I have to ask—what was the inspiration behind Otherkin? Is the shifter concept something you’d been working on for ages, or was it more spontaneous?Well, I’m a big geek who plays Dungeons & Dragons, and a few years back I played a were-tiger character. She was very different than the main character in Otherkin – she was a very confident thief, and I loved playing her. I think it helped me tap into some of my own confidence and playfulness. Then I researched tigers (I highly recommend a non-fiction book called “The Tiger” by John Vaillant about a wounded Siberian tiger who hunts down the man who shot him –fascinating!) and became active in trying to help preserve them in the wild.
Meanwhile, I figured I wanted to write a book about girl with a back brace because that’s something I went through as a teenager, and it really had a big effect on my self image. Then somehow the two ideas came together in my head – a girl with a back brace, basically at war with her own body, who is forced to deal with her body in a whole new way when she shapeshifts into a tiger. It allowed me to address themes like body image, bigotry, and the environment while also featuring a lot of action and adventure.Then I had to work on building a world where shifters could exist. I have to say, being a role-playing geek really comes in handy when you’re making up the rules and details of your own world. And it’s really fun too.
The most amazing thing so far is having a few reviewers and readers really “get” my book. As a writer you toil for so long alone that you wonder whether or not you’re fooling yourself. During my first conversation with my editor, I realized I’d found someone who understood my story from the ground up. That was unbelievably validating. Since then, a couple of other readers and reviewers have done the same thing, which makes me think maybe I wasn’t completely insane.
What are you looking most forward to when Otherkin gets out there in the wild?I’m actually kind of terrified! Part of me likes the attention, the other part of me wants to hide. Right now I’m looking forward to my book launch and signing on July 28 at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, California, where I get to hang out with fellow authors Brigid Kemmerer and Marni Bates, sign books, and eat cupcakes. Wish we could teleport you over from Australia for it.
More seriously, if even one person relates to my characters in some way or learns something about helping tigers remain in the wild, then I’ll be the happiest person ever.
Do you have a particular strong connection or similarity to one (or more) of the characters in Otherkin or its sequel Othermoon? Why?
Elements of all the characters come from me, even the villains, and I love them all. But I’m the most like Dez, the protagonist, and not just because we’re both redheads who had to wear a back brace. Like me, she’s a good girl with loving parents who started off as a very happy, confident kid but got a bit squashed by the brace. I gave her some of the issues I faced as a teenager, only it took me ten years to learn what she figures out over the course of a few weeks. Of course, I never got to shift into a tiger, unfortunately!
Some of the other characters are variations on people I’ve known, so I’m also very fond of them.
What kind of research did you do for the novel? (i.e. on cats, location, other aspects).
I read books and articles about tigers and the other animals you encounter in the books. My two cats were good feline inspiration. I poured over maps of the desert near Barstow and the mountains near Coyote Peaks in California to make sure I got the basic environments right.
I based Dez’s family home in Burbank on the neighbourhood some friends live in, though I messed around a bit with the location of Burbank High School. I wanted her to have had a very “normal” suburban upbringing, even though she was originally adopted from Russia as an orphan. Which reminds me that I did a lot of research on adoption so that I could get an idea of how Dez might feel as someone who was adopted into a loving family.
But mostly I spent a lot of time making up the rules of how shifting works, how shifters and callers of shadow are connected to Othersphere (that’s the world next to ours, just beyond the veil…) and all the other things needed to make the fantasy elements feel as grounded and consistent as possible.
Your top five must-have reads for the summer?
SPARK by Brigid Kemmerer, the second book in her fabulous series, out in August. But be sure you read the first book STORM first!
BRING UP THE BODIES by Hilary Mantel. I love historical fiction and Tudor England in particular.
CLOCKWORK PRINCE by Cassandra Clare – I’m a bit behind in getting to this because I’ve been so busy writing, but I loved CLOCKWORK ANGEL, so can’t wait to plunge into the sequel.
SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo – high fantasy in a Russian-esque world.
BROKEN HARBOR by Tana French. I loved her earlier mystery, THE LIKENESS, also set in Ireland. Can’t wait to read this new one!
Summer or Winter?
Summer! I only like winter for about a week. Comes from growing up in Hawaii.
Ice-cream or chocolate?
Can’t I have chocolate ice cream? That’s what I’d vote for!
Movies or books?
Ooh, tough one. Books edge out movies because they were my first love, but I went to film school too.
Morning or evening?
Evening. Don’t bother me too early…
Dogs or cats? ;)
BUY: Amazon | Barnes and Nobel
Sixteen-year-old Desdemona Gray doesn’t even bother with crushes on cute boys now that she’s forced to wear a hard plastic back brace all day. What guy would want to literally have to knock on a girl to be let in? So she squashes down every impossible desire until an uber-awkward brush with a boy brings out all her frustration and she changes…into a tiger. In that bewildering moment, she is captured by Ximon, the leader of a fanatical group hell-bent on wiping out the five remaining tribes of shapeshifters, known as the otherkin.
With help from a handsome, mysterious fellow captive named Caleb, she escapes and goes on the run, finding allies and learning the truth behind the legends of wizards and werecreatures. Then Ximon goes too far, and Dez must tap into all her buried desires to find her inner tiger and save herself, her new friends, and the boy she loves.
I honestly did love Otherkin and luckily you guys don't have to wait all that long because it comes out on the 31st of this month! As in TODAY for us Aussie people who like to hit the Kindles (sadly, Otherkin doesn't have an Aussie deal yet), but for the rest of you ;) *nudge nudge* And don't forget to stop by Nina's blog, too!