by Timothy Pike
When it comes to stories, San Diego–based author KC Grifant has never had a shortage of fantastical ideas.
“I started writing around fourth grade,” she says. “My first stories focused on fantasy stories, including one about a girl who shrunk to pilot a paper airplane.”
Over time, her stories got longer, and by middle school they were novel-length—and no less imaginative. “One was about a group of friends who fought alongside mythical creatures in a parallel world,” KC says. “Another was about a girl who inadvertently created too many clones of herself. A third about a Body Snatchers–like alien invasion.”
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When she wasn’t bringing her original ideas to life, KC was putting her own spin on some of the iconic works she enjoyed. “I also wrote lots of fan fiction about The X-Files, X-Men, and Frankenstein,” she says. “I always liked adventure, fantasy, horror, and sci-fi tales, and tried to emulate stories that had high stakes and irresistible characters.”
Another big influence on KC’s work has been her sister. “When we were growing up, she was an audience of one when I was telling stories,” she says. “We pretended we were directors and created extensive superhero and epic fantasy and mythology plots with our collection of Barbies and ponies, the ‘actors.’ Now, she is my number one beta reader and the best editor I could ask for.”
KC grew up on the east coast, but as an adult moved out west in search of sun. “Years of New England snowstorms soured me to winters,” she says, “so I started to look for jobs in California and was lucky enough to end up in San Diego. I love it here but will probably always feel like an east coaster at heart.”
Her debut novel, Melinda West: Monster Gunslinger has roots in a game she used to play a lot. “I used to competitively play a horror-western–themed card game called Doomtown: Reloaded,” KC says. “It featured a variety of women characters ranging from gunslingers to lawmakers. This game enamored me to the ‘weird west,’ which is essentially a genre that combines Old West aesthetics and settings with horror, sci-fi, or fantasy genres—think Cowboys & Aliens or The Dark Tower series. Eventually, I was invited to write several official stories tied to the release of new Doomtown cards. After that, I wanted to create my own characters and weird western world.”
The result was two dynamic characters that feature in KC’s new novel. “I began writing short stories starring two characters: Melinda, the stoic sharpshooter bent on exterminating monsters, and her partner, Lance, the easygoing charmer who gets them out of sticky situations when brute force won’t work,” she says. “These short stories were well received and published internationally, so it was a natural next step to write a novel featuring them in an epic adventure.”
Writing these types of stories also allows KC to continually reimagine some of the traditional characters of the genre. “Aside from being fun, the weird west genre also offers space for fresh takes on stereotypical characters—like the stoic cowboy or the saloon prostitute—and a chance to tell stories from perspectives not well represented during that time period. Something about the Old West also evokes the supernatural. Tales of monsters and ghosts seem right at home with the Rocky Mountains, southwestern deserts, and other stunning and unforgiving environments.”
“Something about the Old West also evokes the supernatural,” KC says. “Tales of monsters and ghosts seem right at home with the Rocky Mountains, southwestern deserts, and other stunning and unforgiving environments.”
KC likes the freedom to explore different possibilities as she writes, but given the complexities of penning longer works, she’ll sometimes map out her ideas. “I do a little bit of both planning and free form when writing,” she says. “For my horror, sci-fi, and fantasy short stories I like to start with a feeling, image, or idea and see where it goes. For a novel I try to be a little more planned and build out the premise so I don’t get frustrated when I write myself into a corner.”
To stay prolific, KC is prepared to write anywhere and anytime—all she needs is a spare minute or two. “With a busy full-time job and being the parent of two small children, never having enough time is the biggest challenge in my writing life,” she says. “Ideally, when working on a longer piece, I try to get at least a few hundred words or so down every day if I can to keep the story in mind and moving. Another way to deal with limited writing time is to do micro-writing on my phone when on breaks, during lunch, or while sitting in traffic.”
And for those longer writing sessions, she’ll crank up some tunes to set the mood. “Music is a must-have,” she says. “It helps me get into a creative flow and tune other things out. Also, since I have an infant and am perpetually sleep-deprived, caffeine is a must more than ever for writing.”`
The words add up, especially when every minute counts. “In practice,” she says, “I aim to get a minimum of a thousand words done a week. It can be slow going, but some progress is better than none.”
That steady progress is good news for fans of Monster Gunslinger, because KC assures us there’s a lot more where that came from. “I’m in the middle of writing book two for Melinda West,” she says, “and have a rough outline for the third book as well. I hope the series will be more than a trilogy, as I have a lot of ideas for more epic adventures starring Melinda, Lance, and their friends.”
Melinda West: Monster Gunslinger will be available on February 2, 2023.
KC Grifant is a Southern Californian author who writes internationally published horror, fantasy, science fiction, and weird west stories for podcasts, anthologies, and magazines. Her writings have appeared in Andromeda Spaceways Magazine, Unnerving Magazine, Cosmic Horror Monthly, and many others. She’s also contributed to dozens of anthologies, including Chromophobia, Musings of the Muse, and the Stoker-nominated Fright Mare: Women Write Horror. A member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) and a co-founder of the San Diego Horror Writers Association (HWA) chapter, KC enjoys chasing a wild toddler and wandering through beachside carnivals.
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