"Well, I have always believed that simply being a decent human being pays in unintended ways. That belief is affirmed."
This month I had the delightful opportunity to interview Author K.J. Fieler. Check out her wonderful insights. And be sure to check out her fabulous debut novel Shadow Runner.
TCA: How did the idea for Shadow Runner emerge?
KJF: I was invited to write a short story for an anthology that never launched. I was initially disappointed, but the publisher released all rights and I recognized that this was the story’s destiny. I’d had trouble sticking to the word count for the anthology, and both the editor and publisher had suggested the tale was actually a novel.
Once I was free to let things take shape naturally, unrestrained–Ada emerged. I quickly realized she was the reason for everything; that the story was character-driven, not really grounded in a particular world or period. She wanted to be more than her environment. She had things to say, and it didn’t matter what stage I set for her.
The world evolved to accommodate her. As it turns out, she lives in Victorian England, in a landscape that includes elements of Steampunk, Dark Fantasy, and Science Fiction. Ada is happy there and I’m very much enjoying our shared journey. There are at least two more books in the series, possibly more.
TCA: You have been connected to the author world for a long time, both as a supportive reader and as a publicist for authors. With the release of Shadow Runner you have shifted over into the author side of the reader-author connection. What surprises have you found with this shift? What insights do you have for others about this connection?
KJF: I sort of fell into doing publicity for author-friends. As an extension of that, for years, I was part of a team that produced an annual writers festival in Jacksonville, Florida. I was writing, and I was a member of a very successful critique group… but I had no plan to publish any of my works of fiction because I’d also stumbled into a gig as a freelance writer for several newspapers and magazines. My desire for a by-line was fulfilled on a regular basis and deadlines were quite the challenge. So, the idea of writing a novel… that was a maybe-someday thing, but it looked like a lot of work and an investment of time I just didn’t have.
Ultimately, I proved to be a better friend than a businesswoman, and it became more and more difficult for me to bill clients. People felt guilty and I was under pressure to send invoices, so I quit. Well… I quit my job but not the friendships. I enjoyed promoting authors I loved to read. I just didn’t like charging for it. For me, tooting the horn for my favorite novelists was as natural as bragging about your kids.
Over the years, ex-clients apparently ran a reverse tab for me; kept track of things I did on their behalf. So, when I finally wrote that novel I had a built-in street team: beta readers, unofficial publicists… It’s been at once heartwarming and a little overwhelming. Now I’m the one feeling guilty. But it’s only fair to let friends return a kindness and I’m certainly blessed in that regard.
Insight? Well, I have always believed that simply being a decent human being pays in unintended ways. That belief is affirmed.
TCA: Shadow Runner is full of intriguing and well-developed characters. Which character from your book had the biggest impact on you as a person?
KJF: Ada has profoundly affected me. She is the manifestation of how I wish I handled strife, health issues, death, disappointment… Basically, life.
Not many people know I’m a breast cancer survivor times-two, and I don’t think those who do know would recognize Shadow Runner as being that chapter in my life. But it is. I definitely wasn’t the heroine of my own story back then. I was angry, full of self-pity, a little ticked off at God.
What happens to Ada is so much worse than anything I’ve faced. And she started down her very rocky road when she was only a child. But she put on her big-girl pants and got on with it, something I am still learning to do.
Ada is my expression of a desire to be a better person. In some ways, she’s my therapist. She lets me complain about the quaint hardships I face, and then reminds me that my little-bit-o-woe is pretty manageable.
TCA: What is a promise you are fulfilling to yourself by sharing your writing? What is a promise you are fulfilling to others by sharing your writing?
KJF: I’m fulfilling a promise to my husband, to do something just for me. I’ve always been happy as ground support and he appreciates that. Early in our marriage, that was the pact: I’d hold down the fort while he slayed dragons. But there came a time when I was just looking for substitute children, someone to take care of. He realized what I was doing and asked me to pursue a dream of my own; to consider this “Kat’s Time” and do whatever I wanted as long as it wasn’t for someone else. So, here I am.
The reward of having honored that promise is beyond words. He’s so proud. The look in his eyes at a book signing makes my heart swell. At one event, I heard him say to no one in particular, “Look at her! She’s amazing!” Yeah, I’m that lucky woman and I thank the universe every day.
I’m also fulfilling another promise to Frank; friend and mentor for over two decades. He ran several critique groups and worked on the writers’ festival with me, and our most frequent conversation began with him asking, “With all the resources at your disposal, why don’t you have a book yet?” He lovingly nagged, sighed, threw his hands in the air. He never gave up. Until his heart gave out and he passed into the next world. So, I hope he knows. That’s why I dedicated the book to him.
In Loving Memory of Frank Armstrong Green, “Yours in the Word.”
And finally, I am honoring a promise I made to an English professor. Two, actually. Like Frank, they stayed in touch and kept after me. They’re happy now. And so am I. That’s some big love right there.
JUNE 2023 GIVEAWAY
Enter to win the SHADOW RUNNER gift box which includes an autographed paperback copy of K.J. Fieler's debut novel along with other wonderful book-related prizes (ARV $65).
SHADOW RUNNER gift box includes: