Author Q&A: Thea van Diepen

The second week of the fantasy spotlight features fellow Canadian author Thea Van Diepen. A Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan with a great sense of humour, I can attest that this lady is good people and can’t wait to dig my teeth into the new project she soon has to offer. See the link to sign up for her newsletter below? You can download some free fiction by doing so – I recommend it!

(That being said, you can also do the same by signing up for MY newsletter… )

So put your feet up, take a read, and enjoy this other new voice in Canadian fantasy (FTW!). Thea, take it away…

1. Tell us a little about yourself. Your hopes, your dreams, your favourite childhood idol?

Well, I hope and dream of reaching 5’1” someday. You can get growth spurts in your mid twenties, right?

It’s funny, I’ve been thinking about what it is that I really want out of life and what I’m aiming for and I just realized that I spent this huge chunk of my life focusing on finishing up school (I just finished my undergrad degree in psychology this year! :D) and becoming an author that I didn’t really consider what I’d do next once I’d achieved them. How do I want to inspire people?

One of my childhood idols who comes to mind when I think about this is Madeleine L’Engle, an author best known for her book A Wrinkle in Time. She’s my favourite author, and that’s my favourite book. Her books have always made me believe that I, Thea, exactly as I am right now, am loved and, therefore, capable of good and beautiful things.

I think if my stories’ impact for others could be just a tenth of what hers have been for me, I would be very happy.

In the mean time, I’ll continue enjoying life: good friends, good food, great books, spending hours trying not to die by killer bees in unnecessarily difficult video games. Procrastinating cleaning the bathroom. Buying twenty books right even though I have nowhere to put them because they were super cheap and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Liking every single photo of my niece and nephew on Facebook because they are literally the cutest kids in the whole entire world.

And suchlike. 🙂

2. You have a new project about to come out – what’s it about?

Hidden in Sealskin is about an outlaw (Adren) who, while attempting thievery to get a cure for an insane unicorn, runs into this awkward teenager (Nadin) who can see through her invisibility and insists on helping her.

I mean, there’s also magic, secrets, an explosion, a daring escape or two, and a footman who I swear has the voice of Alan Rickman, but Adren and Nadin are the reason this whole story is even happening.

It’ll be out sometime late September. Sign up to my email list to keep in the loop. 🙂

3. Why should people read your work?

It explores what it means to live in a world as upside-down and crazy as ours. It has heart, a healthy dose of fun, and when you reach the ending, the entire story – maybe even the entire world – takes on a whole new light. Even the destination is a journey. Sometimes, that journey is dark, but I believe that, no matter how deep that darkness, the light is greater still.

4. Who is your target audience?

If you’re not afraid of words and you love a good paradox, then my books are for you.

The lines from the “Are These Books for You?” (link above) that apply most to Hidden in Sealskin are:

These books are for you if…

…you like humour that says: “Moar ridiculous!”, and one or more of the characters say back: “It’s all perfectly normal.”
…you like seriousness that says: “Everything bad that can happen, will”, and one or more of the characters say back: “No way in hell.”
…you like fantasy that asks: “Who is human?”, and where magic is not always in the forefront, yet its existence is integral to the story.
…you are fascinated by the endless possibilities of the human mind, both light and dark and everything in between.
…you believe that ignorance of the truth comes not through lack of opportunity to learn, but lack of desire to see beyond mere assumption.
…you still believe in right and wrong, good and evil, and understand that shades of grey mean that light and dark get mixed up in everyone, not that they’re indistinguishable or don’t exist.
…you refuse to believe that darkness is all there is even if, sometimes, the darkness wins.
…you believe that people are capable of being childlike, even in the midst of and with full knowledge of the world’s horrors.

There’s a few more that apply as well, but these are all the big hitters. 🙂

5. Of everything you’ve learned and developed over your projects, what are you most proud of achieving?

Actually editing Hidden in Sealskin. Editing and I have a love-hate relationship, whereby it loves to remind me that it’s important and I hate to do it. With my two previous books (Dreaming of Her and Other Stories and The Illuminated Heart), editing did happen, but on nowhere near the scale it has in Hidden in Sealskin. About 10,000 words got deleted, the beginning and ending both gained extra scenes, and Adren got snarkier. Plus, I got to add an exchange wherein Nadin almost faints. That was fun. 🙂 All in all, I learned a lot about the process, which made it less scary and made a better book as a result!

6. What is your writing process?

  1. Come up with an idea while working on another project
  2. Get totally sidetracked by that idea
  3. Plan out ten books
  4. Write the first draft of the first
  5. Publish two completely unrelated books in the intervening three years
  6. Edit practically rewrite that first draft
  7. Send it to the editor and hope to all that’s good that you didn’t totally break the darn thing with all the changes you made because you have a deadline, dammit
  8. Answer interview questions and try not to think about that last step too much

Oh, wait, that’s just how I did Hidden in Sealskin.

Usually, I have an outline of some kind. This can be as simple as knowing how I want to end it and a vague idea of what I’m trying to do to get there (this works best with short stories) and as complicated as writing out a synopsis punctuated by copious usage of the phrase “and then a miracle happened.”

This is followed by writing the thing from beginning to end, in as strict of a chronological order as the story will allow. One of my more recent short stories yet to be released in any way is the most glaring reason for fudging the chronological aspect: in order to make progress on that one, I had to write scenes that happened way after where I was at and then go back to fill in the blanks. I don’t know why. That one’s an odd child.

Editing is supposed to follow this. I really do proofread, but I tend to be light on the editing because I just want it all to be done yesterday. 😛 Hidden in Sealskin is the exception to this, and I hope it’s the first of many because the post-editing version is a lot better than the first draft.

All this is punctuated by long moments of staring out into space while trying to figure out what the heck I’m doing, and sessions of totally geeking out over way too much worldbuilding and symbolism and stuff. And potentially getting completely sidetracked with new projects.

7. Do you have any superstitions that factor into your writing process?

No. And if they try creeping in, I squash them. They make it hard for me to be flexible if they accumulate too much, like rust on the Tin Man.

8. If I stranded you on a desert island, allowing you only three books – what would they be?

You’re stranding me on desert islands now? Rude. 😛 Ok, in no particular order:

  1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, duh
  2. All the Chronicles of Narnia in a single volume (shush, it totally counts)
  3. The Bible. 66 books full of stories, poetry, and the good, bad, and ugly of people being people as they learn what life’s all about? Plus bonus trippy dreams and visions? Sign me up!

9. If you could design your ideal writing setting, what would it be?

Anywhere with wifi that I can plug in my laptop, sit comfortably, and write in peace while listening to awesome music. I’m not too picky.

10. How can people find you?

Google is an excellent search tool that comes very highly recommended. 😀

Snarkiness aside, you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr (my Tumblr is in temporary hibernation before I get back to more than just posing links to my blog posts. I’m working through a learning curve, but I’ll be back). There’s also my website, Expected Aberrations, where you can sign up to my email list.

My favourite place right now is Patreon, where you can support my work on an ongoing basis while getting a whole ton of exclusive behind-the-scenes stuff, early access to ebooks and other digital content, and signed copies of books as a thank you for your help in making everything possible. 🙂

LIGHTNING ROUND:

Fiction/non-fiction: Fiction!

Sweet or salty: Salty 😀

HBO or Netflix: Netflix. Because X-Files. And Stargate SG-1, whenever they renew the licence for it.

Talk or text: Talk. Always talk.

Paperback or ebook: What. No. I can’t… THEY ARE ALL MY PRECIOUS BOOKS AND I LOVE THEM *curls up in a corner, stroking Kindle and cuddling as many paperbacks as she can hold*

***

New Pic (square)Thea van Diepen hails from the snowy land of Canada and that fairest of cities, Edmonton, Alberta. She is, of course, completely unbiased (that’s what you’re supposed to get with a psychology degree, right?) and is also obsessed with Orphan Black, the books of Madeleine L’Engle, and nerdy language things. Her next book, Hidden in Sealskin, will arrive on the interwebs sometime before September 25, 2015.

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19 comments

    1. As she’s a guest, I’m willing to let it go… but I stand with you, Kate. Obviously the fairest of cities is our nation’s capital.

      Either way, YES! The world needs more of us! CANADIAN FANTASY AUTHORS – UNITE! In different cities! Over the internet because we’re all actually introverts and meeting in person would cause too much stress!!

      1. One day there will be a Canadian Fantasy author convention. And we will all meet and be awesome … and then find a quiet room to drink tea and eat cookies and chat

    2. Thanks! 😀

      To be entirely honest, most Edmontonians would be right there with you. Our city is better known for its frustrating bus system and yellow lawns than beauty. But I like it here. 🙂

      1. I’ve only been there once, and I didn’t leave the airport. My statement is entirely based on the fact that I think Newfoundland is the fairest place on Earth. I’m not from here, but I’m totally biased. 🙂

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