Author, journalist, reviewer, pop culture maven, werewolf aficionado, all-round powerhouse, and Idris Elba’s future wife (not to mention OMG-level of impressively inked) Maria Lewis is multi-talented and extraordinarily busy. But she was kind enough to take some time out to talk about her debut novel Who’s Afraid?, writing influences, the superheroes you’d find at her dinner party, and the High Lord Tarantino. Read on …
1. What do new readers need to know about Maria Lewis?
I’ve been a journalist for over a decade, which is how I got my start in writing and my background as a reporter has greatly informed my work when it comes to style and research. Who’s Afraid? is my debut novel and the first in a five book supernatural series from Little Brown Books/Piatkus in London. I’m also probably most certainly Idris Elba’s future wife, but that’s neither here nor there.
2. What was the inspiration for your novel Who’s Afraid?
It was almost anti-inspiration, actually, as I love the supernatural genre and I love urban fantasy, horror and paranormal novels but at the time I was getting annoyed with the kind of fiction I was reading. It felt like collectively we were in this rut where every hero of the story was a white, 15-year-old girl who read William Blake poetry and was ‘really mature for her age’ – which drove me insane. I wrote Who’s Afraid? purely with the motivation to create the kind of book I didn’t think existed in the market at the time which was one with a biracial, complicated heroine who has her own flaws and agency as well as one that dealt with adult themes and challenging inter-personal issues.
3. Is there a special fascination for you with werewolves?
Everyone has that supernatural creature they’re obsessed with and for me, it has always been werewolves. Always – going back to when I was a young kid growing up in rural New Zealand and I would get told werewolf stories while being able to see snow-capped mountains out the window. It’s also that idea of duality Robert Louis Stevenson nailed so well: living with a monster inside of yourself and reconciling with your animalistic and savage instincts.
4. Where did Tommi Grayson come from? Is she your inner wolf?
Haha no, she’s not my inner-wolf at all: I feel like we’d maybe be in the same pack but our wolves would be quite different. Tommi Grayson came from a place of loving werewolves and loving werewolf pop culture – movies, books, TV shows – but getting annoyed at there never being female werewolves who led and controlled the story. There’s a handful of examples like Ginger Snaps and When Animals Dream, but for the most part women never got to inhabit that monstrous physicality in the same way men did. I wanted to embrace that idea of the feminine grotesque and give audiences a back-breaking, flesh-tearing, muscle-ripping she-wolf who was just as gnarly as the men but also completely her own thing with her own strengths and motivators like loyalty, compassion and love.
5. Did you always want to write and when did you first think you’d like to do this for real?
Writing was always something I did: it existed simultaneously with my own life experiences but it wasn’t necessarily something I thought I could do professionally as a job until I got a journalism cadetship/scholarship straight out of high school. It felt pretty bloody real then, as I was a teenager covering the police beat for three years and dealing with some graphic and high-pressure situations. A newsroom environment is also a sharp learning curve, with daily deadlines and being surrounding by a very experienced team of editors, subs and chief of staff who expect the most out of you and demand it.
6. Who’s Afraid make a most excellent splash ? how did it feel to draw the eye of the High Lord Tarantino?
Insane. Like, unfathomably insane. I’m deeply influenced by pop culture and other media that I’ve consumed and it ends up being woven into my work in a similar way Tarantino’s films sometimes feel like a great DJ remix of all the stuff you’ve loved before within that genre. So when he requested a signed copy while he was in Australia on The Hateful Eight tour I was blown away, to be honest, and very grateful for the power of Twitter as the whole reason he heard about the book was Who’s Afraid? was the top trending topic in Australia for three days – above the premieres of The Hateful Eight – and he asked his people ‘What the f*** is this Who’s Afraid? thing?’ The rest is very modern history.
7. How did you get your start as a journalist?
I knew uni was going to be a stretch financially so I applied for a bunch of different scholarships while I was in highschool. I got two, to two very different universities to study two very different things, and the one I went with was a journalism scholarship where I worked full time at a newspaper on the Gold Coast and did my degree alongside that.
8. Who were/are your literary heroes/influences?
Mary Shelley, first and foremost. You’ve got to love a young and hungry teenager who manages to take on the boys club with a masterwork of horror.
9. So you’re a pop culture maven: name five superheros you’d like to invite for drinks and general shenanigans?
Gambit – he’s my favourite comic book character and you just know he’d be loose at a party, Jubilee – she’d bring great energy and be awesome on the dance floor, Huntress – my favourite comic book heroine because she’d be no-bullshit fun, Lying Cat – just to keep everyone in line and Jessica Jones – girlfriend knows how to slam down a drink.
10. What’s next for Maria Lewis?
Sleep? Such sleep. Much wow. Ah no, I’m currently on tour with Supanova Pop Culture Expo at the moment so once that winds down I’m off to the UK for two months to launch Who’s Afraid? internationally in England, Ireland and Scotland. Who’s Afraid? sequel drops January 2017 then it’s a matter of gearing up and preparing to do it all again.