Guest Interview – Chris Andrews

My friend Chris is back!

Where did you get the idea for this book? Was there a big moment of inspiration, or was it a slower process?

Epicentre grew from the idea or image of a mermaid stalking a beach, looking for someone to drown and hating herself for doing it. I don’t remember where I got the idea from, though it was probably a dream. That first scene hasn’t changed.

Beyond that, my Veil of Gods story universe includes everything from Gods and dragons to werewolves and dryads. I didn’t want to just stick to what was popular at the time I wrote the first draft of Epicentre – mainly werewolves and vampires – though that’s changed considerably since I wrote it.

Mermaids have a certain reputation of being ‘nice’, depending on which story you read or movie you watch. I wanted slightly darker mermaids who have to do unsavory things whether they like it or not, but to still be relatable and human.

Despite the fact they drown humans in order to ensure their own survival, I wanted them to be the protagonists.

Having to kill to survive forms the basis of the story’s overarching theme and helps to generate its conflict.

Is it a standalone novel, or are you planning to write sequels?

Epicentre began as a NaNoWriMo project (National Novel Writing Month – where you write at least fifty-thousand words of a novel in the month of November). All I had at the beginning was the idea of a mermaid stalking a beach as she looked for a victim.

Sequels were a very distant thought, but the more you immerse yourself in a story the more ideas come to you. So yes, definitely sequels.

Writing the first book was the trickiest part. Coming up with fresh ideas while trying to punch out two thousand words a day and keep a day job can be very hard, but by the time I’d finished writing the book I had some good ideas on where to take it.

There will be two sequels to complete the trilogy.

What got you interested in writing about mermaids?

I’ve always been a fan of mermaids. I liked the movie Splash starring Daryl Hannah and Tom Hanks, and I used to watch the Australian TV series H2O: Just Add Water with my daughters when they were younger. There’s also the TV series Sirens which I’ve started to watch, not to mention there were mermaids in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. They get around.

Mostly though, it’s probably because I was a huge fan of Peter Pan as a kid. It’s been a while since I revisited the story, but somewhere in the mix of interpretations was a line along the likes of: ‘Mermaids aren’t quite the nice creatures of legend you think they are’ (or something similar). That concept intrigued me and spurred part of the idea for Epicentre.

Do you base any of the characters on people you know?

No, but I’ll sometimes ‘borrow’ the first names from people I like. If I’m going to spend a lot of time with a character I want good connotations, even if they’re antagonists.

Considering that, I might have to find a place for a Katie in my next book. Good or evil, that’s the question…

Usually though, or at least for my main characters, I try to find a name that suits the character and situation. Grace, for instance, was chosen because it’s an old name, but also because she’s tall and athletic and graceful. I also wanted a name that reflected how she moves and draws attention on a beach, so the name worked.

Abbey, on the other hand, was chosen because the character’s personality traits defy many of the connotations the name can imply, a subtle way to subvert expectations. It suited the story and the character.

What was your favourite part to write?

There were two. The opening scene where Grace is looking for someone to drown, and the big ‘boss fight’ at the end when she’s up against it.

In the opening scene, a toddler bounces off Grace’s leg and falls under her enchantment. The toddler’s a gorgeous little girl that would probably have looked a lot like a child Grace might have had herself when human. Grace, desperate to drown someone and steal their lifeforce, finds herself falling victim to her own instincts. As the child’s parents aren’t around… well, no spoilers.

The ‘boss fight’ was simply a lot of fun. Lots of action and… again, no spoilers.

What was your least favourite part to write?

I had no idea where the story was going or even what the next scene was most of the time. It was both a blessing and a curse, making certain aspects really hard to write.

On one hand it’s incredibly satisfying and fun coming up with ideas and solutions on the run, but it’s also draining and can halt a story in its tracks or lead into tangents that go nowhere.

I was at the halfway mark when I realised I had absolutely no idea how the story was going to end or even what the main conflict was about.

Early on it was a case of ‘keep it interesting’ and ‘keep it moving’, but that doesn’t help with the overarching storyline. It’s probably why so many unplanned stories come to nothing or end up with an unsatisfying ending.

At least I recognised the problem early enough to do something about it. I ended up workshopping the question at the CSFG Novel Writers Group.

Ironically, the solution was right in front of me, but I was so close to the story I couldn’t see it at the time. Everyone else could though. If anything’s an argument for planning out a story or at least figuring out the main conflict before you begin, that’s it.

What’s next for you?

Several projects. I want to write a follow-up book to Character and Structure as well as the sequel to Epicentre, but I’ve also got another book written and partially edited already – Moonlit Genesis – another NaNoWriMo project that needed quite a bit of work.

Moonlit Genesis is a stand-alone novel, but set in the same Veil of Gods story universe as Epicentre. Whereas Epicentre is set in and around Batemans Bay on the NSW South Coast, Moonlit Genesis is set in Canberra. It’s about a visiting werewolf who gets drawn into a local turf war between vampires. I came up with the idea long before werewolves and vampires were popular, but NaNoWriMo was the catalyst for writing it.

Although it probably makes more sense to focus on Moonlit Genesis and get it out there considering it’s so close to being finished, I’m keen on writing the sequel to Epicentre because it’s where my head is at the moment.

Another main project I’ve started is the sequel to Divine Prey. I’m holding off because it contains spoilers for the sequels to Epicentre and some other stories.

The problem with being a writer is that you’ve usually got more stories in your head than you’re ever likely to be able to write, which means that there’s at least a couple of dozen more novels waiting in the mix.

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