Kathryn Sullivan

Afterburn SF: Please tell us a little about your current projects, and where we can find them.

Kathryn Sullivan: I currently have three books published by Amber Quill Press ( They're available electronically through Amber Quill and Fictionwise and the trade paperbacks are available through Amber Quill and Amazon. THE CRYSTAL THRONE won the 2002 EPPIE for best Fantasy and AGENTS & ADEPTS won the 2003 Dream Realm Award for Best Anthology. The sequel, TALKING TO TREES, was released January 2006. I also have short stories in anthologies by other publishers. "The Monster and the Archaeologists" appeared in Big Finish's PROFESSOR BERNICE SUMMERFIELD AND THE DEAD MEN DIARIES, "The Oracle of Cilens" is in BEYOND THE MUNDANE: FLIGHTS OF MIND from Mundania Press ( , and "The Diplomat's Tale" appeared in SHORT TRIPS: REPERCUSSIONS, published by Big Finish ( I also have a children's picture book, MICHAEL & THE ELF, published by Writers Exchange E-Publishing ( My website is and I have links to the publishers there as well.

Afterburn SF:What motivates you to write and where does your inspiration come from?

Kathryn Sullivan: I have to write. HAVE to. I'm unhappy otherwise (and characters start pestering me in my dreams, demanding to know when their stories will be written). An inspiration for a story can come from anywhere. I'll see a picture and mentally put in fantasy elements or read a news article and think 'what if…' The Astronomy Picture of the Day site ( is also useful for inspiration.

Afterburn SF:Do you have a strict writing schedule that you stick to?

Kathryn Sullivan: When I'm setting up the world and the characters, I have no schedule. I'm gathering as much research as I can. I usually end up with stacks of articles and a growing file on my laptop and PDA. After that, though, when I'm in the writing mode, I try to write every day. No set limit, but at least something every day.

Afterburn SF:What are the most important elements of a story, for you?

Kathryn Sullivan: Characters and plot. How do you try to develop these elements in your work? I try to have interesting and believable characters because as a reader that keeps me interested and as a writer that keeps me writing. I have to find out what happens next to them. The plot is also important; having cool characters in a story where nothing happens is equally as bad as having a possibly exciting story but the characters are so boring that no one reads past page one. Sometimes I start writing a story just knowing what I want the plot to be and develop characters along the way. Other times, I'll develop the background of the character and her/his world first and then think of a story.

Afterburn SF:Who are your favourite authors, and why?

Kathryn Sullivan: Can I have a list? For science fiction, James Schmitz for starters, because when I first started reading science fiction he was one of the few with strong female characters. James White and C.J. Cherryh, for fantastic aliens. Jane Kagan for great characters and cultures. Eric Frank Russell, for the humor. Lois McMaster Bujold, for combining great characters, cultures and adding in a dash of humor. Ditto Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. And Michelle Levigne for a great series of YA science fiction. For fantasy, Tolkien was a major influence on me. I seek out anything Tamora Pierce and Diana Wynne Jones write because I love the way they create characters and worlds. I'll stop there, but I have many more favorite writers. I could go on for pages!

Afterburn SF:What would you suggest new writers, who are trying to make a name for themselves (or just plain trying to get published) should do to become a successful writer?

Kathryn Sullivan: Write. Finish a story and start another one. Submit your stories and keep submitting. Read. Read for pleasure, read to improve your writing and read for information to enhance your stories. Don't restrict yourself to submitting to just the traditional New York publishing houses. E-publishers accept a bigger range of genres and more and more people are becoming accustomed to reading books on their PDAs and other devices. If you have questions about e-publishing, there is an organization of electronically published authors and publishers called EPIC and there is a wealth of information at its site (

Afterburn SF:How do you feel about writing short fiction?

Kathryn Sullivan: I like it. I write both short stories and novels. Short stories force you to be disciplined, because you only have a set length to get in all the details and characters and plot. I'm usually operating under a deadline when I write a short story and I love that challenge.

Afterburn SF:Who is your biggest supporter, or your biggest fan?

Kathryn Sullivan: I'm not sure. I'm always surprised when people at work suddenly turn up at my office door with my books in hand and ask for an autograph. My sisters have surprised me, too, since they never read science fiction or fantasy when we were growing up, but now they read my books. My parents, when they were alive, were my biggest supporters. I started writing stories when I was 14 and my dad set up a desk in the basement so I could work without being interrupted (and the typing wouldn't bother the rest of the family). They got used to me going off to the post office and mailing out manuscripts and getting rejections back. I'm glad my father lived long enough to see my first award for THE CRYSTAL THRONE.

Afterburn SF: Do you recommend writers self publish their work? Why or why not? In your opinion, is self publishing a viable alternative to traditional publishing?

Kathryn Sullivan: Self publishing is not to be taken lightly. You have to have a lot of discipline because you're doing everything yourself. I preferred to find a publisher.

Afterburn SF: Do you think that ebooks and small press publishers are a viable alternative to traditional publishing?

Kathryn Sullivan: Absolutely! There are a lot of genres that have been ignored for a long time (young adult fantasy for one, even with Harry Potter) and a number of new genres that haven't found a home with traditional publishers. I've heard editors at traditional publishers complain that they can't find any YA science fiction, but I've found several good YA SF books being published by e-publishers. Fictionwise is making it easier for people to find ebooks at one spot on the Internet. I think once a reliable ebook reading device gets below $100, we'll see more people reading ebooks. Cellphones might be an alternative—we already see cellphones being used for a number of other uses, and the Japanese are already reading ebooks on their phones.

Afterburn SF: Why should people read your works?

Kathryn Sullivan: Talking horses. Gryphons. Talking trees. Interstellar agents protecting more primitive worlds. Want to find out just * where * some wizards get their supplies? Interested in stories about wizards and apprentices? If not, do you know someone who is? Sorry, I'm a librarian in my day job. I never say someone *should* read something. I just offer choices. And I hope my books will be among some people's choices.

Afterburn SF: Other than writing, what interests/hobbies do you have?

Kathryn Sullivan: I play golf. I read (sf, fantasy, anthropology) and I have two very demanding birds who plan to take over the world – once they figure out how to take over the living room. Interests during this time of the year also includes checking the falcon nestcams ( ). I used to belong to the SCA, which was very useful when I wanted to be able to describe sword and shield fighting accurately.

Afterburn SF: If you could have lunch with one fictional character from your works, which one would you choose, and why?

Kathryn Sullivan: I'm torn between two characters. First is Mead Mistdaughter from a series of three short stories in AGENTS & ADEPTS. She's a trader and has met quite a few of the peoples in my fantasy universe. She's also a very stubborn character - I keep thinking there should be a fourth story about her but she's not talking. The other is Aunt Paige, from the new YA book, I'm currently writing. (tentative title: EXPLORER IN TRAINING). Aunt Paige is an explorer and in her niece's eyes, the most interesting person on or off that colony planet. Her mother was the Scout who discovered that star system.

Afterburn SF: What is your favourite movie or television show?

Kathryn Sullivan: Doctor Who first, then MacGyver and Stargate SG-1.

Afterburn SF: Describe yourself in ten words or less.

Kathryn Sullivan: Writer, librarian, reader, bird minion.

Afterburn SF:Why are we all here, anyway?

Kathryn Sullivan: Here on the Internet? At this site? Here on this planet rather than on another planet or in another time? Here as humans rather than intelligent dragons?

Afterburn SF: What constitutes the greatest threat to the Human race, and why?

Kathryn Sullivan: Fear and hatred of the 'not we'. Hatred and the wars hatred causes. Hatred keeps people apart and if we're ever going to leave this planet, we need to work together.

Afterburn SF: What missing question do you wish this interview asked you, and what would your answer be?

Kathryn Sullivan: If the TARDIS ever landed near you, would you step inside? Yeah! (though I would have to work things out with my birdsitter). Same thing with the opportunity to step through a Stargate. I would love to travel to other worlds and meet whatever is out there.

Afterburn SF: What will you be working on next?

Kathryn Sullivan: I'm working on three different books at the moment. One is an SF young adult set on a space colony. Another is with the twins from AGENTS & ADEPTS. And a third is a YA fantasy with my Windkin wizard. He managed to appear in TALKING TO TREES, but he wants his own book this time.

Afterburn SF: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to Afterburn SF!