Saturday, October 3, 2020

Inside the Mind: Chino Chakanga


Welcome to Inside the Mind where we here at The Faerie Review interview authors and creators.
Our guest today is Chino Chakanga, the author behind Special.

Lily: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview Chino I really enjoyed reading Special. What inspired you to write about a world where special abilities are the norm, and not having them is unusual? 

Chino: I’ve always been interested in superhero comics and movies and I wondered what it would be like if the x-men were inverse for example or if being superpowered was the norm. The initial idea I had was about people taking superpowers for granted and centered more on Hope’s family. The more I wrote though the more I identified with Hope and ended up telling the story from her perspective. I could empathize with her feeling of being ridiculed or forced to change with some of my own experiences in life.

Lily: That's definitely a part of Hope's story that I could identify with as well. Is Hope based on anyone?

Chino: Hope’s world is very fictional so no, not entirely. I drew on some of my experiences in life, but I also drew a lot from social ills and disorders like Dysmorphia.* I wanted Hope’s condition to be as real as possible, so I researched a lot on genes, Autism* and Angelman syndrome*. Some of the trial treatments for the disorders were the inspiration for Hope’s treatments.

Lily: I love that you did research for this, it really helped make the medical side seem all the more real. In the book Hope is only 15, but she seems to be much more mature than your average 15-year-old. Why is she so grown up emotionally/mentally?

Chino: Hope doesn’t feel like she fits in so she sees things a little more differently than her teen peers. Not fitting the norm and not belonging to a group kind of makes her have more of her own thoughts and identity. She also reads a lot because she has time to herself and she has researched and read up on her condition and treatments over the years. If you were to look at it technically, the story is told in past tense so Hope could be telling it at an older age as she is recollecting the events therefore sounding more mature.

There are some books I really love but sometimes descriptions of physical appearances threw me off. There was a time when for example all the YA books I would read would have protagonists and love interests with blue eyes and muscles etc and I couldn’t relate. There’s nothing wrong with such descriptions but it was as though they followed a specific beauty standard. I wanted Hope to speak to different cultures and walks of life. I wanted a lot of people to relate so I intentionally avoided using certain slang that’s specific to a certain geography or region. I also avoided using locations and character descriptions, focusing mostly on the superpowers.

Lily: It's really a brilliant way to handle it. I've noticed the same at times when I'm reading a bunch of young adult books, or that the slang with be from a region I'm unfamiliar with. I think the lack of slang helps her sound more mature as well. I love the cover, did you work with a designer, and how did you decide that was the perfect cover?

Chino: Thank you very much. I worked on it myself. I had a few ideas but while working on a book trailer, a line where, Hope mentions how she had become nothing more than a plaything stood out and the image of a doll being tinkered with came to me. The idea developed from there. I thought of painting the cover, but I thought it would be more impactful if it was real. I also wanted to incorporate some scenes in the book trailer. Getting two barbie dolls from Toys r Us that I destroyed was the easy part. I looked for expired pills from pharmacies, but they couldn’t give them to me in fear I was suicidal. I ended up purchasing a lot of vitamins and empty capsule. I set the stage on a white board and took the picture then added more pills in photoshop afterwards.

Lily: It's not only eye catching but it's a chilling commentary on society's obsession with making people normal no matter the means or cost. Now we’d like to talk about you as a writer. What’s your favorite time of day to write?

Chino:  I usually write in the afternoon, but it depends on how far I am in the writing process. When I come up with the story idea, I will often write anytime ideas come to mind in longhand in a journal. I tend to do most of the typing in the afternoons or evening though. The time of typing also depends on the time of year. My writing habits tend to change with the seasons, which I maintain for 4 to 8 months. In summer I can easily write from around 6 in the morning to noon for example but it’s sometimes harder to do so in winter, so I start a little later or prefer the afternoon and early evening.

Lily: That's a dedicated schedule, I think it's great you're able to stick with it. Do you set writing goals? 

Chino: No, not so much as I used to. I try to make sure I write at least five days a week and at least two hundred to a thousand words per day when working on a first draft. I don’t put a very specific deadline on a completion of the manuscript though, because re-writing and editing can take months and sometimes you need to put the manuscript aside for two weeks or more before revisiting it.

Lily: That doesn't seem like a word count goal that's too far out of reach. What’s harder, writing or editing? 

Chino: It varies or at least it used to. Writing felt harder in the beginning. I would take months plotting and outlining before typing. The more I write the easier it has become. Editing was easier when I started out and although I tend to take more time on editing now, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s harder. When I really love a story, it doesn’t feel hard. Both writing and editing are enjoyable processes. It’s only hard when there are deadlines.

Lily: I guess there's some truth to loving what you do for it to not feel like worth then hehe. Let’s finish up with some fun questions and get inside your mind. If you could have any animal as a pet (real or fictional, and taking care of it wasn’t a problem) what would you have? 

Chino: I went horse riding a while ago and there was something magical about being around them. I didn’t enjoy some of the taming processes I saw though. Nothing against people who own them but breaking in a horse is not something I think I would be able to do myself so probably a Pegasus or a Unicorn who roamed the wild. They would see me more as a friend and come and go as they wished or helped when I needed them.

Lily: I think that would be beautiful. I can just imagine spending a day watching clouds or a night under the stars spending time with a unicorn or three. What’s the cheesiest pick-up line you know? 

Chino: Did it hurt when you fell, because you look like an angel.

Lily:  That one is pretty cheesy. What’s your perfect dinner involve?  

Chino: I technically haven’t had dinner in a long time. I usually eat two meals or one main meal around 4 pm per day. A nice smoothie bowl and burrito or some fruit, a smoothie and a buddha bowl would be awesome.

Lily:  Now I kind of want a burrito...What are your favorite and least favorite colors?  

Chino: Favourites. Black, purple, violet and blue. Least favourite. Tough on. I feel all colours are necessary and unique. If I really had to choose though, then probably orange or yellow. I haven’t owned any clothes of that colour in years.

Lily:  I love a variety of colors around me, and I have been trying to diversify my wardrobe a little. Would you rather have a text bubble above your head that shows all your thoughts or have your skin change color with your mood?

Chino:  Difficult one. A text bubble would be catastrophic, especially in a stressful work environment. Just imagine working as a waiter in a busy restaurant for example. I worked as one for a few weeks and I don’t think some of the unpleasant customers would like what they saw. I wouldn’t last a day.

Lily:  Honestly if I had a text bubble above my head doing that, I probably wouldn't last long. If you could go on vacation anywhere in the world (if there wasn’t a pandemic and money wasn’t a factor) where would you go? 

Chino: Any island with clear blue waters and waterfalls would do. If it has to be specific though. Bali or Hawaii. I was in Bali and I loved it so much I stayed almost 2 months. Exploring the surrounding islands was amazing.

Lily:  I'd love to go there someday it looks gorgeous in pictures I've seen. Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?  

Chino:  No. I can’t think of anything else.

Lily:  How can readers discover more about you and your work?  

Chino:  Through my website or Instagram and twitter.


Special Book Links
* Note from Lily: I added links for those unfamiliar with Dysmorphia, Autism, and Angelman syndrome

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