Today I continue our irregular series of interviews with other indie writers and welcome Nathalie Hamidi a.k.a. Poison Godiva a.k.a. Irma Geddon to my blog. Irma is a French writer of dark fantasy and has been nice enough to answer some questions for me.
Hi Cora! Thanks for having me! ^^
- Tell us a little about yourself.
I have always wanted to do something creative with my life. When I was a young girl, I had dreams of playing music, singing, dancing, painting, and most of all, writing.
I have done all of this in time, but the one thing that stuck all those years with me (and the last 8 years in particular) was writing. As soon as I got the net at home, I started writing blogs (I was one of the blogosphere pioneers in France), with multiple secret identities, and then more recently I have started to write in my own name.
Life is hard, it’s difficult to find the time to write. My two sons are handicapped: they have a form of autism that goes from mild to severe, and they need constant stimulation for them to make progress. This has lead me to build a very big blog for french-speaking people who have autistic children, and to self-publish a few manuals along the way.
Now that my sons are getting a little bit older and go to school, I can use the time to work on my dream: writing fiction. To publish them I have had to overcome a lot of negative thoughts and dismissal, from people who should be supportive. And publishing, being happy, finding readers — even if it’s one by one — is it’s own reward.
- Tell us a bit about the Z series. What is the series about and how many episodes are there so far? How many do you have planned?
So far, I have published two episodes in the Z series, and I am working on episode 3. When I started rewriting and editing my stories, I already had the first eighteen episodes (or, the first three seasons) done. I feel I need at least two more seasons to tell the story right, but I might have to write more than that to feel satisfied with the story I want to tell.
The Z series is about a young girl, Gabrielle, who realizes that her nightmares are coming after her. Of course, this is a very frightening and emotional time for her. To add insult to injury, her father — witness to the first attack — decides to commit her to an asylum and abandons her there. We follow her while she tries to discover what is happening to her, and with the help of Parfait — a mysterious but helpful young man — we will try to understand what the curse that has plagued the women of her family in generations really is about.
I’ve wanted to tell a tale of accepting who you really are, striving for a better life, what love and trust really mean, and why it is important to rise above what life has handed to you. During the following seasons, those themes will evolve as well as Gabrielle.
- What was the inspiration for the Z series?
All my life, I’ve loved scary stories. Nothing moves me more than a great challenge, a suspenseful read, or a hair-rising, goose-bumping anticipation. I’ve also always been a big nerd about survival and being ready for the zombie apocalypse. I’ve devoured King’s books, Masterton’s, Koontz’s. All I ever wanted to do while reading their books was to write one of my own, to provoke in someone else the thrill I felt right then.
As I was readying myself for NaNoWriMo 2010, the clock was ticking and the beginning of the challenge was rapidly approaching. I was shuffling ideas for plots in my head — I had been unable to decide for one in the previous weeks, and I was quite panicked at the idea of starting November with a blank page in my head. Just before midnight, I had an idea that stuck with me: what if your nightmares became alive and attacked you. From that, during the next thirty days (of literary abandon), the story became alive by itself. I just followed Gabrielle’s and Parfait’s decisions and motives, and let my brain go free. I would have thought this would lead to nothing good, but the story stuck with me for three years before I decided to give it justice by editing it and publishing it.
- Z is a serial of novelettes. The serial is, depending on your POV either a very new format that was born from the indie e-book boom or a very old format revived for modern times. What are in your experience the main challenges of writing a serial and what is your approach? Do you have a series bible, detailed outlines, pre-planned plot arcs, etc…?
I love serials. They’re the TV show episode format for books. I have been, all my life, a big fan of good series on TV. Eighteen years ago, it was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and now it’s Supernatural, Teen Wolf, The Walking Dead… I love that each episode is its own story and that it’s possible that all those episodes develop into a main theme for a season, have an overarching plot, and trickle into the next seasons as well.
With the ebook revolution, it’s now possible, more than ever, to really appreciate this format. I can’t be as avid a reader I once was because of all the work I have to do with my two sons, but eight years ago I would have jumped on that format, which permits a quicker publishing cycle. I always want more, more, more of the characters and universes I like. I like to be able to gorge myself with those stories, and not to need to revisit them after one year of waiting impatiently for the next book.
When I decided to try the serial approach, it came to me naturally without having to rewrite much from my first draft. I was already using the serial format: each episode must be satisfying, and move the plot forward. It was just a matter of cutting in the right places, and adding plot “reminders” in the following episodes — no one wants to re-read the previous episodes, so small reminders are a good thing for readers.
I don’t outline, or loosely. If I write down or tell the story to anyone, I lose the will to write it, so I just list a few ideas, and pick from that along the way, or do a small graph of the pacing of the season. My idea of a good pacing? It always gets worse before and after it gets better.
For writers who want to get into that format, I recommend reading The Secret Story Lair which is full of ideas, and re-watching your favourite shows season by season, to study how it’s done.
- The popularity of serials is controversial, to say the least, since some readers flat out hate serials. Have you ever run into such readers and how do you deal with them?
So far, I haven’t had one reader complain about the format in a way that would make me uncomfortable. The fact that I write short installments is of course mentioned, and some readers write in reviews that they would have prefered something longer, but no one has been aggressive or diminishing. Actually, I take it more like a compliment. They liked my words. They just wish there were more of them!
I think that every reader is entitled to want to read their format of choice. I like serials, so I’ll go on writing serials, since this is what makes me happy for the time being. I will also release a “complete season” ebook and paperback once all episodes are out, that way readers will have the choice: read all at once, or read it along the way, with the possibility of giving me feedback — I welcome feedback. The story is what it is, but I can make it more enjoyable for my readers when I rewrite my first drafts if I know what they are looking for!
- As a French native speaker writing and publishing in English, you’re one of a growing number of authors who write in a language that is not your mothertongue. Can you tell us a little bit about the challenges of writing in a language that is not your first? Did you have to deal with any prejudices?
I think I am one of the lucky ones. I have learned English, German and Italian at school, and those were my favourite lectures. I have worked in multilingual environments (in Germany, and for an Italian company), and I have always been praised for my language skills. But you never really know, because people want to be nice and think the fact that you can even converse in a language that is not yours is the ultimate achievement.
I came to the Kboards forum quite confident people wouldn’t slap me with a virtual trout if I made mistakes in English, but I really wanted to make sure that my books would be as much above reproach as possible, so I hired an editor to check them out, and this has been a great experience for me. That is why I don’t give any warning in my books about the fact that English is not my mother tongue, and why I have a little paragraph on my blog asking forgiveness if I make mistakes, since I don’t send forum or blog posts to my editor to check!
- In my experience, indie publishing and the e-book revolution has been a particular boon to international authors such as ourselves who live far from the centres of the English language trad publishing industry. Would you agree?
I agree one hundred percent. I can’t fathom why some e-distributors such as Barnes & Noble aren’t yet allowing people from outside the US to work directly with them.
I have a lot of “fans” in French-speaking countries, thanks to my autism weblog. Those are people who would probably buy my books, but won’t, since I write them in English. They’ve been pestering me (in a nice way) and asking me to have them translated in French for them, but for me it’s not yet worth the time or money spent…
English is one of the main languages on Earth. I have many more potential English-speaking readers than there are people who speak French. It’s much more valuable (and interesting) for me to publish in English.
- Did you ever pursue traditional publishing, either in French or English? And if so, what were your experiences?
I have never pursued traditional publishing. Until I learned about how it was possible to self-publish, I had stopped dreaming of being an author, because I knew that the waiting around, the rewriting of a story I like into something else, the false hopes, and the fact that my genre is not the one preferred by publishing hourses, would crush me. I just would not have the patience.
Then I learned about Amanda Hocking’s incredible achivement, I’ve bought and read all her books, and the little spark in my heart came back. If she could do it, why couldn’t I? I don’t even want the mega success story: I want to be able to tell my stories, have people read them, and eventually — if I’m lucky — to be able to do this for a living, at my own page.
I like to do my own thing. I like to be the chief, to be the only one who makes decisions with my art. I like being in charge: it’s a wonderful feeling that I’ve lost for the last fifteen years. It feels good to be back with a (writing) revenge!
- In addition to the Zseries, you also write non-fiction under your own name and erotica as Poison Godiva. Can you tell us a little about that?
In 2009, when I started blogging about autism, I realized there were a lot of people that needed help in France. The autism situation here is very dire, and our children are left without proper care, or even tortured by psychoanalytic whim. Other parents were at a loss on how to help their kids.
That’s why I wrote some manuals. They’re very easy to understand, and I aim to be readable by everyone: no scientific words are unexplained, I don’t assume you know even the most basic notion. A lot of people wrote me back to tell me how those books had helped them to potty train their kids, or how they gave them the strength to insist for a real diagnosis for their kid.
I hope to write more of them, based on my own successes with my own kids.
I want to explore more genres than non-fiction and dark fantasy, though, and that’s why I’ve dabbled a little bit in erotica with my Poison Godiva pen name. Erotica is one of the hardest genre to write in, in my opinion. It’s hard to produce something that can work for other readers — that’s true with any kind of fiction, but it’s particularly true for erotica. I like challenges, and most of all I like to write for myself first. I’m hoping some readers will find my paranormal erotica interesting as well.
But I’m not stopping there: I’ll try writing in more genres in the next few years, in order to see what I’m good at, what I really like, and maybe take a few readers on board with me.
- With Irma Geddon and Poison Godiva you have IMO two of the coolest pen names ever. How did you come up with them?
It’s like having DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder). Irma and Poison are like a part of me, as much as the Nathalie Hamidi part. Yeah, I know, weirdo, right?
Irma is my web-persona, the one that is strong. She is very nerdy, like a mix between a squeeing fangirl and a D&D monster, and does things Nathalie and Poison wouldn’t dare to do. The name came from my IRC days, where I used irma- as a nickname (for Irma Vep, the vampire film). I wanted a domain name for a while, and Irma Geddon was the one that fit: puntastic, as a reader put it, and it sounded like it came with a bang, which was what I wanted.
For my erotica pen name, I wondered how to find one tasteful and intriguing. I love the Lady Godiva story, it is a classic in erotica. Poison is because I love to write about women that know what they want, and are not afraid to say it — “toxic”, “phallic” girls, in the eyes of my nemesises, the French psycho-analysts.
There are a lot of pen names waiting for me to “wear”. As I discover new interests and plots for my fiction, I hope you’ll come to meet them too! 😉
- Is there anything else you want to tell our readers?
Reading and writing are some of the most important skills in life. If you can write, read, to get inspiration and to learn the craft.
If you can’t write, or don’t want to, read anyway, and engage with your favourite authors. Make their words/worlds yours by participating. Tell them if you feel their story was special, if it struck a chord in your heart or in your guts.
Authors feed on stories and contacts with their readers. Thank you reader—you make us feel like we’ve found our place in life and we’ve fulfilled our storytelling destiny when your eyes meet the pages of our books.
Thanks for answering my questions, Irma a.k.a. Nathalie a.k.a Poison.
If you want to find out more about Irma, visit her website and blog or follow her on Twitter. Her other personas Nathalie Hamidi and Poison Godiva may be found here. What is more, Irma has recently started Find, Read, Love, a discovery site for new indie books, organized according to author and genre.