Interview With Fiction Writer Dominica Malcolm

Dominica Malcolm is a fiction writer whose first work, Adrift, was published last week.  She recently agreed to sit in for an interview with us. TRH: Adrift is very...
Dominica Malcolm is a fiction writer whose first work, Adrift, was published last week.  She recently agreed to sit in for an interview with us.
TRH: Adrift is very much a fish out of water story, with Jaclyn finding herself (a pirate) thrown to modern times. What drew you to pirates and time travel?

DM: I’ve been a fan of time travel stories (movies and TV more so than books) for a long time, but funnily enough, until Adrift, I’d never thought I’d be able to write one.

The pirate thing came about because I wanted to write and shoot a short film with a friend (my writing background is in screenwriting). I had the beginnings of a pirate costume, so he suggested I play a pirate. At that point, my exposure to pirate stories was basically the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and various iterations of Treasure Island and Peter Pan films. Aside from the costume piece, though, I was drawn to pirates because there didn’t seem to be a lot of popular movies beyond those listed, despite the fact that the idea of what a pirate is seems so ingrained in popular culture. Then I started researching and discovered how wrong some of those ideas were!

Putting pirates and time travel together, though, was a combination of convenience – at the time, what I thought I could film – and wanting to come up with an idea that I didn’t think had been done before. Funnily enough, I was in Melbourne, Australia, last month and found a new release that involved both pirates and time travel, but from what I gathered in the blurb, it was still completely different, with people going back in time to the era of pirates rather than the reverse.

TRH:  Jaclyn is bisexual, and you’ve let her have relationships with different genders. Beyond that though, you’ve let her vent frustration with the double standards that bisexual women run into with lesbians, or even other bisexual women. How did you approach portraying her frustrations regarding this?

DM: It’s an issue I wanted to address because even though it’s not something I’ve run into being bisexual myself, I’ve heard a lot of stories about it happening to others, and I personally hate the double standard. But mostly it was included in Adrift because it’s something that Jaclyn needed in order to grow further and come to the decision she does at the end. I didn’t think too much about how to portray her frustrations about it because by the time I’d decided to include it as part of the story, she was mostly writing herself.

TRH:  Jaclyn is misplaced, and spends a lot of the story reacting to her circumstances. Through her reactions she continues to build up her own agency, culminating with her final decision of the story. Was it hard to pace her reactionary moments with her sense of growth?

DM: I’m relieved that you took away from the story what I was doing! One of my early readers told me she didn’t like Jaclyn’s lack of clear goals or motivation for the majority of the story. It was something I had to think about for a while and led to a more developed scene between Jaclyn and her brother James in chapter two. It was difficult to balance giving her active decisions and reactive ones, because after I introduced Kitty to her story, I saw her as more reactive. I like to think her story arc is something a lot of people can identify as a part of being in your 20s.

I think that as the story started out being written out of order, that actually helped me find those turning points for her. One of the major ones I’m thinking of is her transition from presenting herself as a man to presenting herself as a woman. When the screenplay started out with there being an obviously female pirate out of time, and then I wrote about her earlier in her timeline dressed as a man (because that was more common of female pirates), I knew I would have to at some point show her wanting to stop the charade. That sort of major change helped develop a lot of the smaller ones, too.

TRH:  So we have pirates, and modern times, and… mermaids. Was there a particular draw to include this additional element to your story? I know the character is very much the “catalyst” of sorts, but how did you settle on a mermaid?

DM: The mermaid was originally introduced because I was writing a crossover story with my friend, Sally Bell, with my piece set in my world. It was the first “Jaclyn as a pirate in her time period” short story I wrote. Sally wrote a mermaid story, so I introduced what was then her mermaid as a glimpse in mine. That idea then grew as a way to claim the story as fantasy, in case I had any historical inaccuracies left in it after further research and editing. In the end, though, I just enjoyed developing a whole new mermaid mythology because I felt like there weren’t a whole lot of people writing mermaids at the time. It seemed like people were getting sick of vampires, werewolves, and such. The mythology for those creatures have changed a lot with various writers. I wanted to do something different.

TRH: Do you have any future projects in the works? Perhaps a sequel?

DM: I’ve got some vague ideas for a sequel, but nothing set in stone at the moment. If Adrift goes well and there’s demand for one, I might start working on it. In the mean time, I have a spin-off book of short stories about Prudence, the mermaid, that I’m working on. I’m also putting together an anthology of speculative fiction set in the Asia-Pacific region, which is still open to submissions over at solarwyrm.com. And there’s another novel with an outline and bits and pieces written for, which I just recently figured out how to turn into urban fantasy.

Dominica’s website can be found HERE
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