Site icon Christina Engela: Author

Author FAQ’s – Answered!

Welcome to the Q&A Section of my website! Below is a selection of questions I’ve answered previously for fans and interviewers. If you have any questions that you feel haven’t been answered already – or if you want to leave a comment about my books, writing or whatever comes to mind, please fill out the handy contact form and leave your message!

About Me:

I was born in the sunny seaside South African city of Port Elizabeth - known for friendliness, birds flying backwards. The city's mascot is a jackass penguin - which should give you some idea!
I live in Richmond Hill, a suburb in Port Elizabeth, the city where I was born. We have a happily haunted Victorian home dating from 1901, which I share with my wife Kay, four cats and numerous visiting and resident spooks!
On February 01, 1973. It was a Thursday, around 8:30 AM. That makes me an Aquarian ...and it also explains a lot!
Yes I am. I'm also a lot of other things.
When I was very young, about 3 I think, I remember being unhappy with my sex. Even then I knew I wanted to be a girl. I also found out from a very young age that people around me did not appreciate a boy acting like a girl, and that such things were not spoken about unless in the manner of a tasteless joke or disparaging remark. School was very difficult for me. While I was in high school at 17 I knew then I wanted to do the whole gender reassignment thing – and back then there was no information on sex change, just sensational articles in the YOU mag and on the back page of the Sunday Times. It was a taboo subject just to be gay, let alone wanting to change sex! I dreaded going to the army (conscription) when I left school - I hated being forced to be one of the “men”, and I wanted desperately to be female and to express my feminine side and to be myself. I hated having to live a lie all my life.
Yes! I'm married to a wonderful girl called Kay. We've known each other since 2010 and we were married in 2018!
I was raised as a Methodist and attended church regularly in my youth, but after facing years of homophobic and transphobic hatred from Christians, I awoke to the reality that no "almighty 'God'" would need minions to fight its battles for it, nor have a desire to inflict cruelty or harm against its own creations, nor remain silent or passive while its minions rampaged on. I became an agnostic in 2009, a Wiccan in 2010, and as of 2012, an atheist.
February 01, 1973.
I am a humanist first and a democratic socialist second.
I spend time on my hobbies, doing stuff around the house, tinkering on projects - and of course, work, work work!
Quite a few actually, including writing! I include writing among my hobbies because I really enjoy it - and I feel that if you're not enjoying writing, how could anyone else enjoy reading it? Among my other hobbies, I include woodwork, metal work, painting, photography and the like.
Yes, we have four cats; a black one, a white one, and another one somewhere in the middle. Their names are Nyx, Lily and Ash. A new arrival from 2023 is Kali, a lively little tuxedo.
It's so nice of you to ask! I do have a hectic schedule, with the writing and work, but I do sometimes get to poke my head out! Please  check the “events” section of this website to find out about any scheduled appearances, or get in touch via the Contact page!
You can see the latest updates of new releases in my monthly newsletters and weekly "Peeks" at my week to receive news and updates!

About My Writing:

I’ve been writing stories ever since I could hold a wax crayon! It’s more than just a hobby, it’s almost a compulsion! I love storytelling, creating characters and the world-building aspect of writing a series! I mean, in spite of the massive workload a writing career brings, the additional burden of marketing and promotion of the finished works is just… Um, come to think of it, that does sound a bit obsessive doesn’t it? Er… perhaps I should seek professional help! Any recommendations?
I type the words "Imagine, if you will:" and take it from there.
It's my signature in a way. It's like saying 'long, long ago' or 'once upon a time' - except those were already taken, and a little jaded! I really do enjoy my writing. I love my characters, and I pour my soul, my passion and my heart into the words I smith, as in the worlds I create. When I write, I tell stories, and I speak directly to the reader, to the heart and mind of the reader, and I want them to 'get' every innuendo, every intention, and every hint both in the words - and between the lines.
"Writing is the most fun anyone can have by themselves" - Terry Pratchett. <- This is very true indeed! Writing can be very therapeutic and also entertaining. It's like painting - afterwards, you sit back and appreciate what you've done in a warm afterglow. Oh wait, perhaps that's something else... Er... Also, when someone seriously pisses me off, it's fun to base certain characters on them - and then make them miserable, or to just kill them off. Or bring them back Bobby Ewing style and do it again. Face it, when you write, you create worlds and people - the Author is a god.
In 1989 my poetry and a composition appeared in the school year book. Encouraged by this small success, I looked for contests to enter. In 1991 I entered a poetry anthology and one of my short stories in a writing contest in my city. At the close of the contest, my entries were returned covered in red-inked criticism, and I found out first-hand why my father had referred to the group hosting the contest as "a bunch of ignorant, untalented old farts who invite entries so they can rip the writers to pieces and laugh about it over tea and crumpets". Only members of the group ever won their contests, so I don't know why they even bothered, except they might have had a special arrangement with the corner shop for tea and crumpets for the event and perhaps enjoyed the feeling of importance they evoked from entrants and in a local newspaper. Not exactly a great start, I know - but when I look back, it's comforting to know they're all dead now, including their pretentious little club. Growing young writers deserve better than a bunch of obsolete, facetious old fossils playing gatekeeper.
Yes, I do! It depends on my mood at the time, and also on the mood of the piece I'm writing. Sometimes it will be classical - say, Vivaldi or perhaps Bizet, but more frequently it will be my favorite tunes from groups like Depeche Mode, Rammstein, Corvus Corax, Heilung, She Wants Revenge, Muse, Florence & the Machine, or Lord of the Lost! Honestly, there are so many different ones, if I were to list them all, it would require an article!
I started writing stories almost as soon as I was old enough to grasp a pen. I grew up wanting to be a writer, most probably because of being around my dad - whose short stories appeared in local magazines in the 1950's, later dramatized on a national radio station (Springbok Radio) in the 1960s and 70's (GM on Safari & I'll Tell You A Tale) and on the occasional repeats running through the 1970's and early 80's.
I write from experience, I use a lot of real life stuff in my stories... although most of my stories are set in sci-fi or fantasy, a lot of the character's aspects or the situations are based on true life experiences or inspirations.
For me it's always about time. There aren't enough hours in a day to get to everything that I need to get done. Marketing is the biggest obstacle though - as an indie author, everything falls on my shoulders, from writing and editing and formatting the story, to cover design, submitting to the POD platforms, and making promotional material, creating and managing social media pages and websites and posting ads from them! I also have a full-time job, and on top of that I still need to give attention to the special people in my life! It can be pretty demanding and draining. In the midst of this, just finding quiet time without a phone ringing or an email alert to interrupt whatever story I'm working on - and to still have the energy and mental focus to do it, can be something of a miracle.
I love to make up names, and to spell names differently - which works really well in sci-fi. Sometimes I notice odd or unusual names in the credits on TV shows and add them to a database I keep for things that inspire me. Sometimes though, I just get struck by inspiration at 100 KPH - which is how the cruise liner in Dead Man's Hammer, became the 'Ossifar Distana', and the awful Sergeant-major in 'Prodigal Sun' got to be Luciferus Krant!
Yes - and most satisfyingly so! A particularly nasty ex-girlfriend wound up separated from her head in 'Dead Man's Hammer' as an example. Actually, most of my characters are based on real people - whole or in part.
I would say so. I've completed over 40 books, nearly 300 poems, and around 500 advocacy articles since 2005. The fact that my head hasn't exploded yet is a bonus!
Oh, just the usual - live forever, stay young, keep writing, change some lives for the better, make the world a better place, make a difference - and hopefully, get paid a little along the way.
An activist friend once told me 'there's no such thing as bad publicity'. While it may sting a little, criticism is part of the game. Critics don't always know what they're talking about - and as a human rights activist I still have piles of hate-mail and criticism for my advocacy work, articles and so on - and it's worth reading through for a bit of a laugh. If the right people hate you, it means you're doing something right... but that's activism. In activism, you are a finger-pointer and you need to be appealing to the demographic you are representing. In writing fiction, you need to be as desirable to as many people across the board as possible - from a marketing perspective, that is. That means bad reviews will probably hurt your sales and reputation - even if they come from someone who has the literary feel of a wet sock whom nobody has ever heard of - regardless of whether they even finished reading your book! Of course, I might just be the kind of whack-job who would place a review calling my work 'the worst crap ever' in a prime spot on my front page, to try to use it to my advantage.
Everything. History, religion, science, anthropology, archaeology, why did the chicken cross the road etc. Why do you think I created the Time Saving Agency? They know everything about - well, everything.
All of them, really. Writing a book isn't EASY. It might be relatively easy and painless when compared to say, sawing off your own leg - but it takes a lot of time, effort, concentration, focus and experience to deliver something that other people will 'get', appreciate and cherish. Otherwise they might take one look at it and say 'well this is bollocks' and move on. The most difficult 'grueling' book I've ever written was 'Blachart' because it was my first 'real' novel, after only writing short stories up to that point. All in all, it took from 1986 to 1998 - twelve years - to get to the point where I could actually write something worthwhile that was longer than a short story. The final redraft in 2003, when I revised it as I typed it into a PC, was an exercise in blood, sweat and tears alone.
Sometimes I will research facts or details when I need to refer to them in a story. For example, names of stars, parts of the Martian surface, such as I referred to in 'Loderunner' when Timaset Skooch was visiting relatives in Mars City (the ones he didn't know he had). It's not that hard these days - Google is your friend - but most of the time, I write from my general knowledge. I also like to keep up with new developments in space exploration, technology etc. When I first started writing sci-fi, mobile phones, laptops and GPS and other things we think of as common-place now, didn't exist yet.
So many. Writing got me through a lot of my personal tragedies. When I went through my gender transition, a particularly devastating relationship meltdown and break-up, and my mother's death, it was writing that kept me going. For that reason I believe there is a lot of therapeutic good in writing. Of course, that might also mean that my writing could contain a good deal of Freudian symbolism, but that's okay - I never bought into Freud anyway. Generally, if people want to get to know me, I'm pretty much inside my books, lurking. Probably holding an axe.
"Demonspawn" is a nice thriller-who-dunnit-horror-mystery-scifi 😉 and if sci-fi-fantasy-action-comedy is more your thing, "The Time Saving Agency" has been very popular. How about the Panic! Horror In Space series?
Yes, there are already 4 titles (as of September 2020) available as audiobooks: Galaxii books 1 and 2 ("Blachart" & "Demonspawn") both narrated by the inimitable Nigel Peever, "When Darkness Calls" narrated by Miciah Dodge, and "Malice!" narrated by Michelle Innes - all available via Audible and Amazon. "Black Sunrise", the first book in the Quantum Series, narrated by Darla Middlebrook is also due to be coming out soon.
Of course! Aside from the current titles, there are several unfinished books still in the works. There's still a lot more where that came from!
Don't put your work on free sites unless you plan on not making money out of them in future. I made that mistake and while it got my name and my titles and early drafts of some of my books out there, it caused trouble for me when seven years later I got a publishing contract and I went to remove them from the one or two sites I had given permission to host them on. That was when I found out that these items had been downloaded, shared, uploaded and re-hosted on forums (including one where a reader had referred to me as "the writer is a genius!") and on other free ebook sites right around the world! I certainly got around! It took quite a bit of work to get them all taken down from the legitimate sites - although there are still old copies floating around the illegitimate pirate sites, but I think this makes my point. It's okay to make one or two items available free - but not all of them.
Just off the top of my head, I would suggest a newbie indie author should ensure their story is really, truly finished before starting the publishing process. By that I mean they should make sure the story flows properly. Check the grammar and spellcheck the text. Have a friend or relative read through it to provide a fresh perspective. Make sure there are no glaring continuity errors or contradictions or inconsistencies. If the story is below the appropriate word-count for a novel, for instance, bulk it out and expand areas of the story without putting in too much fluff or waffle. If doing the self-publishing work themselves, they should look for a formatting standard or template for Word so they can format their manuscript in a way that won’t result in error messages from whichever platform they choose to go with (Smashwords is a good example) and delays. Once they’ve done all that, they need to look at cover design for eBook and print formats – and the best advice I can offer there is to be creative! This is your story, your brand – make it uniquely yours! There are plenty of entities on the internet offering free-use images that can make brilliant book covers. Also, avoid the ‘traps’ out there. Not everyone who sends you an email telling you how much they like your new book and offering you a publishing ‘deal’ is what they claim to be – most aren’t. Avoid the ‘vanity press’ guys who expect the author to pay thousands of $$$ for them to publish your work! Real publishers don’t charge the author just to publish their books! If you go down that path, you will very likely end up regretting it.
Terry Pratchett. The man is a genius. Not only does he have comedic timing, wit, subtext, intricate sub-plots and 4-dimensional characters going, but he has a way of telling a beautiful, entertaining story that either leaves me gasping for breath, or sobbing uncontrollably. He tells HUMAN stories in a way that appeals to anyone intelligent and mature enough to grasp them - and even if I read his stories a hundred times over, something else that I missed last time will find me.
I write my stories for my own enjoyment. I market and promote my writing for other's enjoyment. Getting paid for it would be a plus.
The publishing industry being in the middle of a transition from exclusively print to a curious combination of e-book and print on demand. This leaves most new authors at the mercy of the extortionist vanity press who demand huge sums of money (even bigger in play-money when you don't live in the USA or Euro-Disney) to print your books and even more just to market them for you as an indie author. Approaching traditional publishers - specifically the huge mainstreamers and big names in publishing - to review or consider your work for publication, is more difficult than making an appointment to see God!
Believe it or not, that’s a hard question to answer! Inspiration is all around us after all! For me it’s important to tell a story that entertains and even challenges the reader. I try to be as unpredictable as I can because I feel if the reader thinks they know where the story is headed, they will get bored and lose interest. I’ve often referred to my warped sense of humor, a couple of friends off their meds – and having too much time to myself as a child – as being key factors in the way I interpret the world around me! I’ve always been a sci-fi fan, particularly Star Trek, Star Wars, Buck Rogers, Space 1999 – you know, the classics! In reading, it was Harry Harrison in particular – and Terry Pratchett who filled my head with strange things… still, it doesn’t quite explain how I came up with some of my story elements or scenarios! For example, few people expected to see vampires in my sci-fi short story “The Thirteenth Ship” (the characters didn’t see it coming either) and probably even fewer expected the character of Fred in “Black Sunrise” to be a walking, talking sentient alien plant who walks about carrying his own pot! The planet Deanna for instance, is somewhat sarcastically referred to across the Terran Empire as “the center of the galaxy as far as weirdness is concerned” – since one of its small moons falls down occasionally, and gets put back in orbit by the tourism office! It’s quite concerning really, I mean, ideas like that don’t just grow on trees you know! 😉
Most of the time, I develop a story in thought before even setting down a single word. I work out a rough plot and characters and settings etc. then develop this plot in more detail, and then start working on the actual story. In terms of my series however, it’s easier because I essentially continue the story featuring the same characters and settings and just have to develop the actual plot. I confess that on occasion, I’ve actually foregone the plot development stage altogether and just winged it from beginning to end – and oddly enough, this worked out perfectly since I did all that in my head as I worked on my story, leading me to understand that sometimes stories will simply tell themselves. I love my characters – they’re like children to me, perhaps because I put so much of myself into them – good and bad.
A bit of both. I generally have a rough outline in mind and it forms and evolves as I write it. In the beginning I used to make notes before I started, but as a result I have about seven bulging lever arch files stuffed with notes and odd-shaped bits of paper covered in weird scrawl from ideas I had at the bus stop, in class, or at 2 AM while asleep. Nowadays I just wing it on a PC. Once again, save the trees, man. My recent new project "Pets" - a horror story - required a large amount of research into local South African contemporary police procedure, and for the first time in many years, I actually laid down a timeline and story plan for a single book, all on my PC of course.
Most of them, really. I tend to imagine the beginning of a story, and the middle, before writing. I only get clarity about the end somewhere in the middle, and it becomes like a destination on a journey and the plot-points are like points on the map I have to navigate by.
Not at all. I find if I get some rest, eat lots of fiber and sometimes a few prunes, I get over it real fast.
The trilogy of 'Black Sunrise', 'The Time Saving Agency' and 'Dead Man's Hammer' was a mad rush. Not because of deadlines, but because I couldn't keep up with my imagination. I wrote all three drafts in 2 months in 2005. It was so much fun that I just couldn't stop. One story just flowed into the next, and the characters, plot, gags and scenes just about wrote themselves. When it all ended, I was so exhausted I didn't write again till the following year when I wrote 'Loderunner'!
I don't have any specific actors in mind - but if any movie versions of my works are ever made, I would insist on suitable unknown and talented transgender actors to play my transgender characters.
Series. I usually grow fond of my characters and like to re-use or revisit them. They're familiar and reliable, like a good pair of shoes.
Blachart is quite the appealing character to me, something like a 'dark' James Bond type - an anti-hero. Cindy-Mei Winter (from Black Sunrise) is quite sweet and could be nice for a while - until my sweet tooth starts to ache. Fred the Arborian is just amazing, for a walking talking plant and allows me to drop awful puns unashamedly.
Hello, you don’t know me, but I’m an author and I’d like to tell you about my books! There’re thirty of them, and they’re really good… I’ve had some very flattering reviews… Wait, why are you backing away from me? I mean you no… Wait! No, please don’t spray me with that! No! Not the mace! Please, no! Not the mace! Not the mace!

About Genres:

I write my own blend of science fiction and fantasy... mostly because I have always loved sci-fi - growing up watching Star Trek made me look at the future hopefully, but I also enjoyed vampire flicks and novellas when I was a teen. I think combining the two - along with my own take on LGBT characters, enriches the experience. Life is not as two-dimensional and simple as Hollywood generally portrays it to be.
Perhaps the best, most suitable genre description I’ve found thus far is ‘transgressive fiction’ – but not every bookstore or publishing platform includes that option. I feel that fits, because my writing tends to challenge the status quo, or points out the areas where the world fails us on a compassionate or humanitarian level, while simultaneously telling a kick-ass, entertaining story! What’s nice about my writing, I feel, is that it appeals across a wide age group. I don’t write specifically for any age group – just for the discerning, hungry intelligent mind!
I’ve always considered myself a science fiction writer, but in the last few years I also ventured into the fields of horror and suspense, and I have to say I enjoy combining elements of different genres. “Demonspawn” is a good example of this, where one reviewer described the story as “Event Horizon meets Alien”! I love that – I think it’s really flattering!
Romance. I need to write in a setting or genre that appeals to me. Romance novels, that is, the 'pure' romance items, and not just novels in other genres where romance is just a sub-plot, just seem so pointless, bland and boring to me.
Vampires had a huge following in the 2000s and early 2010's - and sad to say, they were massively overdone. A whole subculture of fans arose around them - there were games, bands, movies, TV series, books, comics, LARP games... It will be hard to market any vampire themed books in any form for a while, no matter how good they are. I also have a vamp novel I was working on, before I realized the bubble had burst (back in 2011 or so). I plan on finishing it one day, but not now. Perhaps I'll be in time to catch that wave next time the "red tide" comes along 😉

About The Galaxii Series:

Why not? Haha. It started when I was a kid writing compositions and school essays - I would turn every assignment into something to do with sci-fi, because that was what I was most comfortable writing about. The teachers all said I had a 'flair' for using sci-fi terminology and actually for making things up as I went along. 'Galaxy' seemed awfully plain and dull to me, and so I thought, why not spice it up a little - hence 'Galaxii'.
The Galaxii series started as a series of false-starts while I was at high school. At that time I learned to master writing effective and sci-fi short stories with whole plots, interesting enough to captivate the reader... but writing longer ones was for some time beyond me. Then, one day in 1988, something clicked into place (and not for the last time), and the Galaxii series was born. I began to churn out draft after draft of titles in the novel series that would become the stories my readers will recognize today. I call them 'drafts' but at the time I thought they were 'done'... but, being a perfectionist, I was always redrafting and revisiting my work - something much harder to do in the days before PC's, and I still have boxes of old note books and papers covered in sketches in my basement - the remains of earlier drafts that were long ago digitized. However, I longed to write from experience, and for a long time, I remained too "young" to get it all on paper. It took me until 2003 before my writing matured and settled into a recognizable style - and of course, having heaps of life experiences obtained in the interceding years, made for much more realistic and I think interesting reading!
The Galaxii Series is set in what might be considered the not too distant future, perhaps in a parallel dimension, and is marked by my own special warped and twisted sense of humor and irony. It also includes some elements of the fantasy genre, such as vampires (which show up in some of the short stories and the later titles, which are still in process). I may also be accused to a degree of moralizing or even attempting a form of human rights advocacy through my writing... since as an individual I have a strong sense of fair play and social justice - but then, as an Aquarian, I have a right to be weird - and it is a "write" I exercise frequently! What really crystallized my vision of the series was writing Black Sunrise - because that is where I hit upon the perfect setting for my characters and the situations I wanted to create. No longer would they need to be confined to the same old setting of a starship as I had done in the past... That was far too limiting, and now I had the freedom to do ANYTHING with them! If Deanna is the world that set my writing spirit free, then Ding and Dong really put the Ramalama into my song!
The Galaxii Series consists of the following titles in sequence: Blachart Demonspawn Dead Beckoning
This is one of the first stories I started working on as a writer, beginning in the 1980's when I was at high school. Of course the draft that became the version of Blachart that was just published (which first became recognizable as it is now, in 1998) is nothing at all like that first attempt all those years ago. The characters changed and evolved, their names changed, the situations morphed from child-like 2 dimensional representations into more realistic 3 and 4 dimensional experiences. As I grew and evolved, so did the way I told the story, and so did the way I felt about, interpreted or experienced the characters. Mykl is a typical straight ‘good-guy’, who gets the girl and settles down and lives happily ever after… Although I wanted to be this, I never was, and so Mykl represents the ‘me’ that was and wanted to be, aspired to be – but never materialized. Mykl d’Angelo was essentially a character based on the person I was when I was in high school – and his lost love whom he rekindles a relationship with in the story, was based on a girl I knew at high school, who was a high school crush that went wrong. The experiences related in the story are not exactly what happened, but I think you will gather that 😉 To answer your original question, yes, 'Ripley' is the girl I was attracted to at the time I originally wrote the story! She is driven, ambitious, efficient, a powerful woman – but in the beginning of their re-acquaintance, Mykl views her through the lens of his hurtful past experiences with her, focusing on her mannerisms, considering her a ‘teacher’s pet’ etc. and of course, reliving his own pain. As time wore on, and my experiences in life, both good and bad, continued to shape and sculpt me into the person I became, my perception of self changed – and I began to more gradually resemble Blachart than d’Angelo as a personality. At the time I was also beginning to understand and to accept my sexuality and gender issues, and so in some ways the character of Blachart was the catalyst for me to express myself first in terms of a gay male, and then to understand that this did not quite suit who I was inside, and to embrace my transgender-ness. Essentially, Blachart represents the beginning of my life’s journey into the adult universe.
That's a very good question. I'd like to say it's Mykl d'Angelo, but it's not. It's a combination of Mykl d'Angelo AND his (at first) nemesis, Blachart. At first glance they are mirror-opposites, good and evil, and as the story progresses the reader gets to see that they are not all that different underneath the surface.
Originally Blachart was called 'Overkill' and then 'Right To Die'. I felt those were a little too heavy for the story, and changed it to 'Black Heart' in 1991, and then restyled it to 'Blachart'.
I finished the final draft of this story - on paper - right about the time of my wedding. I was still living a male life, and so it reflected my thoughts and feelings in the position I was in then. When I got round to revising it on a PC in 2003, it was in the middle of my new life - I was single again, and living a female life, facing a lot of hostility and drama... so again, it was full of those feelings and emotions.
Yes! I'm currently busy with the new fourth title in the series, called "Sentinel"! I'll let you know when it's done!

About The Quantum Series:

Black Sunrise The Time Saving Agency Dead Man’s Hammer Loderunner Prodigal Sun High Steaks
Yes, I'm currently busy working on at least three new titles in the series. I'll keep you appraised of any progress!

About Panic! Horror In Space:

I'm not sure about that. I'm still rounding off a few more stories to go into "Dust", but I think that might be the last one, if not for good, then for a while at least. I'll let you know which way the pendulum swings.

About That Dreaded But Essential Marketing:

I try to share a poster or link to a book at least once a weekday to numerous Facebook groups, Twitter, LinkedIn and a few other places. I’ve also put out a monthly newsletter from my website since February 2017, as well as releases for each new book or audiobook release. I find marketing a challenge, honestly – I never did any marketing courses or such, I’ve had to learn what I know from experience and it’s a constantly changing dynamic, very fluid. What works one month might not work the next month because Facebook or Twitter might change a filter or make certain posts less visible than previously.
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