Where are you from?
I was born in a landlocked little country in central southern Africa called Rhodesia. It drew the world’s outraged gaze way back when – but that is another story entirely. I’m proud of my heritage and though I’m of European descent, I’m African in my core.
What inspired you to write your first book?
The desire to honor my Godfather, whose name I use as my pseudonym, and to trick my mother into not finding something more serious to worry about than my non-existent health problems.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I think I do. It’s called “third person omniscient point of view”, however I prefer to think of it as Omni-impotent. You see, every time I change character, I pop the reader into the head of that specific character – where they only experience the world from that character’s perspective. This means things the character misunderstands, are what the reader experiences.
How did you come up with the title?
Hmmm. The full title of the first novel in the series is “Malmaxa I – Beltamar’s War”. In Malmaxa, literally everything has meaning in the context of the tale. Every character’s name serves a purpose, every sentence, more than first appears. If it’s in the book, it’s in there for a reason. It’s the same with the name of the series, which is a combination of several words. “Mal” has two connotations, the first of which relates to epileptic seizures, of which there are two varieties, Grand, and Petite. “Mal” is also a root language form of the word insane and can also mean wrong, or bad. “Max” is a commonly used contraction for maximum. Putting the three together gives a hint of the nature of the series.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Of course I drew on my personal experiences, and many of the characters are loosely based on family members. Jalgar, the male protagonist, is very closely based on my memory of my Godfather. The parts of Jalgar that are good, are him, the parts that are bad, are me.
What books have influenced your life most?
Dr. Seuss. Not even a question… they were the foundation of my love of lyrical literature. Without that basis, I’d probably have turned out normal and well adjusted – with their influence, I just turned out normal…
What book are you reading now?
I’m going through the Temeraire series, by Naomi Novik. I really enjoy the thought processes of the Dragon protagonist, which ranges from philosophical to simple.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
February Grace, she is absolutely outstanding. So good, she made me read all the way through a romance! In fact, I wrote a review about it – the first one I’ve ever done. If you’re interested you can read it here:- http://cgayling.com/malmaxa/2013/02/godspeed-by-febraury-grace/
What are your current projects?
I’m working on an apocalyptic thriller – very different to Malmaxa, and intended to appeal to a wider audience. I’m also re-editing “The Pilgrimage”, the second book in Malmaxa, while working on the third novel, namely “Vengeance Cost”.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Not in the storyline of Malmaxa, I’m very pleased with it. However, I’m a chronic nitpicker and being self-published, I can indulge my habit of tweaking words to try and make them just right. Naturally, they never are.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Why yes, from the root of all things – love. Well, actually probably just a boyish crush on my high school English Literature teacher.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Editing, editing, and more editing.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Omar Khayyám – I particularly enjoy the translations of Edward Fitzgerald but I’m always willing to try other adaptations. Not only was Omar Khayyám a genius of rare caliber, he was also a poet of powerful philosophy. One of the wonderful thing about poetry, is that you get to interpret it each time you read it – which means it reads differently according to your mood, great poetry never gets old.
Do you have to travel much concerning your books?
Unfortunately, I get to travel all the time, and though it’s for my “day job”, not for my writing, the disruption often wrecks the creative process. I never go anywhere without a voice recorder, which I use to record ideas. Strangely, while traveling, I don’t so much create as ruminate – I mentally edit more than I write while driving.
Who designed the covers?
Me! Not only did I design the covers, I also created all the artwork except for two of the symbols, which I amalgamated from public domain tattoo images. Like everything in Malmaxa, the covers were very important to me. I wanted them to not only illustrate the world, but hold deeper hints of it. The cover of “Malmaxa I – Beltamar’s War” depicts a Seizen clad in culture appropriate garb. It also reveals the marks of family adorning her body, effectively “etched within her flesh”. It shows Daniskira, who is a Symbologist, which is the class of Seizen who actually apply the ritual tattoos.
The absolutely gorgeous cover model is my favorite middle daughter, Dannielle – there are pictures of her, in early iterations on my website. An interesting tidbit of information is that not only is Dannielle the cover model, but her personality is also the root of my inspiration for the character she portrays, namely Daniskira. I mentioned earlier that every little detail holds significance, the covers hint at what I mean. The cover of the second novel, The Pilgrimage, depicts the character Selene, shortly before her sixth marking.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Writing is easy. Editing, not so. Consider my nature as a compulsive nitpicker, a trait I think I inherited from my mother, who proofread for me, and you’ll grasp how painful editing is. I shouldn’t be proud of this, but I’ve rewritten literally every sentence in the series at least three times. Many of them much more than that… and I’m still not satisfied.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
That I wasn’t cut out to be an editor? I also learnt to hold voice actors in high esteem. A friend who doesn’t have time to read Malmaxa, but commutes for two hours each day, casually said, “Why don’t you just record it? Then I can listen to it in the car.” I tried, even going so far as to publish the audio for the very first section of the first chapter of the first novel on my website. I don’t think I’ll be doing that again – not only is it incredibly difficult to record four minutes of audio in a single breath, but every sentence is torn from your heart it’s even more difficult!
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Though I probably shouldn’t, I do. Write from your heart, not from your mind. Remember, you’ll be the very first person to read every word you write, if you don’t love it then it’s unlikely anyone else ever will.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Be more tolerant than you are today, tomorrow. Oh, and visit my website http://cgayling.com or follow @CGAyling on Twitter– no promises, but my words might touch you.
If you could pick a super power, what would you choose?
I already have – invisibility. My writing reveals who I am today – who I’ll become tomorrow might be the result of my audience’s response to my words. I don’t want anyone to look at my face, and judge me on my looks – but I’m only too happy to be judged for my words.