22 June 2012

Guest Post: Nerine Dorman - Setting the Scene for Inkarna

You may have seen Nerine Dorman's work in our collaborations, Just My Blood Type or Blood and Fire, but Nerine is definitely a moving novelist in her own right. Her recent release is the greatly anticipated Inkarna, featuring Ash from Blood and Fire. Inkarna is Ash in his own world, which you will find is a magical one, full of danger and mystery. Here, Nerine reveals how she set the various scenes in Inkarna.- C.C.

Half the fun I extract from my writing occurs when I consider which locations I’ll be using when I get stuck into my world building. Of course it helps that I’ve lived in Cape Town my entire life, so I know about some places people have never been. Part of my day job entails writing travel stories, so I can really cut loose when it comes to my descriptions in my fiction.

When writing a supposed “exotic” location such as Cape Town, South Africa, it’s all the more important to set the scene since the majority of my readers are based in the United States and the UK. Many of them have come back to me later to say that they’d wanted to visit Cape Town even more after having read my stories, most of which are set in the Mother City (as we call her).

There’s a lot of history here and I’ve heard Cape Town compared favourably to New Orleans and San Francisco, with a bit of Tuscany and Bordeaux thrown in for good measure. It’s one of the few cities in the world that is wrapped around a mountain range, can boast wine estates within its boundaries, as well as a National Park. While elephants don’t roam our streets, we do have wildlife such as caracal, otters, grysbok and porcupines that come close to the built-up areas. A few folks have even been fortunate enough to see the elusive sambar deer that are fugitives from a zoo.

Two very tense scenes in Inkarna occur at a real location known as Boomslang cave. Named after a tree snake, this cave goes right through the folded sandstone cliffs above Fish Hoek and Kalk Bay. And while I didn’t go all the way in, I did climb there as part of my research for Inkarna. I wrote the first scene before I’d actually gone there and surprised myself when I later verified that the cave does indeed branch off exactly as my protagonist discovers.

Sunrise Lodge is another location that features. And it does exist in real life almost exactly as described. It’s based on San Remo, a “backpackers” (I use the term very loosely) that used to operate in area known as Gardens. A friend of mine used to live (and eventually died) there and my flesh would crawl every time we visited. And the less said about the size of the cockroaches, the better. Sunrise Lodge, incidentally, also featured in my urban fantasy/paranormal novella, The Namaqualand Book of the Dead. The real San Remo guest house also features in a short horror film my husband made, entitled Anna.

The Purple Turtle stands on the corner of Long and Shortmarket streets. The Event Horizon is based on this location.

Those of you who’re familiar with my Khepera novels will get to revisit The Event Horizon, which is based on Cape Town’s Purple Turtle on the corner of Long and Shortmarket streets. I have a particular love for this location in my fiction because in real life the place is quite dreary—definitely a student/biker type hangout. I must have spent a small fortune on beer and have some pretty diverse memories of listening to bands there, and getting quite ill in the loos. My mom always referred to my preferred watering hole as “that den of iniquity” and at this point I’m tempted to agree with her because my tastes have definitely veered from the “rough and ready” to “quaint and bohemian”.

My real-life experiences commuting on Cape Town’s southern train line also crop up in Inkarna. If you want to get an idea of the amazing cross-section of people in the Mother City, take a ride on the southern line during rush hour. I do this trip twice a day, to and from Fish Hoek station and I’ve had so many strange and sometimes downright bizarre experiences on this journey. Everything from blind serenading beggars to minstrels and preachers with Britney Spears fixations. You can’t make this stuff up.

And, in case you want to know, I really did once see a vagrant woman pee, exactly as described in the novel.

Cape Town isn’t all wine and roses, with the pretty pictures you see in the tourist brochures. My novels are all about dropping my readers into a world they wouldn’t ordinarily get to see, warts and all.

Follow me on Twitter @nerinedorman or see my website at http://www.nerinedorman.weebly.com


Unknown said...

Nerine, the way you bring Cape Town alive is one of my favorite things about your books. Loved seeing the pic of the inspiration for the Event Horizon!

Icy Sedgwick said...

The world building was one of the things that fascinated me about Inkarna - I've never been to Cape Town, but now I feel like I have!

synde said...

love how you make us feel like we are right there with you Nerine.. thanks for the picture to go with the story.. Love Ash