"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!" (Mary Quallo, St Louis)

"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!"  (Mary Quallo, St Louis)
Coming next week - Carla Eatherington

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Interview With Suzanne Van Rooyen

Suzanne Van Rooyen

Welcome everyone. 

Today, we welcome Suzanne Van Rooyen, who writes hard-core, new wave sci-fi novels and short stories from her base in snowiest Finland.

When you think about it, Finland seems like an ideal place to write the dark and foreboding techno-fiction she specialises in. It seems remote, spacious, somehow disconnected from the mainstream, a place full of mystery and intrigue.

I've enjoyed getting to know her - not least because she's a metalhead and a comic buff! (Well, apart from the secret dance music fetish that is, but I'll overlook that. Just this once.) 

You'll swiftly notice what a good writer Suzanne is. I see someone like Suzanne (and Jessica McHugh from last week), and stare and wonder at their clean, crystal clear prose, as refreshing and stark as the icy tide of the Baltic. Look at how correct it is.

Nothing inspires me than the sight of elegant writing like this. 

Keep your movies, your paintings, your photographs. 

Give me a sentence that is simultaneously as delicate as a butterfly's wings and as sharp as a razor. Like some of those below.

Here's what she had to say to the Wizard this sunny English summer afternoon.


1. Who is Suzanne Van Rooyen? Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you end up in Finland being from South Africa?
Cloud - taken by Rich Parker. Can you see anything
in there trying to get out?
I'm definitely a new soul still trying to make sense of this perplexing, and wonderful world. 

Writing certainly helps! I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. I spent a lot of my childhood lying on a blanket in my garden staring at the clouds and making up stories about them. 

At various stages I wanted to be an astronaut, marine biologist, geneticist, quantum physicist, concert flutist and academic professor. 

One day in high school I woke up and realized I didn't want to be the chemical engineer I'd signed up to be scholarship and all. I opted to study music. 

And it's a good thing I did!

When I was 15 I started listening to metal. 
One band in particular became a firm favourite: Nightwish, a Finnish band. 

From the age of 15, I always dreamed about visiting Finland. My slight obsession with Tolkien and the fact that he based his Elvish languages on Finnish only added to the allure of this cold, dark land. The university I went to had an exchange program with Finland so I got to spend 5 glorious months in this strange corner of the world. It was love at first landing and I vowed to return to Finnish shores. 

Three years later, I did just that with my fiance in tow. It's home now for both of us and, after more than ten years of dreaming, I finally got to see Nightwish live earlier this year!

Finnish metalheads, Nightwish
2. When did you start writing? What are your ambitions as a writer? Do you have a job? Is it your ambition to write full time?
I started writing as soon as I could hold a pencil. Even before that, I would dictate stories to my mom and she'd write them out for me. I've always been a storyteller. My ambitions so far as writing go are to become a better writer, to really be able to transfer the imagined worlds in my head on to paper for others to read. 

Sure, I'd love to land an agent and those six figure three book deals that turn into HBO TV series or movie franchises, but I'd be more than happy to stick with indie presses. I tend to write quirky, dark stories that might not prove the most markettable in the traditional sense. 

I do have a job. Several. I'm a freelance writer so I do a bit of everything really, commercial SEO articles, journalism and travel writing, some editing too. I'll also be teaching dance this year at a local middle school. I like being able to do more than just one job. Writing full time would be great but I think I need the variation of multiple jobs. I get bored so easily, even when writing fiction. I'm always working on more than one manuscript.

New book from Suzanne
3. Tell Green Wizard about Dragon's Teeth. It looks absorbing? Did you enjoy writing it? How long did it take you to complete?

Dragon's Teeth started as a tech noir short story for an anthology. I started writing it during NaNoWriMo 2010 and didn't stop until I'd reached more than 
70 000 words three weeks past deadline. I did enjoy writing it. It was my first serious novel attempt and I found it hugely challenging.

 I write by the seat of my pants and that resulted in multiple rewrites before the manuscript was ready for other's eyes. It took me about two months to complete. It might have gone faster if I hadn't had to keep stopping to research military details. 

My fiance is brilliant at this stuff and is my technical adviser when it comes to weaponry, munitions... just about anything science-related. 

I learned so much about patrol formations, military compound structures, guerrilla warfare, and ammunition. It was awesome, but maybe not a subject I'd tackle again in a hurry.

4. What sort of music are you into? I get the impression you're a rock chick. Does the music you like inspire your writing? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
I have a really eclectic taste in music, just to give you a hint - the next few live events on my calendar are Prokofiev's Romeo & Juliet, followed by an arena concert by Placebo and then a club gig by the power metal band Dragonforce. 

Romeo and Juliet
Give me a minute to braid my hair and throw on some tie-dye and I'd be all set for an indie-electronica-hippie festival. Pull on jeans and a band shirt and I'm ready to headbang the night away. I can also do fishnets and corsets when the mood is right for a night of sea weed dancing.to everything from hardcore industrial to EBM and trad goth. 

Musician first, I love the classics and am totally in love with Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Rachmaninov, Dvorak, Shostakovich, Scriabin and Tchaikovsky - wow, that's a lot of dead Russian guys. 

Two musical highlights of my life include seeing Leonard Cohen live in Perth, Australia and Sting live in Bucharest, Romania. I also have a secret passion for reggae and ska, and have been known to bounce around to punk on the odd occasion

Man, I could talk about music all day!

Music absolutely inspires my writing! Music is as essential as drawing breath to me. Can't go a day without it. I have to have music on while I'm writing otherwise I don't feel anything. Music sets the scene, helps me get into the character's mind and emotions and often sets the whole tone for the book. 

Dragon's Teeth was written mostly to the music of God is an Astronaut and Hans Zimmer soundtracks.

(I've never heard of God is an Astronaut. Similarly cosmically challenged Wizardwatchers can take a glimpse here.)

(I've never heard of Hans Zimmer. Similarly cinematically challenged Wizardwatchers can feast on his beautiful music here.)

5. What else inspires your writing? 
Art. I regularly go looking for evocative artworks from random DeviantArt creations to works by Dali, Mark Ryden, Victoria Frances, Luis Royo, Christopher Shy, Dave McKean and H R Giger. 

Classic Dave McKean Joker Representation
The darker the better. Everyday life is also inspirational. I love people watching and often find new characters waiting for stories lurking at the train station or bus stop. Places are great too. 

I'm an avid traveller and try to absorb little details from everywhere I go for later use in stories, even if it's just a smell or a certain quality of light, a particular building or a city atmosphere.

I also follow a few science and technology blogs and tend to find inspiration there among new scientific discoveries and gadgetry.

6. How do you write? Longhand? Straight onto WP? Do you have a set daily wordage or do you binge long through the night until its all out?
Hell no not longhand! I type straight into Word. I try to write everyday, be it 500 or 5000 words. 

Sometimes the words just flow and I can get to almost 10k in a day - but that's rare. Other days I battle to get to 500. It really depends. In the summer, it's harder to stay inside when the weather is good. During the winter, I tend to be more productive. I'm not terribly systematic and tend to write in bursts as they happen - curse of the pantser approach I guess, but I'm trying to be more diligent and work with general outlines.

7. Three books, two CD's and a DVD only - what's your desert island stimulation?
Can I bring my Kindle or is that cheating? ;) (No Kindle is fine, but only three files LOL. Ed!). 

Lost Souls by Poppy Z Brite because I've read that book many times and it never ceases to astound with its beauty and complexity. 

Endless Nights the graphic novel by Neil Gaiman because it's magnificent and the stories are brilliant, and lastly, 

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer to remind me that I need very to lead a rich life, being on that desert island and all. (Absolutely terrific book, Suzanne. Recommend it to anyone. A nihilistic classic. Ed.)

Two CD's - that's impossible! Seriously, I can't choose. I feel guilty narrowing down my options because each time I pick one, another ten scream at me to be included. 

Honestly I'd rather take no music and make myself a flute from driftwood once there than try to choose just two CDs. No wait, I'd make myself two mixed CDs with 15 songs each, that way I could include Placebo, Radiohead, Nightwish, In Flames, Eddie Vedder, Morrissey, Hans Zimmer, Scriabin... it would still be difficult to choose! 

One DVD? That's easy! Across the Universe - the Beatles inspired musical :)

8. What's your ideal night out? And which writer would you enjoy having the night out with?
An ideal night out starts with sushi at a good restaurant, moves to an atmospheric bar for the first round, escalates to a dance club (either hard rock where I can throw my hair around or Latin American where I can get spun around the dance floor) and finishes up with hot chocolate at a quiet late night bar, like Hemingways, a place that's all about Ernest. 

I'd love to spend a night out with Neil Gaiman, I think he'd be a fascinating man to talk to about a little bit of everything. I'm also pretty sure he knows how to party and would ordering us shots.

Ideal nightfly, Neil Gaiman
9. I've met Neil, Suzanne. Terrific bloke. And I've got the complete set of Sandman in NM. And a signed number one! Just thought I'd throw that in. 


How do you cope with writer's block? Any tips for aspiring writers in confronting the dreaded white void?
I don't get writer's block so much as I write myself into a corner and get stuck. It's the curse of the pantser again. I also find myself getting bored with stories even if I'm 25k into it. 

One day I'll be all excited about it, the next apathetic. I have tons of new ideas that I think deserve my attention and consequently tend to abandon WiPs when I should be sticking with just one idea until it's done. 

When I am struggling, I tend to remove myself from the problem, going for long walks or getting some exercise really helps. I try to give the work some breathing room by doing something else. The story problem tends to works itself out and the solution finds me at the oddest times like when I'm tossing a ball in the dog park, showering or about to fall asleep.

10. What do Suzanne Van Rooyen's readers have to look forward to in the coming months?
I have a couple of short stories due for release in September/October from Niteblade, Static Movement and Storm Moon Press. I also have a new YA science fiction novel called Obscura Burning coming out in early 2013. I'm really excited about that one, it's sort of Donnie Darko-esque with Navajo mythology, quantum physics and a male bisexual protagonist in the mix. I hope people will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Suzanne, I hope you let Wizardwatchers be the first to know you about your new book. Sounds terrific! 

It's been a pleasure and I wish you all the best from everyone here at Green Wizard.

It's been a pleasure too. Thank you Wiz!!

Wizardwatchers can find out more about Suzanne at:

Suzanne Van Rooyen snowbound


  1. Gah! You've met Neil!?!? SO JEALOUS!!

  2. Nice bloke too, Suzanne. Next time I bump into the Northampton maestro I'll pass on your regards!


  3. Love your inspirations! Great interview. : )


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