25th August 2018
Interview with Nadine Thirkell
Good morning Ms Thirkell - thank you for your time. Could you tell us a little about your debut novel Demonality?
First off Demonality is the book I wanted to read but couldn’t find. It’s the story of Thea as she learns about the power she wields. Born to a Dragon mother and a demon father, she is trying to resolve both halves of her nature and stay alive. In Hell, magical strength determines who rules and Thea is the youngest daughter but also the magically strongest of her siblings. When her father names her his heir, all Hell breaks loose.
Sounds very cool! What does your book bring then that you think is missing from the world?
I’m writing a female character the same way male characters are written. Male characters are never written a certain way because they are male, they are just characters. Thea is not a “strong female character” she is just a character who is female.
That’s a really interesting perspective! Do you think there’s a problem with how females - particularly ‘strong’ females - are portrayed?
They are often either clumsy and beautiful or cold and beautiful or sometimes plain and competent. Thea is gorgeous and smart but she’s also emotional and hot-headed, sometimes she gets herself in trouble and sometimes she’s doing the saving. She has good moments and bad ones. Actually, I’m not sure how she seems different but she feels more real to me than some females in fantasy. She’s not an archetype; she’s complicated.
Did you have a particular inspiration that started you writing your book?
I was playing with the idea of what if Dragons had the ability to walk among us, not as shifters but as a creature with the ability to change its form. My understanding of the whole shifter scenario is that shifters are human but they are cursed. I envisioned Dragons as having a kind of "sympathetic" magic that allows them to change their form to adjust to whomever or whatever they are interacting with, and because in this instance they are dealing with predominately Faye (and to lesser degree humans) they take human form, but they are still Dragons. In my world, Dragons evolved this ability to change forms to make themselves less intimidating.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard that take on dragons before. If it doesn’t spoil anything, can I ask why dragons needed to become less intimidating?
Without giving away too much, Dragons are all about balance. They worry that other species might try to use them to gain power so they hide what they really are.
The opening sections of Demonality are driven by the book’s characters. What do you think is the key to writing natural dialogue between them?
It should roll off the tongue. I actually read my dialogue out loud to hear if it flowed. If I stumbled as I read it, so would my readers. I dictate it to myself. I wish I could explain my process but all I did was listen to other people and absorb what real speech sounded like.
In Demonality, the denizens of Hell speak very formally without contractions or slang. What made you choose that style of speech for them to communicate in?
Hell has existed in a verbal vacuum. They do not have slang and they do not have contractions. Language as we know and speak it has evolved with us humans since there were no humans in Hell, I decided that Hell would retain that formal language.
What do you feel this brings to the characters?
I never thought about it really. It was just how they sounded to me in my head. I suppose I wanted to separate them as much as possible from Earth(side). Slang and contractions felt too “human” to me, so my demons spoke more formally.
What authors do you find inspirational?
Diana Gabaldon taught me about character development. If you make your characters real to a reader they will follow that character where ever you take them.
What do you feel that she does well? Are you a fan of Outlander, by any chance?
I am a huge Diana Gabaldon fan. I have everything she has ever written. She wrote the first characters who stayed in my brain long after I finished reading the books. I would quite literally find myself thinking, “what would Jamie think if this?” or “how would Claire handle this situation?” They weren’t just characters in a book but like friends.
My wife is a big fan of the TV series, which keeps me away from the TV controller (*thinks about Star Trek and sighs sadly*). Diana Gabaldon evokes a very credible world in her Outlander novel series.
Diana is nothing if not thorough, coming from a research background, but her world is our world just a few centuries earlier.
What do you think the key to building a successful fantasy world is?
This is hard to explain. You need to walk a tightrope between making the fantastical feel real. Sometimes the best made up worlds feel like they could be real for the most mundane reasons, something so small and insignificant that it almost seems silly that it should make such a difference. There is always something to ground the reader so when the author introduces something fanciful, it doesn’t feel that far out of reality. In the shortest form, the best fantasy worlds are steeped in reality with the more phantasmic aspects sprinkled about in measured amounts.
I know that music is a very important inspiration for your writing. If you had to pick a single song to represent Demonality, what would it be and why?
Not sure I could pinpoint one song for the entire story, each character does have a sort of theme: Thea’s theme is ‘Firework’ by Exit Eden and Jon’s theme is ‘Ride Like The Wind’ by Christopher Cross. If I had to choose a song, that sort of comes close I’d say it was Stand My Ground by Within Temptation or possibly Stardust by Delain.
Outside writing, I understand that you’re a keen gamer. As a writer, what do you think of stories in computer games?
Weirdly enough the best gaming stories are barely noticeable. They move you through the game in such an organic way you don’t notice them much like the best musical scores. You’re not meant to consciously hear them, just feel them.
Do you have any particular examples that you think are well done?
I am a huge fan of MMOs (massively multiplayer online games) Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) is a great example of a storyline that flows. You can follow the main story path and it’s a great game, but I like to explore and go off and do my own thing but my progress through the main storyline affects how characters I meet react to me. Will they give me that quest or maybe something I said or a decision I chose in my main quest line has blocked me or maybe I need to do something extra to gain their trust? I love that.
Elder Scrolls games can be very compelling (*thinks of Mrs Chapman monopolising the Xbox to play Skyrim and sighs sadly*). Have you played any games where the storytelling is bad? Not just boring, but actually to the detriment of the game?
I can’t think of any. I spend so much time playing ESO I don’t really play anything else. Last game that I played was Guildwars and it just got too hard to keep up (lots of paid upgrades).
If people want to engage with you online, what’s the best way to do that?
I’ve really enjoyed this. Hope my answers gave some insight to me and my writing.
Nadine's debut novel - Demonality - is available for purchase on Amazon