Kim Antieau has written many novels, short stories, poems, and essays. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, both in print and online, including The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Asimov’s SF, The Clinton Street Quarterly, The Journal of Mythic Arts, EarthFirst!, Alternet, Sage Woman, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. She was the founder, editor, and publisher of Daughters of Nyx: A Magazine of Goddess Stories, Mythmaking, and Fairy Tales. Her work has twice been short-listed for the Tiptree Award, and has appeared in many Best of the Year anthologies. Critics have admired her “literary fearlessness” and her vivid language and imagination. She has had nine novels published. Her first novel, The Jigsaw Woman, is a modern classic of feminist literature. Kim lives in thePacific Northwest with her husband, writer Mario Milosevic.
Her latest book is Her Frozen Wild.
Learn more about Kim and her writing at www.kimantieau.com.
About Her Frozen Wild
Scientists in the Altai inSiberiauncover the 2,500 year old frozen mummy of a tattooed priestess or shaman. This mummy has the same mtDNA (mitochondrialDNA) as American archaeologist Ursula Smith whose mother disappeared inSiberia30 years earlier. Ursula travels from theU.S.toSiberiato unravel the mystery of the “lady” and meets Sergei Ivanovich Polyakov, a Russian doctor who graciously invites her into his home. After they become lovers, she discovers he has the same tattoos on his body as the tattooed lady. He tells a disbelieving Ursula that they have met before and she is destined to save the ancient People, considered as devils by some and shape-changing gods by others. A shaman takes Ursula to one of the sacred timeless caves where Ursula’s mother supposedly disappeared. When Ursula allows the shaman to tattoo her, she is thrown back in time where she must unlock the mystery of the People and their link to her past in order to save them and Sergei—even if it costs her her life.
Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself?
I live in a small town inWashingtonStatein the beautiful Columbia River Gorge with my husband, writer Mario Milosevic. I grew up inMichigan, and Mario and I met atMichiganStateUniversitywhen we both attended a six-week writing workshop there one summer. We’ve lived out West for nearly thirty years and consider it our home now. We like to get out into the woods as much as we can and hike. Once a year we go toArizonaon a writing retreat. That helps us survive all the rain!
When did you decide you wanted to become an author?
I’ve been a writer for almost as long as I can remember. When I was in first grade, I won an art prize for something I had drawn. I got a lot of praise for that. It was very exciting for a six-year-old, but I remember thinking that I probably couldn’t make a living as an artist so I should become a writer instead. To this day I have no idea where a six-year-old would come up with something like that! And I now know from experience that making a living as a writer isn’t any easier than it is for an artist.
Yes, I’m also a librarian. I was a branch manager, which meant I ran a public library. Now I’m a selector. This means I get to buy books for a living. For a long time I selected all the adult fiction for our library district. Now I select all the young adult books and graphic novels, for all ages.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?
I was book crazy. I read everything and anything. We had lots of history books in the house, and I gobbled those up. We also got mail order books where there’d be two books in one. They were so cool because you’d read one and flip it over and there’d be another cover and another book. I loved the classics: Jungle Book, Wizard of Oz, Swiss Family Robinson, Gulliver’s Travels, Little Women. I read Charles Dickens, Alexander Dumas, Jules Verne. I also read any horse book I could find. I loved anything that was strange and wonderful, but I didn’t really discover science fiction until I was in college. I’m not sure why. Maybe my library segregated the science fiction so I never saw it. In any case, I was eclectic in my tastes. I read pretty much anything my parents brought into the house or anything I could get from the library. I liked adventure stories. I loved the Black Stallion series and the Narnia series.
Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.
I read a National Geographic magazine article about the discovery of a mummy in Siberia. They called her the “ice maiden.” She was tattooed, and she was buried with a conical hat and other items that made archaeologists believe she was a priestess or shaman. As soon as I read the article, I knew I would have to write about her. That’s when Her Frozen Wild was born. In my book, archaeologists uncover a frozen tattooed female mummy in the Altai inSiberia, too. But when they take a DNA sample and put it in the worldwide DNA database, they discover her DNA matches almost perfectly with Ursula Smith’s DNA, aPortland archaeologist who is peripherally involved in the project. Nobody can explain how this could have happened since Ursula is inPortland and has never been toSiberia, and the mummy has been encased in ice for 2,500 years. Despite being terrified of flying, Ursula travels toSiberia to unravel the mystery of the “lady.” She meets Sergei Ivanovich Polyakov, a Russian doctor who invites her into his home. After they become lovers, she discovers Sergei has the same tattoos on his body as the tattooed lady. He tells a disbelieving Ursula that they have met before and she is destined to save the ancient People, considered as devils by some and shape-changing gods by others. Ursula can’t imagine she is destined for anything, but she goes with Sergei and a shaman to one of the sacred timeless caves where her mother supposedly vanished thirty years earlier. When Ursula allows the shaman to tattoo her, she is thrown back in time where she has to unlock the mystery of the People and their link to her past in order to save them and Sergei.
Did your book require a lot of research?
Yes! I probably did more research for this novel than I ever have. I generally enjoy research. I’m a librarian and a writer, so research comes naturally to me. But I had to learn a lot about a lot of topics for Her Frozen Wild. Archaeology is an avocation of mine, but I’m not an archaeologist. I hung out with an archaeologist for a while and interviewed her. Of course I learned everything I could about the Siberian ice mummies, and I kept in touch with an archaeologist who had traveled to the Altai and researched the mummies. I learned as much as I could about the Scythians, who lived in that part of the world. Some scholars have theorized that the Scythians were the source of the stories of the Amazons. I learned all about bear mythology, too. In fact, my husband and I spent some time with a modern-day Siberian shaman and became part of the Bear Clan. I also learned everything I could about cave art, tattooing, shape-shifting legends, alchemy, and Russian flora and fauna.
They say authors have immensely fragile egos… How would you handle negative criticism or a negative review?
Some of the best advice I ever got about writing was from writer Algis Budrys. He said we should ignore reviews. “You’re never as bad as they say,” he said, “and you’re never as good as they say.” I do try to ignore reviews. Fortunately, most professional reviewers have been kind to my work. It does hurt when you find something that seems harsh and cruel from a reader on some website. I try to remember that it’s just one person’s opinion.
When writing, what themes do you feel passionate about?
I seem to write a lot about finding home. I didn’t realize this for years. Writers are often oblivious to their own themes! Then I discovered that I had ended three of my novels with the word “home.” I tried to figure out what that meant, but I’m still not! I have been trying to find a place to call home all of my adult life, a place where I feel valued, where people live in harmony and kindness with one another and the environment. I do know most of my books are about how we as humans live together on this Earth.
Do you have any unusual writing quirks?
I can’t start writing a novel until I have a title. I don’t like this particular quirk! I usually come up with a title fairly quickly, but there have been times when I just couldn’t get one I liked. If I can’t get a title, I can’t start the book. This is very frustrating. I am trying to get over this little quirk.
What is your opinion about critique groups? What words of advice would you offer a novice writer who is joining one? Do you think the wrong critique group can ‘crush’ a fledgling writer?
I’m afraid I’m wary of critique groups. I was fortunate enough to go to college where I took many writing classes. This was a great foundation because I learned a lot about technique. Teachers were able to tell me what was working and what wasn’t necessarily working. The downside to that was that my writing teachers didn’t like or understand anything genre. Once I wrote a science fiction story, and my writing professor wrote in the margins that he didn’t know what to say about it. “If you must write this sort of thing, I suppose it’s all right,” he wrote. I was astonished! So I do think it’s good to have people read what you’re writing, especially when you’re first starting out. But writing groups can be harmful. As writers, we need to develop our own voices. We can’t develop Joan Didion’s voice or Stephen King’s voice; we need our own. I’m not sure you can develop your own voice when a whole chorus of people are telling you what they think you’re doing wrong. People in these groups often start writing for the group in a way that will get approval. The work coming from a particular critique groups starts sounding alike. I have been a part of some writing groups that were helpful. These were the ones where we met as peers not to critique one another but to share our work, if we wanted, and to talk about our process and how we were doing living the writing life.