Archer Kay Leah was raised in Canada, growing up in a port town at a time when it was starting to become more diverse, both visibly and vocally. Combined with the variety of interests found in Archer’s family and the never-ending need to be creative, this diversity inspired a love for toying with characters and their relationships, exploring new experiences and difficult situations. Archer most enjoys writing speculative fiction and is engaged in a very particular love affair with fantasy, especially when it is dark and emotionally charged. When not reading and writing for work or play, Archer is a geek with too many hobbies and keeps busy with other creative endeavors, a music addiction, and whatever else comes along. Archer lives in London, Ontario with a non-binary partner who loves video games, composing music, and all things out there in the vast space of the universe.
Life hasn’t been easy for Aeley since she arrested her brother, and her role as a political leader leaves her feeling isolated and lonely. Days before her brother’s trial, she meets Lira, a quiet and modest scribe who makes Aeley want more than just a professional relationship. When she attends the trial and leaves with a marriage contract, Aeley doesn’t know what to do. She must choose one of two brothers, marrying into a family she doesn’t know. Then she discovers that Lira is part of the same family—a sister to Aeley’s suitors and the family’s disgrace. And not at all opposed to an intimate relationship. Except random acts of violence against her people test Aeley’s ability as a leader, and a web of lies and deceit threaten not only her chance at happiness, but her life…
All the wonder I’d had; all the need to grow up and reach for the sky like the trees, pushing forward towards the sun. How like a leaf I was now, caught in the air and drifting towards a new place to rest. Maybe that’s what we all were in the end: individual leaves on the universal tree, dancing, waving, and taking in the light until the universe let us go, giving us its blessing to find our own way and a place to fall, rest, and leave the world with whatever we’d done along the way.
~ Archer Kay Leah, Of Kindred and Stardust
Hi everyone! I’m Archer, author of LGTBQA+ speculative fiction romance and the occasional poem. My deepest thanks to Chapel for hosting me today, and thanks to all of you for hanging out with us. ❤
My works usually fall into the fantasy or sci-fi categories, but no matter the genre, characters are always my major focus: who they are, what they want, where they’ve been, and where they’re going. And though they’re different individuals with their own circumstances and stories, their origins all come from what I’ve learned and what inspires me. Today’s post is about where I’ve been and what writing means to me, all of which is motivation to give characters their stories and happy endings.
“Write what you know,” or so the saying goes, though it’s often interpreted as a literal, surface-level approach to storytelling where one’s conscious mind is always in control, guiding the plot, character, and everything else while we’re aware of it all. Except there’s the deeper level: a subconscious side that sweeps through with an invisible hand, pulling the threads of experience out of us and weaving them into words, leaving the mark of the storyteller behind, saying “I’ve been here.” Sometimes it’s easy to figure out, but not always. Sometimes a writer never realizes what part of them made it to the page when they weren’t thinking about it; that slip of self they offered up without meaning to.
Lives are an ever-shifting mosaic of experience; moments that breathe life into connection with the world around us. From that, characters are born, even if we don’t seem to share a thing in common with them. Still, ideas come from somewhere, and what we’ve lived, felt, and sensed are always fodder for storytelling.
For me, this is life as a writer. There are times when I look at my work and think “I know exactly where I got that from,” even if I’d never meant to make the connection. Other times, it’s taken me years to realize I’d written something that relates back to me on a personal level. When it comes to the experiences that shape my writing, however, I can think of six things off the top of my head that have gotten me to this point, though there many more are hiding in the depths.
The first and second sets of experiences are tied closely together, all centred around behaviour and psychology—the good, the painful, the lonely. All through my life, an interest in why living beings do what they do has caught my attention, starting when I was two years old, sitting on the back step of my parents’ house with my dad. We were watching an earthworm move about and burrow into the ground, and I was so taken by it, I asked why—only to keep asking that question again and again, but eventually adding people to the list of curiosities. I’ve studied animal behaviour for years, but human psychology connects to it, and now my characters are born from what I’ve learned.
But since I’m also an empath (intuitive empath, in particular), I suppose it was bound to happen, all of that watching and taking in everyone else’s emotions to get a better look at the bigger picture. Along the way, there have been good times, confusing times, and terribly rough times. At fourteen, I learned what it meant to be someone’s link to life, trying to stop my friend from taking their own when things got to be too much, and it’s stuck with me since. Whenever I write a character that’s reached the same point of pain and loss, that day is there in the back of my mind, my friend’s emotions still clinging, reminding me of how important it is to be there for someone else. To listen. To care.
It’s no different than when I’m writing characters who deal with depression, PTSD, grief, or other painful things that grip on tight. I’ve seen all of these up close, in the people I love, and I’ve gone through some of them myself. I’ve found writing provides a great way to channel all of these feelings towards something creative, productive, and maybe even helpful to someone else who might also be struggling.
Those aren’t the only things that influence my writing, though. My experiences with family and friends also play a role in bringing stories to life. Most of the time, it’s a matter of weaving how I’ve felt with them through the feelings of my characters. Truthfully, friendships and family are two aspects that are constantly in my stories, and I make a point of highlighting them. Sometimes things are really great and everyone gets along. Sometimes things fall apart or haven’t really been there to begin with. But these are strong themes in my work, rounding out the characters to make them real. Because we don’t get through life completely alone—there’s always someone else involved at some point along the way, whether it’s a parental figure, a friend, a mentor, a colleague, or even an animal companion.
In the end, I figure it all starts with family, whether it’s a biological family, adoptive family, or the family you choose. And friendships should never be overlooked. High school would never have been the same for me without my friends—if not for them, I wouldn’t have had anywhere else I could belong. We were a group of misfits, never fitting perfectly into the boxes other people held onto so tightly. There wasn’t a single common interest that drew us all together, but we stuck like glue and held fast to our little family, helping each other through the years. That’s no doubt why I often write about characters who don’t act like they’re expected to, defying the norms and breaking through barriers.
That brings me to the last two sets of life experiences, both of which push barriers of their own: my spiritual beliefs and my orientation. I’m a pansexual Druid-Pagan with a non-binary long-term partner, all of which is a lot to unpack for some folks, but it definitely impacts my work.
I was a late-bloomer when it comes to pansexuality, but I’ve embraced it, so much so that many of my characters are either bi or pan—and not always by conscious decision. Characters usually come to me fully-formed, telling me where they sit on the spectrum of romantic and sexual attractions. It just seems to happen that they fall into the middle a lot, and I’m happy to oblige, particularly since bisexual erasure remains a very real and incredibly frustrating issue. Representation is needed and I’m dedicated to adding what I can to the efforts, along with other parts of the LGBTQA+ spectrum. Certainly I’ve been inspired by my partner countless times, including when it comes to one of my non-binary characters who was written with my partner in mind, from problems with family to struggles with gender. These are a part of our lives, and so they’ve become a part of my characters’ lives.
It’s no different when it comes to the matters of spirituality and religion. For the majority of my characters who have a connection to those things, their beliefs are built around Pagan concepts and paths. Again, it’s a matter of life experience and the need for representation, letting people live their stories and be happy with who they are.
In the end, that’s what many stories end up being: a tale with a fresh face and soul born from what the writer has lived, breathed, and known. Sometimes the characters are just like us, and sometimes they’re the complete opposite, doing what we never would. But in every story, there’s a touch of the teller—a fragment of influence left behind because life really can’t help itself, especially when the subconscious has something to say.
My motivations for writing are a mix of reasons, to be honest, though I mostly do it for myself and to share.
On one hand, I write because it’s ingrained in my nature. It’s from the core, rooted deep. When I don’t write creatively, I lose a part of myself—or, rather, I lose touch with myself. There’s a noticeable difference in my behaviour and mentality when I haven’t worked on anything over a long period of time. That was made clear during my years in university, when I didn’t have a lot of time to dedicate to writing fiction. Life was a blur of class, lab, shift work, volunteering, research, and general survival. Thankfully, poetry helped—short bursts of inspiration I could capture on bus rides and in precious spare moments.
But the real test of who I am came with my mother’s death, which brought my world crashing down. My family had no warning, no goodbye, no explanation as to what happened, and a lack of full closure, just whatever we’ve pieced together to get through our days. That was joined by several other deaths in my family and on a project I was involved with, all of them happening in a short span of time, devastating and unforeseen. Grief put me into a spin mentally and emotionally, and I fell apart, unable to work and fulfill commitments I’d made. It was so bad that one day, I read the first line of an email twenty-some-odd times before I broke down, wanting to throw my computer out the window. For all the times I read that sentence, and for all the simplicity there was to it, I couldn’t process any of it. Something usually so easy turned into an hours-long struggle.
Yet writing was there. When I could do nothing else, fiction gave me a place to which I could escape, making all the difference. There, I was productive and functioning on my own time, as slow and forgiving as working out plot and getting words down could be. I could change my characters’ lives, making them whatever they needed to be. I even worked out my emotions, pouring them onto the pages with an ease nothing else had. Writing saved me then, helped me cope, and it was then I realized that failing all else, I was a writer. When you strip away everything, down to the rawest emotions and vulnerable core, I’m a storyteller. My muses are always close, throwing imaginary file folders full of stories at my subconscious to keep the characters frolicking.
However, the writing isn’t all for me. I want to share my stories instead of shelving them. As a writer, you never know who needs that particular story you’ve worked on. Maybe there’s a reader who needs to see themselves on the pages, getting a happy ending. Maybe that reader needs to hear the message entrenched in the story. Or maybe they just need to be swept away from their troubles for a little while and feel like things will be okay eventually.
I think as an empath, that helps drive me to share my work: wanting to bring those things to readers, particularly if there’s a need to be fulfilled. It’s a way to reach through the voids and distance to make a connection, just as storytelling has done for thousands of years. What a worthy tradition it is, sharing tales while reeling others in to partake in the experience. We learn from stories; we grow. In other ways, we can heal from them and find our way forward when life gets stuck. Stories move us. They inspire, spurring dreams and hopes. Other times, they make such wonderful companions, wrapping around time and ushering us along a journey that may or may not be like our own. They’re life bundled up in a collection of letters and imagery that can bring people together.
Though sometimes, I hope my work might educate others in some ways, like when I write pieces with a strong spiritual or religious component, where I can share what being Pagan is like. We’re often overlooked, derided, or mistreated even though most people don’t know what Paganism actually means or how it affects our lives and perspectives. This is also true of when I’m writing stories about LGBTQA+ characters, particularly when those characters are bi or pan. It’s especially important to me to see the barriers broken down; to embrace the fact that the world is comprised of spectrums, variations, and all sorts of things that nature doesn’t box in.
But that’s only a small part of why I write. Really, it all comes down to a single reason:
To others, to myself, to life as a whole, and to the universe in all its vastness. And if we’re all just leaves on the universal tree, storytelling is like a breeze that sweeps us up and takes us from one place to another, knocking into, passing by, and finding others along the way.
Once upon a time, I wanted so badly to be published—to see my work on the shelves like the authors I so terribly admired, for they had expanded my little world into a massive universe of mystery, intrigue, quests, and friendships, and I dreamed of being just like them.
I was about thirteen then, maybe fourteen, and that was my goal. So I tried, even going so far as to send my first manuscript to publishers with my mom’s help. Granted, the effort came up in rejection, but that didn’t kill the dream, just delayed it. So I kept hoping. Kept dreaming.
Sixteen years later, three different publishers took on my work, and now, twenty-three years after the dream emerged, it’s a reality. With the help of wonderful people who believed in my stories, that childhood wish has been fulfilled. But where does it go from here? With all the twists and turns and bumps that happened along the way just to get to this point, where else is there to go?
First up: expansion—on storytelling, on reach, and on impact, hopefully to make a difference in the world, no matter how small. I’m going to continue writing stories about all sorts of characters across various spectrums, and I’m dedicated to the series I’ve started—books that have haunted me relentlessly in a long line of Must Dos!
And yet, as of late I find myself thinking about finding ways to help other writers make their dreams come true like others did for me. To take another chance and pursue something new built on the foundation of my previous dream, sharing in something bigger with others who could use it. Goodness knows my muses are churning up a storm, though where it leads is for the future to figure out.
For now, where I really want this journey to go is further in connection, stronger in knowledge, and deeper in experience. I’m a perpetual student, never to sit still for too long when there are things to learn and try. But I suppose that’s one way to look at the very essence of life—living. Reaching out and seeing what reaches back. Making that connection before all else comes to the final calm, with the journey traveled and the last word left on the closing page, hanging on the tail of “The End.”
And yet, writing—this act of telling a story—it feels like being able to live a thousand lives crammed into a single lifetime. Each brings its own challenges and merits, but all of them touch something in us, pulling from who we are to share a new perspective and weave us into the larger whole, leaving a piece of us behind. How magical. How amazing. And truly, how astounding it is at the end of all things.
Because that was what they had, failing everything else: an ongoing thread of moments, some of them ones she could put words to, others…
Others were meant to be captured and tasted and lived, igniting every emotion that roiled and burned and begged for release. Some moments would bring joy, others hurt, and others still would bring every feeling in between. But in the end, she had escaped the fire of one family and found warmth in another, and everything else…
Well, everything else was the story yet to be told.
~ Archer Kay Leah, A Question of Counsel
Thank you so much for reading this post! I love hearing from readers, so please feel free to share your thoughts, questions, or whatever musings you have. All the best and happy reading!