SPOTLIGHT ON: Kai Kiriyama (Author of the Pathogen series)

Kai KiriyamaSome of our older readers may remember this familiar face from our September 2014 issue, Futures, in which she introduced us to the wonderful steampunk detective, Blaze Tuesday.

Well, Kai Kiriyama is back on our interview sofa! This time, she’s indulging us for our Infection issue (our Winter 2016 publication). 

We last interviewed you about the release of Blaze Tuesday. What has changed since then? Are you still writing Blaze or has your focus moved to the Pathogen series?

Blaze is on a temporary hiatus. I love him dearly, but he’s being uncooperative as I keep changing what I want to do with him. However, he’s going to come back. He’s scheduled on my whiteboard of doom to be written again in March-ish, I’m hoping to re-release Knight Surgeon with updated text and cover art, and launch the second book later this year.

Right now, I’m finishing up my “Year of the Zombie” which has taken over my brain like the infection that is the cause of the zombie apocalypse. Not much has changed, really, at least, not with my writing life. I switched day jobs and moved house, but that’s unimportant! Ha.

I love that you have a whiteboard of doom. How strict are you with your writing schedule? How do you manage to juggle writing with a day job and other commitments? Any tricks you’d like to share?

My whiteboard of doom is mostly how I decide how stressed out I feel like I should be each month. (And I’m behind where I wanted to be at this point in time, ha ha.)

I am not the strictest person in the world when it comes to my writing schedule. I tend to give myself more than I can handle, and I take on a lot more than any sane person probably should. I don’t have a set writing time or anything like that, I usually go “I need to write x number of words today to stay on track” but even then… When I get to the nitty gritty part of the writing process, I usually drop time-wasting things. I stop playing video games, I stop watching TV/movies.

I still give myself time to read books and comics, however, because I feel like that’s a better motivator than playing Animal Crossing or Pokemon for hours on end. I also take internet sabbaticals, I drop social media and neglect my blog. That’s really all that I do, but for me, writing is still a labour of love and I don’t really view it as work. I’m a terrible boss.

What are your plans for the Pathogen series? Having personally read Patient Zero, I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, Outbreak. How many books are planned in the series? Will there ever be a happy ending?

My plans for PATHOGEN are a third book and a series of shorts to be compiled into an anthology. OUTBREAK was released in August 2015 and then I kind of disappeared.

As for the happy endings… I can’t say too much about it, because I’d hate to give anyone spoilers for a book I haven’t released yet, but I feel like “happy” is relative. I prefer to think of the ending to PATHOGEN more as a satisfying ending, rather than a happy one. In the short collection I have a couple happy endings… kind of.

Our theme for Winter is ‘infection’, particular featured in supernatural stories. What is it about Infection, a.k.a zombie and vampire stories that appeals to you?

The idea of infection in vampire and zombie stories appeals to me on the most basic of all levels. It’s a fear that we’ll all succumb to something one day. I love the idea that despite all of our technology and hygiene, we can still get cut down by a supervirus. The idea that a plague could wipe us off the map keeps me up at night. It’s a terrifying concept that strikes at the very core of our primitive selves. Infection is scary.

We have, as a society, at least in the western world, this sort of taboo and fear of death, so I think the idea of a virus bringing the dead back to life is something none of us would be properly equipped to deal with. I also love, if you hadn’t noticed, the concept of bringing something into your body to make yourself stronger. The idea of allowing a vampire to change you in exchange for eternal life and super strength is insane. The lengths that we go to to make sure we’re alive, immortal, all that stuff, it’s phenomenal and I’m sure there’s hundreds of more well-written papers out there about this from a psychological standpoint.

What would you say are your biggest influences when writing? Any authors, books, songs, films or particular mythologies that inspire you more than others?

Comic books and film, are actually where I draw my biggest influences. It’s really weird because both are far more visual mediums than writing, but that’s really what inspires me to create something. The movie Only Lovers Left Alive was the last one that made me really go “I want to write something that makes me feel this way.” I feel like I haven’t achieved that yet, but it’s one of the things that sits in the back of my head. I’m a really sparse writer, and I think it’s from starting out writing scripts for fun, and it’s habit for me to keep my prose simple and concise as much as possible. Norse myth plays a super huge influence in my writing. A lot of Shakespeare stuff sneaks in (and is usually cut at the end).

You mention liking the idea of viruses making people stronger. There are a quite a few vampire mythologies that embrace that very concept. In ‘My Life Beyond the Grave‘, you follow the story of Vlad Dracula. What can you tell us about that experience? 

That was fun, actually. Impossibly difficult when I set out to write it because there were so few books available that were historical. I scoured my libraries, and the internet for more historical data. I watched a lot of vampire movies, too. I took quite a bit of liberties with certain aspects of his story and filled in a few blanks to make the narrative more interesting.

I didn’t really play the ‘viruses making people stronger’ concept so much in that one, I felt like that was more of an actual mythology book, rather than a statement piece. It really made me want to go to Romania more than I had before, I really want to go and see the Dracula tourist stuff. He really is a big part of their culture, especially if you go to his castle.

Are there any vampire or zombie myths you try to debunk in your novels? Any you feel are important to keep intact?

I hate fast zombies. I won’t write them. I also dislike the vampires vs lycans trope, but I’m a sucker for team-up style books. Other than that, I don’t really feel the need to debunk or deny anything other than those two little things that irks me, because when I’m working in these genres that already have so much mythology surrounding them, and so many different variations, who am I to say that one is better than the other? I will poke fun at things every now and then, but generally speaking, things like the Twilight sparkling vampires who play baseball and can walk in the sun were so memorable because it was so totally unique in the way it was presented and had never been exactly done like that before. I’m all about subverting tropes and myth when it suits me, but I don’t really feel the need to push it on anyone.

Any last words for us?

Thank you for having me, it is always a pleasure to come back to Opening Line. Wash your hands, kids. Personal hygiene is the best way to stop the spread of viruses. Ha.

Kai Kiriyama is a writer of many things, mostly novels, of varying genres.

With diplomas in tea leaf reading, palmistry, crystal divination, and crystal healing, it’s no surprise to see novels reflecting the otherworldly with her name on them. Influenced by tales of magic, deception and monsters, Kai takes her genre-hopping seriously.

She currently lives in Canada with her pet snake and a looming deadline.

Contact Kai online:

Read Kai Kiriyama


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