Kim Lakin-Smith

Science Fiction and Fantasy Author

Category: Blog


I was recently contacted by science fiction author, editor, web publisher, anthologist, and all round good guy Keith Brooke, who asked me to take part in a blog round robin on the subject of ‘Three Things I Don’t Write (and Three Things I do).’  Keith also tagged the most excellent Stephen Palmer and Mike Revell, so I am very honoured to be asked to take part. Here are my answers:

Three things I Don’t Write:

Feel Good Stories

As a hippy type in real life, I am always surprised by how dark things get in my fiction. It’s something that has been remarked on by readers too. I guess this propensity for exploring the outside edge of life and the characters that inhabit it comes from a love for the gothic macabre and boundary pushing. The best fairy tales are rooted in idiosyncratic characters and barbarity; they are also didactic, and I couldn’t begin to feel good about my own stories unless they pushed readers beyond entertainment. I enjoy a good paranormal bonk fest or pastoral whodunnit as much as the next person. But as a writer, I prefer to move past the niceties to the rich, dark meat at life’s underside.


I love a good one-dimensional, bubble-gum character. There can be something wonderfully comforting about cheering on a suave double agent or booing a cat-stroking, moustache-twirling nemesis. I have a soft spot for the concept of ‘cool’ too – fast cars, chicks with guns and grit, handsome bruiser boys, and dirty rock ‘n’ roll. But I like to put the sleaze into a character – show off their oddities, their weird desires, and their lack of control. For me, the super side of humanity lies in poking at our soft spots and seeing how long we can endure it. Flawless heroes are great for summer blockbusters. In fictional terms though, characters need dressing down and dirtying up, no matter if they’re bioengineered, supernatural, alien or enchanted.

What I want to

When I am writing, I often feel like I have a devil and an angel on opposing shoulders – except, that’s not quite the right description. For me, the devil is more like the Voice of Truth, always whispering in my ear “Go on! Be brave.” The angel, meanwhile, is my inner scaredy-cat. A story idea will come to me and I really don’t want to write it. This is particularly true of my current WIP with its focus on fascism and genocide. It is a constant battle to force myself to research pogroms, death camps, mass exterminations and, most challenging of all, the inside ‘logic’ behind these horrific acts. If you open yourself up to the underbelly of human existence, you have to accept that some research will linger in the mind and leave its stain behind. And yet, as a writer, I find it important – essential even – to push myself to make a story as realistic as possible and that means grounding it in fact, no matter how fantastical the plot or grotesque the subject matter.

Three Things I Do Write:

Science Fiction

This may seem like a ridiculous thing to say given that I am often placed in the SF writer bracket. What I mean is the fact that I am classed so is still a marvel to me – and one of my real joys as a writer. Growing up, I was always in love with the stars, spaceships, and the alienesque marvels of our very own Earth. But science? That was the realm of white-coated white men or spinsters in sensible shoes, wasn’t it? Actually, no. Somewhere along the line I missed out on the universal truth that science was inspirational, aspirational and far from exclusive. Rocket science was, in effect, ‘hardly rocket science.’ The fairylands of my childhood could be explored in the real world, where Nature was awe-inspiring and science made all things a tangible or theoretical possibility.  I am delighted to say that the Science Fiction label set me free as a writer and I am very proud of the moniker.

Tales of the Underdog

By which I don’t mean the plucky guttersnipe or the bookish beauty. I mean those culled from normal aka ‘acceptable’ society. While I open myself up to accusations of political worthiness, I do feel it is important to populate my worlds with minorities. I make a conscious effort to reflect what I believe is the truth of society – which is a mix of backgrounds, religions, skin colour, disabilities, sexuality, gender and beliefs. If in doing so, I alienate certain factions of the consumer market or publishing community, then so be it. We all have our personal politics and mine are seeded throughout my stories.


In my experience of the professional writing circuit and commercial arm of the publishing industry, ‘art’ is very much a dirty word. The incongruity between creative endeavours and decent pay drives people to decry the notion that they are creating art. Plus, no one wants to be the pretentious asshole who wrinkles their nose in disdain if a heathen dares claim, “I don’t get it.” Art has always been about nourishing the soul – in itself, a tangential concept.  Little wonder art is side-lined for labouring hard at the coalface of words to earn a living. But what about the longevity of stories – those tomes which took a struggling writer ten years to write but which ultimately became part of our literary heritage? What about the once-banned books which spoke out against oppression or challenged the norm, even at the expense of the writer’s personal liberty? What about the books which were never a commercial success in the writer’s lifetime but went on to become game changers? And what about writing for the love of the act and getting naked and rolling about deliriously in the great sticky mess of art for art’s sake? I hope I never lose sight of why I wanted to tell stories in the first place – namely, to know what it was like to not just step inside a book but create it from scratch and have it mean something. That’s why I write and why I personally endeavour to create art every time I tell a story.

Thanks again to Keith for the invite to take part. I am delighted to introduce three very talented writers for the next round of blog posts on the Do Not and Do theme – Donna Scott, Joanne Hall and Jen Williams.





The Next Big Thing – Round Robin

What is the working title of your next book?

Curtain Falls

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I’ve always been fascinated by the notion of ‘otherness’, and have explored this in both of my previous novels, Tourniquet and Cyber Circus. In Curtain Falls, I have shifted focus to the human psyche, in particular the fine lines between sanity and madness, good and evil, and even life and death. As a character-driven author, I really want to get under the skin of my characters. I’m trying to create one of those books with layers of meaning and interlinking themes. In terms of world building, I wanted to write a story set in Camden – one of my spiritual homes – and also dip into history via 1938 Berlin.

What genre does your book fall under?

I suspect Dark Fantasy. But I’m still not sure how much overt fantasy will be in the book, or if it will just verge on the weird.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Jonathan Ryes Myers usually features heavily as the face of a male lead – hell, why not? But this book is less of an exploration of the sensual and more heavily invested in our emotional baggage as human beings. Some of my characters are still a little freakish though, so a little CGI trickery might be required. For the diminutive Lil Honey, I’d opt for Elle Fanning. The German giant Ulbrecht would be played by Adrian Brody. Sam, my lead, an ex-tattooist and con newly released onto the streets of Camden is a role suited to Luke Goss aka balding vamp version as opposed to tooth-achingly pretty pop prince. I’d love to squeeze in parts for Eva Green, Taylor Momsen, Coco Rocha and Paz de la Huerta too – maybe I’ll write them specially!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Wracked with guilt for killing his sister in self-defence, Sam Elvin commits suicide in The Showboat theatre – the catalyst for a fantastical journey through a warped Wild West, a Parisian Fairytale and Nazi Berlin, and all with Death on his tail.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Represented by Joe Monti of Barry Goldblatt Literary, NY

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I am currently working on the first draft. I research as I go and have been working on this story alongside a new YA for the past three months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
It’s a little Tales of the Unexpected and a little Quantum Leap. There is an urban fantasy feel in the vein of Mike Shevdon’s fantastic  Sixty One Nails. There are also historical elements influenced by the classic horror stories of MR James, Susan Hill, and Edith Wharton.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My grandmother. She was a ballerina, appearing on stage all over Europe in the 1920s. I have wonderful photographs from that time, of my grandmother driving a beautiful big gangster car, sat outside coffee shops, and on stage in a line of dancing girls, and heard so many wonderful anecdotes about her preference for violinists, or  burning her leg when stepping onto the wrong spot of a flaming trapdoor. Even more dramatic were her tales of escaping her marital home in Nazi-occupied Paris with three children under five. I’ve always treasured the amazing stories she told me and I wanted to write my own take on a cabaret/vaudeville theatre. I also wanted to write a ghost story.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s going to be good. I promise.

For next week’s NEXT BIG THING I nominate:  Ian Whates, Gareth L Powell, Charlotte Strong and Scott Faulkner.

Ian Whates

Ian Whates currently has two published novel series, the Noise books from Solaris and the City of 100 Rows trilogy via Angry Robot. He has also seen some 45 of his short stories appear in a variety of venues, two of which have been shortlisted for BSFA awards and many of which are gathered in his second collection, Growing Pains, due from PS Publishing in March 2013. Ian served a term as Overseas Regional Director for SFWA (the Science Fiction Writers of America) and has chaired the BSFA (British Science Fiction Association) since 2008. In his spare time he runs award-wining independent publisher NewCon Press, which he founded quite by accident in 2006:

Catch up with Ian at

Gareth L Powell

Gareth L. Powell is the author of the novels Ack-Ack Macaque, The Recollection, and Silversands, and the short story collection, The Last Reef.

Gareth can be found over at

Charlotte Strong

Charlotte Strong is a British fantasy writer, currently working on my first novel, and I’m represented by the John Jarrold Literary Agency. She  has also been known to cook, bake, make jewellery, draw, rock climb and sword fight, but not all at once.

This is Charlotte’s blog:

Scott F. Falkner

Scott F. Falkner’s first book, the critically acclaimed “cult classic” horror novella “The Feast of Catchville” (2006) broke the publisher’s (Stone Garden Books) single month sales record. Falkner’s first novel, a paranormal suspense piece titled “Swaybuck” was also released in 2006.

The Dark Fantasy “Delving” trilogy saw the light of day in 2007 with the release of “Delving: Obligations.” It continued with “Delving: Assassins” in 2008.

2009 heralded the release of Falkner’s first collection: “Exile: The Collected Helman Graff,” as well as a Dark Fantasy Western entitled “Calvin Dyer and the Reatian Horde.”

The final volume of the Delving trilogy, “Delving: Culminations,” was released in 2011.

More info on Scott can be found here


I’m afraid I am coming in short at only 4 writers instead of 5. As I’m currently in hospital recovering from an operation, I haven’t had a chance to contact more writers. I hope the gods of this round robin will look kindly on me and forgive the shortfall.

The Apocalypse and beyond

Last weekend Del and I held our post apocalyptic party, which centered on our wedding vow renewal ceremony. Our very dear friend, Sam Moffat, acted as officiant and organised the most incredible ceremony. Sam had secretly contacted a number of our closest writer friends and asked them to give a short reading on the post apocalyptic theme. Listening to the readings, I was overwhelmed by this gift of words. Sam collected all of the pieces for us to keep, which means we can read them again and again. We also had some very touching messages in the form of the notes that were added to our original hand fasting willow circlet. Sam brought Scarlet into the circle of stones (collected from the beach – again, I loved the significance of this) and both of them bound Del and me together, for the next ten years and way beyond that! And then it was time to party. I’d say its pretty common knowledge that Del and me enjoy a drink or several, rock music turned up high, and having our friends help celebrate with us. Much happy madness ensued – dancing, karaoke, cavorting, a fire dance, spontaneous fire breathing, slightly soggy camping, bad hangovers, Sunday dinner and then the clear up. A truly wonderful night.

It’s certainly been a year of celebration so far. April saw me turn 40, which didn’t bother me anywhere near as much as it perhaps should have – I suspect because I always like the idea of fresh starts and turning over a new leaf and all that jazz. April was also packed full of writing events, including Eastercon and Alt Fiction. Eastercon was tremendous fun, if a little nerve-racking as my novel Cyber Circus was shortlisted for the British Science Fiction Association Best Novel award. I was very happy to lose to the inimitable Christopher Priest and The Islanders, and I thought Chris’s speech was wonderfully witty. Eastercon also gave me the opportunity to spend panel time with two authors I admire greatly – Gail Carriger, author of The Parasol Protectorate Series, and Genevieve Valentine, author of Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti. One short week later, I was among the wonderful crowd of fellow creatives at Alt Fiction. The new venue in Leicester was great and I had a really lovely day meeting fellow writers through my Steampunk workshop. I also enjoyed taking part in the panel on Science Fiction and listening to my fellow panellists – what a fab bunch!

While I’m delighted that my YA novella, Queen Rat, has been well received, I’ve been knocked for six by the reactions to Cyber Circus. Last week I heard the fantastic news that the novel has been shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel. I can’t begin to explain how happy this has made me – surely knowing that folk liked your novel enough to vote for it is the best reward there is? I am doubly delighted because my work has always straddled SF and Dark Fantasy and this nomination recognises that tendency. I’m overwhelmed by my fellow nominees and am just looking forward to an amazing con in Brighton in September and having my name read out alongside theirs.

Worlds of tomorrowAnd what about the rest of the year? I’m thrilled to have been asked to take part in the ‘Worlds of Tomorrow’ YA event at Foyles on the 22nd May. The panel is hosted by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre, features Moira Young, Steve Cole and myself, and is presented in association with the Society of Authors and the Kitschies Awards. I can’t wait!

After the Foyles event I am locking myself away in the writing dungeon to work on my new YA novel. I will be surfacing though for Fantasycon in September and Bristolcon in October, where I am very pleased to be interviewing Guest of Honour Gareth L. Powell. I will be sneaking out a few stories too. My story, ‘The Island of Peter Pandora’ – influenced by Peter Pan and The Island of Doctor Morea – appears in Resurrection Engines: Sixteen Extraordinary Tales of Scientific Romance, which is released from Snowbooks at the end of June. In the same month, Newcon Press are releasing their new anthology of ghost stories called Hauntings, and which features my short story ‘Dark Peak’. Later in the year, I have another ghost story coming out. ‘Field of the Dead’ appears in The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women, released by Constable & Robinson. I do have a soft spot for ghost stories!


But while I am busy tucking myself away to write, I’m always aware that it is good to have other interests outside of work. I have loved doing narration for Starship Sofa over the past few months and have been lucky enough to read some amazing stories. Scarlet and I have also been enjoying having Del working in the midlands and coming home every evening. It is so great to be able to function like normal human beings…well, as best we can! And we have a wedding to look forward to! Our wonderful celebrant, Sam Moffat, is marrying writer, reviewer and Arthur C. Clarke Award judge Paul Skevington in August. Scarlet is a flower girl, Del is best man and I am Maid of Honour – and it is indeed an honour to be included so much in this special day. Now I just have to get that hen night organised…good job I enjoy a good party Smile

Mind, Body and Soul

It’s hard to believe the mind is such a powerful thing. I don’t mean that in some self-congratulatory, “I am Girl Genius” kind of way. No, I’m talking about the phenomenal power of the sub-conscious over every aspect of our lives. Up until three years ago I could never have believed the mind was truly capable of affecting the human body quite so completely. To me, the rules were simple – eat well, exercise, drink in moderation, don’t smoke (I failed on that one) – and all will be well. I hadn’t accounted for the fact that stress is like a cancer; it creeps up on you and, before you know it, has spread through every aspect of your life – and, as it turns out, your body. The weird thing is sometimes you don’t even know you are stressed.

When I say ‘you’ I do in fact mean me, of course. My symptoms were numerable – lights in the eyes, dizziness, muscle weakness, visible and internal twitching, muscle spasms, numbness, and the most horrible feeling that my head was too heavy for my neck. The obvious diagnosis was MS but tests revealed none of the normal indicators of the disease. Instead, I was eventually diagnosed with endometriosis, macular degeneration, and yep, you guessed it, something along the lines of a psychosomatic disorder (I love how that term starts with ‘psycho’).

Looking back now, it’s hard for me to begin to process how that explanation made me feel. Confused, angry, weak, insane. How could my mind turn on my body like that? I had always considered myself a very peaceful, rational kind of person. Were the experts really saying it was all in my mind?

In reality, I was calm on the exterior, but like the proverbial swan on a mill pond, my legs were peddling like hell beneath the surface. I won’t bore you with the details of what caused the stress, only that it was accumulative and as I put it to a friend once, “There was no one big thing.”

Ever so slowly, I have seen my nervous disorder start to abate. Sure, it comes back with a vengeance whenever I am a little anxious, but very gradually my health has improved. Over the last few months this has been in no small degree due to the fact that my husband, Del, has been working in the midlands and coming home every night. After living apart during the week for nearly 8 years, it had never occurred to me that I might like a little company, that maybe my mind was crying out for it.

So, why am I telling you all this? I guess because the role of the writer is a solitary one which involves long stints sat at a desk or in a chair, where days blur into nights and nights blur into days, and without the need to ever step outside of the house. My point here is to beg you all to think about the health of not only your body, but also your mind. Find mechanisms to de-stress – get a little fresh air into your lungs, drink that glass of wine in good company, dance in your kitchen, lie out in the sun – and remember while it is the little things that can make us ill, it is also the little things that can make us better.

paddling in the sea

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