10 Questions with Nix Whittaker
Nix Whittaker is an English teacher in the heart of the North Island of New Zealand. She lives with her cats and her dog in the shadow of an active volcano where she writes in her spare time.
Nix started as a reader to help improve her spelling as she is dyslexic but was hooked by the marvellous worlds of Mercedes Lackey and Terry Pratchett. As time passed and she read out the library, she was forced to write to feed her ferocious need to read. Now her books are influenced by Patricia Briggs and Anne Bishop as she is still very much a reader and so writes books she would like to read herself.
Tell us a bit about yourself! Where do you call home and what do you write?
I write under the pen name Nix Whittaker. I live in the shadow of a volcano in the central North Island of New Zealand. Originally, I was born in South Africa but moved to New Zealand when I was a little girl and am now proud to be a Kiwi. My day job is teaching as I’m still what I consider a baby writer. I got into writing because I ran out of things to read. You see, I’m dyslexic and all my teachers told me to read more books to improve my spelling, mostly because they thought I was too smart to be dyslexic so they had no idea what they were really asking. But I did start reading. And more reading. And when I ran out of things to read, I started writing. I still have trouble spelling, of course because of the dyslexia, but love being able to escape into another world. I think that is why I write fantasy.
What drew you to that particular genre?
It was my brothers who introduced me to reading. And their idea of a great book was David Eddings and Anne McCaffrey. It took me a while to figure out that the kind of books I was always drawn to was the fantasy and science fiction that had strong relationships—usually romantic. I think it was Andre Norton who really got me. It took me longer still to realise I wanted to read stories where weird and interesting characters were accepted and found their place in the world. Being bullied as a child that was the ultimate escapism. So I like to write stories where the main character finds acceptances and their place where they can be themselves without worrying about rejection. The fantasy elements just make it all more fun and adventurous.
What are you currently working on?
Currently, I’m working on a new Historical Fantasy book set in Prague in the 1600s. I wanted to write an Academy book because they are doing really well and tend to have a cyclic trend so a safe bet as well but I find the modern school ones annoy me because schools aren’t really like that anymore. So I thought I would set my Academy back in the day. Don’t ask how I ended up in Prague in the 1600s. It might have something to do with defenestrations.
What inspired you to write it?
Once I ended up in Prague 1600s, I went down the research blackhole. Did you know the modern day werewolf was original to the Slavic area? Very different origin story to werewolves we read about nowadays so it was fun to look into that. I landed on Alchemy Academy as it just sounded fun and alchemy was just starting to get popular around that time. It would also mean I could have an unconventional school.
Tell us about your writing process.
I’m mostly a panster as I have most of the plot in my head and I’m never quite sure where I’ll end up. I tend to rush the endings so I have to plan those out so I don’t rush it too much. I have a brief outline of where I want my characters to go and mostly they don’t surprise me but sometimes they do. But that is the fun part.
What’s the strangest or most interesting thing you’ve researched for your writing?
Ironically it’s something that really doesn’t pop up often in my writing. My dragons aren’t magic but instead they are physicists. But because they are so ahead of everyone else on Earth, they look like they are magic. So I’ve done some research into things like entanglement theory and string theory to figure out how my dragons do their brand of magic. Of course, because it is so esoteric it often doesn’t come up in the books at all.
What’s the most personal story/scene you’ve written and why?
All of my books have an element of an awkward girl trying to figure out how she fits into the world. That is me. Basically, I’m trying out different scenarios of how life could go if I did things just a little bit differently. To make it interesting, I throw in dragons and such but essentially I’m trying to figure out how to fit into the world.
Who are your literary influences? In what way?
I love my romances so I have a lot of romantic subplots in my books. I was well into my twenties before I realised that the science fiction and fantasy books I leaned towards always had a romantic subplot. Your Andre Nortons and Mercedes Lackey books were the main ones when I was younger and then I branched into things like Tamora Pierce as well. Yes, I know it is a bit backwards to start with Mercedes and then go onto a YA writer like Tamora but in South Africa there was definitely censorship and it was very subtle. A cross-dressing girl was definitely on the cutting floor of the censorship office in SA. So I only discovered her when I came to New Zealand.
What books are on your bedside table right now?
Anne Bishop is on my bedside at the moment. She had a new book come out so I had to reread the whole series just to be ready for the new book. I was a little disappointed with the new instalment. I love Anne but she does have a few books that just don’t resonate with me. Considering I have reread several of her books a dozen times I can forgive her for not hitting the notes right for me every time.
Last and most important, where can we find your books/stories?
You can find me in any good online bookstore. Not so much the bricks and mortar unfortunately as they are still mostly the domain of the traditionally published books.
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