The other day, when I was finishing up The Last City, I realized that I was so enchanted by D’Aleo’s world I had to ask her a few questions about her book. Thankfully, she was more than willing to let me do so.
About the author
Nina D’Aleo wrote her first book at age seven (a fantasy adventure about a girl named Tina and her flying horse). Due to most of the book being written with a feather dipped in water, no one else has ever read ‘Tina and White Beauty’. Many more dream worlds and illegible books followed. Nina blames early exposure to Middle-earth and Narnia for her general inability to stick to reality. She also blames her parents. And her brother.
Nina has completed degrees in creative writing and psychology. She currently lives in Brisbane, Australia, with her husband, George, their two sons, Josef and Daniel, and two cats, Mr Foofy and Gypsy. She spends most of her days playing with toys, saying things like share, play gentle, and let’s eat our veggies and hearing things like no, no way and NEVER!. She is also working on more books – including the next book in the Last City series.
When you aren’t writing, what occupies your time?
Two extremely mischievous and adorable little boys 🙂
Your bio says you have completed degrees in creative writing and psychology. How has a degree in psychology impacted your writing?
I think during the psych study (but particularly after the study while working), I started to realize how completely complex people actually are – and that if I was going to write believable characters, I needed to reflect that and make sure each character had their own unique behavioral and thought patterns, histories, fears, strengths emotions etc, instead of just being offshoots of myself.
You mention Narnia and Middle Earth in your bio. What are some other fantasy books you read as a youngster that got you interested in speculative fiction?
So so many books, I was a book termite… but the ones that have stood out for me over time were books like Alice in Wonderland and Roald Dahl’s books, Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman, also John Wyndham’s books which I read very early on and Stephen King’s books which I also got into at quite a young age – probably too young !
Honestly, when I started The Last City I was expecting a nice fantasy with some “weird” elements thrown in for good measure. I was very pleasantly surprised when I found a book that isn’t quite fantasy or science fiction and is completely, 100% unique. I loved all the unique elements and absolutely fell in love with your world and vision. What amazed me was that none of it seemed to be over-the-top or just odd for the sake of being odd (if that makes sense). It all fit perfectly into your world and plot, to the point where it seemed natural. Was it hard for you to write a book that was so unique? How did you manage to write a book full of so many different elements without going over the top on any of it?
Firstly, thank you so much – that’s extremely kind of you!!! I have a major tendency to go over-the-top – so it’s a big relief to hear that everything fitted!
I didn’t find the actual writing difficult, but the research, plotting and planning
behind it was a very long process – but also exciting. There’s something very cool
about building a world from scratch!!
One of the first things I noticed when reading The Last City was how incredibly unique the people you write about are. You have Copernicus Kane who can read body heat, machine breeds who rule the city, Silho who can see what has happened in an area by touching walls, and plenty of others. In fact, I get the feeling that this is just the tip of the iceberg and I’m fascinated by how unique the people you’ve created are. It really shows that the blurb comparing you to China Mieville is absolutely true. I don’t want to ask something as cliché as, ‘How did you come up with all that?’ but I think I have to. In conjunction with that, how on earth did you keep all of your people and their abilities straight?
🙂 Wow – I can’t imagine any writer not crying with joy at hearing such huge praise – so a big thank you again!!!
I think the story and its world was a product of being inspired by so many awesome writers and artists through their books, movies, tv, artworks etc…
Yesterday I was reading about the different definitions of fantasy and one definition was ‘imagination unrestricted by reality’ and that’s what I love about it – you can literally go into your imagination and bring out anything and everything.
And I found profiling very useful for keeping all the characters in-check!
The city of Aquais is also incredibly unique, as befits the people that inhabit it. I found it interesting that you delved below the surface of Aquais by letting the readers see a little of the history and the problems that all the people have faced over time. For example, Silho is afraid to show people who she is due to her bloodmarks and who her father was. There is quite a bit of depth you’ve added, balancing out the “weird” perfectly and showing a very human core to The Last City. Was that hard for you to accomplish?
I think that’s something else psych helped me to understand – people all have the front you see, and then a whole multitude of thoughts and feelings that they don’t or can’t talk about – and it’s usually in these thoughts and feelings that the ‘real’ person exists.
All of the characters in The Last City are incredibly strong, but their strength is balanced out by some equally powerful weaknesses. Kane is afraid of part of his heritage, Ev’r Keets is a notorious criminal but the reader soon learns that she’s battling a horrible illness (of sorts) and on the list goes. Was there any specific reason you chose to show your characters as both incredibly strong and amazingly weak at the same time?
I think the best kind of heroes are the flawed heroes – the ones that have to battle not just against the enemy, but against themselves – that makes them real to me.
The Oscuri Trackers, an elite military squad, have an important role in The Last City. Did you have to do any research to create this squad, and their chain of command and portray them believably? Or do you have background with military or some exposure to create them as believably as you did?
I’d probably have to credit at lot of movie watching here! 🙂
At the end of the day, The Last City tells the story of a group of unlikely people who could easily been pitted against each other, coming together to accomplish one goal. While some people stay at odds, there is an uneasy peace formed between many of the individuals who were at odds when the book began. Did you purposefully set out to show how people can overcome differences to work together, or is that just a byproduct of the plot that I seemed to pick up on for some odd reason?
I’ve always liked the saying my enemy’s enemy is my friend. I find the concept intriguing and I think that definitely came out in the story.
Your bio says you are working on the next book in this series. Any word on when that will be released?
I’m hoping to have this draft of Book Two finished in the next few months and then I’ll be sending it in and hoping my publisher will have me back! 🙂
Being a debut author, has anything about being published surprised you so far? If so, what?
I think the ‘being published’ bit is still the biggest shock!!!
Also it’s been amazing to receive the wonderful and encouraging feedback from readers – it really means the world to me!
I think that’s all I have for now! I hope my questions made sense! Thanks so much for your time!!
Thank you so much for having me!! And a million thanks for your thoughtful and insightful feedback and questions!! xo