Hi Lynette, and welcome back to the Book Muse! Last time I interviewed you, I think Akarnae had just come out and it was my very first interview as a book reviewer, so this is very exciting to have you back.
The Whisper duology is quite a departure from the Medoran Chronicles – what inspired you to venture into a different genre and plot?
I wrote Whisper when I was waiting on edits for the second book in my Medoran series. I had itchy fingers, so to speak, and I was desperate to be writing something, but I knew it made little sense to start drafting the third Medoran book without first knowing what might change in the second. Instead, I began to dabble with something new. At first, I didn’t have much of an idea of what I was doing, but the voice of the main character really spoke to me (ironic, really, given that she doesn’t speak at all for the first half of the book!). All it took was the prologue — a page and a half — for me to be ensnared by “Jane Doe”, and filled with questions. Who was this girl? Why was she locked up underground in a secret government facility? Why did she consider herself a monster? And so the questions went, until I was desperate to unravel her mystery. So the simple answer to your question is that I was curious, and I needed answers.
Both Whisper and Weapon are filled with secrets – which drive the plots and ultimately, give Alyssa her drive to discover the truth after she starts to Speak. How hard is it when writing like this to hold things back until they need to be revealed?
In Whisper, it was quite easy, since I had no idea what those secrets were and was only uncovering them as I went along, so I held nothing back as I wrote. In Weapon, however, I knew that the plot was going to twist and turn in such ways that I needed to sit down and map it all out so that I didn’t end up with one huge mess. Seeing everything laid out visually (I use a whiteboard with different coloured markers) helped me pinpoint the moments when things needed to be revealed to the greatest effect, so it was quite “easy” (relatively speaking) to make sure things happened in the right timing.
With so many characters lying, I never knew who to trust – was this your aim for readers as well as Alyssa, and what drove this aspect of the novels?
Interestingly, it’s actually very rare that any of the characters lie outright. I’m very careful about this in my books since I have massive trust issues in real life and don’t like people who lie, so I get a bit nose-wrinkly about characters who do the same. Instead, I make it so they misdirect the truth, answering something honestly but incompletely, making the main character — in this case, Alyssa — jump to the wrong conclusions. There is a lot of this misdirection in Weapon, and you’re right that as those revelations come out, it becomes hard for Alyssa (and readers) to know who to trust. That was my intention, so I feel as if my work here is done!
It’s so exciting to read books set somewhere I’ve been like Sydney – I recognised all the sites you mentioned and loved her jaunt to Taronga Zoo which I guessed was a Vivid trip in May or June. Does Sydney have the potential for so many hidden sites like you created, do you think?
I think that with a little bit of imagination, any city has the potential for hidden sites. I decided on Sydney because it’s somewhat familiar to me, but also because it has iconic landmarks that people from across the globe would recognise. And for the super passionate readers, I wanted people to be able to walk the paths my characters travelled, should they so choose to go on that kind of adventure.
Going on from the last question, I can now never see Sydney the same – I’ll always be imagining hidden entrances or facilities underground. What kind of research into Sydney and its hidden histories or sites did you do, and what are some really good resources to explore?
I do a lot of author events in Sydney, and my publishers are based there, so I visit a number of times each year. When I do, I make sure to get out and about and see things, which in turn mean I learn things. A few specific examples:
- I’m friends with Australian fantasy author, Traci Harding, and when I mentioned to her that I was writing a book that has a few scenes at Taronga Zoo, she said she knew one of the senior zookeepers there. So the next time I visited Sydney, Traci met up with me and her zookeeper friend, who took us behind the scenes at the zoo and shared all kinds of interesting things. Many of those things didn’t end up in the books, but they still helped lay a map in my mind of what I later stretched creatively into fiction.
- While on a visit to Sydney for the Supanova convention, the guest services manager (a Sydney local) took me on a night-time tour of the harbour area, and as we were walking through The Rocks, she explained the history (and the origin of the name), which led me to research further into it, with much of that information ending up in Weapon.
- I met up with some Canadian friends in Sydney for a short holiday, and we did a heap of touristy things, including heading out to Quarantine Station for a ghost tour. For the sake of being careful with spoilers, all I’ll say is that a lot of that Q-Station experience (and history) worked its way into Weapon.
So basically, when I see, do, or hear things that inspire me, I go back home and do deeper research into them, but also use a lot of creative license to turn them into fictional settings/ideas.
When researching, what is the first thing you do – read, plan or another tactic to begin the journey?
Oops, I think I jumped the gun on this question and answered previously!
Both books deal with the power of words – is this an important message for you, about using your voice, and what drove it?
Absolutely. Words are incredibly powerful, and the can make or break a person — or the world. An encouraging word can brighten someone’s day, just as an insult can ruin it. But in Weapon, and even in Whisper, the message goes beyond the words. It’s our thoughts that have the true power. Because our thoughts give power to our words, and our words give power to our actions, so we have to be so incredibly careful about what we think, what we say, and what we do. But… that power works both ways. We all have the capability and therefore the responsibility to use our voices. So let’s use them for good!
Whisper and Weapon suggest that the Xanaphan and Speaker Generations was limited in Sydney. As the author and creator, do you imagine a wider world of Speakers throughout Australia or the world? And would there be other groups like Lengard, the Remnants and SCARs?
There were a number of different ways I could have gone about this, but for the sake of limiting the series to a duology, I had to simplify things and contain them to one place. But it’s entirely possible that the drug was tested in other countries. Indeed, Australia could have been one of the last countries to enter the drug trial, for all we know! Without having gone down that path in the series, there’s no certainty with my answer, but I like to think there are other Speaker communities out there!
When writing this duology, what was your writing process?
This is a terribly basic answer, but it’s also the truth: one word at a time! (The same for any book or series!)
Cami and Arryn were my favourite characters – they felt like they were the most genuine, apart from Alyssa. Was this done on purpose, or did it evolve organically, and what other characters did you feel were genuine and wanted the best for everyone?
All of my characters evolve organically. I never set out with labels on my characters as I write them, I just start to get to know them through their actions and dialogue and it shapes who they become. But I’m also a big fan of healthy female friendships, so it was important to me in Whisper to have someone there for Alyssa, and that helped mould Cami’s character. With Arryn, I knew there was something different about her all the way along, and I had fun uncovering that, while softening her towards Alyssa (and vice versa) as they got to know each other better, building their relationship on mutual trust and respect. As for other characters, there are plenty who were genuine, with only a few who weren’t, but given how much happens in this fast-paced duology, it was difficult to give too many characters a lot of screen time. And for the sake of spoilers, I think it’s best I don’t name names!
When you started this duology, had you finished The Medoran Chronicles, and what inspired it?
Oops, this is another question I jumped the gun on earlier, sorry!
Some of the surprises worked really well – are those sorts of things hard to cultivate?
As mentioned earlier, I was very careful in mapping out the twists and turns, especially in Weapon. That made it relatively easy to know when and how to work in the “big reveals”.
If you could Speak, what do you think you’d like to be able to do, and what would you Speak into existence?
I’m not entirely sure, but I guess the most obvious answer is to say I’d like to be a Creator, so that I could do anything I wanted? BUT I also quite like Cami’s healing power, so maybe that? Then again, I could still do that as a Creator… So let’s stick to my original answer!
If Alyssa had a favourite Disney Princess, who would it be, and would the others have favourite Disney characters as well?
Maybe Mulan? Who doesn’t love Mulan! And it would depend on which other characters you had in mind. Cami would likely be a huge Disney fan, and I feel like Smith would be secretly obsessed. Ward would indulge them all (while being amused); Kael would just raise an eyebrow and roll his eyes while stealing all the popcorn; Enzo would be the first to press “play” and sit right up close to the screen; Arryn would be checking to make sure they weren’t in any danger while they watched, and would be taking notes on fighting techniques (to later demonstrate with Enzo); Riley would be leaning back and enjoying being with them all; Schrödinger would be dozing in the corner… It would be quite the scene!
Similar to the last question: Can you sort the Remnants and the main characters from Lengard into Hogwarts houses?
That’s a lot of characters, so I’ll just stick with the ones I mentioned above (minus Dinger). And I feel as if a lot of them are crossover houses, so you’ll have to bear with my indecision here!
Alyssa: Ravenclaw x Gryffindor x Slytherin
Cami: Hufflepuff x Gryffindor
Ward: Gryffindor x Ravenclaw x Slytherin x Hufflepuff (SORRY!! He has elements of them all!)
Enzo: Gryffindor x Slytherin
Kael: Ravenclaw x Slytherin
Arryn: Slytherin x Hufflepuff x Gryffindor
Smith: Hufflepuff x Ravenclaw
Riley: Gryffindor x Hufflepuff x Ravenclaw
Finally, what’s next for fans? Can you tell us about any future projects?
Aside from The World of Throne of Glass which I’m working on with Sarah J. Maas, I have a few things in the works, but since I don’t know when this Q&A is going to be posted, I’m unsure if any announcements will have been made. So all I can say is to keep an eye on my social media accounts for very exciting news of what’s coming next!
Any further comments or anything I’ve missed?
I think you got it all! Thanks so much for having me!