The Big Idea: Kat Richardson

Fun fact: Kat Richardson and I claim the same hometown of Claremont, California, and even lived there at the same time. And now she and I write in the SF/F genre! Coincidence? Well, yes. But still very cool. Kat’s kickass Greywalker series has a new installment, Possession. She’s here to give you the scoop.

KAT RICHARDSON:

“Ghosts have a bad habit of speaking in riddles—their minds are focused on different things than ours are and without their context, nothing they say makes sense.” Possession, p. 94

I write about ghosts, monsters, and dead people a lot. It’s not that I’m morbid, I just think they’re interesting tools for telling stories about bigger problems, not to mention… well, creepy! Often, I write about magic as the power of belief and how what a person or group of people believe can take form and wreak havoc. The real world is full of this kind of phenomenon that grows out of the actions of a few and infects many, putting them into control where before they perceived themselves as powerless (be that good or bad). But I got to thinking a lot, while I was outlining Possession, about the flip side of that—about losing control, losing your self and losing—or gaining—faith.

Let me digress just a little: two years ago my mother was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer and I became her Health Care Advocate, defender, chauffeur, treasurer, assistant, secretary, and dogsbody. I was spending a lot of time in hospital wards, outlining or writing books on my laptop while waiting for her to be released from whatever procedure or therapy she was undergoing at that point. I thought a lot about loss of control and loss of self as Mom got more and more dependent on me or others and her mind often wandered or locked up and wouldn’t let anything out when requested, or remember anything, no matter how much we tried to trick it into working normally again. It wasn’t having any and Mom and my sister and I had to muddle along with what we could collectively manage between the three of us—which wasn’t that much since we weren’t terribly close before this. Our collective memory was thin, out of date, and brittle.

So when I got to writing Possession, those were among the thoughts in my mind—loss of control, loss of self, and loss of autonomy, as well as just what a family may or may not be, however fractured and brittle.

I’d done several books with vampires, but I really wanted to give them a rest and work more with ghosts—which are pretty great symbols for loss of ability, loss of memory, and loss of autonomy. The idea of old-school séances and hauntings was high on my list of nifty things to do in the new book, but I wanted to use that sense of being unable to help yourself—that ultimate loss of control—that spirit possession implied. An otherwise normal person who suddenly cannot communicate or use their own body because someone or something else has control of it. It’s a horrifying thought, isn’t it? Allegorically, it’s powerful in political and social terms as well and there’s been a lot of news items in the past couple of years that have turned on the subject of autonomy and control. The theme kept cropping up.

In addition, the protagonist of the Greywalker novels has always had issues with being—or believing she is—in ultimate control of her life and destiny. When she discovers that she’s not, truly, in complete control, she’s initially angry and rejects the situation—the way my mother was angry about developing cancer and being at the mercy of doctors and protocols with no guarantees and no way to help herself but to let others do it. When the vegetative patients in the story begin to display strange behavior, their families are equally frightened and refuse to believe or even talk about it. One begins to lose her faith in God when nothing she or her church can do is any help; she has to sit by and watch her sister disappear in the storm of communication from the dead that means nothing to her. She enlists the protagonist to help her sort the important information from the chaff in hopes of saving what remains of her family, even if doing so flies in the face of her religion.

The protagonist has her own parallel issues. She’s got a handle on what her powers are, but she’s not very good at understanding or nurturing relationships, so she’s not always able to communicate in appropriate ways with the people she considers friends or family. A lot of the plot turns on problems of communication and self-determination or control—problems I saw in real life everywhere I looked. I felt these were important issues, even if they were cloaked in allegory and masquerading as ghosts.

Silence and stillness may not mean someone has nothing to say, but that they are unable to say it until they are empowered. The key to breaking the communication barrier isn’t yelling louder, but finding out why someone doesn’t speak up and removing that obstacle, having empathy and creating connections that allow communication to flow so that the silent ones can speak.

And that’s the little Big Idea lurking at the bottom of Possession. Of course there’s a lot more going on in the book, but if I told you everything, you wouldn’t need to read it. And John would never let me post here again because, well… 106,000 words is a bit excessive.

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Possession: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.

12 Comments on “The Big Idea: Kat Richardson”

  1. Ooh, a new one’s coming out? This was a fairly enjoyable series. That’s a scary big idea, though — much more so than your usual eldritch horrors of the Grey.

  2. I’ve been reading quite a bit of urban fantasy lately. I’ll have to pick up the first in this series to read on vacation as this sounds interesting. Hoping that in a few weeks I’ll be in a position to comment on this volume :)

  3. My copy uploaded to my Kindle automatically (wonders of pre-order) and I’m about half-way through it. Feels a bit darker somehow, and I’m not sure how it’s all going to turn out. Not sure I see a happy ending.

    Thanks for “The Big Idea” post. Makes sense.

    Tell you this though; my morning commute through Pioneer Square and downtown Seattle has got a lot more interesting since I started reading this series.

  4. I’m stoked to see another Greywalker book out! I loved the last couple of books as individual stories, but there wasn’t a whole lot of forward character development for Harper. This sounds like we will get to see some big leaps forward like in Vanished and Labyrinth. Can’t wait to buy it tonight and dig in!

  5. I have this on hold at my library right now! (I was # 7 on the list – they must’ve gotten more copies – yeah!)

    Can’t wait!

  6. Another Greywalker novel, hurrah! I love this series – it’s well-written and has a novel new approach to the supernatural, not just the “ghoulies and ghosties are secretly living among us” mining of world mythology that we see in (for example) Harry Potter, Harry Dresden or Anita Blake – that always falls down because the masquerade is pushed to unbelievable limits … and to be honest I’m just plain /sick/ of the same old monsters. So Kat Richardson is a breath of fresh air (even though there are vampires in it).

  7. I’m so glad to see Kat Richardson on The Big Idea- these posts really help me find new things to read I might not otherwise pick up and I’m hoping a bunch of people will try out this series. Can I mention that this is the series I always think of as doing the person-who-talks-with-ghosts thing Right whenever I read a book where they’re doing it Wrong?

  8. So this post inspired me to go read the book. I have not read any of the previous books in the series, but that wasn’t much of a problem and I enjoyed this one. I want to note that if you are a Seattleite, it is a very fun way to learn more of local history and enjoy a supernatural story in the places you know well as they are today, as in this year, not just modern times. Thank you.