K. V. Johansen was born in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, where she developed her lifelong fascination with fantasy literature after reading The Lord of the Rings at the age of eight. Her interest in the history and languages of the Middle Ages led her to take a Master’s Degree in Medieval Studies at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto, and a second M.A. in English Literature at McMaster University, where she wrote her thesis on Layamon’s Brut, an Early Middle English epic poem. While spending most of her time writing, she retains her interest in medieval history and languages and is a member of the Early English Text Society, as well as the SFWA and the Writers’ Union of Canada. In 2014, she was an instructor at the Science Fiction Foundation’s Masterclass in Literary Criticism held in London. She is also the author of two works on the history of children’s fantasy literature, two short story collections, and a number of books for children and teens. Various of her books have been translated into French, Macedonian, and Danish.
And if you'd like a less formal take on the whole bio thing ...
There are two different versions of how I got my start writing, mine and my mother’s. Some years ago, I gave a reading in a town near where my mother now lives. She attended, and during the Q&A following, told the audience that when I was quite young I used to draw pictures, tell her what to write under them, staple them, and say that someday I was going to make real books. I have no memory of this whatsoever. I do know that when I was that age, I intended to be a palaeontologist. I even made a museum in a disused hen-house. So there.
My version of things is that, although I had every intention of being a university professor (because, after all, what else did proper grown-ups do?) I used to tell stories to my sisters. This is the reality I remember, me telling stories, long, serial stories that went on night after night, full of highwaymen, warriors rallying resistance against magic-wielding tyrants, werewolves and other shapeshifters, pirates, spaceship-tramp-freighters, and princesses — not the modern pink glitter princesses, but king’s daughters who went off and did things involving horses, swords, disguises, and so forth. Proper princesses. Eventually, I began writing them down. A couple of those characters even evolved and made it into my real books. I have a sneaking suspicion that the ancestry of most of my shapeshifters could in part be traced back to a particular werewolf hero of those days, too. (Imagine Aragorn or Gwydion or Albanac as a shapeshifter, not some tawdry paranormal romance thing with a shiny chest!) Anyway, my father, a scientist, also decided I was literary and bought me all sorts of odd and interesting books to encourage me, because he had a great love of history and literature and thought this was a more rare art than doing science, in which I should be encouraged. (However, he also made me memorize the periodic table.) (Do not ask me to recite the periodic table.)
Now I write the books I want to read, ones with a rich and detailed world spilling off the edges of the maps, with characters who are drawn or dragged into adventure more often than ones who go seeking it out, who find themselves in circumstances that try them and force them to become more than they thought they were, or who might be people driven to get out of where and who they are and become something else. I write about people on the edges. I want them, in the process of surviving, through struggle, suffering, and sacrifice, to change their worlds, too, whether it’s at the level of a small community or tribe, or on a larger scale — for the better, if they’re to be the heroes, but I find the enemies of the heroes just as interesting to write. They, too, may have begun their journeys just by chance, or been pushed by that same need to escape or explore or stretch beyond their initial position in life, but the things they’ve done and the decisions they’ve made have come at the cost of other people’s welfare or lives. There’s a selfishness that underlies their actions and poisons all they do, small selfishness, growing into what Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax in Carpe Jugulum called the only sin, treating people as things. I find that root of evil in a character’s choices far more interesting than the blatant cruelty of an insane sadist, though both may lead to tyranny and horrors, because such a character’s descent into evil has a story to it, a series of roads taken and not taken.
These aren’t good times for writers. My first book came out in 1997 and by 2000 the publishing industry was changing dramatically, making it harder and harder to earn a living. I used to be a full-time writer. I can’t do that anymore, and that makes writing much slower and harder, and life overall much more exhausting. If you enjoy my writing and want to encourage others to explore the books, the best recommendation is always a friend’s — talk to people about the books you love! Get enthusiastic and wave your hands in the air! Give the books you love lots of stars on on-line review sites like Goodreads and Amazon and Kobo! That helps more than you might imagine. And if you’ve found some loose change down the back of the couch, virtually speaking, you can always buy me, or another creator you want to support, a coffee on Ko-fi or read some of my stories and subscribe to support my work on Curious Fictions. I also have an infrequently-occurring email Newsletter to which you can subscribe.
Thanks for reading!