Katie Daysh is an author from the Isle of Wight who loves to explore unheard voices in fiction. In her main genre, historical fiction, she enjoys placing queer characters at the heart of the narrative. Her stories are often set on the sea and illuminate themes of friendship, loyalty and mental health issues. As an ace/aro girl with anxiety, these topics are things very important for her to show! Her debut novel, the queer Age of Sail adventure, Leeward, is published through Canelo in 2023, followed by two other stories in the trilogy. She is known as empiresofwater on Wattpad, and KDayshAuthor on other social media. In her regular life, she works in retail.
Where it began
I have been writing stories for as long as I can remember. As a child, I loved writing fanfiction of such random fandoms as Tomb Raider, Harry Potter and Crash Bandicoot (showing my age here lol), as well as a strange amount of stories about dinosaurs. I filled books and books worth of notepads and pieces of scrap paper. I still love writing fanfiction (and some of my original stories have sprouted from fanfiction ideas!) but it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I started exploring my own original fiction. The first genres I wrote in were fantasy and horror, being a bit of a weird kid who loved Gothic stuff and ghosts and ghouls.
My first original stories tended to explore narratives of young girls and women who did not quite fit in which, as a writer, I feel is a common thing to believe about yourself! The first two stories I remember investing a lot of time in were: Alpha, an adventure about a girl surviving against a pack of tyrannical wolves, and Canary Cottage, a horror following a woman trying to discover the truth about a horrible old house. Horror is still something I love to write, a genre full of outcasts and creepy thrills.
Since I was a teenager, I have been sharing stories online. I love the communal feel of a lot of story-sharing websites. I began on places such as fictionpress and fanfiction.net and then moved onto Tumblr where I loved posting little snippets of ongoing ideas I had. At this point, I had countless stories on the go at once but only a handful of ones I planned to turn into more ‘novel-length’ stories. I kept writing fantasy and horror, while also trying out science fiction. This cemented in me the love of writing about people isolated in extreme environments: something that played into my adoration for sea and exploration stories.
Sharing writing online has always been a big motivator for me. I joined Wattpad in 2017 but only really started using it to post writing from 2020 during the Covid lockdown. Building an audience on there and making some amazing friends amongst writers and readers has been an amazing experience. Leeward, my debut novel from Canelo, was originally a story shared to Wattpad. The site gave me the focus and drive to want to pursue writing more seriously as a potential career. It made me fall in love with writing queer historical fiction and sea stories. I still share stories on the site under the username empiresofwater.
My publishing journey
I was extremely fortunate, in 2022, to be approached by the amazing folks at Canelo, a UK press focusing on genres such as adventure and historical fiction. They offered publication for Leeward and two other books following the two naval officers, Nightingale and Courtney. This truly is a dream come true for me. I am so excited to be able to share my stories to a wider audience.
Living by the sea, I have always been inspired by stories set on the waves. As a kid, I loved films like Jason and the Argonauts and Poseidon Adventure. I adore the ocean as a setting: a place where characters are forced to confront themselves and their journeys, as well as battling the elements. Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series is a favourite of mine, as well as Moby-Dick and Jules Verne. I love narratives of characters fighting against the odds, and ensemble casts working together. AMC’s The Terror is something I repeatedly come back to as an example of nuanced, powerful historical characters. Non-historical media also inspires me. For instance, I absolutely love sci-fi such as Alien and The Thing!
History has always been a fascination for me, from when I was young, reading about Ancient Egypt, through studying the American West in high school, to now, writing about the Age of Sail and Regency period. I studied History at the Open University and still love to read historical publications. I enjoy approaching historical periods from different perspectives, such as centralising queer narratives. This is something very important to me to portray as I feel it is under-represented in historical fiction.