Interview with Kimberly Kay & Ashley Gephart
Two for the price of one, I kid you not! Kimberly and Ashley co-wrote one of Wings of Renewal‘s short stories, Solarium, so we interviewed them together. And their answers are fun! So here we go!
1. What inspired your short story? Where did the idea come from?
Kimberly: The idea, as you might expect, was a team effort. We both wanted to enter this anthology, but though I had some characters and a plot, I didn’t have a world for them to go to. Ashley, however, had the world and a villain, but no plot. So we decided, why not combine?
Ashley: From there, it was rather spontaneous. I like morally dubious characters who more or less serve their own ends, and Kim likes snarky, clever protagonists. Once we had a cast, we let them drive the plot.
2. You co-wrote Solarium together. How did that go? What was the process like?
Ashley: Once we had a rough idea of where to go, we each created our own set of characters and shared notes on worldbuilding. From there, we allowed our characters to interact, which is our favorite style of co-authoring.
Kimberly: Yes. So, for example, I created Sauymi’s character, and Ashley had Haru (Ashley: and the word “mook”). I’d have Sauymi say something to Haru, and when Sauymi paused to wait for Haru’s reaction, Ashley would take over. We both wrote smaller side characters as needed (such as the dragons, excluding Zon, who I wrote, and Hai, who Ashley wrote).
Ashley: It feels the most natural to focus on one or two people at a time and let them banter, bicker, or fight on knee-jerk reactions. It’s kind of like improv games or just like holding a normal conversation. But it deeply requires a fleshed-out character in whose head you can lose yourself, in order to get an honest reaction.
[Claudie: I love this process so much! I roleplay with friends a lot, and this is exactly how we work. Cool to see it come to life in fiction.]
3. Had you heard of solarpunk before this call for submission? What do you like about the genre?
Kimberly: I’d never heard of it, but it sounded like fun to me – especially since there were dragons involved! And it was refreshing, exploring a future world that was hopeful. It was also challenging. Finding a decent villain for an ideal future isn’t easy.
Ashley: This was my first time hearing of solarpunk. I was aware of other “punk” genres like steampunk or cyberpunk, but this was new. I like the aesthetic style and the eco-friendly outlook, and the break from the grim, dystopian future that seems to be popular now.
4. What genre do you usually write in? Talk about your projects!
Ashley: I love fantasy with a dark edge! Mostly my focus is on contemporary or urban fantasy. One of my current projects concerns a New York-like city inhabited by superhumans living the comic-book stereotypes–or defying them, in the case of a supervillain who wants to be seen as a hero. My other current project is a modern-day Frankenstein retelling from the eyes of a female creation named Pandora.
Kimberly: Like Ashley, I’m a fan of looking at things from a different perspective. Consequently, I love snarky, conflicted heroes, as well as unique retellings. My main project focuses on a superhero world where the titles of hero and villain are assigned, not chosen, and the MC has just been assigned the role of villain. She’ll have to handle the fallout while dealing with the fact that her best friend is a hero. Think Avengers meets Beauty and the Beast. As for additional projects, I’m fleshing out a Cinderella retelling set in Renaissance Italy. Spoiler – it’s from the perspective of a villain.
5. What do you love the most about dragons?
Ashley: Where to start? They fly, they breathe fire, they play wonderful roles in fantasy such as with Smaug. They exhibit as many traits as human characters can, from greed to slyness, loyalty to anger. Except they do it with rather more … spark.
Kimberly: And speaking of that spark, that’s where my obsession comes in. Embers, glimmering scales, gleaming eyes. Dragons are gorgeous (Guess who invented the solar dragons?).
6. What do you do when you’re not writing? Any day jobs or passion?
Ashley: I am an editor at a publishing company, where I edit both juvenile fiction and cookbooks. I love to make food from just about anywhere and exhibiting any flavor. I also am a massive theatre nerd and can talk anyone’s ear off about acting, directing, design, life backstage, or just shows in general.
Kimberly: Meanwhile, I do social media marketing and communications at a printing house, while coaching fencing part time. Beyond work, I love creating and collecting art. On the creation side, I dabble in a bit of everything, though I focus on graphic design (making book covers, designing book layouts, etc) and acrylic painting (pigment!). With collecting, I’m drawn towards beautifully mysterious (and often sparkly) pieces that I can’t create myself. This usually translates into masquerade masks. My current collection boasts 25 displayed on my “mask carousel.” Obsessed? Me? Ha! Think one step past obsession, I’m afraid.
7. What’s your favorite book or TV show? Why?
Kimberly: The impossible question for any author to answer! I love books written by Heather Dixon. They’re inventive, lively, and fun, but have a profound message hidden in the story.
Ashley: I seem to be attracted to shows that ended tragically and/or too soon, such as Pushing Daisies and Firefly–or to shows that have lasted over fifty years, like Doctor Who. As for books, I adore Terry Pratchett’s brilliant Discworld series for the humor, profound themes, and poignant commentary. I also easily lose myself in Howl’s Moving Castle, Heir Apparent, and hefty Victor Hugo novels.
Eep! I forgot about Pushing Daisies! Never has a show been so beautifully tragic. Endearing characters, high stakes, and the forbidden kiss. Oh yes. And then there’s Leverage. Don’t get me started on Eliot.
8. Where can we find more of your work?
Kimberly: I’ve got a couple of other short stories published in various anthologies. Look for, Sleepless Beauty (a retelling of Sleeping Beauty) in the One More Day anthology compiled by J. Taylor publishing. I also do freelance graphic design work in my spare time (especially book cover and content design!) Find me on Twitter (@KimberlyAKay) to learn more.
Ashley: This is my first public work … but certainly not the last! Keep up with me on Twitter (@AshleyGephart) for future projects.
Thanks so much to both of you! Got to love how your pictures match. 😉