I am so excited to be posting this interview, and to even have had the opportunity to ask Paula some questions about all things Rephaim. This series is one of my favourites and I'm doing everything I can to get the word out and make people read it - it's amazing!
Thanks very much to Paula for answering all of my questions - I'm sure she's heard them all before. I'm particularly intrigued by her last answer... let the Shimmer countdown commence!
WR: I'm sure you get asked this all the time, but I'm curious: what inspired you to write about demons and fallen angels?
PW: A world with fallen angels, half-angels and demons worked out to be the best backdrop for the story I wanted to tell. I had an idea involving a guy and girl being attracted to each other, but who have a complicated history only he remembers. I knew they had once been close but had chosen opposite sides in a wider conflict, and that there were paranormal elements in how she lost her memory.
When I started working out their story and their world, I came across the account of Semyaza and the Two Hundred angels (in an apocryphal text called the Book of Enoch), who were sent to hell for seducing human women. It wasn’t so much their story that intrigued me, but the idea of what would happen if they got out of hell, did the same thing all over again, and left offspring behind to deal with the fall out.
At its heart, the Rephaim series is about Gaby’s journey to work out who she is – and what she may or may not have done in the past – and to understand her relationships with people from a life she doesn’t remember. But in a broader context, it’s about choices and their ramifications.
Of course, when I started writing the series, I had no idea how many angels books were already out there…
Right from the start, when I first read Shadows, I was particularly drawn to the characters being older than the average YA age of 15-16. Did you always plan for them to be older and more mature?
I always saw Gaby and Rafa as being out of school, and I knew the challenges I wanted to throw at them would be better suited to characters that little bit older. Of course, the Rephaim are much older than they appear, but Gaby still sees herself as a nineteen-year-old, and her friends in Pan Beach are all around that age too. I liked the idea of these characters being in the real world – having jobs, needing to earn money etc. – as well as grappling with supernatural threats.
Although you already live in Australia where the Rephaim Sequence is primarily set, did you find that you still had to research your locations and surroundings, in order to make it more realistic and believable?
I cheated a little bit by creating the fictitious town of Pandanus Beach and giving it characteristics of places I know and love. I still made a point of going to rainforests and beaches to soak in the sights, smells and sounds. I’m a very visual person, so I took lots of photos and used those for inspiration when writing. The best thing about creating a fictitious town is that I could design it from scratch and give it geographical features that work for my story – rather than choosing a real place and being limited by reality (and then annoying readers if I put something in the wrong place).
Following on from that, what research did you do in order to convincingly write about this world where fallen angels and demons actually exist?
Once I decided to base my story in a world with fallen angels and demons, I read quite widely, including other Old and New Testament apocrypha, Dante’s Inferno, medieval beliefs about angels and demons, and New Age theories. I picked out bits and pieces along the way to create my own mythology, using aspects that worked for the society I wanted to build and the conflict at its centre. Mostly, I used that research as a foundation, and then used my imagination to create the world of the Rephaim.
I've seen you refer to this series as urban fantasy rather than paranormal - is that a distinction you feel very strongly about? And what makes it more one than the other?
I tend to refer to the Rephaim series as urban fantasy because of the level of violence and language, and the fact Gaby and Rafa’s relationship is far from a sweeping romance.
I read a blog post last year quoting author Jeannie Holmes, in which she talks about the differences between paranormal romance and urban fantasy. To paraphrase, she says that in paranormal romance, the romantic relationship is the central aspect, with the majority of action and plot development revolving around that relationship. With urban fantasy, there may be a romantic relationship but if it was removed, the story would and could stand up without it.
I don’t feel especially strongly about which tag people give the Rephaim series, but I think it’s helpful if readers have a reasonable idea of the type of story they’re getting before they start. In that regard, urban fantasy might be more suitable for these books (although I know the antagonistic relationship between Gaby and Rafa is a major hook for a lot of readers!).
Do you have a favourite character to write, in terms of dialogue and personality?
Ah yes. Rafa. He’s always fun because he doesn’t have a lot of impulse control and he’s such a smartass. Nobody’s ever going to die wondering what he thinks. Gaby is enjoyable too. She’s quick with a comeback and a little more insightful than Rafa. My favourite scenes to write are those when Gaby and Rafa are arguing with each other (and also when they’re not arguing).
I also have to give a dishonourable mention to Mick Butler. He’s a meat-head with absolutely no filter, but he’s never dull to write.
Shadows and Haze include many action sequences between demons and the Rephaim. Do you ever find them hard to write visually speaking, or do you find it easy to see these scenes play out in your head?
I think action scenes are slightly easier to write in first person, present tense as you have a much narrower focus. You can only describe what your narrative character is experiencing and seeing, rather than trying to capture the big picture.
I grew up with six older brothers, including one who was a fourth dan black belt, so I spent a lot of years play-fighting (and learning a few basic self-defence moves) – not to mention watching endless martial arts films. That all definitely helps me visualise action scenes. I’ve also been known to roll around on the floor to work out how someone would fall/get back up in a particular fight scenario.
I absolutely *love* the UK covers for Shadows and Haze, with the weapons and hint of wings being on display. Did you have a hand in designing them? Do you have a preference?
Indigo has done an amazing job with the covers for this series. I saw the concepts once they were already designed - and loved them. The same covers are being used by my North American publisher (Tundra Books). My Australian publisher (Text Publishing) first launched Shadows with a different cover, but (as of Haze) we have reverted to the Indigo covers. As for a favourite, I’d have to say Haze has a slight edge because of the katana and the moon (I love the moon!). The colours on both are gorgeous and I can tell you the concept I’ve seen for Shimmer is just as stunning.
Did you have a playlist when writing Haze, and can you reveal any songs that featured on it?
I generally don’t listen to music while I write, but I do brainstorm and daydream with music playing. It’s no secret I love the Foo Fighters, so they featured a lot when I needed inspiration for Haze. A few songs from my brainstorming playlist:
- Bridge Burning (Foo Fighters)
- Halo (Foo Fighters)
- Skin and Bones (Foo Fighters)
- Little Black Submarines (The Black Keys)
- 2 Deep (Kenny Wayne Shepherd)
- Blue on Black (Kenny Wayne Shepherd)
- Wild at Heart (Birds of Tokyo)
I'm sure this is a long shot, but can you tell us anything about what we can expect from Shimmer next year? At this point, I'd even be happy with a chapter title...
Okay, bear in mind chapter titles may change during the editing process, but here’s two I’m particularly fond of:
• Blame: a game for all the family
• Nothing says ‘I care’ like a punch in the face
A lot of threads come together in Shimmer. Because of a significant development at the end of Haze (no spoilers!) the Outcasts and the Sanctuary Rephaim are forced to spend time together, which creates an explosive environment. I can’t tell you much more, except to say there are a couple of BIG moments in this book.
- UK publisher's site: Indigo