Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Maria Lewis
Maria Lewis got her start covering police rounds in a newsroom as a teenager and has been working as a professional journalist for the past 10 years. Making the switch from writing about murders to movie stars was not a difficult decision. A former reporter at The Daily Telegraph, she also wrote about all things film and entertainment related as the Showbusiness Reporter for The Daily Mail. Her work has appeared in the New York Post, Empire magazine, Huffington Post, The Sunday Mail, Junkee and BuzzFeed, to name but a few.
She appears on 2SER 107.3 FM’s weekly Drive segment Gaggle Of Geeks every Wednesday, talking the latest comic book and pop culture news and every Tuesday Breakfast for TV Talk. As a proud member of the Graffiti With Punctuation crew – a collective of Australia’s leading film bloggers — she makes up half of the Pod Save Our Screen podcast.
Based in Sydney, she lives in a house with too many movie posters and just the right amount of humans. Maria can often be found spending much money on comics, watching horror movies at stupid hours, inhaling books on modern feminist theory (aka anything Caitlin Moran touches) and holding on to the one belief she has had since she was five: that unicorns exist. She is most likely Mark Wahlberg’s future wife. Most likely…
Who’s Afraid? is her debut novel and is set to be released in Australia in January, 2016 through Hachette Australia and worldwide in July, 2016 from Piatkus/Little Brown Books. The sequel – Who’s Afraid Too? – is also scheduled to hit bookshelves shortly thereafter. (http://marialewis.com.au/about/)
Please make Maria welcome to my blog.
Let’s talk writing. Do you belong to a writers support group and if so how does this group support your writing efforts?…
I don’t officially, but I’m loosely associated with the Sydney Shadows which is a group for horror writers that has a few members I share an agent with and another called Hoff’s Babes, which was set up by the women I wrote a surfing anthology with for HarperCollins. Unofficially, I’ve had the benefit of growing up in a newsroom so the first people I met covering police rounds in the scanner room were teens like me and are still my best friends a decade later. They’re a mish-mash of political journalists, social affairs writers, entertainment writers, policy writers, the whole thing, so they’re always my first audience and my first sounding board. They have a trained eye so they’re looking for mistakes, which is handy, but because they’re all from such different areas of expertise it’s a good way to determine if I have something special. Can I make them all like it, usually for different reasons? Then that’s something to push forward with.
Who do you see as your prime audience?…
Essentially anyone who doesn’t physically recoil from the phrase “feminist werewolf tale”. Obviously Who’s Afraid? fits comfortably within the urban fantasy genre and will appeal to lovers of paranormal romance, but I like to think that it has the potential to latch on to non-genre readers. It’s like a remix of all of my favourite bits of pop culture – from music and TV to horror and crime thrillers – so hopefully it’s perhaps a lil’ more accessible to people who might otherwise turn their nose up murder, mayhem and monsters.
Let’s talk books and influences. Who are your favourite authors?
Given all the press I’ve been doing lately you would think I’d have a better answer than just wanting to scream “ALL OF THEM!” at the top of my lungs, but here we are. Classically my faves include Mary Shelley, Roald Dahl, J.K Rowling, Stephen King, Michael Connelly, Gail Simone, Thomas Harris, Brian K Vaughan, Roxane Gay,Greg Rucka, Caitlin Moran etc. but in terms of authors who I’ll just pick up blindly without reading the blurb on the back of the book – that’s how consistently great these people are – it’s the likes of Charlaine Harris, Richelle Mead, Anne Bishop, Tom Taylor, Darynda Jones, Hillary Jordan, Kate Beaton, Maria V. Snyder, Patricia Briggs, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Noelle Stevenson (to wax lyrical about a few).
How would you describe Who’s Afraid? What genre do you think it fits?
The sound bite I keep going for is “gender-bent Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde with werewolves and swearing”, because that keeps everything pretty concise and in a nutshell. Mind you, someone did call it “Underworld meets Animal Kingdom” which I’m very fond of, far as descriptions go.
Is Who’s Afraid likely to go Manga or animated?
HOW COOL WOULD THAT BE HOLY SHIT?!?! No one has asked me that yet and although I don’t know about Manga, I could definitely see it as an animated series in a similar vein to the Blade and Spawn shows which both handled graphic and explicit content beautifully in that medium. The great thing about animated shows too is your not limited in terms of set pieces or special effects you have to master, so there’s almost unlimited potential there (just look at Korra!). Realistically though, I think the medium where we’re most likely to see Who’s Afraid? outside of bookshelves is on the screen, whether that be silver or small, as Oscar-nominated filmmaker Lexi Alexander (Green Street Hooligans, Supergirl, Arrow, Punisher: War Zone) has been very vocal on Twitter about wanting to make it her next project, which is like a fever dream come true to be honest. I honestly couldn’t think of anyone better to take on Who’s Afraid? than her.
Let’s talk tattoos. Tattoos these days are works of art- the colours are amazing, the tattooists are talented artists. Which is your favourite tattoo? …
Had to make a call here and assume you meant my tattoos, because there are a lot of characters in the novel with tattoos too but that’s a whole other thing. I have about 15 tattoos all up, most of which are part of a pop culture sleeve but there’s another half a dozen that are scattered around my body. Tattoos are honestly a gateway drug because once you find a fit with an artist or style that you like, it’s really hard to stop – especially for me, because I designed the first tattoo I wanted when I was 13 then waited until I hit 18 to get it done. As for my personal favourite… that is such a tough one, as it changes depending on my mood and also my tattoos are each pretty different, from plain black quotes (Jak Skallywag) to cute cartoon works (Mel Meline). Yes, okay, a favourite … it’s probably my Gambit feature piece. He’s my favourite X-Men and one of my favourite comic book characters ever and it’s just such a gorgeous, detailed and colourful work that’s a complete original. My pal Gooney Toons designed and inked it over the course of a marathon seven-hour session and every day I’m blown away with what he has created. It’s a real honour to have it on my body forever. Plus, it scored me lunch with Channing Tatum who saw the tattoo and happens to be playing the character in an upcoming movie this year, so it has wacky memories attached.
Let’s talk characters. Who influenced your portrayal of your gutsy female protagonist Tommi Grayson…
It was a combination of her a) being inspired by the fictional feminist heroines I grew up with in pop culture (Lt Ripley, Buffy, Clarice Starling and Ardelia Mapp, Daria, She-Hulk, Xena, Scully, Matilda, Huntress) and b) being a direct reaction to everything I wasn’t seeing (biracial, complicated heroines who didn’t necessarily have all of their shit together). It felt like the heroines I was reading in genre fiction were getting younger and younger, leading revolutions and reading William Blake poetry. At 15, I could barely find my genitals let alone inspire the masses. Tommi Grayson was the kind of heroine that I felt was realistic in her humanity: she’s imperfect, she’s impulsive, she’s irrational. Yes, you’re cheering for her but at the same time you’re likely to cringe at her course of action. That, I think, is what makes her interesting and whole on the page and I think it’s what people seem to be responding too as well.
Do you use a storyboard/listen to inspiring music etc. when you write?…
Both, actually. As I mentioned I grew up honing my writing skills in a newsroom which is one of the most hectic and noisy environments known to humanity. Naturally now when it comes to writing novels, I can’t function in the quiet: I need music and I also like the action of a bustling café or crowded park. I put together a playlist on Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/user/1242659949/playlist/0beTfhzp4aJeyKIG09akPM ) that has a lot of the music mentioned specifically in the book or songs/bands that relate to specific characters, but it’s also a lot of the music I was listening to when putting the first book together. As for storyboards, I’m a very visual person so often times when I would hit a wall with the physical writing of Who’s Afraid? I’d turn to drawing as it was a great way for me to stay involved in the universe without having to type a damn thing. Tricky action scenes I like to storyboard, but a lot of my characters started out as sketches first and the descriptions of them you read in the novel are based off my (shoddy) drawings.
Who can you visualise playing the lead roles in the book? …
Oh ho ho, am I ready for this question! I’m a nerd who keeps a list in my phone that I add to and update all the time with people who I think would be perfect for the roles. Beginning with…
Tommi Grayson: Keisha Castle-Hughes (For me, there’s truly no one else. For the other characters I like to have a few other options but Keisha is where it’s at: she has the emotional depth and fierce quality like no other actress.)
Lorcan MacCarthy: Jakob Oftebro, Alex Russell, Amadeus Serafini
James ‘Poc’ Hughes: Marcus Richardson, Alfred Enoch, Jason Mitchell, Donald Glover
Joss Jabour: Munro Chambers, , Kyle Gallner, John Karna, Caleb Landry
Mari Bronberg: Sonia Suhl, Laurence Leboeuf, Karla Souza
Simon Tianne: Stan Walker, Te Kohe Tuhaka, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer
James Ihi: Tia-Taharoa Maipi, James Rolleston
I hear there is a second book to be released shortly – Who’s Afraid Too? Can we have sneak peek??
I love your enthusiasm! Yes, Who’s Afraid Too? is ready to go and I have the first four books in the series done and dusted. Here’s a tidbit from book two:
“I trudged up the six flights of stairs and thought greedily about the big, soft bed I had waiting for me. Closing the apartment door with my back, I glanced at the creeping light coming through the windows as the sun began to rise. I stiffened, suddenly sensing the presence of someone else. There were two someones, as it turned out. Two women were standing less than a metre in front of me. They ran their eyes quickly over my appearance. They were identical twins. From their harsh and pointed facial features to the shaved heads and trim physiques, I wouldn’t have been surprised if every single cell was a perfect match. They were almost wearing matching outfits; black boots, black jeans, black t-shirts, and denim jackets. At least they had different styles of denim jackets. I noticed bulges emerging from strange places under their clothing. Weapons.
Immediately I sunk into a fight stance and backed up towards the kitchen. They looked surprised by this and glanced at each other before mirroring my own movements. Without looking behind me I reached back and drew two butcher’s knives from the holder on the counter. Everything about them looked dangerous and if I was going to have any chance of escaping this I needed to act quickly.
“Listen,” one of them started.
I didn’t wait to hear the rest of what she said because I had hurled a knife at her. My aim was true, but she darted out of its path with cat-like reflexes. I tried to dash for the door. Her sister beat me to it and landed a front kick directly in my chest. I went flying backwards and landed on the bench, smashing the plates we had left there from dinner. The wind was knocked completely out of me. I spun my legs around and made contact with the other twin as she tried to come closer. I flipped off the bench and grabbed a hanging saucepan in the process. Great. I was going to fight these two very skilled strangers with a saucepan and a knife. I was fucked.”
Maria can be contacted here:
Really interesting! Thanks, both. I always have a lot of respect for authors who create entire new worlds when they write. Wishing you much success.
Margot there is a lot of positive energy here isn’t there? Maria is not one for standing still 🙂
Enjoyed reading this, thanks Carol.