Karen Simpson Nikakis (K S Nikakis) is on a journey that started with her undertaking post-graduate studies; that led to a project in Children’s Literature; that caused her to ponder why dragons are so popular in books; that led to a M.Ed.(Hons); that led to myth and fantasy; that led to Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell; that led to a switch being flicked in her brain; that led to her writing The Kira Chronicles trilogy (first published by Allen & Unwin).
Campbell’s work caused her to ponder female heroes; that led to a Ph.D.; while Jung’s work caused her to ponder the hero’s inner, psychological journey expressed through archetypes, symbols and metaphors; that led to ten Deep Fantasy novels where the hero’s inner journey parallels their outer journey; that caused her to ponder how such things might work in real life; that led to her present project …
1. Tell us about your recent publications/projects?
We travelled a lot in 2019 and rather than trying to finish my novel-in-progress, I decided to leave it behind and use the ten week, 15,000 kms camping trip through the Outback to practice/practise other writing skills. In this spirit, I made a public pledge to our travel buddies (often something I live to regret) to write a poem a day. I knew before setting out that poem was going to be too grand a title for anything I managed to produce but I hoped my commitment would toss up something useable in some form, at some future time in my writing.
Six days after our return on August 6, we flew out to the World Fantasy Con in Dublin followed by various other places and I was not back at my desk until November 2019. My intention (after my novel-in-progress was done and dusted) was to salvage what I could from my scratchings; produce a slim volume of Outback poetry; and toss it into the abyss which is Amazon sans savvy marketing.
But the poem a day turned out to be a form of travelogue of the places we visited; and the poems’ occasional hidden gems shared the power of the archetypes, symbols and metaphors of my Deep Fantasy novels. After the usual sighing and swearing familiar to writers, it occurred to me I had unwittingly created an inner journey in parallel with my outer journey through Australia’s desert glories. With this revelation in mind, I began my present project: Journey: Seeking the Sacred, Spirit and Soul in the Australian Wilderness.
Journey is part travel writing, part poetry and part novel excerpts; that together, along with guidance from Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung, explore the power of wilderness to guide us on our inner journeys to richer and more fully realised lives. The cover is done, because I find having covers to fill with words provides a powerful incentive to continue when other projects batter my brain. I intend Journey to be out in the world before the end of July.
2. What has been the best publishing experience of your career so far?
I have only worked with a commercial publisher once: Allen & Unwin for The Kira Chronicles and they were wonderful. Their editors: Louise Thurtell and Angela Handley made me a one hundred percent better writer, and they did so with a gentle but firm grace. I would love to work with Allen & Unwin again and I would particularly love the support of their marketing machine or any big publisher’s marketing machine.
That was ten novels ago, plus a major rewrite and splitting of The Kira Chronicles, so my best publishing experience since then is always the last (Indie) one. It means I nailed whatever I set out to explore and sent my discoveries out into the world. It means the story lives rather than languishes for months in a digital slush pile before being judged on its commerciality in terms of genre, fashion, and market forces (which is totally understandable, given publishing is a business).
3. Which recent Australian/NZ work would you recommend to international fans interested in expanding their Antipodean spec fic knowledge?
The archives of the Aurealis Awards are a great way to reconnoitre the present state of Spec Fic Down Under because they include both trad pub and Indie works. I would direct interested parties to the short-listings and winners in the various sections, then to Book Stores and/or Amazon for the blurbs and/or Peek Inside options. The Aurealis Awards are pro-active in encouraging and welcoming authors of a broad range of works and so provide a good starting point for gauging where we are at.