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August 1, 2011 | by  | in Books |
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Interview With… Nalini Singh

You’ve made the NY Times bestseller list yet again, your books are incredibly successful and you have a passionate following. Has there ever been a moment where you though to yourself, ‘this is it, I’ve made it?’ or do you have an ultimate literary goal?

Throughout my career, I’ve had small goals each time. For example, when I sold my first single title, I definitely felt that that was a goal achieved, and when I hit the NY Times the first time, that was just fabulous! But as a writer, I’m always thinking about the next book. I want each book to be the best it can be and the best I can do, give them a really good read. I think that is my ultimate goal throughout my career, just to write books that I’m really proud to give to readers and that they’ll hopefully love. Everything else is really wonderful, and I love the fact that I can be a full-time writer, but the books are at the heart of it.

Psy-changeling has some of the most devoted fans around. Have you ever been blown away by something a fan has done or said?

I get a lot of emails and some of them are really touching. The ones that really get to me are the ones that say that I helped them through some kind of tough time in their life and gave them escape for a few hours. People say that fiction books are escapism and they mean that in a bad way, but I’ve never understood that. I think it’s a good thing to be able to give people time away from their lives because sometimes they might need to get away, and it’s just fun to step outside of this world and enjoy a completely new world. I really love getting that feedback from my readers.

You’ve described yourself as a romance writer in the past but of course you have a strong supernatural element to your books. Do you think one is more important than the other in your series or must there be a balance?

Definitely a balance. I still call myself a romance writer because I love the relationship aspect of the books, and I think they tie books together so strongly, but the romance is at the core. I also love the familial and friend relationships, and you get to see all of these develop through the book. But if you’re writing paranormal romances, you need to have a really strong balance, otherwise one is in danger of taking over. For a strong series, you need to have a really coherent world, but you also need very strong characters so that they’re not subsumed in the world, they’re strong in their own right. Both elements must be intertwined, you can’t take the characters out of the world and you can’t take away the world and have the same story.

When it comes to something like writing about vampires, which have a vast body of literature behind them, do you feel any pressure to stick to previous literary precedent?

I don’t think I’m tied to convention. I do think that if I’m going to change something drastic then I have to have an explanation for it. There is such freedom in fiction, and as long as you explain your world well enough, readers will go along with it. With my Guild Hunter series, the angels make the vampires, which is really unusual, but readers have accepted it because I’ve given them enough of a basis. I don’t think I’m constrained by their fictional history, it’s more a case of using it as a jumping point.

I imagine it can be very liberating as a fantasy writer to be able to circumvent the conventions of real-life and create your own world. Having said that, are there any drawbacks?

I guess what you have to be careful about internal continuity, because a lot of the time people think you can build your own world so you can have whatever rules you want-which is true- but then you have to make sure you follow the continuity, otherwise the story will just fall apart. Your readers won’t trust you if you change the rules midway. For me as a reader that would be so frustrating, and I don’t want to do it as a writer. Once you break a rule, you lose all the tension.

You’ve just gotten back from a book tour in the US, where Kiss of Snow has been published in hardback, which is huge, congratulations! How has america been different from book tours in other places and what was the reception like?

It’s a very similar experience in terms of the audiences, because I think, readers are readers, and they have that same excitement about books and the same wonderful discussions. I guess the only real difference is that there’s just much longer distances in the States, so you’re travelling a lot, spending hours on a plane. But the experience has been really fantastic, both there and here, it’s wonderful to actually see my readers face to face, because most of the time I would only know them online. I’m really loving it.

In your Psy-Changeling series, you’ve created a few different types of beings -Psys are emotionally devoid but Changelings are animalistic and passionate. Which is more difficult to write?

It actually tends to depend on the character. Some characters are much more closed off and it takes a long time to get to know them, so it’s very captivating that way. In terms of the emotional aspect of the book, of course the Psy are more difficult because they’ve conditioned emotion out of themselves. It’s really interesting writing their scenes because every word I use has to be correct. For example, if they had a cup of tea, they wouldn’t say, ‘I enjoyed that’, it’s going to be something like, ‘that was sufficient’. In that sense I have to be very careful of the words used.

Your novels have very unique combinations of characters and powers. Have you always been interested those particular types of abilities, like telekinesis and shapeshifting?

I’ve always been interested in extra-sensory perception and things like telekinesis, which has been part of the genesis of the Psy race. I thought, yeah that would be cool, being able to teleport everywhere, being a telepath, but then I thought, what if it wasn’t cool? What if it drove you insane? That really led to the Psy-Changeling series. In terms of the angels and vampires, I just had that idea and I ran with it. The one thing I’ve always been interested in is the ability to fly. That feeds in to the scenes where I write about flight, and I think the joy probably comes through in that. I mean, wouldn’t it be amazing to have wings and be able to soar across the city?

When you go about writing a series, how does the idea begin to germinate? How do you find find something and know that it’s what you’re going to run with?

It depends on the idea. When I started the Psy-Changeling series, I knew it was going to be a series, I had a story arc, I knew exactly where the series was going to end. That one is kind of a more structured series. With the Guild Hunter series, I just had an image of an archangel in a tower in New York, and I thought, who is he, what is he doing there? That’s how it began. The Guild Hunter series is differently structured in terms of the emotional development of the characters. For example, Elena’s relationship with Raphael goes over three books, but her relationship with her father is quite complex, so that’s another thread that runs through the books. The Psy-Changeling series has a geo-political arc. I think it just depends on the idea and concept of the series. I tend to be quite instinctive as a writer and I’ll go with what works best.

Do you think there’s a defining characteristic to your work or is it a case of many different things that are constantly evolving?

It’s an interesting question. I’ve actually thought about this and one thing I’ve learnt is that I don’t like writing about characters in isolation. My books all have a sense of community. The Psy-changeling series have got the packs which are very strongly connected, and in Guild Hunter you’ve got Raphael and his Seven, and Elena with her Guild Hunter friends. They’re all linked. I don’t like writing about a hero and heroine all on their own. All the things that shape and connect us as human beings, I like to see that in my characters and to see all the different relationships that they have with people. That sense of community is quite a strong element of all my work, no matter the series or type of book. I think it’s developing as I develop as a writer as well.

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