I’m so very honored to welcome S.C. Flynn to Bookwraiths today. Hopefully, most of you have already tried out his debut novel, Children of the Different, which has been getting rave reviews around the blogosphere, but if you haven’t, you now have an opportunity to . get to know a little more about this amazing author and his entertaining novel. So let’s get right to it!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
I am from Australia, but I have lived in Europe for many years. I have lived in Dublin, Ireland for a year now, and before that in Milan and London.
I have worked at writing novels for a long time. I played the conventional publishing game for years, with two professional literary agents at different times, but was unable to break through.
Like many writers, I think, my first three novels were learning exercises that are not of publishable standard. Then came three novels – fantasy, but very different from CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT – that I worked on with the agents. Then CHILDREN, which is the first novel that I am publishing.
What type of story can readers expect to experience when picking up Children of the Different?
CHILDREN is set in post-apocalyptic Australia. As an after-effect of the brain disease that killed most of the world’s population, adolescents enter a comatose state known as the Changeland. The dangers they face there have a direct effect on how they will be when they emerge from the coma: they will either have special mental powers or be permanently damaged. The main characters are thirteen-year-old psychic twins, Arika (a girl) and Narrah (a boy).
This is a rapid, visual story that alternates between the Changeland and the outside world with many different settings – forest, desert, ocean, city. It is also ultimately optimistic.
Some people are labeling Children as a Young Adult Dystopian novel. Is that a fair description? Why or why not?
I think that is a fair description, if a simple label is needed. The main characters are thirteen years old, the setting is post-apocalyptic and the style is simple and clear. There is no crude language, sex or graphic violence. However, some aspects such as environmental issues, neurodiversity and the touch of Australian aboriginal mythology should make the novel of interest to older readers as well.
What sets the world in your novel apart from others?
The fantasy element is unusual in post-apocalyptic or dystopian stories; I cannot think of many other examples. Fantasy aspects feature very strongly in the Changeland (a mental state where just about anything goes) but also in the outside world after the twins’ Changings, when they bring back with them enhanced mental powers.
Mad Max is a famous post-apocalyptic story, but apart from that, Australia has not been used that much in that sub-genre. As a country, it offers a lot of different settings and strange creatures, many of which I have used in CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT.
How long has the idea for this story been percolating in your mind? Do you recall when it first came together? Has it evolved or changed during the writing and publishing process?
I remember very well when the basic idea came to me: June 2012. I had been reading some more of Carl Jung. Out of some of his writings on the key phases of human life (in this case, adolescence) and the mysteries of the sub-conscious came the basic concept of the Changing. Humans entering a cocoon phase like an insect was a creepy and striking central idea.
Of all the novels I have written, CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT was by far the easiest to write. Once the central idea was in place, the rest came easily. Broadly speaking, the novel evolved relatively little during the writing and publishing process.
If a prospective reader asked you to compare Children to a more well known novel or author what would be your answer(s)?
The Chrysalids by John Wyndham with a touch of Mad Max. Some reviewers have made a comparison to Alice in Wonderland, which is flattering – “Arika in the Changeland” would be an alternative title, I guess!
A favorite fantasy author of mine was quoted as saying people write about what they think is cool? Is that true with you? Please explain.
I think that is true for me. I don’t want to give too many spoilers, but, for example, Arika’s power of mental shapeshifting is very cool and original, I think. I had that in mind for years before I found the occasion to use it. The whole Changeland concept is cool to me. A lot of the scenes that take place in the Changeland are very neat, I think. And the baddie – the life-sucking Anteater… .
Is there any particular message you hoped to convey with Children of the Different?
Optimism, above all. The world is full of problems – and the world of the novel is even more full of them, but I like to believe that at least many of them can be overcome. People who are currently very young will inherit enormous difficulties. CHILDREN tries to show that young people are capable of a lot, and also that although technology has created a lot of bad things, if used properly, it can help solve them as well.
We all have favorites, so I have a feeling authors have favorite characters they enjoy writing about more than others. Who was yours in Children of the Different, and why?
This has been for me one of the really interesting aspects of the advance reviews for CHILDREN. Fortunately, reviewers seem unanimous that the twins Arika and Narrah carry the story very well – they are the main characters, so making them sympathetic and interesting was fundamental.
I enjoyed writing the baddie, the Anteater. Again, I had the idea of that character for years before the right occasion to use him came along. The Anteater necessarily has to be mysterious, so he does not appear all that much, but his scenes were fun to write.
Arika’s female friend Toura has got a few favourite votes from reviewers as well, which I am happy about. Toura emerged from the Changeland almost totally silent, but with the ability to see the future – her prophecies are about the only words she ever says.
What were some of the best moments for you when writing this book? Most difficult challenges?
I liked writing the female buddy sections where Arika and Toura are travelling together. That was an aspect of the novel that developed during the writing process. The two girls used to be friends when they were younger, but Toura’s Changing cut her off from Arika and everybody else. After Arika changes, she and Toura go on a journey together and rediscover their friendship along the way.
That was a nice character-based part of the novel, but difficult to write. Toura almost never speaks and is only ever seen from the other character’s viewpoint, which renders her opaque. The rare words she speaks are usually cryptic prophecies. We know that Changers can seem harmless but in reality be dangerous (Sleeper Ferals, in the language of the novel), so are Toura’s occasional words flashes of light or part of a deception?
More generally, it was a challenge to write this novel in a way that was appropriate for the Young Adult/Middle Grade audience and in accordance with the viewpoints of the main characters, who have lived their whole 13-year lives in a small, isolated non-industrial community. My approach was to drastically reduce the vocabulary I allowed myself to use, and to adopt a consistently simple grammatical structure.
I hope those examples indicate that behind the simplicity and clarity of the text lies a lot of work!
What have you learned during your self-publishing journey? Any advice you can pass along to others?
It is too early for me to feel that I can give advice to others! It is certainly a very demanding journey, though, requiring a lot of time, energy and sacrifice.
I will say that I would not have changed much in my approach to self-publishing, so no regrets there. I set myself to produce a book as well made as those of the big publishers and in all formats – ebook, print and audiobook – which was a big challenge. If I had my time over again, I could maybe save a bit of time using what I have learned, but in general I am pleased that I got most things right the first time.
How do you define success as a writer? Sales? Adoration? Creative satisfaction?
All of these. I would put creative satisfaction first. I already had that, and seeing reviews of my writing for the first time has indicated, if not adoration, at least that quite a lot of people enjoy my story. After many sacrifices and a lot of effort, it would be nice to achieve large sales as well… .
What can fans expect from you next?
I have not decided yet. Either a sequel to CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT – there has been some interest in that – or publication of one of my other novels. As I said, I have three of those of publishable standard; I will take the opportunity to talk a little about them here.
These are three connected quasi-historical novels set in different epochs of the same world. The different time periods are analogous to ancient Egypt, Hellenic Greece, ancient Rome in the first novel, the Carolingian empire in the second and Anglo-Saxon England in the third.
Connections between these periods and novels are established by reincarnation and inherited memories. Above all, there are the artefacts of a fabulous ancient treasure spread throughout the known world, each one containing the secret of one of the great spiritual mysteries that could also confer great worldly power on whoever possesses them.
Where can readers find out more about you?
S C Flynn was born in a small town in South West Western Australia. He has lived in Europe for a long time; first the United Kingdom, then Italy and currently Ireland, the home of his ancestors. He still speaks English with an Australian accent, and fluent Italian.
He reads everything, revises his writing obsessively and plays jazz. His wife Claudia shares his passions and always encourages him.
S C Flynn has written for as long as he can remember and has worked seriously towards becoming a writer for many years. This path included two periods of being represented by professional literary agents, from whom he learnt a lot about writing, but who were unable to get him published.
He responded by deciding to self-publish his post-apocalyptic fantasy novel, Children of the Different and, together with an American support team, aimed for a book as good as those created by the major publishers.