This is the first SFF book club interview!
I got a chance to sit down and chat with K. Gorman, author of the space opera series, The Eurynome Code.
We talk about science fiction, inspirations, humor, and the first book in her space opera series, Black Dawn, which was featured in the book club just a few weeks ago.
Transcript of the interview
MG: Hi everyone. My name is MG Herron. I’m here today with K. Gorman. Hi, K, welcome to the show.
Kelly: Thank you. Happy to be here.
MG: Just a brief introduction before we get started. K. Gorman is a science fiction and fantasy addict from Western Canada. Currently transplanted to Taichung, Taiwan. In addition to being a fiction lover, she is also a history nerd with a current focus on China, Taiwan, and Japan. That’s interesting. What are you doing in Taiwan?
Kelly: Well, I’m actually teaching English to small children.
Kelly: It’s actually Taichung, Taiwan.
MG: Taichung? Okay.
Kelly: Those Chinese names get you. [laughs]
MG: Yes, even the CH, I always forget it’s pronounced like that in Chinese characters. Taichung, Taiwan.
MG: How old are the kids that you’re teaching?
Kelly: I think the youngest is actually five, and the oldest– I’ve got some teenagers in my oldest class. Mostly it’s exchanged.
MG: Do you like the teaching part of it?
Kelly: I do. They can be really cute sometimes. They do say some unique things.
MG: Unique things. Yes, I bet. [chuckles] Kids. Does that leave you a lot of time to write books?
Kelly: It does. It’s actually more of a 3/4 time job rather than a full-time job.
Kelly: You get some nice time. It’s also later in the day, so I can either get cracking in the morning or sleep in a little bit.
MG: There you go. I asked you to come on the show today to talk about space adventure, particularly your brand of it. You have a book called Black Dawn that I had in the SFF book club, and people really seem to like it. I liked it. I found it on BookBub probably a month and a half ago. Was that a month and a half ago? I read it in a couple days. I thought it was awesome. I just wanted to bring you on and talk about it. Particularly the humor of it and what the parallels are to other popular science fiction shows. Why don’t you take us back first before we talk about Black Dawn? Tell me how you got introduced to science fiction.
Kelly: Well, my first science fiction memory, it would have to be my dad’s fault. Do you remember back in the ’90s when the Star Wars trilogy was making other run through the theaters?
Kelly: Yes, yes. I went to that. My dad’s a big movie guy and he used to work at the theater. He’s just, “Come on, Kelly. Let’s go.” We marathoned all three in two days.
Kelly: It felt that having the child in the theater for extended period may–
MG: This was the original trilogy or was it the prequels of the original?
Kelly: It was only the trilogy at that point. She’s got a good collection of old movies. I remember some Flash Gordon way back in the day.
Kelly: I’ve watched all the Batman movies, and the old Superman movies, but that’s starting to venture into not space opera.
MG: It’s definitely not space opera, but I always had this conversation with people. X-Men is a great example. Is X-Men science fiction?
Kelly: It could be science fiction, it could be fantasy. It depends on which character you’re talking about, right?
MG: Yes. I always think science fiction is based on some kind of science. The genetic engineering that they did to Wolverine put it firmly in the science fiction camp for me. Also, giant robot Sentinels that might have had something to do with it. On Amazon, they’re categorized as something not science fiction. They have their own category.
Kelly: They go about with the mutation thing, but then at the same time, you have the whole Phoenix arc going on. I’m not talking about the movie one, but I used to watch the cartoon as well. That’s like, “Let’s spit out there, but we’ll take it.” [laughs]
MG: I think my first memories of X-Men were from that cartoon, which was excellent in the comic book. Do you think that you’re still drawn to science fiction in the same way that you were when you’re a kid, when you watched those first Star Wars trilogies?
Kelly: I think I’m more drawn to it now.
MG: More drawn. Why is that?
Kelly: It’s a great time to be alive if you’re a sci-fi fan right now. Last 10 years have been just wonderful for sci-fi stories popping out. They’re a lot more on the big blockbuster stage now.
MG: It’s become mainstream.
Kelly: Yes, it’s become mainstream. All the geeks grew up. Not to say that there weren’t geeks before. [laughs]
MG: True enough.
Kelly: It’s definitely become a lot more socially acceptable, I guess.
MG: Okay. Tell us a little bit about Black Dawn, which is the book that I read. You can either give me a book pitch that you would give somebody you meet at a party, or read the blurb, or just describe it for us.
Kelly: I never go to parties.
Kelly: Well, Black Dawn, it’s a story where the main character Karin, she’s successfully run away from her genetic mutation engineering child experiment past. She’s worked her way through the trauma, and she’s trying to successfully get on to a little dream life of not seeing the government or anyone. Then this massive attack hits the system, and she has to go deal with finding her sister, hiding the power she has, and finding weird connections. It’s just everything gets turned upside down on her head.
MG: Yes. Absolutely. The set is in space. It’s on a spaceship and she’s–
Kelly: Spaceship, planet, stations.
MG: I forget what exactly their mission is. They are like scavengers?
Kelly: They’re scroungers. They go to places where people were but are not there anymore. Maybe dead ships that people have reported in. They try and find salvageable stuff whether that’s vintage firearms, old beer in cans that people are willing to pay money for, or anything. It’s not a huge money maker, but it works. [chuckles]
MG: Nice. I like that focusing the science fiction story on the people who aren’t part of the military, or part of the government, or part of some big adventure crew. It’s just like these guys off to the side doing their own thing. I love that because you get to explore the human side of the story.
Kelly: Yes. I’m a huge fan of the little guys.
MG: Also, you said that she, Karin, was running from the government and space is a big place. It seems like that’s a good place to hide for her.
Kelly: Yes. Go to the outer realm or whatever and hide around a bit. There’s not really any cameras around.
MG: [laughs] What was the big idea that inspired you to write this book or this series in particular? Where did it start?
Kelly: Well, Black Dawn actually started as a short story, but it’s transformed quite a bit since that short story was published. I want to say 2012. Back then, the short story was called Star-Eaters. It was about, basically, if a mythological figure, a nymph, a star-nymph decided to go on to a spaceship in the far future. Then people started killing people like her. That’s how that started, and then I have always wanted to write a series with that character. I actually binge read Lindsay Buroker’s Fallen Empires series.
MG: Great book, yes.
Kelly: I was thinking I need more, but there’s no more right now. Okay, it’s time to write it. I was just sketching my other series, so I was just like, “All right. We’re going to do it.” [laughs]
MG: Cool. That’s great. I think it’s a great place to start because you’re scratching your own itch, right?
MG: Is that short story still up?
Kelly: It is. It’s ancient history now, but it’s in the Twelve Worlds anthology which I believe you can still find on Amazon. It’s originally a charity anthology, so the proceeds were going to– I actually can’t remember. I think it was literacy in America, some charity for promoting literacy in America.
MG: That’s awesome. I love how stories evolve too. They start so small, and then all of a sudden, it’s this exploring universe and you’re like, “How did I get here?”
Kelly: They grow as you grow too.
MG: Sure. You put a lot of yourself into it.
Kelly: Yes. It’s a rhetoric. I have to. [laughs]
MG: Right. The character is from that story, the short story. Is Karin in that book or is it some of the other characters?
Kelly: Yes. She’s in that short story, but she’s not the same character. She’s got the powers and she’s got the name, but she’s a different– She’s like a half character. If they were half sisters, that’s how close they would be to the current Karin.
MG: Okay. Interesting. Let me ask this a different way. Which character in Black Dawn is most similar to you?
Kelly: I thought about this. I thought Marc might actually be the most similar to me because we’re both very practical. We just like to get things done, but then Karin’s got this thing about her where she’s a little bit too nice. I’ve got that thing too. I’m a little bit too nice.
MG: Is it a Canadian thing?
Kelly: Well, no. Canadians are nice, but I think sometimes they take it a little too far.
Kelly: I don’t want to seem like I’m bragging. I assure you, I can be quite mean.
MG: We say this about Midwesterners in the US too. They’re nice to a fault is how we would say it. It’s like, “She’s so nice that she’s nice to a fault where she’ll go out of her way to be nice to somebody else even when she doesn’t feel like it.”
Kelly: I do that as a principle. If I don’t do it, I feel bad.
MG: [laughs] It’s probably just your upbringing, though. Right?
Kelly: It could be, yes. Yes, probably so that I’ll be the Canadian. [laughs]
MG: It’s true. I spent a few years in Canada, so I definitely so that when I was living there. I went to school with my master. I always thought it was a stereotype. That’s in Hamilton, Ontario.
Kelly: Yes. Okay.
MG: I always thought it was a stereotype that Americans got wrong, but no, it’s really true. They always say please, and thank you, and I’m sorry. Everybody is so nice to me. I was like, “Wow.” I always thought it was the media making stuff up, but like, “No, that’s real life.”
Kelly: Yes, yes. [laughs]
MG: Which character in Black Dawn is most different from you?
Kelly: Well. There is an antagonist in Black Dawn. He runs a station. He’s very confident. He jokes around with his bros and such. Either him or Soo-jin who is the queen of snark. I could never see myself saying quite as many things as she does. [laughs]
MG: That’s the fun part about writing. You get to say things you would never say in real life.
Kelly: You could live vicariously through your fictional characters. [laughs]
MG: Yes. Absolutely. I think this is fascinating asking people which characters are like them and which ones are not. Because for both situations, like you said, Marc was like you, but you have to imagine what it’s like, like, “Would I say this if I was him?” Then, for the characters that are different from you, you have to have a lot of empathy to really get into their shoes, and understand their point of view, and establish a different voice. Did you have a challenge with that?
Kelly: No, sorry. [laughs] No, I did.
MG: No, no. That’s great. How do you write characters that are so different from you?
Kelly: I know people that are a lot different from me, and I read quite a lot. I look through their motivations and their upbringing. Maybe how they were raised, where they are from, what ideas might be going through their head. What’s at stake for them is a big one, motivations and such.
MG: Empathy. It’s great. What’s one thing you hope readers take away from Black Dawn? Do you have a core message or something to learn?
Kelly: I didn’t really go out to send a message per se. I really wanted it to be a really good story that people could enjoy. If there’s a message, that’d be try to help or try to do something even if the situation seems daunting, even if it’s like 90% chance of failure. The other message, and this one I thought myself very clever for. I’ve actually built it into the name The Eurynome Code, the series’ name. The message would be that things twist and shift their meaning as time goes by and through different interpretations of it.
Eurynome was– I guess, because she’s still existing in mythology. She’s an Oceanid, daughter of Oceanus in mythology. At some point, someone more modern than those myths came along and decided that she was a creation deity and put forth a creation story involving her. I thought that’s a bit different from the other myths. It’s a shift in the meaning and a shift in the goal. I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s going to happen a little bit, a lot, in the story as it goes along.
MG: Interesting. The mythology of the story would shift.
Kelly: Yes, yes. It’s not so much the mythology of the story, but the project itself that created Karin and the others.
MG: Interesting. Well, now I have to read the rest of them. Thanks for hooking me.
Kelly: Well, lucky you.
MG: There’s three more, right? You have three more so far?
Kelly: Yes, yes. I’ve got Book 2, Renegades, which came out September 30th last year. Blood Ties came out December 25th. World Shift is coming out May 30th. Maybe earlier if I can swing it, but probably May 30th.
MG: All right.
Kelly: The other title, this one here, is a spin-off that I’m doing which does not involve Karin or the others.
Kelly: It’s just regular people facing the system’s problems without magical powers. I’m doing that as a web serial.
MG: Cool, that’s awesome. Is there going to be four books in the Eurynome Code or more?
Kelly: There’s going to be about six. [laughs]
MG: Okay. Awesome, that’s great. Cool. I love your particular brand of sci-fi because it crosses the sci-fi fantasy line that a lot of people seem to hold sacred. I love when people cross it and do it well. It’s one thing to say like, “It’s wizards and space,” but it’s another thing to have a sci-fi basis to it, and to integrate that so completely with the world like you seem to have done.
Kelly: Thank you. I have actually been a little bit worried about that. I’m being like, “Is that too much fantasy or–?” [laughs]
MG: Yes, yes. Well, to bring it back to the original Star Wars, if you look at Star Wars and it’s wizards and space. That’s the whole concept. It was based on Flash Gordon and some other things, but it’s really space adventure with magical element. It’s just hard to find people that do that well because they either take a fantasy story and put it on spaceship, or they just do pure science fiction. It’s cool to see this. I know there’s probably no world in our world which telepathic powers exist, but it’s really plausible the way that you set it up. That’s why that’s one of the reasons that I really enjoyed it.
Kelly: Well, thank you.
MG: Do you want to ask our audience anything before we leave?
Kelly: Well, I’d love some book recommendations.
MG: Book recommendations. I think they can do that.
Kelly: Good, good. I’d love some book recommendations.
MG: All right. Guys, if you’re watching– [crosstalk]
Kelly: I’m always looking for new things to read.
MG: Absolutely. If you’re watching, put book recommendations in the comments that you think we would like. Kelly, where can people find you online?
Kelly: You can find me on my website kgorman.ca, but I am most active on Facebook. If you can find my Facebook page and send me a message, I usually reply within an hour, I guess, if I like it. [laughs]
Kelly: Unless I’m working.
MG: So kgorman.ca or go to Facebook and just search K, the letter K, Gorman.
Kelly: Yes, K. Gorman. I’m on technically most social media platforms, but I am most active on Facebook.
MG: Perfect. All right. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. It was good to talk to you.
Kelly: All right. Good to talk to you as well. Thank you for having me.
MG: My pleasure.
Kelly: All right. Bye.