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suppose you know who Vir ginia Woolf is, but perhaps you are not familiar with Vanessa (neé Beanland), a Gibraltarian living on the Isle of Wight since the late ’90s who launched her book Return, final installment of her Evolution trilogy, at the Garrison Library last December. Busy mum and keen volunteer worker, in 2010 Vanessa felt the urge to do something to carve out her own space, and even if she hadn’t too much time to spare, she created it — quite literally, on CreateSpace. And three years later, her trilogy of fantasy novels is available on Amazon both for Kindle and in print. She describes her writing as ‘pure escapism’, a place to go between chores, focusing on it every time she gets a bunch of spare minutes. Vanessa explains: “I write instead of wasting two hours watching an old movie, for example. Sometimes, I type away notes on my iPad while cooking dinner... The secret is to focus on writing, then go back to whatever else you were doing and focus on that, then focus back on writing...” What started as something very personal evolved into publication after friends and fellow authors gave her good reviews and encouragement to continue writing, because they claimed she really had something to say. Evolution is the collective title of her trilogy — Hybrid, Complications and Return — conceived to come full cycle at the end of the last book, with the advantage that each installment stands alone, if readers can bear the thought of ignoring what happened before or what is going to happen after. Vanessa says the overall ending is crafted to leave backdoor access to a sequel, just in case she decided to go for it. Just in case she missed her hero and heroine while working at what she calls a ‘serious fiction’ project, namely historical fiction about her ancestry. With subtle echoes from Sir Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, although more optimistic in its utopian cyber-society, and more obvious references to the contemporary pop literature and cinema’s fad of mutants and supernatural creatures, the title Evolution refers to a fictional subgenus of Homo who abruptly evolved from Homo sapiens during WWII, following a freak accident at Los Alamos

nuclear plant. Oh, no! Not another vampire story! I hear someone moan... The reason Vanessa specifically made them vampires rather than generic X-Men-like mutants lies in the symbolism of blood, at once life and death. They have vampire traits, but they are not really vampires: “It’s a bit like Gibraltarians who speak Spanish but are not really Spaniards...” Vanessa says. “I’ve fancied vampires since I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and even earlier, mutants, when I used to watch Scooby Doo and Spiderman as a kid. Scooby Doo, with those mystery mutants, and Spiderman, bestowed superpowers by a freak accident too... so I said why not? Let’s go for similar premises. My story however is mostly a love story, which analyses how much of herself a woman is, or must be, prepared to sacrifice to the relationship.” After the accident, this ‘community’ with a thirst for blood and life, goes into hiding and settles inside a volcano in the Amazon

GIBRALTAR MAGAZINE • FEBRUARY 2014

where they build a self-contained eco-friendly society run by brilliant minds. Vanessa says: “I chose the Amazon because it is a large, remote and partly unexplored area of the globe where isolated civilisations may still exist. I saw a documentary once about this tribe so hidden from the rest of the world they had to film them from a helicopter to make sure they wouldn’t be spoilt by outside contact, albeit for the few days of filming and with all the sociological precautions. I saw photos of Amazonian landscapes and I thought its wild beauty was the ideal background for my special love story.” Very much like Gibraltar, this fictional society is founded on a rational constitution and multicultural texture, because the original founders were scientists from all over the world, including England, Sweden and even a German Jew who had fled Nazi totalitarism. They know no war or capitalism, as they barter their goods and services. Now and again they go out to expeditions to learn how

Women are conditioned by fairytales to aim for Prince Charming, wedded bliss, children — and that’s it: game over. They must aim for a partnership instead. The real fairytale happens when their own life is fulfilled in the happily ever after

the outside world has changed and to keep up with it. They also hunt for blood and their young must stand a rite of passage at 20, when their ‘change’ occurs: they go out and kill someone to activate their vampiric powers. Killing for one’s survival is a daily occurrence in human life, according to Vanessa, so it doesn’t automatically make them monsters: “I do discuss the morals of it, but after all different societies have different rules and rituals, and there is no right or wrong. The issue is how much the protagonist is willing to stretch the boundaries of the morals he’s been raised in to pursue his true roots.” She continues: “My message to girls and women is: make sure that the relationship you are in leaves space for your growth as well. Women are conditioned by fairytales to aim for prince charming, wedded bliss, children — and that’s it: game over. They must aim for a partnership instead. The real fairytale happens when their own life is fulfilled in the happily ever after as much as their partner’s and children’s. “I analyse different relationships in my trilogy, for instance Steven’s grandparents’, and hopefully these characters will be role models for healthy and productive relationships. One of my favourite literary heroines is Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice because she is sassy, clever and strong — and she manages to bring out the best in her man. My character Caitlin Chance is intelligent and focused, too, but her world quakes when she falls for Steven Thorn, the Southampton Hybrid born from an affair one of the vampires had with a mortal, in inverted commas.” The very title of the second installment, Complications, reveals that it won’t be all plain sailing for the couple, as jealousy and loyalty test handsome Steven. And when they finally Return together to the Amazon ‘community’, will Caitlin make the right choice? Vanessa teases about the ending: “More than the age-old question of all romances ‘will they meet again?’ I deal with the concept of ‘can they meet again?’.” Well, should they? Visit www. vanessawesterwriter.blogspot.com for more information. Hybrid (cover photo by Malcolm Beanland) is available for Kindle for free. Complications £1.87, Return £2.98, both with cover photos by Minka Armitage. Paperbacks for £7.99 each from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and most Gibraltar bookshops. n

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The Gibraltar Magazine - February 2014