Blast from the past – Nov 2015 – Author Pow-Wow: Devika Fernando

Dear Devika,

Thank you for coming over to talk to me. I’m really looking forward to your next two offerings – they are both sequels to ‘Playing with Fire’, I understand.

Let’s talk about them – ‘Dancing with Fire’ and ‘Living with Fire’!

  • Two sequels at once – awesome! How do you do it? Do you write concurrently, sequentially, what? Tell us something about that – perils, pitfalls, advantages.

Devika: Thanks, I have to say I’m pretty excited. I had planned “Playing with Fire” as part of a trilogy but at the time I wrote only Book 1 and published it without a cliffhanger. Then other books came in the way, but I was burning (pardon the pun) to go ahead with it. I wrote Book 2 and Book 3 in more or less one go and then decided where to make the split. Publishing them like this will have the advantage that readers don’t have to wait long for the conclusion, but it did take me a year to bring the FIRE Trilogy to an end.

  • I’m certain your readers will love the trilogy. Have you ever been traditionally published? How did you decide to go Indie? Was it a difficult decision? A scary one?

Devika: No. I had considered submitting my debut at first, but I did a lot of research before embarking on this journey, and self-publishing seemed the right way for me. I don’t regret it, though I don’t condemn traditional publishing. It was scary as hell, to be honest. 😉 A jump off a cliff into the ocean, and I’m not a particularly good swimmer. But I love the freedom it gives me.

  • Tell us something about the heroes? Is it the same hero in both, or different ones? Why do you think we will adore them? Will we?

Devika: Books 2 and 3 continue the story of Felicia (the fire witch) and Joshua (the ice wizard). Joshua is in some ways modelled after vampires, and I (only half-jokingly) describe his looks like a Norse God. I think readers will like about him how much he cares for Felicia. Being an ice wizard, he is usually cool and detached and prefers to be on his own, but his love for Felicia changes that.

I’m also introducing a third protagonist into the mix, Kyle. I can’t wait to see how readers react to him because he is neither a hero nor a villain.

As for Felicia, I loved writing her. She was constantly in my head, demanding a sequel and this scene and that scene, fiery as she is. I think people like her mix of spunk and all too human insecurities, and her determination.

And here she is. Very compelling, on all three covers!

  • She’s gorgeous! Do you look for images to inspire you when you are creating characters?

Devika: It’s interesting that you’re asking, because “Playing with Fire” was inspired by artwork I found on deviantART. Usually I find pictures while writing that somehow perfectly match a character or setting or situation. I looked at tons of breathtakingly beautiful Iceland photos for the books. Off and on, a character’s looks will be based on an actor or famous person, but not with my FIRE Trilogy.

Have a look at my Pinterest boards for “Playing with Fire” and the two sequels.

  • What is your favorite genre to read? How has it influenced what you yourself write?

Devika: Definitely romance, all kinds of it. I used to be a big fantasy fan too, though that has waned a little over time. I think my writing influenced my reading habit, because now I am totally hooked on romance. I try not to imitate the styles and stories of other authors, but I do think I have picked up tips along the way, e. g. regarding character development, clichés to avoid, words to use.

  • Has any real-life event, personal or public, ever begged to be written into one of your stories? Could you share it with us, please?

Devika: I let a lot of myself flow into the story of “Saved in Sri Lanka”, although I am by no means Sepalika or have experienced her dilemma. But there is one particular scene that did happen in real life and fit in perfectly. It was tweaked a bit, but the character and most of her words are taken from reality. See below:

Speaking of husband and home,” Mrs. de Souza barreled into her thoughts like a freight train, “When can we expect the wedding and then soon-soon an heir to the ever-growing Kulatunga fortune? You’re not getting any younger, my dear.”

She actually had the gall to stare at Sepalika’s face and then at her perfectly flat stomach and tut-tut disapprovingly.

This was the last stroke. Basically since the first month of their engagement, everyone under the sun had asked them about the wedding date. It was in every Sri Lankan’s nature to do so, she was aware of that, but the mere thought of finalizing things and afterwards sharing intimacies with Mahesh—and heaven forbid, having a child with the man she abhorred—was enough to make her see red.

Before she could force out an acceptable answer, hardly able to see the monstrous woman because anger clouded her vision, the vulture decided to hack some more at the cadaver in front of her.

Lowering her voice to a confidential tone and this time patting Sepalika’s knee like a well-wishing relative, she said, “My dear, I can recommend a good astrologer if…you know…there should be any problems like your horoscopes not matching or a special pooja having to be done at a temple. After almost a year…maybe you need a little sasthara.”

Sepalika’s nails dug into her palm painfully, but she couldn’t unclench her fists. Sasthara? Magic? No, she didn’t need any hocus-pocus. She didn’t need any more astrologers complaining about the fault in her stars and prescribing offerings for various gods. She got up so hastily that the chair grated across the floor tiles and a few heads turned in her direction.

Thank you very much, Aunty,” she spat out, “But I’m sure Jacqueline needs the astrologer more than I do.”

She wasn’t one for such petty attacks, but for once she couldn’t hold back. Everybody knew that Mrs. de Souza’s daughter, almost as fat and ugly as her mother, and twice Sepalika’s age, was impossible to be married off to a suitable man.

The mean-spirited elephant of a woman drew back with a gasp as if she had been slapped, one pudgy hand rising to her trunk-sized throat in shock.

Excuse me, I need to find my dashing almost-husband,” Sepalika said in the same forbidden tone. She turned on her high heels and stormed off toward the restroom.

  • Thanks – that is a very emotive scene. Of all the attributes of a well written story, which is the one that pleases you the most?

Devika: Wow, that is a difficult question. It’s hard to pick just one, but I think I love it when the character develops the right way. I hate stories where there is no change at all in the protagonist from the first to the last page or where the protagonist acts totally out of character just for the story’s sake.

  • What one or two things absolutely irritate you in a book, and would most certainly make you put the book down immediately?

Devika: See above comment. And I can’t stand it when the author obviously knows nothing about grammar and writing.

  • When do you write? What is your writing space like? What do you use, pencil/pen and paper, or a gadget?

Devika: I write all day, more than 8 hours, because it’s my job. Fiction writing is usually restricted to the afternoon or evening. I write exclusively at my desk and on the computer, though ideas, outlines and poems are written by hand in a notebook.

  • Your advice to starting authors – one thing they MUST do and one that they should NEVER.

Devika: They MUST write, write, and write some more, because practice makes perfect. They should NEVER try to copy someone else’s style (just because it sells well) but find their own style.

Thank you, Devika. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you through your books and your characters – all the very best to you!

For more things Devika, do visit her blog

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