Interview with Cassandra Khaw

How long have you been writing for?

I’ve been doing non-fiction work for, hrm, seven years or so now. (Wow, time flies.) As for fiction itself, I think I only got my start in the last week or so of 2014?

How many rejections did you receive before you first became published
and how did you stay motivated?

Let’s see. About seven, I think. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing wrong. Not one clue. I remember scrutinising the advice I found online, slightly frustrated with myself. In my misguided arrogance, I’d assumed that nonfiction wouldn’t be entirely too different from fiction. It was – wow. Let’s put it this way. Sometimes, I giggle at my old-me’s naivety, and not in a good way. That poor, deluded girl.


As for how I stayed motivated, well, that’s actually an easy one. I’m stubborn. Obstinate as a mule. I don’t know how to take ‘no’ for an answer once I’ve decided I want something. In other words, I just kept smashing my face against that wall until it cracks.


Favorite Author and book when you were a child?

Terry Prachett. Reaper Man. No question.

What music do you listen to when you write?

It varies hugely. Music directly affects what I write. So, for A Song for Quiet, I had Shawn James and Skip James on repeat forever, in an endeavour to soak up their cadences. My latest thing, which is still unnamed, is a frantic catastrophe of lasers and profanities. That one is Victor Love screaming on loop. I’ve got separate playlists for every manuscript –can’t bloody function otherwise.

Any superstitious rituals that you go through when beginning a new story?

Nope! Although now, I’m curious – what kind of rituals have you heard of?
(Note from Shawn: I’ve had people tell me that they’ll only start on even numbered days, will only begin at a time that matches their birthday like 8:31pm for people born August 31st or only eat certain food before starting)

Favorite book released in the last year?

You’re not allowed to make me choose like that. Aaaah. If you had to make me choose. If I had to choose exactly one book, what would it be? It’d have to be Ferrett Steinmetz’s Fix, which completes the beautiful ‘Mancer trilogy which, in turn, is probably my favorite urban fantasy series bar none.

Favorite quote from a book that is not your own?

“In the Ramtop village where they dance the real Morris dance, for example, they believe that no one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away—until the clock he wound up winds down, until the wine she made has finished its ferment, until the crop they planted is harvested. The span of someone’s life, they say, is only the core of their actual existence.” – Reaper Man

Favorite quote from one of your own works?

This is a dance: a ballon of escape, arabesques performed on razor-point steeples, entrechat between battlements, Iraline’s weight on her shoulder like a lifetime of guilt. – The Games We Play

Do you play any table top RPGS?

I’ve played a lot of them! Primarily Shadowrun and World of Darkness.

If so, tell us about your favorite character that you’ve used.

Okay, so. World of Darkness used to have something called the Kuei Jin and they were, like, these Eastern vampires. Putting aside the occasionally problematic nature of the source material for a moment, they were rad characters. Now, as with all properties, you get people on both sides of the fence. Good and evil. Lawful and chaotic. That sort of thing, right? Right.

So, I had this character. His name was Yee Chuan. In life, he was this incredibly responsible hotelier who tried his best to be good to his wife, good to people. He was a genuinely good human being. Even after he found out his wife was having an affair with his boss, he kept going, believing that affairs were temporary and people went back to those they’d pledged their lives to. It didn’t happen. He died and no one mourned him. He was just snuffed out and that was it.

When he came back, he was furious. He was fucking livid in his cold, quiet, thoughtful way. A personification of evil soon arrived to see if it could entice him to the other side. Yee Chuan didn’t hesitate. All he wanted in return was front row seats when the world burned.

I played him as the nicest, quietest person you could ever imagine. Completely useless in combat. But he spent months terrorizing the group in silence, pitting them against each other, convincing them there was a traitor in the midst. The campaign never saw a good resolution. Years later, I brought it up with someone who’d played and asked who they thought the traitor was.


Well, they freaked out when they realized it was me.

I loved the little dude so much. I need to drag him back out to play with my other characters.

Advice for new writers who are struggling with character creation?

It is okay to put a little bit of yourself into a character. It is okay to put a little bit of people you know into your character. Too much, and we’ll have to talk about it again. But a little bit is okay. Your stories don’t exist in a vacuum. Whether they were inspired by a desire to rewrite a problematic fairy tale or a real life event, they come from somewhere. Even when they’re completely contrived and built entirely on the monomyth formula, they come from somewhere. Somewhere that didn’t have you as its point of origin. So relax and see where your personal experiences take you, yea? 😀

E-Reader or Physical copy?

E-reader.

Favorite genre to read?

Sci-horror.

What first inspired you to become a writer?

My father, really. He was a storyteller. I grew up listening to him spin myths out of thin air, incorporating daily events with half-remembered pieces of fairy tale. I wanted to be like him. More than anything else, I wanted to tell stories the way he did.

Tell us your favorite joke.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

To get to the other side.

(No, really. Someone pointed out that it could be construed in an incredibly horrific way, and now it’s my favorite joke because it sounds so innocent but really, holy catfish, it’s quite evil, isn’t it?)

You can find Cassandra Khaw on twitter here

You can find her books, which you should absolutely buy here

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