You have four stories in the integrated short story collection, Possessing Freedom. Without giving plot spoilers, what can readers look forward to in your four stories?
Readers can look forward to genuine characters who, despite their supernatural abilities, struggle under extraordinary circumstances. I had hoped to create characters that readers could instantly connect with and that they looked forward to spotting in the story again. Both of my characters are strong but somewhat unstable, in different ways, and their actions aren’t always what you would expect.
I didn’t want this to be a typical YA book with a typical blushing heroine and an evil and brutish villain. I didn’t want the first story to open with a teenage girl in a high school, who didn’t fit in.
I wanted genuine and unexpected. I hope I’ve achieved it.
Of your four stories in Possessing Freedom, you have two each for two point of view characters. How would you describe your approach to making your two point of view characters distinct from each other?
Alice was the first character I created, and I really delved into her world. I was so immersed with the troubled teen and her newly developed world that, at first, I did struggle to change tracks and write Faye.
From the beginning, I could picture both girls very clearly in my mind. I think it helps to have a concrete reference of each characters physical attributes, dress sense and natural body language.
I listened to different music as I wrote each character, and that helped me to change tracks. This was made a lot easier by the roles each of my characters have, being a heroine and a villain. Though, I wanted to blur the lines a little. I wanted the reader to feel a connection to Faye, as they might for the other characters, despite her villainous role. It’s easy to get someone to like the character on the side for ‘good’, but when you want a reader to like the villain just as much? It was definitely a challenge.
I constantly re-read my Alice material as I wrote Faye to ensure that their voices sounded different and that they had different mannerisms. My fellow writers also helped a lot, I’d ask for their advice often and they’d let me know when something needed extra work.
In a previous interview you wrote, “My writing journey began from my unsated desire to read original YA fantasy when all that seemed to be stocked on the shelves were vampire stories, so I decided to write my own.” What do you hope readers will take away from reading Possessing Freedom?
I really hope readers find the characters, mythological underpinning and futuristic setting an original read. This isn’t a romance, but it has romantic elements. I think the level of romance is ‘just right’. It doesn’t dominate the story line, and so there is plenty of room for nail biting suspense and action. It’s kind of like our characters are all caught up in the same spider’s web, and each story line will eventually run into the others. Not everyone is going to get along, and there is sure to be some star-crossed lovers along the way…
In your previous interview you wrote, “Urban fantasy is of particular interest, because I love reading stories set in the real world but with a twist.” What is it about a strong real world grounding that appeals to you over more fantastical stories?
I can’t be the only one who sits on a train, making up stories for the people sitting around me. The idea of seemingly ordinary people being involved in some sort of mystery, mythological or not, is fascinating to me. When I pick up a book set in its own fantasy world, I’m immediately expecting things to be out of the ordinary. But an urban fantasy keeps you guessing. Who is it that has the abilities? What exactly are the rules of this magical world? The reader discovers as the story progresses and I think that is what keeps that pages turning.
In Possessing Freedom, some of the characters are perfectly ordinary whilst others have a thing or two up their sleeves. I think there is something special about reading a story where supernatural’s and humans work together, an opening up of the imagination that still has a firm grasp on reality.
Possessing Freedom is set in Melbourne in 2026. What challenges or joys did you experience writing stories in this near-future Melbourne setting?
The near future setting of Possessing Freedom was both tricky and enjoyable. It isn’t far enough into the future where I could start writing about flying cars, but it was just enough that we could play with our setting a bit more. We weren’t constricted by exact locations of places and it allowed us to fill in some of the gaps. However, there were moments when I found myself being too ‘old school’ for a near future setting. And it was really the small things that make the difference; things like, doctors don’t walk around with pen and paper because they have palm devices. I had fun messing around with the details.
Possessing Freedomhas a fan fiction competition running until August 31st, 2013, with a $2000 1st prize. What comments or tips do you have for writers who may be considering writing a short story related to one your point of view characters, Alice or Faye?
The one thing that I absolutely love about Possessing Freedom is the changing narrators. I have always liked to read books that have at least two different POV characters because it allows me to get a better understand of the characters and the setting and it allows me to further question characters motives and the plot. So, don’t be afraid to write in a new character or one that only starred momentarily in one of the stories. Look at the events through their eyes; what’s happening, what is their spin on all this? Who are they, and how do they fit in with the cast of already existing characters?
Have fun with it! Get to know our characters, and run with it. There are heaps of really good opportunities within this book to expand upon particular moments, relationships and back stories.
Your story, ‘Reflection’, is the opening story of Possessing Freedom. New York Times bestselling YA fantasy novelist, Maria V Snyder, discussed an early draft of ‘Reflection’ with you when she was in Melbourne on her 2011 Australia and New Zealand book tour. How did Maria’s advice assist you with developing ‘Reflection’?
Having an author you admire critique your work is extremely nerve wracking! But was an awesome experience. Maria really helped me to iron out Alice’s voice so that she felt real and relatable. It was also great because she was the first person to read the draft outside of the people who were working on the project (Steve, Beau and Rhiannon). She was able to provide an outside perspective. Were our magical elements working? Did our story world make sense? It was such a valuable experience, and I hope the first story in Possessing Freedom is better for it.
What is next for your fiction?
So far, I’ve had such a fun and full on year! I’m writing my debut YA supernatural thriller Flesh which should be completed by the end of the year. Flesh is one of those books that doesn’t quite fit into any one genre; its post-apocalyptic, supernatural, suspenseful and romantic. Two sisters are up against a suppressed zombie race capable of intelligent thought, and it’s up to them to prevent the brewing uprising.
Belinda Dorio author site: www.belindadorio.com.au
The Australian Literature Review