In an age where paranormal/ fantasy books such as the Harry Potter and Twilight series take the global box office screen by storm, there is little room for the eyes of fans to wander, especially to the somewhat quiet life of Perth mother, Nicola Sheridan, whose debut novel is soon to be hitting shelves across the country. Sheridan’s fantasy romance novel ‘Magical Gains’, explores the life of government employee Primrose and the problems she encounters in a world where magic is heavily taxed to sustain control, and magical beings are managed through leg- islation. Set in Perth suburbia, ‘Magical Gains’ is a book that allows us to discover the way in which love can be found, and lost, under strange circumstances. Metior spoke with Nicola where she talks writing, being published and changes within genre popularity we might not have known about.
At what time in your life, and how, did you become interested in paranormal fantasy and romance as a genre combination?
I decided I wanted to be an author when at high school, I’d write fantasy stories, and my friends would read them. They used to rush to be the first at school, so they’d be the first to read the next chapter. It was flattering and fun – if not a little nerdy, and certainly cemented my desire to be a published author. I pursued Archaeology and Anthropology at university so I could throw myself into the mythologies of other cultures. I think I fell in love with genre combination when I was about fifteen and saw the movie “Interview with the Vampire”. I’m sure Brad Pitt had something to do with it. I then started reading Anne Rice’s novels, and found myself wishing there was more romance between the characters.
Did you think that it would be a difficult combination of genres to compile within a book, and if at all, what difficulties did you face?
Not at all, I think there is something exceptionally alluring about mythological/magical beings and the fact that they don’t exist leaves them wide open for interpretation. I love imagining how they would fit in our modern world – how would they live? Who would they love? What would they do? Paranormal/fantasy romance is a small market in Australia, yet has begun to boom in places like America and the UK. I’m certain this is because all of the Harry Potter fan’s have grown up and want to read fantasy, but with more adult content. Hopefully Australian publishers will catch up with the trend and take on more Australian paranormal authors.
What degree of satisfaction do you think being published provides writers with?
I’m not sure. I think being published gives writers the assurance that someone out there thinks they’re good enough to have a book – and that is very satisfying. Most authors want reassurance that they’re not rubbish, and that their stories really are a decent read, being published provides that approval. For me, initially it was very satisfying, but the inherent pressure publishing entails is more exciting and challenging than satisfying. Being published has shifted the position of writing in my life. It used to be something that I did purely for the joy of it. Now, however, it has moved from something purely for me, to something I have to share with the world – which is a strange shift. 2011 is the first year both of my children will be at school full time, so now I have the option of writing full time. The strange thing is, I’m not sure if I will, because I realise now, I don’t want writing to beajob.Iwantittobewhat it always has been, my passion and favourite past time. I like working writing into my life; I don’t want it to be my life. So this year, I have many plans for writing, but also lots of plans for everything else too.
In what environment did you spend a majority of your time writing?
When I was writing “Magical Gains”, we lived in a very small house, so I wrote the whole novel in the kitchen! Now we’ve moved house, I write mostly in the study, but when the family is home, I tend to drag the laptop around the house and write where everyone else is. I don’t like locking myself away to write.
What did you learn during the process of writing magical gains?
Research wise, I’ve spent countless hours reading about mythological and magical beings. That kind of research is great fun and the internet is fantastic for finding interesting foreign beasts.
However, it’s through the editing process I’ve learned the most. There’s a lot more to a story than just writing the fun the scenes. Issues of point of view, creating believable tension, use of the GMC (goal, motivation, conflict) are things I never really looked at until they were pointed out to me. Now, through this process I believe I am a much better writer.
During the writing process, did you subconsciously create strange patterns of living?
[Laughs] Not really. I’ve written a few stories within which main characters are Demon Spawn (half Incubus, half human) – and sometimes they give me nightmares! Generally though, every night as I go to sleep, I plan the next scene I want to write. I imagine what my characters are doing, how they’ll do it, where it will happen, that sort of thing it’s very relaxing.
Was there ever a point when you lost faith as a writer and wanted to give up? if so, how did you overcome it?
Actually yes, I became very disillusioned with writing when I sent a novel away to an appraisal agency (you pay appraisal agency’s to appraise your manuscript and give you a critique). I got an absolutely brutal critique. It was devastating. It was seven pages of vitriolic poison. I didn’t write again for over a year, and when I did, I decided I wouldn’t bother trying to get published again. Eventually, it was when friends who’d read “Magical Gains” told me it was great that I sent it off into some competitions. “Magical Gains” won “Highly Commended Best First Book” in the IP Picks 2009 competition. I was given mentoring with one of IP’s editors, and after that, I was inspired to send it off to publishers. It got about nine rejections. Still, I knew it had some merit otherwise it wouldn’t have got the high commendation. So I kept sending it off and in July last year, Eternal Press contracted it. (My advice to any aspiring author is to enter competitions. If you succeed in a competition, you will most likely succeed in getting published.)
in 1811, when Jane austen released her first book, it was unheard of that women be successful writers, instead their works were given the title ‘female accomplished’. Do you think this was a limiting entitlement to give to female writers of that time, and what is your perspective on women writers of today?
I think the women of today have a lot to be thankful for. Early female writers were grossly limited by the culture in which they lived, but considering the limitations placed on them, I think any acknowledgement of their success was a win. Women writers today are a lucky bunch of ladies really, I don’t feel that being female limits your writing abilities in anyway. I’m sure that particular genres have fewer women authors than others (military sagas for example, would understandably be a male dominated genre as its readership majority would probably be male.) Generally, however, I think women have branched out into all genres and that’s a good thing, it gives a different perspective on things.
Gender seems to be such a flexible thing these days, I’m not sure publishers or readers really consider it when choosing books anymore having said that, I actually know a male writer of romance who writes under a female pseudonym to get published. It’s reverse sexism really, apparently readers of romance don’t like knowing the author is male. Bizarre but true.
Originally published in Metior Issue 1, 2011
Words by Sonia Tubb