& occasionally about other things, too...

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Interview with Lisa de Nikolits, author of A Glittering Chaos

Author at the book launch

What is A Glittering Chaos about? Tell us about the theme, the characters and the place.

The novel explores the unexpected twists and turns that life can take at any stage of our lives. When we’re young, we tend to think that all adventure ceases as the years advance but I rail against that notion and I wanted to show that adventure, passion and new beginnings are possible (and sometime inevitable) at any stage of life.

In the novel, a German couple’s trip to Las Vegas is the catalyst for the chaos and change that follows. The seeds for disaster, sown many years previously, lay dormant but Las Vegas, with its glittery amorality sparks off a chain of events that, once started, cannot be stopped until every aspect has been resolved.

Melusine (protagonist) is unaware of the depths of her husband’s torments and she has believed their marriage to be a satisfactory and generally fulfilling one. Her beliefs are challenged when she falls in love with a stranger and she embarks on a passionate affair. Her husband, Hans, is increasingly obsessed with his sister who vanished when she was fourteen; he is convinced that a psychic will be able to help him contact her and help him resolve his incestuous desires.

Things don’t work out in the way that Melusine or Hans expect them to and the story evolves in a way that even surprised me, the author!

This book is based in Vegas; the title of your previous novel was West of Wawa. Are geography, space, and location important for your work?

My initial answer was no but the truth is yes! Yes, geography, space and location are important to my work and I realize the extent to which this is true when thinking about your question.

West of Wawa was a cross-Canada road-trip; A Glittering Chaos would not have happened but for the Vegas context; The Witchdoctor’s Bones (due in 2014, Inanna) is about a group of tourists who travel from Cape Town to Windhoek through Namibia, with murderous consequences. Even The Hungry Mirror dealt with matters of space and landscape – the protagonist’s body was her uncomfortable prison of residence and she examined this intimate country as closely as any cartographer doing daily checks of the valleys and hills.

With three published novels, you’re a prolific writer. What motivates you to write, and what compels you to be so prolific?

I never stop thinking about stories. And I truly do mean do mean never!

There was a period for about four years (1998 to 2002) in which I didn’t write; I was initially trying to forge a life in Sydney, Australia and then, when that didn’t work out, I came here in 2000 and was preoccupied by building a new life to write. However, I’ve used all those experiences in my writing, so that time of adventure did serve a writing purpose in the end!

I’ve churned out novels since my early twenties but the difference now is that I am working hard at improving. It’s as if I spent years in my living room doing pirouettes and pliés while my family applauded – but doing a thousand or a hundred thousand movements means nothing if you keep making the same mistakes.

I decided, when I put my mind to writing here in Canada, that I was going to do things differently, that I’d make an effort to really learn. I got some real feedback (not just my Mom telling me how great I am!) and started studying the craft in earnest.

I’ve never thought that ‘prolific’ was a particularly complimentary term on its own – I mean it’s no good if you produce truckloads of rubbish! There are writers out there who have published one tiny gem and never written again and I think that has a greater worth of the two scenarios.

I don’t mind being prolific but it’s more important to be me that I improve.

I haven’t read the book, but one of the online reviews compares it to Madam Bovary. Flaubert’s novel was criticized for obscenity. Is your novel obscene? Also, we’re in the 21st century, is anything obscene anymore?

I never censure what I write. A lot of readers found The Hungry Mirror to be extremely disturbing and triggering and dark. Some reviews of West of Wawa slammed it for its depiction of the delights of opiates and self-medication but (thankfully) a lot of readers out there ‘get’ my voice; the voice that explores life’s oddities and does so without restraint but with humour and compassion and there’s always an element of triumph in my work. There’s always adventure, there’s always the chance for personal growth and the potential for happy endings.

One of my favourite writers is Harry Crews; he’s funny and dark and unexpected and sensual and unafraid and that, yes, along with Gustave Flaubert’s classic work, is writing I aspire to. The comparison of these two authors may leave some speechless but that would sum up my goals.

Let’s look at a definition of ‘obscene’:
Pronunciation: /əbˈsiːn/
Definition of obscene
•     (of the portrayal or description of sexual matters) offensive or disgusting by accepted standards of morality and decency: obscene jokes

offending against moral principles; repugnant: using animals' skins for fur coats is obscene – source: oxford.dictionaries.com

By that definition, I think a lot of things are still considered to be obscene today and A Glittering Chaos has already been judged to be that by some reviewers.

For example, I had a 25-stop blog tour planned in the U.S.A in May and June but this has been reduced to a 12-stop tour because some of the bloggers baulked at the mention of incest in the book’s online trailer.

And a few advance reviewers of the book declined to endorse it due to the sexual content and this did surprise me given Maidenhead’s success (I love Maidenhead by Tamara Faith Berger) and of course there’s Fifty Shades of Dreadful Writing (which I could not read despite trying). Fifty Shades is openly read on subways while my book is being turned down by bloggers in the Midwest… interesting…

In any event, I am delighted and honoured that the book is likened to Madame Bovary (with thanks to Richard Rosenbaum/Broken Pencil) and I’ll take the comparison with gratitude.  

I’d like to mention my publisher here, Luciana Ricciutelli. She’s always believed in my voice and she’s always believed in my writing, regardless of the story’s specific context. Make no mistake, she’s sent me back to the drawing board more than a few times (for which I am incredibly grateful) and she’s always been a stalwart believer in my message and I thank her, along with the board of directors at Inanna. My Inanna family take my words and help me sculpt them, and make them live in this world and no writer could possibly ask for more.

Why do you write? And please don’t say you enjoy writing because nobody in their right mind can say they do. It’s a painful, miserable experience most of the time.

I write because I am more miserable when I am not writing. I am happier with the sometimes-rewarding misery of writing than in the bleak misery of not writing. And I write because I cannot stop myself from doing so. 

And, since we’ve mentioned Madame Bovary, I’d like to end with a quote by Gustave Flaubert that seems rather fitting: “Writing is a dog’s life, but the only one worth living.”

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