WE ATE THE ROAD LIKE VULTURES
Because when I read On the Road my world opened up - and not just in terms of thought. Sure - its about doing unconventional things and grabbing life without apology - and that's an exciting thing to read as a teenager. But as a writer, it was even more exciting to see that type of writing - where the words are as much a feeling as they are a mechanical device for getting thought on paper. Kerouac let language wash through him and out of him. The language is part of the experience, you can feel the energy, the confusion, the pace, the fear and the love - all of it - just through the way he uses the words.
The one problem I always had with Kerouac's work was his lack of any real valuable interactions with women - they were side-kicks, muses, wives and girlfriends, but they felt a lot like outsiders and observers. So I wrote my own beatnik book with Kerouac in it - and my characters is that strong, wild girl that I want to read. The girl that I am, to be honest.
SO LULU IS JUST YOU ON PAPER?
No - obviously Lulu is luck-heavier than most of us will ever be. But she is me if I strip off the everyday pragmatism that gets me through the boring bits of life. She has my idealism - it just isn't tempered by any inhibitions.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE STYLE OF THE NOVEL?
Well, it is a kind of magical realism - it is co-incidence and miracle heavy and it relies about people "believing 100 impossible things before breakfast." But it is also a homage to the beatnik style, obviously Kerouac's style in particular. Imagine a sixteen year old girl, who hasn't written a lot, but has read a lot of Kerouac - that's the voice. Don't expect common sense - there's no place for common sense on this road.
THERE ARE SOME STRONG AND UNUSUAL SPIRITUAL THEMES IN HERE - ADOLF'S JOURNEY IN PARTICULAR - WHAT THAT ALL ABOUT?
Spirituality is something that is very important to me and something that fascinates me. It's something that is such a private journey and yet so many people seem to think it is important to control someone else's spiritual journey. Adolf is on a journey that doesn't make sense to many people but Lulu, Carousel and Chicco let him do it. And they don't question him. And his belief is so strong that it creates a true spiritual experience out of what was essentially someone's practical joke on a boy who grew up ignorant of traditional spiritual stories.
The book is about belief in all its forms - the idea that if you believe something - it is true for you. You can never make something true for someone else, just for yourself. Only you can control your belief and only you should.
LULU IS STILL SEARCHING FOR SOMEONE AT THE END OF THIS BOOK - IS THERE GOING TO BE A SEQUEL?
Of course - Lulu will never be able to leave something like that alone. But I do think her journey with Carousel is over. She has another journey to go on - one I will admit she has already started - and there is unfinished business with her mother and with Adolf that needs to be addressed. I'll post more on this soon.
Why did you choose to write about death?
I am an ancient history lecturer, which means I spend most of my time thinking about people who are dead and studying graves and tombs and so I have a natural fascination with beliefs about death, particularly Egyptian and Roman. I used to teach high school history and I found that students who fascinated to the point of obsession with death. They want to read about it, they want to talk about it.
I think we don’t really talk about death in our current culture – we avoid it. We talk about grief if we have to – if we lose someone close to us, but we don’t plan for death, we don’t talk about legacy, we seem to feel afraid that young people can’t handle and they shouldn’t have negativity in their lives as though death is a really bad downer, rather than something every single one of us has to face… I think teenagers would actually really benefit from more talk about death… at the very least it gives us an imperative for action – a reason to get stuff done.
Why did you set the first part of the story in India?
I wanted Dom to be the embodiment of that feeling teenagers have that they are completely out of place in their own world. I mean, what could be more out of place than a teenager who is mixed race, adopted and living out of his own country. I chose the third world because I grew up in PNG and I know there is a lot ofdis –ease that you feel living in a country that has a lot of poverty when you are outside of it. You see disease, death and suffering but you don’t experience it yourself and there are different ways people react to this – they either want to fix it, or it makes them incredibly sad and almost want to give up on the world – I tried to depict that in Dom and Kaide. It’s overwhelming for him. The reason I made it India rather than Papua New Guinea was that I wanted to use a country with a strong connection with death and death beliefs – most religions of India believe in reincarnation and I wanted to bring that idea into the story because that wasn’t going to be part of Dominic’s afterlife.
Where did your characters “the Nephilim” come from?
My love of ancient history definitely influences my writing. I love mythology especially – the stories that people believe and which define their cultures. The Nephilim are mentioned in quite a few ancient traditions. Sometimes they are called “The Watchers” and other times “Giants” – and in the Bible it mentions that they were the children of Angels and human women. Satarial is the name of one that is recorded in a Jewish manuscript called The Book of Enoch. Since the first part of the name means “adversary” but the whole name means “on the side of God” I thought he must have been a very interesting and complicated being. Most religions also have a flood myth – from the Mesopotamians to Indigenous Australians – and so I put the two together. I found Satarial’s motivation in the fact that humans (in this case Noah) allowed his people to die in the flood. It’s just a case of me reading these ancient stories and imagining the human face behind them.
What inspired the actual Afterworld?
I noticed in all my study that most cultures had very powerful beliefs that something would happen after death and there were incredible similarities between the groups even though they existed thousand of years and continents apart. I think there is a lot of power in belief – so I explored what all that belief might actually create if it was all blended. The Necropolis is part Egyptian- they had a literal area of the city devoted to mummification, tomb making and funeral rights. It is also part Purgatory – a place to work out confusions and past sins. This idea crops up in many belief systems. It was also inspired by “the waiting place” in Dr. Seuss’ “Oh The Places You’ll Go” (one of my all time favourite books).
Is Afterworld part of a trilogy?
For now Afterworld is a standalone –there are enough trilogies out there. I may go back to the world one day, but I think Dom’s journey is over. I’m working on a story now about revolution and social uprising but set in our current time rather than in a dystopic future… I want to write something that feels possible.