If social media has afforded me any true pleasure, it is getting to meet other amazing, passionate writer-artist-creators who don’t let anything hold them back from telling their stories. One of these digital friends whom I admire most is writer Knicky Laurel.
I first met Knicky this year through a mutual friend in the online comics world. She quickly drew me in with her organized social media presence–not to mention gorgeous visual teases for the release of her debut novel, a sprawling space opera fantasy.
This summer Kindler of Flames finally launched.
A wide-ranging epic tale, Kindler of Flames introduces readers to a larger narrative known collectively as Nescada. I know from personal experience how challenging it to develop this kind of fantasy world and weave it believably with plot and characterization.
As a lifelong resident of Barbados, Knicky takes inspiration for her world building from the islands she calls home. In true writerly fashion, she also lists out her favorite things, which inspire her storytelling through the senses they evoke.
“The scent of cinnamon [is among them],” she writes. “The taste of popcorn, words, the strange melodies that slip into my mind from somewhere not here, paintings, faeries, telling stories, cats and déjà vu.”
So how did she get from these ethereal impressions and the influences of her Caribbean homeland to a 560-page fantasy novel with 70 pages of bonus content?
It’s all about love, she says.
Explains Knicky: “I’ve been a writer all my life. The first thing I can remember writing was a poem about my deceased dog, Poppy Johnson.” Poetry led her to songwriting and songwriting to prose. She began penning Kindler of Flames in 2001, infusing it with her passion for rhythmic prose cultivated over hundreds of poems and songs (and no doubt hundreds of hours of writing) in those early years.
So what tale has captivated her thus, leading her to the novel-writing plunge?
As Knicky explains it, Kindler of Flames is the story of Taerah Talavereis, an ice-hearted lunar deity who “travels across an entire star system with a crew of unlikely and compelling companions, to face an ancient, trans-dimensional terror.” The inspiration for this far-ranging story came from an event much closer to home: the experience of falling in love as a teenager.
“[It was] first love. Mad love. Tender-hearted teenage love,” Knicky recalls. “[It was] love I could not control for someone I could not hope to have.” She was already a fantasy fan at this time and consequently reached into that language to help her process this life-changing experience.
As she grew and developed—becoming a follower of paganism and then pursuing a creative career professionally—she found herself relying increasingly on the language of fantasy to express her inmost thoughts and feelings.
As Knicky recalls, “The entire experience of falling in love was so surreal, so beautiful and bittersweet, I wanted to capture it in a jar for my eyes only to see, whenever I took it out to peer at its light in secret; I wrote a book.”
That book became Kindler of Flames.
Over the next seventeen years, her space opera world took shape—first as healing from that intense experience of unrequited love, and then as a serious creative pursuit. The story changed and grew so much with Knicky’s own growth that she says she hardly recognizes it anymore. But she loves it just as much as ever.
That passion is evident in the time she devotes.
Developing the Nescada world is a full-time job, one Knicky balances expertly with her other full-time work: teaching elementary school students. Indeed, it was her dedication to her creative work—treating it with the same gravity as full-time employment—that drew me to her in the first place.
As I got to know Knicky online, I could sense that Nescada was much more than a side hobby. It was a calling.
And not just anyone can publish the work of a calling.
In fact, when it came time to finally consider publication, Knicky chose a self-directed path because of the specific vision she had for the book. “Realizing the extent to which I needed full creative control over the processes of manifesting that vision, I decided to become an independent creator,” Knicky says. “It has been a learning experience.”
Now that she’s cleared that hurdle, and the book is available for purchase on Amazon (and in forthcoming paperback), Knicky takes great joy in witnessing how the story resonates with readers. Wrapped as it is in her own experiences, who wouldn’t find joy in finally sharing those thoughts and feelings with others?
Looking ahead, Knicky plans to continue her current writing hiatus to read extensively and catch up on the landscape of contemporary literature. “[It] is imperative to [know] where one fits in as a young author and to be honing one’s skills as a debut novelist,” she asserts. For Knicky, studying the work of her “most successful peers” is a key strategy to staking her place one day among them.
“All good writers write, but the greatest writers read.”
For her fellow creators, Knicky has just one simple piece of advice: tell your story now. “It will grow inside of you all your life,” she acknowledges, “but you won’t have your entire life to tell it.” She points out that often, we wait until later to tell our stories, thinking we’ll be smarter, wiser or more skilled to tackle the task when we’re older.
But life doesn’t give us any guarantees. If you’ve got that love—the love of story-telling or the love of another which really tells your own story—capture it in a jar … now.