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Interview with Mary Victoria

Interviewer: Simon Litten

This interview was conducted at the 68th World Science Fiction Convention (2-6 September 2010) two weeks after the launch of Ms Victoria’s debut novel Tymon’s Flight.

Simon: Mary, thank you for this interview and congratulations on the launch of your debut novel Tymon’s Flight.

Mary: My pleasure and thank you.

S: Where did the idea for the story come from?

M: My husband had a dream of cities in the sky. As he told me about it I began to see enormous branches and roots connecting the cities. When I realised that the branches were all part of the same underlying structure, the world of the Tree was born.

I wondered about the mindset/culture that would result from being stuck in a rigidly defined space – authoritarian, stratified, with very defined roles, a caste ridden society – with the physical possibilities of plunging to hell or rising to heaven.

S: Have you the whole story in your mind?

M: To begin with I had the world but not the story. Then I imagined what it would be like to grow up in this stratified world, a world divided between east and west, body and soul, heaven and hell. I came up with the character of Tymon, a boy adopted by priests and struggling to make sense of all these divisions. The first book took two years to write, because I was learning as I went. I developed an outline for the second and third parts, which was invaluable for the ongoing story. Those books were written much more quickly!

S: Has your writing been influenced by your childhood and why?

M: Yes, very much so. Exploring worlds came naturally to me. I am fascinated by the many different worlds a person can inhabit just in the course of one lifetime. In part it comes of having a minority background, and from the fact that my family was pathologically incapable of settling down. I have lived in Cyprus, Canada, England, Sierra Leone – all very different worlds. Growing up I was constantly a "stranger in a strange land".

S: What is that you draw from that experience?

M: The sensation of not quite fitting in; of trying to fit in in the new place, but inevitably being a stranger there; of finding acceptance in the unexpected places; the experience of constant change.

Tymon’s Flight is a coming of age story. The protagonist is seeking to define himself, as one does as a young adult. That is among other things the process of learning that you are not only the sum of your family, your culture, your language or religion. You are certainly not what other people say you are.

Moving around from place to place meant I had to look within to find out who I was.

S: How much was the religion in the book your personal experience of religion?

M: I grew up in a very inclusive religion so the religion in the book was not my personal experience. My family background was of people who were persecuted and who were strong enough in their beliefs to deal with that.

S: Do you have other stories and are they all this big?

M: NO!

I do have another idea and it’s biting the hell out of me, but I’ve got to finish the third part of Chronicles of the Tree before I start it. It is not epic fantasy: it is a very personal story. I'm not sure whether it's "big". We'll see!

S: So what is the new idea?

M: Won’t talk about it, a) because I’m superstitious, and b) I want it to grow and germinate and become a more fully formed idea.

S: Do you rely on tropes for your stories?

M: Of course. The tropes are there. The stories have all been told. It’s up to you as a writer to tell the same stories in a fresh and interesting way.

S: Are there any books that you reread?

M: I love complex books – the works of Ursula Le Guin; Milorad Pavic’s The Dictionary of the Khazars; Vladimir Nabakov especially Pnin; Margaret Youcenar’s Memories of Hadrian. Those are the ones I pick up again and again.

S: So how did you get from your idea for Tymon’s Flight to the end of the first part?

M: Apart from writing and rewriting my mother mentored me through it. She is a published author though probably unfamiliar to science fiction and fantasy readers. Her most prominent book is The Saddlebag [by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani].

S: Mary, thank you once again for the interview and hope you are able to start on the new idea soon.

M: Thank you.

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