Today we have an interview with Kate Coombs, who wrote “Impossible Quests” for Sword & Sorceress XXV.
1.) Tell us about yourself.
I write for children and teens, mostly fantasy, but also poetry and picture books. The three books I have out so far are a picture book called The Secret-Keeper and two comic fantasies for middle grades on up called The Runaway Princess and The Runaway Dragon. (I have three other books in the pipeline.) My day job is teaching sick kids in their homes for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Besides reading and writing a lot, I like to garden. I’m fluent in Spanish, though I don’t look like I would be, and I’m one of seven adopted children.
2.) How did you get started writing?
I was a classic bookworm as a child, reading every second I possibly could. I started retelling the fairy tales I was reading to my younger sister in our bunkbeds at night when we were supposed to be asleep. I remember writing little plays, too–naturally, I would cast myself as the Beautiful Queen and my sister as the Helpful Servant Girl. I went through a poetry phase in my teens and early twenties, then started writing short stories and novels. So for most of my life, I’ve been tinkering around writing something-or-other. Since I fell madly in love with books as a child, being a writer was the best thing I could possibly imagine!
3.) Is writing fantasy fiction easier or harder than writing other genres?
When I try to write in other genres, the magic creeps back in. For me, writing contemporary realism without a shred of fantasy is hard! Fairy tales, with their strength of symbolism, speak to the hidden meanings in everyday life in a way I find endlessly appealing.
4.) Tell us about your S&S 25 story.
My story, “Impossible Quests,” is about a princess sent on a quest by her evil regent aunt and a prince sent on a quest by his father, a king jealous of his son’s popularity. We’re talking attempted murder by quest! But the two quests bump up against each other, and the prince and the princess pool their cynicism, coming up with a nice new plan.
5.) Can you share a short excerpt from your story?
Lady Frances lifted her rose-patterned teacup to her lips and took a sip before she said, “I have postponed this day for as long as I could, but I see I can put it off no more.”
The regent sighed beautifully. “Every true ruler of the Kingdom of Minark has begun his reign by secretly going in search of a great talisman.”
“What kind of talisman?”
“Why, the tongue of a dragon.”
“Fresh?” asked the princess.
“Fresh,” her aunt confirmed. “And it is a quest of such import that it must be undertaken without any artificial aid.”
“Like a troop of seasoned soldiers?” Gilly asked, catching on fast.
6.) Recommend one fantasy book (other than your own.)
My current favorites are Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief books, but almost anything by Diana Wynne Jones or Terry Pratchett would run a close second. (Just ONE book? Surely you jest!)
7.) Recommend one non-fantasy book.
The funniest thing I’ve read in recent years is Lisa Lutz’s The Spellman Files (plus sequels). And I finally discovered Dorothy L. Sayers.