Often buzzing down at The Hive, a free co-working hub in the Logan Central Library, 25-year-old author Belinda Topan is one of the catalysts behind a thriving writers’ scene emerging south of Brisbane. Originally from Beenleigh, Topan is the author of a series of books about a family of vampires thousands of years old, conceived in Ancient Rome.
But Topan recalls a more contemporary influence for her popular vampire series.
“I remember watching Saturday Disney and Buzz Lightyear had a robot nemesis called NOS-4-A2. I think that character maybe inspired me at 10 years old to create Arthur, who was a vampire slayer in one of the first stories I wrote.”
That genuine counterpoint sets the tone for an interview with a few laughs and some circumspection about what drives her characters and inspires Topan to write.
“A sense of fun is important. Conveying moments of quirkiness breaks up the solemnity of that eternal battle for vampires, who are considered perfect, fantastic creatures, but with elements of human emotional fragility.
“Family is an important theme too. My own family drives me nuts sometimes. But family doesn’t have to be ‘blood … it’s just people who have got your back. There’s a parallel to that in my vampire stories. Vampires choose their families to some extent and loyalty is critical.”
Topan’s characters are illustrated beautifully too, bringing Asian and Euro influences together uniquely. She remarks on how that came about.
“Studio Ghibli’s gorgeous animation is an influence on my work and that Japanese manga/anime style shapes my characters to some extent, even though the background of that battle between vampires and werewolves has European origins.
“Sourcing my illustrations actually happened on Twitter. I found a German illustrator and contacted them. While they said they normally only drew male characters they liked my concept and relented, illustrating both the male and female vampires in my stories.“
The art scene in Logan is really building right now, according to Topan. She says momentum is important but it’s about being a participant and not just an observer.
“The Logan Writers Festival really started my involvement in the scene. The curator, Rhiannon, has been a wonderful supporter for me there. I’ve been a volunteer and a guest speaker; running sessions. It sure beats sitting in my room hiding away.
None of my family are writers so developing peers and mentors through the festival really helped me develop my writing.
Topan, perhaps like many young adults, doesn’t mind a bit of gaming but also likes to rock out and she says music often inspires her writing process.
“When I’m not writing, you might catch me playing Pokémon or Super Smash Bros. And I love pop/punk music like Short Stack and Fall Out Boy.
“There’s actually a song by A Day to Remember called ‘Sometimes You’re the Hammer’ which inspired a fight scene in one of my books. Music can be so emotive for me as I’m writing.”
The chat concludes with Topan’s plans for the coming year, like recording audio books for her two main published works; ‘Sunrise’ and ‘Sunset’; already in planning phase, as well as some school workshops in home town Beenleigh inspiring the next generation of aspiring writers. With young leaders like Topan, Logan’s art community appears in good hands.
IMAGE (C) Simone Gorman-Clark
Note: Belinda is a contributor to Blank Street Press.