Please Welcome Isabelle Rowan to Cutis Anserina
What was the process like converting Ink from its original novella form into a larger story?
It was a strange process and one I deliberated over for quite a while. ‘Ink’ was always going to be a novella length story, but I had a niggle that it wasn’t finished. The characters weren’t fully formed and their stories still had to be told. The original story hinted at Dominic’s maker and I really wanted to explore that aspect. Galen, the antagonist in the tale, actually became one of my favorite characters to write.
Basically, I let Galen wander around my head for many months until I knew where and when he came from, and how I could introduce him into the story. I also listened to a lot of old school Marilyn Manson during that process!
Once I have the characters straight in my head, I try to plot out main action points and a possible ending. I did that with ‘Ink’, but it certainly didn’t end the way I planned it. Galen just wouldn’t let that happen. My writing tends to be very organic and I’m often surprised at what comes out when I’m clicking away or scribbling in my notebook. I wrote an entire chapter and tried to force the story a certain way, but had to scrap it because the muses wouldn’t go in the direction I wanted.
At some stage I would like to do a short story about Galen’s life and preparation to become a ‘night spirit’ - that would be more horror and less romance. I am a member of the Australian Horror Writers Association so I’d like to explore that a lot more.
Ink the tattoo parlor and central location for the story was incredibly well realized. How did this setting make it into your novel?
I have a passion for tattoos and frequently add to my own collection, so Ink is an amalgamation of a few tattoo parlors. Many of the aspects, however, are based on an actual parlor on Chapel Street where ‘Ink’ is set. It had the purple walls and industrial band posters, and yes, there was a tattooist with blue dreads. I got many of my tattoos there. Unfortunately, it was gutted in a fire and the new parlor simply didn’t have the personality of the old one, but that also gave me an ending.
Michael Chapman was a great protagonist for this story. He realized what being with Dominic would mean, and consciously moves into this situation. What was it like writing Michael?
Michael was very easy to write because he always acted on instinct. Where Dominic over-thought consequences, Michael does what his heart tells him. He knew he needed to be with Dominic despite being pushed away and despite the whole supernatural threat. He’s a smart guy with a definite will of his own. Michael is also the ‘humanity’ of the book who has to show Dominic and Galen that they still hold their humanity.
Abby the tattoo parlor’s owner was a well-placed and incredibly deep secondary character. What were your thoughts while you were creating her?
One of my aims when writing an extended story is to have a supporting cast who are just as interesting as the main characters. Abby and Scott have a small, but pivotal role in the narrative. In fact, there are times where they drive the story. But more than that, I also wanted to make them characters that readers cared about and not just regarded as plot points. Abby is almost the heart of the book. She is Michael’s sounding board who would listen to him, believe him and perhaps guide him to follow his heart and not necessarily his head. Towards the climax of the book her strength really comes into play when she is forced to ignore her fear to help the people she loves.
I have a friend who I believe is a very old soul and I had her in mind when writing Abby. She is a wise woman in the true sense of the word. I hope some of her essence comes across in my words.
Ink’s prose created an incredibly rich atmosphere. Was this something you were conscious of while writing it?
When we think about childhood memories do we remember them as a series of events? Or do we smell the geraniums and feel the spongy grass under our bare feet? That’s how books are to me.
I teach high school in my day job and I always remember a boy saying to me with absolute amazement one English class, “I saw it in my head miss”. That struck a chord because reading should be a visual or perhaps visceral experience. As a reader I need to be drawn into a world that I can see, hear and smell. As a result, I try my best to create that experience in my books. I’m not sure if I always succeed, but I always try.
Who do you think the perfect target audience for Ink?
That’s a tough question. ‘Ink’ fits into a few genres. It is a gay romance, but also a vampire book so there has to be elements of horror. Perhaps the perfect reader is one who is willing to step outside the usual vampire scenario and enjoy a different setting. Keep an open mind and give ‘Ink’ a try!
What fictional character has had the greatest impact on you? How so?
In her novel ‘Lost Souls’, Poppy Z Brite wrote a character called Ghost. I read this book many years ago, but Ghost stays with me. He is an ethereal character who, although human, seems to exist between worlds. He is a true innocent and for some reason that struck a chord for me.
What is your favorite horror novel? Why?
Wow, that is almost impossible to answer. Not only because there are so many of them, but also because my tastes overlap fantasy, horror and even science fiction. Okay, I’ll give it a try.
Obviously I love vampire books and one of my early passions was Anne Rice - Ignore the movie and forget that portrayal of Lestat. Her books were always so rich in detail and ‘The Vampire Lestat’ totally suckered me in. However, my absolute favorite vampire novel would have to be ‘Lost Souls’ by Poppy Z Brite. Sure many of the music references are dated now, but Zillah and his gang sang to me as they drove around in their van. They were the first vamps I discovered in a modern setting – other than the Hammer Horror movie ‘Dracula AD 1972’ when I was 12 (yep, I’m that old).
Other books would include ‘Weaveworld’ by Clive Barker –for his creation of a whole world. Similarly, I love Stephen King’s ‘Dark Tower’ series.
See, I warned you I couldn’t pick one… ‘Vampire World’ – Brian Lumley, ‘The Raw Shark Texts’ – Steven Hall, anything by Neil Gaiman….
I always have works in progress! Most don’t fall into the horror genre, but I plan to write another vampire story soonish. My new novella is a mm romance called ‘The Road to Byron’.
Also, I’m going to be heading to the UK to travel on some intercity trains to research a serial killer tale that is swirling around my brain.