We’d love to shine a light on the volunteers who help keep the British Fantasy Society running—this month, it’s the fabulous human at the head of the show.
Name, including preferred pronouns
Shona Kinsella (she/her)
Which region are you based in?
Your role on the BFS committee is:
If you write, which genre:
Are you drawn to any specific sub-genres?
I love to play around with lots of different subgenres but there will always be a special place in my heart for epic fantasy.
Your work with the BFS
Why did you join the BFS committee?
I originally joined the committee as editor of BFS Horizons in 2017. I loved how our publications made space for new writers as well as long-standing favourites, and I wanted to be helpful to the society, a place where I had been made to feel welcome.
In 2021 I stood for Chair for much the same reason. The BFS and Fantasycon have given me a home, have introduced me to some of my dearest friends and I wanted to be of service to that community. I could see a lot of potential for the society, things that we could do to serve our members and to be part of the conversation of the wider genre community and I wanted to help drive that forward.
Tell us more about your role – what do you do?
As Chair, my role is to ‘set the corporate direction’ of the society. What that means in practice, is that I’m often the ideas person. I came up with a lot of the new initiatives we’ve introduced in the last few years, like the online event days, the workshop series and the writing retreat, although I couldn’t have made any of them happen without the support of the rest of the team.
I also coordinate and support all of the other committee members in their roles, where needed, and appoint volunteers to positions that need filled. Essentially, if the society does it, at some point it comes through me. In some cases, that’s as simple as saying ‘yes, that’s a great idea, run with it’ and in others it means doing all of the work involved in making something happen, like the retreat.
What does this mean in practical terms for members?
It means that if there’s something you’d love to see the society do, or an idea you have for how to improve the things we do already, then I’m the person to talk to.
Why should others get more involved with the BFS?
Firstly, because we’re doing some really exciting things at the moment, and there are lots of opportunities to get involved. Take part in one of our event days, write for the website or one of our publications, attend or organise in-person events, join the review team (and get free books!).
Secondly, this is your society. Everything that the committee does is for our members, we want you to love it here. Help us make something wonderful that I hope will be around for years to come.
(Pictured right: Shona with BFS webmaster EM Faulds)
Tell us about the book/film/thing that got you into SFFH: What was it? How old were you? What impact did it have on you?
I honestly don’t know. I’ve been a voracious reader since before I can remember and SFFH was always my favourite part of the library, although really more horror and fantasy than SF. I know that at some point in my early teens I zoned in on horror, becoming a lifelong Stephen King fan, and drifting away from fantasy until one day when I was 16 or so and grumping around the house bored, the way only a teenager can be. My dad, exasperated with my dramatic sighing, told me to go and read a book.
‘I’ve read all of my books,’ I answered.
‘Go to the library then,’ he said.
‘I’ve read all of their books too.’ This may have been an exaggeration.
My dad disappeared upstairs and came back a few minutes later with a massive doorstop of a book, which he tossed onto my lap. ‘Try that.’
That book was Magician by Raymond E Feist, and I devoured it. I barely moved for the next few days, and I fell in love with fantasy all over again.
How does that early influence show up in your work now?
I find it really hard to see influences in my own work, although the developmental editor on my debut novel said that he could see elements of Feist in there. I guess I would say that I strive to write characters as well as King, although I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to achieve that.
Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?
Everywhere. I think one of the most useful things a writer can do is approach the world with curiosity. I read widely, both fiction and nonfiction, I watch a lot of documentaries about the world, nature, and the many different ways that people live and build communities, I learn as much as I can about the different ways that people think and experience life. All of that plants the seeds of stories.
(Pictured left: Shona with one of her nonfiction books, inspired by Scottish history)
Who do you look to as a genre hero? Why?
So many people. I think we’re truly living in a golden age of SFFH, there are just so many gifted writers working today. Tasha Suri’s work never fails to dazzle me, Jen Williams, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Mary Robinette Kowal, Catriona Ward, our very own David Green… all of them have vision and talent and so much heart in their work.
You’re stuck in an elevator for 60 seconds with that hero, and they want you to describe your work. Give us the pitch.
Mostly fantasy, very influenced by history and Scottish folklore. I write hopeful things, about basically decent people doing the right thing just because it’s right.
What are you working on right now?
I usually have a few projects on the go at the one time. At the moment, I’m finishing Ashael Soaring, the third book in the Vessel of KalaDene trilogy, as well as a Scottish historical fantasy set in the highlands around the time of the 1745 Jacobite uprising, and a secondary world fantasy novel set on a world that does not rotate on its own axis, meaning a day lasts a year and only the bands of dawn and dusk are habitable.
Thinking about all of your stories/work you’ve done, which one sticks out most in your mind? Why?
Its hard to say because there’s a little piece of me in each one. Probably at the moment it’s The Heart of Winter, because that’s due out soon and I’m nervous about it. It’s really personal to me and I hope I’ve done well with it.
If you’re a creator, where and when do you create?
Whenever my kids leave me alone for five minutes… When I’m working on something, I try to write most days, usually during school hours, but it depends on how much freelance work I’ve got on my desk at the time, and how much BFS has going on. I’m quite guilty of letting writing fall to the bottom of my to-do list.
I converted a little cupboard in my bedroom into a tiny office and I love it so much. Most often I work in there, although sometimes it’s too chilly as it’s in the eaves of the house, or I’m in too much pain to sit at my desk. Then you’ll find me on the couch with my laptop.
(Pictured right: Shona’s converted cupboard-office)
What’s the best advice you’ve received about creativity?
There’s no one way to do it. What works for one person doesn’t always work for another, and the key is to find what works for YOU and run with that.
The quickfire round
Sci-fi, fantasy or horror?
Gimme, gimme, gimme.
Quiet or loud?
Dark or light?
Strict lines or genre blend?
Awards or bestseller?
Fiction or non-fiction?
Poetry or prose?
Plotter or pantser?
Reading or listening?
Notebook or computer?
Favourite SFFH book of all time?
Could not possibly choose just one.
Last book you read?
The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter (pictured left)
Any SFFH author on auto-buy?
Everyone I’ve already mentioned.
Breaking the Glass Slipper
What’s the best thing about being a SFFH writer?
The community. It’s just so full of kind, open-minded, interesting people.
Time to plug your stuff! Where can we find you and your work? What have you got coming up? Consider this your advertising space.
The Heart of Winter is coming out in April and is available for pre-order now.
When Brigit is faced with a forced marriage to Aengus, god of Summer, she flees into the highlands in search of the Cailleach, the Queen of Winter. There, she hopes to learn how to live on her own terms, without the need for a man to speak for her, but can she persuade the Cailleach that she is worthy? Caught between two gods and finding an unlikely ally in the Fae witch, Nicnevin, Brigit will be tested to her limits and beyond.