Today we speak to Killick (who just got married recently, so he might not see this until after his honeymoon! Congratulations!). Before his big day, we asked him a few questions about how he goes about writing, and what he enjoys reading. I think it’s fair to say he’s quite vociferous in recommending a particular book. Read on to find out what!
Tell us a little bit about your most recent project (written or published). Was there a particular inspiration for it?
My most recent project is something I’m still currently writing. It’s not my first attempt at a novel, but my first where completion (and hopefully publication) is a very real possibility and I’ve been working on it for a little over five years to the exclusion of almost everything else. I’m actually having trouble remembering the most recent finished thing, because it’s just been so long since I’ve focused on something that wasn’t the novel.
So anyway, the novel, ‘Neon’. ‘Neon’ is about love and trust. Two crucial aspects of a successful relationship. It’s also about listening and being there for one another. Sounds all mushy wushy, doesn’t it? Well it’s also framed in a world of superheroes and villains, of action, explosions and lasers. Bryce Bolton, a fox superhero with the ability to teleport, has successfully kept his hero identity a secret from his rabbit boyfriend for three years. But when things start to go wrong in the superhero world, it starts to strain their relationship and threatens to tear them apart.
Weirdly enough, ‘Neon’ was not inspired by the current slew of superhero movies (although I absolutely love the Marvel films and have definitely looked to them for sources of structure and tropes within the superhero genre). I was actually inspired by a card game called “Sentinels of the Multiverse,” a co-operative game where the players build up hero powers to defeat a villain deck. I was playing with some friends one day, and thought ‘Hey, this game is playing out like a really cool action scene. I wonder if I could write that.’ And then I did, and it spawned a whole heap of ideas and characters that just dominated my mind for the next few years.
What is your favourite thing about the furry fandom? Why write furry fiction?
I really don’t know what attracted me to furry characters and the fandom. I just think they’re neat. Maybe it’s the enormous amount of art and creativity that comes out of the fandom. I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember, so writing about anthropomorphic characters after I joined the fandom seemed like a natural step to take.
What is your writing process like? Do you outline and plot, or are you a “pantser”?
I’m definitely still figuring out my writing process. Some of my earlier short stories were a bit easier because they focused on a single concept, one idea that I could just write. I sometimes would need to work out ‘this needs to happen, then this, then finally this,’ but that’s the most basic of road maps in regard to plotting.
With previous novel ideas, I’d have characters, I’d have worlds and situations, but never really a solid through-line. I would write scenes because they seemed cool, rather than having purposes. The current superhero story started a bit like, random scenes jumbled together in completely discordance, but I’ve managed to lasso them into what I think is a good structure.
My next book idea will definitely involve a lot more preparation. Maybe that will work better for me, maybe it won’t. All I can do is try and see.
What do you consider your biggest strength as a writer?
My ability to steal my enemies’ words, leaving them in terrified perpetual silence. Wait, no, not that. I’d like to think I can write good snappy dialogue, but I’ve never really had someone come to me and say “Hey, your dialogue slaps. What a bangin’ conversation those characters had,” so I don’t know that for sure.
I can tell you about probably the best compliment I’ve ever received for something I wrote. Earlier this year I met a new friend online, and I learned he liked reading short, shall we say “satisfying” stories online. I told him that I’m a writer, and that, like many other furries, I post my more, um, erotitastic works on FA. I pointed him to a story of a particular, erm, interest that aligned with his *cough* interests, and asked him to give me any feedback he had. Two hours later, he sent me a message gushing about how good the story was and that he had, ah, “finished” so hard that he’d passed out for half an hour.
What is your favourite kind of story to write? Does it align well with what you like to read?
I love to write a good, fun adventure. I’ve written about superheroes, swordspeople, magic casters, pirates, nazi-punching spies, and aerial dragon combat. For me it comes down to what is the most fun and exciting thing that can happen? That’s what I want to write. Maybe it’s an escape thing, where even the most complex problems can be solved with a few well placed laser blasts. Maybe I’m not emotionally ready to explore deeper ideas, or maybe I do already and don’t even realise it.
That’s usually what I read as well. I mostly read various flavours of fantasy and sci-fi, but I also like to dip into other genres such as horror, romance, literature, and crime.
Which character of yours do you most identify with, and why?
At this point, I probably identify most with the boyfriend of my protagonist in ‘Neon’. Simon is a rabbit, clueless to his partner’s superhero shenanigans, and just trying to hold everything together with a tolerable job, mounting bills, and too many chores to do. I identify with Simon, because he’s just trying to make things work with what he has, and sometimes that’s enough. But sometimes it’s not.
Which authors or specific books have most influenced your work?
Terry Pratchett is a huge influence on me. I write fantasy and sci-fi, so I feel like this is the most bog-standard, obvious answer, but he’s influential for a reason. He’s a master of the turn of phrase, he approaches ideas and concepts from clever angles, his sentence to sentence writing is consistently interesting, and on top of all that he’s funny. It’s his books that really made me want to be a writer.
I also have to mention Carl Hiaasen. Hiaasen writes environmentalist crime comedy novels that are pure gold. Do yourself a favour and read “Native Tounge” – it is one of my favourite books of all time. Pratchett may have inspired me to be a writer, but Hiaasen is the writer I aspire to be. He is a master of taking the grounded, often grey reality of the real world and stretching it to such ridiculous lengths that the mundane is left in the dust in favour of the absurd. His characters are incredible, often wacky, but there to grab you by the scruff and drag you through the plot. And he has a real talent for writing these long asides that for most other authors would be dull exposition dumps, but in Hiaasen’s hands they are some of the funniest parts of the book.
What is the last book you read that you really love?
I can only pick one? How dare you. I shall resist. A recent book I read that is already generally pretty well known and loved is ‘Pet Sematary’ by Stephen King. It was my first King book, actually, and it was great! I loved how the horror didn’t come from what was happening, but from the potential of what the characters might do. You mutter at the page, “Louis, my dude, don’t do it. Don’t even think it! You’ll lose so much more if you try to fix that,” but all the while knowing that the protagonist is going to end up doing it anyway. Sometimes I find myself randomly thinking about the final image and final word of the book, so it definitely left an impact.
Two more recent releases that I loved were ‘Upright Women Wanted’ by Sarah Gailey, and ‘Wanderers’ by Chuck Wendig. I adored ‘Upright Women Wanted’ – about a bunch of queer librarians (including some great non-binary representation) travelling across the USA after the cowboy apocalypse, trying to get to the safe state of Utah where it isn’t illegal to be gay or gender non-conforming. The book has a hopeful message that you should be free to be who you are, but sometimes you have to fight for that right, sometimes you have to throw a few punches, and sometimes you have to pull the trigger.
‘Wanderers’ by Chuck Wendig might just be the best book I’ve ever read. It’s hard to talk about this book without giving too much away, because the first third of the book is a mystery, with a second act reveal that dramatically changes the nature of the story. America wakes up one morning to discover a flock of “sleepwalkers” trekking across the country on a mysterious, unstoppable journey. The flock is made up of normal, average people – teenagers, teachers, bus drivers, scientists – but they cannot talk, cannot respond, and cannot be woken up.
‘Wanderers’ doesn’t have subtext, it mostly just has text. It has domtext. The author took a lot of things he is obviously and rightly angry at, and rolled them into one big apocalyptic journey. Global warming, over-reliance on pharmaceuticals and antibiotics, distrust of science, gun control, capitalism, religion, bigotry, xenophobia, and of course white supremacy. I first read this book in 2019 when it was published, and it weirdly predicted a lot events that happened in the temporal trash fire that was 2020. I re-read it a few months ago in 2021 and it definitely hit a lot different.
Please, for the love of dog, read ‘Wanderers’. I desperately need someone to talk to about it.
Besides writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
I work a 9 to 5 day job and try to write every evening, so free time is something I find less and less of as I take my writing more seriously. I really enjoy cooking and baking, and I know a lot of people think of that as a chore, but I am more than happy to spend a couple of hours in the kitchen tending to a sauce. I actually find it extremely relaxing.
A friend recently got me into model painting, so every now and then I’ll just sit and bring some colour to all of the grey fantasy miniatures I’ve managed to amass over the years.
But what I really love is just sitting down and watching movies. It’s how I recharge. These days I try to watch things I’ve never seen before, but there are times when I just need to watch Back to the Future for the fiftieth time.
Do you have any advice to give other writers?
Finish your shit. Everyone’s good at writing beginnings because we write so many of them. Writing an ending is its own skill but it is just as important. So choose what you begin carefully, put some real thought and preparation into your characters and your direction to give yourself the best chance at completing it.
Also, make time to touch some grass and look at a tree. You’d be amazed what that can do to clear your head.
Is there anything you would like to see more of within furry fiction?
I honestly don’t know. We create such a wide swath of genres and ideas that we have a lot of ground already covered. From fantasy epics featuring intelligent mythical creatures, to sci-fi starring genetically engineered animal people, to modern day romance with completely unexplained anthropomorphic animals. We do it all. I’m not even the first person to write a furry superhero story. Not by a long shot.
Actually, I’ve just thought of something. Fat protagonists. I’m tired of slim foxes with glistening abs. Give me a saves-the-day hero with some heft to them. The furry writing scene always strives for progression, inclusion, and recognition in important areas like BIPOC and LGBTIQA+. Let’s slip in a bit of body positivity as well. As a treat.
Where can readers find your work?
You can find a combination of my all-ages adventure stories and adult work at SoFurry and FurAffinity.
I have four short stories currently in print in various anthologies: ‘Three Minutes To Midnight’ published in Gods With Fur; ‘Shells On The Beach’ published in Dogs Of War; ‘Ibis Hotel’ published in Furry Trash; and finally ‘Le Chat et la Souris’ published in The Jackal Who Came In From the Cold.
I also have a non-furry blog, Scribbled Cakes, which I update semi-regularly.
Have you got Wanderers yet? Or perhaps one of the anthologies in which Killick appears? Furry Trash is a fun one! (Disclosure: I edited that anthology.)
Come back here tomorrow for another furry writer sharing their experiences as we build up towards Oxfurred Comma on the weekend.