphany. (That is not a euphemism for anything else.)

4) How did you find your agent, Sara Megibow?

Through QueryTracker. I did a search on agents who represented fantasy and then went to each of their websites and Publisher’s Marketplace pages to determine which ones were looking for something similar to my work and whether their bios “clicked” for me. I liked Sara’s bio on the agency website, and thought it was exciting that she was a new agent at an agency with a great reputation, but ultimately (this is going to sound silly), I just liked her face. 🙂

5) Many writers go through a period when they hate what they’re writing.  Have you experienced that with any of your works?

Only the ones I’ve written. 😉 I never hate the actual story I’m writing (I write a story because I’m in love with it), but I often hate the words I’ve put down, feeling I’m not doing the story justice. So, yeah, just about every day.

6) Somewhere in my research you referred to feeling “post partum depression” after finishing a work.  Many writers admit to feeling that their works are like children.  How do you transition from feeling the story is your offspring to seeing it as a commodity that can be bought and sold?  …or do you?

I don’t know. Now I feel kind of creeped out. O_o

7) What is your connection to Phillip K Dick?  What are some of the odd little moments of synchronicity?

Oh, boy. If I tell you, it will make me sound like a crazy person. Luckily, I’ve never had a problem with sounding like a crazy person.

So I was writing this novel about a god who died and was reincarnated but didn’t remember she was a god. The story started pouring out of me and I didn’t know where it was coming from. Then while reading the dictionary one day (crap, did I say that out loud?) I came across this awesome word:anamnesis. It basically means the opposite of amnesia. I decided it would be the name of the river in my book, symbolizing where the memories of an unspeakable trauma were placed for safekeeping for the god to later remember.

Shortly afterward, I looked up the word again to be sure I had the definition right, and I came across this quote by Philip K. Dick: “I suddenly experienced what I learned is called anamnesis, a Greek word meaning, literally, ‘loss of forgetfulness.’ I remembered who I was and where I was. In an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, it all came back to me.” PKD felt he had a religious experience of a sort on a particular day in 1974 that set off this anamnesis. I read more of his writing on what he came to call “2-3-74.” He talked about writing stories that came from somewhere he couldn’t explain, and about anamnesis as the remembering of one’s divinity.

Then I wrote a chapter of Anamnesis that was absolutely horrifying, and I hadn’t seen it coming. And it poured out of me in more ways than one; I finished the chapter and ran to the bathroom, sick, and found I was basically hemorrhaging, and well, I’m going to stop there with that description. After that I started remembering things I didn’t want to remember. And they took place in the spring of 1974.

PKD almost seemed to be following me around after that. He showed up everywhere, little quotes, things I hadn’t known had anything to do with him that I had an affinity for. He had a twin sister who died a few weeks after their birth, and he felt haunted by her, like she was always with him. I saw her name given as Jane Kindred Dick in a few articles (Kindred, his mother’s maiden name, is the “K” in PKD), though elsewhere it’s listed as Jane Charlotte Dick. I just loved the way “Jane Kindred” sounded, and I figured, you know, she wasn’t using it. Hopefully, Phil doesn’t mind.

So, yeah. I told you it would sound crazy.

8 ) The Devil’s Garden is coming out in June from Carina Press, but they weren’t the first publisher.  What happened with the E-Book Publisher Who Shall Not Be Named?

The E-Book Publisher Who Shall Not Be Named (TEBPWSNBN) accepted The Devil’s Garden for publication last spring. A couple of months and rounds of edits in, I got a panicked email from my editor saying it had slipped her mind that TEBPWSNBN  didn’t accept material with underage sex in it because they felt it glorified pedophilia, and she shouldn’t have accepted my novella. The proposed solution was changing my 17-year-old courtesan to a 23-year-old so that she wouldn’t have had sex before the age of 18. The crux of Ume’s character is that though she was born male, she made herself into an amazing woman after being thrown out on the streets at the age of 12 for wearing women’s clothing. The story simply didn’t make sense if she was 6 years older. I refused to make the change and I lost. They were gracious enough to let me out of the contract and we parted ways. Happily, Carina picked the novella up five months later and they had no issues with the character’s age.

9) There is some debate in the world of publishing regarding whether it is acceptable to even mention the idea of an adolescent having sex, yet Hollywood has explored that theme over and over.  Do you think there is a double standard between fiction that is published as the written word and fiction that is distributed as a television show or movie?

With e-publishers, I believe it stems from child-protection laws that are specific to the Internet. In the early days of the e-book industry, some electronically published authors received threats of prosecution for child pornography over the issue of underage characters in sexual situations. That was several years ago, and I’ve never heard of anyone being successfully prosecuted for publishing fiction containing underage sex, but I suppose some publishers would rather err on the side of caution. It’s certainly their right to choose to publish or not publish whatever they want, but TEBPWSNBN’s submission guidelines didn’t and still don’t mention a restriction against underage sex, so their sudden objection to it was rather odd.

As for traditional print publishers, I don’t read much YA, so I’m not sure how strict publishers are about the issue, but I suppose there are more reactionary parents who demand that books be banned from libraries and classrooms than there are people who complain about what’s in an R-rated movie that teenagers aren’t supposed to be able to get into. Maybe that’s because books have no ratings, or because people are just really afraid of the power of the written word, and of the power of education. But I’m just speculating here.

10) You finished Anamnesis and Blood Maiden before finishing The Devil’s Garden.  What will have to happen for fans to be able to read these first two books and the related works?

I’m not sure they’re really meant to be read. They were my first two books, and everyone knows you’re supposed to hide those in a drawer or burn them.

11) What was unique about The Devil’s Garden that it was picked up by a publisher, while your other works are still waiting in the wings?

The Devil’s Garden is a prequel to Anamnesis that I wrote after it, and it’s the only one in that series that I’ve actually submitted for publication. Blood Maiden is a standalone romantic fantasy. I’ve only submitted it once, to an LGBT small press who rejected it for being “too heterosexual.” (The bisexual MC had both a male and a female love interest; the publisher was uncomfortable with the inclusion of the opposite-sex relationship and wanted the MC to decide she was a lesbian. I’m not sure they get what that “B” stands for in LGBT.) At any rate, I felt it needed more work before I submitted it anywhere else, and it isn’t the story I’ve wanted to focus on.

12) You have explored the “Out on the streets at an early age” theme with Ume in The Devil’s Garden and then Vasily in Arkhangel’sk . Did you draw on your own feelings from when you were 14 and your own mother died?

I’ve never been out on the streets, myself, so no, not really. I had a pretty sheltered upbringing. I like writing about “damaged” people, because they’re more interesting.

13) The Devil’s Garden is dedicated to Gwen Araujo, who was brutally murdered at 17.  How did you learn of Gwen’s story?

Honestly, I don’t remember. In my pre-writing notes for the novella, I talk about seeing my character as Gwen, but I don’t remember whether it was Gwen’s story that made me think of my character, or whether researching for my character brought me to an article about Gwen and her story resonated with what I was already working on. I may have seen a post about her on a political forum I was frequenting at the time, or on a local discussion list I belong to, or I may even have seen it on the news. All I know is that as soon as I saw her picture, I knew that’s what Ume looked like.

14) Arkhangel’sk is the first book in your Queen of Heaven trilogy.  You included a lovely teaser called Malchik on your blog.  What is the status of this work?

The House of Arkhangel’sk is currently out on submission. The wheels of the traditional publishing world turn slowly, so it may be quite some time before I know what’s going to happen to it.

15) Why do you torture Ola Vasilyevna so much?  Oh, and Ola told me I should also ask why you torture “Beli and Love”.  Can you answer that without giving too much away?  And which one is the Сумасшедшая?

Ola is my little spitfire. She may have told you that I torture her, but really she gets herself into these things and I just sit back and shake my head in amazement. She’s headstrong and impulsive and fiercely loyal. But I’ll admit it: I do torture Belphagor (only Ola and Vasily can get away with calling him Beli). I can’t help myself. Like Ola, Belphagor gets himself into things, and it gives me perverse pleasure to make him reap the consequences in the worst possible way; I think many authors are secretly sadists. Still, I feel Belphagor is a stronger character for all he’s been through. But Love? Oh, goodness, I don’t know why I do it. She’s the sweetest character I’ve ever written (and I don’t mean that in a saccharine or Mary Sue kind of way; she’s a very genuine person with a heart of gold). I put her through a lot, but you can’t break Love no matter how hard you try. Love is a fighter and a survivor.
Sumasshedshaya (Сумасшедшая) is Russian for Madwoman. That’s Ola’s name for me. Yup; now your readers know I’m crazy.

16) Does the Queen of Hell trilogy pick up where the Queen of Heaven books leave off, or do they stand alone?  What about Queen of Spheres?

Queen of Hell is a sequel to Queen of Heaven, featuring a different protagonist. Currently, it’s just the pair of trilogies, but I’ve been incubating the idea of a third trilogy called The Unseen Queen, about the antagonist from the first two, the queen of a fairy realm located in the forests of Russia. If I write that trilogy I’ll need a name for all three companion trilogies, so Queens of the Spheres is the working title for the series as a whole.

17) Is there enough room to get a new tattoo for every book?  What will the design be for The Devil’s Garden?

If I keep them small, maybe. The Devil’s Garden tattoo is going to be a sprig of plum blossoms covered in snow, from a pivotal scene in the novella where the god gives Ume proof of his divinity by conjuring it from the air. (Ume, incidentally, is the Japanese name for the plum trees that bloom in late winter in East Asia.)

18) You are a website design manager by day, a writer, a mother, and who knows how many other guises you take on!  How do you keep organized?

About as well as you’d expect. I’m currently taking applications for a personal assistant. There’s no pay, but it’ll look good on a resume and you get to read about naughty leather demons in Heaven and promiscuous angels in Hell.

19) What horrible things do you do to people who ask you where you get your ideas?

I write them into my stories and torture them, of course. And then I make them organize my paperwork.

20) When the day comes that you are presented with a prestigious award, who are you most likely to forget to thank?

Probably Mrs. Wheelock, my first grade teacher, who encouraged me to read ahead of my grade, and Mrs. Langworthy, my second grade teacher, who gave me my first chapter book (Little House in the Big Woods) for Christmas 1973 after I cried because my new school wouldn’t let me read ahead of my grade. So I’m thanking them here while I’m thinking of it. Might as well thank Mrs. Link, too, my seventh grade teacher at a very Christian school, who told me to go ahead and read the rest of The Once and Future King and not just stop at The Sword in the Stone like the rest of the class even though there was sex and magic in it. Yay for sex and magic! And let’s round it out with Ms. Bowland, my high school Shakespeare teacher, who let me take a second year of Shakespeare instead of Senior English, and who introduced me to Twelfth Night, where my love of cross-dressing heroines was born.
Thanks for interviewing me. This has been fun, if potentially ruinous for my career. 😉

Thank you so much for being so fascinating!

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About AmyBeth Inverness

A writer by birth, a redhead by choice.
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7 Responses to Interview With Jane Kindred

  1. Jane Kindred says:

    Oh, dear goddess, that picture. LOL. I really need to get my portrait done. 😉

    • Yes! It would be a celebration for being published! Just make sure you get the rights to use the pics wherever you darn well please. Photographers can be stingy.

      • Smite Rite says:

        Quirky, inspiring and fun. Thanks so much for sharing ladies! Question 5 really applies to me right now, so it’s so great to hear that everyone goes through this.

        Write on!!

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