Friday 18 October 2019

A Chat With Tjalara Draper

This week, I interviewed Tjalara Draper whose debut novel Shards of Venus is coming out soon.

Hi, Tjalara! Thanks for joining me today. It's good to finally put a face to the name.

Do you have a pen name and why? No. I thought about having a pen name, because of how unusual my name is. I thought it would be easier for the world to deal with something more simple, like Mary Smith, or the like. But then I came to the realisation that I like my name and I’m also not the only author out there who has an uncommon name.

What was the defining event that made you start writing? I remember when I was nine, and my teacher at the time started reading “The Adventures of the Wishing Chair” by Enid Blyton. I was so entranced and I just adored the magical characters and worlds that Enid Blyton had created. At that age I practically wanted to be Enid Blyton. I even tried my hand at writing some short stories based on her books. Believe it or not, my mother had kept a few of those stories and showed them to me recently. As much as I think they’re a little cringey, I actually think it’s pretty cool that I’ve still got some evidence of my childhood dream of becoming an author.

What other writing have you done?  Other than some random creative writing assignments at school, none. ‘Shards of Venus’ is my debut novel which I started writing in 2016.

What made you choose this genre? I’ve always loved a mixture fantasy and sci-fi stories, and I currently have a few book ideas rattling around in my head. I had actually started writing a book in the medieval/epic fantasy genre, but then ‘Shards of Venus’ just kept growing and growing in my mind. I know it sounds really cliche, but I think this genre chose me.

What’s the basic plot of your book or series? ‘Shards of Venus’ is a story about what I’ve been calling ‘celestial shifters.’ I was thinking about werewolves one day and how they are associated with the moon, and then a thought struck me, “What if there were other types of shifters that were associated with the other planets?” and from there the story started to develop. Using the werewolf template, I started creating a Venus shifter race, which I’ve called the Veniri.
In my story, Nathan, a Veniri shifter, leaves his race to live among the humans. He becomes a cop and finds a human teenage girl called Violet whom he takes under his wing.
I think the basic idea of the story is about fighting for what you care about most.

What’s the story behind your book title? It actually took me aaaaaaaages to figure out the title. I think I got about half way through writing it when the title finally struck me. I was writing a scene were Nathan was captured by some hunters and was basically being tortured and I just thought of the phrase, ‘shards of Venus’ while I was typing. It was a real, “That’s it!” moment.

Which scene from your book do you like best and why?  Ooooh, that’s a hard one. Maybe, if I had to choose, (and I’m going to sound a little morbid) it’s probably Nathan’s before mentioned torture scene. It’s where Nathan shifts into his Veniri form and it’s the first time in the book where it’s described what the Veniri really looks like. I spent a long time doing the world building and character/race development for the Veniri and I think I’m actually quite proud with what I’ve ended up with.

Which is your favourite character and why? Again, I think this is a hard question to answer. Hmm. . . I think I’d have to say Violet. She shares the MC role with Nathan as I’ve alternated point of views throughout the book. Violet was the first character to come to mind when ‘Shards of Venus’ first began. She has a slower paced story compared to Nathan, but toward the end her story starts to catch up. I think out of all the characters, she has the most character development, and even though it doesn’t seem like it by the end of book 1, the way that I see her development going for the next book, I’m really excited to continue writing her story.

What are you working on now? ‘Flames of Mars’ Celestial Shifters Book 2, Woop! Woop! I’m pretty close to having a quarter of it written so far, and since I’m more of a pantser, it’s been interesting, even for me, to see where this story is going. I have a pretty good idea of how book 2 ends, it’s the big chunk in the middle I’m working on at the moment, haha!

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want? I think at the moment I haven’t put this kind of expectation upon myself. I think the beauty of releasing your first book is, there’s no expectation to deliver what the readers want, because they aren’t aware of your stories and your style and characters yet. However this opinion may change come book 2, haha! But I’d like to think I’m staying true to the original story idea that was spawned in my imagination, as opposed to trying to be more “original”. I kinda feel like that would force my book in an in-organic direction. And as for delivering to the readers, well, I am also a reader, and at this stage, all I feel like I’m doing is writing a book that I would like to read. And maybe there’s some other readers out there who would want to join me on my crazy imagination bandwagon.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel? ‘The Seer and the Sword’ by Victoria Hanley. I instantly fell in love with this story, and I have read it multiple times. But I’ve yet to meet anyone else who has read it.

What did you edit out of this book?  I had written a scene where Nathan was having a meeting with his town’s werewolf alpha whose name was Elena. She was the owner of a famous theatre, which she (somehow) used as a front for her pack’s “werewolf-y” activities. After writing the scene of Elena’s introduction, I realised it was taking the story in a direction I didn’t really want to go. So, Elena and her theatre went to the deleted scenes folder.

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work? I would do art. I’m already a Graphic Designer, and I was a part of the art club in the previous town I lived. I have already sold a few of my artworks which range from colour pencil, acrylic and even digital. Clearly I’m drawn to the creative side of life, I’m just now extending this fascination into writing.

What was your hardest scene to write? The scene where Nathan explains to another character called Sagan, why the Veniri queen wants to kill Violet. I struggled with the scene right up until the night before handing my manuscript over to the beta readers. To be honest, I’m still not entirely sure I’ve “nailed it”, but for now (I think) it works. Who knows, maybe one day, if it’s still annoying me, I’ll re-write it.

Quick quiz:

Favourite food: Thai duck red curry followed by anything chocolate for dessert!
Favourite drink: Bailey’s
Silliest saying: Gosh, I have so many! The latest one is where I say to my six-year-old, “Hello my little cauliflower,” to which she replies, “Hello my little watermelon,” all while my husband looks at us both with a really confused expression.
Best holiday spot: Hamilton Island
Favourite song at the moment: “Fake” by The Tech Thieves
With writing, are you a plotter or (seat-of-your) pantser? Defiantly a pantser. I’ve tried plotting, but I got bored really quickly. I like the organic process of pantsing and the surprising developments that can occur with the plot and the characters.
Star Wars or Lord of the Rings: Oh no! Don’t make me choose! …uh… maybe Lord of the Rings, only because I’ve currently re-watched the Hobbit movies.
Best superpower: FLYING! Whether like Superman, or with wings like a fairy or an angel, or even with Aladdin’s magic carpet. I’d be happy to take all of the above.
Number one thing to do on your bucket list: Write a book! Haha! Considering I can now tick that off my bucket list, weirdly enough, another thing I have on my bucket list is amateur fighting. A few years ago I was introduced to Muay Thai and I just LOVE it, and for a while there I was training up to three-five times a week. But then life got in the way and I had to put it on hold. But once I’m able, I’d like to get back into it and see if I’ve got the guts and the motivation to seriously train up for a few rounds in the ring. Maybe I can put it down as “research” for writing fight scenes, or maybe just research on how to get my ass kicked, haha!

Thanks for your time today, Tjalara, and good luck with your book. It looks like a ripper.

Book trailer:

Shards of Venus
New adult/paranormal/urban fantasy
Publish date: 1st November 2019

Shifting by the light of Venus...

Still reeling from the vicious murder of her best friend, Violet Chambers is haunted by the "faceless" man with the neck tattoo who kidnapped her. Trying to move on is a daily struggle for the girl who spent most of her life in foster care. But when she meets Nathan, the detective who found her at her best friend's crime scene, things begin to look more promising. Violet finally finds sanctuary for the first time in her life.

Hellbent on protecting her, Nathan Delano, a mysterious shape-shifting Veniri, will do anything he can for Violet. All he has to do is ensure Violet's world never collides with the shifter world. But even he can't stop the enemy determined to destroy her and anyone she gets close to.

Suddenly, Violet doesn't know who she can trust. With a pact broken and her safety on the line, will Violet save herself before it's too late?

 Link to Tjalara Draper's book Shards of Venus

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