Kari Sperring is the author of Living with Ghosts (DAW 2009), (winner of the 2010 Sydney J Bounds Award, shortlisted for the William L Crawford Award and a Tiptree Award Honours’ List book) and The Grass King’s Concubine (DAW 2012). As Kari Maund, she’s an academic mediaeval historian, and author of 5 books on early Welsh, Irish and Scandinavian history. With Phil Nanson, she is co-author of The Four Musketeers: the true story of d’Artagnan, Porthos, Aramis and Athos.
1. Tell us three things about yourself.
I never know what to say this kind of question! Let’s see… By training, I’m a historian, specialising in the history of the Celts, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings, but I have a fairly serious reading habit in various other historical areas, too, especially 17th century France and early China. I’m a serial cat owner: my first cat, Caspian, was the cleverest cat I’ve ever met and taught me to respond to various cat signals on command – which he taught to Mooncat, who overlapped with him, and she passed on to our later cats. Oh, and I make rather good cakes!
2. What was the first thing you had published?
If you discount things like the school newsletter (for which I was co-author of Milk Trek! , a highly serious [ahem] tale of space milk-deliverers), it was an academic article on 11th century Wales, entitled “Cynan ab Iago and the Killing of Gruffudd ap Llywelyn”, in the journal Cambridge [now Cambrian] Medieval Celtic Studies, in 1986. I was a 2nd year PhD student at the time.
3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of?
Probably my 2nd novel, The Grass King’s Concubine, because it was a real struggle to write. I set myself an ambitious structure to follow, and also the challenge of trying to write in mythic mode. I’m not sure I 100% pulled it off, but it’s about 80% there, and that makes me happy.
4. …and which makes you cringe?
There’s a terrible typo in Living With Ghosts that I missed and everyone else missed, and which made it into the final published book. Torches burn in “wall scones”. Scones. I cringe!
Bitty and much interrupted by cats. I tend to write in bursts, then stop to read or go for a walk.
6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first?
It depends what they’re interested in. The most accessible of my non-fiction is my general introduction to early mediaeval Wales, The Welsh Kings. In terms of fiction, probably Living With Ghosts (even with the scones).
7. What are you working on now?
Two books at once, because I’m not sensible. A Fire of Bones is set in the same world as Living With Ghosts and The Grass King's Concubine, and rather brings the two of them together. It’s about revolution and revenge and what it means to be human in that world. And then there’s The Drowning Kings, which is historical fantasy set in 9th century Wales, and based on a real historical mystery.