Ghost Hand – How did Ripley do it?

Ripley first introduced me to the term “Speculative Fiction” and together with a group of keen NZ writers, we formed SpecFicNZ – a place where writers of fantasy, science fiction, horror and all genre inbetween could join together and show NZ their written talents.  Ripley tells of her NZ adventures, along with details of her debut novel, Ghost Hand.

Ripley's author photoWhat made you move to NZ?

Nothing made me move. I really wanted to live in such a beautiful, amazing country. My husband and I were looking for an adventure, and we wanted our kids to have a more global experience and world view. New Zealand seemed like a natural choice because we wouldn’t have to learn a new language and the climate and landscape were a lot like Portland, Oregon where we were from.

How long did you live in NZ?

We lived in New Zealand from August 2005 to August 2011. It was an incredible time and experience for my whole family, but it is also very good to be back in Portland again.

How did the Chch earthquakes affect your writing?

Well, I was writing Ghost Hand in Christchurch during the earthquakes, and dealing with all of that really did slow down the process. Ghost Hand took me three years to write, some of that because I was new to novel writing and the learning curve was a bit steep. But much of that time was spent in survival mode, dealing with the trauma going on around me. We lost a wall of our first home and had to move in under six hours. My husband lost two work buildings in quick succession. My daughter was displaced from her high school. Our neighbor was one of those lost in the Pyne Gould building. Many times we were living without electricity, plumbing, or potable water, and navigating daily aftershocks. Not the best circumstances to write under, but writing Ghost Hand gave me a place to escape to, a place with no earthquakes, a world where I was in control of everyone and everything that happened, and that gave me a lot of comfort.

Did leaving NZ affect your writing, or improve it?

I loved the creative vibe of New Zealand, and it really fed my muse. My short story career blossomed there, and NZ will always hold a special place in my heart. But one of the perks of writing is that it can be done anywhere. Leaving New Zealand was simply the closing of one chapter of my life, a very exciting tension-filled chapter, a page-turner in fact. The transition back to the States upon finishing Ghost Hand felt like the round, very satisfying ending of that chapter to me. My time in New Zealand had come to an end, and a new chapter was beginning: a chapter in which I would become a self-published novelist in the States. And being a writer means that everything that happens to me affects and improves my writing, I think.

You have won 2 Sir Julius Vogel awards for your writing. Tell us what this means to you and your writing?

To be fair, one of the awards was for my writing, and one was Services to Sci-fi, Fantasy and Horror for founding SpecFicNZ, the national association for speculative fiction writers in and from New Zealand. Winning those SJVs was a huge validation to me as a writer, and to my efforts to create SpecFicNZ. I think winning that first award was a turning point for me in believing that I could make writing my professional career, not just something I did on the side. So, it was a huge catalyst, and one I am very thankful for.

Ghost Hand, where did the idea come from?Ghost Hand

The idea for Ghost Hand came from two main sources. The first is the physiological phenomenon of phantom limbs. I have a friend who is a recent amputee, and it fascinates me that he can still feel his missing leg. When he walks in the yard his missing toes feel the wet grass between them because his brain and nerves retain that sensation. And because I am a fiction writer, and it is my job to ask the “what if” questions, I asked myself, “What if phantom limbs were physically real? What would they be made of, and what would they do?”

The second inspiration for Ghost Hand comes not from the medical world, but from the realm of psychology. For fifteen years, my husband has worked as a therapist with troubled teens. Teenagers are dealing with so many things these days, so many dark hurts and burdens that are almost impossible to extract, and they go on to carry these things for the rest of their lives. So, I found myself asking the question, “What if someone could reach in and pull those things out? What impact would it have on the person losing them, and the person taking them? And what power would those burdens have in the material world?”

Together, these two sets of “what if” questions formed the original idea for Olivia Black’s ghost hand and the powers it would develop in the book. And after that, all I had to do was follow her around and write down what she did.

 What interests you about writing fantasy?

Everything. The escape. Living in worlds of my own creation. How I think it can gently and poignantly speak to the truth in a way realistic fiction and non-fiction cannot.

When you aren’t writing, what do you do for a job?

Writing is my one and only job, thanks to a very supportive patron also known as my husband. When both my children became school age in 2005, I gave up my career as a school teacher to pursue writing full-time, and I have never looked back. I am extremely thankful to my husband and children for making the financial sacrifices it has required to let me do that. I owe them big time, as they often remind me.

You can gbuy Ghost Hand HERE:

Find out more about Ripley and her fiction on her website HERE: where you can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and add yourself to her mailing list for monthly updates on Ghost Hand and Ghost Hold, the second book in the PSS Chronicles Series coming in September 2013.

Check out tomorrow’s post, a review of Ghost Hand.


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