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Friday, November 9, 2012

Feature Me Friday! (05) Author: Karen Simpson-Nikakis

 Karen Simpson-Nikakis, Fantasy Author

Today on another belated Feature Me Friday (curse you scheduled posts not posting when scheduled!), I have fellow Australian, high fantasy author Karen Simpson-Nikakis! Not only is she a fantasy author but she is the head of the Bachelor of Writing & Publishing, which I just completed! So basically, she knows what she's talking about. Take it away, Karen!

What are you currently working on?

I am presently working on the second book in an angel trilogy. When I’ve finished that, I am writing a stand alone fantasy that has been in my head for two or three years. It will have a male  as the main character, the first time I have attempted this. I love female heroes but for some reason, I know the hero in this narrative is male.  Then I am writing another trilogy. I have pictures pasted on the wall above my desk related to all three projects and the novels’ names. This encourages me to keep going but also helps with the gestation of the stories which are simmering along in the back of my head.  I would love to write full time but I also love a lot of what else I do, including teaching and researching and writing academic papers. I also love being able to pay the bills. My angel books are more lyrical than hot and sexy which means I’m still looking for a publisher. I am interested in what divides the human from the divine and how each group has their own particular struggles.

What genre do you write and what do you like about it?

I write a type of fantasy that is variously called high, quest or epic fantasy. These have fully developed secondary worlds and are pre-industrial. I have a low level of interest in political intrigue, and none in wizards, the fae, magic or dragons – although I am toying with using all of them in the next trilogy. I am interested in the extraordinary, and also in how landscapes affect characters and whole societies. In The Kira Chronicles, Kira is Tremen and grows up in the forest world of Allogrenia. Their bonding and burial practices are deeply impacted by living in the soft arboreal gloom. The Tremen are pacifists and protected by the vast forest, but when it is breached, they must fight or die. I’m interested in how they maintain their integrity and still survive. All my books, published, unpublished, or in process are essentially about reconciliation or redemption, and fantasy provides a really beautiful space to explore these ideas.
Fantasy allows me to play around with setting too. As an ex-geography teacher, I love landscape. I love knowing why rain falls and where, what will create waterfalls and caves, why some places are permanently clothed in mist. I also love these things for their own sakes, because they are pure and unspoiled.  In the angel world of Ezam, the forests have only one type of tree called glis. They are either silver or gold and their leaves are like tinfoil. When the breeze blows, they tinkle. It is so much fun to create such places.
I am quite envious of musicians and film makers. I think these two groups have media to work with more easily evokes emotions. Words are so slippery and unforgiving. They can be like wrestling the Balrog from Lord of the Rings.  Certain pieces of music will provide me with lots of dialogue, so I sometimes listen to music, then turn it off and write. I can’t write with music on, but it is great for evoking mood. As I mentioned, I have pictures pasted above my desk but I also have scrap books full of pictures clipped from newspapers and magazines. My characters don’t look like the pictures but they have the same emotional feel. For instance, I have a picture of an AFL footballer who looks exhausted. His whole demeanour is desolate and in stark contrast to the strength and youthful beauty of his body. That image gives me a sense of the vulnerability of one of my characters who is wild and out of control, but devoted to his only child – a little girl.

Who are your favourite authors?

I don’t have favourite authors as I can read one book by an author and it resonates deeply, and another will leave me cold. Tolkien and Mary Stewart (her Merlin series) opened my eyes to the potential of setting; Ursual Le Guin to the psychological possibilities of writing; Natalie Babbit (Tuck Everlasting) to the power of simplicity. Favourite books teach me about writing but also what it is to be human. I often dip into these books when I’m stuck or tired. After five minutes of reading, I can write again.
Writerly advice: be really clear that you are writing because you are passionately in love with the story you are telling. You will try to tell it superbly but you are only human and are still learning. Always strive to write better. The value of the story is this integrity that you bring to it. Do not judge your story by publisher or agent rejects; by sales or lack thereof; by critics or reviews. You know, in the kind and ruthless parts of your heart, when your writing rings true, and when you have fudged, skipped or avoided your truth. Be brave and resilient; delight in your writing journey, and see your story through to its end.   Enjoy.

The Cry of the Marwing – Published by Allen and Unwin, is her last published fiction title.
This is the final in the Kira Chronicles trilogy.
www. or through Goodreads.
‘With battles raging and Shargh warriors threatening the future of her homeland, gold-eyed Kira is forced to betray her every principle by requesting Tremen Protectors fight and kill to defend Allogrenia. During the sickening carnage that follows, Ashmiri treachery threatens to deliver the Shargh victory over the Tremen. Realising her love for Tierken is not enough to bridge the gulf between them and their respective peoples, Kira flees the Terak. During her desperate journey south, she is reunited with her first love, Caledon. Together they decide to journey back to Allogrenia, but disaster strikes when Caledon’s star vision fails him and they are confronted by the Shargh. With the prophecy drawing towards its chilling conclusion, Kira realises that victory over the Shargh may cost her everyone and everything she loves . . .’

Karen Simpson Nikakis was fortunate to grow up riding horses through some of Victoria’s most beautiful country. She trained as a teacher and has taught in schools, TAFEs, AMECs and Universities both in Australia and China. She holds an M.Ed (Hons) in the purpose of dragons in selected literature, and a Ph.D in Joseph Campbell’s monomyth as applied to a female hero. She presently heads NMIT’s Bachelor of Writing and Publishing. She is the author of The Kira Chronicles (Allen and Unwin) and Dragon Tales (Heidelberg Press) as well as of numerous research papers in the areas of myth and fantasy.

If you are a young adult author, publishing professional, book blogger or simply a book lover and would like to be interviewed for your own Feature Me Friday post, contact me at SarahBillingtonBooks AT Gmail DOT com!


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