Hello my Freaky Darlings,
Today I’ve got a guest on my blog! Fellow South African dark fiction author, Nerine Dorman. So without any further ado I’m handing you over to her.
People have often asked me why I have a preference for dark subject matter. I know for a fact that it drove my mother nuts by the time I hit my teens and I started seriously getting into literature and role-playing games featuring “evil” critters such as vampires and werewolves. Looking back now, I’m still not quite sure where my fascination started. What I do know is that this was definitely motivated by fear.
Things that scared me when I was a young were the creatures of the night, but also more sinister forces—I was raised in a strict religious household—so this included fear of evil cultists and demon possession. These forces could be interpreted also as the fear of being the Other, of being different and possibly damned through having transgressed society’s moral boundaries. I spent my entire childhood scared to death of being outcast and all this bottled repression had to bubble out eventually.
In a sense, as I grew into my own identity, I purposefully set out to recreate myself in the image of the very things I’d been warned against. And it wasn’t just a phase I’d grow out of, either. A decade and a half later, I’m still the unrepentant coffin kid. I tried the whole corporate stint for two horrid years when I was working in an ad agency and I was so miserable I couldn’t wait to get more body piercings.
In a sense, most of my writing reflects this notion of the Outsider, of people or beings who, due to some twist of fate or through their own doings, exist on the periphery of society. South Africa, with its turbulent history, presents many opportunities to explore the concept of the Outsider; at present, my published novels are mostly set in the Rainbow Nation because I’m a firm believer in “write what you know”.
A handful of foreign publishers and agents rejected my writing due to the fact that it’s not “recognisably African” (by their standards) but to be honest, I don’t give a toss. I write the Africa that I know, which is a melting pot of cultures, a mélange of East meets West in the Dark Continent. I carry in my non-conformity into my fiction.
What my foreign readers get, however, is a slice of life of my world the way I see it. There are enough touchstones of familiarity for them to get to know the milieu while I offer them hints of the exotic. Local readers get to see everyday settings given a darker twist. Considering that I’m nominally involved in the local alternative subcultures, I reckon I offer a fairly authentic voice. My friends are indie filmmakers, photographers, musicians, models, performance artists or professional body piercers, among others. I never lack ideas for new stories.
Like many indie-published authors, I walked a long road before publication, and ran the whole gamut of rejections from literary agents and traditional publishers. The publishing industry is, at the moment, in the midst of a massive state of flux and has seen the rise of small and indie presses. With the advent of digital and print-on-demand publishing, many authors are now being given the opportunity to put their words out there. I’m pleased to number among the latter.
Since I made my first sale in 2008 and saw the release of my debut horror novel, Khepera Rising, I’ve since then published three novels and one novella, all through small and independent presses in the United States, with further sales already under my belt. This goes to show that one needn’t hold one’s breath waiting for the local publishers to play catch up.
What I like about working with the smaller presses is that they allow me a lot of creative integrity while providing editorial guidance. They also take care of my cover art and distribution, and deal with vendors and royalty payments—which is not something I like to think about. It’s a great arrangement. While I could go the DIY route (and occasionally do bring out anthologies or self-published titles), there’s a lot of work that goes into that, and I prefer not to play publisher.
There are a lot more opportunities available to writers now than ever before. My advice to anyone who’s about to sit down and write that novel that’s been churning around in their head is to finish the manuscript, get constructive criticism from other writers (there are wonderful critique groups such as The Critters Workshop (for the fantasy, science fiction and horror genres): http://www.critique.org/) and to polish that manuscript to within an inch of its life before getting onto the submissions mill.
Lastly, don’t stop writing, don’t stop improving on your writing, read widely and don’t take rejections personally. If you’re determined and work hard, you’ll succeed.
Bio: Nerine Dorman, who sometimes writes as Therése von Willegen, works as a sub-editor and writer for a newspaper publisher by day; by night she edits and writes fiction. Every year she organises the Bloody Parchment event and anthology under the auspices of the SA Horrorfest. She is a full-time snark. Follow her blog at http://nerinedorman.blogspot.com or on Twitter @nerinedorman
Find her stories at http://www.lyricalpress.com
Download a free short story, written in collaboration with Carrie Clevenger, at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/68457