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Tell me about yourself. What inspired you to write?
Kia ora, I’m a New Zealand-based author of fantasy, science fiction and horror for adults and older teens. While I now call New Zealand home, I originally hail from sunny Perth on the west coast of Australia, a city with two claims of fame: the most isolated capital city in the world and its “shark infested” waters. (Fun fact: between May and December 2017, Surf Life Saving Western Australia had 1400 shark reports.)
Growing up, my TV idols were the SG-1 team from Stargate and Max from Dark Angel (I guess that says a lot about me!) Book wise: not so surprisingly, Harry Potter was a main go-to, along withTamora Pierce’s The Immortals, K. A. Applegate’s Animorphs, anything by Paul Jennings, and the occasional Goosebumps book. I also real a tonneof Japanese manga, too many to list here.
I began writing when I was about 13 after drawing a character during the summer holiday break. Over a few weeks, the story of this character grew and grew inside my head. I’d tell it to myself whenever I had a spare moment—doing the chores, waiting for the bus, during TV ad breaks—until it got to the point where I couldn’t hold all the details of the story in my head. And as I struggled to keep hold of it all I stopped being able to tell myself new parts of the story. At last, exasperated, I started writing it down so I could clear some mental real estate to figure the next bit of the story out.
Fast forward nearly 20 years and here I am, still writing stories out of my head.
Describe your desk / writing space.
I have a desk, but I only use it while I’m editing so I can have a second screen. When in drafting mode I’m on the sofa, usually typing around a cat who’s squeezed herself in between the laptop and me. In winter, there are blankets and slippers in the mix too.
Do you have a writing routine or do you write when inspired?
I work full-time and am a natural night owl, so I write late in the evenings, usually while my husband watches TV (I have a really good set of headphones!). Since I work to deadlines (usually my own) I’ve learned that I can’t wait for the muse to arrive—I have to coax it out as I go. Sometimes it comes, sometimes it doesn’t, but I can always go back and edit those bits.
I try to write most days as I’ve found it harder to get the words flowing again when I take too long a break, particularly when I’m in the middle of something long and complex.
What was the hardest scene for you to write? Which scene was your favorite to write?
100% the ending. I cried while writing it. I won’t give too much away (other than to say no, the dingo doesn’t die). But I had to walk away from the keyboard after writing it I was so emotionally rung.
What inspired your book/series?
Dingo & Sister was actually a challenge to myself to prove I could write characters. Up until then, I had this belief that I wrote great plots but my characters were so-so. What’s more, I often needed a lot of words to bring them to life. The goal for Dingo & Sister was to create compelling characters in as fewer word as possible.
In terms of inspiration, much of it came from a train trip I did across the Nullabor—a desert plain that runs across the Great Australian Bite. It’s a two-day trip; you go to sleep one night seeing bushland and scrub outside the window then wake up the next morning to vast, utterly flat red desert. It’s quite surreal. We took the trip right in the middle of summer and the heat was something else, floating around 45C (113F) when we got out of the train at its midway stop.
If you could live anywhere, in this world or fantasy, where would you live?
Given many fantasies and sci-fis are either war-torn kingdoms (or on the brink of it) or have gross social, political and/or environmental problems, I think I’ll stick with New Zealand (but maybe somewhere in the South Island near the mountains, preferably with a good coffee shop nearby).
How do you come up with the title to your books?
Oddly, the title for Dingo & Sister was one of the earliest elements of the story I decided on. Normally I umm and ahh over titles, often workshopping them in my online and local writing groups. Some years ago there was a manga called Lone Wolf and Cub—I never got around to reading it (another one for the TBR pile!) but the title always stuck with me. When I started writing this story, I figured why not use a similar naming convention since the ‘wolf and cub’ title was so memorable for me.
What are you working on next?
I’m currently working on the second book of my debut trilogy—an epic fantasy about a girl bound in a blood pact to a monster. Think The Witcher meets Shadow and Bone. I recently revealed the cover of the first book, The Rarkyn’s Familiar, which comes out in April next year (and is available for pre-order!).
What authors or books have influenced your writing?
A lot! I’m something of a chameleon writer and my style will vary a little depending on the type of story I’m telling. I’ve had a lot of fun experimenting with style and voice in my short fiction, taking elements from the voices of Peter McLean and Madeline Miller and combining it with the weirdness of Paul Jennings.
For my longer works, one of my most significant fantasy influences is Robin Hobb—she writes some of the most vivid characters in the genre (imo). On the science fiction front, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and Vonda McIntyre’s Dreamsnake come to mind. On the manga side, seminal works such as Princess Mononoke, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and Berserk have been hugely influential.
What is your favorite meal?
Oo, tough choice. I love tacos, curries and stir-fries, but I think my grandmother’s mac and cheese recipe is my favorite. Quick and easy too (but not very healthy).
All right…prime grade ribeye steak, sous vide’d and grilled medium rare.
Coffee or tea? Wine or beer?
I love a good coffee, but I’m sensitive to caffeine so I’ve had to cut back. These days it’s a coffee in the morning to get me going then fruit teas after that. One of my local tea shops does a nougat flavored tea that is AMAZING. I much prefer wine or cider over beer, Pino Gris is my go-to.
Describe yourself in three words.
Persistent (some might say stubborn). Curious. Loyal.
Nikky Lee is an award-winning author who grew up as a barefoot 90s kid in Perth, Western Australia on Whadjuk Noongar Country. She now lives in Aotearoa New Zealand with a husband, a dog and a couch potato cat. In her free time she writes speculative fiction, often burning the candle at both ends to explore fantastic worlds, mine asteroids and meet wizards. She’s had over two dozen stories published in magazines, anthologies and on radio. Her debut novel, The Rarkyn’s Familiar—an epic tale of a girl bonded to a monster—will be published by Parliament House Press in 2022.