Some Thoughts with … Nikky Lee
Nikky Lee is an award-winning author who grew up as a barefoot 90s kid in Perth, Western Australia on Whadjuk Noongar Country. She now lives in Aotearoa New Zealand with a husband, a dog, and a couch potato cat. In her free time, she writes speculative fiction, often burning the candle at both ends to explore fantastic worlds, mine asteroids, and meet wizards. She’s had over two dozen stories published in magazines, anthologies, and on radio. Her debut novel, THE RARKYN’S FAMILIAR—an epic tale of a girl bonded to a monster—was published by Parliament House Press in April 2022.
Welcome to my favourite section of the blog, talking with authors. Today we are accompanied by the Aussie writer, Nikky Lee, author of The Rarkyn’s Familiar with Parliament House.
Let’s dive in!
1.- When did you start writing?
I started writing when I was in my early teens. It began with a picture of all things. It was of a character and as I drew it, I formed a story about them in my head. Eventually, the story grew too big to contain and I had to find a way to get it out, so I chose to write it down. After that, I was hooked.
2.- How was the process of being published by Parliament House?
My road to publication is a little unusual as I landed my contract with Parliament House through a Twitter pitching contest. Squeezing a book pitch into 280 characters is definitely a challenge, let me tell you! But I must have done something right because the acquiring editor liked the pitch, which was an invitation to submit the manuscript to them. After a bit of back and forth on the contract and some vetting, I signed the contract.
Because The Rarkyn’s Familiar is my debut novel, I don’t have much in the way of comparison to know if my publication process was different to other indie pubbed authors. However, we went through four rounds of edits—two content, one line edit, one proof, and one galley (formatted) proof—over a period of about a year. After that, it was on to sending out ARCs and getting all the launch marketing ready to go.
3.- Which aspects of the process do you find more challenging and why?
I always find the first round of my own self-edits the most challenging. I usually do these after the first round of beta reading feedback and it usually requires me to pull apart whole parts of the novel, fix the problems, and then piece them back together. It’s the piecing back together part that I find the most difficult. I tend to think of it a bit like putting a jigsaw puzzle together only to find some of the pieces don’t quite fit and you have to rework them until they do.
4.- The Rarkyn’s Familiar is a finalist in several categories of Indie Ink Awards, how do you feel about it?
Absolutely stoked! I was not expecting to make it this far as I’m still very much a baby author and only at the beginning of my journey. Thank you to everyone who voted, it’s truly appreciated!
5.- From where did you draw the idea of rarkyns as creatures?
This story and its characters have been floating around in my head for many many years, so the earliest seed of inspiration for the rarkyn probably came from Tamora Pierce’s The Immortals series, which featured an avian race known as stormwings—a kind of harpy-like creature with metal feathers. I always thought those were pretty cool, despite the bad rap they got in the books.
When I started thinking about creatures for The Rarkyn’s Familiar, I knew I didn’t want any of the traditional fantasy races to be present. This was shortly after the release of the Lord Of The Rings films (yes, it’s been in my head that long), and I was tired of seeing orcs and elves in my fantasy. So when I looked for inspiration further afield, I noticed how many human-avian hybrid monsters there are in mythologies from around the world. Harpies, Garuda, tengu, and others all share this recurring motif. With the exception of one or two books, I hadn’t seen much of this kind of fantasy creature so I thought why not lean on that to create something of my own. Tolkien created hobbits. Why couldn’t I create rarkyn?
I go into much more detail about this in a blog post for my pre-launch campaign, which you can read here: https://www.nikkythewriter.com/post/creating-the-rarkyn-the-story-behind-the-rarkyn-s-familiar
6.- One aspect I find interesting of your worldbuilding is how the language is adapted to the world; did make more difficult writing the book?
Oddly, no. I’m a sucker for worldbuilding. I love reading it. I love creating it, and a lot of the language naturally evolved from worldbuilding. For example, the cuss word ‘krat’ is also the term used for an illegal magic user. Illegal magic is hugely frowned upon and punishable by death in the world of The Rarkyn’s Familiar. By society’s standards, these people are the lowest of the low, so to me, it made sense that the term would naturally transition into a swear word.
As for another worldbuilding-inspired language, I have an online English-Old Norse dictionary to thank for that. Along with countless baby name websites, and a couple of tumbles into YouTube black holes.
So in terms of the language and worldbuilding making the story more difficult to write, it wasn’t difficult per se. It never felt like a chore when I sat down to work on it. Worldbuilding was part of my favourite part of the writing process. However, in terms of making the story slower to write, then yes absolutely.
7.- Do you think writing becomes easier once you have your first published full-length novel?
I wish it was! While I learned a lot from the writing and publishing of The Rarkyn’s Familiar, I’ve also found I have so much more to learn when it comes to writing a series. Full confession, The Rarkyn’s Familiar was completely pantsed—I barely knew what would happen from one page to the next when I wrote it. While I could get away with that for book one when I had no deadline and endless rounds of beta reading, I realised I couldn’t do that for books two and three. I needed to plan ahead, and that has been quite the learning curve!
8.- What can we expect from Nikky Lee in the future?
I’m currently working on my own edits for Book 2 of the Rarkyn Trilogy which I’ll be submitting to Parliament House early next year. I’ve also got a couple of short stories coming out in anthologies over the next few months—one is a contemporary fantasy inspired by a line from T.S. Elliot’s From The Waste Land and another dark desert fantasy that’s part of a shared world anthology.
We want to thank Nikky Lee for taking the time for answering all these questions. We invite you to follow her on her different socials.