Our next Vampire month victim is Jeannette Ng who has recently published the novel ‘Under the Pendulum Sun’ through Angry Robot. Being very clever and sneaky, Jeanette is not technically a vampire author but has managed to sneak into the line up through a technicality. She is an author of Gothic Fantasy and, I am sure, will have vampires in a future novel….
For now, she will answer the insidiously seductive vampire month questions….
1) What is the earliest memory you have of writing? What did you write about?
The first thing I remember writing was just straight up rehash of Cinderella. I was probably around six or so because it was the first year of primary school. I have this very distinct memory of arguing over the spelling of certain words like magic with my teacher. Which means I’ve been basically doing fairy tale retellings my entire writing life.
2) When did you decide to become a professional writer? Why did you take this step?
I don’t really think I can remember a time it wasn’t something I was working towards. I remember being about fourteen and putting out serial novels with my friends. I would typeset them like I did the school newspaper (which I was, of course, also involved in) and we sold them for about a quid per instalment.
After that it was just a matter of finishing something and selling it.
3) What would you consider to be your greatest strength as a writer? What about your greatest weakness? How do you overcome this weakness?
My prose is dense but I’m told also lyrical. I’ve a penchant for weird details and am an obsessive researcher.
That research is also a weakness, of course, since it means I don’t get any writing done. On top of that, I am really bad at endings. For all that I have all these big concepts, I struggle seeing them through to a point of actual closure. I create worlds without plot and then some plots without people. The pieces rarely fit together the way I want them to. Which I’m still not sure how to overcome, really. I suppose it’s just a matter of keeping notes on everything and not rushing an underdeveloped idea.
4) Tell us about the place where you live. Have you ever derived any inspiration from your home or from anywhere you have visited?
I live in Durham, which is in the North East. It’s mostly bridges and a marketplace knotted around a cathedral and a castle. There’s also a university nested inside the aforementioned mostly medieval castle. It’s one of those places with stones that just *remember*.
My debut novel, UNDER THE PENDULUM SUN, is about a Yorkshire missionary and his sister, so I’d say I draw a fair bit of inspiration from home or thereabouts. I was travelling through Birdforth when I had noticed its Norman church and a lot of that went into the novel, as well as the moody skies and windswept heaths.
5) Which book, if any, would you consider to be your greatest influence and inspiration?
If we’re talking about my debut, UNDER THE PENDULUM SUN, then I’m probably obligated to say JANE EYRE since the plot mirrors the latter third or so of Charlotte Bronte’s novel.
6) What drove you to write about Vampires?
I don’t think I’ve actually written about vampires, though a lot of my published work does fit neatly into gothic fantasy.
7) What do you think is the attraction for Vampire fiction? Why is it such a popular topic?
Sex and death make for an intoxicating combination that is as old as myth, so I suspect that’s a huge part of it’s draw. Vampires function as dark mirrors of humanity, both as monsters to revile and more commonly these days as dark heroes. They can be power fantasies of immortality and dominance over others as well as metaphors for the marginalised. The pieces are varied and various, so that legacy of myth makes for some very powerful metaphor.
8) In a fight between all the greatest Vampires of fiction, who do you think would come out on top?
Lada. From the haunting AND I DARKEN by Kiersten White.
Which is sort of a cheat-y answer since she’s not technically vampire. She’s just Vlad Dracul, historical inspiration of one of the ur-vampires, but also a teenage girl.
Still, I’m pretty sure she can stab and stake her way through any canon of vampires. Because she is just that awesome.
9) What about in some other contest such as sexiness or dress sense? Who would win that one?
Carmilla from the CARMILLA web series is awesome. I’ve soft spot for that sort of casual badassery and it very much helps that her attraction and romance with Laura is portrayed very much in ways that consciously reject the male gaze. Part of it is to do with the limitations of the web format but instead of the soft camera angles and fleshy bodyparts, it’s about their faces and that intimacy between them.
In general I would really recommend watching CARMILLA if you have time. It’s all free on YouTube and though it takes a little while to get going with its eldritch horror on campus setting, it’s a lot of fun.
10) How well do you think one of your characters would fare against the winner(s) of the above?
I don’t really know, to be honest. I imagine that Mab, the Pale Queen of the fairies would be intrigued and ask them to tea, all the while smiling daggers and glaring poison. Carmilla does have some experience stabbing up eldritch horrors, so she’d probably hold her own even if Mab dissolves into a slither of snakes. Lada is also in camp stabby, though she does have plenty of inner turmoil for Mab to exploit, so not sure who’d win there.
11) Tell us the basic premise behind your latest novel.
UNDER THE PENDULUM SUN is a gothic novel about missionaries in fairyland. It’s about pitting Victorian theology against the alien otherness of the fairies. And like any other gothic novel, we a seemingly innocent but curious young woman exploring a puzzle box of an old house. She finds things that are probably best left lost, but that’s how all these stories go.
Jeannette Ng is originally from Hong Kong but now lives in Durham, UK. Her MA in Medieval and Renaissance Studies fed into an interest in medieval and missionary theology, which in turn spawned her love for writing gothic fantasy with a theological twist. She runs live roleplay games and is active within the costuming community, running a popular blog.
Blog Link: https://medium.com/@nettlefish
I’m also on twitter as @jeannette_ng
Book Purchase Link (amazon): Under the Pendulum Sun
Book Purchase Link (ebook): Under the Pendulum Sun