Thursday, 4 October 2012

K.A. Laity: Unquiet Dreams

“Kate Laity’s Unquiet Dreams is the long, deep plunge in the coldest quarry in the woods; the lingering look under the rotting wood at all the writhing life there; the stare into the abyss until one realizes something is staring back.” ~ S. R. Bissette

When someone like Stephen Bissette gives you an advance review like this one, an author can't help but sit up and take notice. And readers should as well. Kate Laity has been called the Queen of Retelling Fairy Tales, a monicker that couldn't be any closer to the truth if it tried, as well as the Mistress of Disturbia. This latter title will become evident once one delves into this collection of disturbing tales.

Unquiet Dreams: A Murmuring of Unsettling Tales is a collection of short and short-short stories which includes contemporary, historical, fantasy, psychological thrillers and more. There's something for everyone here who enjoys being a little disturbed while reading.

One of my favorite stories in this collection is entitled Lachrymae Draconis and is a medieval fantasy where a child is sen to the home of a local healer for some dragon's blood as a cure for her mother's ailment. Yes, here there be dragons, but not in the context you expect! Each tale in this collection will make you think, as they most likely will not end as you think they will.

I sat down to chat with Kate recently and talked about this collection, among other books she's written over the years. She told me she really enjoys writing these types of stories because they're challenging, both for her and the reader. They're stories that delve deep into the psyche . . . as Mr. Bissette tells us. And that they do.

I asked Kate about her life away from the pen. Here's what she said --

Hey, Kate. Thanks for talking with us today. Please, describe your writing space for our readers.

At the moment, I'm writing on my laptop on the porch at my brother's house because it's really only from here that I can reach the wifi next door >_< On the plus side, it's gorgeous here on a side of a hill in apple orchard country next to the Hudson river. Today the sky's a glorious blue and the white clouds pass leisurely while I type furiously. Country life.

You bold woman. Piggybacking off the neighbors? Cheeky :-) (yes, I know it's OK that you can do that . . . just razzing you a little)

When you're not writing, what is your daily writing routine like?

One of the drawbacks of my gypsy existence at the moment is that I don't have a steady routine for writing. I've found the most productive days have been the days here when my brother's at work and I just type at the dining room table. I've done some writing in my office, but there tend to be people dropping by so it's not ideal. I'm just resigning myself to the fact that travel and teaching days aren't likely to be very productive. So I try not to sigh too much for Scotland, where I get so much more writing done. For the moment, I must be here.

Yep, I know about your love of Scotland, and your love IN Scotland. But the holidays are soon upon us and I know you'll be taking flight soon.

Aside from writing and traveling, and Scotland, what else do you enjoy doing?

Being back in New York, I'm enjoying hanging out with old friends. It's great having the chance to catch up at the pub or a coffeehouse, or gatherings at someone's house especially my friend Mary's. Reading tends to be a luxury that I have to fit in between other things, other than what I'm re-reading for teaching. My brother and I have been watching some old films and television shows we haven't seen in a long time. A good way to relax. I suppose revising my 'what to write next' list doesn't really count as 'not writing' does it? I really believe in Ionesco's quote, "A writer never has a vacation. For a writer, life consists of either writing or thinking about writing." I have so many stories in my head that are fighting to get out!

I LOVE that quote. I never know who wrote it though. Excellent! And you and Ionesco are totally right about a writer's vacation. It reminds me of another quote I've seen making the rounds recently. I wish I know who wrote that one . . . Be nice to me or you'll end up in one of my stories. :-)

Thanks for the chat, Kate. Lovely as always!

For anyone interested in checking out this collection, here's a bit of Lachrymae Draconis --

• • •

"Father Wulfraed says we need dragon's blood. I've come to fetch it."
Colburga had a thought that the child was going to simply hold out her hand and expect it to be filled. Dragon's blood! Who in all Kent would suggest such thing?  There were few who knew of the herb, fewer yet who knew what it was for. Or could they really have thought she had the real thing?  "Father Wulfraed?"

"Father Wulfraed from the abbey," the little one continued, as if all the wide world knew his name. Colburga did not, though she had often had commerce with most of the abbey folk and knew a good many by name. This was all getting off on the wrong foot, threatening to run down a useless path that would make neither of them any money.

"Why does the monk say you need dragon's blood?"

The grave little face became even more solemn. "Mummy's dying, and Father Wulfraed said that only dragon's blood would save her. Please, do you have some?"

Colburga's eyes narrowed. It could be a lucky guess, or it could be a trick. The herb with that name came from the far east and was unbelievably expensive. She had seen some once in the abbey. Why would a monk or friar suggest coming to her?  Her herb selections were great, and the concoctions well-made (if only she said so), but they had their own dragon's blood and didn't go for foolishness like dragon's tears themselves. "Are you sure it wasn't dragon's tears he requested, child?"

The girl shook her head decidedly. "No, dragon's blood. Father Wulfraed said they had an herb called dragon's blood in the botanica, but what we need is real dragon's blood. And everyone knows you have a dragon."

• • •

K. A. Laity is the award-winning author of Rook Chant, Owl Stretching, Pelzmantel and Unikirja, a collection of short stories and a play based on the Kalevala, Kanteletar, and other Finnish myths and legend, for which she won the 2005 Eureka Short Story Fellowship as well as a 2006 Finlandia Foundation grant.

With cartoonist Elena Steier, she created the occult detective comic Jane Quiet.

Her bibliography is chock full of short stories, humor pieces, plays and essays, both scholarly and popular.

She also writes romantic erotica as C. Margery Kempe and romance Kit Marlowe.

Be sure to check out Kate's recently re-released Chastity Flame and the soon-to-be-released Chastity Flame: Lush Situation (coming in 2013), as well as CM Kempe's Man City and The Swan Prince (both released in 2012) . . . all within the Tirgearr Publishing collection.

 • • •

For more information on Kate or her books, readers are invited to visit her online pages --

KA Laity -
Facebook -
Twitter -
Goodreads -
Amazon -
A Knife and a Quill -

And if you want to buy a copy of Unquiet Dreams, be sure to visit Kate's page at Tirgearr Publishing with all her buy links. Unquiet Dreams is available for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony, iTunes/iBooks, and all other readers --

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  1. Hey Kate,
    Congrats on the new book. It's truly a unique collection of stories. Something for everyone.

    Do you have a favorite story in this collection? I think mine is the one quoted here, Lachrymae Draconis. Love dragon tales!

    1. Oh, that's like asking a parent to choose a favourite child! Hmmm, among the faves are my zombie western 'High Plains Lazarus' and the Marlowe story 'Fear and Loathing in Deptford' but I also really loved writing the crime story 'Mandrake and Magpies' -- which is making me really miss Galway. Sob!

  2. I know. Unfair question. But life's not fair ;-) I enjoyed all the stories. I just have a thing for dragons, and Lachrymae Draconis was a historical at heart, which I also love. And that child was priceless. I really felt for her, being put in the middle.

    Will you be visiting Ireland along with Scotland. I imagine once you hit Scotland, someone may lose your passport for you ;-)

    1. LOL, that may well happen. I may toss it into the Tay so I can't leave.

      Hey, you should pick up another collection I'm in, Tales of the Nun & Dragon -- oodles of dragons! I think I will have to plan for Ireland in the summer. I close my eyes and picture myself on the shores of Galway Bay -- sigh! But I need to visit Kildare and see the home of Brigit and Tirgearr ;-)

  3. Definitely see Kildare. Brigit {shrug}. Tirgearr {doing the Snoopy dance}. ;-) I might dispatch your passport for you. But hey, if you only made it as far as Galway, I'd have to find a way there!

    1. Hee! You have to realise I wrote a dissertation chapter on how the goddess Brigit got turned into the saint. Must pay respects! I had a Brigit action figure (she was a character in a comic at the time -- Immortals? I think), so I got to ask other people, "Does your dissertation have an action figure?" :-D Definitely have to visit. Maybe I can even get himself to leave Dundee for a trip.

    2. LOL And bring your action figure Brigit to dip in the holy well . . . just up the road from our house!

  4. I need a new Brigit cross brooch. I got one for a friend and then was tempted to keep it.

  5. I'm very bad. I don't shop in Kildare town much so I wouldn't know where to pick one up. Maybe the cathedral has a little shop. Or the town jeweler.

    1. If all else fails, there's my fave jewelry shop in Galway :-)