Cyan Night is the author of the new novel Girl Fighter, which focuses on a mixed martial artist. Night describes herself as a "martial arts junkie," and has also worked in design, media, IT, and photography. She is based in Australia.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Girl Fighter, and for your character Aliyah?
A: I have always wanted to write about issues that are underrepresented or misconstrued in society.
As a self-professed martial arts junkie I have tried many forms of combat sport and competed at an amateur level for some. In the years of training I came across many fighters with interesting stories with complex personalities that contradict the angry, bloodthirsty image we impose on them. The first half of the book is written with them in mind.
The second half is written to give a voice to those suffering from an “invisible injury.” I have close friends and family members suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar, depression, anxiety disorder and autism. I learnt about their pain through open dialogues, observations and an absent of judgments. I wanted to use creative writing to bring to the readers some understanding of a world that is not readily noticeable.
To present both aspects of the book I had to create a character that is marginalized in many ways that are not obvious. Aliyah is a flawed everyday person who made an attempt to participate in a sport that most people find daunting.
Q: The book focuses on a woman who competes in mixed martial arts. Are Aliyah's experiences representative of women in that field?
A: The book was set in 2010, as it was a time on the cusp of women starting to take center stage in combat sport. In 2012, women boxing was inducted into the Olympics and UFC had the first female title fight. Six years on, women in combat sport are gradually closing the gap with their male counterparts in terms of pay, popularity and respect.
However, Aliyah’s experiences are still very real today. She struggles to be taken seriously as a female athlete when many women participants sexualize their behavior in a male dominant gym. Her fights are considered unimportant. Many around her discourage her from the sport, claiming it is too rough for a girl, or dismiss her as a strange and violent person.
Q: The novel also looks at the impact of traumatic brain injury. Why did you decide to focus on that?
A: One day I stumbled upon a book about neuroplasticity. The book opened me up to the notion that the brain can be altered after suffering damages. By then I knew of many people with brain disorders, including traumatic brain injury.
The common complaints are that no one believes their pain and often reject their sufferings as something that is “all in your mind.” If not, they are simply considered as “crazy.”
I wanted the book to open up all layers of Aliyah, explaining the backstory that resulted in her aloof personality and a human side of her before she suffered brain damage.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the novel?
A: Ultimately I like to believe I have given a voice for fighters of any gender, race and creed incapable of articulating their hardship.
The title of the book, “Girl Fighter,” implies it is a story about a female martial artist. My actual intention is to focus on how the “Girl” illustrated in Part One of the book subsequently became a “Fighter” in Part Two battling her way out of an impossible adversity.
Brain injury and some mental illnesses are often regarded as conditions that are irreversible, but through my studies of neuroplasticity, I would like to believe that a willingness to fight for better mental health and well being, with an open mind and a “never-say-die” attitude, one can endeavor to defy conventional beliefs.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am working on raising awareness of women in combat sports through social media and writing articles as a guest blogger for sports websites. I would also like to raise more awareness for the co-relation between early childhood trauma and a challenging adulthood.
Aside from that, I am actively looking for ideas for another novel. It would be of a different subject matter but I will continue to focus on subject matters that are generally underrepresented.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: The story and all its characters are entirely fictitious. However, many of the events are weaved from real-life incidents, first-hand and close second-hand experiences. Most of the characters are also amalgamations of people I have interacted with.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb