Devin Madson

Devin Madson is an Australian SF writer in the midst of releasing her first series, The Vengeance Trilogy. To get a feel for the stories, here’s a Confucius quote Devin used in the first book:

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.

A great hook. Having flown through The Blood of Whisperers and its follow-up The Gods of Vice, I’m really looking forward to the conclusion in The Grave at Storm’s End (forthcoming in 2014). In the meantime, Devin was generous enough to give up her time to answer a few questions for the City of Masks blog, so thank you, Devin!

Here’s Part 1 of the Interview, stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2! You can (and should) read more about Devin and her work here.

AC: Tell me a little of what drew you to incorporating a Japanese-influenced setting for your trilogy?

DM: I love Japan. I love everything about the culture and the aesthetic. That being said I didn’t want to write about Japan, or China, or any other real world place because I wanted to have the complete freedom to do whatever I wished. But due to my love of everything oriental, it was naturally those influences that constantly seeped into the work, some deliberate, many not.

AC: The focus on honour and the elegant use of costume in your trilogy especially speaks to that influence, have you been to Japan?

DM: No, I haven’t, but I want very much to go. The dream is to travel a lot, and spend a month every year there, but at the moment it is just that – a dream. I learned a very small amount of Japanese in school and have a few Japanese friends, but that’s about it, I’m afraid.

AC: So like me, in lieu of travelling there, are you perhaps a Studio Ghibli fan? And if so, what’s your favourite Ghibli film?

DM: I haven’t seen them all, so it’s an unqualified opinion, but I’ll say Princess Mononoke. It was sad having to part with the DVD when we sold everything to make the move across the world. I must also confess to being a huge fan of Final Fantasy – both games and movies – and Death Note. I’m an all round geek and very happy about it.

AC: In your first book, The Blood of Whisperers, the character Darius seems to have the most to reveal in terms of secrets, which is part of why he’s so fascinating to me. What considerations do you take into account in regards to the pace at which you reveal those secrets?

DM: Honestly I don’t think about it at all. I have no formula, and often I don’t even know what he is hiding until he lets it spill. Darius doesn’t like to share his secrets with anyone, even me, which makes writing his story an interesting experience of discovery. I don’t plan, I’m not a planner, I just let the characters take control and see where they take me. It allows them to be entirely honest to themselves rather than fitting any pre-prescribed ideas that I might have. Darius is Darius and he lets things out only as he must, at his own pace, on his terms and no one else’s.

AC: Actually, that description of Darius makes him seem similar to Malice, another of my favourite characters in the series. In terms of a character leading the story, have you ever had to rein Malice in at all?

DM: Ah! Malice and Darius have a lot more in common than they would like to admit, I’m sure. As for leading the story, I’ve never felt the need to rein in any particular character. I let them have their heads and run with it, and allow any extremities of their personality to become intrinsic to the story itself. It wouldn’t happen the way it does without them being exactly as they are, warts and all, as the saying is.

AC: On your blog, it’s clear that you have a lot of love for your editor (and it’s awesome to see editors being acknowledged) what sort of impact does she have on you as a writer?

DM: Editors are amazing people and they sure don’t get enough credit for what they do. In my case I am extra especially lucky. I met Amanda initially in a professional capacity, but now we are the best of friends. Amanda is editor, friend, mentor, writing partner, and she has a greater impact on my work than anyone. She will never let me slide. More than once she has sent back a manuscript with a terse ‘no’ in the margin, and I know what I’ve done, I’ve let my standards slip and she never fails to pull me up on it. I consider myself to be very lucky to have someone who can be entirely honest and push me to be my best, but who also gets my characters, my work, and does everything she can to protect my voice.

AC: Can you expand a little on the aspect of ‘protecting voice’? I think it’s a fascinating subject, as there are debates as to whether voice can be ‘edited out’ of a work, especially if the author is too close to the story, or swamped by advice. How important is a clear, single source for feedback?

DM: In the case of voice, I would probably range myself on the side of the debate that believes it can be edited out of the work, and that it is something editors have to be careful about when they make corrections. When it comes to story structure and characters and plot, I always have my early drafts read by numerous beta readers, because at that stage numerous sources of feedback is really important. But once it comes down to the nitty gritty of line editing, I think having one single, knowledgeable source of feedback is necessary. I’ve had an experience where a second reader came in late in the editing stage, and the number of corrections they wanted to make horrified me. When I ran them past Amanda she just threw them out because almost every single one was a correction of voice. In that instance, she stood up for me when I couldn’t stand up for myself.