Originally from Melbourne, Tsana Dolichva is currently travelling the world under the guise of doing a PhD in astrophysics. When not writing she is probably reading, or at a stretch, studying the particulars of dying stars. She also enjoys trying to convince people to respect the laws of physics in their science fiction, at least a little bit. She has previously had short stories published in a handful of venues including Aurealis and Antipodean SF.
1. You’ve been an active and prolific reviewer on your blog, Tsana Reads and Reviews, including taking part in many challenges to read and review Australian books, and have recently been nominated for a Ditmar award for said work. You are also a writer. Some people feel that writers should not also be active in reviewing. Do you ever feel as though your writing and current and future plans for publication conflicts with your reviewing? Do you feel that more writers should be reviewing?
I think a lot of the controversy comes from worries about authenticity and potential antagonism. If a writer is friends with the author of the book they’re reviewing, for example, will they write an honest review if they don’t like it? Is a fledgeling writer worried about criticising a Big Name writer in their review? But I think we’re all grown ups and should be capable of writing critical reviews without being rude, or, on the flip side, dealing with negative reviews of our work without having a breakdown on Twitter. I understand some of the hesitancy around the matter, but I don’t think that should be a reason for writers not to review, if that’s what they want to do.
I also try to only read books I think I’ll like, but of course that doesn’t always work. It’s tempting, when you think you’ll probably never meet a particular author (like if they’re not Australian), to be a bit more scathing, especially if they’ve been sexist or haven’t got their science right. But you never know when you might find yourself on a WorldCon panel with one of them… *eyes draft LonCon programme*
The other thing I’ve found is that reviewing is good for making connections with other people in the community. You never know when that might come in handy down the road.
2. What inspired you to begin publishing your reviews? Has your vision for what you want to accomplish with your reviewing work changed from then until now, and if so, how?
It all started with the Australian Women Writers Challenge (in 2012) and not a whole lot of forethought. I joined the challenge because it seemed like a good idea at the time; I liked reading books by Australian women and I’d never really tried reviewing much before, so why not. I posted the first few reviews just on my general Tumblr (between pictures of cats) before setting up a dedicated blog (still on Tumblr, I later moved to Blogger because it’s nicer, but all my posts get mirrored on the Tumblr). It kind of snowballed from there. I realised that I’d been a bit isolated from people to talk books to and blogging about them was a good alternate outlet.
So I started with no plan other than the Australian Women Writers Challenge (which, since last year, I’ve become a curator for). When I stopped to think about it, I realised that since I didn’t have the brain space to write much, reading a lot and thinking about what I’m reading was actually a good use of my time. I’ve also intentionally exposed myself to different kinds of writing — horror, Australian-authored science fiction, short stories which I hadn’t read many of since running out of Asimov books in my teens — all of which can only be useful to me down the track. I don’t see myself remaining a reviewer forever, but it’s definitely something I’m going to keep doing for now. And while I’m doing it, I might as well make the most of it. Of course the aspect of promoting little-known books that I like is not something I’ll ever stop doing.
3. Do you have any current writing projects you’d like to share something about? Do you have any plans for your future as a writer?
At the moment my writing is taking a bit of a back seat, not because of the blogging but because I’m currently doing a PhD. Turns out, that takes up a lot of brain space and I just can’t hold enough story points in my head to make any significant progress on a novel. Both a novel and my research take up too much brain-RAM for me to be able to easily switch between them, especially because astrophysics and fiction-writing have almost no overlap, except maybe slightly in the worldbuilding, since I write SF. I’ve still been working on short stories, but not as much as I’d like.
As well as some random short stories, I’ve been working on a few stories set in the same universe as the novels I have sitting around in various stages of (in)completion. The idea is to explore the characters’ early lives and some less visible aspects of worldbuilding. My most recently published story, “Transit of Hadley” in Aurealis #67 is actually set in that universe, but hundreds of years earlier in than the novels.
One day I’d like to get a novel or two into a publishable state, but I’m not sure when that will be. In the meantime, it’s a good opportunity to work on my short stories.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
In reverse order of reading them: I really loved The Year of Ancient Ghosts by Kim Wilkins, which is a collection of really excellent novellas; The Children of the Black Sun trilogy by Jo Spurrier, starting with Winter Be My Shield and recently concluding with North Star Guide Me Home, a complex and fascinating fantasy series; Glenda Larke’s The Lascar’s Dagger, the beginning of a new fantasy series partially set in the spice islands, a part of the world that doesn’t often have a counterpart in fantasy books; and, a bit out of left field, Carrier by Vanessa Garden, a short YA novel set in the post-apocalyptic Australian desert.
5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?
They’ve had some influence on my shifting to reading mostly ebooks. On the other hand, moving two continents away and travelling a lot played a bigger role. I’m happy reading ebooks and books from small presses. I’ve also enjoyed the self-published books I’ve read, although discovery is a bit tricker on that front. In terms of my own work, there’s a certain amount of satisfaction in having a paper book you can display on your shelf and/or hit people with. In some senses, traditional publishing has been flagging in recent years and it’s hard to say in what form it will exist down the line. I don’t think we’ll be saying good-bye to large publishing houses within five years, however. When I eventually do have a novel to shop around, there will be some serious thinking about the best path to take.