INKARNA – Interview with Nerine Dorman
Cape Town editor and multi-published author, Nerine Dorman has been involved in the media industry for over a decade, with a background in magazine and newspaper publishing, commercial fiction, and print production management. Her book reviews, travel, entertainment and lifestyle editorial regularly appear in national newspapers. Her current literary release INKARNA is the subject of this interview.
Morgause: Your new book, INKARNA, depicts a hero caught up in the anti-hero, in the soul-struggling alternative reality that wars with existential issues and deals with orchestrated conspiracies, erotic prose, captivating sceneries, psychology, magic, morality as well as the impossible made real through your descriptions. How much of INKARNA is fantasy and how much is your perceived reality?
Nerine: While I *do* indeed draw upon some of my life experiences when it comes to the setting (for instance I did spend a lot of time hanging out at the so-called “den of iniquity” where the main character works) much of this book is pure fantasy that is based on asking the simple question of “What if the ancient Egyptians had the right of it?” We tend to perceive the human soul in a very one-dimensional way, but what really sparked things off for me was reading an article about the conceptions of the different functions the ancient Egyptians ascribed to the souls upon death. This dove-tailed nicely with the mechanics. Granted, I’ve taken quite a few liberties with the cosmology. I’m at that dreadful stage of my personal life where I’m unsure of absolutely everything, so all this novel represents is a bit of creative mind-play on the topic.
Morgause: “Tomorrow will be the first time I die.” This is the introductory line of the book. Would you care to offer us a glimpse into backdrop of its truth?
Nerine: I like the idea of reincarnation very much. The concept can’t be proven and I certainly don’t believe in it but it’s one of those concepts that are very elegant. I’d like to think that there would be a way for us, as individuals, to pass through death and that in itself is a powerful premise for a story.
Morgause: Is Ash a metaphor for the combined male-female truth of our sexual reactions to same-gender attraction?
Nerine: I’d say that Ash is very much my own exploration of my sexuality. I’m a very awkward woman. My mother dressed me in boys’ clothing when I was smaller. The only time I wore dresses was when I was forced to go to church or a wedding, so my associations with feminine clothing were highly negative up until my early twenties. Paradoxically I dress very femininely now, but it took me some time to get over my tomboyish self-image. That being said, I believe that I was supposed to have been a boy. I never really did enjoy “girly” stuff. If I played with dolls as a kid, they always went on Indiana Jones-style adventures rather than play dress-up.
To add to that, I reckon Ash is also very much play on the concept of the animus. I recently conducted personal work related to the topic, and was very surprised by my own discovery of what my animus would be to me. Ash’s physical self is very much the antithesis of what the original character’s self-image would be. And therein lies the challenge, to accept, assimilate then apply this knowledge, thereby becoming a stronger person.
Morgause: Is your writing in any way influenced by a general need to externalize the inner real, the need to understand, through explanation, the simple metaphors of the dark predator-come-saviour within us all?
Nerine: To an extent I think there is something subconscious going on. I try not to read too much into it during the actual writing process. Inkarna was very much rooted in magic. Two people who meant something to me had died. The one was a musician, a stranger, but it was what he represented to me that was important. The second was one of my mentors, who’d guided and challenged me through my own personal initiation. Ironically Inkarna came into being on the eve of his funeral, which was held on the banks of the Crocodile River in full Egyptian style. He’d even gone so far as to compose his own rites based on the Papyrus of Ani. This was a very moving, humbling experience, and I was up until the wee hours discussing the ideas with a close friend of mine.
So, to answer your question, Inkarna is very much a personal, alchemical journey I embarked upon in order to work through my grief at the passing of a dear friend but also a role-model—a man who bears a close resemblance to what I’d consider my animus. I was suffering from severe depression at the time of writing the novel, and laying the words down definitely helped me work through a lot of personal issues.
Morgause: The erotic component in your novel is not gratuitous. Is it in any way intertwined with the desire to convey life’s sacred mysteries or a means of endearing and making worship-able the anti-hero?
Nerine: The main character’s acceptance of his sexuality is definitely more than just getting a good bonk. It’s his acceptance of his fate. And it’s supposed to be natural. Sexuality shouldn’t be tied up in conceptions of gender. I think once again here it’s got to do with Jungian concepts of animus and anima.
Morgause: What first drew you to writing about vampire, werewolf and the occult/paranormal?
Nerine: These characters are outsiders, and I feel they are powerful archetypes that draw people who identify with the characteristics of these beings. Granted, these concepts have been watered down *a lot* in current mainstream media, which is a bit maddening, but that doesn’t mean that they’re any less powerful in the hands of a skilled author.
Morgause: The heroes in your novels are articulate, charming, beguilingly complex beings. Are they birthed spontaneously in your mind or are they a combination of instinct and purposeful desire to convey the immortal, omniscient and transcendental potential of the reader to himself?
Nerine: My characters come to me as ideas or dreams. Inkarna was spawned by two dreams, each of the two persons who’d passed away. Ash came into being over the period of a few months. I had an idea he was lurking somewhere in my subconscious but it was only a week before the funeral that I kinda had an idea of *what* his story would be. My stories come into being as lucid dreams almost, and I draw on music, visuals and sometimes even news reports as I sketch them out. So in a sense I do hope that they speak to readers on a subconscious level, and draw on a sense of our shared subconscious. A memorable character strikes a chord with readers, often triggering their own unspoken desires… or fears.
Morgause: Why are vampires in literature hardly described as unattractive? They are all elegant, fashionable preternaturally graceful and blessed with extraordinary beauty. What is the ruling archetype in this?
Nerine: Vampires, in my opinion, are generally written as a kind of wish-fulfilment. Very rarely nowadays does one see a return to the classic monster of folklore. What Bram Stoker started, Ann Rice raised to its pinnacle. Everything that follows is, to an extent, derivative of these two authors (and I know I’ll get stoned for saying this but I don’t really care at this point). As readers we’d like to see ourselves as these powerful, frightening and immortal creatures, that somehow stand apart from society’s rules. If you look at the plethora of magical societies that work with this archetype, it’s ample illustration of the lure of the vampire. As an archetype within our subconscious we’re dealing with a very powerful image in its own right. It’s what we choose to do with this that makes all the difference. I prefer to channel that energy into my fiction.
Morgause: Would you describe your writing as a style which employs Romantic, Modernist or Postmodern characteristics?
Nerine: Probably Postmodern. I look back to the classics and I try to put a fresh spin on that kind of style. I love authors who convey rich, textured prose, and have recently discovered Mary Renault, who totally blows me away. But right up there look toward the likes of Storm Constantine, Mary Gentle, Jacqueline Carey, Poppy Z Brite and Neil Gaiman. A number of these authors deal with sexually ambiguous characters.
Morgause: Your opinion on the Twilight and Vampire Series? Are they the sanitized, pop culture of what is real and sacred to others? Is it the obscure made normal? More palatable?
Nerine: While I’m glad for the authors in question and am certainly over the moon that a lot of people who’d probably never have bothered picking up a book have started reading, I find myself nauseated by the slew of contemporary vampire paranormal romances. The vast majority of works being vomited forth by publishers are present are so heinously derivative it sickens me. But, by the same measure, people vote with their dollars, and if there’s a market, there will be an author willing to churn out this kind of writing, and they’ll be laughing all the way to the banks. The reader is the final arbiter.
To be honest, I don’t write books for these people. And I don’t want these people to read my books unless they are prepared to leave their preconceptions at the door. This means I’ll probably never make much money but hey, I’d rather want a loyal cabal of ferocious readers than pander to the fickle masses.
Morgause: Can you tell us a little more about the annual Bloody Parchment event which you organise?
Nerine: Bloody Parchment was started a few years ago to help promote and support horror and dark fantasy fiction here in South Africa. The event and associated short story competition takes place in conjunction with the South African HorrorFest, and this year we’re headed into our third event. We couldn’t have gotten so far without the support of the Book Lounge, which host the actual event which is usually great fun as we all dress up with a Halloween theme as well.
We’ve just had Random House Struik’s digital imprint, eKhaya, pick up this year’s anthology, which is very exciting, as the authors will be able to make some real money in exchange for their efforts. And after a very positive meeting with my writers’ group yesterday we have an idea for this year’s event that’s sure to provide many thrills. This year’s short story competition will also be open to entries soon.
Nerine: Shemu is the quarterly newsletter of the Egyptian Society of South Africa. I had quite a fright the other day when I realised I’ve been working on this for more than seven years. In that time I’ve seen the society begin to include articles by some of the leading lights of Egyptian archaeology. I have a great love for Egypt and working on the quarterly newsletter is my “Egypt fix” as my schedule makes it very difficult for me to attend actual meetings, which are held monthly. The society offers fascinating lectures and a few years ago even got Zahi Hawass to visit.
Morgause: Would you ever consider allowing your INKARNA to be translated into film? And why would it make a good movie?
Nerine: I don’t think I’d like to see any of my novels subjected to film treatment. I’m all too aware of the liberties the writers and producers take with the story. Also, due to their nature, my novels would only appeal to a very narrow band of folks—those who are generally already accepting of occult and/or supernatural themes.
Morgause: Where can the reader acquire a copy of INKARNA?
Nerine: You can order Inkarna directly to your kindle or in print via Amazon, or via Exclusive Books, Kalahari or via Barnes & Noble. Alternatively (and this is what I suggest to true book lovers) is go down to your nearest indie bookstore and order a print copy there.
Morgause: Thank you for the interview Nerine. I wish you all success with the sales and distribution of INKARNA.
Nerine Dorman’s published works include Khepera Rising, Khepera Redeemed, The Namaqualand Book of the Dead, Tainted Love (writing as Therese von Willegen), Hell’s Music (writing as Therese von Willegen), What Sweet Music They Make, and Inkarna.