Nerine Dorman’s latest release, Camdeboo Nights, takes readers on a wild jaunt through contemporary South Africa, from the shadow of Table Mountain to the desolate wilderness of the Karoo, and to stranger places where vampires and mages are locked in a deadly struggle. Today she’s in conversation with Carrie Clevenger, author of the acclaimed novel Crooked Fang.
Carrie: Nerine, you’re well known for both your journalistic accomplishments, including travel writing, and your horror. I imagine it was a both a bit of surprise to your audience and a jump for you to pen a YA novel. What caused this decision? Was it difficult to bring your adult telling voice to one that a teen might enjoy?
Nerine: Haha, journalistic… [slaps self] I prefer to call myself a writer, not a journalist [laughs] – long story and I can hear journos having conniptions when they hear of me referred to as a journalist – but yes, I started out writing editorial for magazines and newspapers in my spare time but I’m employed as a newspaper sub-editor and freelance as a fiction editor. I have less spare time now but I still write, and my focus has shifted to publishing-related pieces (book reviews, author interviews), though from time to time I still write the odd travel piece. That’s when I’m not writing fiction. Camdeboo Nights came into being a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far …
Never mind. [laughs] This is one of the earliest novels I wrote way back when. The reason I’m only publishing it now is because it first sat on full sub with a literary agent for almost a year. It got entered and made it to the quarter finals of one of the ABNA competitions (don’t ask me which, I can’t remember and I’m not going to go look). Then it sat on full sub with yet another publisher for almost a year before I eventually subbed to Lyrical… You get the picture. The wheels in this industry… they turn slowly.
So this might be a surprise to my regular readers, but Camdeboo Nights represents one of my early stories before I developed my current style. As for voice? Just don’t write explicit sex scenes. That being said, teens don’t want authors to talk down to them. Mostly, I’m still a teenager at heart, so I haven’t forgotten their frustration of not being fully in control of their lives yet feeling like they want to take a more active role.
Carrie: In your story, you feature a vampire or two, mainly Trystan. He drives this cool classic car he calls Rose. What inspired this relationship between the boy and his car?
Nerine: I was considering that anyone who’s been around as long as Trystan is bound to be attached to something from the past, something that remains unchanging – hence the car. I’m a huge fan of classic cars and I adored the image of this somewhat skinny, scruffy-looking young man behind the wheel of a monster car.
Trystan’s lavished a lot of love on his Hudson Commodore, so much so it can be suggested that the car has developed a personality. I’ve got a Hudson of my own that’s currently standing on blocks in storage, and I hope to one day see her hit the road. They’re really monster cars, and have the most beautifully awesome engines, not to mention the streamlined body.
Carrie: Tell me what makes your vampires different from the other vampires out there.
Nerine: I wouldn’t exactly call them different, but I’ve worked on the concept of them being anti-nature in that their very existence sucks magic out of the world. They’re an abomination when compared to my mages, who are magical beings. My main character discovers the secret why vampires love to hunt mages as the story progresses. Generally, the more “vampiric” my vampires become, the less resistance they have toward sunlight. The older vampires have been around so long that they no longer have much empathy for humans and other living things. There’s nothing sexy about my vampires. They’re cold, dead things and some of them, like Trystan, try to cling to the vestiges of their humanity – to various degrees of success.
Carrie: You mention an owl house of some sort with very graphic descriptions. This is a real place, right? Helen actually lived? Do tell.
Nerine: The Owl House is all that remains of the outsider artist Helen Martins, who created her life work during the mid-1900s in the small Karoo town of Nieu Bethesda. I’ve had a bit of a lifelong fascination with the place and for a full explanation I suggest visiting the Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Owl_House). Helen was a woman who wasn’t afraid to make her dreams a reality, even though the folks of her village thought her a bit weird.
I wanted to pay tribute to her in Camdeboo Nights, and hopefully encourage folks to make the effort to travel out to Nieu Bethesda if they’re sightseeing here in South Africa. Nieu Bethesda has really become a stunning little enclave of creative people, all thanks to so many visitors coming to see the Owl House, and if you’re looking for a place where you can break away from the rat race completely, then you can’t get any farther away from the rest of the world.
Carrie: And of course, Camdeboo Nights features some unique individuals. I won’t tell the ending (it is quite a wonder) but what sort of mystical creatures might be lurking between the electronic covers?
Nerine: There’s the obvious – vampires – but I also draw upon African mythology. Of the Western esoteric tradition there’s a small taste too… But more than that I won’t tell because I don’t want to ruin the surprise.
Carrie: There’s a bit of a blush here and there, keeping that in mind, whom would you recommend your book to as far as age demographic? You can leave the far-end of the range out, of course.
Nerine: I’d happily recommend Camdeboo Nights for folks 14 and up, but really, you can be any age to enjoy the story. I love reading teen and young adult protagonists because there’s always the sense that you’re just at the beginning of an exciting adventure. And Camdeboo Nights is only really the start of the journey. I have a feeling Helen, Trystan, Etienne and Arwen have more to tell, one day.
The Camdeboo Nights page at Lyrical Press: http://lyricalpress.com/camdeboo-nights/
Like Nerine’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nerine-Dorman-author/173330419365374
Or stalk her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/nerinedorman