An Interview with Carmel Niland
I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?
I have written many things but never a novel. Most of them were as dull and dry as dust but the report I wrote of an inquiry I conducted into allegations of sexual harassment against a NSW Minister for Police was a bestseller for the Government Printing Office. This is hardly a personal favourite because of the distress and victimisation suffered by the women who complained but for all the reasons you can imagine it sold very well and went into three editions. The printers covered their budget for the whole year by the first edition and viewed me with awe!
I both love and hate novels that don’t leave a discrete ending for the reader. Have you ever felt the need to write sequels?
My novel, A Darker Magic This Way Comes, has a discrete finish. It ends in the triple death of the murderous King Vortigern, by his impalement, drowning and beheading. Despite Merlin’s shield of light, the Pendragon princes, who are carrying out the court-ordered execution, are cursed by the dying king with bitter consequences. It will take four more books to complete the interwoven stories of love and war, birth and death, revenge and counterpunch, divine invention and comic by-play in Merlin’s love affair with Emily, a twenty first century girl from Devon and the consequences of Merlin’s enchainment of the vicious sorcerer Moloch and his humiliation of the great poisoner, Morgana.
There’s always another novel in the pipeline to write… Tell me about it! Does it have even a working title?
It is called The Curse of the Dragon Kings. Merlin returns after five years with the Roman Legions in Gaul. He’s learned to build forts, harbours, aqueducts, sewers and craft siege engines but once his sword is shattered with his agreement by the Arch Druid he will never carry a weapon again and must live by his wits and his magic. My Merlin is like Leonardo da Vinci but with a wand, he is a genius who flies. He dreams of being reunited with Emily to marry her and have children but Kronos, the father of Time, is so enraged that Merlin is manipulating time to reach her across his domain and he suspects Merlin has enchained his son, Moloch. In recompense he wants Merlin to pledge to him his second son or he will wreak havoc in his life. It takes the intervention of a very angry Michael the Archangel to save Merlin and scatter Kronos across the sky. That covers some of the first three chapters. The rest of the story is about the military prowess of Uther Pendragon and his elder brother King Aurelius in the Saxon and Jute wars and Merlin’s attempts to contravene the blight of Vortigern’s curse on their lives. The birth of Uther’s first son, Arthur, will bring hope.
Some advice other writers have given is that your first novel is best sitting in a drawer for a while, because then you feel stronger about chopping up ‘your baby’. Do you still have a copy of your first novel? Whether this was published or unpublished, I need to know!
Excellent advice! My first novel about the abduction of an Aussie girl, Kirri, into Inner Earth has rested in a drawer for fifteen years, never to be released.
Do you have a dedicated writing space? How does it meet your writing needs?
I have two: one near the salt of the sea, It is perfect for the buzz of battles, the dangers of poisons and the intrigues of the Dark Arts and another hidden space in the mountain mists perfect for magic and the Otherworld.
What is your writing process? Have you ever thought about changing it? Other authors I have interviewed talk about having an outline – post-it notes in an office, or writing in paper journals. Is there something like that in your writing technique? Or is it all digital for you?
I walk and talk to Merlin and implore him to inspire me with his secrets. And sometimes he does!
How do you know when a novel or short story is finished? How do you know to step away and let the story speak for itself?
The characters are exhausted and implore me to let them rest.
Do you have a preference for e book or paperback format? This is for both your own reading and your novels.
I love the feel and smell of paper and the whiff of ink. They evoke the memories of past reading where I enjoyed amazing flights of imagination. But if I am on a plane to a faraway place, I load up the e books for holiday reading. And crime fiction, like revenge, should always be savoured cold from the plate of a Kindle.
Social media is becoming a big thing. How does managing media outlets come into marketing your brand and your books?
I have very little expertise in this area and I employ very young experts to help and advise me on everything.
You have answered other sets of interview questions, is there something you wish someone would have asked you? Or conversely, something you wish they hadn’t asked?
Bollyspice asked me to choose a favourite Bollywood actor to play Merlin. Nothing had really prepared me for that question. Nor to answer a question on what style of dancing did he follow. But Merlin being a trickster I soon had an answer and you can read it on my website.