Christina Engela is locally known for her self-published fiction titles. Her series – “The Galaxii Series” has been picked up by J Ellington Ashton Press. The first novel in the ten book series was released on the 29th of October 2014.
Christina, thanks so much for taking your time to share your journey.
Christina, as I do with all the authors please be so kind as to give our readers a bit of an introduction on yourself and your writing journey.
Hi Nadine, and thanks so much for the interview!
I wear many hats, really. I write sci-fi/fantasy novels, but I’ve also been a soldier, a human rights activist, written articles and advocating against human rights abuses of LGBT and religious freedom issues. It’s sometimes surprising to me that I haven’t been reported missing or dead yet.
When did you start your Galaxii series?
That’s a long and complicated story! 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 (Theo Engela) – 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.
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 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!
What inspired the series?
I always loved sci-fi, watching sci-fi series on TV, movies, reading, comics… But I also loved the freedom I found in the fantasy novels I read. I also loved writing stories – so for me that was a natural instinct to write sci-fi. I used to find ‘every day’ story settings and genres ‘boring’ and uninspiring. In sci-fi and fantasy almost anything is possible, even probable, and that suited me to a ‘t’. I used to think of writing in an every day setting as depressing and thought of writing in sci-fi because the genre generally offers hope for the future.
How was it picked up by J Ellington Ashton Press?
In 2011 someone in the UK left a couple of really inspiring reviews on some sites about some of my books he’d read. I wanted to contact him to thank him for the reviews, and looked for him in vain. In last year, he found me on Facebook and we became Facebook friends. As it turned out, he’d joined JEA as an editor in the interim. As soon as he heard I was looking for a traditional publisher, everything basically happened from there! The rest of the JEA staff (so I’m told) didn’t need much convincing that my work was what they were looking for. He is my editor and I think he is my number one fan!
What does the future hold for the series?
I have no plans to stop writing. There are 8 titles in the process of being revised and released through JEA that had already been self-published, and I still have 3 currently in the works. It’s odd how I write really, I don’t just focus on one book, I work on 2 or more, staggered, at the same time. That way I don’t lose interest or lose sight of what I had in mind. There are still more in my archives in various stages of completion, and I still have loads of ideas for more.
It’s a 10 book series. How did you manage to continue your story over such a broad timespan?
Well, ten so far. My stories tend to be grouped into ‘little trilogies’ within the series. I introduced new characters into the series, spacing the different ‘trilogies’ a few years apart, or as required. So far I haven’t had the characters from the early sets interact with the characters from the later sets, but that’s not completely off the table.
Are there any other works fans can look into?
There is one short story called “Homecoming” which has been included in an anthology by JEA called “Autumn Burning”. It’s a Halloween horror anthology, and the story is about a young vampire who has a very interesting Halloween! The story doesn’t slot into the Galaxii series, but I have included vampire characters in several other short stories that do fit into the timeline and should be included in title 4 of the series ‘Space Sux’. One of these, ‘The Thirteenth Ship’ should also be appearing in another JEA anthology early next year.
The 8 titles I had self-published had to be taken down when I got my contract with JEA, so that they would not impede their re-release through my publisher – but the fans won’t have too long to wait, since the first one is already out, and the second is due in January or February next year.
Can you tell us a bit more about your main character?
There are numerous main characters in my books, since my series contains numerous trilogies of similar stories with the same characters in, each set has its main characters.
In the first set, comprising of Blachart, Demonspawn and Dead Beckoning, the main characters are Mykl d’Angelo, Blachart the Corsair, Ripley Jones, Mike Lofflin, Sona Kilroy etc. These are brave, heroic types of character.
In the second set, comprising four titles, the main characters are Cindy-Mei Winter, Gary Beck, Peggy-Ann Muller, Timaset Skooch, and of course, Fred the Arborian.
In your opinion what makes a great character?
A believable personality is a good start, realistic portrayals too – but I think the most important aspect to a great or popular character is to portray them in such a way that readers connect with that person, and empathize with them.
What makes a great story?
Adventure, excitement, seeing the bad guys get justice served. Emotional content – people like stories that reach them or touch them emotionally in some deep way. I still believe in happy endings, but the world doesn’t work that way. Well, rarely. That’s why people write and read stories with happy endings – it’s escapism. I like to present a world where humanity in general has learned or evolved from the past, both technologically and emotionally – but where the common problems and sorrows we have now can still reflect in the future I create – and offer solutions for consideration… and then people should look at these in the context of a great story and fun read – and then think, ‘hey, that’s a different way of looking at the issue – why not?’
What does the future hold for Christina Engela the Author?
I wish I had a crystal ball, or a time machine! Haha. I would hope the obvious, success with my writing, happiness in all things – but I would hope to make a positive difference in the lives of people who are touched by my writing, and I hope to be able to do this for a long, long time to come.
You have gone through the ropes of self-publishing to publishing. In your opinion, thus far which has been the better road to go?
Without a doubt, publishing. Modern publishing isn’t about just writing a story and mailing it to someone and letting them do everything further, and then you just sit back and wait for the money and interview requests to roll in. If you go the self-publishing route, you have to do it all yourself, even if you use a free vanity press or POD site, you still need to do the formatting, design, layouts, covers etc on your own steam – or pay someone else in US Dollars to do it for you. After that, you still have to promote and market your work yourself, or once again, pay someone vast amounts of money to do it for you.
In traditional publishing, you get all of that done for you, without having to pay anyone to do it – the theory is that they make money off selling your work, just as you do – so it’s a kind of partnership. The trouble is, the market is struggling terribly, especially with the global economy, e-books affecting print book sales figures more each year – and the global market being flooded with around 5000 new e-books PER DAY. It’s a cut-throat business.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Keep at it. Learn your craft by practice. Refine your work. If you’re young, don’t be hasty, let experience sharpen your writing gift and enrich your stories with your own flavour.
How do you find publishing in South Africa?
Very, very difficult. I would have to add: disinterested. It’s sad that writers have to find publishers in other countries rather than to find local publishers interested in supporting local talent. Some publishers in South Africa I thought were traditional turned out to be vanity press, and some traditional publishers never even replied to my messages. This may sound vain, but I struggle to accept that there could be that many worthwhile South African manuscripts submitted to these companies per day that they couldn’t be bothered to look mine over. Oh well, their loss.
If you could change the journey you undertook to get published, what would you do differently?
Win the lotto and buy or start my own publishing company with its own book stores. *grin*
Where can readers find your work?
Any up and coming events readers can look forward to?
As soon as local book stores start stocking up on my novels, I will be announcing book signings and probably a launch for ‘Blachart’. I’m also looking at doing videos for my Youtube channel.