Aussiereviews spoke to new author Beverly Paine about her new novel The Chimaera Conspiracy This is what she had to say.
AUSSIE REVIEWS: How does it feel to see your first novel in print?
BEVERLY PAINE: I am trying not to get over-excited and to take it in my stride, but every one around me, all my friends and family are over the moon. It’s a relief, after all the hard work, to finally hold the novel in my hand, but I haven’t read more than a few pages yet myself. The cover illustration by Perry Mallet is beautiful, just what I imagined. My lifelong ambition was to write science fiction novels and now it’s realised. I like that.
AR: The Chimarea Conspiracy has both an interesting setting and a controversial topic. Where did the idea come from?
BP: My interest in genetic engineering and cloning stems from my adolescent years. I was an avid science fiction writer, but over the last ten years I have followed the scientific developments with interest. The actual idea to set the story underwater came from encouraging my children to enter a short story competition staged by Lego as a promotion of their new Aquazone sets several years ago. As a child one of my favourite television shows was Marineboy, about a boy who could breathe underwater. The Chimaera Conspiracy is a blend of many ideas, nurtured over a lifetime.
AR: Tell us the story of The Chimarea Conspiracy ‘s creation – the process from first idea to publishing. Was it easy?
I began writing in 1995 and worked on the story off and on. Initially I wrote it using a third person and past tense and spent a lot of time working out the back story and the history of the characters. As the story grew I thought I had a trilogy on my hands. I rewrote and polished the first manuscript endlessly, and changed to first person, then finally sent it out to publishers in 1999. It was rejected by one publisher because they didn’t do series, but Jill Morris from Greater Glider Productions read it and offered a contract. Jill suggested a few changes, including a change of tense. Reworking the first chapter in present tense tightened up the story, and brought the main action in the second novel, already written, into the first in a way that surprised and delighted me.
I have learned a great deal about the craft of writing during the process of writing this novel. I think it is the hardest thing I have ever done, the most frustrating and the most exhilarating. I’ve plunged into the depths of depression, doubting myself as a writer, when faced with rewriting major sections; glided on wings of excitement and joy when it all worked well and new ideas or ‘perfect’ sentences appeared on the page; and impatiently waited out writer’s blocks – one went for six months after a major character unexpectedly wrote himself into the story! Greater Glider have worked patiently with me for over two years to produce the best story we could.
AR: As an experienced home school educator, do you have suggestions about how The Chimarea Conspiracy could be used for lessons in literature or other curriculum areas?
BP: I’d like to see young people explore where Katya, Coen and Edan go next – do they keep their heritage a secret and hide from the world, or do they declare their uniqueness and use their extraordinary abilities to help society? What would be the consequences of either action? There is great scope to explore the moral and ethical implications involved with human genetic engineering in the classroom. If my book excites young people to write stories of their own I would be very happy.
AR: Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers of young adult fiction?
Don’t spend too much time worrying about publishing during the writing process. Barbara Kingsolver said close the door and write with no one looking over your shoulder. Resist the temptation to put the work ‘out there’, even for feedback from family and friends, until you’re finished the first draft. Don’t even talk about the main ideas or characters unless you really need to – keep the energy bottled up for the fingers to use when playing on the keyboard or on the page.