Karen Simpson Nikakis grew up in NE Victoria, Australia. She spent her working life in various roles in the Education Industry before leaving to write full time in mid 2017. She holds a BEd, an MEd (Hons) in dragons, and a PhD in Campbell’s hero structure applied to the female hero. She writes Deep Fantasy novels (where the hero’s psychological journey is expressed through symbolism and metaphor), short stories, poetry and nonfiction. Her novel I Heard the Wolf Call My Name and short story Glass-Heart, were both shortlisted in the 2019 Aurealis Awards. Her poem Deadway (from her nonfiction book Journey), was shortlisted in the 2020 Australian Shadows Awards. She is presently in a caravan in outback Australia.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself! Where do you call home and what do you write?
I have lived in Melbourne since 2016 and before then on country acres, and have been on the road in a caravan since July 2021 exploring South Australia and the Northernn Territory. Love the outback; do not love crowds. I write deep fantasy.
2. What drew you to that particular genre?
I love fantasy because of its scope to create different worlds and different ways of thinking which challenge our assumptions about all sorts of things. The Lord of the Rings was my first big love, but after an MEd (Hons) in dragons and PhD in the female hero, I became super interested in the hero’s psychological journey (hence the term deep fantasy).
3. What’s your best known work?
My best known work is The Kira Chronicles trilogy, which after rights reversion from Allen and Unwin, I extended and released as a six book series.
4. What inspired you to write it?
The Kira Chronicles was inspired by The Lord of the Rings, mainly because LotRs has no romance and I wanted a similar story but with romance. Needless to say, it turned out nothing like LotRs!
5. Tell us about your writing process. Are you a plotter, pantser or somewhere in between? How do you research?
I am definitely a pantser! I see an image, hear a song, or have a phrase come into my head and away I go. It can be exhausting but thrilling when the story takes off in totally unexpected directions. I have to have faith and go with the flow because I only discover what the story is by writing it. The Kira Chronicles started with the words ‘mira kiraon’ which I knew was an owl, but I knew nothing else. The Angel Caste series started with the phrase ‘so this is the man you called your father.’ I research as I go. Chant in Heart Hunter has to build a snow cave, so off to Google I went.
6. What’s the strangest or most interesting thing you’ve researched for your writing?
Pantsering is full of strange connections between the conscious and unconscious minds. In Angel Caste series, I knew right from the beginning, long before he entered the story, that the (violent), knife-fighting male hero was called At for short. He was so out of control he was called Mad At by his comrades. Problem was, I had no idea of his full name. I had to go through a few baby name lists before I found Ataghan, and I knew that was it. Oh, and it means knife.
7. What’s the most personal story/scene you’ve written and why?
I am repelled by violence which is why I have never seen A Game of Thrones, but in The Kira Chronicles, a youngster is kidnapped and tortured to extract information. I originally wrote of him disappearing and being found later, but Allen and Unwin’s editors strongly suggested the scene needed to be written, so I did. I could not avoid a rape scene in the Angel Caste series either (which I kept to about six lines), because the narrative required it, but I aim to avoid writing personalised graphic violence as I find it deeply distressing.
8. Who are your literary influences? In what way?
Mary Steward’s Merlin series was an eye-opener in terms of landscape as character. I was a geography teacher in a previous life so have always been interested in how landscape shapes peoples’ beliefs and actions. In this sense, landscape is central to Heart Hunter. My most recent reading is nonfiction nature writing because, like many people, I am blind to the complexities of the natural world which are astonishing, and also literally and metaphorically grounding.
9. What books are on your bedside table right now?
I am presently reading John Lewis-Stempel’s Meadowland – the private life of an English field and his The Secret Life of the Owl (owls sneak into all my books).
10. Last and most important, where can we find your books/stories?
The original The Kira Chronicles trilogy is in most public libraries. The six book Kira Chronicles Series and all my other books and short stories are available both as ebooks and paper backs from Amazon.
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