Today I am interviewing S. C. Flynn, author of the Australian YA post-apocalyptic fantasy novel, Children of the Different, just released.
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DJ: Hey S.C.! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
SCF: I am an Australian/British/Irish/Italian reader and obsessive reviser. I was born in a small town in South West Western Australia, but I have lived in Europe for more than twenty years. First the United Kingdom, then Italy and currently Ireland, the home of my ancestors. That has been a great experience, but also difficult and lonely at times.
My whole life has been fairly multicultural, I guess. The town I grew up in had lots of different nationalities. And there was the Australian Aboriginal culture. When I lived in London, there seemed to be just about every culture in the world! Then I met my Italian wife and lived in Italy, and now I speak fluent Italian. So you never really know what directions life will take you in!
Oh, I have played old jazz and drunk strong coffee all my life. So not much of a morning person, no.
DJ: What is Children of the Different about?
SCF: “Children of the Different” is a Young Adult post-apocalyptic fantasy novel set in Western Australia. The story begins twenty years after a brain disease killed almost the entire world’s population. All the survivors had something special about their brains, and now their children go into a coma at the beginning of adolescence and either emerge damaged or with special powers. The novel follows the Changings and later adventures of two telepathic twins, Narrah (a boy) and Arika (a girl).
DJ: What were some of your influences for Children of the Different?
SCF: The varied landscape and wildlife of Western Australia, above all. Australia is famous for its weird mammals, but it is above all the continent of insects. From them, I got the idea of adolescents going into a coma, like insects into a cocoon, and then emerging as something completely different. That’s a creepy idea when it is humans that are transformed like that. Once I had that central idea (or it had me), much of the rest followed: the age of the characters, the switch back and forth between the outside world and the coma world (known as The Changeland), as well as the specific sub-genre.
Post-apocalyptic stories are common, but ones with fantasy elements are rare, so it was interesting and challenging to work on something that is not often done. I suppose there is also some influence in there from the Icelandic sagas, which I love.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers will sympathize with them?
SCF: The two main characters are thirteen-year-old telepathic twins: Arika ( a girl) and Narrah (a boy). They have been orphans since the age of five and are fiercely devoted to each other.
After her Changing, Arika has an ability that I call “mental shapeshifting”; she does not actually change shape. Arika has always been fond of animals and nature and afraid of heights; the Changing responds to both of these characteristics in surprising ways.
Narrah develops an ability to “read” things like computer drives. He was always curious about the ghosts of all the machines that died when civilization ended, and the Changing lets him communicate with them.
So, the main characters are “extraordinary”, but at the same time, during the course of their adventures, both twins rediscover friends – and romances – that they thought had been lost forever.
DJ: The Anteater really intrigued me when I read about him “feeding on human life” in the book’s synopsis. I’d love to hear more about him!
SCF: Here he is, in his own words:
‘I enjoyed the days of the Madness. Nowadays, fresh human flesh is very hard to find. A shame.’
‘Thousands of little packets of life consumed to keep the one life of the anteater going. Wherever they hide, he gets them. Thousands of deaths for one life. That creature that feeds on life is me. The Anteater.’
‘Ants give out a particular smell when they die. Other ants can sense it and keep away from the smell of death. The Anteater is too clever, though. Whenever he eats an ant, he lifts his head out of the way. The ants don’t smell the death. They never even know the Anteater is there. But you do now.’
DJ: What is the universe of Children of the Different like? Why did you choose this setting (of Western Australia) in particular?
SCF: I am originally from Western Australia, and the setting offers a huge variety of landscapes and strange creatures to work with. It is said to be one of the most isolated places in the world and has a population of only about 2.5 million, most of whom live in the extreme south-west, in or near the capital city of Perth.
After the brain disease called the Great Madness killed most of the human population twenty years before the story starts, organised mass society fragments into isolated groups of survivors, with each group having its own way of living. Due to the vast size and emptiness of the landscape, the various groups have little contact with each other.
The main characters – the telepathic twins Arika and Narrah – grow up in a small society (“The Settlement”) which totally rejects technology, which they blame for having caused the disaster. This group destroys traces of advanced technology when they find it.
Their “enemies”, the City People, want to revive the best aspects of industrial civilization. During her adventures, Arika encounters a group of religious fanatics who have reverted to worshipping nature.
So, in one way or another, these various groups meet, interact and compete… .
DJ: Can you tell us more about “the brain disease known as the Great Madness”? (How does it work? What caused it? Are they working on a cure?) (Without spoiling anything)
SCF: You sound like a medical student already, DJ! Good luck with that, by the way. The Great Madness was caused by biological warfare. The only survivors had something particular about their brains. This difference in the brain saved those people and removed their previous illness, so that, for example, people with brain damage from car accidents recovered.
The children of these original survivors are now teenagers. At the start of adolescence, they go through a Changing and emerge either with special powers or as crazed, cannibalistic Ferals.
As for a cure; well, that would really be too spoilerish… .
Q: What was your favorite part about writing Children of the Different?
SCF: Seeing the female characters develop and interact. There is a long section where Arika and another girl go on a long journey together and rediscover the friendship they had as young children. There is also an older woman who developed into a good character as the story proceeded.
Writing the baddie, the Anteater, as well. I had that character in mind for years, until this novel gave me the chance to bring him out.
It was also satisfying to finally be able to use the “mental shapeshifting” idea.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
SCF: Arika’s mental shapeshifting. The Anteater. The bonding between the female characters. The setting. The mix of fantasy and science.
DJ: What was your goal when you began writing Children of the Different? Is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across to readers when the story is finally told?
SCF: This is an optimistic story. It recognises the destructive capability of modern civilization, but also its potential for good.
I would hope that readers are inspired to believe that our society – for all its faults – can learn from its mistakes and, given time, overcome the greatest obstacles.
Also that our young people really are the future and that we must have faith in their intelligence and determination, and give them the best future we possibly can.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Children of the Different that you can share with us?
SCF: “It had been raining that day and the forest was dark. He could still smell the strong eucalyptus scent rising off the huge karri trees that stood like crying gods dripping tears on the little lost humans far below.”
“There were huge clumps of ants now, dragging bigger and bigger loads. She bent down to see what they were carrying. Something round and white. An eye. A human eye.”
“‘You went looking for life. But you don’t always find what you’re looking for, do you?’”
I have included lots of other quotes in the various guest posts I am doing as part of this tour!
DJ: Now that Children of the Different is released, what is next for you?
SCF: For weeks to come, I will be totally involved in the blog tour and publicity for “Children of the Different” of which this interview is part – it’s a lot of work!
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Children of the Different that we haven’t talked about yet?
SCF: In order to have a product comparable to those of the big publishers, I made a lot of sacrifices to find the money, and then also to find the time to dedicate to it. It has been a great experience and a lot of work. I was lucky that it was also fun and I made some good friends along the way.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
SCF: Thank you, DJ!
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*** Children of the Different is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
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Nineteen years ago, a brain disease known as the Great Madness killed most of the world’s population. The survivors all had something different about their minds. Now, at the start of adolescence, their children enter a trance-like state known as the Changeland and emerge either with special mental powers or as cannibalistic Ferals.
In the great forest of South West Western Australia, thirteen-year-old Arika and her twin brother Narrah go through the Changeland. They encounter an enemy known as the Anteater who feeds on human life. He exists both in the Changeland and in the outside world, and he wants the twins dead.
After their Changings, the twins have powers that let them fight their enemy and face their destiny on a long journey to an abandoned American military base on the north-west coast of Australia…if they can reach it before time runs out.
Children of the Different is a post-apocalyptic fantasy novel set among the varied landscapes and wildlife of Western Australia.
C. Flynn was born in a small town in South West Western Australia. He has lived in Europe for a long time; first the United Kingdom, then Italy and currently Ireland, the home of his ancestors. He still speaks English with an Australian accent, and fluent Italian.
He reads everything, revises his writing obsessively and plays jazz. His wife Claudia shares his passions and always encourages him.
C. Flynn has written for as long as he can remember and has worked seriously towards becoming a writer for many years. This path included two periods of being represented by professional literary agents, from whom he learnt a lot about writing, but who were unable to get him published.
He responded by deciding to self-publish his post-apocalyptic fantasy novel, Children of the Different and, together with an American support team, aimed for a book as good as those created by the major publishers.