We had the good fortune of connecting with Carolyn Kay and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Carolyn, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
I’ve been a state employee for 23 years, and a small business owner for five. When I started my career at the state, I was very much focused on building that career, but I was able to maintain a pretty good balance between that job and life outside of it. Since becoming a small business owner on top of my main career, that balance has shifted, and not necessarily in a good way. I have less time for relaxing, and feel guilty when I do take time for myself because my brain says I should be working on my writing, or marketing my writing, or catching up the latest satellite imagery science for the day job. Finding a balance now is much more of a conscious process than it has been in the past. I now have to schedule in time for myself or hanging out with friends (as rare as that is in COVID times). Sometimes having dual careers isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m a steampunk, fantasy, science fiction, and humor author (sometimes all in one story!). I write multi-cultural steampunk/fantasy because the 1800s happened everywhere, not just in Victorian England, and together with my illustrator husband, Chaz, we believe that representation is important. Our world of Ashelon is a place where beings and races of all kinds have a voice-whether they’re mountain trolls in the Hidden Lands or the indigenous peoples of Freedonia. I’ve just released the final book in my steampunk/fantasy trilogy. Galessel’s Tale started four years ago with “Dien-Vek”, and it’s been a roller-coaster ride through the writing of “Sikevra” and finally, “Fallana Sian”. Writing a series isn’t easy, and each book gets harder, both from a writing standpoint and from the readers’ expectations. You have to weave in threads from each book before and keep things in your world straight. If you don’t, the readers will call you out on it. I wrote myself into several corners throughout the process and scrapped more drafts than I care to admit. The editing process was even more brutal. Chaz was there, every step of the way, with support and ideas and, when needed, hard cider. I’m really proud of “Fallana Sian.” It’s a much longer book than its siblings and more complex. It follows not just the main character, but several of Galessel’s friends, which required me to dive deeper into those characters to find their voices. It was also the first book I wrote from an outline instead of writing on the fly, or “pantsing.” The outline really helped, making it easier to sit down and write out a chapter after a long day. The skeleton was already there, so all I had to do was dress it. The outline didn’t completely eradicate writer’s block, but it did help.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Monday – 16th Street Mall for shopping and lunch at Pho-Natic before touring the Capitol. Tuesday – Breakfast at the Cereal Box in Old Town Arvada, walking through the shops, and an early dinner at Yak & Yeti. Wednesday – Hiking at Red Rocks and lunch in Morrison. Thursday – Paddleboarding at Aurora Reservoir. Friday – touring the Museum of Nature and Science and a walk through City Park.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My husband, freelance illustrator, Chaz Kemp, deserves all the credit in my story. He’s my rock and font of inspiration. Whenever I get stuck in a story, he’s there to throw out 1,001 ideas to unstick it, or just bring me a glass of wine. It was his steampunk world and story idea that pulled me into writing as more than just a hobby, and it’s collaborating with him that makes this all so much fun and rewarding.