I’m crossing the campus of Kakadu University to deliver my latest thesis draft to my advisor. He insisted on the topic of my doctoral research: I allow myself to be bitten or stung by Australia’s venomous creatures, and rate the pain from one to ten. Ants and wasps, centipedes and scorpions, snakes and spiders, jellyfish and lionfish, octopi and cone snails, plants and platypus — they’re all in there. I’m wearing shorts because I can’t stand the pain of pants rubbing against the more recent stings.
The first two times I turned in my research, my advisor insisted I needed more repetition of the experiments. The next time, he insisted I repeat all the experiments at night. Then, it was summer vs. winter, high latitude versus low latitude, and high altitude versus low altitude. When I’d pointed out that few marine creatures lived at high altitude, he’d made me carry aquariums up and down a mountain.
I burst into my advisor’s office and slap a tablet down on his desk (he always “loses” my emails).
He swipes through a few pages. “Hmmm… I think we’ll have to get rid of this section — it doesn’t make sense to do marine experiments at altitude.” He looks down at my legs, covered in scars from bites, stings, and anti-venom injections. “All of the experiments were on your legs?”
“Yes, and I recorded data separately for right leg versus left leg.” Ha, I got him on that one!
“I think, in order for this to be publishable, we’re going to need to repeat the entire sequence of experiments on your arms as well.”
I head over to the English department to talk to SC Flynn … I want to get out of here.
I recently reviewed SC Flynn’s first novel, Children of the Different. You can buy it in Kindle format at Amazon, or as an audiobook at Audible. Now, on to the interview…
I understand you were born in Australia, but have lived much of your adult life in Europe. Why did you choose Australia as the setting for your novel?
My previous novels were all influenced by European history and had not led to a publishing breakthrough. I had never written about Australia before, and I wanted to try a new angle.
Why did you choose teenagers as main characters?
It followed naturally from the central idea of CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT. As a by-product of the brain disease that killed most of the world’s population, young people of the next generation enter a comatose state known as the Changing. During the coma, their mind (or soul or spirit) undergoes a journey full of dangers that directly affects what they will become in the outside world. The logical time for this “cocoon” state and irreversible alteration was the beginning of adolescence.
Readers with teenage children tell me that this captures perfectly the trials of puberty!
Are any of your characters based on people you know in real life? If not, where do they come from?
No character is consciously based on a real person. The characters seemed to invent themselves – exactly how that happens, I don’t know. Probably many writers would recognise that phenomenon, though.
Tell us about your experiences with traditional publishing, and what finally led you to self-publish.
Of the novels I referred to before, some were learning exercises. The others I worked on with two different professional literary agents over many years. Those novels are of the same standard as CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT and definitely publishable, but the agents were unable to find a publisher for them.
With CHILDREN, I decided to write something new – as I said, I had never written about Australia before, and I had never written Young Adult, either. I also decided to take charge of the situation, rather than investing more years in the conventional publishing game. I wanted to try and reach readers directly and see what they thought of my stories.
Have you written any short stories? Will you write any in the future?
No, I have not written short stories. A reviewer suggested that I could write some set in the world of CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT, so that is a possibility. You never know what the future will bring… .
What will your next writing or publishing project be?
I have not decided yet. So far, there has been a fair bit of interest in a sequel to CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT, or some related stories. The alternative would be to publish one of the completed novels I mentioned before. I will wait and see how things go with CHILDREN first.
Would you like to share a few words about any of those other novels?
Those are three connected quasi-historical novels set in different epochs of the same world. The different time periods are analogous to ancient Egypt, Hellenic Greece, ancient Rome in the first novel, the Carolingian empire in the second and Anglo-Saxon England in the third.
Connections between these periods and novels are established by reincarnation and inherited memories. Above all, there are the artefacts of a fabulous ancient treasure spread throughout the known world, each one containing the secret of one of the great spiritual mysteries that could also confer great worldly power on whoever possesses them.
As I said, those three novels – subject to further fanatical revision by me, copy-editing, etc – are of publishable standard. Talking about them has got me enthusiastic about them all over again – thanks!
What other author makes you think “I wish I could write like that!”?
Guy Gavriel Kay. His novels are based on a lot of research that results in a real-seeming world filled with real-seeming characters. All presented with an elegant writing style.
What planet-wide science-fiction catastrophe scares you the most?
An epidemic of some kind. Not necessarily a brain disease like in CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT, but I can’t help thinking that sooner or later nature will produce something deadly to humans that we won’t be able to stop.
What science-fiction universe would you like to live in?
The universe of Dan Simmons’ Hyperion. The idea of having different rooms in a house that are really locations on different planets intrigues me.
You interviewed many book bloggers, publicizing their blogs, before publishing your novel. Did most of those bloggers ultimately review “Children of the Different”?
Hardly any, so far. Most of them are interested in Grimdark, Epic Fantasy or Hard Science Fiction, so my Young Adult novel was not suited to them. Most of the reviewers have been people who are new to me.
What impact do you think those reviews have had on sales?
Too early to say, but the reviews have been very positive and perceptive, so I am hopeful that they will have a good impact on sales.
On your blog, you mentioned that a number of bloggers didn’t want to be interviewed. Do you have any guesses about their reasons?
Many of these were people who blog about some very specialised private interest – such as Golden Age Science Fiction – that has little or no connection with the latest releases and publishing trends. They probably blog for themselves, and not as a way of getting Advance Review Copies from publishers or for other reasons. So, perhaps the bit of publicity I could give them was not worth the invasion of privacy.
More women than men declined to be interviewed. Unfortunately, this likely reflects the understandable fear of internet creeps. Women who receive a message from a man they don’t know, who wants to ask them questions, are going to be cautious. Sad, but probably true.
If you’d like to hear more from SC Flynn in the future, or if you’d like to read some of his interviews with sci-fi bloggers, head over to his SCy-Fy blog at SCFlynn.com.