Awesome lady: Danielle Austen

Awesome lady: Danielle Austen

My fellow Xcite author, Danielle Austen, took me under her wing and gave me a heads up as to what to expect when I was preparing for my first novel to be published and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. Turns out we’ve got a lot more in common than just our publishing company. So meet fellow nerd, Dannielle…

Aside from writing erotica, the prophecy girl trilogy was a fantasy story set in the world of magic. What inspired you to choose that setting?

The stories I enjoy (whether in books, TV, film or videogames) tend to combine action, adventure, character drama and a tinge of sci-fi and/or supernatural; so it was a blend of genres I also gravitated towards in my own writing. I chose magic in particular because unlike things like vampires and werewolves and spaceships, I had complete creative freedom. I was able to create my own rules without having to worry about existing genre tropes, and do whatever I wanted within those confines. It also gave me the flexibility to escalate the scale of the magic throughout the trilogy; from Angelito’s illusions in The Magician’s Lover through to Cereza terraforming an entire planet in The Ancient’s Destiny.

I couldn’t help picturing Derren Brown when I read about Angelito. Are any of the characters based on real people/celebrities?

Ha! I completely understand picturing Derren Brown! Alas, he was not the inspiration for Angelito; however a different celebrity was, on a physical level at least. He’s not the only one; Dmitri, Jason, Frank, Tera, Tengu and a couple of others have their appearance inspired by actors and musicians and others. Some characters such as Cammie are inspired by people I know in the real world, and others like Cereza and Zee are entirely new creations who just appeared in my head. In any case, I don’t like revealing specifically who my characters are based on – it can interfere with a reader’s existing mental image, and there is no “right” way to imagine any of my characters.

What’s your favourite video game?

I’d played games before, but almost 15 years ago I played a game which gave me cause to buy my first ever console – Halo: Combat Evolved. It gave me such a sense of awe and wonder that I’d never experienced before, and it was the first time a game really felt like what it was trying to portray – I really felt like a supersoldier alone on a strange alien planet. The whole series is great – I lost almost two full years of my life to Halo: Reach alone, and Cortana’s death in Halo 4 had me in floods of tears – but the first game has a particularly special place in my heart. Hubby & I recently bought ourselves an Xbox One and so far the only game we own on it is the Halo collection – I basically have a £300 Halo machine!

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your free time?

I have a full-time job which sucks up a lot of my time; on top of that I also have routine housework to get through, some pretty extensive home renovations to sort out, time to devote to hubby, and a regular exercise routine to keep up. Sometimes my life can be a little like an exercise in spinning plates – but it’s not a complaint; I would much rather be too busy than bored! When I do get some time out I like travelling, watching good TV with the hubster, playing videogames, and going out running.

Have you always wanted to be an author? What made you choose erotica specifically?

I’d always had a creative side that I needed to release; my problem for many years was trying to find the right avenue for it. I tried being in a band, but had the small problem of being unable to sing or play any instruments! Then I tried screenwriting after having an idea for a movie, but the whole process was infuriating; I found that having to write in the correct and very specific format just got in the way of the actual writing. But after I read Juliet Hastings’ “The Hand of Amun” – for me the greatest erotic novel ever written – my mind exploded with possibilities. Here was something I could actually do! I already had a couple of English qualifications so I knew how to write, and I found the characters and the stories came easily – plus writing erotica gave me a great creative outlet for some of my issues and weird neuroses.

Not too long ago I was having a whinge to hubby about some of the negative aspects of writing erotica and he asked why I don’t just write in another genre – but honestly, I love writing cross-genre erotica. It’s the only thing I feel compelled to write. I don’t think there are many other authors writing the kind of erotica I write; I’m writing the erotica I would want to read, and as an added bonus there’s the possibility that others will enjoy it too. It’s not a financially rewarding genre and I’m never going to be a household name but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Who’s your favourite author?

If we’re talking erotica, then it’s Juliet Hastings by a country mile. I don’t think she’s active anymore, but the books she did write were all phenomenal. But if you mean on a normal day-to-day basis then there are three authors who never let me down – Philip K. Dick, Kurt Vonnegut and Stephen King. It’s tough for me to pick just one as a lot of it is mood-dependent, but if push came to shove I’d probably fall on the side of Vonnegut. He was one of the most unique authors the world has ever seen, and probably the only author to ever make me alternately laugh and cry in the space of three paragraphs.

What’s your strategy for surviving a zombie apocalypse?

I assume that getting my claws into Daryl Dixon isn’t an option?! I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead and zombie movies in general so I feel pretty well-educated on this front. If the world’s gone to hell then I’m off to Hawaii; it’s my favourite place in the world, it’s really remote so it’s nigh-on impossible for hordes of zombies to stumble into, and if there are already zombies there Hawaii has pretty lax gun control laws so guns and ammo won’t be hard to come across – and I know from past experience that I’m a dab hand with a semi-automatic rifle! Granted, getting halfway across the world in the midst of a zombie apocalypse could be tricky but I’ll manage it somehow – if there’s one thing erotica has taught me, it’s that the world is full of yacht-owning billionaires who are just desperate for the love of a woman who likes being spanked!

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Awesome Lady: Erica Nockalls

Awesome Lady: Erica Nockalls

Counterfeit Magazine – Neil Chapman

I have to confess to being a little fan-girly excited about this entry to my wall of awesome. Now I suspect that for most people, the last thing they’ll think when they look at Erica Nockalls is ‘nerd’, but if wikipedia is to be believed then:
“Nerds can be described by their hobbies” and “Some interests and activities that are likely to be described as nerdy are: Interest in the fine arts, non-mainstream music such as classical, techno, or folk music.”

So I put it to you that a conservatoire trained violinist and artist falls into the nerd camp and as she’s rocking it in her own band – EN, in her acoustic duo with Miles Hunt, and as a member of The Wonder Stuff, she’s proof, if ever it was needed, that nerds are cool!*

Erica, thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions, let’s dive straight in:
You started playing the violin from a young age. How many hours did you put into practicing and what impact did that have on your school life or teenage social life.

The violin is a difficult instrument to learn, there are no two ways about it. Because it isn’t as instantly gratifying as an instrument such as the piano, for example, it is incredibly frustrating for about the first ten years, and it’s something you really have to stick at. I was encouraged to chip away and practise every day when I was younger, even if it was only 15 mins a day. As a beginner, this is essential for developing muscle memory – I believe it’s how often you practise, rather than how long you practise for, that is important.

As a teenager I began playing in my first bands, which is a healthy thing to do. I knew I needed to practise my violin regularly if I wanted to be any good, so I just got on with it, but of course I grumbled about it from time to time! I felt like music was the only thing I was any good at, so it made perfect sense that I should stick at it, and yes, that sometimes meant not getting drunk on a street corner with mates. Being a professional musician in a rock forum often means you have access to free booze frequently, so I kinda made up for missing out over the years.

 Your first album incorporates a variety of musical genres. What is your approach to writing and recording and does it vary depending on the style?

It know it sounds odd, but I don’t really have an approach to writing, other than getting the lyrics written first, then I fit them to music. I stop layering things up and adding new sections when I think the piece has gone as far as the song can go, then I call it a day and move on.
Stylistically I love listening to and playing heavy music, and that might be from anything to a Shostakovich string quartet to doom goth metal, but it has to be at least slightly progressive otherwise I get bored incredibly quickly and lose interest. I have dark tastes in music.
My lyrics and music could be considered rather angular at times, and the lyrics, particularly on EN2 are feisty and uncompromising. I’m certainly not painting by numbers and trying to sound like anybody else here, I never have done that. If you’re not adding anything to the development of music, you’re wasting everyone’s time, not least your own.

How involved are you with the production side of your recordings and videos?

100%. EN2 is entirely self produced, self funded through selling my artwork, and it is also self released, and all through choice as I wanted complete control over this record. It’s my intention to make some music videos for EN2 – it’s next on my to-do list. I enjoy making videos – it’s a relatively recent creative outlet for me. I’m not bad at editing and I actually find it quite relaxing and rewarding!

How do you feel about social media?

I like it. I think people need to put their phones down occasionally so as not to waste their entire lives online, but as a musician you need a platform from which to air your wares, and as such social media is invaluable. I use predominantly Facebook and Twitter to make announcements and post gig details. Generally I try to be as engaging as possible without ramming my music down people’s throats. You have to treat people as you’d like to be treated yourself, which is absolutely the way forward in real life too.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

It’s difficult to say, but I’m not going to measure highlights of my career in audience numbers. I’ve played to hundreds of thousands of people at a gig, I’ve played to 10 people at a gig – the number of people you play to rarely translates into whether it was a good gig or not. I think the highlight of my career so far is being able to say I’ve travelled the world and avoided getting a ‘proper’ job as a result of being good at doing something that I love. It’s been hard in places and I’ve had so many knock backs I’ve lost count. If you believe in yourself and get your head down though, it’s possible to achieve virtually anything.

What’s next for EN?

Make more EN videos, I’m seriously thinking of putting a US version of my band together and decamping over to NYC for a bit in 2015 – the music industry seems sewn up in this country, so I’m going to see if the yanks will have any of what I’m doing…see if they ‘get’ it.

The Wonder Stuff tour acoustically in December 2014 for our Sleigh The Uk Tour.
Miles Hunt and Erica Nockalls are gigging acoustically across the UK seemingly constantly!
And I’ll hopefully be painting more in the new year and having more EN art exhibitions.

Where can we buy your new album?

Through choice, EN2 is only available from my website and nowhere else. I’m bypassing all online platforms for streaming and selling until musicians are awarded a fairer deal for their music in an attempt to give value back to music.

That deserves a hi-five! Thank you Erica, it’s been fab. Congratulations on your recent art exhibition and good luck with the new album.

If you haven’t already been to check it out, head over to Erica’s website

You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

* Okay, I’ll admit it, I just really wanted to interview her, nerd or not!

Awesome Lady: Charlotte Pingriff of Perfectly Cast

Awesome Lady: Charlotte Pingriff of Perfectly Cast

Pleased to add my first lovely unlikely nerd to the wall of awesome. The first newsletter from Perfectly Cast included instructions for turning yourself into a zombie for Halloween… and my Nerdar went beserk! Charlotte Pingriff is an ex-special effects make up artist who now helps women feel good about themselves by turning their bodies into art. So welcome to the nerd watchlist, Charlotte…

Hey Charlotte, thanks for talking to me, let’s dive straight in, what gave you the idea of turning bodies into works of art?

I trained as a special effects make-up artist, and casting was part of our degree. In special effects, you create casts in order to sculpt prosthetics, or build appliances to custom fit a particular person, but I also loved the creative aspect of body casting, using the human body to create beautiful sculptures that could be used as a canvas for any finish you desire. The possibilities with casts are endless! I love it when a Perfectly Cast client wants a bespoke finish, as it allows me to spread my wings and create something really unique for them.

How’s this for a unique canvas!?

I love the idea of you creating the canvas on which to work, making every canvas unique. You’ve talked about a client with a distinctive scar. Did your finished piece change the way she felt about it?

Yes! She said she had always hated her scar, but that I had made her see it differently. It is her badge of honour, a reminder that she survived something life threatening. Something to be proud of!


How important is body image to you and what advice would you give to women who feel they need to live up to an ideal portrayed by the media?

As a women who has run the gauntlet of body issues, and self esteem issues, myself, it’s hugely important to me. I love clothes, shoes, beauty treatments, and make-up as much as the next girl, but it’s also crucial to me that I accept my body, quirks and all, and that I do all I can to feel positive and good about myself in a healthy way. This is something that has not come easily to me, and I still have off days, like everyone. So I can relate, and empathise with ladies. But I can honestly say that I’m happier with myself now, than I have ever been (some of that has come with age, and some of it has come through sheer hard work). With regards to the advice I would give, it’s such a complex topic, and one that I aim to address through my work and my free ‘Quirky Beauty Brigade’ newsletter, so it’s hard to condense it into one piece of advice – particularly as every woman is different. But if I had to give one piece of advice, it would be to remember that even those women that you idolise, likely have their own issues and insecurities. Remember that these women have carefully cultivated images. They have a huge team around them, and countless thousands of pounds to look the way they do. On top of the endless hard work they put in to look that way, it’s worth reminding yourself that it’s not their natural state. Even those women don’t look like those women. I don’t say that to run them down, but rather to point out that the media ideal is not real. It’s all smoke and mirrors!

When you’re not working, how do you relax?

This is one of my favourite pieces of art by Charlotte.

Well, this is a good time to confess that I probably work way too much! But I do love what I do, and it is a trait a lot of business owners share. But when I do stop working I love to read, I love to hang out with friends and drink wine (!), I LOVE to eat good food and I also love watching trashy TV – it’s my way to switch off! Oh, and I’m also starting to discover the merits of meditating, something I never thought I’d get into!

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Haha, see above, trashy TV! Also cheesy music – particularly 80’s, and watching beauty tutorials on YouTube – I love that! It inspired me to set up my own channel too through Perfectly Cast, it’s where I post all the vids for my Quirky Beauty Brigade.

Have you ever had a catfish moment?

Not to my knowledge! I say that, because I have a lot of friends who I only know online, so I guess they may not be who they say they are! But I

have been really lucky so far that everyone I’ve ever met in real life, after first meeting online, has been perfectly lovely in real life too!

Are you a crazy cat person or a barking mad dog lover?

A crazy cat person definitely! There are such funny, entertaining creatures! Though I do love dogs too!

Tell us what you have up your creative sleeve.

I have loads of plans in the pipeline for articles and videos for my Quirky Beauty Brigade, and lots of ideas for the casts (including a very important exhibition that I’m planning with another artist that will tackle serious issues that women face). I’m particularly excited about the Probbles – cute and quirky little pebble creatures that customers can adopt! It’s an idea I toyed with for ages, and it just buzzed around my head, like a crazy fly, and wouldn’t leave me alone. So now that they have been

born, I have a million ideas for them! So watch this space – or rather watch Perfectly Cast’s space!! Hehe. Oh, and I have an ebook coming soon too…..! An adult fairytale/parable. That is something not many people know about, so you read it here first!

Oooh, I’m looking forward to reading that! Huge thanks to Charlotte for stopping by and answering my questions.

You can find out more about Perfectly Cast by visiting the website

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