PODCAST SHOW NOTES
Join hosts Veronica and Darren for a filled to the brim episode featuring discussions about the monster that just might lurk within us all, why psycopaths can sometimes be successful, sharp eggs that can't be found in attics, book news, book reviews and a whole lot more...
Not only that, but Veronica sits down with the astoundingly magical author Nikky Lee to discuss all the secret ingredients that make her books so special! And as if that's not enough, Nikky was kind enough to record a reading from her latest book The Rarkyn's Familiar so sit back, relax, and be swept away to dark, emotion filled lands...
What Country do you write on?
I grew up on Whadjuk Noongar Country (Perth, Western Australia) before I moved to Aeoteroa (New Zealand) a few years ago. Today, I write and work in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) on Ngāti Whātua rohe (rohe = territory).
When did you first admit that you were a writer?
As I child, I used to imagine my own stories before I went to bed, but these stories never made it onto paper (such a thing never even occurred to me). It wasn’t until I encountered a story in my teens that was too big to tell myself in one sitting that I thought to write it down. All I wanted at the time was to get the start of the story out so my brain would stop fixating on it and let me imagine what came next.
I didn’t set out to write a manuscript back then, but that’s what happened. All I wanted was to tell myself this story; to find out what happened next. It was totally freeing, nothing like the writing I had to do for school where I wrote what was expected, not what Iwanted. But this time, no one was watching, no one was grading, it was just the story and me. Just for me. I guess you could say it was empowering? Whatever it was, I was completely hooked from that point.
So, that’s how I discovered writing. And I’ve considered myself a writer since. As for when I first admitted I was an author, that came quite a bit later.
What was your favourite book as a child?
I was a massive fan of Paul Jennnings, particularly his Un-series– I don’t recall a specific book (they all blur together), but I read the ones I had over and over.
What inspired you to write this book?
A lot of things. The story for The Rarkyn’s Familiar kicked around in my head for a long time before I sat down and wrote the beginning. (I say the beginning because I wrote the first 20-30k then put it aside for nine years!). A few of the inspirations for the story were:
I LOVE animal/creature companions in my fantasy. I’d run out of things to read with this trope so I wrote my own (this was pre-Amazon and eBook days).
Robin Hobb and R.A. Salvatore—Hobb for her world building and characters, Salvatore for his pacing and fight scenes.
Grimdark fantasy—when I picked up the MS again after 10 years I was heavily into dark, gritty stories where no one was ever squeaky clean, not even the hero. TRF doesn’t go full grimdark, but it has hints of it with grey characters, corruption and abuse of power themes.
Anxiety—I went through a really bad period with anxiety. The main character’s journey speaks to that.
At the time I was tired of encountering traditional fantasy races in my fantasy (orcs, hobbits, elves etc) so I figured why not create something new?
Do you write for yourself or for a particular audience?
My first draft is always me writing the story for myself. It helps keep the internal editor at bay if I can fool my brain into thinking no one but me will see this version.
Is there anything specifically Australian about your book/books?
Not so much in The Rarkyn’s Familiar. However, my novelettes and short stories are frequently inspired by the Australian landscape. The setting of Dingo & Sister was inspired by a trip on the Indian Pacific across the Nullabor (I will never forget that heat when we got off the train in Cook). Another short story, Karkinos that appeared in Deadset Press’s Cancer Zodiac anthology, was inspired by Western Australia’s Coral Coast and the trips I did up there as a child.
Are there any secrets hidden in your writing?
If there is, it’s news to me!
Why do you think listeners should read your book/s?
The Rarkyn’s Familiar sits in between YA and Adult (so YA crossover or New Adult). It’s ideal for adults who want something pacey and less dense to read, and great for older teens looking to work their way into more adult titles. It contains a kick-ass female lead who gets steadily more badass. (My response to “girls can’t wield swords” mindset).
This book might speak to those who have experienced anxiety—the MC experiences it and it was inspired by my own journey of coming to terms with it. If you’re a fan of Brandon Sanderson or Leigh Bardou’s world building—you’ll probably dig it. If you loved Tamora Pierce’s or Isobelle Carmody’s books in your teens, you’ll probably also enjoy it.
Is there a message in your books?
Don’t judge before you know someone’s story.
Who is your most or least favourite character to write?
I enjoyed writing all of my characters, but if I had to say who I enjoyed writing the least, it’d probably be Lyss. Her character changed the most through the drafts so she required a lot of reworking. Trying to unearth her motivations and not let her turn into a Mary Sue was a challenge. By the same score, when her character finally came together it was very rewarding.
What genre/s do you write in?
Mostly fantasy (pretty much all the genres) and science fiction (usually in one of the -punk categories) with a little bit of horror on the side.
What genre/s do you mostly read?
All of the above. Though I’m exploring horror at the moment as it’s pretty new to me (it was something of a revelation to learn I was actually writing horror).
I’m also partial to an occasional thriller or who done it/mystery.
What book are you reading at the moment?
I normally have several on the go (eep). I’m listening to The Fifth Season by N.K. Jesimin (for the second time) as well as The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood. I’m also reading two novellas, a cli-fi thriller by NZ author Octavia Cade called The Stone Wētā and holmesian space opera The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard where Sherlock is a tea master and Watson is a spaceship.
What was the last book you read?
The Eternal Machine by Carol Ryles—a mashup of fantasy, steampunk and alt history with a fascinating magic system.
As a writer, are you a plotter or a pantser or somewhere in between?
I started out as a massive pantser. I still do that sometimes with short stories. Now I’m more of a ploster and will have a loose outline or a vision that I write towards. That said, the story and characters tend to go off-piste before getting there.
How much research is involved in your writing?
Not a huge amount initially. I Google as I go. However, I’m prone to falling into YouTube and Wikipedia blackholes when I do.
What’s your writing routine – if you have one?
During the week I tend to write in the evenings. I find if I write in the mornings I get distracted by emails, social media and the business end of being a writer. I’ve also recently discovered that writing sprints works really well for me and helps me focus. On the weekends I’ll write whenever I have a few hours to myself.
Where do you write?
On the couch mostly. However, when I edit I like to use two screens, so I go into my study.
What’s your favourite writing food and drink?
100% coffee. Liquid of the gods. But if it’s past 2pm it has to be fruit tea otherwise I won’t sleep :(
Who helped you most when you were starting out?
My grandmother. She championed me every step of the way and read every terrible piece of trashy fantasy fiction I wrote in my teens and heaped praise on it. She’d pick us up from school once a week and every time she’d ask if I was ready to show her the next bit of whatever I’d written. That encouragement did wonders for spurring me on.
What’s the most useful writing advice you’ve been given?
Avoid adverbs. I was a serial adverb abuser when I started writing. This "rule" really made me reevaluate how I wrote and search for more creative ways to show rather than tell. Today, I still adverbs but sparingly. Every one is considered and carefully picked for their impact, rather than vomited ad nauseam over the page.
What’s your writing goal for the next twelve months?
As of May 2022: Phew, a lot! The big thing on my list is to polish up Book 2 of the Rarkyn Trilogy and have it ready to go to my editor by the end of the year. I also need to start working on Book 3 between now and then too.
What words of advice would you give an aspiring author?
Write like no one’s watching.