Cheryl, How did you come up with the title Unbound Boxes Limping Gods? What does it mean to you? What do you want your readers to find in those Boxes?
Hi, Glenda. Unbound Boxes is a reference to particle physics. My protagonists have a device called a ‘writer’ which was invented by a physicist called Anesidor Sumian. (After the murder of her mother, see issue 2) The characters use their writer’s to travel around and to store things inside. Losing things and people, is a natural part of life, but these writers or boxes allow my characters to keep precious things safely inside. The child in me loves the idea of protecting things and people. The ‘writer’ enables the possibility of conjuring things from apparent nowhere. Some characters regard this as magic. The characters have very strong links with their writers, as these keep them alive. They are mostly nomadic people, on the fringes of society, who carry their lives inside these ‘boxes.’ Without them they’d die. Unbound Boxes is also a reference to the potential freedom this ‘magical’ item gives the protagonist and reader alike.
As for limping Gods. Most of my characters can’t age. They live in our future, but they aren’t technically immortal. My father died at a relatively young age, along with some other close friends and family. Since then I’ve been looking for ways to run away from that finality. I don’t like the prospect of death, although, my characters aren’t gods, they’re highly flawed and human. In the future there’s a chemical called SIR2HX, which shuts off the aging process. This could be controversial, for obvious reasons, but it enables me to carry out some complicated story arcs, in the novels. The characters age, differently, and it’s not necessarily a good thing. It allows me to hold onto them for longer. As for the reader. I like the idea that people can imagine their own precious things, people they care about, have lost or are close to, as they read. It’s a very emotional journey, which I’m hoping people can relate to.
Your artwork pulled me in long before I read a word you've written. What is your background in art? Are you formally trained? And are your characters envisioned in word form first or as they are graphically created?
I trained in Glamorgan University as a fine artist and then as a Graphic Designer later on in The Surrey Institute of Art and Design. I’m a writer first. I’ve always been more passionate about writing the novels and short stories, so my characters are written and then drawn! Although it is amazing to be able to see characters come alive through art. It makes them real to me, almost like looking at a photograph of someone you’d desperately like to see again, but can’t. It’s frustrating!
You are located in the UK, yet your stories are set in so many other countries. Have you traveled to any of them? Or do research? And how do you decide where to travel in order, I assume, to ultimately have some continuity?
The characters dictate where the stories are set. I lived in Iran as a child, so have a different perspective about how people and cultures change, depending on where you live. I’ve traveled a bit since then, but mostly it’s based on research. I’ve been writing these characters since I was seventeen, and placing them in location is second nature. I’d love to be able to travel to some of the places I’ve written about!
Your timeline for your stories are way in the future? Did this allow you a measure of flexibility in writing? Or what vision did you have to look hundreds and thousands of years into the future?
It definitely allows for flexibility. I am a huge fan of feminist science fiction. As a child I felt very isolated, as a lot of people do. I wasn’t a typical girl and possibly needed more reason than most to justify my worth. There were positive female protagonists about, but they were scarce. I found most of these in science fiction and fantasy films and novels. The possibility of creating a world in which I fitted into, was very tempting. I love Margaret Atwood, Joanna Russ and Neil Gaiman. It felt natural to set the lives of my fledgeling characters, in a place removed from my own time. It isn’t strictly science fiction, but this futuristic setting seems to fit both me and my characters. Although I probably wouldn’t really want to live there, because it’s quite a scary place and I’d die the day I arrived!
The flow chart I found seemed to fit how often readers are able to move online from character to story to other stories...But, really, how do you keep everything straight? Do you use outlines, flowcharts...or is it just like keeping track of your family and their activities?
In terms of the timeline, it's more like the third description. I know them like they're part of my own family. I know when and where they were born and who's connected to whom. I do keep notes though, and check consistency and continuity as it's so essential. When I'm editing there have been errors which I've corrected, but usually I have lists of dates to check everything's right!
Cheryl, you've chosen to consider your work speculative fiction...obviously setting the stories far into the future must be part of that. I note that this is sometimes used to "signal a wish not to be pigeonholed," could you tell us (1) did you decide to write "speculative fiction" or did you start writing and later find that your work could be considered that genre...and (2) what caused you to conceive of your world of speculative fiction as opposed to, say, the mystery/suspense genre?
That's a good question! I think you’re right in thinking I was reluctant to be pigeon holed. I use ‘speculative fiction’ as a term, because my work isn’t strictly science fiction, or fantasy or historical. You can see all those elements. I love sewing the mythology into real life events. For example there are some real life people in the novels, such as Grace O’Malley, the pirate Queen of Rockfleet Castle. She appears occasionally, (Julie Andrews is also in the sub plot, as Alexand hero worships her, *grins*) Oliver Cromwell also makes an appearance. *Waves fists at him for being so destructive.* The history of Alexand’s world is ‘our’ present, so our own history is her history. It is an imagined future, but it isn’t traditional science fiction. There aren’t any space ships, but it is more science fiction than any other genre. Emotional fiction may be another way to describe it, maybe? There is also a humorous undertone, the novels concentrate on the lives of the characters, rather than the technology, which is why I was reluctant to label it as science fiction, but it is open to interpretation and suggestion!
Whew! This imagined future for the world is very scary! It reminded me of the old days of fighting/killing for spectators...it seems, at least for this author, the future is just as grim... Still, Alexand has lived where most others have died...are the experiments different for the various prisoners or is she such an exceptional individual--a survivor..
Yes, Glenda, this imagined future is rather grim, lol. But Alexand loves walking along the beach, as opposed to being locked in a cell. It does change her, as it would any of us, were we unfortunate enough to go through what she and Juba have. There is a biological reason for her survival, (tied into her alopecia) but I won't go into too much detail as this is mostly covered in the novels.
I note that in your character descriptions you use "partner" as opposed to spouse...Is that merely a consistency factor to allow for sexual orientation...or...does your future have "marriage" and "spouses"?
Using 'partner', was purely practical, as some of the characters have been married, whilst others haven't. In my future world there are no restrictions on same sex marriage. This is recognised as equal to heterosexual marriage. In fact Alexand has been married twice, once to a man and once to a woman. (Jarad Vijay was her husband and as you noticed in Farokh's story, Katherine De Somme was her wife (not at the same time, I must add!)