Today, in celebration of the Publication of “Who’s Afraid?“, i have the great privilage in Interviewing Maria Lewis who is the author of the book. Please be sure to give her a warm welcome.
For those unfamiliar with Whose Afraid, Can you explain the book in five sentences?
Who’s Afraid? is a gender bent take on Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde but with female werewolves and swearing. Boom, I did it in three sentences. Do I get a cookie?
Where did you get your inspiration for Whose Afraid?
It was almost anti-inspiration, actually. I love genre fiction and read a lot of it, but at the time it felt like all the books I was reading had heroines that kept getting younger and younger and whiter and whiter. I grew up mixed race and am always looking for representation in the pop culture I consume, plus I’ve always been drawn to complicated heroines who aren’t this imagined ideal of the ‘perfect woman’ but have spikes and edges and complexities: like Buffy, Huntress, Scully, Uhura, She-Hulk, Xena, O-Ren Ishii. I wanted to contribute something to that pantheon of bad-asses so I came up with my central character Tommi Grayson and the rest of Who’s Afraid? followed.
Were there any plotlines or characters that evolved or changed dramatically in ways you did not expect?
Definitely, although perhaps not in the first book: this is a series of five novels and you don’t necessarily have a lot of room in the initial novel because you don’t want to swamp readers while introducing characters and the universe. Things definitely took an interesting and unpredictable turn with certain characters – Tommi included – as the story unwinds over the upcoming books and the world has the room to expand.
Which character was the most difficult to write and why?
Probably Lorcan to be honest, as he has so much backstory and so many mixed motivations it can be hard to funnel into a receivable package. He’s also a character that’s quite at odds with himself and that can be challenging to portray within the grander designs of the story and plot.
Which character was the most fun to write and why?
Probably Joss, Tommi’s best friend. I love writing the two of them together as they have such natural banter and chemistry (not in a romantic way, in the way two people bond after years of friendship and ups and downs).
Which supporting character in the book did you enjoy writing the most and hope to develop further in the series?
Ooooooh, so many but I would have to say it’s Tommi’s blood pack – the Ihi family – that I’ve had the most fun developing. Who’s Afraid? is largely first person, so everything is viewed through the prism of Tommi’s experiences. But the story arc of the series is really a parallel journey as Tommi and the Ihi pack start off in a very different place to where they end up and they simultaneously go on this transition together (which I’m really excited to expose readers to in later adventures).
Why did you decide to have to very different locations in your book? (Scotland and New Zealand)
I wanted to take genre readers somewhere I thought they hadn’t necessarily been before. A lot of the supernatural stories I was reading at the time were set in one of three major cities or a small town where everyone knows each others name. I wanted something different. Who’s Afraid? is set 70 per cent in Dundee, Scotland – which is a place I chose for specific geographic, cultural and historic qualities – and 30 per cent in New Zealand, which is my home country and a location I wanted to see recreated in urban fantasy.
As this is the first in the series, can you give any teasers about what to expect next?
Adventures in Who’s Afraid Too? move a bit more through a different part of Scotland then on to one of my favourite cities in the world – Berlin, Germany. So with the second book I’m trying to do what all the best sequels do: expand the universe, while remaining true to the themes and tone of the original. The Who’s Afraid? world will get a little bigger, we’ll introduce more characters and Tommi will get a better understanding of where she sits in the supernatural scheme of things.
How does being a writer, differ from your day to day job and how does one help the other?
My day job is being a writer, actually – I’ve been a journalist for the past 11 years so that ties in very nicely with being a published author as they both help each other in terms of skillsets and mindsets. I presently work on a current affairs news program that airs weeknights on Australia television so that is quite a nice break from the monsters, mayhem and murder of the Who’s Afraid? world.
What is your ritual when you are writing your book? Is there a special place or do you have to have certain conditions for you to be able to write?
I don’t have a ritual besides just getting it done. My time is so limited and my schedule so unpredictable, I usually just seize the opportunity to write whenever and wherever I can. It’s not ideal, but I don’t have the luxury of being able to set aside weeks or months or even head to a writers retreat so I have to make do with the opportunities I do have.
A big studio has approached you to turn Whose Afraid into a TV show or a movie and you have control on who they are to cast as the lead character; what actors are your choices?
This is an easy one, as it’s crucial to me Tommi Grayson be portrayed as a Maori woman and I think there’s no better actress in the game than Keisha Castle-Hughes (Game Of Thrones, Whale Rider) right now. She has a rare ability to be able to communicate strength and vulnerability simultaneously, which is crucial to the character of Tommi. I also lost my shit recently when I saw her in Cameron Crowe’s TV series Roadies where she just dyed a huge chunk of her hair blue and I was like, aha! Perfect!
When not working or writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Sleep. I wish I had a more interesting answer than that, but sleep is a precious commodity.
And finally, do you have any advice for any aspiring authors out there?
Make sure you really want to do this. It’s a long, hard process that doesn’t begin or end with you writing the book: then comes the struggle to get it out there and get it seen. So make sure you stay true to your convictions and remember why you did this in the first place. Also, endurance is a bonus.
ABOUT THE BOOK
GENRE: Urban Fantasy
This is the story of Tommi, a young Scottish woman living an ordinary life, who stumbles violently into her birthright as the world’s most powerful werewolf. The sudden appearance of a dark, mysterious (and very attractive) guardian further confuses her as her powers begin to develop and she begins to understand that her life can never be the same again. The reader will be swept up in Tommi’s journey as she’s thrown into the middle of a centuries-old battle and a world peopled with expert warriors and vicious enemies – this is the start of a series – and a world – you will fall in love with.
Piatkus, the publishers of “Who’s Afraid?” and Maria have very kindly offered to give away a goody-bag to one lucky winner. The goody-bag contains a copy of the book, a tote bag with the book cover on it, some werewolf themed goodies and a pair of silver skull earings. To be in with a chance of winning, just fill in your details in the form and a winner will be picked by Rafflecopter. The Giveaway is open to UK Residents Only and shall close on the 22nd July 2016. The Winner will be contacted by email and the details will be passed along to the Publisher, who are responsible for the giveaway.
ABOUT MARIA LEWIS
Maria Lewis is a journalist and author based in Sydney, Australia. Getting her start as a police and crime reporter at a local newspaper, Maria soon transitioned into writing about film and entertainment for publications such as The Daily Mail, New York Post, The Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Empire magazine, Penthouse, Junkee, WHO Weekly, Huffington Post and many more. A journalist for over a decade, she also regularly appears as a pop culture commentator on television and radio and currently works on news program The Feed weeknights on SBS. She’s the host and producer of the Eff Yeah Film & Feminism podcast. Her debut novel – urban fantasy series Who’s Afraid? – was released in January, 2016 in Australia through Hachette and worldwide on July 14, 2016 through Little Brown Books and Piatkus Fiction.