Friday, June 25, 2021

Kelsey K. Sather Interview - Birth of the Anima

Photo Credit: Blair Speed

KELSEY K. SATHER lives in Montana. Her stories explore the complexities of human-nature interconnections. While an author of nonfiction essays for over a decade, fantasy remains her first and true love.

She received an MA in Environmental Humanities from the University of Utah, where she attended on fellowship. The resulting collection of essays from her studies, Pulling Up Beets, examines sustainable and equitable food systems at high elevations.

At the University of Montana, she received High Honors in Creative Writing and Environmental Studies. Her thesis assessing the impacts of the U.S.-Peruvian Free Trade Agreement on Amazonian tribes earned a Davidson Honors College scholar distinction.

After teaching at the university level, Kelsey co-managed a writers’ collective for four years, where she facilitated creative writing workshops for all ages. She’s also worked as a skiing and climbing instructor, as well as a baker. When she’s not writing, she enjoys mountain sports and spending time with friends and family.


When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
I don’t know if there was ever a time I didn’t have a creative itch to scratch. As a little girl I loved to make things—books, forts, jewelry, paintings, cookies, you name it. If it could be made, I wanted to try. I even attempted to make an entire house one time out of cardboard and a leftover can of paint from the garage.

As for my book, I’ve wanted to write a fantasy novel since middle school. It took over a decade to start, with plenty of nonfiction writing in-between, but I eventually pursued that dream with the creation of Birth of the Anima.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Connectivity is one of the main reasons I write—connection with Creativity, with self, and with others. Since being published, every note of gratitude or emotional resonance I receive is the most rewarding experience. It’s like a flower that keeps blooming.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Melanie Rae Thon was one of the best writing teachers I’ve ever had. She encouraged us to be curious. We would often do exercises that were ends in themselves. Her instruction to take risks and play on the page was the best guidance I remember receiving in my formal studies as a writer.

In your newest book, BIRTH OF THE ANIMA, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
Birth of the Anima follows an ancient lineage of women who develop powers akin to apex predators. Along with their bestial strength and speed, they inherit the Task to restore ecological Order to the world.

While their histories interconnect, the Animas hail from vastly dissimilar eras and cultures, ranging from an equatorial savanna village to Viking-inspired arctic dwellers to a colonial whorehouse. Immortal, cunning Shapeshifters and Mages trained in the martial arts of plant magic offer their support as each Anima seeks to fulfill the intense and sometimes violent demands of her Task.

As the first book in a fantasy trilogy for adult readers, Birth of the Anima sets the stage of a seemingly impossible undertaking, and yet the hope preserved among the final Anima’s surviving allies.

  • “Oh child, it takes more than blood to make a girl a woman.”
  • What story did she now hold in her possession—and how did this story possess her?
  • “Magic…is the belief that there is a true yet nameless, formidable yet loving energy within everything, and that we, as humans, can enter into this supernatural life force. One needs to believe in this energy first before she may wield it.”
  • She ran so fast it felt reckless. It was reckless, and yet she didn’t stop herself. Some part of her long leashed came unfettered. The way she ran felt as wildly intuitive as childbirth.
  • “There’s a light in you.” He tapped a finger on her chest. “Right there. A beautiful, brilliant light. Art had it. Your mom has it. We all have it. And real bad stuff happens in life. Things you can’t change. We don’t know why, and we don’t have control over most of it. But we do have control, or at least some control, anyways, over how it changes us.”
  • If that older woman could hike by herself, with weight, Elle figured she could, too.
  • “Though are experiences may be as vastly different as our appearances, our reasons share the same blood. We fight for the earth sustaining us all. We fight for the freedom to eat and drink the gifts of the land—gifts given by no man. We fight for our birthright to these gifts. We fight for our animal kin’s right to these gifts. And if we die fighting, we die knowing the earth will take us back in. No man truly owns anyone. We belong only to the earth.”
  • Her body remained curvy, though more muscles had formed within the flesh. She felt honored to live in the strengths of both fat and brawn.
  • “Where there is uncertainty there can be hope.”
  • She could hear the mysterious humming of a life force, pulsating in the tress, rippling within the frozen and flowing waters, ever changing as light and wind around her. This beauty, created by its own will, spoke of something much greater than any singular existence, human or other.
What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
My main goal for the Ancient Language of the Earth trilogy is for readers to feel and appreciate their innate interconnection with one another and the natural world. I want them to discover, or rather rediscover, their kinship with “other,” (both human and non), and feel more deeply compelled to help create a just and ecologically sound world.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Freda?
Freda and Elle were the first characters I met when creating Birth of the Anima. It was my first time writing fiction, and I was surprised to learn that fictional characters are just like real people: they have their own wants and needs, and sometimes these are not aligned with my own wants and ideas for the story. It was a constant surprise to see what my characters would end up doing that day when I sat down to write. This is the magic, and mystery, of fiction writing.

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Ask questions about character motives and reasoning—morality within a story is rarely black and white, good versus bad.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I love this question! I would have Elle meet Gollum from Lord of the Rings. Gollum is such a potent character and metaphor; he is the hyperbole of qualities we all have within us. We loathe and pity him.

I think Gollum teaches us a lot about the complex reality within ourselves, and Elle’s journey in the book is an exploration of her shadow self and the doubt and fear she needs to overcome in order to rise to her life’s calling.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Most forms of procrastination are doubt and fear manifesting as self-sabotage. With this in mind, I do my best to maintain a healthy inner world through journaling, meditation, and talking with friends and family.

  • 1. Anima is the Latin root for spirit. In Jungian psychology, it’s the name for the feminine aspect of the psyche. In my book, it’s the name for a lineage of women tasked to bring humans back into ecological Order.
  • 2. The first draft of the manuscript was 120K words. Only 20K words of that draft made it into the published manuscript. The second draft of the manuscript was over 200K words long. The published manuscript is 155K words in length. Meaning, in eight years of writing, nearly 150K words ended up being “cut” from the published book. (Hence, the iceberg metaphor: what we see in a published book is just the tip of the work that went into it.)
  • 3. I write in the mornings: 99% of the book was written before noon.
  • 4. It was a finalist in the 2021 National Indie Excellence Award for fantasy.
  • 5. The plant magic system was largely drawn from real-life witchcraft, shamanism, and other forms of nature-based spiritual practices.
  • 6. Freda’s cabin was inspired by a real-life place in the mountains of Montana. I read a lot of books about the lifestyles of Rocky Mountain Native Americans and homesteaders to better understand how someone can live solely off the land in a harsh and sometimes hostile mountainous environment.
  • 7. Elle is pronounced like “L.” Freda is Fray-Da.
  • 8. The world the book takes place in is called Aligaea, which roughly translates as “other earth.” I think of Aligaea as an “earth species” in planets. Just like you and I have commonalities and differences as members of the human species, Aligaea and Earth are both alike and dissimilar. I also think of Aligaea as fun-house mirror, reflecting our reality back to us in accurate, diminished, hyperbolized, and otherwise altered ways.
  • 9. Geometric shapes and patterns held as sacred in a variety of real-life cultures across space and time play fundamental roles in the book’s plot: primarily, the Golden Ratio and the Flower of Life/Metatron’s Cube pattern.
  • 10. The concept of the “Order” is based off the scientific theory of ecological balance: a state of equilibrium can be achieved in a biotic community when a natural system of checks and balances allows for species diversity and population stability. Its counterargument is chaos theory. Both theories play a role in the book’s plot and themes.
Best date you've ever had?
I love climbing with my husband. Any time we get out on rock together is the best date. J

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
I would go back to my high school self, when I was struggling with body image, belonging, and confidence. I would tell her to stand tall, feed her body well, stretch, get outside more often, and read more books. I’d also take her rock climbing. Then I’d give her a big hug and tell her that she’s amazing.

I think that age—from middle through high school—is when many of us learn to self-abandon: meaning, we act and think in ways that are born out of fear and a desire to “fit in,” rather than true to who we are. It has taken years to trust my intuition again and love myself for who I am, rather than who I think I need to be. It remains an ongoing process, but I’m doing my best to heal and grow.

If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional. with whom would it be?
I’d love to be Jane Goodall in the 1960s, when she was conducting her radical, perception-changing chimpanzee research.

What is one unique thing are you afraid of?
I have a medical phobia of shots.

First Heartbreak?
When my high school crush started dating one of my best friends.

What is your most memorable travel experience?
Riding a moped around the entire Greek island of Kalymnos in the Mediterranean comes to mind, but I also had a lovely time living with a family in Trujillo, Peru for six weeks. Traveling is one of my favorite things to do; learning more about cultures and different ways of living, on the ground and in books, informed a lot of the writing that went into Birth of the Anima.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
True love. Always.

Where can readers find you?
In my monthly newsletter, I write a “love letter” and also send out writing tips, reading lists, upcoming events, and exclusive sneak peeks:
I’m also on Instagram: @kelseyksather

Over millennia, across the seven seterras of Aligaea, twelve women—the Anima—develop powers akin to apex predators. Along with their bestial strength and speed, they inherit the Task to restore ecological Order to the world. Yet fulfilling the Task seems improbable as the Imperium spreads a plague of ecocide and despotism across the land, ushering in the apocalypse with its infectious Disorder.

Stout and smart Freda Johansson leaves behind a promising career, love, and community to seek the red-capped mushroom capable of turning her into the final Anima. Whether it's plant magic or free will guiding her from emerald forests to austere peaks, she doesn't care. She only needs to find the mushroom before the Imperial Forces can seal the catastrophic fate of the planet.

The sacred balance of Life depends on the birth of the Anima—but even then, she must choose to own her powers as both woman and wild beast.

You can purchase Birth of the Anima at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you KELSEY K. SATHER for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Birth of the Anima by Kelsey K. Sather.


  1. "If you could go back and change one day, what would it be?" A very, very bad day, indeed!

  2. I wouldn't change anything. Everyday ive had in life has been a lesson weather a tough one, a sad one, a happy one they all made me who i am today!

  3. I would like to change a few days.One of them is the day of my car accident that almost killed me but instead left me with severe problems since then... it was in 1974.

  4. I met someone years ago when i was in college. I didn't make a move. I wonder what would have happened if i tried.

  5. It was twenty years ago.. My twin sister asked me to wake up to meet someone online, but I should have just stayed asleep.