Who is, (or isn’t), K.A. Laity? An Interview.

K.A. Laity is the award-winning author of White Rabbit, A Cut-Throat Business, Lush Situation, Owl Stretching, Unquiet Dreams, À la Mort Subite, The Claddagh Icon, Chastity Flame, and Pelzmantel, as well as editor of Weird Noir, Noir Carnival and Drag Noir (she also writes under other names). Her bibliography is chock full of short stories, humor pieces, plays and essays, both scholarly and popular. She spent the 2011-2012 academic year in Galway, Ireland where she was a Fulbright Fellow in digital humanities at NUIG. Dr. Laity teaches medieval literature, film, gender studies, social media and popular culture at the College of Saint Rose. She divides her time between upstate New York and Dundee.

She was interviewed by Hector Duarte Jr. for Sliver of Stone Magazine.

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What is the very first literary work you can remember reading? How old were you? Have you gone back and re-read it? Does have the same meaning?

The first thing I remember is One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. It still haunts me. I cannot bring myself to trust that damn blue fish. Or if you mean ‘literary’ somewhat differently I suppose it’s Alice in Wonderland and I don’t know how old. I re-read it all the time. It always has different meanings but resonates (hence my latest novel is White Rabbit).

Three literary works and films that heavily influence you.

Beowulf, Sense & Sensibility, The Haunting of Hill House; Straight to Hell, The Women, Suspiria.

There’s a hustle to writing. How many irons do you have in the fire at the moment? Do you feel you thrive with multiple projects at once?

 I don’t know how many irons there are in the fire: never tell me the odds, never count the irons. I don’t know if I thrive on multiple projects. I just don’t seem to be able to work any other way. When I get stuck on one thing, I turn to another. When nothing works, there’s always Twitter.

Who is, (or isn’t) Kit Marlowe? Why do you publish romance under a different name?

I have a few names I write under: Kathryn ‘Kit’ Marlowe is my historical fiction name: she has written a sprawling comic Gothic novel, a Wodehouse-flavoured series of romps and now begins a new series of medieval adventure romances based on Breton Lais. I am putting my (mimetic) crime stories under Graham Wynd now. It’s just a way of labeling the work according to genre (I have some other names too). One of the biggest hurdles my writing has faced is not sticking to one genre. I can’t seem to help it, but most people seem to like writers who stick to a particular pigeon-hole. I like to surprise myself. So it goes.

You split your time a lot between upstate New York and the UK. How does changing scenery help work, if at all.

I’d much rather be in Scotland most of the time because life there is so much more sane than NY, but my job is in NY so I make the best of it. I suppose at heart I’m just a traveller so my eye is always on the horizon. Most of my crime writing is set in Britain and I now have a series set in Dundee, so it’s research!

Is there a marked difference between lit fans abroad and the US? Or about the same?

Yes, a huge difference. They’re less likely to feel quite so entitled as American fans. Sometimes US fans seem to act as if creators work for them. Americans also don’t seem to be able to enjoy drinking: they’re either completely abstemious or binge drinkers. While binge drinking has become a problem in Britain too, on the whole the relaxed nature of pubs is just so different from the blaring assault of American bars (though it’s getting harder to find pubs that are not filled with big screen TVs). Americans aren’t too good at relaxing. On the other hand, they are good at Q&A. Irish fans are good at that too; there’s a very strong Irish tradition of not allowing anyone to think they’re any better than anyone else, so people feel quite comfortable asking questions in a way that, say, English fans are a little more reluctant to do. Scottish crime fans are the best!

How has social media helped your career? Is it a burden or a boost? Maybe a bit of both?

I always mention how I used to play Free Cell while I wrote to get through stuck places back in the day. Now I have social media instead. I think too many people try too hard to sell sell sell on social media. It’s meant to be social! It’s a virtual water cooler for writers, open 24 hours and world-wide! At any given time I am a long way from people that I love, so social media lets me stay in touch with those I miss.

Two artists, (any field), dead or alive, that you’d lunch with?

Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker. I wouldn’t have to say a word. They’d try to out-do one another. It would be glorious. I’d live tweet it.

One artist you’d probably end up throwing your soup on? Why?

Oh, so many! Most artists who are indulged are complete asshats. If I were the soup-slinging type I know a few I’d already have splashed, including a very big name writer whom I met when he wasn’t even as famous as he is now. At two different cons I had unpleasant experiences with him. But I have sworn to be Jane Bennet in public and Lizzie only in private so I’ll just say…oh, Hemingway.

Parting words for starving artists.

William Blake was a genius who died penniless and forgotten. But he saw angels while he worked. Work for your angels even if no one else notices and even if maybe they look like devils (or rabbits or very small people with red hats—whatever) as long as they’re yours. The whole of history has taught us that fiat determines fame, that genius and hard work are no assurance of anything. So work because you have something in you that wants out. Please yourself and if you please anyone else, be gracious.