Bec Stafford interviews Lynette Lounsbury.
Bec: Dominic Mathers is your central character in Afterworld. Can you tell us a bit about him and the Trials he faces in the Necropolis? How long did it take you to write Afterworld?
LL: Dom is a guy who is really uncomfortable with his place in the world – he feels out of place in his skin, in his family and in his country. His family lives in India and he doesn’t know how to deal with the poverty he sees there. He is quite depressive and would be happy never to draw attention to himself. I thought it would be interesting to follow this sort of person into the afterlife – it takes death to make him realise that life is actually quite an amazing thing. The Trials are something I adapted from Roman history – the idea of taking pleasure from wielding a huge amount of power over others suited the Nephilim, particularly Satarial who was incredibly angry with the humans. In the beginning, it was a place to train and prepare, but as people became more listless and “stuck” he turned the Trials into a way to torture and “collect” humans.
It took me nearly two years to write Afterworld – I was writing around having a baby boy who demanded a lot of time – but it was also a complex story and there were periods of time where I just needed to think it through.
Bec: Afterworld features a nasty Nephilim, Satarial, and I’ve read that you lecture in ancient history, as well as creative writing. Do you find that the former often informs the latter? Can you talk to us a bit about Satarial and how his character developed?
LL: My love of ancient history definitely influences my writing. I love mythology especially – the stories that people believe and which define their cultures.
The Nephilim are mentioned in quite a few ancient traditions. Sometimes they are called “The Watchers” and other times “Giants” – and in the Bible it mentions that they were the children of Angels and human women.
Satarial is the name of one who is recorded in a Jewish manuscript called The Book of Enoch. Since the first part of the name means “adversary” but the whole name means “on the side of God” I thought he must have been a very interesting and complicated being.
Most religions also have a flood myth – from the Mesopotamians to Indigenous Australians – and so I put the two together. I found Satarial’s motivation in the fact that humans (in this case Noah) allowed his people to die in the flood. It’s just a case of me reading these ancient stories and imagining the human face behind them.
Bec: You grew up in Papua New Guinea, are the editor of Ytraveler.com, and each year you volunteer in the South Pacific on behalf of an Australian aid organisation. How do your travel adventures influence your writing, and do you like to write while you’re in transit and abroad?
LL: Travel influences everything I do. Growing up in PNG meant we had very close contact with magic and witchcraft and people who both practised and completely believed in it. I remember some locals bringing a little owl to our house once when I was about 6 and they were talking about how it was evil and carried spirits in it. It as actually just a very cute little bird, but I can still remember that the locals really believed it was evil, and that was all that mattered. I was heavily influenced by this idea that our beliefs control us.
Travel has made me very aware of the “serious” side of the world. Which sounds a little bleak – and I don’t mean I like that. I just know from experience that the world is fragile and that for a lot of people it is a difficult journey.
I write a lot when I am overseas. I just feel more open and inspired when I don’t have “everyday” life to worry about. And I like warm weather – hot even – I’ll write anywhere if its hot.
Bec: Which of your fictional characters Burns Brightest in your mind and why?
LL: Eduardo definitely burns brightest in my mind. This is a being who has been waiting for thousands of years for the love of his life and is committed to continue waiting. He’s not happy about it, he is not enjoying it – but he won’t give up. And at the same time, he is not so jaded that he doesn’t see something valuable in Dom. He invests time, energy and eventually love and loyalty into Dom and because he is willing to give like that, he opens himself up to the possibility of letting go. When he lets go – he ends up finding what he was looking for.