As most of you know, I’ve spent the best part of the last two months working with Ivory on her debut novel, Obsession: Darkness Falls. It’s not really ethical for me to review it since I worked on it but, now that it’s been released, I can interview the author! You can see the book here:
Me: So, Ivory, tell us a little about you…
Me: Oh. Okay. Don’t then! We’ll talk about the book instead. The book is really dark. What was it like to write it? Was it inspired by particular events?
Ivory: The creation of this book was an incredibly difficult journey for me. There were times I hated writing it, and times I thought I’d never finish it. I know a lot of writers talk about the process being cathartic and that’s what this was to me. I have experiences, painful experiences, that I haven’t really come to terms with in my life. I thought I was doing okay until I was challenged to explore those dark places within myself and I discovered that I wasn’t fixed at all. There are some scars on my soul that will always bleed, however many times I try and cauterise them. This book was the product of that personal exploration…the admission that I have a long way to go for a happy ending.
It was weird in a way. I would write something and then read back over it and tell myself off for not being honest. I would be too ashamed to write certain things and I’d have to give myself a stern talking to, because suppressing what I needed to express is not being true to myself.
I know it sounds egotistical, but I see Gabriel and Noelle as facets of my own personality sometimes. I get angry or ashamed about the things I feel and then I find myself questioning why they’re wrong. Gabriel’s subversive ideas about society are something I really struggle with. Then, in the next breath, I feel like Noelle. Not a victim, but a willing participant in my own demise. And that’s what it was – a demise. I want people to identify with these characters, to understand that not being perfect is okay and certainly not unusual.
The other difficult part was overcoming my own prudishness. Did you know I have issues with using any word other than the anatomically correct one? For the first forty pages at least I was cringing every time I typed anything remotely dirty. I tried reading it out loud once. God only knows what my landlords must think of me…
Me: I’m sure they were thoroughly entertained! You know the book is going to be compared to fifty shades. What are your thoughts on that?
Ivory: Can’t you ask a question that’s a little easier to answer diplomatically??? Fine. Here are my thoughts. It’s both inevitable and totally meaningless.
Inevitable, because I can understand why people would see some similarities – you have your working class girl and your rich man – but that’s not original to fifty. It’s Cinderella at its most basic. Yes, both DF and fifty are classified as erotica, but the comparison will be because fifty was the first to go mainstream, not because it’s the benchmark. Any book of erotica published from here on out will be compared to fifty, for the sole reason that it has sex in it.
It’s meaningless because, if people are looking at this as a Cinderella story, they’ve missed the point entirely. This is not a love story. It’s about manipulation and subversion and how to understand the darkness of the human psyche. I don’t believe that a soul so damaged can be loved into being ‘fixed’, especially with nothing more than a few dotted lines and weepy episodes, as Christian is in fifty shades (yes I’ve read it). It doesn’t work like that – it takes dedication, a large amount of therapy and a willingness to accept that the person might never overcome their predilection for dominance. Some personal demons just can’t be contained. In a lot of cases it’s a question of learning how to assimilate them into ‘normal’ behavioural patterns, rather than reverse them.
Me: It’s interesting that you call it a Cinderella story. Reminds me of that old proverb that there are only seven original stories in the world! It surprises me that Gabriel is a religious man. Was it intentional to make him that way?
Ivory: Not consciously, no. I was exploring the issue of cognitive dissonance – this idea that you can believe absolutely in two opposing premises. It’s one of the starker elements of Gabriel’s personality that he can believe absolutely in doing good unto others, while at the same time he sees absolutely nothing wrong with the depraved things he puts Noelle through. Most westernized societies have a moral compass grounded, somewhere along the line, in religion. Gabriel’s ideas are so subversive and anti-moral (no, that’s not a mistake. I mean anti-moral, not amoral) that it draws attention to his polarised beliefs. He believes that society is wrong, that humans should behave according to their primal instincts and not the moral dictates of society, yet he believes absolutely in the church and in the tenets it preaches.
Noelle herself struggles with the issue of God. It’s those age-old questions – if He’s good and all powerful, why did He let her family die? How did He let such a helpless kid get so damaged? They’re questions that readers will relate to on many levels. Religion was an interesting ‘playground’ to get some of their deepest fears out into the open because it’s so universally understood.
Me: I know we’ve talked a lot about the follow up, Redemption. Can you tell us anything about it?
Ivory: When I was writing DF, I struggled with the story arc. I felt very strongly that the descent into the darkness wasn’t the whole tale. I wanted to tell the story of ascent too. It felt necessary to me. After some advice from fellow authors, I thought long and hard about trying to fit the whole arc into one book and realised it was probably going to come out around 160 thousand words, which is just too long for a novel, especially a debut novel. As a result, I decided to break it down into two sections – darkness falls and redemption. They are both halves of the same book and I’ll probably publish them as an anthology after Redemption is finished and published.
Redemption is about Noelle’s struggle to regain her sense of self and self-worth. One of the most damaging things about a relationship where the power struggle has been so unbalanced is/are the sexual scars it leaves behind. You’ve lost all frame of reference for normality. It’s a vicious cycle. That’s going to be the central tenet of Redemption – Noelle needs to come to terms with her sexual proclivities in a way that’s less damaging than what Gabriel did to her.
Me: Please let me edit that one too – it sounds fascinating! On the subject of editing, tell us about your writing process. Are you an all in one or an advance plotter?
Ivory: I write the same way you do – I sit at my computer with a half-formed idea in my mind and just start at the beginning. I did walk away several times when I thought I was getting too close to the story. It was hard to see the plot holes when I knew the characters so intimately. I’ve never plotted on paper. I like to really feel my dialogue and story. I don’t believe I could do that within a rigid, pre-set framework.
Me: There are so many things I want to ask, but I’ve taken up enough of your time. I’ll finish with one last request – pick one of your main characters and tell us what they’d be if they were a cake.
Ivory: That’s actually harder than it sounds…okay, I pick Noelle. She’d be a vanilla cupcake with a twist – maybe a Rolo baked into the centre, or kirsch-laden cherry. She’s vanilla and sweet on the outside, with hidden darker depths.
Me: Good choice! Thank you so much for coming by the blog 🙂 *hugs*