A: Hi Nina! It’s great to be chatting with you today. I’m a big fan of your work and am looking forward to picking your brain. So tell me, you’ve written three SFF books now. Is the process getting any easier for you?
N: In short. No. 🙂 It’s still the same chronic rewriting and second guessing for me, but I guess in ways that’s not necessarily a bad thing – it makes for a thorough knowledge of the story, from every conceivable angle.
Number 3 for you too! (Congratulations!!) Is it getting any easier for you?
A: I’ve released 3 books, but I had them all written before I got the first one published. So, for those ones, I can only really comment on the editing process – which I do think is getting easier. I’m definitely more attuned to what I need to look for, thanks to what has been picked up in the past (which hopefully makes my editor’s life easier!). I’ve only just recently written a brand new novel, so that was my first experience at writing again – and as it is a completely stand-alone novel not linked to the Aurora series in any way, it was a good test for me. There were days that it was slow going, and others where I seemed to race along, but I think that’s par for the course. I do think my writing has improved though. I’m certainly editing out the mistakes of the past before they’re committed to the page!
So what sparks your inspiration? After you have that first idea, how do you go about turning that into a fully fleshed story?
N: Good question and I think there’s been a whole heap of inspirations for all my books – people, stories, movies, art, poetry, music, animals, places – pretty much everything I come into contact with! I think it’s probably the same for a lot of writers and artists as well. Once the idea for a story pops up then I’ll go into planning mode, so world, characters, storyline – everything goes down in whatever order I’m feeling like.
But tell me more about your Aurora Series – there are 3 books out now and more on the way – did you do an overall plot and planning at the very beginning or have the stories evolved as you wrote?
A: The story evolved as I wrote. It was only supposed to be one story, but as I wrote I seemed to undercover more and more story lying underneath. The good news for readers, though, is that I have now plotted the whole series and it will come to a definite end around book 7/8. I recently received a comment from someone suggesting that I was writing more books (and stretching out the story) for the commercial aspect of it, but this is completely untrue. The story itself dictated how long it would be. I have this (rather major) over-arching plot and several subplots that need to be tied up, and they can’t be tied up in one single book. At least, not if I want it to be realistic! Anyway…
Tell me, what do you find the hardest thing about this writing business?
N: Time, I think…. Just getting the time to sit down and write – it’s been an insanely busy year, but I’m hoping next year will be a bit different. And also I think what you touched on above, it can be difficult to put stories out there and pause for judgement. On the flipside, it’s also a massive privilege and mostly awesome (everything is awesome!) to have people reading our books. That’s living the dream! And speaking of dreams – I think it’s that time. I think we need to talk characters…
Can you tell me a little bit about the leading men in your Aurora series – just a teaser for readers who haven’t started the Aurora series yet?
A: The leading men in the Aurora series are far from perfect, but they each contain elements of the perfect ‘man’. Saul Harris has the maturity, experience and the leadership skills to captain the Aurora team. He’s firm but fair, and because of this he has the team’s respect and trust . . . Daniel ‘Doc’ Walker, is intelligent and caring – two traits required of the medic and ship’s 2IC. He’s easy going, but when required he becomes the soldier he needs to be. Throughout the series his easy-going character is tested, and the ‘perfect’ guy proves that he makes mistakes too . . . James McKinley is hard man, and a courageous one at that – a key trait for Harris’ right-hand man in the field. He pushes people to prove themselves, but he also pushes himself to be the best. As the series unfolds, his hardened external layers are slowly removed, and the man hidden inside comes to light…
Now, I am a big fan of the leading men in your books (Copernicus and Darius to name a couple). So for readers who haven’t started your books as yet, tell us a little bit about them?
N: I’m going to say for Copernicus, tall, dark and dangerous and Darius – he has a hard exterior but there’s love there – somewhere on the inside – (and I have to say McKinley is my fav Aurora boy, but they’re all great). But I’m thinking we shouldn’t forget about the girls either – your leading lady, Corporal Carrie Welles, sharp shooter and elite soldier. She’s just starting out but she’s already been to hell and back.
When you write female characters do you find yourself naturally writing tougher ladies, is it something you wanted to do purposely. And if so, why do you think that is? (for either)
A: I like to write tough women, but I also like them to have their weak moments. That is what makes them human and I think what makes them appeal to readers. I come from a line of strong women – my mother and my grandmothers – whom I dedicated Aurora: Darwin (and the whole Aurora series) to, so I suppose it’s bred into me in a way. They are women who have just picked themselves up and carried on when faced with hardships. Sometimes strong women make the mistake of being too strong and not allowing themselves to be weak or ask for help, and it is at this point that they seem to fall apart, because they can’t cope with not being perfect. This I think, is a big driver for Carrie Welles in my Aurora series. She is a woman who has to look deep inside herself to pull the courage out that she needs to survive, and she is also a woman who has to lower her defensive shield to admit when she is wrong or needs help, and to allow love to enter her life…
You also write strong women, and they seem a little damaged in a way due to the secrets they keep, but because of this they’re fighters – and survivors. What drives that in your writing?
N: Good question… I think I’ve always been attracted to the idea of the survivor – the person who can take every hit, psychologically and physically, and still keep going. For me that really defines a hero – not because they’re incredibly brave, or gifted, or perfect people, but because they never stop, despite the scars and damage.
Now I understand you’re working on a book that is outside of the Aurora Series, can you tell me a little bit about it and what it’s been like venturing out of your universe?
A: Yes, the new book is called The Time of The Stripes and it’s another sci-fi, but set on Earth, current day. It’s told from multiple perspectives and follows the immediate events surrounding a worldwide phenomenon. It’s a pretty tense drama, so readers of the Aurora series will hopefully enjoy it. It’s been a very interesting process to write! In some ways it’s been difficult in that I’m having to build characters up from scratch again – especially after spending so long with my Aurora characters, who I know like the back of my hand. It had also been a while since I’d written anything new so that harsh reminder of just how long it takes to write a novel was a wake up call! On the plus side, it’s been great to try my hand at building another world, in part to prove I could, but also just for having an opportunity to try something new and take that breath of fresh air was wonderful. But now I’m ready to crack on with more of the Aurora series!
So how did you find the experience of going from the The Last City/The Forgotten City to The White List?
N: It was pretty cool – I’ve always got a few writing projects going at once so it wasn’t too much of a leap, but there’s always those readjustments, where you have to find the right voice for the character, but overall it was great.
So thank you very much for chatting with me AB – any final advice for aspiring writers looking to get their work out there?
A: Study the market as best you can, be prepared to work hard, and learn patience! Writing and getting published is a marathon, not a sprint.
And what advice would give them?
N: I completely agree with you and I’ll just add in – don’t give up!
A: Yes! Good point. Well thanks for chatting with me today, Nina! It’s been great getting an insight into your wonderful books!
N: Thanks AB! It’s been great chatting with you too!
Books discussed in this post: