Today we welcome Nerine Dorman, South African speculative fiction writer and the author of the YA fantasy The Guardian’s Wyrd. (See my review of The Guardian’s Wyrd here.)
What do you fear?
Probably my worst would be to be incapacitated yet conscious of my predicament. Also losing control of my faculties. A few years ago I had a seizure in a crowded train during rush hour. This was not an experience I’d care to repeat. For days afterward my short-term memory was shot, and simply not remembering… Very scary indeed.
If for some reason you could no longer be a writer, what would be your second-best calling?
Definitely something to do with landscaping or horticulture. I love being in gardens, especially when they are visited by wildlife. It’s like a whole secret world where your plants have their little stories. Different times of the year are marked by various blooms or fragrances.
I had my Storyteller books and cassettes that served as an introduction to many classics. I listened to them until the tape got stretched and my little tape deck’s movable parts eventually fell off. Some favourite stories include Gobolino the Witch’s Cat and Groger the Ogre. Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant and The Happy Prince made me cry. I was frightened to death by a particular Japanese story about a boy who painted cats that came to life after dark and slew a demon rat.
Besides yourself, who do you recommend for readers unfamiliar with South African authors?
Fantasy lovers *must* give Cat Hellisen a try. Then of course SL Grey for horror, and also the two authors behind that name–Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg. If you’re interested in something a bit different, then Rachel Zadok. For South Africans abroad, I suggest Suzanne van Rooyen and Richard de Nooy. And if contemporary YA is your thing, look toward Sally Partridge. Definitely pick up any of the Something Wicked magazines and anthologies, as well as local publisher Umuzi.
What advice do you give to writers wanting to breathe fresh life into familiar tropes?
Be brutally honest with yourself: has this been done before? If so, look at the top five in the trope, then ask yourself how you can make it completely different. If you can’t, then maybe just write some fanfiction and get it out of your system.
There is much lamenting in the media about the youth of today and their apparent disinterest in reading. Do you think this is true? What would you say to entice a reluctant teen reader away from her computer screen and into a book?
The savvy author will find out what kids want and tap into it. How are they consuming their media? How can you get them to try something new or indeed reach them. For instance how many authors are considering mobile platforms and apps? I think media is diverse which might give the appearance that people are reading less.
One vast, untapped potential writers are ignoring is video game culture, which is just begging for adept storytellers to flex their literary muscles. I myself have written stories that are included in gaming manuals. I’m also very keen to start writing for comic books. Writers need to think beyond the book. You are a storyteller first. Medium comes second.
Your other novels are decidedly adult in theme and content – what prompted you to write a YA novel? Was it difficult writing for a different audience?
I do believe these distinctions in age group are irrelevant. I do admit that I love the idea of writing a series where readers can watch the hero grow, and origin stories are a favourite of mine. I want to get to know the hero *before* he learnt to swing a sword.
When I write a novel, I work with the inspiration as it arrives. Sometimes my characters are kids. Sometimes they’re adults. It’s pretty much luck of the draw when it comes to my imagination.
What real-life influences have you drawn on in The Guardian’s Wyrd?
Mostly I’ve drawn on my childhood growing up in Hout Bay. The dog, the houses… And the frustration of not fitting in–that pretty much sums up my teenage years. My dog Sandra, a Belgian Shepherd, was my closest friend. Oh… And when I was 16, I was totally convinced I was going to be a rock star! That hasn’t changed!
What comes next – is The Guardian’s Wyrd intended to be a standalone novel, or will we be hearing more from Jay and Rowan?
A series yes. I do envision a bunch of stories as the two get along. More characters are introduced and book 2, The Shadow Gates, is plotted and pottering along.
If you had to live a day in the life of one of the characters in The Guardian’s Wyrd, who would it be and why?
I am terrible and admit a fondness for Queen Persia. She is a forbidding woman, but I admire her for being like a she-lion when it comes to defending her son. She’s not the nicest person you’d ever meet, but she’s strong and won’t take orders from a man.
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