Tuesday, June 3, 2014



1. When/why did you decide to become a writer?

Not until my late teens. I always hear of writers who started when they were children, but I was always a reader first. I wanted to be a librarian. I loved the idea of spending every day in the library surrounded by books. Progressing to writing was a natural overspill.

2. What authors inspired you when you were younger? What books do you enjoy reading today?

I read everything I could get my hands on as a child. My favourite was probably Roald Dahl, who is undoubtedly one of the greats of children’s literature. I read his stories to my son now, and they’re just as magical as they always were.
I have a special love of fantasy and science fiction, but I’ll read any genre if it’s an interesting story. I could write a whole book on all the authors I love, but I’d say top of the tree are probably Stephen King, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.

3. What was the inspiration behind your novella The Secret Dead?

I wanted to write a realistic fantasy, even if that sounds like an oxymoron. I liked the idea of exploring zombieism as more of a communicable disease and personal tragedy, rather than the standard ‘bite 'em and chop their heads off’ narrative.

4. How did you choose which paranormal creatures to use in the story?

The original story was more focused on Ben as a winged boy, and the history of his people, (the working title was The Winged Boy), but as the story evolved, Malcolm became the more natural focus. When I started writing, zombies weren’t such big thing (yup, it was that long ago) and I made a deliberate decision not to have any werewolves or vampires because so many paranormal novels focus on them.
I wanted to look at the animals that share our lives and then make the shifters shaped by humankind’s psyche. The natural inclination might have been wolves a thousand years ago, but a modern shifter would more likely be a housecat or a pigeon. I liked the idea of going with those.

5. Were any of the characters' personalities inspired by real people?

Not really. Real people aren’t as weird and interesting as fictional ones. It’s much more fun to make them up from scratch. However, I have known a good few men who are as handsy as Malcolm, so they might be out there wondering, ‘Is this me?’
The answer to that is a definite no. Malcolm is his own person, although anyone thinking Malcolm was inspired by them should probably take it as a sign they should be a little less swarmy.

6. Will we ever see Vivia or any of the other characters again in the future?

Definitely. The sequel to The Secret Dead will be out later this year, and focuses more on Vivia and her family. We know from The Secret Dead that Vivia doesn’t know much about being a hag. She’s pretty much been winging it, which has led to some big mistakes. In the next book, she’s going to delve deeper into her history, and discover the reason she is one of the last of her kind.

7. What is it about the paranormal that attracts you?

Everything! Who wouldn’t want to be immortal, or read minds, or fly, or shift into an animal? Paranormal fiction is an incredible escape.
It also offers so many opportunities for the writer to use metaphors for our own world.  I love reading other genres, but I can’t really imagine writing anything that didn’t have a paranormal or fantastical twist.

8. If you could have supernatural powers, which would they be?

I’d have to go for immortality. The world is such a fascinating place and it’s frustrating that I may only get eighty or so years (if I’m lucky) to enjoy it. If I couldn’t have that, I’d like to be able to read minds. People can be so odd sometimes and I'd like to know how their brains work.

9. Is there any symbolism behind Vivia being unable to raise Sigrid properly?

There wasn’t any planned symbolism, but the relationship between Vivia and Sigrid is something I thought about in detail. The number of people who care for elderly or disabled relatives is growing and it can put an enormous amount of pressure on the carer, especially if they have little support. It’s a topic we see surprisingly little of in fiction and one I wanted to address.

10. Between all of the highly fictional content, a lot of the story's other themes (family dramas, etc.) are very real.  Did you intend to mix reality and imagination in the beginning?

Yes, that was very much deliberate. So many paranormal novels are about very powerful characters who are alpha werewolves, or king vampires, and it’s all about a big citywide or even worldwide power struggle. I wanted to create a world where the paranormal is every day, and see what it’s like for ordinary people (whether human or not) living in that world.

11. Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?

I hope I’ll have a nice long trail of books behind me, and if I’m lucky I’ll be making a living from it. I have basic plots drawn up for the next three books in the Vivia Brisk series, but I’ve also got other stories begging to break through and get written. Ten years should be enough time for me to get them all out there.

12. What author (dead or alive) would you love to collaborate with?

I’d make a terrible collaborator. I am a very fiddly writer. I write scraps of prose and dialogue as they come to me, and then have to rearrange them to make a vaguely coherent story. I also keep changing the story as I go, whenever a better path presents itself. I’ve never been able to start a first draft and just keep going to the end. I’d drive anyone working with me nuts.

13. Are you working on anything new that you can share with KSR?

The only thing I’m working on right now is the next Vivia book. I have a very strict rule against starting anything new while I’m still working on something else. If I didn’t, I’d never finish anything.

14. Would you like to see a TV show or film made out of The Secret Dead?

Definitely! I think every writer would love to see their story on screen. I didn’t have any particular people in mind when I was writing it, but I’ve since had readers tell me they pictured certain actors when they read it, and I’ve thought: ooh, yes!

15. Thank you for participating in the interview! Can you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?

This was a surprisingly hard question to answer. I tend to live in my own head because that’s where all the interesting stuff is. My outside is a little duller. Let’s see:
1. I’m a natural introvert, and if it weren’t for my family, would probably go weeks without talking to anyone, except for online.
2. I am a coffeeholic. The Secret Dead was written twenty-percent by me, and eighty-percent by caffeine.
3. I’ve lived in two countries (South Africa and England), and am planning a move to a third (Australia). I love exploring and can’t imagine only ever living in one place.

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1 comment:

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