Scott: Thank you so much taking the time to chat with us here at The Fringe magazine
AA: Hi Scott! Wow, this is my first ever interview for Diamond Eyes, so thanks for asking me! Before we begin, big waves first please to Aussie artist, Darren Holt, who created the cover, including that amazing eye for the spine and back, and to my editors at Harper Collins Voyager and their typesetters, who turned the world upside down to find a Braille font that could make sense to sighted readers in a normal novel, for use in the headers. Amazing, and so appreciated for a major commercial publisher to go to such extra lengths!
Scott: Can you tell us about your novel, Diamond Eyes and the main character Mira?
AA: Mira is a reflection of me. Cliché but true. She’s strong when I’m weak, bold when I’m shy, and gutsy when I’m a chicken. She’s everything I’d like to be – aside from totally blind with an ability to see back through time. That’s her obviously, not me.
Seriously, we both have terrible sight, both congenital and can’t be solved by surgery (at least not yet). Mine can’t be fixed properly with lenses yet either, although there’s plenty of times I wished it could be, especially when people have tried to rip me off over the years. In my experience, many normally-respectable businessmen will often jack up their prices whenever they spot a customer as an easy mark, but I can see through them better than they think I can, which is where the original concept for the story came from way back in Feb 1999 when I first started to flesh out the idea, because it never took much imagination for me to guess what they’d really been up to. This also provides one of the main themes for the book and its coming series: That people are naughtiest when they think nobody is watching. The title came later that year when I was on my way to an eye specialist and my son, who was only 3 at the time, asked me how eyes worked, and I began by explaining that lenses are like crystals. He asked what a crystal was, so I showed him my diamond ring and Diamond Eyes sprang naturally from that.
Also, I love multi-layered psychological crime thrillers, sf, and fantasies, especially with non-linear time lines and/or revelations which throw a whole new light on different aspects, not just plot but also character insights – and Diamond Eyes gave me a chance to do all that with stacks of twists and in-jokes; arguably too many once you know them all, because aside from the ones that are easy to spot, there’s also plenty of subtle ones, some directed at fans for specific genres, while a small handful are still lurking until you’ve read other books in the series.
Scott: How much time would you spend writing on a typical day, (if a typical day exists for a writer that is)?
AA: That depends if you count all the time spent staring at the same sentence for hours, editing from the screen or printouts, researching, plotting or re-plotting. If you don’t, on average, it’s roughly an hour each day, seven days a week or more on weekends and holidays (and the first half of that is usually UN-writing the last page from the day before, sigh.). If you do, it’s closer to 30 hours a day, because thanks to dreams, we can live more than a whole day in a few hours. Without hyperbole, I’ve lived and slept this story every day since 26 Feb, 1999, a day in history for me when a scumbag salesman tried to rip me off on my birthday. (He’s fictionalised for a brief appearance in Diamond Eyes and dies horribly in Hindsight, which comes out in a few months from now.)
Scott: The plot in Diamond Eyes was very interesting, with the visions and time travel. It is quite a hard novel to pigeon hole into a single genre, how do you see your book?
AA: The short answer is fantasy. My response should end there… Please, somebody, tear me away from the keyboard! But you just nailed one of the biggest worries I had for the first six years because it’s not really a time travel novel at all - no actual time travel; just a heroine who can perceive two timelines at once while her stalker manages to stay one step ahead using his own gift/curse with “time perception”.
Step back and it’s really crime and romance with strong flavours from psychological thrillers, literary novels, action adventures and poetry. The sociopath’s scenes also employ techniques from metaphoric songwriting, and all this is built on the underlying sf aspects. But if I couldn’t nail a genre in three words or less, how could I nail a pitch with a publisher?
By studying other successes in the market. E.g. the scientific aspects in Diamond Eyes are mainly in the background as part of the social setting and plot developments – buried to similar levels as the 2005 TV series Numb3rs; (crime, drama and mystery), and The Big Bang Theory, (2007, comedy, despite being much heavier in theories and terminology.) These successes gave me courage to persevere in building fantasy upon sf, even through the gut wrenching moments when other stories surfaced that rubbed shoulders with my core idea, nearest of all and most recently, being Stan Lee’s latest comic with a fanciful super villain who becomes a different kind of “Diamond Eyes” through magic, and Deftones latest hit song and album of the same name. But remarkably, we’re still all unique.
Scott: With your manuscript taking a few years to become published, what advice would you offer to unpublished writers in approaching publishers for the first time?
AA: 1) Keep trying - especially if you believe your story is unique. Mine took 10 years to write, more than half of which was rewriting in different styles and voices in response to editorial feedback from rejection letters, plus an extra year of polishing after securing a contract. Ironically, it was the originality of my core idea which helped me attain valuable feedback, even from rejection letters, and yet much of the feedback from rejections included comments that the core idea was too complicated, twisted and cryptic for modern readers. And yet, nailing the style, voice and genre perspectives also helped to solve many of these issues, almost naturally; providing the intellectual after-taste of “sweet simplicity” without needing to “dumb down” the core idea.
2) Stay focused on your characters and their lives from the angle of your favourite genre, while aiming for the voice, style and mood which leave the most powerful intellectual aftertaste.
3) Try to keep a rein on other genres which grow organically from interactions and plot developments, ensuring they don’t over-complicate the story, even if it means downplaying or submerging some things that you wouldn’t normally trim, downplay or simplify if your life depended on it. I also wrote and published over 120 short stories and articles under three other pen-names to help get them out of my system, while also developing my skills at story craft for Diamond Eyes.
Scott: Have you started work on your next novel yet, and what is it about?
AA: The next two, actually. Now that I’ve nailed my characters and the stylistic stuff such as voice, mood, mode, field, narratology and levels of interplay between subtext and metatext (i.e. how much the psychopath’s forecasts of the future through his Braille manuscripts interact and manipulate the heroine’s main story), I’m now flying through the writing, with each book in the series a stand-alone so readers won’t need to read one before reading any others - and for anyone who does, there’s also a few revelations which throw completely new and major twists over the others:
Hindsight is finished and in editing stages now, due for launch in 2011. The pitch line is:
Mira Chambers has an infallible gift for solving mysteries…
but using it comes with a price.
… while Leopard Dreaming, is my current work-in-progress; all launching roughly six months apart.
Scott: What are you reading at the moment?
AA: not much at the moment. It’s NaNoWriMo time, and I’ve hit 88,852 words in 25 days, striving for an even 90K by the end of the month – except for today, which involves a special break for my very first magazine interview. < wink wink> However, in various stashes around my home, waiting are;
• The Undying, by aboriginal author Mudrooroo, by my bedside; where I keep all the most amazing authors for inspiring the last half hour before sleep.
• 1864 edition of TC Donkin’s Dictionary of Romance Languages… In the kitchen to read while helping the kids cook dinner. Every entry worth the mini-moments.
• 1876 edition of The Young Lady’s Book (a tome that’s basically an instruction manual on how to be a young lady with original recipes, patterns, instructions etc on how to make anything around the house from clothes and stain glass windows to lace and home remedies, including growing the herbs etc. Invaluable for any fantasy or history writer.) This one’s in my office, to read whenever I’m on hold or downloading large files off the net.
Scott: Who are your five favourite authors?
AA: Oh, gosh! You can probably see right through me. The first three you must have guessed already, after reading Diamond Eyes:
• Baroness Orczy; The Scarlet Pimpernel, which is Mira’s favourite too.
• Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe (non-fiction), quoted by the scientists.
• HG Wells, The Time Machine, first successful novel to consider time manipulation.
I also adore:
• Tom Clancy, his first 8 spawned my love of military characters, politics and complex multi-viewpoints.
• J. Michael Straczynski, a king of genre writing for print and screen. He’s the creator of Babylon-5, written comics for Twilight Zone, Spiderman, Star Trek, Fantastic Four, Thor, Wonder Woman, Superman and others, over 20 novels for them too, and screenplays for Murder She Wrote, Jake and the Fatman, The New Twilight Zone, Walker Texas Ranger, The Real Ghostbusters and many more, including the upcoming adaptation of Max Brooks’ World War Z. He’s also right up with my favourite writer/director/producer; Sam Raimi.
Scott: Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to your next book.
Thanks again for asking me!
Stay tuned to youtube for an amazing video, coming soon.