Pavarti K. Tyler is a multiple award-winning author of transgressive fiction. Most recently, she contributed two pieces to These Broken Worlds, a story collection belonging to a shared universe. Tyler has over fifteen titles available via Amazon as well as other outlets, and she is no stranger to the science fiction genre, having published such works as Two Moons of Sera and Moon Dust and having been included in the A. I. Chronicles anthology. IndieReader dubbed her “essentially the indie scene’s Margaret Atwood.” Tyler is a creative director at Kōsa Press and conceived the seed idea for the drilodyte universe and saga, which These Broken Worlds and Interspecies both belong to.
In this interview with the Kōsa Press Team, Tyler discusses why writing science fiction scares her, the secret ingredient for successful creative collaborations, what it’s like to edit a story with qualities you’ve never attempted before, the benefits of independent publishers, and more.
KPT: You describe yourself as a transgressive author. What does this mean to you? And how did your progression as a writer lead you to this epithet?
PKT: The definition of transgressive is boundary crossing. For a long time, writing erotica was considered transgressive. Now it’s less so because of the popularity of the genre. Transgressive fiction is by its nature a social and political action. I believe that words have the power to change the world, especially stories others are either unwilling or unable to tell.
KPT: In February 2015, you published a blog post “Write What Scares You” in which you speak about some of your science fiction endeavors. You mention having high standards for this genre, but what else scares you about it?
PKT: For one, it’s a genre that when it’s done wrong is very hard to salvage. You know, in other genres you can just gloss over some stuff if you need to or if you get something wrong the audiences are willing to go with it. Sci-fi, not so much. Readers are very smart and very particular. Another part that is intimidating is the SIZE of sci-fi. At least the kind of sci-fi I love. These worlds are so huge and so interconnected. How do you tell a massive story without it all being just “and then, and then.” When you’re building a whole new world like this, with science and culture and religion and ecology, it’s sometimes really hard to see the forest for the trees.
KPT: In that same blog post, you write near the end: “So with these things in mind, I’ve entered the world of the SciFi Author.” I wondered if this post marked a moment where you started embracing this genre in a way you hadn’t before. If so, how did your career and growth as an author lead you to that moment?
PKT: It did. By saying it out loud and announcing to my readers that this was something I was really going to do, I gave myself permission to take risks that I otherwise wouldn’t have. There’s something very freeing about stating to the world that you’re going to do something. It’s like, you no longer have the luxury not to do that thing you’ve been putting off. When I started writing erotica, that wasn’t hard. Everyone expected that. Even my mom assumed that my non-erotica books were “dirty” books until she read them. But sci-fi, now that is a personal love, not something that’s hung outside my door with big red letters. But now that I’ve said it and put out a timeline of projects, there’s a reasonable expectation that I’ll actually follow through, which is both terrifying and exciting!
KPT: How has your relationship with the genre changed since you wrote that post?
PKT: I get more free books from other authors 🙂 That’s about it. I still love it, still live and breath aliens and robots and monsters. If anything, I get to spend more time doing the things I love!
KPT: Speaking of science fiction, not only do you have more than a few book titles under your belt but you are also involved with many different collaborations. Most of these collaborations like Sin Eater, your work for Future Chronicles, and even the creative role you play here at Kōsa have been successful. What are the magic ingredients for successful collaborations?
PKT: Oh man, that’s a big question, like a giant question. Each of these collaborations is different, but the essential ingredient to collaborations can be boiled down to Kenny Roger’s song The Gambler: “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em / Know when to fold ‘em / Know when to walk away.”
There are people you can trust, and there are people you can’t. In a good collaboration, you will set your ego aside and be willing to accept that the other person might be right, even when you think they’re wrong. You also have to know when to fight for what’s important to you. Mostly, though, you have to know when to walk away.
The unfortunate reality is that people suck. Most collaborations go nowhere, or someone ends up getting seriously taken advantage of. I’ve been in those situations and they are painful and depressing. The difference in all three of my projects you mention is that the people involved are committed to collaboration. It’s not about what they can get, but what we can do.
KPT: Was working on the drilodyte universe for These Broken Worlds and Interspecies different from anything you’ve done before?
PKT: The idea of a kōsalogy is a completely new thing for me in some ways and very familiar and comfortable in others. Writing from a shared universe is a lot like writing fanfic. As you may know, I got my start in the Twilight Fan Fic community (shut up), and part of the fun there was that everyone was writing in the same world with the same basic rules. If you were going to break the rules, the expectation was that you would show that in the story summary, like if it was “All Human” (AH) or “Out of Character” (OOC). In that kind of project, the original text is the story bible. In this collection, we got to do something even cooler, we got to build our own story bible and evolve and change it as a collective.
KPT: In These Broken Worlds you wrote your first story in the military science fiction subgenre. This short piece reads differently from most of your other work. How did this story come about? And was it challenging to write?
PKT: This really came about because I was looking over the stories we had by then, and I felt like there was something missing. The xenophobia and military response to the Drilodyte presence hadn’t been explored. While it’s not my usual thing, I felt like it was an important aspect of the timeline and history to include. It wasn’t a difficult piece to write at first. I actually churned it out on my phone while waiting for my daughter to finish a school club meeting. But editing was torture. Because it was such a different POV, character, and situation from what I usually write. It really took some massaging to get it right. Fortunately, the Kōsa team is amazing, and I got some great advice.
KPT: Theater played a huge role in your education. You even worked in theater for a while after college. What skills did you pick up in that field that help your writing? Does it still inform your work?
PKT: My theater training focused primarily on dramaturgy and directing. Most of my work was done with plays and sometimes with playwrights themselves, trying to discover how to communicate with the audience. While in theater you have a three-dimensional visual to work with. In fiction, you only have words, but the ultimate goal is the same: how to transmit a story and its emotional impact to the audience. Because of this, I think I tend to have a very different approach from many writers. My focus is often less on the plot and more on the connection between the reader and the story. I am always looking for ways to engage the reader, and I think that comes through in my work.
KPT: You’ve published an impressive number of titles in the last few years and you’ve experienced diverse parts of the publishing industry from self-publishing to deals offered by traditional publishers. What made you decide on independent publishing houses? And how are they different from small houses and the big five?
PKT: I did self-publishing for a few titles, and I found it very lonely. No one cared if I met a deadline or if I succeeded, but me. It was also exceptionally expensive. Because I believed in the necessity of hiring a professional editor and having quality covers, I laid out a shit ton of money. It was worth it. It’s a beautiful book visually and in the crafting thanks to my editor, but that’s not a sustainable model for me.
When I started looking at publishers, I had some interest from larger houses and agents, but felt that the compromises I had to make were too much. One wanted me to change my Muslim superhero novel into a romcom in order to publish… that just wasn’t what I was writing. I currently publish most of my titles with Evolved Publishing, and I couldn’t be happier. There are times when either the market or business factors have me publishing with other groups, but in the end, I always come back to Evolved.
I like having a team. I like having a publisher who is willing to take risks. The group there has never tried to dissuade me from writing the stories in my heart. If anything they have pushed me to be better, go bigger, and do more. Plus, sometimes it’s really nice to have a publisher to talk to and get advice from.
KPT: What advice can you offer other authors and writers who are starting out?
PKT: Shut up and write. Don’t read reviews. Surround yourself with awesome; The people who will lift you up and encourage you and help you grow and learn are worth more than gold.
KPT: What are the biggest mistakes you see new writers and authors making? And how can they avoid them?
PKT: The number of people who don’t seem to think editing is important is astonishing. Seriously, what are you thinking? If I can’t read it without starting a tally of errors in my head, then I’m not going to finish it, and I’m certainly not going to buy anything else from you. Respect your reader enough to give them your absolute best. That means editing and investing. If you don’t have the money for one of the top pros, there are great affordable options. Not doing it is simply not an option.
KPT: What has had the most significant impact on your writing in the last year and why?
PKT: The Write Draft Critique groups have been absolutely essential to my growth as an author. I’ve learned so much about how people read books as well as how to improve my craft. This is where the seed for Kōsa Press came from and where I met the amazing collaboration partners I’m working with now. I wouldn’t trade that kind of community for the world.
KPT: What are you working on now?
PKT: Right now I am in the drafting stage of Sin Eater, a collaborative serial I’m working on with Jessica West, a fellow kōsalogist. Sin Eater is an LBTBQ urban fantasy, which is going to be dark, transgressive, and a whole lot of fun.
I’m also gearing up to get back to working on my upcoming sci-fi series starting with the novel The Jakkattu Vector. Hopefully this will be released sometime in 2016.
KPT: During space travel, you have to evacuate your cruiser. You’re stuck alone in an escape pod. There’s plenty of air and food, but you might be stranded in that pod for a few years. And you could only grab five books. What books would they be and why?
- Clan of the Cave Bear – because I’ve already read it 100,000 times and I know I won’t get bored.
- Stranger in a Strange Land – because it will help me remember what it means to be human.
- Gilgamesh – because mythology and religion are the basis of culture.
- The Collected Works of William Shakespeare – because they’re so hard to get through it will fill a lot of my time.
- Escape Pod Maintenance For Dummies – because shit happens.