It occurs to me that there are very many interviews with fantasy authors to be found on the Internet – this very site conducts many of them, and I’ve enjoyed every one! However, few people bother to talk to the long-suffering partners behind those who create the books we know and love. It is fun for us to dip into the fantasy worlds created by these authors – but how must it feel to the people who dwell in them full-time? With this in mind, I decided to create a feature called Living With The Writer, where we talk to those significant others.
First up is Michaela Deas, wife of Stephen Deas who wrote The Adamantine Palace, one of the great debuts in 2009 (John’s and Robert T.’s review of this book can be found here). Let me know how you like this new interview series, or comment on the interview below for a chance to win a book from FanLit!
Amanda: Hi Michaela, welcome to FanLit! To start, how about introducing yourself and giving us an insight into your situation while ‘Living With the Writer’? I can quite believe that looking after an author becomes a full-time occupation, but I’m guessing that this is not all you do!
Michaela: Hmm… Glamorous wife of a successful writer who is planning world domination?! No… wait… damn, now I’ve given our plans away! How about: German wife, part-time muse and PA of a fantasy author, domestic slave to our two small boys and can opener for three mad cats? Trust me, being married to a writer who indulges in a day job on the side is not as exciting as it sounds!
Amanda: To be honest, it sounds frenetic! Tell me a little about being a part-time muse to a writer – what are the perks and what are the lowlights?
Michaela: It is seriously cool getting to meet loads of authors. And let’s not forget all the lovely folks at Gollancz! They have been so very welcoming and nothing short of awesome since Day 1 and they really didn’t have to: after all, I am not one of their writers, Steve is. They have very generously included me in everything and have happily put up with me being part of “Team Deas” from the start. Also, there is the ever-increasing stream of ARCs that I get to enjoy thanks to Steve being published by them. It means that, although one day we might have to move to a substantially larger house in order not to be swamped by books, I get to enjoy some novels way before release (I mean, how great are Horns and Wolfsangel?!) Obvious lowlights? None detected so far!
Amanda: You seem to have a great relationship with the people working to get Stephen published. Would you say that extends to other authors as well? Do you regularly meet up with them?
Michaela: Not regularly, no, but there are an increasing number of book launches and pub get-togethers that we get invited to. These are usually great fun and a very welcome way of meeting new authors, making new friends and catching up with some old ones. It doesn’t feel as though we’ve become “real” friends with other authors yet, but we haven’t been on the circuit for long enough for something like that to truly establish itself. We have met some wonderful people along the way so far! I mean, I had dinner with Pat Rothfuss, an evening out with Robert V.S. Redick (who is probably one of the nicest people one could hope to meet), shared takeaways with Richard Morgan and Joe Abercrombie. C’mon, what’s not to like? :-D By the way, Steve reckons I’ll get more attention at Eastercon for all the name-dropping on here than he will from writing books!
Amanda: Let’s backtrack slightly and pick up on something interesting you mentioned: German wife. Are you German by birth? Did you live there until meeting Stephen? Do you miss it?
Michaela: Yes, born in Hamburg – never lived anywhere else prior to coming to the UK. These days I don’t miss Germany as such (and wouldn’t go back to live there again now), but I do miss my big circle of friends. There is a history there with some of them that cannot be replaced. A few of the friendships go back over 25 years and that level of intimacy would probably take a similar amount of time to achieve over here with newly-acquired friends.
Amanda: Okay, I’ve had a read of Stephen’s website www.stephendeas.com , and he very sweetly mentions meeting you as one of his life highlights. I’m intrigued to find out how you met – especially taking into account the fact that you’re German by birth!
Michaela: There is a persistent rumour that I am actually Steve’s continental mail order bride that he had shipped over to henceforth do his bidding! :laugh: Well, there is a grain of distorted truth in that, apart from the fact that we met as friends on-line and I boarded a plane rather than walked the plank! And, between you and me, I am obviously in charge now! ;-)
Amanda: Well, obviously! That is a lovely story: did you have a common interest that enabled you to meet on-line or was it just kismet? How long have you been together now?
Michaela: It’s nine years this year – and I’d do it all again tomorrow! Steve’s profile page stated that he could legitimately call himself a rocket scientist, had set fire to Wales (twice!), and believed in fairytales and myths. That was me sold! Plus, his taste in music identified him as an old rocker and aging Goth – just like myself. I had to get in touch!
Amanda: So, were you aware of his writerly ambitions right from the get-go, or was this something he revealed gradually? What were your thoughts when he told you: positive? Or skeptical that someone could make a success of writing fantasy fiction?
Michaela: I was very much aware of his writing from the word go, and I remember being really quite impressed by it. Not just the quality of what he was producing, but the fact that he had this amazing imagination and the tenacity to continue writing and chasing his dream to one day be a published author. Humour and intelligence are something I find very attractive in people. Make me laugh and I’m yours! Well, almost…
Amanda: Now you’re giving away secrets! Let’s move on to some questions dealing with the creative process of Stephen’s books… There have been some well-known husband/wife creative teams in the fantasy field. Have you been greatly involved in Stephen’s creative process? Does he bounce ideas off you? Are you one of his test readers?
Michaela: Erm, pretty much yes to all of the above. More with some books than with others. For example, we spent a weekend drinking tea in the kitchen and going for walks in the countryside while plotting the initial ideas/outlines for The Adamantine Palace. He asks my advice on most things and frequently suffers my scathing remarks when something isn’t quite right with what he’s written. More often than not, his editor agrees with me!
Amanda: During the writing process, how much support does Stephen require? Does this differ depending on whether he is just starting out with a first draft or whether he is at the “business end” of the book?
Michaela: We do bat ideas for new synopses about a lot. Also, the closer deadlines get, the more he will ask for evenings off and nag me to get on with proof reading his drafts so that I can give him my views on them. So, I guess it gets more work intensive at the start and towards the very end for me. In the middle he quite happily shuts himself away somewhere and all I hear is the relentless clacking of keys interrupted by occasional demands for tea and tubs of ice cream!
Amanda: When Stephen is deep in a novel, do you feel as though you have to make sacrifices for his art?
Michaela: Writing books is essentially a lonely art form as is all the paraphernalia that comes with being published, and so it does eat away at the time we have as a family. To be honest, it doesn’t impact on us that much because he simply isn’t successful enough for it to take up too much time – yet, anyway! [AR: Michaela remains confident that this will change soon!] And, to be perfectly frank, I do enjoy evenings on my own when I can watch my way through episodes of “Dexter” without having to feel guilty about abandoning him! One thing I have to say, though: it does get a bit irritating sometimes when you’re trying to have a “normal” conversation with him and his mind is constantly occupied with nothing but plotlines, character descriptions and guesstimating the next advance payments!
Amanda: You have a strong Internet presence and have commented on blogs that reviewed Stephen’s debut novel: how do you feel about the reviews he has received? How do you personally cope when there are less than brilliant reviews?
Michaela: It’s tricky. On the whole I agree with the criticisms that have been made and I obviously love it when someone has really enjoyed the book (especially when they’re not friends or family!) And I try not to take bad reviews too personally but I don’t always succeed. Maybe because the whole thing still feels kind of unreal. I’m still waiting for the day when Simon Spanton (his lovely editor) rings up and cackles down the phone, telling us “you didn’t really think we were serious, right?!”
Amanda: From chatting to some other authors, I don’t believe you’re alone in that last sentiment! Finally, let’s finish off with Michaela Deas, rather than wife of Stephen. What are your current ambitions, hopes, dreams? Do you have any latent burning desire to be a novelist?
Michaela: My current dreams and ambitions are very simple and basic ones, I reckon. For all of my family to stay in good health, for Steve to be able to continue doing what he loves and hopefully be able to write full time in the future. I can’t wait to take the kids traveling, which is something that both Steve and I really enjoy. And I would love to go back to work at some point – but the right kind of job that fits around everything just hasn’t come my way yet. Something with people and books would be great – Gollancz, I’m looking at you here! :-D
Do I have aspirations of tormenting the world with my own literary exploits? No, not at this point. People have been nudging me about this for some time now. Simon Spanton, for example, told me at the recent SFX Weekender that he wouldn’t be surprised at all if I submitted my own manuscript within the year. Let’s just say that right now there is no story burning to be told but one should never say never…
Amanda: Thanks so much, Michaela, for taking the time to respond to these questions! I know you were somewhat bemused at the request, initially, but I think it’s deeply interesting to hear about “living with the writer.” You’ve certainly given us some insights! For those interested, Michaela has indicated that she would be happy to answer any follow-up questions people might have via Twitter – her username is @adamantine_lady
And thanks to everyone for reading – I hope that this feature was of interest! How about letting me know your thoughts and suggesting possible other candidates that I can harass… ah, contact? :-D Comment below for a chance to win Adrian Phoenix‘s Beneath the Skin, or some other book from our stacks.