Fantasy & Folklore: An Interview with Gaja J. Kos (Indie Extravaganza Day 12)

My favourite thing about working on this event has been the incredible range of people we've got to work with. It's reflected in the huge diversity of prizes we've been donated and has brought so many new things to our attention, and we hope to yours too!

Gaja J Kos is an author that I was previously unfamiliar with but she's prolific! She has written several fantasy series primarily aimed at the YA market and her books are filled with elements of Slavic folkore. Her series include the Black Werewolves series, the Iron Head Trilogy, and the Nightwraith series, the latest installment of which she has kindly signed and donated for our raffle.

We are very happy to welcome her on to the blog today to answer some questions about her writing and publishing process.

Have you always been a writer? What inspired you to start writing?

I began putting stories to paper as soon as I learned how to write, so it’s hard to pinpoint just what it was that inspired me to start.

My first book, however, wasn't a novel, but a poetry collection published while I was still in high school. I continued releasing new collections throughout college, but that was an entirely different matter opposed to what I do now.

The stories themselves, even when I was still focused on poetry, were always there, always waiting to be told. I simply needed to find the time (and support) to pursue this as a career.

Now that I think about it, there is one particular moment—or rather a sensation—I remember vividly: staring at bookshelves when I was little and thinking just how wonderful it would be to have my name up there. Fast-forward two decades or so, and here I am :)

Your stories are often inspired by folklore. Did you grow up with folklore and fairytales? What are some of your favourites?

A lot of fairy tales, yes, but only a little folklore. I took an interest in the latter when I was in my late teens and quickly became fascinated by the rich depths Slavic lore had to offer. There were so many deities to discover, various legends about vampires, werewolves, warlocks, even beings that I’d never come across before. Slavic mythology opened itself up to me as a whole new world that sparked up my imagination—and, in the end, birthed the idea of the Kolovrat alternate universe, where most of my work takes place.

As for fairy tales, I read all the classics with my mom, but my childhood favorites were, and remain, The Little Match Girl by Christian Andersen and Cinderella by the Brothers Grimm.

Fantasy is a really popular genre at the moment, particularly among a young adult audience. Why do you think that is?

I think the fantasy genre always had a loyal, core readership. But—at least based on what I’ve experienced in my own country—there was a negative connotation to it. Fantasy was often perceived as “lesser, trivial” literature, and its readers geeky people who liked to role-play LotR out in the woods. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, if you ask me, but I guess for the wider audiences, this kind of immersion in literature simply wasn’t “serious” enough. Mercifully, all that changed when Harry Potter came out and ensnared my generation :)

We basically grew up with magic, with wonderful dreams of other worlds and the infinite possibilities they presented. I think that background provided an open-mindedness that later on paved the way for a vast number of people to give the fantasy genre a try, while at the same time ensured the newer generations didn’t inherit the (often too) snobby attitude when it came to genre fiction.

Of course, the element of escape fantasy offers isn’t something to be neglected, either. I mean, who wouldn’t want to read about the breathtaking adventures and vivid experiences these characters have in light of the reality we live in?

Can you tell us a little bit about what a typical day looks like for you when you're working on a new book?

Since I’m rarely not working on a new book, my days have a pretty stable structure (although I do sneak in a game of tennis here and there).

Normally, my husband and I wake up at 4.40 am, enjoy a quick breakfast, then take our dogs for an hour-long walk. It’s the perfect way to kick-start my mind so that when I park myself behind my computer at 7.00 am with a fresh cup of coffee on my desk, I’m ready to go. With the exception of a few breaks to spend some time with the pups, I work until lunch. If all goes according to plan, it’s usually then that I reach my daily goal.

The rest depends greatly on the season. Summers are by far the kinder time of the year since I have the freedom to write or plot outside in the yard until our evening walk. The winters, however, force me to mix it up a bit. Our dogs are Chinese Cresteds, and while they love the outdoors, taking a walk when it’s below zero and dark is far from ideal for them. We always try to catch at least a little sunshine, but that does mean I can only return to work in the evening—if the cold doesn’t wear me out so much that all I can do is read or watch a good series under the covers, coupled with a nice hot cup of tea.

You publish books yourself. What's that process like being both a publisher and an author?

For a control freak like me, it’s absolutely perfect. I love choosing my own editors, setting up my own release schedule, even perfecting marketing details.

For instance, just over the past couple of months, I had the pleasure of working with Coralie Jubénot, who is one of my absolute favorite illustrators. She’s creating the cover art for an upcoming YA trilogy my husband and I are working on, and I must say that it feels pretty much like a dream come true to have her stunning illustrations bring the characters to life.

All in all, I feel incredibly connected to my work this way, and from a personal/career growth point of view, it does help that if I fail at anything, I know I have no one to blame but myself.

What are some of your favourite books and authors?

This is always so hard to answer! My favorite classics—and the part of the answer that never changes—are definitely Ray Bradbury and Ivan Cankar. As for modern literature, I would currently have to go with Vic James, Keri Arthur, Karen Marie Moning, and C.S. Pacat.

Thank you so much to Gaja for answering our questions and taking part in the event!

Announcing another raffle prize... As mentioned above, Gaja has kindly donated a signed paperback of Windstorm, the latest installment in the Nightwraith series. Follow the link to check it out - it looks great!

Raffle tickets are just £2 each and you could win a prize bundle of bookish awesome worth £70 - £120! Plus, all the money raised is going to help our charitable partners Give a Book to fund literacy projects across the country.

Get your raffle tickets here.


Catch up on the Indie Extravaganza so far here and check back tomorrow for another brilliant feature.


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