Hey all! Da’Kharta here. It’s my first time participating in the All Authors Blog Blitz and I have a special visitor, Nina Smith. Glad to have you here and that I didn’t ask too many strange questions.
courtesy of Ishtar Photographics
1. If I was a fly on your wall (and you agreed not to squish me), let us glimpse into your typical day. You can be as descriptive as you want.
Get out of bed. Feed the chickens. Appreciate the early morning view of hills and sky. Take a deep breath. Then, get the child up get him dressed get me dressed get breakfast ready check Facebook in case the internet blew up overnight get the child on the school bus. Take a deep breath. Drive to work for fifteen minutes down a winding highway through rolling green hills, glassy water and fog. Unless its summer, in which case it’s all that without the green, the fog or the water. Go to my office. Spend a lot of time processing other people’s articles. If I’m lucky, head out to chase an article or two of my own. If I’m super lucky, do that somewhere I’ve never been before. I’ve taken my old, rusty, trusty chariot down some pretty funky dirt roads sometimes, arrived at some stunningly beautiful places and occasionally got up close and personal with wildlife. Did you know emus are enormous?
Knock off work. Go home. Clean up kitchen cook dinner make beds. Sit and eat in front of whatever series we’re watching. Big GOT fans. Make sure the child is fed, showered, teeth cleaned, in pyjamas, the eggs are collected and the chooks put to bed. Read a bedtime story. We’re currently reading through Guards Guards by Terry Pratchett. This is usually followed by an in depth psychological analysis of where the dragons came from and whether burping really would make them explode. Once the child is tucked up and presumably going to sleep, I have about three hours before bed to write, edit, photoshop, or scroll through social media with a vacant, glazed stare and a vague sense of guilt. Ah, the glamour.
2. Does the cat cause the thirty chickens to get grouchy or do the chickens have a predisposition to moodiness?
Well, it’s complicated. We have one bantam who exercises her right as an independent chicken to not stay in the chook yard. Sometimes the cat tries to catch her, which causes a certain amount of drama, and makes me grouchy. However, for the most part it’s the breed. We have a lot of game bantams, who are a naturally antisocial breed. They’re somewhere between the goths of the chicken world and agoraphobic office workers stuck in traffic on the way home. Which is to say, they don’t particularly like anyone or anything, with the possible exception of each other’s eggs when they get broody. The other breeds we have – Isa Brown and Plymouth Rock – are usually of a far more placid temperament, but with the game bantams in the yard, no chicken wants to be seen being cute and cuddly with the humans. Of course you also need to add into the mix the feral guinea fowl who hangs out in the yard most of the time and fights them for food. That makes every bird there positively cranky.
3. Is belly dancing something any one can do, even the beginner?
Absolutely! Belly dancing is an art form that takes nothing more than a willingness to explore and increase the limits of your body and the way it moves. That said, I would put one caveat on it: you really need to like shiny things.
4. How does the art of theatrical and gothic belly dance affect your mood and integrate itself in your writings?
Dancing for me is an emotional thing. Theatrical and gothic belly dance both create space in which the dancer can channel their mood into creating a character, an emotion, a mood in a dance – it’s part of a package, for want of a better word. If I wanted to explore anger, for example, then I might choose some intense music, perhaps a heavy/industrial track; then I would think about how to channel that anger. Dance can tell stories, where the body creates images in the same way that words do. Closed fists and stomping feet tell a different story to graceful butterfly hands and pointed toes.
I should probably make the point I don’t always take dancing from or to a dark place. Dance is and should be about joy, colour and life, and this too tells stories about life experience. It is an art form that gives the freedom to explore the full range of human emotions, in their joy, their sorrow, and most of all their intensity.
Dancing and writing complement each other. In my writing I explore emotions and the different ways people relate to each other through words and images. In dance, I try to translate those experiences through body movement, costume, music and mood.
5. I was perusing the Ana Khist Designs and Photography page and came across a design to die for. What inspires you and can some of those be customized for those women a bit more on the voluptuous side?
Glad you liked it! I am inspired by shapes. I adore steampunk. The Victorian look offers so many interesting shapes and angles through the use of bustles, fitted, rigid tops, flared skirts and coats, top hats and so on – it is a very angular, precise, finished look, that has an appealing elegance.
These looks can be very flattering for the voluptuous woman. Being a trifle voluptuous myself by modern standards, I tend to make a lot of costumes at a size 18/20 if I’m not making for a specific person. I have always found it frustrating that the fashion industry seems to think any girl above a 14 either doesn’t exist or should be wearing a sack. I make a point when I have the opportunity of creating drop dead gorgeous outfits for voluptuous ladies.
6. What is your favorite fabric to work with design wise, and does it vary depending on the type of outfit?
Good question! I like to work with good quality drill cottons, suedes, velvets (although not the stretchy penne velvet, I hate that stuff). The fabric used can change the whole look and function of an outfit. I like to contrast fabrics too. A shiny satin can easily look tacky if used as a whole outfit, but as embellishment to a more sober fabric, can look amazing.
7. What is your strategy as it pertains to writing a novel?
I start by writing down all the random ideas for the story for a period of time. When I have a lot of those, I organise them into a timeline, embellish, plot, break it all down into chapters. I write out characters descriptions to keep details consistent. Only then do I start the actual novel. I may not stick to my outline – in fact it usually evolves with the story – but I find I need that detailed plan there. If I don’t know what’s happening next, or two chapters on, or at the end, then I have nothing to aim at and I get stuck.
8. What about your mood determines whether you will write a fantasy or a thriller?
Sometimes I want to live in the real world. Sometimes I want to escape it. However it’s more complicated than that. When I write thrillers, I tend to be exploring things in the real world that disturb or discomfort me. I love to write in that real world setting, too, because there is a unique challenge in taking everyday things and making them sharp, making them intense enough to draw a reader into a world that is both familiar and strange.
Fantasies are a whole different thing. When I write fantasy I am still exploring things that disturb me, but they are wider cultural things. I have to admit I spend a lot of time in my fantasy world, Shadow, poking fun at, well, pretty much everything.
9. Do you have a favorite passage in one of your books? If so, kindly share an excerpt.
Pierus strode down the tunnel. Hippy hurried to keep up. Poppy walked beside her, her light bobbing around their feet.
“He your boyfriend?” Poppy whispered.
“Ew! He’s way too old.” Hippy screwed up her nose in disgust.
“No, he’s a muse. My dad’s fighting vamps.”
“A muse?” Poppy flashed her light at Pierus’s silhouette. “In what respect? Are you an artist?”
“Don’t be silly, I’m a Bloody Fairy.”
“No need to snap dear, you could be a bloody garbage collector for all I care, I’m just trying to understand how a pack of lunatics came to be in a cave that’s supposedly been sealed off for thousands of years.”
“We came through the rip.”
“Through the what?” Poppy’s question was cut off when they followed Pierus around a bend in the passage and almost stumbled into him.
“You, human woman.” Pierus motioned her forward.
“Call me Poppy,” Poppy said. “It makes you sound less like an ass.”
– Bloody Fairies
10. The main character in Hailstone is an atheist alcohol lesbian. What prompted you to use these characteristics for Magda McAllister?
Hailstone was a story that kind of cooked in the back of my mind for a long time, from things I’d observed in religious settings. When I started writing Magda McAllister I wanted her to be the worst fit possible for a girl brought up in a strict religious environment – but also a human being who was the result of that environment. People rebel against oppressive upbringings by doing the opposite of what they’re told. She’s a lesbian because she’s born a lesbian, that’s just how it is. But she’s an alcoholic because she’s not allowed to drink, and because it helps to dull the trauma of domestic violence. She’s an atheist because she knows her religious father is a crook and a fraud, and where do you find a God in that? She abuses valium to stop herself from getting so angry she’ll do something she regrets, but obviously that’s not going to work forever. In writing Hailstone, I wanted to explore all of those intense, conflicting impulses of a personality under extreme pressure.
11. How much research was done behind Dead Silent?
Dead Silent is partially a collection of my impressions and images of different small towns I’ve lived in throughout my life, and of the awkwardness and conflict in dysfunctional families. It is the first novel I’ve written that is partially historical, so for the scenes set in the 1960s, I talked a lot with older people I knew about what everyday life was like back then. I also talked with a psychiatric nurse about what it’s like to be in a psych ward, along with a few other professionals.
However, Dead Silent was mostly inspired and shaped by conversations I had with a Noongar elder about her experience of being a member of the Stolen Generation. As an Australian of Irish descent I grew up in a happy, stable family in a country where things were made easy because I was white. My friend talked about how in this very same country, things were completely different for Aboriginal people – from the genocide in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, to the mid-twentieth century, when children were taken from their families, sometimes to be given to white families and used for domestic servitude. It’s a story that played out in little towns all over sleepy country Australia, and a history that is rarely spoken about in white culture. It was these conversations that made me want to write about the experience of a white person being confronted with this unspoken history and the ways it still reverberates in people’s lives today.
12. Tell us more about The Shadow Project and Book One: Bloody Fairies.
This is something I’m very excited to be so close to bringing out!
Shadow is a penal colony created for a bunch of troublemakers as a result of some unpleasant goings on about three thousand years ago. It exists in a pocket of time and space you might think of as a bubble.
Book One: Bloody Fairies brings the reader into Shadow in what would be 1981 in our time.
Shadow is facing imminent invasion by a vampire army headed straight for the village inhabited by the Ishtar clan, a tribe of Bloody Fairies famed for their love of shiny things and war.
When Bloody Fairy Hippy Ishtar runs off with the ancient, powerful muse king to the world of humans in search of a weapon that will save her people from the invasion, just one thing is certain: she’s going to be in deep trouble when she gets home.
But the trouble is only just starting. The weapon is not where it’s supposed to be. They fall in with a crooked treasure hunter, fall out with organised crime and they’re being stalked by dissidents from Shadow. On top of that everyone keeps going on about the muse king being evil and Hippy loses her pet spider.
Time is running out – and when Hippy’s alliance with the muse king lands her in a prison of monsters and madmen, she has a choice: die or go to war.
Of course, being a Bloody Fairy, Hippy is good at war. Handy for her. Not so much for the muse king.
The Shadow Project is a little thing I’m running on my website to complement the books. I’m working with photography, photoshop and some fabulously talented friends to create characters and scenes from the book, which I put alongside letters, maps, diary entries, instructions, short stories and anything else that seems like a good idea at the time. The bits and pieces that go on the Shadow Project generally won’t end up in the books, so there is a lot of background information, behind the scenes and extra material there. I’m aiming to get to a stage with my experimentation with photography, photoshop and costuming where I can create graphic short stories for the site.
13. What are your other future works?
There will be at least eight books in the Shadow series, five of which are already drafted, so I will be working for some time on bringing these out. Book two, Curses, takes place 25 years after Bloody Fairies and involves an unstable muse with a drug problem, a very stable muse with an attitude problem, a pack of refugee Bloomin Fairies, a four foot tall prophet and a couple of nasty, nasty curses.
Hmm … we ended on thirteen. Was that accidentally on purpose? Who knows? Thanks Nina for stopping by. This was loads of fun!