It is my distinct pleasure to present an interview with YA author Suzanne Van Rooyen. Suzanne’s latest book, OBSCURA BURNING, is a deeply woven tale about the struggle of one young man, Kyle, dealing with the death of his best friends while rogue planet OBSCURA threatens the earth. Possibly due to Obscura’s presence, he’s able to hop between two universes, one where Shira died, and one where Daniel died. Kyle is given the ultimate ultimatum: which universe should he save?
AN INTERVIEW WITH SUZANNE VAN ROOYEN
One of the things that makes Obscura Burning so original is that Kyle is bisexual. What inspired you to write an LGBT main character?
I’m not sure. It wasn’t something I decided like, ‘Oh hey I’m gonna write an LGBT character now.’ As Kyle emerged from the depths of my imagination – or where-ever these characters exist before they do on paper – he was confused, a bit bi, but mostly gay and that was who he was, so that was what I wrote.
I’m open about my support of QUILTBAG rights, so I’m glad to see more diverse characters trickling into YA, especially in science fiction which is a genre often white- and straight-washed.
How have your real life experiences affected the narrative, especially the setting?
I’ve never been to New Mexico but I’ve lived in hot, arid places. I grew up in South Africa where summer temperatures often reached the high thirties (Celsius). Then I lived in Western Australia and experienced scorching temperatures reaching the high forties! I have no love affair with heat (one of the reasons I moved to Finland) so when this idea started to take form I knew I wanted to set it somewhere hot and oppressive, with cactus and dust devils, and an unrelenting sun. New Mexico was the ideal setting and also provided subtle nod to one of my favourite science fiction TV series growing up, ‘Roswell.’
As for other aspects of the story, I did draw from real life experiences like a boy I knew as a kid, who was a problem fire-setter – a compulsion that both fascinated and terrified me, and still does. There are various other bits and pieces I’ve purloined from my life experiences too.
The publishing landscape has been changing so rapidly. How do you adjust to keep up?
It’s hard work. It requires daily participation in the industry like reading blogs, following the Twitter accounts of people in the business, watching what’s selling on Amazon, which books are making waves on Goodreads etc. That’s how I keep up. I think authors need to embrace these changes and be open to new developments in the publishing landscape if they want to succeed.
Obscura Burning is such a deeply layered story. What was your original inspiration?
It really came out of nowhere one day while I was listening to the haunting music by the band Explosions in the Sky. The music conjured the image of a boy walking in a desert and gradually, that boy’s story started to unfold.
Do you have any upcoming book tours? Do you find it difficult to market a book to North America from overseas?
I’ve just finished a Book Blitz but I’ve got a few interviews and guest posts coming up soon. It is trickier marketting a book from so far away. I’d love to organise book signings and library visits but that just isn’t feasible so that leaves most of my marketting done online, which is the way most authors are doing it today anyway.
Do you write by the seat of your pants, or are you a planner?
I’m a bit of a hybrid here. I don’t enjoy writing from outlines so once I have the basic premise and story trajectory down, I start writing. As the story progresses, I’ll inevitably have to rewrite and replot, usually changing quite a bit from that original outline. Once I know how my story ends though, it’s just a matter of getting there. I try my best to write according to the seven point plot structure even when I’m pantsing it. It doesn’t always work out but I love revisions.
What do you have coming up next?
My agent has two manuscripts of mine at the moment. Both YA, one paranormal and the other science fiction. Hopefully I’ll be able to share more good news regarding those soon. While waiting on those, I’m working on a couple of projects for both YA and NA markets but they’re very much works in progress.
What book are you currently reading?
The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay – This book has a fantastic cover and the prologue is one of the best I’ve ever read!
Watch OBSCURA BURNING’s Book Trailer.
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The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
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