This is an updated version of an interview I did back in September 2011 with Elisa Nuckle, the Assistant Editor for Divertir Publishing LLC, about my book Dragon’s Teeth.
1. Tell a little about yourself, what you do for a living when you’re not a penmonkey, where you’re from, and so on.
I’m a bit of a nomad. I grew up in South Africa but have since lived in Australia where I was a piano teacher and now I’ve settled in Finland, but for who knows how long. I don’t want to live in the same place forever. I write freelance journalism articles between my studies. I’ve just completed a Master’s in Music, Mind and Technology and hope to continue a doctorate in creative writing, specifically science fiction at some point. When not writing I try to play some flute, piano and guitar. I love being outdoors, sun or snow, and enjoy sports like cycling, tennis, rollerblading and skating. My shiba inu pup, Lego, keeps me pretty busy too.
2. When and why did you start writing?
I’ve been writing since I was a child. I tried to write my first novel at 11 – it was terrible! Hopefully, my writing has improved since then. I always loved words, reading and writing them and being able to escape into imagined worlds – that’s probably the main reason I started writing, to escape the mundane.
3. Did any particular novels influence you as a child — or even now?
As a child I loved picture books about mythology like Brother Eagle, Sister Sky. That hasn’t really changed. I love mythology and my writing tends to be of the ‘mythpunk’ persuasion. I’ve actually always been more into epic fantasy and works by Juliet Marillier and Caiseal Mor first introduced me to Celtic mythology in fiction. As an adult, more aware of writing as a craft, I’d say works by Neil Gaiman and Poppy Z Brite have been most influential in terms of prose and plot, I often refer back to my favourite passages in their novels to see how they did it and why it worked. Evan Wright and Jon Krakauer are my journalistic idols.
4. Your debut novel Dragon’s Teeth was released in November. Tell us a bit about it.
Dragon’s Teeth evolved from a short story idea and became a novel during NaNoWriMo. The book is perhaps best described as dystopian noir. The story follows two protagonists in two very different times and cities, one a Detective battling against corporate empires bent on controlling procreation through eugenics programmes and the other a genetically engineered soldier who is forced to confront the ugly truths of his existence. It’s a gritty tale, like a black and white film with the occasional splash of colour.
5. Where’d you get the idea for Dragon’s Teeth?
Divertir Publishing was looking for anthology submissions in the noir genre. I wanted to write something ‘tech noir’, in the style of one of my favourite films Equilibrium. I’m also fascinated by soldiers, the whole psychological paradigm of being a soldier and what it means to ‘serve’ in the military and put your life on the line. I grew up watching Dark Angel and it was re-watching that series that solidified my idea about combining a detective story with a story about a soldier within the noir genre. As a fan of Orwell and Huxley, I’ve always enjoyed writing in dystopian settings.
6. What was your favorite part to write?
Hm… Really tough question. I think the world building, describing the two cities, how the society functioned, and why people lived as they did. I also enjoyed writing the action scenes. I’m more of a literary writer so this was a big departure from my comfort zone but I really enjoyed writing the faster, more punchy narrative as required in action scenes. I enjoyed writing the soldier parts too. I did quite a bit of research and it was a great feeling being able to write more accurately, even if it was only 2 sentences about patrol formations.
7. Dragon’s Teeth is an interesting title. How’d you come up with it?
The title is thanks to my boyfriend. He gave me a book on monsters for Christmas and one of the anecdotes about dragons involved the story of Jason in Greek mythology, who planted dragon’s teeth and grew the fiercest warriors known on earth. Since my story deals with unnatural soldiers the title seemed to fit. But I think many meanings may be inferred from the title.
8. Are you working on any other projects?
I write constantly! I’m working on several short stories and am hoping to get them published, one was already published by Static Movement. I’ve also completed another novel length manuscript, again mythology inspired, which is in the revision process at the moment. I’m really hoping this one finds its way onto a few bookshelves one day. I have to write almost daily, otherwise I get very grumpy and unpleasant to be around.
9. Do you have any advice for other debut authors?
I think the most important thing for a new/young writer is to be open to criticism. Take a step back from the manuscript and look at where it needs to be improved without taking the criticism personally. I was so afraid of opening my first set of edits, expecting to be heart broken that my precious words had to be altered. It was actually the most liberating and rewarding experience, realising that with constructive criticism my manuscript can go from ok to awesome.
10. Now I have to ask this: do you have any secret trade weapons? You know, coffee, a limitless number of pens, a muse that never stops singing.
Coffee! I can’t start writing without it. Music – whenever I’m lacking in creativity I’ll find music that suits what I’m trying to write and get into the ‘zone’ with that. Dragon’s Teeth was written to albums by the band God is an Astronaut. As a writer it’s very easy to isolate and sit behind a PC all day but I’ve found I write the best when I’ve been out and lived a little; life experience is still the best inspiration.
Thank you to Elisa Nuckle and Divertir Publishing.