Event 3: Interview with Author D.M. Cain

Author of The Phoenix Project, the witty and brilliant D.M. Cain shares with us her thoughts and musings on the plot for her new novel, Dystopia, writers who inspire her and a lot more…!


Coffee Bean

Alright, to begin with, let’s start with the logic behind the pen name… I know D and M stand for Matt and Deacon

D.M. Cain

That’s right! I knew I wanted a pen name but wasn’t sure where to start. I read an interesting tip that suggested picking a name that would place you alphabetically between two readers you admire. I adore Suzanne Collins and Terry Brooks, so I chose Cain. I also liked the dark connotations of the name Cain, which fitted perfectly as my work is often quite sinister and brooding 🙂


Coffee Bean

Strategic positioning, now I am hearing that for the first time!  That’s very interesting!

And would you say Collins and Brooks had a lot of influence on your choice of themes and plots?

D.M. Cain

The themes and plot for my first novel, The Phoenix Project, were decided long before I ever read anything by either author, but since reading their work I have added extra details or changed elements based on things that inspired me from these writers. Especially Collins’ Hunger Games which was a big influence on the way that the fight superstars are glorified in the prison. My fantasy series is heavily influenced by Terry Brooks’ The Word and The Void trilogy, which focuses on demons, destiny and changing the future.


Coffee Bean

I see… I do agree that their treatment of plots is fascinating..

You seem to have got a great grip on dystopia – any particular reason why you chose a dystopian, rather than a Utopian one?

D.M. Cain

I think I’m just naturally drawn to the dark and depressing! Growing up, I was fascinated by the classic works of dystopian literature – 1984, A Handmaid’s Tale, A Brave New World, Lord of the Flies, A Clockwork Orange. These were the first books I read as a teenager which really affected me on a personal level, and I was drawn into their  harrowing worlds whole-heartedly. Since then, I’ve always been attracted to films and books with sad endings, oppressive governements and definitely tragic love stories!


Coffee Bean

I can’t deny that dystopian themes almost always have a heart-wrenching pull and manage to make the readers feel terribly sorry for the characters

1984 was my favourite one!

D.M. Cain

Exactly! For me, a happy story rarely has the same emotional pull

1984 is one of those great books I read time and time again and I never fail to be affected by it


Coffee Bean

I totally agree! I get panicky every time I read of the impending and inevitable doom!

About the emotional pull –  Is it because you feel that the characters in happy or breezy stories tend to stay happy and need no emotions from the readers?

Was it then to make your readers will bond better with Raven of The Phoenix Project, that you gave him such a difficult past and emotional turmoil to come to terms with?

D.M. Cain

Yes, I think its partly that. I also feel that happiness and fulfillment are more profound if the reader has taken a long and difficult journey with the protagonist. They’ve struggled through hell side by side and have finally reached the end together. Sometimes it’s a happy end and both can sigh with relief and relax into the happiness together. Sometimes its a bad ending and the reader can be left with that incredible hollow ache in the pit of your stomach that hurts but leaves you with an impression you’ll never forget.

I have given Raven many an obstacle to overcome! In the hope that his redemption will be all the more profound


Coffee Bean

One of his biggest obstacles being surviving battles of death at The Phoenix Project

What made you choose the legend’s name for this battleground?

D.M. Cain

Absolutely. Although it could be argued that an even bigger obstacle is in his own mind

I liked the concept of purging through fire and allowing rebirth. The twisted government in The Phoenix Project have the idea that the fire is to eradicate everything they don’t like, everything they fear, and hope for a more peaceful and controlled society to be born again, but there is a more personal element of is for Raven himself:

Will Raven survive the flames, and allow himself to be reborn again?


Coffee Bean

I see it now…

Although the legend speaks of rebirth, you raise questions as to whether the perished WISH to be reborn again

which is very profound!

D.M. Cain

Thank you!


Coffee Bean

I would say that dilemma rests within all of us? Scary though it might sound,

D.M. Cain

Yes, I think that self-destructive element can raise its ugly head in all of us at some point or other


Coffee Bean

Right… Not only the streak of self destruction, but also the absence of will to come out of destruction I guess

D.M. Cain

Yes, and that’s really the biggest battle that Raven faces. He has to will himself to survive when all he really wants to do is curl up in his cell and rot

Coming out of that depression is not something he is strong enough to do by himself – he needs the help of the other crucial people he comes into contact with


Coffee Bean

And in such a context, how important or significant the support from the others?

D.M. Cain

They are absolutely vital to Raven’s journey.  Each of the people he meets in the prison has a crucial role in what happens. Even the nastier characters have an impact on who he is, how he sees himself and the world around him. It is the combined effect of each and every character in the book that leads to the final conclusion (which is a secret!)


Coffee Bean

🙂 ( and we will let it remain one!)

D.M. Cain

🙂


Coffee Bean

and how would DM Cain’s look differ from Raven’s – with respect to forgiving oneself, letting go of guilt

D.M. Cain

A lot of my personal opinions on the matter are actually mentioned by the character Kiri in the book – she’s my mouthpiece! She gets to say to Raven all the things I’m dying to say to him! I think that the past is in the past and nobody benefits from hanging on to lingering regret and remorse. I also believe that feeling suicidal in a place like Salverford is wrong, when so many people are being brutally killed when they would love to continue living. One of my favourite lines form the entire book is: “Wishing for death is an insult to those who have it forced upon them.”


Coffee Bean

that was brilliant

I would say Kiri is  very effective foil to Raven’s character in the book – very level-hearted with her head firmly on her shoulders…

D.M. Cain

Definitely, she keeps him afloat when he begins to drown in his own self hatred


Coffee Bean

would you say that people need foils in real life too? to pull one out of whatever they are drowning in?

D.M. Cain

Oh yes I think so! My husband often keeps me on the straight and narrow when I get stressed out with work!


Coffee Bean

Right… and I believe such support comes in various forms…

Motivating/stern friends, co-habitants, students, social circles…

we tend to learn and get stronger with the support from each of them

D.M. Cain

Yes, everybody needs a wide circle of support when they’re feeling down. Raven tries to get through things on his own in his first few months in the prison, and he doesn’t cope well at all. He doesn’t realise that the only way he’ll ever make it is to accept other people into his life


Coffee Bean

I completely agree..

And it’s not always just when we feel down I guess…

Foils usually just point out whatever is wrong with us… Sometimes when one is conceited and acts high and mighty, it’s a foil character that brings the other back to the ground

D.M. Cain

Yes, and in this book, Kiri acts as foil to another very important character too – Sanjev Khan. She has to try and pull him back down to Earth when he gets too arrogant and self-obsessed


Coffee Bean

that’s exactly what I was referring to, as well

well, I would love to talk on DM, but I know you lead a busy work and family life…  and I wouldn’t dare take away all your “me-time” keeping you from writing the Shield of Soren

Thanks for being here today and knowing that the Phoenix Project will be a huge success, let me wish you a great writing career ahead!

D.M. Cain

It’s been absolutely delightful to talk to you! Thank you

Thank you very much! I’ll keep you updated with my progress


Coffee Bean

Please do! And so long…

Here’s to a better living!

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8 comments

  1. You know, CB is one of the most powerful interviewers I have ever read and she brings a quality to her interviews which pull the reader to the very core of the interview. It is chatty, but profound, light but excruciatingly personal; nothing is left of the author or the book, that can yet be wondered about – it is all out there, out in the open. All you have to do is get the book; possess it! What a fabulous review!

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