Interview with Suzanne van Rooyen
Suzanne van Rooyen is a South African author living in Finland. She is the author of Dragon's teeth, Obscura burning and The Other me.
This interview was first published in Finnish in Espoon Fantasia blog.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I grew up in the concrete jungle of Johannesburg, South Africa. After completing my Bachelor's degree in music education and technology, I moved to Australia. There I taught piano at a music academy before deciding to move to Finland to complete my Master's degree in Music, Mind and Technology. My husband and I are now happy to call Finland home. When not writing, I teach dance and music at Espoo International School and manage publicity for an indie publisher in the United States.
How did you end up in Finland?
This story began when I was 15 and first discovered music by Nightwish. I fell in love with Finnish heavy metal and was determined to one day visit the country. In 2006 I got that opportunity through a student exchange program and I spent a wonderful 5 months in Jyväskylä. I didn't want to leave and vowed I'd return to Finland once I'd finished my studies, which I did in 2009.
When did you start writing?
I've also been writing, even as a kid. I wrote my first novel at 11 - it was mostly fan fiction and was pretty awful. From there, I continued writing but never took it very seriously. It was a hobby, something to do for fun. It was only in 2011 when I realised how much I disliked the world of academia that I started trying to get my science fiction and fantasy stories published. After I got that first contract, I realised that this was something I could actually do and it was something I wanted to do so I switched career focus and began writing in earnest.
What inspires your writing?
Everything from random images I find on DeviantArt and Pinterest to real life events and personal experiences. I travel quite a bit and that has also been inspiring, opening my eyes to different cultures and lifestyles, which inevitably find their way into my stories.
How does the story come to you? Do you already know the ending when you start to write?
Stories come to me in all sorts of ways. Sometimes as an image, as a complete scene, as a character or a snippet of dialogue. It's hard to say exactly how and when inspiration strikes. I don't start writing until I have an idea of the character arc and plot trajectory, although that doesn't always mean that the book will actually end the way I think it will when I'm writing chapter 1. I like to give my characters the freedom to run with the story and let the plot develop a little more organically.
You’ve now published 3 novels. Could you tell us how they came to be?
The first was a NaNoWriMo novel. My first attempt at NaNoWriMo which I failed miserably, but I kept working away at the novel and once it was done I sent it off to publishers never expecting someone would actually want to publish it. My second novel landed me a semi-final spot in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition and also landed me my agent, although that book has since been shelved. While I was querying agents, I had Obscura Burning doing the rounds with indie publishers - this novel had been called too dark by several agents so I chose to go the independent route and I'm delighted my book eventually found a home. The Other Me is a book very close to my heart as it was directly inspired by several of my own experiences in high school in South Africa. It was a story I needed to tell and so the novel was born.
What are you writing now?
I'm currently waiting on edits from my publisher for a YA robot love story appropriately titled I Heart Robot. That's due for publication in 2015 from Month9Books. I'm also revising book 2 for Month9Books while working on a New Adult science fiction novel about Mars.
Name some authors who have influenced you?
Neil Gaiman, Poppy Z Brite, David Mitchell, Juliet Marillier, Stephen Lawhead and Maggie Stiefvater.
Are science fiction and fantasy tags more of a marketing thing for you, or do you decide to write a certain genre?
As the story idea takes root and starts to evolve, I generally know whether it would be classified as science fiction or fantasy, dystopian or cyberpunk etc. but it's not something I worry about too much. The tags can always come later. What's most important to me is writing a good story with authentic characters irrespective of genre.
Thank you Suzanne!