Maureen interviews epic fantasy author, Cary J. Lenehan
Welcome to my third IFWG author interview for this year! It’s published as part of IFWG’s Uncaching the Treasure’s campaign. I’ve known Kaaron for awhile now and it’s super exciting to be able to talk with her about her work, in particular the re-release of her novel, Slights.
Shirley Jackson award-winner Kaaron Warren published her first short story in 1993 and has had fiction in print every year since. She was recently given the Peter McNamara Lifetime Achievement Award and was Guest of Honour at World Fantasy 2018, Stokercon 2019 and Geysercon 2019. Kaaron was a Fellow at the Museum for Australian Democracy, where she researched prime ministers, artists and serial killers. She’s judged the World Fantasy Awards and the Shirley Jackson Awards.
She has published five multi-award winning novels (Slights, Walking the Tree, Mistification, The Grief Hole and Tide of Stone) and seven short story collections, including the multi-award winning Through Splintered Walls. She has won the ACT Writers and Publishers Award four times and twice been awarded the Canberra Critics Circle Award for Fiction. Her most recent novella, Into Bones Like Oil (Meerkat Press), was shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson Award and the Bram Stoker Award, winning the Aurealis Award.
In the ‘about’ section of your website, you say you wrote a novel at 14 called ‘skin deep’ which you need to type up. What sort of story was it and have the ideas in it shown up elsewhere in your writing? How?
I have typed it up now! This story was hugely inspired by The Outsiders, and followed a very similar story line. Two groups in suburban Melbourne battle it out. I moved beyond this kind of realist fiction into horror and science fiction, for a number of reasons, but I’m still looking at the way we treat each other and the way we judge each other at face value.
What appeals to you about speculative fiction, particularly horror, as a genre? What do you think makes you keep coming back to that horror space?
I love that anything is possible in spec fic. In horror, this means I can explore the afterlife and ghosts, think about what happens to us when we die, and look at crime and punishment in a new way. I keep coming back to horror partly out of habit now! But it’s also because that’s where a story tends to lead me. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been fascinated with the darker side of life, and I’m not a fan of contrived happy endings, so I think that’s a part of it.
In November 2020, Screen Canberra announced development funding to adapt your excellent novel, The Grief Hole, into a film. Are you able to say anything about that project and where it’s at? What’s your role in the collaboration and how are you finding the experience?
This is such an exciting adventure! Josh Koske approached me a couple of years ago, having read The Grief Hole. He saw the filmic possibilities in it and wanted to have a go at making that happen. He’s the main scriptwriter, with me helping as far as elements of character and plot. I’m really loving the experience. It makes me look at my work from a different angle and really forces me to re-examine why I did the things I did on the page. Once you start to collaborate, the work changes, as does the story. We’re having lots of cool discussions about motivations and that sort of thing. I’ll keep you posted on developments!
You’ve lived in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and even Fiji for three years (aside: what were you doing there and please tell me more). How does place come into your story-telling (whether through theme, setting or something else)?
Place is absolutely vital. You absorb the atmosphere of a place you’re in, even if it’s only a visit. The sounds, the smells, the sights. All of that imbues my work. In Fiji, the air is different, and the colours. We were there as part of the diplomatic corps, an amazing experience in itself. I got the chance to make friends with people from all over the world, and to connect with Fijians as well. I explored the streets and shops of Suva, ate food I’d never eaten before, had amazing conversations with fascinating people. It was an unforgettable experience.
And now let’s talk about Slights. Here’s the blurb for those unfamiliar with this novel:
When Stevie Searle almost dies in the accident that kills her mother, she doesn’t see a shining path or a golden light. Instead, she sees everyone she’s ever slighted, waiting to take a piece of her in a cold, dark room. The person whose place she took in the queue, the schoolmate she cheated off, the bus driver she didn’t pay? All waiting. All wanting to take their revenge when she finally crosses over.
Stevie is fascinated by the dark room so she sends herself there again.
Slights is a re-print of one of your novels (first published 2009) and features a pretty disturbing protagonist. Can you tell us a bit about how the idea for that novel started and how you created Stevie (and coped with being inside her head haha).
It was a really intense six months or so, living in Stevie’s head. The first draft was written with a grant for the ACT Government, so I was at home writing solidly for that time. I’d never done that before (apart from a couple of weeks here and there) and I think that total focus helped the intensity of the character.
Stevie was really created out of the concept that hell is a place where everyone you’ve ever slighted is waiting to take a piece of you. I can’t remember how I came up with that idea! But I wrote it as a short story first, then realised I wanted to tell the story of all of those slighted people, so it needed to be a longer work. Once I started to tell their stories, Stevie began to emerge. Each slight helped build her as a person.
I wrote the book three or four times. The final version I completed in Fiji, when my kids were little. So I had that weird situation where I was in Stevie’s head during school hours, then slipping back into my own real life when the kids were home!
Is there a favourite/interesting passage from Slights you could share to tease readers?
I do have lots of favourite bits! There are scary bits and funny bits and sad bits. Part of what I wanted to create around Stevie was a sense of loneliness, even though she has people who care about her.
SO here’s a funny little bit. It’s an essay Stevie writes at school!
The Sacking of Troy
by S. Searle
There are great things afoot in the workings of mankind. Only one man can save the day and it is always a strong man, a good man, a man who shows up on time to work and does not take sickies. A man who has only one girlfriend at a time and does not keep three women waiting while he performs nebulous duties. This man is always honest. This man does not steal food from his employer.
This man is not Troy.
Troy got his job at Woolworths because his big brother worked there for years and was now head manager of the cigarette booth.
Brad had an attendance record which was being noticed in high circles, and he never blew his nose on his sleeve. He was popular because he was going places and there was always a chance he would give out free cigarettes when the floor manager took her tea break.
Brad looked good in his short red coat. He had a smile which was quite believable and a laugh which didn’t shock anybody.
There was no reason to think his little brother Troy would be any different.
Brad knew, but he was under the control of his mother, who insisted Troy be given a chance. She could not see Troy in the light everyone else saw him in, because he was charming and he gave her kisses still, although he was fifteen.
The Starting of Troy caused a stir of anticipation. The customers were no cause for gossip – only the ones who liked to catch the cashiers out in errors. They received slow, painstaking service. The best gossip to be had was about each other.
Troy arrived with sunglasses on, greasy hair, sandshoes. Brad received a word of warning; had he not drilled the dress-code into his brother?
Troy wore scuffed school shoes the next day and declared that his ignorance of the difference between a Naval orange and a Valencia would remain just that.
He began to feel besieged the next day when he did not properly pack a customer’s bags, and he lashed out. Brad was called to speak with him.
“Troy, you must be careful. The people here are very unforgiving. They don’t like temper or any other emotion. Perhaps if you were in Paris things would be different, because the French are a passionate race. But you are here, where we are dispassionate, and you must abide by the laws, however unfair or invasive you find them.”
On his next shift, Troy was discovered having sex with Diana, who had gone out the back for a cigarette and been surprised.
“What can I say? He’s built like a horse. I could hardly resist.”
With that, Troy was sacked.
What’s next on the writing horizon?
I’ve had some good story sales this year so far, but not sure they are all announced yet! I’ve written stories set in a failed world, stories set 5000 metres in the sky, stories set in mythical pubs about cursed brooches. All out this year, I hope!
I’ve got the next two re-releases coming from IFWG. Walking the Tree and Mistification. Really looking forward to having those out in the world again!
Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Kaaron! You can read more about the book at the publisher’s website with Slights available for purchase in all good ebook and print outlets. It is distributed through Gazelle (UK/Europe), Novella (Australia) and IPG (North America).
Welcome to my second IFWG author interview for this year! It’s published as part of IFWG’s Uncaching the Treasure’s campaign. IFWG Publishing moved most of its intended 2020 new release titles into 2021, to offset the impact of COVID-19, in effect caching treasures. They are excited to…
You’ll be seeing a lot more author interviews on this site in the next few months, mainly as part of IFWG’s Uncaching the Treasure’s campaign. IFWG Publishing moved most of its intended 2020 new release titles into 2021, to offset the impact of COVID-19, in…
A new month and a new year! I’ve decided to kick off my author interviews with a foray into the horror genre. Matthew R. Davis is an author and musician based in Adelaide, South Australia, with around sixty short stories published around the world thus far. He won two categories in the 2019 Australian Shadows Awards (Best Short Story and the Paul Haines Award for Long Fiction) and has been shortlisted for both the Shadows and the Aurealis Awards on numerous occasions. When not writing, he plays bass and sings in progressive heavy bands like Blood Red Renaissance and icecocoon, performs spoken word shows with punk poets Paroxysm Press, dabbles in video editing, graphic design, and short film, and explores nooks and crannies with Red Wallflower Photography. His first collection of horror stories, If Only Tonight We Could Sleep, was published by Things in the Well in 2020; his first novel, Midnight in the Chapel of Love, is published by JournalStone in January 2021.
From the blurb of Midnight in the Chapel of Love:
Jonny Trotter has spent the last fifteen years running from tragic memories of the country town where he grew up but now that his father has died, he can run no more. Returning to Waterwich for the funeral with his partner Sloane, Jonny must confront old resentments, his estranged best friends, a strange, veiled woman the locals call the White Widow and the mystery surrounding the fate of his first love.
A morbid and reckless city girl, Jessica Grzelak lived to push the limits and explore the shadows and no-one has seen her since the night she and Jonny went looking for the Chapel. Rumoured to be found in the woods outside Waterwich, mentioned in playground rhymes about local lovebirds Billy and Poppy and their killing spree in 1964, the Chapel is said to be an ancient, sacred place that can only be entered by lovers, a test that can only be passed if their bond is pure and true. Before he can move on to a future with Sloane, Jonny must first face the terrible truth of his past and if he can’t bring it out into the light at last, it might just pull him and everything he loves down into the dark, forever.
So now you’ve had a small intro to Matthew’s writing and life, let the interview begin …
In your bio, you mention a lot of different creative pursuits in your life, including filmography, photography, and musicianship. How do these interests influence your writing?
The more you see and do, the more experience you can pull from for your writing. I’m not a photographer, but spending so much time with a shutterbug (Meg Wright aka Red Wallflower Photography) has increased my interest in the craft and our exploration of abandoned locations has given me enough ideas for a novel on the subject; my love of song, and especially my time in bands, has proved a rich seam of inspiration for stories about music and musicians. I’m into many different artistic disciplines and they all feed into each other to give me a deep pool of experiences, and experience combined with imagination is all you really need to get those ideas flowing.
What’s your favourite short story that you’ve written and why?
That perfect tale I’m yet to write and probably never will. An artist spends their life striving to reach an ideal they can never truly articulate, but through that struggle, great work may be produced.
What speaks to you about the horror genre? Any other horror writers you’d recommend to readers?
I could write an essay or two answering that first question! In a nutshell: I love the freedom, the transgression, the imagination, the universality – not everyone’s been a spy or a detective or a selfish college lecturer who’s unnaturally appealing to beautiful young students, but everyone’s been afraid. And I guess I’ve always just been a bit morbid, because dark subject matter has always appealed to me.
My answer to the second question could just go on and on (and on), but in an effort to be succinct, I’ll limit myself to one old favourite, one modern master, and one new voice. Ramsey Campbell has been a big influence on me since my teenage years, and he’s essential reading for anyone with an interest in sophisticated chills; Laird Barron is an author I follow closely, and his blend of cosmic horror, hardboiled crime, and mind-bending weirdness is unparalleled; and Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth are terrifically enjoyable novels packed with necromancy, mordant humour, and unfettered imagination.
How important is the writing community to you? What kinds of support have you found on your writing journey?
I’m fairly solitary and insular as far as my craft goes – I don’t have a writing group or beta readers or anything like that. I sit in a room and I write and rewrite, and usually the editor of an anthology I’ve submitted to is the first person to set eyes on a story after myself. But I have made a lot of friends in the writing community, both locally and globally, and they’ve proven to be very supportive and helpful – decent, dependable, authentic people. And why wouldn’t they be? Our whole thing is making people up and seeing through their eyes, which requires a certain amount of sensitivity and empathy. Some writers do turn out to be raging arseholes, but the ones I know personally are thoughtful and caring individuals – especially the horror authors.
On the day I’m writing this, I went out for lunch with fellow Adelaide scribe Chris Mason and talked writing and writers for over four hours; Steve Dillon, who published my collection If Only Tonight We Could Sleep, has been a notably helpful figure in my nascent career and through him I’ve met a lot of delightful fellow authors; Scarlett R. Algee, the JournalStone editor who picked up Midnight in the Chapel of Love for publication, has proved an enthusiastic and understanding collaborator. I’m lucky to know these folk and all the rest, and I’m looking forward to meeting many more.
You’ve written and published a lot of short stories, including publishing a short story collection. Midnight in the Chapel of Love is your first novel. Was it hard getting into that novel writing space and do you have any tips for people trying to make the jump from short stories to novel writing?
It wasn’t hard at all, as I’ve been writing novels since I was in high school! This is merely the most recent I’ve written and the first one to actually be published. So as far as tips go, I’d say: if you plan on being a novelist, read widely and start writing novels as soon as you feel up to the challenge… and understand that your first few attempts will be terrible but highly educational. Then, just write and write until you finally crack it. I’ve written eight novels so far and half of them are unpublishable by my current standards. But I learned so much from writing them, and I’ll always love them for that.
Tell us more about Midnight in the Chapel of Love. What inspired the novel?
The initial inspiration came from listening to Something for Kate’s “The Fireball at the End of Everything” as I drove between Port Pirie and Adelaide one afternoon. There’s a line about a passenger putting their feet up on the dashboard and that got me thinking about a couple driving between the city and the country in the summer sun. I asked myself why they were doing this and decided they were heading back for a funeral, that the guy had grown up there and had a past he’d been fleeing for many years. Everything else fell into place after that over the course of the next six months or so, and then the writing began.
How do you think Midnight in the Chapel of Love is different to other books out there? (Give us your elevator pitch.)
“Midnight in the Chapel of Love takes the Australian Gothic by the nape of the neck and drives it deep into the dark, fathomless depths of cosmic awe!”
I don’t really know how this book is different, other than that it was written by me and other books are not, but I do feel it has something substantial to offer. There’s a lot going on under the surface of what appears to be a fairly straightforward mystery, and while the implications are chilling to contemplate, there’s more here than a simple horror story. I’m not trying to distance myself from genre at all – this is just one tale I wanted to tell a certain way, and while it’s intended to keep you guessing and make you shudder, it also turned out to be an examination of the small town/big city divide, variations of Australian masculinity, the intricacies of romantic love, and so much more.
Some friends recently asked me to describe the book and I said, “It’s like Picnic at Hanging Rock with more sex and drugs.” That’s a crassly simplistic and reductive answer, but they laughed and wanted to know more, so I guess that works, too!
What was the hardest part of writing your novel? What was the easiest? Did you have to do any research?
I suppose the hardest part was getting the plot elements to click seamlessly together. There are certain questions that plagued me throughout the writing and only found solid answers as I neared the end. The easiest part would have to be the actual writing – once I knew what I was doing and where I was headed, I could just kick into gear and let the words flow.
Research has become a very important part of my process, because I can’t bear the thought of someone more knowledgeable on a subject than me reading my work and thinking, “Pfft, that’s not how it is.” In this case, I had to look into a great many things – chart hits of the year 2000, post-WWII Polish history, what kind of radio a car in 1964 Australia would have, and so on. I read books on the Narungga people and Australian cave systems. I used to be a lazy researcher, but the advent of the internet means there is no excuse for that. Don’t be a Donny Didn’t-Look – Google that shit or check out a book, and make sure you’re getting it right.
What’s next on the writing horizon for you?
I’m trying to decide which of the short stories clamouring for my attention need to be written next and I’m plotting out two future novels, both of which are proving more complicated than I’d expected! I’m always looking for new opportunities to get my work out there in front of people, new ways to raise my profile.
Thanks for a fascinating interview, Matthew!
More about Midnight in the Chapel of Love …
Matthew R. Davis, winner of two 2019 Australian Shadows Awards, follows the well-received release of his first horror collection If Only Tonight We Could Sleep with the publication of his first novel, Midnight in the Chapel of Love, by JournalStone on January 29, 2021. The book is available for preorders through the publisher’s website with more options available soon. You can find Matthew at his own website here.
How did I come to live in a forest looking like a freak with Betty McLean, leaving school, friends, and family behind? Well for starters, the red-gold leaf was as big as my face. Which is why it was kind of bad it stuck to…
My December author interview is with paranormal Aussie writer L. L. Hunter
So this is a bit exciting … I decided a while back to interview authors to showcase their latest work and so I could learn more about what’s happening in speculative fiction, celebrating with some amazing writers. So, every month I’ll be (hopefully) putting out a new interview. My first interview (again, so exciting!) is with Australian author C. E. Page. She’s just put out her debut novel, Deathborn, and kindly answered questions for readers.
Here’s the blurb for Deathborn:
Corruption is a disease with no cure that ends with a rapid descent into madness and violence. And until now it only targeted mages.
When an infected warden shows up challenging everything Margot thought she knew, she is thrown into the chase to find the impossible cure. But to understand this new revelation she needs someone who knows possession … She needs Nea, and lucky for Margot, her warden friend Garret has been tasked with tracking the rogue necromancer down.
Garret is used to dealing with deadly mages so this should be like any other job: find the mage and deliver her to the king. But from the moment he finds Nea he is dragged into a deadly game of dark secrets and brutal machinations. Now he must make a choice: deliver Nea as promised and place a weapon in the hands of a mad man or deny his king and change the lives of wardens and mages forever.
Now you know about the novel, without further ado, let the interview begin!
Deathborn is an epic fantasy, a genre a lot of readers love. What other fantasy books would you say Deathborn is comparable to? Are there authors or books you’ve been inspired by in writing your own trilogy?
Oh I always find this question a hard one, I am not sure why because I know other writers can easily rattle off a whole list of books that theirs compare to but my mind always goes completely blank. I guess it is similar in feel and theme to a more adult version of Maria V Snyder’s Healer Series or perhaps The Aware by Glenda Larke or maybe (if you tilt your head just right) Medalon by Jennifer Fallon.
Inspiration is much easier not just for this trilogy but for my writing in general; Juliet Marillier and Kate Forsyth, particularly her The Witches of Eileanan series, have both been big influences. But also authors like Jennifer Fallon, Garth Nix and Robin Hobb.
You like playing video games. Have any of the games you’ve played or even the way games work inspired your own story-telling? How?
Most certainly. Games can teach us a lot about story mechanics in the same way a good movie or tv series can; and likewise they are inspiring for many of the same reasons. The biggest inspiration I get from videos games comes in the form of character. I love characters that make you feel, whether you love them or hate them, as long as they make you feel something. Games like Red Dead Redemption, Horizon Zero Dawn and The Witcher Series present inspiring characters and not only in the form of their respective protagonists and antagonists, but the side characters are often well sculpted as well. In this regard video games are not only inspiring in that they make you want to craft characters that make people feel something, but they can also teach you a lot about character development. I often have long, nearly one sided, conversations with my partner dissecting the motives and development of some of my favourite (and not so favourite) game characters and those discussions certainly fire up my inspiration.
Where did you get the inspiration for Deathborn from? Did you do certain kinds of research to create the world and magic?
I’m a discovery writer so I don’t usually go in with a plan. In the case of Deathborn, I sat down to blank page one day and two hours later I had what is now the start of chapter five. I had no idea where the story came from, what truly inspired it, or where it was going but I know it was influenced by my love of magic systems and rich fantasy worlds and I had just finished reading The Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier. Juliet’s books always leave me inspired and chomping at the bit to get my own words down on paper. I didn’t do too much research for the actual worldbuilding and magic system, that just formed organically over time. I did however research writing fight scenes, for which Alan Baxter’s Write the Fight Right was a great little resource. And I also researched herbal medicine and lore, though a lot of the herbs used in the book are purely fictional they are based on herbs found in our world.
In the story, corruption is an important motif (both literally and metaphorically) – what made you want to write about this?
I wish I could say that the corruption motif was intentional from the beginning. It actually evolved over time and is most likely my subconscious processing of the current state of our world. That seething corruption that can cripple empires has always existed; it permeates history and yet we, as a society, do not seem to learn from the mistakes of our ancestors. Once I was aware that the motif was there though I grabbed hold of it and teased it out to the surface. I wanted to highlight that a lot of times the corruption is there before you realise it; it is not always a switch that is flipped and suddenly it is there screaming in your face. It can build over time, sinister and scheming, waiting to make itself known only after it is too ingrained to be easily dealt with.
Whilst I didn’t intend the corruption to be a motif, I did intend to play with the ideas of grey morality. In that everything is not always black and white, that our choices in any given moment can have consequences that we cannot fathom and that our intentions, no matter how noble, can betray us. The road to hell and all that. Both Nea and Garret (protagonist’s in Deathborn) have done morally questionable things in their past with the intention of helping the greater good, but that intention does not excuse them from the ramifications.
What other hobbies do you have outside of writing and how do they inform your writing practice/ideas?
I read of course and not just fantasy, I read a bit of everything, except horror. I also play a lot of video games and I quilt. I put so much of my creative brain into writing that quilting, whilst still a creative endeavour, allows my analytical brain to come out and play. It involves at lot of planning out colour combinations, different block layouts, and how that will all go together to make a quilt. I guess it is kind of like writing a book, you start with the bare bones then flesh it out and put it all together again and then you have a story. That might be how plotters work from the start, I wouldn’t now, the actual plotting for me comes after I already have the second or third draft.
Can you give some spoiler free clues as to where the series will go next?
We will get to see more of the physical world in the next book as events will take us to the neighbouring continent of Osmar. And we will get to explore the Between as well as learn more about lost forms of magic and the seeds that sprouted some of the legends of the world. We will also get a new point of view character and meet an actual god or two.
I haven’t announced it anywhere else yet but I can tell you the title for book two is Brightling.
There are three POV characters in Deathborn. Can you tell readers about these three characters and why you love them? Is one of them more like you than others? Why?
We’ll start with Margot, she was the hardest to write and still is, I always have to do more rewrites of her chapters than anyone else’s. She is compassionate and kind and not as sure of herself as she lets on but I like how that softness of character is tempered by the sometimes stern and no-nonsense attitude needed for her duties as a healer. She is very good at reading a room and knowing exactly what is needed and I admire that about her.
Nea on the other hand is mercurial of mood and has a habit of being reckless with her own safety in the effort to protect others. Her lip chewing, fidgeting and love of peppermint tea are all traits she got from me. She was the first character of the story to come to me and in fact the entire first draft was written in her point of view only. I didn’t add the Garret and Margot chapters until the second draft when the whole story got a massive overhaul. I like her bravery and selflessness, but I do agree with Garret that she could be a little less reckless at times.
Garret is my favourite to write, he’s hard at times too because there is so much going on beneath the surface with him. He’s steady, calculating and prefers to have a plan and Nea drives him mad half the time by ruining those careful plans. Like Margot, he wasn’t going to get a point of view originally. I actually wasn’t sure he was going to survive but I’m glad he did.
It is hard to say who is the most like me as they all inherited some of my traits. However Nea has the most of my mannerisms and general likes and dislikes.
There’s a focus on healing arts, tea and beautiful gardens in parts of the novel. Are these things that are important to you? Tell us more about that.
If you ask me the coffee vs tea question. I will always answer tea, herbal or black, sometimes with lemon and honey or milk but never with sugar. I like to think that everyone in the book has their own signature tea: Nea’s is peppermint and chamomile maybe with tiny bit of vanilla or liquorice for sweetness. Margot’s is something sweet and fruity like apple and berries, and Garret’s is spiced apple perhaps with a little chamomile thrown in for good measure.
The gardens are most likely a reflection of my love for nature. I grew up on one hundred aches of bushland and currently live on a modest acreage in rural suburbia. Gardens and the natural world have always been a big part of my life; I don’t do well in urban settings with little or no greenspaces and this is often reflected in my writing. The fact that Nea goes to the closest garden when she needs to calm herself and gather her thoughts is a good example of this.
As for the healing arts? They fascinate me; both science-based medicine and more wholistic or spiritual modalities that others might consider airy fairy. I think it all has a place and often healing is not just about the physical body, which is where mind mages and necromancers come in the world of Deathborn.
What’s your writing process? What was the hardest part of writing Deathborn? What was the easiest?
As I said before I’m a discovery writer. I don’t plot and plan my stories. I sit down and the words just come out and the story takes form organically. I don’t give any thought to story mechanics or structure until I am rewriting and even then only briefly. It usually starts with a character and from there I explore them and their place in their world. I am not aware of the actual plot or how everything fits together until I have been “living” the story for a while. But that is how storytelling has always been for me. It’s an almost intuitive practice, I’m more of a conduit for the words rather than a careful methodical planner who follows a formula. It is messy and organic and definitely not perfect, but I can’t do it any other way.
The hardest part of writing Deathborn was teasing out the actual story. Because of the organically evolving nature of my drafting process a lot of the early draft was very ambiguous. I knew Nea was different to other mages and that Evard wanted her for more than what had happened in the lead up to her disappearance. But I didn’t know exactly why until about mid-way through the first draft. Once that piece clicked into place, however, everything else pulled together and I could follow the threads linking it all.
The easiest was Garret, once I decided he needed a point of view. Getting inside his head might have been hard but his chapters always flowed so easily and they still do. He is just such a pleasure to write, though the new point of view in book two might be giving him a run for his money.
Could you share your favourite passage from Deathborn for readers?
I would love to unfortunately my favourites scenes are all a bit spoiler heavy. Here’s one I like though:
Sometime in the middle of the night, Nea was woken by someone calling her name. She rose slowly and listened but there was nothing stirring in the darkness. Sliding from the bed, she pulled Emma’s shawl around her shoulders and moved to the door. She leant out into the hallway and listened again. Nothing.
There was a gentle pool of light coming from under Garret’s door but no sounds, and certainly no one in sight. With a shiver, Nea turned to go back to bed but heard it again: a sing-song whisper and the subtle tug of magic at the back of her mind.
She tiptoed down the hall, following the thin string of channelled source, the rush of her own blood in her ears drowning out everything else like she had her head underwater.
When she reached the hall that led to the south wing, she stopped. She drew a slow breath as she watched the shadows, waiting. Then she heard it: the tiniest whispered “Nea … ” and a soft whimper like that of a child. She lifted her foot to step forward, but something closed around her arm and dragged her backwards.
“What are you doing?” Garret put himself between her and the dark hallway. His hair was standing on end, like he’d been running his fingers through it, and his shirt was rumpled, as though he had pulled it on in a hurry.
“I couldn’t sleep.” She tried to edge around him, but he put his arm out to block her path.
“Emil assured me he had warned you about the south wing.” He glanced over his shoulder at the pooling darkness.
“He did, bu—”
“But what? You thought you’d go poking around in there regardless?” He took a step, closing the space between them and forcing Nea backwards.
Nea lifted her hands in defeat. “I heard something, saw something. What’s down there?”
A muscle in Garret’s neck twitched as his jaw tensed. “Nothing of consequence.”
“Neeee-aa.” A sing-song voice drifted from the darkness and Garret turned, pulling Nea behind him and out of sight.
“You’re no fun, Garret. Let the little mage come and play. She smells ever so sweet.”
“Back to your room, Nea.” He took another step backwards, pushing Nea farther away from the wing.
As they moved, she caught sight of the waifish shape of a girl pacing the end of the hallway. Where her bare toes met the wooden floor, a line of rune marks shone in the moonlight. The magic signature was one she knew all too well; it was her father’s. She lifted her gaze and met the ice-blue eyes of the girl. Amelia. A darting pink tongue chased a wicked smile over pallid lips before they drew back to show sharp, impossibly white teeth. The neckline of her nightgown was askew, revealing one very pale shoulder and a small flower-shaped purple birthmark marring the flesh just below the corner of her collarbone. She lifted her hand and curled one finger in Nea’s direction, causing the lank ribbons of her black hair to move over that exposed shoulder like snakes.
Nea felt the hooks of magic digging into her mind and some deep part of her called out in caution. But it was too late. The sticky fingers of Amelia’s keen were past her defences. She twisted around Garret, ducking under his arm and lashing out with her magic when he made another grab for her. He froze as she pressed down against his soul, pinning him in place.
Amelia’s wicked smile widened, the sleeves of her filthy nightgown fluttering as she beckoned Nea forward in earnest.
Thanks so much for the interview today!
You can buy Deathborn from all the usual places by following this universal book link: https://books2read.com/deathborn
C. E. Page has been dreaming up stories of faraway places and strange magics for as long as she can remember. She lives on the east coast of Australia with her partner, Evan, two balls of pure energy in the shape of young boys, and a honey badger masquerading as a dog.
An avid reader and gamer, she loves devouring a good story in whatever form it takes.
You can find her on: Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50368106-deathborn Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cepageauthor and at her Website: http://www.cepageauthor.com
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