Tice Cin’s Under Soil is the second story in the first issue of Project 13 Dark, Dead Voices. Tice is a young poet and writer of extraordinary talent. I can’t remember the last time I read such a strong, bold female voice. I was so spellbound by the haunting intensity of her story, I had to ask her a few questions about it to satisfy my curiosity. You will see that the future of the literary world is in very capable hands.

About†3Dark: †3Dark is a unique dark fiction project that showcases both the written and visual artwork of some of this century’s greatest creatives created by Joseph Sale.

Please tell us a little bit about you and your life. Where are you from? How old are you? What is in your past? Your future?

I was born in North London and grew up in Tottenham and Enfield. I am a 23-year-old British-Cypriot writer and I recently completed both my MA in English: Issues in Modern Culture at UCL and the Barbican Young Poets programme. I am currently writing a novel and building a portfolio of poetry. When I’m not writing or working at the Poetry Translation Centre, I also volunteer for English PEN, a worldwide writers’ association that campaigns to defend freedom of expression in the UK and around the world.

Under Soil is not a light read. It’s sensually abrasive and intense, but it’s also fantastic and abstract. What is the story about?

I think coming from my background in writing slightly abstract poetry that I tend to be fairly evasive when answering questions like this.  Which reminds me of an early workshop in creative writing that I attended when completing my English Literature degree at the University of Reading where my lecturer, Dr. Patrick Flanery leant forward and stopped me right before I went to explain in detail what a story I was about to share was about. He told me ‘let the reader have room to make their own discovery. You never need to explain away the mystery so don’t feel like the author needs to step in to make sense of the work, it should lead the reader somewhere on its own feet’. Of course, that doesn’t mean I can’t explain the plot or my hopes for the piece, but I think it’s worth giving that context for my thinking when talking about my work.

Tell us about the setting. You give the reader such a beautiful sense of the place, the culture, and its haunted atmosphere. Is Cyprus a place you know?

I have never lived in North Cyprus but growing up I spent most of my summers on the island staying with my maternal auntie, at the time of writing this piece I had just spent about 3 months in Cyprus, recovering from my degree and getting really committed to my writing again. I was really struck by the beauty of its abandoned buildings and the gravity of the stories behind their abandonment.

What is the history of this island and how is it connected to what’s occurring to the narrator?

The history of the island is very complicated and often arguments will break out amongst Cypriots trying to tell the story from their perspective. I recommend looking at the work of Anthony Anaxagorou and also Chimene Suleyman’s essay in The Good Immigrant for additional writerly perspectives on the Cyprus conflict and its culture. Cyprus as an island divided by conflict over hundreds of years is haunted by its history. In Under Soil, I mention areas such as Kapalı Maraş (also known as Varosha or αρώσια) which is often described as a ghost town since Operation Attila where the Turkish military fenced off the Greek Cypriot hotel resort. It has been left since and the absence of human habitation has created a really unusual habitat, even turtles have started to live on its deserted beaches. Something that occurs a lot in this piece is a discussion on living on top of bones, and that often occurs to me when I am thinking of places that have been the site of conflict.

Your narrator is a young female who seems to want to hide her power from others, especially men. I feel like she craves self-actualization, but she still yearns to be accepted and approved of in her society. Why is she afraid to live out loud? Is this a struggle you think many young women can relate to?

There are many implications of living out loud in a small village, and elsewhere and I think the main one that many people fear is the loss of freedom. The narrator expresses her freedom in many ways throughout the story but it is a very fragile thing, being able to understand oneself and your powers without outside intervention. Young females especially. I think the character is working within her own closely guarded set of freedoms to achieve and discover what she can, before she has to return to certain norms. I find it interesting testing those norms, and even moving routines around to show the little ways a character can pave their self-actualisation.

In part of the story, your narrator says, “It’s immortality being admired.” Most of us are striving to be perfect. If we don’t succeed, we try to at least project our idea of perfection. Would you like to be remembered as an idea, or be remembered by the real you with all your faults and idiosyncrasies?

I think it’s worth pointing out that this character isn’t a reflection of my own world view but something I find quite sinister about the hunt for validation from those who don’t actually mean anything to our inner lives. I also found that moment of the story slightly Patrick Bateman.

I would definitely want to be remembered as the real me, with all my faults. I think that’s the joy of writing for me, to scratch something into stone that I can look back on years later and wonder about. Often when I return to work that I have written in the past or old social media posts I am a bit horrified by gaps in knowledge or certain naiveties but deep down I am not ashamed, we are nothing without our flaws.

[bctt tweet=”‘… that’s the joy of writing for me, to scratch something into stone that I can look back on years later and wonder about.’ – @TiceCinWrites #amwriting #writers #writerslife” username=”christawojo”]

Your character seems to be plagued by guilt and shame about her sexuality, but she pursues the boy. What happened to her and why does she shut down when it comes time to be intimate with him?

The love interest in this story doesn’t ever really talk to her about herself. I felt that there was a resentment coming through in this scene, of suddenly realising that he was just a man without any redeeming qualities, hollow and barren. I wanted to focus on that moment of disillusionment that often accompanies getting to know someone better, when the mask falls and you see them for what they are. This in my head went hand in hand with the dissipation of desire for the boy. But something I wanted to make clear was that her fierceness and passion doesn’t become dampened when she isn’t intimate with someone, that her strengths come from setting herself free from him.

You have a profound, intimate style that occupies all the senses. What writers have influenced you most?

Joseph Sale, the brain behind 13 Dark got my inspirations really clearly in his essay on my piece within the anthology! He mentioned Samuel R. Delany who has deeply inspired my dark fantasy writing with the way that he goes into these immersive waves of floating descriptions. I also find Isabel Allende very inspiring with the amount that she can pack into a short amount of words, and the levels of bizarre you can reach when writing. I am equally inspired by poets such as Baudelaire, Pascale Petit and Turkish-Cypriot poet Neşe Yaşın.

What are you reading right now?

I am reading Pattern Recognition by William Gibson. It’s brilliant so far! My MA dissertation focused on the female body, Simulacra and Simulation which I am still greatly interested by and wanted to find in this book.

I believe each writer changes the world in their own little way. What is your main goal in writing?

I believe that too! I gave a reading recently and a really lovely girl came up to me afterwards and told me about how much she related to one of my characters, with all of their flaws included. My main goal in writing is to try and make sure my work reaches as many people as possible who would find something I am writing to be helpful in finding a piece of themselves within it.

What projects are you working on now? What plans do you have for the future? Where can we find more of your work?

I am currently preparing some poems for a poetry reading I am giving at the closing event for a symposium arranged by a society at the University of Oxford called Common Ground, they’re a great movement who have set out to equalise the playing fields for those of all races and classes. I am looking for an agent in London who would be interested in representing me and the novel I am writing, set between Tottenham and North Cyprus. I share my poetry and all writing updates on my social media (@ticecinwrites) and I also have a blog that I post to when I can, ticecin.wordpress.com

Thank you so much for this interview, I’m really grateful for the opportunity! It was great to share more about Under Soil and I am so excited about all of the writers that the project has brought together.

Connect with Tice







Issue #1 – Dead Voices

Issue #2 - Cursed Crossings

The next issue is in the works.