No, my fingers didn’t slip. This week’s interview is with me! Since I can’t interview myself, I invited previous blog guests to turn the tables and give me a question. They came up with some really great questions! I enjoyed my turn in the interview hotseat and think that you’ll agree that the questions everyone gave me were a lot of fun! Topics span from my latest release, Morgen Curse, to my writing in general–and beyond!
Since turnabout is fair play, I have a question for you. I read and loved Thorns and Fangs, and felt the sexy steam sizzling off the pages of the book. How do you make such dark, vampire characters so intoxicating and appealing? Were you influenced by my favorite television shows Dark Shadows and Dante’s Cove?
I’m really pleased you enjoyed Thorns and Fangs, Joe! But serious confession time here. While Dark Shadows is on my radar (I have heard so much about it from you and other sources that I really want to actually watch it), I’ve never actually seen it. In fact, there is a lot of television I haven’t seen.
When I was 12-14, my family was living in a small pacific island nation, that had three radio stations, one movie theatre in the capital city, and that was it as far as broadcast entertainment went (also, that one movie theatre played the same movie the entire time we lived there). I got out of the habit of watching TV and…never really got back into it.
Is your sequel going to feature the same main characters as Deep Magic?
Morgen Curse doesn’t feature the same main characters as Deep Magic, but it does open the door to a meeting between them all … which is going to be amazing.
Deep Magic involved Welsh mythology. With the sequel, did you have to do any additional mythological research? And did you incorporate any other myths or legends?
I did research, but it wasn’t mythological. Morgen Curse is set on and around the Antipodes Islands, an uninhabited island group in New Zealand waters. Most of my research was centred around wikipedia, the Million Dollar Mouse and questioning my mum and stepdad about their experiences visiting other island nature reserves (having scientists in the family really came in useful!).
I did consider incorporating Maori mythology into the mythos of this world via Zane, who, despite his European name, has Polynesian blood, but I decided against it on the ground that I’d need to do a lot more research in order to do it properly, and I think that might be better suited for another story. I’m worried about moving too far from the original heart of Deep Magic.
When you write main characters with magic or powers, do you deliberately think about giving them human flaws so the reader will empathize?
I don’t think about it in terms of flaws, but I start character building with a problem. What does my character want? What is stopping him from getting it? Usually the problem stems from something internal because those problems are a lot harder to overcome and necessitate growth–I am a huge sucker for character growth.
I agree that flaws are especially important for characters with powers based on my own initial impression of Superman as overpowered and uninteresting. It wasn’t until I picked up an issue and discovered that he struggles to talk to his boss, and that he and Lois have to work at their marriage, and that he has a lot of difficulty coping with loss that he became real to me–recent terrible costume choices aside (Superman, please. You are stealing Kon-El’s fashion choices! Do you not remember the trainwreck that was 90s Superboy?)
Do you avoid reading paranormal while you are writing it to keep your world-building focused, or is it not an issue?
I did when working on Thorns and Fangs, aside from re-reading Dracula and Carmilla to put me in the vampire mood–and I think this was a mistake. Not only did I miss out on some amazing reads, but seeing what other people are doing in the genre since I published has given me increased drive and enthusiasm that I wished I’d had earlier! Rather than feeling discouraged, I am impressed and challenged to make my stories even better.
I know that a lot of authors fear accidentally plagiarising others, but spotting similarities between my work and other writers that happened completely unwittingly has made me think it is better to be aware of possible similarities so that you can concentrate on giving them your own unique spin rather than remaining ignorant and potentially being blindsided by them.
I made the conscious decision while working on Deep Magic to seek out other merman stories and I am really glad I did. Reading Arielle Pierce’s In the Lonely Sea and The Song of the Sea in particular really brought the Welsh Coast’s intertidal peculiarities home to me in a way that no amount of wikipedia articles and pinterest boards could. Deep Magic is a much better story for it!
What was the first book you read that left you wishing the magic or world in it was real?
I feel like I talk about The Changeover by Margaret Mahy a lot, but the first time I picked it up, I felt like it was written for me. It’s a YA coming of age story that combines rite of passage with saving a younger brother from an awful vampire-like monster. Laura, with her wooly hair and chaotic family was instantly relatable, and I loved the way she took in witches and magic with perfect composure. Sorry, with his decision to work for the Department of Conversation, also struck a chord (one that echoes in Morgen Curse — my mother and stepfather both worked for DOC ). Most importantly, they were New Zealanders, and at that point, attending my second international school in Singapore, the only kiwi in my class, that meant a lot.
I don’t think I consciously wished The Changeover was real, it just seemed real to an extent that influenced me. I found out years later that it was set in the city I went to University in, and I suspect that I had a flat in the house the witches lived in–I once found a figure made of sticks left in a bath in a garden and occasionally there would be rune like marks in chalk on the front steps or path.
Sam, editor at NineStar Press.
Does your travel impact your writing at all, and if so, how can we see that influence?
I’ve been travelling since such an early age that it is hard for me to identify all the ways travelling has influenced me. Living across cultures and attending schools with classmates from very different countries and with very different belief systems meant that I am very conscious that there is more than one way of interpreting events! My characters often have opposing viewpoints, and my stories sometimes have loose ends that don’t tie nicely together as a result. I suspect that’s symptomatic about my ambivalence about my place in the world! I’m a New Zealander who has lived longer outside her country than in it. People tell me I’ve lost my accent, and I actually had to recruit a New Zealand beta-reader for Morgen Curse because I was not confident in my ability to write a kiwi character!
On a more positive note, loving to travel has helped me write settings because I know what I notice and enjoy when visiting a new place for the first time. Deep Magic was an absolute blast to write, because immersing myself in the Llyn Peninsula allowed me to indulge my travel fix. Olly, returning to Wales after a long absence and being something of an exile himself, was very easy to write, as I could relate to his desire for a place to call home very easily!
If you had only one book you could read for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Okay, now this question is just plain mean. I’m torn between either The Complete Jane Austen (she is amazing, and her comedic timing is perfect), or the Collected Works of Dorothy L. Sayers (mystery plus a slow-burning romance between two amazing characters). Bur seriously, just one book!? You are an evil, evil person, Sam.
There’s a lot of supernatural creatures with definite sex appeal out there. What is it about vampires that you find so appealing?
This is another really good but really tough question! Much as I love the novel Dracula, I don’t find Dracula sexy. There is something compelling about his inherent danger and the threat he poses to the unknowing characters. Carmilla has the same element of danger, but Carmilla herself does more complicated things for me.
Some modern vampires are more uncomplicatedly sexy in their appeal, but for me, there is a tendency for them to lose their appeal once they become mundane. I think it all comes down to the combination of danger and the unknown.
And that’s the interview. My cold seems to be finally, finally, on the mend. If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer on camera, let me know!
In the meantime, Morgen Curse is now available on iBooks! You can find it here.