Last week we took Spinebreakers Lily, Atifa and Laura to the launch party for Dee Shulman’s new book, Afterlife – the final instalment of the epic trilogy which includes Fever and Delirium.
We were lucky enough to spend some time with Dee at the event, and our Spinebreakers gave her a grilling! Here’s their interview:
Spinebreaker Lily: In Paragon [the mythical land where Seth ends up after contracting the fatal virus] when you imagine something, it happens! So why can’t Seth just imagine his nemesis Cassius dead?
Dee: In Paragon, it’s only inorganic and dead matter that the characters have power over and can control with their minds – things such as food – but not living, breathing matter such as another human being.
Spinebreaker Lily: In that case, couldn’t Seth just imagine a powerful robot, capable of killing Cassius?
Dee: He could, but only if he had that technology in his head. Anything the characters have experience of, they can make happen, but as a Roman Seth doesn’t have much experience of robots!
Spinebreakers Atifa: Most of the Spinebreakers are keen writers as well as readers. Could you give us any tips for aspiring writers?
Dee: Absolutely! The first thing would have to be read a lot. And don’t think “this is it!” when you’re writing – don’t think “this is my big opus and I have to get it perfect” – just write stuff. Make sure you always carry a notebook with you: if you have a notebook in your pocket and someone does something that makes you laugh, or someone looks a bit weird, or something unusual happens you can write it down straight away to remind yourself. As you get older you forget more stuff! But writing things down makes you look at the world more closely – it opens your eyes.
Try and make sure you’ve written at least a sentence in your notepad every day. “I’m going to be a writer” is such a big thought – but you don’t have to see it as an epic thing – begin by writing lots of little bits and they will soon add up.
Spinebreaker Lily: This is probably the most clichéd question ever, but how did you come up with the idea – time travelling Romans falling in love?!
Dee: I’ve been interested in time travel for a number of years. A while back we were living in a Victorian house on a Victorian road, and going out of my door I would try and imagine what it was like living there back then. I found some old photos of the place, and started walking around and visualising it. And then I looked further and further back in history, and came up with the idea of London vs. Londinium – Roman Britain.
I started exploring all the parts of London that were around back in Roman times – I’ve even mapped it all. If you’re somewhere high up above the city, you can be standing right above where the arena was where Seth would’ve done his training – and feel like you’re back there. You feel like you can see where Cassius’ house was.
Fever, Delirium and Afterlife were originally a ghost story, but then I thought about how I could physically get the reader to be back there, in ancient Rome, and the characters to be here in the 21st century.
All through London we have a layered history. My family and I live near a school that has graffiti carved into the wall – and some of it goes back to Tudor times – it’s an amazing thought that you can touch a wall someone touched hundreds of years ago…
I’m quite into magic science – frontier science, and string theory. It’s a kind of magic – mind-bending magic – and yet it’s happening – it’s happening for real!