Interview: Demelza Carlton, Author of ‘Necessary Evil of Nathan Miller’
What were you like at school?
I read a lot…and finished work quickly, so by high school I carried a notebook with me to write stories in when I got bored. I’d type them up at home and bring the fresh pages in a loose-leaf folder for my friends to read the next chapter. It was 1995 – the internet only just existed and none of us had computers that could connect to it.
Were you good at English?
I was in primary school, when it was predominantly grammar rules, reading and writing. When it came to English Literature at high school, and I was expected to critique books to my teachers’ specifications, well…I had one English teacher who never agreed with my interpretation of the books we studied. I mean, Pride and Prejudice is one of the most radical feminist texts I’ve ever read – it refers to men as property in the first paragraph! – so in my final exams at my last year at high school, I actually scored better in French, Physics and Calculus than in English.
Give us an insight into your main character in Necessary Evil of Nathan Miller. What does he/she do that is so special?
The main character is not the bloke in the title. Her name is in the first book’s title – Caitlin Lockyer. Caitlin’s abducted, abused…and left for dead on a beach. She survived where other girls died, yet she’s little and delicate. No one knows how she managed it – but in this book, you find out how she managed to survive as long as she did – during the abuse and afterwards. If you’ve read the first book, there are a fair few surprises still in store. And if you haven’t read the first book…I’ll give you no spoilers.
Do you write full-time or part-time?
Usually, I write part-time, in addition to my full-time job. I actually took some time off work to see my books published, but I’m not sure I could just write full-time. I like more variety than the contents of my own head – not to mention interacting more with real people!
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I write best in the early morning, just after I wake up, or in the evening, when I’ve had stories spinning in my head all day. That doesn’t mean I get to write every day, but those are generally when I do write on the days I can.
Do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when?
Some weeks I do, some weeks I don’t. I tend to write books in a flood, over the course of a few weeks, just letting the writing flow as much as time permits. So I write in bursts, sometimes seven days a week for a month, before taking a break almost entirely for the following month. Of course, when inspiration hits, I still try to write it down – even if it’s just in note form for later.
Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
No. I’ve had days when I write more than 10,000 words and some where I’ve barely managed 200, but somehow they all even out.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
Creative evolution? Have you been looking at my more speculative drafts? I admit I do have a science fiction work in progress that involves terraforming planets. It follows a couple of sloppy terraforming engineers who are more interested in each other than their job as they transform a planet from lifeless rock to the beginnings of life and how it evolves into ever more complex beings until…oh, no. I won’t tell you what the pinnacle of their evolutionary process was. That’d be spoiling the story.
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
Necessary Evil of Nathan Miller was already half-written when I completed Nightmares of Caitlin Lockyer, because the stories are complementary. They cover the same time period, but from very different perspectives. The hardest part was taking that first half and giving it the other half, because I started another project in the middle of it that occupied so much of my attention.
It was a romance – involving Caitlin’s doctor, six years before Necessary Evil. The doctor’s book is called Water and Fire. So, the most difficult part of writing Caitlin’s story was when her red-haired, Irish doctor walked through my scene, completely disrupting my thought process as it followed him instead of her!
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I’d say roughly a month to six weeks, though this book took me nineteen years, all up, in three different iterations before it took a vague shape similar to what it has now. Editing, now that takes three times as long as writing…
What are your thoughts on writing a book series.
I never intended to do it. Necessary Evil and Nightmares were originally ONE book, with Necessary Evil coming first, as it describes Caitlin’s kidnapping and what happened, while Nightmares starts with her arriving in hospital. I separated it when I decided that I had to write Nightmares from only Nathan’s perspective. Once I’d written outlines for the two books, though, I realised that their story wasn’t finished. There was more…hence there is a third book, to complete the Nightmares Trilogy, which will be released in 2014.
For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
I love my Kindle, because it’s light. I like my stories to be as long as possible, so I can be a part of the characters’ lives for longer, but that makes for some very heavy hardbacks or even paperbacks. I have an extensive print library and I still buy print books – in fact, a lot of my favourite books I have ebook and hard copy editions.
What book/s are you reading at present?
Several, probably, all on my Kindle. There’ll be a couple I’ve agreed to read and review for other authors, including one on digital photography. There’s a very useful book called Self-Printing by Catherine Ryan Howard that I’m slowly re-reading, to see what I’ve missed in my marketing that I might focus on next. As for my personal choice of fiction, that I read when I just want to enjoy the story and not think about anything else…actually, I finished one such book on the weekend (Tears of Tess, by Pepper Winters) and I’ve just started a new one, which is shaping up to be a great read – Chaos Born, by Rebekah Turner.
Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?
Of course I proofread all my own work – I’d be crazy not to – but I also pay a professional editor to do it for me. My editor isn’t just anyone – he’s a professional media editor with a Masters degree in English and published books of his own. Plus the two of us, I enlist a team of beta-readers, who kindly tell me whether my book has too much sex in it, too little or if someone’s Mercedes has mysteriously morphed into a Mazda. Those extra sets of eyes are invaluable – and I can’t thank them enough.
The end product, I hope, speaks for itself – minimal typos, if any, and no silly mistakes. If I don’t feel a book is perfect, I won’t release it for sale.
Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?
When time permits, yes. I try to go write or read something else, before coming back to my own work. I notice things I never had before.
Who designed your book cover/s?
The covers for the Nightmares series are actually my own work, I’m pleased to say. As these were my third and fifth published books, I’ve had time to learn to use my photography software to an extent that I could create these. After paying a graphic artist for the cover of my first book and seeing some disappointing results, until we reached the final cover design on Ocean’s Gift today, I’m hesitant to work with another artist again, unless I really admire their work.
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
A cover is crucial in catching the eye of a reader. If I see an ebook cover that screams, “Amateur!” I’m less inclined to buy the book because there’s a high chance that the book isn’t well formatted and edited, though the story might be incredible. Now, if I’ve heard from someone I trust that the book is great or I just know the author is awesome, so I’ll love anything they write, the cover doesn’t matter in the slightest, but those books are few and far between.
That’s why I try to ensure mine include full-cover photographs that are as striking as possible. I mean, take a look at the cover of Necessary Evil. Doesn’t the bloke on the cover make you wonder what he’s thinking? I imagine it’s something along the lines of, “Evil might be necessary…but it’ll feel sooo good…”
Have any strange things happened while you were marketing your books?
I spent some time up at Ningaloo Reef, in the northern part of Western Australia, and I was taking photos and video to use for marketing purposes for my Ocean’s Gift series, which is about mermaids. I was finishing up a day of scuba diving, just sitting on deck as the dive boat cruised back to the jetty, filming the waves on the reef as we went past.
My mind started to drift as I watched the breakers, thinking about Necessary Evil. By the time the boat tied up, I had Chapter Three almost complete in my head. So, after we’d landed and put all our gear away, I just sat on the beach and watched the breakers again, filming as I perfected the scene in my head.
Later, when I was looking at doing some promotional videos, I stumbled across that wave footage – and set it as the background picture when I narrated that chapter for a YouTube video. So if you ever wonder how an oceanic chapter ended up in a book about evil, that’s how it happened.
How do you relax?
With a camera. I love my DSLR and I like travelling – even when it’s just to the bushland near my house – to take photos of things. Last year, I spent hours on whale-watching boats, just photographing the whales, the ocean and anything else that came within lens distance of the boat. There’s just something about forgetting everything else except what you’re looking at and just lazily pointing the camera at it so you can remember it later. Of course, it’s even better with a glass of alcohol in hand – not to mention much more relaxing, too!
Where can people learn more about you?
Ooh, I have a whole list of links and places people can stalk me, from my website to YouTube to Facebook.
I’ve been told I have a sexy Aussie accent, so if you’d like to judge for yourself, pick one of my YouTube videos. I do the voiceovers for my trailers and background videos, with some occasional chapter readings, too.
So, what are those links?
Sorry, those links are:
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself?
What would you like to know? Drop me a line, PM, whatever and ask!
Someone asked me once how mermaids could possibly have sex. Yes, I answered that one in descriptive detail. Surely no question can be stranger than that.