interview by Joe Vaz

From Issue 17 (Jan 2012)

Where is home?
Home is where I hang my hat… oh, you want a real answer? I stay in the deep south – the Cape Town deep south – with the hippies and the gang-stars and the overly-healthy dog-walking canoeists. Good times.

Do you write full-time?
That’s the theory. I’m more like a full-time time-waster with an internet connection. Occasionally I slap myself into writing a few pages.

Explain the title for us (specifically, why Spades?)
Oh see, this is where I reveal what a sad person I am. The title was a pun and a really, really pointless in-joke. Jack of Spades was a play on jack-of-all-trades, and Jacek is the jack of spades to Queen Vicky’s queen of hearts. Um, also, you can’t reverse a jack of spades. You can however, reverse a page of swords. So yeah.

What inspired this story? And how did you develop the details?
It’s a short based on a book I’m writing, so the details were all in place before I wrote Jack. The story is basically a mash-up of Narnia and the nonsense poetry of Edward Lear, with some added Lovecraftian spice.

Is this story part of a larger universe? If so, tell us more about it (including how you set about creating that universe and whether it preceded the characters and their story). Are there more stories set in that world?
The larger universe is pretty fun to play around with – there are biomages who make humans into cyborg angels to fight the Nar, the vellumist Jacek who can enchant paper and bring it to life using his own blood, Louise and her siblings – one of whom could be King Arthur, if he ever stops being a bear, and another who is John the Baptist. So yeah, plenty of stuff to muck about with. The world is inspired by Edward Lear (if you’re a fan, you’ll spot references all over the place) and Breton mythology.

I always come up with characters first, and then their world falls into place around them. The only other story in this world at the moment is the book that I’m still working on. It alternates between Louise and the vellumist Jacek (the mage in Jack of Spades, reversed).

How did you go about creating Attery’s voice and the language of this world?
I have no idea how I create anything, really. I do know it takes many, many drafts to get it to read anything close to how it should.

Attery was just Attery, that’s how he sounded. I actually cleaned up his dialogue and voice a lot because it was just getting too dialect-y. As for the world language, that just develops as I write more in a particular universe. As I get to know it better, the right sounds fall in place and spring-board other ideas and words.

If you were infected by the spore, what would you hope to transform into?
A unicorn. But I may be biased because I just read The Last Unicorn and it broke my heart.

Are you working on anything right now?
I’m revising another Felicita book (Felicita is the main character of my upcoming novel), writing the first draft of the novel this story is based on, and tapping away at another book. Although I’ve banned myself from working on it before the other two projects are done.

Where can we read more of your work?
My fantasy novel When the Sea is Rising Red is due for release at the end of February 2012. There should be a short story tie-in coming out before that, but I’m not hundreds certain when.

Photo credit Thomas and Nerine Dorman

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Joe Vaz

Joe Vaz is the founder and editor of Something Wicked, which occasionally affords him the honour and good fortune to hang out with really cool people.
In his other life he is a film and television actor who gets small parts in big movies, most recently in Dredd 3D, due to be released in September 2012.

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