SPFBO Interview: Nerine Dorman

It’s that time again! SPFBO 6 has been in production for a while now, and it took me longer than expected to come up with a new host of interview questions. Finally I posted them up, and in less than a week I’ve had over two dozen responses.

My first interview is with Nerine Dorman with her fascinating entry Inkarna, and I hope you guys enjoy!




Introduce yourself! An easy question to start off with. Who are you, what do you write?


I’m Nerine Dorman, a South African author and editor of SFF who operates out of Cape Town. I’ve been writing and publishing since about 2009 or thereabouts, and my focus is on creating rich environments and engaging characters.




Is this your first time in SPFBO?


Nope, last year I had a fantasy novella called The Firebird that made it to the semi-finals.


What book did you enter into this year’s event?


This year it’s all about my urban fantasy novel Inkarna, and I’m lucky I remembered to enter. It nearly escaped my mind, and it was mere hours before entries closed. You can check out the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Inkarna-Those-Who-Return-Book-ebook/dp/B088X1MJ9Z


Does one of the main characters hold a special place in your heart? If so, why?


For sure. Ashton Kennedy is heavily inspired by a dream I had in which I was walking around in a body that I’d stolen. Of course it was only a few ‘what ifs’ later that I had the idea for Inkarna jotted down.


What was the inspiration for the story? What are your future project(s)?


I’m heavily inspired by ancient Egypt and modern occultism, so it felt natural to put the two together


What are the key themes and/or messages in the book?


If I have to explain the book (quickly and) badly in as little time as possible, I go along the lines of an initiate of an ancient Egyptian reincarnation cult gets sent back to earth to discover why her husband went missing, only to end up in the wrong body and no idea that she was supposed to guard secret knowledge that others would happily kill for.


What were the key challenges you faced when writing this book?


Time. Always time. I seemed to have more of it when I was still a wage slave working in newspaper publishing while I was writing the novel, but now with the reboot, it’s a project that’s taken me years, since I’m now a freelancer.


What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?


I always intended to write a sequel, and part of why it’s taken so long is that I was finishing book two, Thanatos, which I’m hoping to release later this year. Inkarna ends on a ‘happy for now’ kinda ending, but things get a helluva lot more twisty and dangerous in book two.




What is your favorite book you’ve written?


Definitely The Company of Birds, which is published by my favourite small press, Immanion. I worked closely with Storm Constantine on it, and she’s been one of the biggest influences on my writing.


Who are your favorite authors?


Neil Gaiman, Storm Constantine, JRR Tolkien, Kate Elliott, Cat Hellisen, Mary Gentle, CJ Cherryh, Robin Hobb, Jacqueline Carey, Katharine Kerr, Ursula K Le Guin, Mary Renault, among many others.


What makes a good villain?


The villain is the hero of their own story, so I believe the villain needs clearly defined goals and both inner and outer journeys as one would develop for your protagonist. The main problem is that their goals are at odds with the protagonist, hence the villainy.


Do you have any writing blogs you recommend?


I rely heavily on Google and YouTube for general searches, but for writing support I go to my writers’ group on Facebook, The Dragon Writers. It’s possibly one of the most supportive communities I’ve been part of and has a lovely mix of both published and pre-published authors.


Do you have any writer friends you’d like to give a shoutout to?


For sure: My friends at Skolion, the SFF authors’ co-op I’m part of (http://skolion.org/). This year Tallulah Lucy, Yolandie Horak and Cat Hellisen have published, and Carrie Clevenger will be dropping a novel later this year. Also look out for my fellow Sanlam Youth Literature Prize winner Toby Bennett. His dark fantasy novel The Music Box has shades of classic Susan Cooper. (He and I have written a novel together, which we’re hoping to start shopping around soon.)


Did you learn anything from writing your latest book? If so, what was it?


My most recent book was Sing down the Stars, which is my first traditionally published novel. It was also the first novel that I wrote after applying what I learnt from screenwriter Michael Hauge’s master class that is free on YouTube. Best 1.5 hours I ever spent. He places great emphasis in understanding your protagonist’s inner and outer journeys, and how to hit those milestones that will resonate with readers.


Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?


I’m a firm believer in creating a framework, and then growing the story over that framework, if that makes any sense. I believe writing with a particular end goal in sight frees you up to elaborate when you have the opportunity, without missing those important milestones that will resonate with readers.


If you had to give up both snacks and drinks during writing sessions, or music, which would you find more difficult to say goodbye to?


Music. It’s my theme and also serves to filter out incidental noise that may distract me from reaching my goals.


Which is your favourite season to write in, and why? 


Autumn or spring. Here in South Africa, winter or summer are too intense in the temperature extremes.


It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it? 


I like having a visual idea of what they look like, and unashamedly borrow from my favourite actors or musicians. Once I have them walking and talking in my head, it’s as if I can tap into them. They live and breathe for me.


What is your writing process? Do you have one? What is your workspace like?


I outline first, and do so exhaustively. Then I write a page at a time between my other tasks. I know it means the writing takes much longer, but for me it’s about savouring the process rather than the end result. Currently I’m working out of the dining area as the husband is between contracts, and has turned the office into a combination of work area and music studio. I don’t mind too much, as I’ve a lovely view off the balcony.


Where do you draw inspiration from?


It’s everything from the books I’m reading, the films or series I watch, or even a news article.


How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?


There are more than eight active projects, all at various stages of completion. The one I’m most excited about is the collaboration with Toby Bennett. We complement each other very well, and writing an epic fantasy containing everything from pirates, elves and reanimated mummies has been an absolute stonking joy, especially during these grim times. We cut loose and had fun, and the novel is now it its revision stages. We hope to start querying literary agents and publishers soon.


Do you have any new series planned?


I have a four-book epic fantasy series I’d like to get back to. Book one is already finished, but I’d like to revise that and get that up, and start looking at book two.





What do you like to do in your spare time?


I make music, hang out in the garden, and make bad art. If I have time, I love gaming, even if I’ve been playing Assassin’s Creed Origins for the past two years.


If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?


Probably as an illustrator. Graphic design used to be my primary income source until the pandemic hit. Now I’m editing fiction to pay bills.


Coffee or Tea? Or (exult deep breath) what other drink do you prefer, if you like neither?


Both. I drink coffee at the start of the day then switch over to rooibos tea later otherwise I turn into an owl-eyed bogwitch when it’s bedtime.


You can travel to anywhere in the universe. Where would you go, and why?


I’d like to check out any of the other habitable planets. Just because the idea of parallel evolution fascinates me, and I’d like to see how nature solves similar problems in discrete systems. But there’s a part of me that wishes I could go back in time and do safaris of the prehistoric times. I’d love to be able to see extinct animals in ther natural environments.


Pick any three fiction characters. These are now your roadtrip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?


Uhtred of Bebbanburg, Fitzchivalry Farseer and The Fool. Probably a terrible combination, but we go on a road trip through the US, because that’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I can imagine things being quite a lark with these three (that’s if they don’t get under each other’s skin).


What superpower would you most like?


Talking to animals – I often wonder what they must see and hear that we don’t.


What are two of your favorite covers of all time? (Not your own.)


There would be several, but by far are the 1990s Dave McKean covers for the Sandman comics by Neil Gaiman. And then of course the covers painted by Alan Lee for Tolkien’s works.


If you could invite one person to dinner, who would it be and what would you cook?


Oh, that would be Neil Gaiman. And I’d do a roast freerange chicken the way my mum taught me to make it.


Share something your readers wouldn’t know about you.


I am an experienced penguin wrangler and occasional wildbird rehabber.


It’s a very difficult time right now for the world. When quarantine and pandemic comes to an end, what is the first thing you would like to do?


Oh, hells, so much, but mostly get around to booking accommodation on a farm in the Cederberg and spending a week out in the wilderness.


Finally, what is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?


Best to stalk me on Twitter @nerinedorman or Instagram @nerinedorman too. I do have an author page on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/NerineDorman/

Folks are also welcome to sign up for my newsletter http://eepurl.com/JoPUv


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