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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Meeting Alex Dunn, whose debut YA novel has just been published

Hello Alex

It’s lovely to have you here on my blog today. Do help yourself to a slice of Christmas cake. I’ll just get the coffee on and then let’s talk about your lovely new novel for The Red Telephone Press: The Demon Magician.

Please tell us about the genesis of this novel – who or what inspired it?

AD: As you know, Margaret, I love to write, so when someone told me about NaNoWriMo - an annual internet-based creative writing project to complete a 50,000 word novel during month of November - I knew the only way I could do it was to write about something I knew well.  My parents, and my mother in particular, loved horror and she introduced me to that genre very early in life.  Some of my fondest memories are staying up late on Friday night to watch the Hammer Horror films, Mum reading Edgar Allen Poe to me, and listening to old radio plays (in particular The Man in Black). This, combined with some of my other passions: gothic music, fashion and a good-looking, charismatic demon with a wicked sense of humour, is how The Demon Magician came about. I simply wrote about what I loved, all mixed up with love, humour and lots of drama.

MJ: When and where is The Demon Magician set, and why?

AD: It’s set in present day, in a small town fictional town somewhere in the south of the UK. Ultimately, when writing horror, fantasy or science fiction, you have to ground the story in a reality your reader can relate to.  Hence a normal town, with normal shops and a girl-next-door heroine leading a normal life - that is, until she meets the Demon Magician…  

MJ: The book has a gorgeously spooky cover featuring cadaverous hands and a hooded creature with a single red eye. Did you play any part in its design? What does the cover say about the story?

AD: I did have a hand in the design so I’m glad you asked me this. I brainstormed several ideas with an online designer and ultimately agreed on the lone image of a dark magician because it was the most powerful visual that summed up the story. Jonathan is a magician gone bad.  He’s in servitude to Belphegor, one of the seven archdemons of Hell, and lives his life in the shadows.  The cover needed to show him because he is at centre stage of all the events. I especially loved the font that was used and I’m very proud of myself finding it using a font search tool.

MJ: Who is your ideal reader for this novel?

AD: It is being marketed as a YA Fantasy Horror and would appeal to anyone who loved The Demonata series, The Vampire’s Assistant by Darren Shan, Charmed, and my personal favourite Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That said, I’ve always read YA and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks to a recent marketing survey, I’ve discovered I’m not alone because an increasing number of adults are now enjoying YA, which is one of the fastest-growing literary genres.

MJ: You’ve written the novel in the first person. Do you feel the first person viewpoint is the most appealing and do you always use it? Or was it merely right for this story?

AD: First person was right for this story. If it wasn’t written in first person, you’d have no sympathy with Ella when she knowingly takes a gift from a demon, or be able to experience the conflict with her on such a personal level when she realises she has to stop Jonathan who used to be the love of her life.  You need to hear her inner voice at all times – it’s what drives the story forward and sucks you into the magic underworld of demons and black magic.

MJ: You live in Hong Kong. Does Hong Kong inspire your fiction? Or, when you write fiction, are you escaping from Hong Kong?

AD: You can’t help but be inspired by Hong Kong.  It is amazing, and I can’t believe how lucky I am to be living here. We have ultra modern buildings, luxury shopping malls and spas built on top of and squashed between markets, temples, local medicine shops, lovely little tea houses and more restaurants per square foot than anywhere else on this earth, I’m sure of it. There’s also amazing countryside, beaches and some beautiful little islands, which are like stepping back in time – we’ve even got our own Gold Coast! It is a hundred different places in a relatively small surface area, with every nationality all somehow living in harmony. However, it’s the Hong Kong people’s spiritual beliefs and rituals that tend to inspire my writing.  They are a very superstitious people – 8 is lucky, 4 very unlucky (we have no fourth floor on any building).  When things weren’t going so well for me at work, one of my friends put curly bamboo on my desk to help change my luck and there are rituals to honour the dead.  What I really love is their temples.  You go there to pray for good luck, and if the prediction is bad, you burn it in the fires and leave all your bad luck behind, and if it is good – you take it with you.  You can’t lose!

MJ: What is next for Alex Dunn, fiction-wise?

AD: I’ve several other YA fantasy novels almost completed, but the one I am racing to finish is another demon story.  This time it’s about a demon who opens a spa and makes people thinner, younger and prettier in return for their souls.  It’s a lot of fun and quite topical given the obsession we all seem to have with outward appearance.  I’m also able to draw on my own diet experiences that are extensive and not all of them successful. J

MJ: You’ve successfully published your first novel. What advice would you give a new writer just setting out on the journey you took?

AD: Be patient, because getting a book to print is a marathon not a sprint.  It takes time to edit, time to make revisions, time to see if marketing strategies work – it even takes a long time to do fun things like the cover. Patience is a mandatory requirement for all authors.

MJ: Do you feel everyone has the potential to become a storyteller?  Or are storytellers born rather than made?

AD: I believe we all have it in us to write a story, but not everyone can tell one.  I listen to a lot of audio stories when I work out, and love listening to the likes of Stephen Fry, Rik Mayall, or John Hurt.  They perform the story. They make it come alive, and it’s the next best thing to reading the pages yourself.

Five Quick Questions

Do you prefer:

Animals or people?

Err, that’s a tough one, but I’ve never met an animal I didn’t like so I’ll have to say them, although that doesn’t mean I don’t like most people I meet, too.

City or country? 

City – I like convenience and excitement.

Company or solitude?

Solitude, but only because it’s a luxury these days.

Exercise or the sedentary life?

Sedentary – I go to the gym but I don’t enjoy it.

Ship or plane?

I really don’t mind as long as it’s first class. J

Thank you, Alex – it’s been great to chat to you! Good luck with this novel and with many more to come!