For those unfamiliar with your fiction, how would you describe your novels?
My novels are adventures in paranormal fiction that draw you in and sweep you away to another place, or another time, where you might find yourself hiding out in John of Gaunt’s bedroom or on a white bridge between worlds where only your soul mate can stop you from crossing over. They are novels about first loves, best friends, trust, loyalty, second chances, right and wrong, good versus evil, and figuring out what’s really important in life.
You have written: “In Old Magic I had toyed with the concept of what might happen to the present, or the future, if a figure from the past was tampered with or even killed. I took this concept further and thought of writing a story about organised manipulation of the past, and the potential havoc it would create.” What is one of your favourite stories about time travel, and what makes it work so well for you as a reader?
Strangely, for someone who loves time travel, I haven’t read many time travel books, but I did read one recently, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, which is an intelligent, brilliantly plotted story of love, choice and sacrifice. It works for me as a reader because the scientific technique used to travel through time is not overly complicated or detailed, but is enough to satisfy, allowing the reader to be drawn in to the tense unfolding mystery, and the characters. Presented at different ages as they pass through time, we see their growth through their failures and desperation as they struggle back and forth, believing in their ability to do what they must in order to save the world.
You have written: “I am inspired every day by my surroundings. I live on a mountain with beautiful scenery of waterfalls, rainforests, fresh-water creeks, interesting foliage, and an abundance of Australian wildlife. The birds are especially beautiful. I am also greatly inspired by music and always have songs playing when I am writing. I love to listen to dramatic music or songs that tell a passionate or epic story.” What is an example of a particular song or sight that inspired you, and how did this come through in your writing?
My idea for my first published novel, Old Magic, came to me while I was with family picnicking on Dorrigo Mountain. I was sitting on a bench watching my children walk across an open field when a mist rolled in from behind them. The image was magical and my thoughts started to spin and come alive with ideas. When the mist rolled to where I was sitting and I felt it on my skin, it was as if I felt the mountain, and I knew in that moment that I would write a book about a girl who lived on Dorrigo Mountain, who had the rainforest in her heart and the ability to work magic running through her veins. This sight, and others of the Dorrigo National Park that I saw that day, stayed with me as I wrote Old Magic. I drew on these memories particularly when I created the forest chapters where spells were cast and time travel occurred.
Has your approach to writing novels changed significantly since you wrote your first novel? If so, how has it changed?
There was a seven-year break between my fourth book and my fifth due to my battle with bone marrow cancer – Myelofibrosis, for which I spent six months in hospital having a stem cell bone marrow transplant, which included treatment for a crushed back fracture after sustaining a fall during chemotherapy. When I was writing again, I noticed big changes in how books were published, with the swell of electronic books, the influx of social media, and instant technology had become second nature to most of the population.
Nowadays, I tend to do more planning and taking notes, but that is mostly due to having to take medication that affects my short-term memory recall. As for my style of writing, my method and technique, nothing much has changed. The way I visualise my scenes has worked for me in the past and I still go for walks, listen to music, and browse through photographs for inspiration, though these days the photographs are online and saved to my Pinterest boards.
When writing your The Guardians of Time trilogy, what challenges did you encounter in making each novel stand alone as well as belong to the trilogy?
Initially, other than knowing this trilogy would be time travel of an organised kind, my first idea for it was that there would be a girl, her brother and the brother’s best friend – three main characters, three teenagers with special talents linked together for an important cause, but with a book for each of them to tell their story. Right from the start I had determined to write each novel as an entity in itself. The challenges were making sure each novel stayed true to the main theme while they continued to move the story forward towards its dramatic conclusion.
What kinds of stories did you enjoy as a child and teenager, and have these had a significant impact on how you write your own fiction now?
The first book I read that swept me away was Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. I was eight, and from that moment I was hooked on reading. I always searched for the novel without pictures, the longer the better. By the time I was a teenager I was reading epic novels of great struggles, formations of empires, tragic love stories and historical fiction – the stuff of Leon Uris, James Clavell, James A Michener, Colleen McCullough, Anya Seton and of course who of my age hasn’t read Margaret Mitchel’s Gone with the Wind?
I grew up wanting to write my own epic novels. I always had a story in my head. I tried different genres and found my place in writing for young adults. The compulsion that stemmed from my younger days to tell the epic story is still strong inside me today. It’s why I write paranormal fantasy, so I can immerse my heroes and villains in the dangers of the journey, the sacrifices they must make along the way, the fierce romances, battles, tragedies, and the eternal struggle of good versus evil.
If you could bring a fiction writer back to life for one day for the sole purpose of discussing fiction writing, who might you choose and why?
This is a really hard question because there are so many. Firstly, there is Dickens, who wrote the book that launched me into the amazing world of reading. But then there are the classics authors such as Oscar Wilde, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, whose works I have admired and have inspired me in many ways, or the more recently departed Sara Douglass, whose Axis Trilogy and Wayfarer Redemption Series were some of the first fantasy works I had read and thoroughly enjoyed. But then there was Bryce Courtenay, a writer whose work I have loved and admired since The Power of One. A prolific writer of everlasting saga’s, I would love to chat with him over a cup of coffee.
What is next for your fiction writing?
Next for me is the publication of the second book in The Avena Series. It’s called Broken and will be in stores in March 2014. I am currently working on the third and final book in The Avena Series. The first draft is complete and I will be spending the next few months polishing this. After that, I’m looking forward to starting something completely fresh and new.
You can read more about Marianne Curley and her fiction at www.mariannecurley.com.
The Australian Literature Review