Interview with Natasha Mostert, Author of Keeper of Light and Dust

Today is the kickoff for the Natasha Mostert tour of Keeper of Light and Dust, which I offered to review at the request of Sheri at A Novel Menagerie. I want to welcome Natasha Mostert to Savvy Verse & Wit and to thank her for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions. Readers, you are in for a real treat.

Without further ado, here’s Natasha:

1. Have you always been interested in writing fantasy/science fiction novels? And what about the genre draws you to it?

I like building worlds, which is probably what attracts me to fantasy. However, even though I write about concepts that are considered quite fey, I make sure to embed these ideas into a realistic narrative. I did the same with Keeper of Light and Dust. The book is set in the world of martial arts and very often in martial arts fiction, characters will manage all kinds of incredible physical and mental feats: run up perpendicular walls, float above the ground while engaging in mystical sword play, mesmerize their opponents with a single stare. I did not want to go that route. My characters are real people – in fact, they are composites of fighters I know. I’m their biggest fan — for almost seven years I’ve been following these men and women from fight to fight. I know the problems and injuries they face when training. I know what it smells like in a fighter’s dojo! I understand the rivalries and camaraderie of their world and I hope I have managed to portray this environment accurately. There are of course, mystical elements in Keeper, and my heroine is in possession of a pretty cool skill, but I work very hard not to turn my characters into super heroes.

As for the science bit: well, my novels are idea-driven. With me it always starts with an idea and then I build the book around it. Usually, what happens is that I’ll read a work of nonfiction, which will kick my imagination into overdrive. Before I wrote Keeper I happened to read – quite by chance – a book about light emissions inside the human body. I never knew that all of us carry tiny fugitive pulses of light inside of us and the idea was so mind-blowing that I immediately knew I wanted to use it in my story. And so I created the character of my villain – a biophotonic expert who has cracked the secret of how to steal the light and vital energy from his victims and make it his own.

Many fantasy writers like to use recurring characters and themes. It is important to me not to repeat myself. Each of my books, I hope, is unique in its own right. It would be far easier to write sequels and keep to the same formula, but I would find that boring and I like to challenge myself and my readers. I think I’m lucky in that the people who like my work are the kind of readers who are adventurous and who are willing to follow me when I enter uncharted territory.

2. I noticed on your Website that one of your future goals is to write poetry. What has kept you from realizing this goal? Have you worked your way toward meeting this goal yet?

Poets are the Zen masters of the writing world. When you write a poem every word counts and there is no room for fat or flab. That kind of discipline is daunting to a writer of prose! I’ve written poetry for my eyes only and maybe one day I’ll find the courage to send it on to my editor. But it is not only lack of courage that keeps me from pursuing this dream, it also lack of time and the demands of having to make a living. My days are so filled with fiction writing and promotion that I hardly have time for anything else. Writing poetry is time consuming. Time – sadly – is the one thing I don’t have.

(I can completely relate to the time-consuming aspect of poetry she discusses here, but I also wouldn’t mind checking out her poetry. Wouldn’t it be vivid and fantastic?!)

3. In keeping with the poetry theme (since it is National Poetry Month here in the U.S.), have you kept up with any contemporary poets and could you name some of your favorites? If you haven’t, please name some of the less contemporary poets you enjoy.

My favourite poets are Philip Larkin and e.e cummings. Pablo Neruda is wonderful, I’m just sad I have to read him in translation. I love the Metaphysical poets – Donne, Marvell, Herbert – and in my first book, Midnight Side, their poetry forms a leitmotiv throughout the narrative. My native language is Afrikaans and my favourite Afrikaans poet – probably my favourite poet, period – is a man by the name of NP Van Wyk Louw. His poetry is stunning.

4. Do you listen to music while writing? What would be your top five songs on a playlist for Keeper of Light and Dust?

Yes, I do listen to music when I write. Music is oxygen. My addiction to music is probably due to the fact that I grew up in a home where music was all-important. My mother is a voice coach for opera singers and when I think back to my childhood, all my memories seem to be set to music. The house was always alive with it.

A playlist for Keeper of Light and Dust? Let’s see:

As this book is a fusion of Oriental mysticism (chi) and cutting-edge Western science (biophotonics), the perfect theme song for this book would be the song Alive by Chinese singer, Sa Ding Ding. Her songs are an intriguing blend of Western and Asian traditions. For those readers unfamiliar with her work, may I suggest that they treat themselves and take a look at the dramatised YouTube video of this song. Just type in Sa Ding Ding and you’ll get to it. (I think this is the link to the video she refers to.)

Keeper is also a story about fighters! These guys live in a gritty world and their training is tough. My song for them would be the theme song from Halo2. Also, that old Rocky classic, Robert Tepper’s song, No Easy Way Out. This last one is maybe just a tad cheesy, but it works!

My heroine, Mia Lockhart, is a healer and a person whose life is steeped in mysticism. I can imagine her listening to Loreena McKennitt’s music: songs such as The Mummer’s Dance or All Soul’s Night. And then there is Tori Amos’s Strange Little Girl, which would be perfect for Mia! Mia’s parents died tragically and there is an undercurrent of sadness to her life.. I can imagine Concerto for Oboe in D Minor: Il Adagio as being the soundtrack.

As for my villain, Adrian Ashton, he is obsessed with finding the secret to living forever, and therefore Alphaville’s Forever Young would be his anthem.

5. If you could pick any other profession, in any time period, what would you choose and why?

Oh, I want to be James Bond! Or at least, the female equivalent. Intrigue, adventure, spying, glamorous locations. Why? Well, I spend my days staring at my computer screen in desperation, snacking obsessively and talking to myself in the mirror. I think this explains it.

6. Please describe your writing space and whether you would consider it your ideal writing space. (Feel free to include a photo or two for the readers, some readers really get a kick out of visuals) Also, what’s the centerpiece of your writing space?

Virginia Woolf famously said that a woman needs a room of her own if she is to write fiction. For me, that is pretty essential as well, and I’m so lucky that I have an office with a stout door I can close.

On a good day my office looks whimsical (I hope), on a bad day it looks like the playground of someone who needs serious help: stacks of paper and printouts, photographs, boxing paraphernalia, sagging pin boards with too many newspaper and magazine clippings, objects d’art made by my godchildren, CDs, many, many little bottles of hand sanitizers (neurotic, don’t tell me, I know) and books, books, books.

The centerpiece is definitely my boxer’s speedball! It has pride of place and whenever I become spaced out from too much writing or find my creativity blocked, it only takes a few minutes of tapping out a rhythm on the ball to get me going again.

As an added treat, Natasha sent along this photo of herself and her friends:

Thanks, Natasha. What great answers! Dear readers, check out my review of her latest book, Keeper of Light and Dust, tomorrow, April 21, and an international giveaway.

***Giveaway Reminder***

Don’t forget to enter The Traitor’s Wife giveaway, here and here.