Tracy S. Morris

Quirky Mysteries, Screwball Fantasy and Sassy History

J. Kathleen Cheney — Author of Iron Shoes

Written By: Tracy - Aug• 16•11

Today’s author spotlight is on J. Kathleen Cheney. Kathleen is the author of numerous short stories and novellas. One of her most recent, Iron Shoes, was a finalist for the Romance Writer’s of America’s Prism award and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s Nebula Award. Iron Shoes appeared in Alembical 2.

Your novella Iron Shoes was a finalist for RWA’s Prism Award and SFWA’s Nebula Award. Can you tell my readers a little about the novella? 

Imogen Hawkes is a young widow struggling to save her farm from foreclosure.  In 1905 Saratoga Springs, the best way to do that is to win a horse race.  So, Imogen has to learn new some new tricks, both from her surprisingly witchy mother-in-law and from the new stallion she’s purchased sight-unseen—who turns out not to be what he seems.

Where did the idea for the novella come from?

World Fantasy Con in 2007 was held in Saratoga Springs, and I truly fell in love with the town.  I’ve since published another novella in that setting and am currently working on a third in the series.   As for the puca aspect of the stories, I woke from a dream with that idea…so I’ll give credit to the plot bunny.

You’ve produced an impressive body of short-form work. Any plans for a novel? Do you prefer short form to novel-length?

I think longer lengths are more ‘natural’ for me.  I actually wrote a novel before I ever attempted shorter work.  I was first encouraged to work at shorter lengths by Dr. James Gunn, in order to gain a better understanding of plotting.  But lately my work has been getting longer and longer, so I’m trending back toward novels at this time.  I hope to sell one in the next year or so…but I’d still like to keep writing short fiction as well.

Your work spans science fiction, fantasy, horror and romance. Do you prefer one particular genre over another? What are the inherent strengths of each genre?

I enjoy writing fantasy mixed with romance (“Iron Shoes” is an example of that).  I’m most interested in technology levels that are analogous to our world’s 1870 to 1930, so I don’t write a great deal of futuristic SF.

Fantasy allows one to stretch history and reality a bit to make it fit the story’s needs.  SF allows the exploration of not only new technologies, but also the human condition as it deals with the ethical issues those technologies engender.  Romance is comfortable wish-fulfillment—something comfortable to slip on after a long day at work.  And horror?  Horror explores what makes us tick.

What is anthology builder? Would you recommend it to other authors?

Anthology Builder is a service that aggregates previously published short stories.  A reader can assemble their own anthology, selecting favorite works by favorite authors (including many classic authors like Poe and Austen).  It’s a great way for the author to make their backlist available to readers, particularly in this time where so many magazines never existed in a paper format.  Authors can also use the service to create ‘promotional’ anthologies for group readings (we did this for a group reading at Wiscon) or collections of their own work to sell.

  You’ve been both a fencer and a gardener (two hobbies close to my heart). Has either hobby worked it’s way into any of your writing?

Actually, they have. I have characters who are gardeners on the side, but one is a botanist, the protagonist of my short story “Fleurs du Mal”.  As to fencing, I did include that in my first attempt at a novel.  Perhaps someday that will be rewritten…eventually.

Your website says that you’ve taken a sabbatical from teaching to focus on your writing. Was that a difficult decision? What is the thought process that goes into deciding to focus on writing?  (for example, the ability to pay or not pay bills and a supportive husband factor into my decisions)

I am fortunate to have a very supportive husband.  I originally got into teaching with the belief that I would be able to write during the summers, but I had no idea how much time in summer teachers actually lose.  So, after a long discussion my husband and I decided we could squeeze by without the second paycheck in order for me to have the time to write. (I’m rather slow, so I suspect I need more than the average.)

How is the reality of writing different than the romance of writing? Did you ever think you would be sitting by a pool in a bikini and a chiffon cover-up while writing? Do you ever actually know any writers who sit around in jackets with suede patches on the sleeves and pipes?

Most writers I know are people who are scrambling to find time to squeeze in more writing, sitting up late in their offices and typing away until all hours.  For me it’s a matter of finding bits of time between chasing the dogs, cleaning the house, taking care of the yard, and that occasional jaunt to the gym.  Sadly, I don’t know anyone who has that pool…yet.

Where can readers find you online? Where can they find your work?

The easiest way is to go to my web-page at  There are links to my Amazon Author Page, my Smashwords Author Page, Anthology Builder, and my blog.  If they’d like to read a few of my short stories free, some are posted on my web-page, or go over to Smashwords and download a pair of free stories (The Dragon’s Child: Two Short Stories) for their e-reader

Any upcoming appearances that you would like to mention?

This year I’ll be a guest at both ArmadilloCon (Austin, TX) in August and at FenCon (Dallas, TX) in September.  I hope to see everyone at those…they’re great cons!


You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Fine interview, Jeannette and Tracy!

  2. Matt says:

    Yay, honey! We need to get back to Saratoga Springs.