Snapshot 2014: Lindy Cameron

Lindy Cameron aAn independent publisher and crime writer, Lindy is author of the Kit O’Malley PI trilogy Blood Guilt, Bleeding Hearts and Thicker Than Water; the archaeological mystery Golden Relic; the action thriller, Redback; and the sf crime Feedback.

She’s also co-author of the true crime collections Killer in the Family & Murder in the Family (with her sister Fin J Ross); and Women Who Kill (with Ruth Wykes).

Lindy is a founding member and National Co-Convenor of Sisters in Crime Australia, and the Publisher of Clan Destine Press.

www.clandestinepress.com.au

1. You have been involved in many aspects of the writing industry – as a writer, as an anthology editor, and now you have your own press, Clan Destine Press, which aims to publish all kinds of genre fiction, both from new writer and established writers.  Since 2010, CDP has produced an impressive array of work, and shows no sign of slowing down.  Can you share something about the process by which you set up CDP, and do you have any advice for anyone who’s thinking of beginning their own small press?

The start-up process for CDP was to jump from high orbit with untested rocket-boots and no parachute.  Since then I’ve been rocketing around like a lunatic collecting authors who are well known in other genres, (with other publishers) and letting them try something different with the Clan.

So, we publish the ancient history novels of famous crime writer Kerry Greenwood; and the gritty crime novels of best-selling fantasy writers Rowena Cory Daniells and Alison Goodman.

We’ve also adopted some well-known writers and their latest books – Narrelle M Harris, Sandy Curtis, Jane Clifton, Jane Routley, Patricia Bernard, Goldie Alexander.

As ‘uncovering new Aussie genre writers’ is one of our prime objectives I’m pleased to say our debut author list is growing too: with urban fantasy already out from Cheryse Durrant and Dean J Anderson; new crime fiction coming from Sandi Wallace and Barry Weston; and new YA specfic from Mary Borsellino.

Some of our authors have taken to writing erotica for our Encounters imprint; and Crime Shots, our true crime imprint, is growing.

We are also determined to thoroughly thrash the outdated concept of any author’s ‘backlist’ by publishing our authors ‘previous novels’ as CDP front list eBooks.

I realise the problem with my rocket-boots was neglecting to factor in a landing pad.

My only real advice for anyone starting their own small press is: ‘be prepared to work 24/7’.

2. Several of your books have won major Australian crime fiction awards.  What is your opinion on the importance of genre awards to Australian writers and readers?  Do you believe that we as a community value our awards enough?

Awards are important – if for no other reason than they draw attention to all the contenders. Once we know what books are eligible for the Aurealis or the Davitts every year, we know what we have to catch up on reading.

While we don’t write for awards (any more than we write for money) their existence gives us writers a standard to aspire to; and a club to hopefully join one day.

3. What can we expect from you, both on an individual level as a writer, and from CDP, in the future?

Redback sm I am currently working on the sequel to my action thriller Redback; and on a timeshift novel featuring archaeologists and Amazons.

It looks like 2015 will be the year of spec-fic and sf for CDP. My coup is the snaffling of Jason Nahrung – he’s mine all mine! – and his awesome outback vampire action duology. There will also be some digital-first space opera from Pete Aldin and Rick Kennet.

One of our newest innovations is Clan Destine Fictions which is a digital imprint that allows us to publish short fiction – in every genre – and in any length from a single short story to a novella, to collections of short stories.

We have published some fantastic – and some award-winning – specfic, horror, sf, crime and cats (yes, cats they’re everywhere) by writers like: Emilie Collyer, Liz Filleul, Lindy Cameron, David Greagg and Sarah Evans

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Jason Nahrung’s Blood & Dust is an incredible action novel that simply oozes the Australian outback; Ellie Marney’s YA crime novel Every Breath is breathtakingly good; and now I’m headlong into Alan Baxter’s excellent Bound.

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?

I am living the changes in the publishing industry and trying to make them all work for CDP and my authors.

I do wish the indie booksellers who complain about people buying online, would actually commit to stocking and promoting Australian books from Australian (indie) publishers – then the paperback just might survive in a real-world bookshops.

 



SnaphotLogo2014This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 
Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at: Tsana DolichvaNick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright.

Snapshot: Russell B. Farr

Russell B. Farr is the founder of Ticonderoga Publications. In 2013 he was awarded the A. Bertram Chandler Award for outstanding achievement in Australian Science Fiction. His life revolves around his incredible wife Liz Grzyb, and he is ruled by their cat.

1. Ticonderoga Publications has published an incredible variety of books since it was founded in 1996. Ticonderoga has contributed to the careers of many of Australia’s speculative fiction authors, and has published many successful collected works. The most recent release is Janeen Webb’s Death at the Blue Elephant. Can you tell us something about the process by which you work with authors to produce a collected work?

Working with Janeen Webb was fabulous and painless. I’ve been a fan of Janeen’s work for quite some time, and during a brave moment suggested that we do a collection. It’s hard to describe the process of putting together a book like this because things came together wonderfully and smoothly, almost organically. It’s a collaborative process, a shared vision, even though the final book I think has exceeded both our expectations.

Generally speaking, collections start with me, in an instant of fear-induced courage, approaching a writer whose work I love. Some, like Greg Mellor, turn up on the doorstep with a recommendation from a writer whose work I love (something along the lines of “you really need to publish this person, or else”). Either way, I have to love the stories: I’m not going to publish a book that I can’t personally recommend.

There’s almost always an interesting discussion around how much original content a collection should have. Much as I love to be publishing lots of original stories, I think it’s important that there be a balance – any original story in a TP collection is one less story a writer could be getting another payment elsewhere, and I’d like to make sure writers get paid. Some writers want lots of original stories in collections. Depending on the collection, between 2 and 4 originals can be a good balance.

I’m keen to involve writers in the cover design; it’s important that the writers get a book that they are proud of. While we can’t always afford to give a writer the absolute book of their dreams, I’m confident that every one of our writers loves the way their book looks.

There’s an art to putting stories in order. Some stories play well together, others don’t. It may just be a turn of phrase that a couple have in common: gotta keep them separated. I like to balance longer and shorter pieces, and finish the book on a story that ends with hope.

2. When Ticonderoga Publications was founded, what did you envision for its future? Has that vision changed in the years since, and if so, how?

There were no long term plans when TP kicked off, it started with me reading a bunch of stories by the late Steven Utley and wondering why no one had published a collection of his work (ah the days of being a 23 year-old with attitude). The result was Ghost Seas, still one of my favourite books. Then I started looking around at Australian writers publishing brilliant and uncollected short stories. It was definitely a project to project approach, with no real long-term vision.

Some of that hasn’t changed, I still think that at our core we’re looking to bring books into the world that deserve to be read and enjoyed. A few years back I started almost over-planning things, working to make sure we produced a number of titles with a cross-genre spread each year. That worked until life happened, as it is wont to do, and the inflexibility became a bit of a burden.

I’m still looking for a happy medium, where all our books get the attention they deserve, are released to a schedule, but there’s a flexibility that allows for some spontaneity.

3. What can we expect to see from Ticonderoga Publications in the future?

Beautiful books. Too many books, as we’re a little off schedule this year. August should see a limited hardcover edition of Angela Slatter’s Black-Winged Angels, illustrated by Kathleen Jennings and introduced by Juliet Marillier. Also coming up is the first novel in a fantasy series, The Assassin of Nara, by R.J. Ashby. There’s a steampunk novel, The Emerald Key, by Christine Purcell and Stuart Sternberg. Our fourth Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror will hit the shelves shortly. There’s a fantastic collection by Ian McHugh, Angel Dust. I’m hoping to round out the year with Aurum, our 50th title, an anthology of original novellas by a bunch of writers I’m really excited by.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

You mean reading actual published books? I’m woefully behind on my reading pile (and sadly only a bit more up to date on my slush reading). I’ve loved Jo Anderton’s Suited and Debris (haven’t read Guardian yet). I’m currently sitting on some fabulous novellas by Anderton, Susan Wardle, Angie Rega, and yourself, among others. Loved Kate Forsyth’s The Wild Girl. Most of the time if I’m reading genre I’m feeling guilty about not reading some of the fabulous subs waiting for my attention.

Publishing the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror series has been fortuitous – Talie Helene and Liz Grzyb present me each year with a bunch of stories by writers like Angela Slatter, Lisa Hannett, Isobel Carmody, Margo Lanagan, Martin Livings, Ian McHugh, Anna Tambour, Dirk Flinthart, Jason Fischer, Kaaron Warren, Thoraiya Dyer, Terry Dowling, Richard Harland, Cat Sparks, Robert Hood – I’d say ‘the usual suspects’ but these days it’s more of a chorus line than a line-up.

Of course I’ve loved every book we’ve published recently, too!

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?

Recent changes like crowd-sourcing, ebooks, and online vs bricks and mortar selling, probably haven’t made things easier for us. Ebooks have been a disappointment, as I’m yet to feel truly comfortably with the quality of the medium – I have a feel for what looks good on a printed page, but still struggle with a medium that comes with multiple formats and that I can’t control the way the finished product is displayed. I like to make good looking books, and I don’t feel the same sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in making ebooks.

Crowd-sourcing is a good model for some industries, like gaming and film, where there’s a lot of up-front developmental costs and it’s really about a single product. I’m not sure that it translates well to publishing: the goal of a press should be sustainability, not a one-off book. When we say we’ll publish a book, we will. It doesn’t matter if we get 100 pre-orders or 0. While participating in a crowd sourced venture, promising someone money to do something cool, does have an emotional payback: that overt feeling of satisfaction to know that coolness happened partly because of your contribution. I’d like to think that you can also get that feeling from buying from a small press publisher. Anyone who buys a Ticonderoga book can say that they have contributed to the creation of all of our books.

If I’m still making books in 2019 I’d like to hope that they are still beautiful, meaningful, thoughtful, and entertaining. If they can be profitable by then that would be a bonus. I’d like to be publishing a good mix of short fiction and novels, maybe have ticked off a few more names on my hit list of writers I’d love to work with (and some folks only just beginning their careers). Maybe by then I’ll have things worked out so I can read more of everything.

Five years from now I’ll have been doing Ticonderoga half of my life. That’s a scary thought.

 

 

 



SnaphotLogo2014This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 
Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at: Tsana DolichvaNick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright.

Snapshot 2014: Pia van Ravestein (Pia Ravenari)

paperblanks - portrait 650x482 JPEGPIA VAN RAVESTEIN lives in Ellenbrook, Western Australia. She studied writing and scriptwriting at university, and has published short stories and won several poetry competitions. Recently, after several years of focusing almost exclusively on her artwork (including the cover of Juliet Marillier’s Prickle Moon), Pia has returned to hard science fiction, m/m erotica, fantasy and Australian literature writing. She is hoping to find some kind of balance between the visual and written arts, which mostly involves chaotically bouncing between the two.

Pia’s artwork gallery, under the name Pia Ravenari, can be found at deviantart.

1. Your short story, Street Dancer, published in the Ticonderoga Publications anthology Dreaming of Djinn, recently won a 2014 Tin Duck award for the best Western Australian short story.  First of all, congratulations on the win.  The story contains both memorable characters and gives the reader a glimpse into a fascinating world (and has the best cat ever to be written in a short story).  When you’re writing, do you find that you start with characters or worldbulding first?  Are you the kind of writer who tends to do a lot of research?

That cat needs a book of his own, I swear. With writing, it really depends. Street Dancer was about the characters. I really wanted to write about these two men in love, where one was a male street dancer (specifically bellydancing) and the other was in many ways his opposite. The world was incidental at first, until I realised they had a mechanical cat that needed repairing, that the sky they looked towards was constantly polluted due to exhaust fumes. But the worldbuilding definitely came second. There always comes a point for me where eventually the worldbuilding is as important and everything intertwines and becomes interdependent on each other (like any good relationship) – but until that point, I’m all about characters.

I really enjoy research, and sometimes suffer from doing so much that I can intimidate myself out of a story – I deal with that by just throwing myself in the deep end and researching as I go. I have the habit of picking up new side hobbies from research – for example, I’ve become something of an amateur meteorologist and avid cloud-watcher thanks to researching weather patterns and inclement weather for a science fiction trilogy.

2. As well as being a writer, you’re also a prolific artist, and have illustrated several book covers, with your first foray into illustrating speculative fiction being the cover for Juliet Marillier’s Ticonderoga Publications collection, Prickle Moon.  How does your process work as a cover artist, creating the kind of cover that a writer and publisher, as well as you, are happy with?

Click to view full size at Deviantart.

Full artwork for Prickle Moon. Click to view full size at Deviantart.

pricklemoonI was really fortunate to work with Juliet Marillier and Ticonderoga, who were both so generous with their time and thoughts and willingness to give me a lot of creative control. Juliet and I conceived the cover together – she had an idea of what sort of feeling and energy she wanted to convey, as well as the subject matter, and I brought a sketchpad and did some very rough mock-ups for her to look at and choose what she liked most. We were in an unusual situation in that not many publishers let an author choose their cover artist, and not many authors and cover artists get to collaborate together in such an awesome way; so I suspect my process with the Prickle Moon cover might not be repeated again in the same way in the future. But it was a great way to create something that felt atmospheric and magical, using art to really communicate elements of such wonderful writing.

As for that process, I went from sketches, to a rough draft, to a more formal draft, into the actual inking / colouring – sending updates as I went. I worked in traditional mediums – ink and coloured pencil, and the detailed original took a few months to create. The original is now with Juliet, which is very humbling. Communication and making sure folks are in the loop are two important parts of how I work as an artist – it seems to work okay!

3. What can we expect from you in the future?  Are you open to offers to illustrate more book covers?

I’m definitely open to internal illustration / external cover work at the moment, as long as people are happy to have my style. I have an Australian literature novel I’d like to start sending around to agents at the end of the year, and I have a science fiction trilogy that I’m still sinking my teeth into. I’m aiming to start writing more spec fic short stories in the last half of 2014 / beginning of 2015. I’ve been very busy writing LGBTQIA fantasy and erotica under a different name, and that’s been going very well and has gotten me in touch with some amazing artists and writers. After a hiatus from artwork, I’m heading back into it, especially works associated with fantasy, science fiction, horror that have a heavy thematic bent towards the natural world.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

The Ticonderoga anthology, Kisses by Clockwork, was incredible. I’ve been re-reading Cecilia Dart Thornton’s Bitterbynde Trilogy; which I always seem to do at least once a year. C. S. Pacat is releasing the third Captive Prince novel this year and I’m so excited for that I actually feel like I’m going to explode whenever I consider it (the first two novels are exquisite, and I love the thought that’s gone into the worldbuilding, and the astute characterisation).

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?

It’s funny, you know, but alongside the original fiction and the artwork, I’m actually an avid fanfiction writer and reader and really love that world of things as well. It’s becoming more accepted (slowly, painfully) amongst original content writers to sort of admit that they have affiliations with fanfiction and fanworks, and I’ve noticed a lot more interplay between fanfiction authors becoming published (not always a good thing – but sometimes it is!) and original content authors being more willing to admit they write, or wrote, fanfiction. I actually really love the fanfiction model of content release – serialised format, liberal warnings for those who are possibly triggered by content, easy accessibility and often more experimental styles of narration, and a greater willingness to include erotica in fleshed out stories. Some of the best Australian writers I’m reading this year are writing fanfiction.

That, as well as the world of self-publishing and online indie publishing, has really influenced how I look at the world of publishing and what it can do for me. The traditional model doesn’t really some of my preferred genres of writing, and I’m finding a surprising amount of success using a fanfiction model for original writing. I know authors like C.S. Pacat have found the same.

As for what I think I’ll be publishing / writing / reading, hmmm. Publishing – hopefully a mix of things! I’ve never been content to be tied down to one genre. As for writing, I have book ideas that are planned / plotted out in LGBTQIA fantasy and erotica that will see me through the next 5-7 years and an Australian literature novel that I’d like to have completed by 2020. Short stories are back on the table in spec fic, as well as a few novel ideas. As for reading, I seem to have settled between a 60 / 40 split between fanfiction and original fiction. I’m hoping to get that back to about 50 / 50 – but reading fanfiction and finding things that cater so specifically to my needs as a reader has made me a lot more discerning about what I’ll spend time reading in terms of original content work – so we’ll see!

 



SnaphotLogo2014This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 
Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at: Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright.

Snapshot 2014: Allyse Near

author photoBorn in 1989, Allyse Near counts Neil Gaiman, Angela Carter, Francesca Lia Block and the Brothers Grimm among her biggest literary influences. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts from Deakin University, majoring in Professional and Creative Writing, and won Deakin’s inaugural Judith Rodriguez Prize for Fiction for her short story ‘Venus In The Twelfth House’ while in her second year.

Allyse writes deconstructed pulp-fairytales that almost always revolve around women, the wilderness and witchcraft. Her debut novel is ‘Fairytales for Wilde Girls’.

 

 

1. Your debut novel, Fairytales for Wilde Girls, recently won Aurealis Awards in both the Best YA and Best Horror Novel categories, and was shortlisted for the Children’s Book of the Year Awards.  First of all, congratulations!  How does it feel to have your first novel garner so much positive attention?  Did you ever think that you were writing something that would win and be shortlisted for national awards?

Thank you – and not at all! It was supremely cool and unexpected to win both Aurealis Awards I was nominated for. I didn’t even write an acceptance speech beforehand – it felt too optimistic! The CBCA nomination is great, too – I can tell relatives that it’s the one that puts the little golden-bronze medallion on the book cover and they know exactly what I’m talking about.

 

fairytales cover

 

2. Fairytales for Wilde Girls is your first novel, and a pretty spectacular debut.  Can you tell us anything about what inspired it, and about the process of writing it and getting it published?

I wrote it in a feverish whirlwind, actually spending much longer on the subsequent editing than the initial book-crafting, and I’ve got to say, if you don’t enjoy line editing then you won’t like being a writer since that’s the bulk of it! ‘Fairytales’ was two projects originally, the major one being a book of short, original Grimm-style fairy-stories, and the second a vague scrap about a girl with six magical guardians who represented facets of her personality and past. Those projects collided and made a baby, and that baby became ‘Fairytales for Wilde Girls’. I sent the first fifty pages to Pippa Masson at Curtis Brown Australia, and then she got me signed up with Zoe Walton at Random House Australia.


3. What do you have planned next for your writing career?  

Next up I’ve got The New Book, which currently has two warring titles (neither of which is ‘The New Book’ – it’s just a placeholder). I think of it as a big, poisoned wedding cake of a novel, about a teenaged mother trapped in a cult, and the twistedness of child beauty pageants, and the memories contained in childhood dolls. I’m hoping to wrap it up in the next month, so it can be sent off for publishing in 2015. In the future I’d love to collaborate on a graphic novel, write something spooky for adults, and one day write a princess movie for Disney. Those are the ultimate dreams!

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Well, it’s awards season, so there’s so much on my to-be-read pile! Most recently, I’ve enjoyed Margo Lanagan’s ‘Black Juice’ – I love short stories, and she’s just so, so good it – and I’ve just started on Melissa Keil’s ‘Life in Outer Space’, which promises to be a super-fun read.

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?

If books are to survive in the digital world – and they will! – then I want to see a return to leather covers, embossed spines, gilded edges, art, texture – that’s my dream! I want to see book designs become more sensory, to play up the differences between digital and physical books. If people are going to spend more on paper books then I want them to be worth it. For example, I specifically asked for character portraits in my novel because I wanted it to have that tactile feel of a proper book of fairytales, which always had those bookplate-style illustrations inserted between stories.

 



SnaphotLogo2014This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 
Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at: Tsana DolichvaNick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright.

Snapshot 2014: Lisa L. Hannett

lisahannett

Lisa L Hannett has had over 55 short stories appear in venues including ClarkesworldFantasyWeird TalesChiZine, the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror (2010, 2011 & 2012), and Imaginarium: Best Canadian Speculative Writing (2012 & 2013). She has won three Aurealis Awards, including Best Collection 2011 for her first book, Bluegrass Symphony, which was also nominated for a World Fantasy Award. Her first novel,Lament for the Afterlife, is being published by CZP in 2015. You can find her online at http://lisahannett.com and on Twitter @LisaLHannett.

 

 

1.  The collection co-authored by you and Angela Slatter, The Female Factory, is due out this year from Twelfth Planet Press (as part of the Twelve Planets series).  This is the second collection that you and Angela Slatter have co-authored (the first being Midnight and Moonshine, from Ticonderoga Press).  Can you tell us something about how you and Angela Slatter came to collaborate (and to do so very successfully), and how the process of collaboration works for you both?

The first and most important step in our collaboration process, I’d say, is that Angela and I already knew each other, and knew each other’s work intimately, before we decided to try writing something together. We’d spent six weeks critiquing each other’s stories at Clarion South in 2009, so we knew that we could give and take criticism from each other — and, more crucially, that the feedback we gave each other was usually helpful (or, indeed, spot-on). So before we put our minds together on a co-authored work, we already trusted each other immensely. That trust is what has kept us working together since our first story, ‘The February Dragon’, came out in 2010. (An added bonus, of course, is that this first collaboration won ‘Best Fantasy Short Story’ at the Aurealis Awards! That was certainly encouraging!)

As for the nuts and bolts of how we collaborate: we usually start with an idea sparking an excited What if? discussion; an image or concept that leads to a flurry of questions like, “what if this happened” and “what if she does this” and “what if they do this because of that — oooh, and then that…” Since we live on opposite sides of the country, this is done via email, text messages, Skype and over the phone. With Midnight and Moonshine, we spent a productive day at a convention one year, holed up in our hotel room, plotting the story arc for the book as a whole, roughly planning how each story would lead into the next, and so on. It was great fun getting to brainstorm in person!

Next, we usually compile our scribbles and brainstormed thoughts and share them to make sure we’re both on the same page. From there, one of us will start a draft of the story — and how far we go with each draft changes from story to story. If we’re feeling inspired, we might scribble down a whole draft before we send it back; if not, we write until the words run out, then hand it over with a rough “This is where I think the story’s going…” note attached. Sometimes the story comes out chronologically, but sometimes we’ll build it all out of sequence, jumping between early scenes and later ones, until the whole thing comes together. The story flies back and forth until it’s done — and with two of us working on it, this usually means there are way more drafts than if I’m working on a piece solo. Meanwhile, we use track changes and comments until the document is multi-coloured and the margins riddled with bubbles; so we ‘talk’ to each other throughout the writing and editing process, making it perfectly clear why we’ve made the changes we’ve made, added the things we have, deleted or rearranged scenes the way we have, etc.

Good communication + bearing in mind that you are sharing this work / it is not yours alone + not being precious about changes +  being willing to compromise = continued and happy collaborations.

2. Your short stories have garnered an impressive number of awards, reprints in Year’s Best anthologies and honourable mentions in several of Ellen Datlow’s Year’s Best Horror anthologies.  How much do you feel that awards and recognitions feed into the strength of the speculative fiction community in Australia?  Do you feel that we value our awards enough?

This is a tough question (also: thank you!) and one I’ve thought about a lot in the past, so please excuse me if I blab at length.

I love to see people win awards. I love going to awards shows. I love seeing shortlists and longlists and honourable mentions lists and lists of winners. I think awards are valuable inasmuch as they (a) make a few writers feel pretty darned chuffed every now and again, and (b) they have the potential to generate interest in a given work and/or publisher, for a little while. (This is why I like lists of all kinds: they’re handy reference points for seeking out authors or new works I haven’t read yet.) But at the same time, awards shouldn’t be seen as the be-all and end-all of writing.

Don’t get me wrong: I was super-excited when Bluegrass Symphony was nominated for a World Fantasy Award. (Writer = CHUFFED!) And I have no doubt that the shortlisting brought my work to the attention of some folks that otherwise wouldn’t have seen it. Winning two Aurealis Awards for Bluegrass was also wonderful because it felt like a shining moment of recognition by my peers in Australia. So in that sense, the “chuffed” factor does help to strengthen the speculative fiction community here in Australia; telling other people in an industry that you love that you think their work is special is good for morale, it is encouraging, and it helps to perpetuate great writing. But that doesn’t mean that the writers whose works haven’t been nominated aren’t awesome, that their work isn’t worth spruiking, or that their stories aren’t as good (or better) than the ones that happened to appear on awards lists that year.

There are so many factors that affect how awards are given that, really, you only have to give them as much or as little value as you see fit. In recent years, the Aurealis Awards have seemed to become really respected in our community. Authors and publishers alike pay attention to the AA shortlists because they’ve tended to get more “right” (according to popular opinion) than “wrong”. But having said that, I think the concept of “right” and “wrong” when it comes to awards is a skewed one. After all, the whole process is so subjective. They’re basically like reviews on a grander scale (but with far fewer words).

Awards panels are made up of people, with biases and unique tastes, which may or may not have a liking for your particular flavour of fiction. That doesn’t necessarily mean your flavour of fiction is horrible. Same thing applies to editors of Best of anthologies: these people are readers, with likes and dislikes, just like the rest of us. One editor might hate your story while another one loves it to pieces. Fan-decided awards may have a small pool of voters that all love certain authors that year; that doesn’t mean they are “better” or “worse” than up-and-comers who haven’t yet burst onto the scene. There may have been a dozen absolutely brilliant novels published the same year yours came out; some will win awards, others will be overlooked. The long and short of it, to quote Vonnegut, is: “So it goes.”

3. What can we expect from you in the future?  Do you have any plans to move into longer form work?

Yes, absolutely. My first novel, Lament for the Afterlife, is being published by ChiZine Publications next year (keep an eye out for it around August). Lament (as the title suggests) is a dark book; it’s a speculation on war, following the story of one young soldier, Peytr Borysson, as he tries to cope with things he’s done on the battlefield. Think Platoon meets Pan’s Labyrinth; fantasy and war all mixed together.

At the moment I’m working on a second novel, an historical speculative fiction about one of the first settlers of Iceland, a woman named Unnr the Deep-Minded who lived in the late 10th century. I did my PhD in medieval Icelandic literature, so this novel is built on previous research and is also a labour of love: Unnr is a fascinating character, and the sagas have so much magic in them, that the lure of writing her story was impossible to resist. Finally, I also have another novel in draft form, which is percolating in my desk drawer for a while. It’s called The Familiar and it revolves around witches and shapeshifting lunatics, and is the first book in a possible series of three.

In the meantime, I’m also working on short stories because I love writing short so much!

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Although I’ve read them recently, these aren’t all necessarily new works, but I’ll mention them all anyway. I love Kirstyn McDermott’s writing, so I have thoroughly enjoyed her latest novel Perfections as well as her Twelve Planets collection, Caution: Contains Small Parts. An older pair of books I had a blast reading was Juliet Marillier’s ‘Light Isles’ duology, Wolfskin and Foxmask (Vikings and fantasy! Right up my alley.) I was also delighted to get a copy of Jo Anderton’s Guardian — which I’ve only just started, but love being back in the world she built in Debris and Suited (which I have read, and have loved!) — and I’ve been dipping in and out of her Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, too. Another great book I’ve been savouring is Anna Tambour’s Crandolin — such a delicious work! I’m very much looking forward to seeing Angela Slatter’s Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings in print later this year (I’ve had a sneak peek at it, and it is MARVELLOUS) and it will also be great to see Black-Winged Angels come out — complete with gorgeous illustrations by Kathleen Jennings. Last but not least, I picked up a copy of Alan Baxter’s Bound the other day and I can’t wait to get stuck into it.

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 haven’t affected the way I work, but certainly have the way I read. In terms of writing, the only time I’d bear different platforms in mind was when submitting to a magazine that only publishes online — few people want to read 10,000 words on a computer screen. Having said that, with so many e-platforms available (iPads, etc) even that isn’t a huge concern anymore. In terms of reading, though, changes in publishing have seen me buying a lot more books, full stop. I still buy paper books, and now also buy heaps of e-books. I do a lot more impulse buying on my Kindle than I ever did on Book Depository… and I buy a lot more novellas because they are so affordable and so easy to get on the Kindle than ever before.

As for the five year prediction? I imagine I’ll still be reading widely (I read a lot more Lit fiction than anything else nowadays, but get as much SpecFic in there as possible!) and I’ll probably happily embrace whatever wacky book-related technology gets thrown my way. Reading addicts, like me, will read whatever, whenever, howsoever it gets presented to them; I can’t imagine I’ll change much in that respect in the next five years. Ditto with what I’ll be writing: I am always drawn to stories with speculative elements, so whether I’m writing secondary world stuff or historical fiction, it will have a supernatural twist. Also, I’ve got another collection of interconnected short stories on the boil (tales of fantastical foods), and would love to see that come to life within the next few years.

 



SnaphotLogo2014This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 
Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at: Tsana DolichvaNick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright.

Snapshot 2014: Nalini Haynes

photo by Kevin Mark

photo by Kevin Mark

Nalini Haynes has always loved science fiction and fantasy because her extended family brought her up in the way she should go by reading to her and terrifying her with Doctor Who. Nalini was selected for Adelaide Fringe Festivals’ upstART program in 2007/2008 and won the Dawn Slade-Faull Award (2008) for her artwork prior to moving to Melbourne. In 2010 Nalini founded Dark Matter Zine, now an online magazine focusing on pop culture, literature and publishing. In 2013, Nalini won the Chronos Award for Best Fan Writer in addition to being shortlisted for several other awards (2012-2014) in recognition of her work on Dark Matter.

Nalini is one of the contributors to Jim C Hines’s Invisible anthology discussing representation in SF and fantasy. Her contribution, ‘Evil Albino Trope is Evil’ can be found here for free but proceeds for the anthology go to Con or Bust.

Dark Matter Zine can be found here:

1. You have been running Dark Matter Zine since 2010; as a PDF-based ‘zine originally, then becoming an online entity in 2012.  What are some of the challenges you’ve run into in growing a project as large as DMZ has become?  Do you have any advice for other people who are looking at starting ‘zines of their own, in any medium?

Um. Where to begin??? Challenges I’ve faced:

  • Layout of the PDF zine took FOREVER even though it was quite a simple format; individual posts in a website are much easier and less time-consuming.
  • Website design and maintenance
  • Software challenges; these are Never Ending Stories
  • Time management; what to do and what to leave out; managing other people’s expectations
  • Sleeping at night because I HAVEN’T FINISHED ALL THE THINGS

Advice:

  • Look at what you like and don’t like before deciding on your format and style. Make your creation true to you; you’ll have more energy to sustain your project long-term.
  • Be prepared for people to flame, troll and bully you. The first hundred times this will take you by surprise so having a set process/plan is good; this way you won’t react, you’ll respond according to your plan. Remember: if you haven’t been flamed, trolled or bullied, you haven’t made an impact yet.
  • Avoid sites/writers/podcasters who slander, libel or give unfair criticism. Constructive criticism is excellent but exposing yourself to diatribe that is really just people shitting on you is pointless self-flagellation AND A WASTE OF TIME. Rolling in toxic waste will NOT turn you into a kick-ass turtle.
  • Be prepared for requests. At first no-one will send media passes or books for review. When you become established, you’ll receive lots of ‘Hi, review my book’ and ‘Will you interview me?’ This is fabulous then the issue becomes battling burn out. Most zines, online or offline, only last a year or two. If you want to make an impact, you must plan for long-term survival in the midst of the zombie apocalypse.

2. As well as organising a staff of reviewers, you write a lot of reviews yourself.  What are your opinions on the responsibility of reviewers, especially in a relatively small community such as Australian speculative fiction?  Do you feel that people who volunteer their time as reviewers are valued enough by the community?

 

Here at Dark Matter Zine we do so much more than just reviewing: we do interviews, cover launches and other events, we publish articles on various topics as well as publishing the very occasional fiction story. I love and adore all Dark Matter Zine’s readers, of whom there are over 1100 per day on average for July 2014; readers are snowballing. The shattering of breaking records is music to my ears. 🙂

We have reviewed some Australian works from Ticonderoga Publications, Clan Destine Press, Allen & Unwin, Scribe, Hachette, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Penguin and HarperCollins – aren’t they fabulous for sending review copies? Overseas publishers also post books from New York and London because a large part of Dark Matter’s readership is global, with US readers usually outnumbering Aussies alongside a huge chunk of other traffic from countries like Canada, UK, Turkey, China and the Rest of the World (Goodies reference). I am in awe of our global readers!

In my opinion reviews need to be honest to respect both authors and readers. Reviews should take into account personal opinion, target market and what the author is trying to achieve while endeavouring to avoid reviewer/author conflict. I also try to assign books to a reviewer who is, most likely, going to enjoy that book – or at least enjoys that genre. For example, Bec Muir is a devout Christian who enjoys magical fantasy but has negatively reviewed books with ‘New Age’ tropes and challenging relationships; thus Dave Freer’s Cuttlefish and Steam Mole were perfect for Bec while I have discouraged her from reviewing Kim Falconer’s trilogies with pagan witches. CJ loves horror, from Stephen King to cheese (e.g. Sharknado). CJ enjoys Charlaine Harris but dislikes paranormal romance. Evie and Liz enjoy paranormal romance… You get the idea.

Reviewers are not valued enough within the SF author/editor community. I see people complain about lack of reviews and yet when we write reviews, some authors feel free to violate reviewers’ copyright by copying and pasting entire reviews to their websites! Isobelle Carmody, consummate professional that she is, asked permission to post an excerpt – a portion of a paragraph – before posting that with links to my website. Kudos to Isobelle and others like her.

I urge authors, editors and publishers to think twice about copying and pasting reviews without permission. For sites like Dark Matter, our reward – our PAYMENT – for our countless hours of work is traffic. If you’re copying reviews to your website instead of just posting links, you’re robbing us of our ‘payment’. Traffic can open doors to media passes, interviews, more review copies etc. In contrast, denying us our traffic removes incentive to spend hours writing those reviews. If you ask permission, a suitable excerpt can often be negotiated with links back to the full interview on Dark Matter Zine.

 

3. What are your plans for the future of Dark Matter Zine?

I’d like Dark Matter to become a pop culture & literature icon, a platform to feature creators and creations, facilitating discussion and more. In my wildest dreams Dark Matter earns enough or fan funds decide to support creators by sending me to various conventions to interview authors, report on conventions, photograph cosplay…

It’s a dream.

At this point I’d be happy if Dark Matter paid its own bills and I could buy a decent camcorder for interviews.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Jo Spurrier’s Children of the Black Sun because it features all the social justice issues: race, gender, class, sexual orientation and disability by an author with a disability. So often people talk about ‘White Male Privilege’ but fail to acknowledge disability because disability is even lower on the sociological ladder than gender, race, religion, LGBT et al; disability remains invisible. Likewise, I enjoyed Alison Goodman’s A New Kind of Death. Both works exhibit excellent writing from talented authors.

Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan is absolutely adorable, revealing more with every reread. I’ve also enjoyed Isobelle Carmody’s Red Wind SF/F series for children.

Readers may notice that I recently gave Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier 5 stars and I posted her book launch, complete with author talk, on DMZ. 🙂

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?

Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work?

RMIT has recognised changes in the publishing industry, recognising the value of online skills and experience; this meant Dark Matter Zine’s analytics helped win my place at RMIT. That’s right – all you gorgeous people who visit Dark Matter Zine helped me gain entry into the associate degree of Professional Writing and Editing and you’ve helped me impress my lecturers since. I LOVE YOU ALL.

I’ve learnt HTML code for Dark Matter alongside a lot of other, more basic, attributes of Word Press and installed various plugins to help users access Dark Matter. Having received high distinctions for 2 IT subjects at RMIT, I’m embarking on a 3rdAdvanced Desktop Publishing – where I will, once again, create a paper magazine as one of my assessment pieces. It could be argued that these developments aren’t part of publishing industry changes per se but they directly affect Dark Matter as a published magazine.

What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

I’ll be reading more diversity in literature; there’s a current trend to publish more diverse material, even in the Big 5 publishing companies who tend to be risk-averse. I suspect that the current Australian government’s policies, reverting Australia back to the early 20th century, will cause a backlash locally and internationally. Ripple effects will include more diversity and more tolerance from some with more bigotry – possibly even violence – from others. Those ‘at the back of the bus’ and those refused entry to the bus will become martyrs once more while passive bystanders record incidents on their phones. When the dust settles, we’ll take 2 steps forward then one step backwards, but there will be some progress.

I have a few stories percolating right now. One is an urban fantasy where a woman is in an abusive relationship; think Being Human crossed with Ilsa Evans’s Broken. As a former counsellor with a focus on domestic violence I feel I’m peculiarly suited to write this one, which I’m working on for the Building a Strong Narrative subject this semester. Another story features a vision impaired person forced – by the government – to accept bionic eyes. This woman is forever changed, affecting her career, her marriage and her very being. Again, my psychology and counselling studies, as well as my disability, give me unusual insight into this story. If anyone reading this says “I’ll pinch those ideas”, imagine how embarrassing it’d be if you did, only to have a crip do it better. 😛

In 5 years time… I don’t know. I imagine Dark Matter will still be rolling but it will metamorphose. Dark Matter is like a child, always growing, changing and surprising even me. I’d like to have a paying job in 5 years but a mentor in a disability mentoring program informed me no-one in the publishing industry will give me a job due to my bad eyesight. L I’d like to publish anthologies of short stories but, without a job to financially back a publishing venture, I’m too nervous. I think I’d be a kick-ass editor, though. I read stuff and want to edit it – CONTINUITY! POLISH! – but I’d have to do it independently if no-one else will employ me. I’d like to write stories and be published; I have LOTS of ideas for stories. As a child I used to tell myself stories when I couldn’t read because BOREDOM but I was told women didn’t get published unless they pretended to be men (e.g. Henry Handel Richardson). Boy was I surprised to discover Andre Norton and Ursula le Guin were women. (Seriousy!) Now I’d like to join the other side of the publishing divide.



SnaphotLogo2014This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 
Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at: Tsana DolichvaNick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright.

Snapshot 2014: Zena Shapter

ZenaAHWAwinZena Shapter is a Ditmar award-winning author who loves putting characters inside the most perfect storm of their lives, then watching how they get out. She writes wild rides through the gulches of adventure that spit you out breathless, and close-to-reality books of the unexplained. She also likes to travel, having visited almost 50 countries to date in search of story inspiration. She’s won seven national fiction competitions (all blind judging) and has been published in anthologies such as “Award-Winning Australian Writing” and magazines such as Midnight Echo. Read her and follow Zena’s writing journey through the links on her website at www.zenashapter.com

1. As well as being a writer carving out a successful career, you teach other writers how to use social media to forward their own careers.  Do you believe that it is absolutely necessary for new writers to have a strong social media presence?

What a fantastic first question, Steph! Publishers today often talk about author platforms and say that an online presence is an absolute necessity for new writers. I agree that a ‘presence’ is necessary – a simple website with a contact form to enable fans to communicate with you. But a static website is not social media. Social media involves active dialogue, chatting with fans on a regular basis and keeping them interested in your work even when you’ve nothing new for them to read just yet. It’s a useful tool in a writer’s self-promotional toolkit, however it’s not the only option. If you want to carve out a successful career as a new writer, you actually have three options:

  1. Write masterful stories that demand to be read, which spread such a level of enjoyment that those stories speak for you as a writer.
  2. Physically meet and engage with readers and other writers on a meaningful level, such that they are happy to speak for you as a writer.
  3. Develop and foster a strong social media presence so that you can speak for yourself as a writer.

Ideally, of course, you’d do all three options. But Australia is so large that travelling to meet readers and writers simply isn’t as easy as in other countries, so social media becomes an alternative to that. And however masterful your story, once in the market it still has to compete against established names, so social media can help get your name ‘out there’ and deliver your high concept work to readers.

For social media to be effective, though, your heart has to be in it. Social media is all about engagement, about talking to people and being available to them. Think of social media like answering the phone – people want to hear something when they call, not just a silent line or a pre-recorded promotional message. You only get out of social media what you put in, so the key is to find the one channel that suits you and your lifestyle best, then to embrace it entirely.

2. You have won a number of short story competitions.  Do you believe that competitions are a good way for new writers to break into the field?  Do you have any advice for writers seeking to enter competitions?

To date I’ve won seven national competitions, all blind judging, and I’m very proud of that – a lot of writers would like to win just one! But I didn’t start entering competitions to break into the field. I wanted to know if I was any good as a writer and competitions were the perfect way to find out. Just as every performer has to deal with nerves, writers have to deal with self-doubt, and winning one competition after another was my way of proving to myself that I could write, and write well. After a while I realised that, yes, readers were connecting with my stories, and that was an amazing feeling. It’s that degree of confidence in my abilities that has helped me more than anything, because it’s kept me going and makes me push harder.

The thing to remember about entering competitions, though, is that it’s a competition with competitors. You’re up against writers who are determined, dedicated, experimental, inventive, talented and open. So if you’re seeking to win a competition, and you have any nagging doubts about your entry, I’d recommend you fix it before you send in your story because that’s what those other writers are doing – that’s what I’m doing. Don’t send your story in with the ‘hope’ that it might win – send it in with a knowledge that it will.

3. By any account, you’re a writer on the way up (with the Best New Talent Ditmar to prove it).  What can readers expect from you next?

I still can’t believe I won that Ditmar! It came at the best time too, shaking me out of a self-confidence low patch. I couldn’t believe I had that many supporters, that I had a watching and waiting readership! So I’m more determined than ever now to get a novel to them as quickly as possible, and my agent and I are working that. I can’t wait for you to read what’s on my computer! There will most likely be some more short stories too. To find out what gets published first and when, just follow my blog via www.zenashapter.com/blog or like my Facebook page on https://www.facebook.com/ZenaShapter. I’ll be sharing all my writing thoughts and developments on there. There’s some free short fiction to read too – just follow the links on my website.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – I love first person stories. This is one of the best.
  • Anywhere But Earth edited by Keith Stevenson – sci fi short stories written by a bunch of awesome Aussie authors. Yes please!
  • Empress of Mijak by Karen Miller – it vividly transported me to a fantasy land that has inspired me as both writer and reader.

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?

Change itself is never new. Humans are always evolving as a species, so too are our business practices and leisure pursuits. But the one thing that will never change is our love of story. We have always loved a good story and always will. So in that respect, the way I work hasn’t and won’t change. I will always be searching for, thinking about and creating the best stories.

In the same way, five years from now I suspect that my reading tastes will stay as eclectic as they currently are and that my writing will reflect that. Variety feeds my imagination. And you’ve got to feed your imagination when you’re a writer – it’s where you get your ideas!

 


SnaphotLogo2014This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 
Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at: Tsana DolichvaNick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright.

Snapshot 2014: D.K. Mok

DK Mok is the author of The Other Tree, Hunt for Valamon, and the Aurealis Award shortlisted story ‘Morning Star’ (One Small Step).

DK grew up in libraries, immersed in lost cities and fantastic worlds, populated by quirky bandits and giant squid. She graduated from UNSW with a degree in Psychology, pursuing her interest in both social justice and scientist humour.

She’s fond of cephalopods, androids and rugged horizons, and she wishes someone would build a labyrinthine library garden so she could hang out there. DK lives in Sydney, Australia, and her favourite fossil deposit is the Burgess Shale.

Website: www.dkmok.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/dkmokauthor

Twitter: @dk_mok

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/dkmok

1. Your most recent work is an urban fantasy novel, The Other Tree, which some reviewers have compared in feel to Indiana Jones and The Da Vinci Code.  What was the inspiration behind this book, and how was the process of writing it like?

17314951It’s been an exciting year, and the release of my debut novel has been an amazing experience. I’ve always loved fantasy and adventure, and I grew up reading authors like Roald Dahl, Graeme Base, Isaac Asimov and Terry Pratchett. I’m drawn to books that transport me to fantastic realms and take me on exciting adventures, and these are the kinds of stories I most enjoy writing.

The Other Tree draws from a number of influences, and Indiana Jones is certainly one of them. Like many people, I watched the first three movies at a time when I thought giant rolling boulders were the coolest thing ever, riddles were deliciously tricky, and bullwhips were an awesome distance weapon that never ran out of ammo. I loved the blend of fantasy, action and mythology; the flawed but empathetic protagonists; and the tongue-in-cheek humour. Actually, I still love most of those things.

Films like The NeverEnding Story, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal also left a lasting impression on me, with their blend of lush fantasy and subtle menace. I was fascinated by the duality in many of these movies – the tension between the mundane world and the fantastical one, and the sense that the protagonist could never be quite whole, quite fully formed, without striding through the fire in both.

One of the most memorable things for me about the Indiana Jones movies was the fact that the protagonist was ostensibly a professor of archaeology. In many of the stories I’d grown up reading, librarians, professors and alchemists were generally sedentary sorts with delicate constitutions. They mentored the hero, but rarely did much swashbuckling themselves. And yet, many of my real-life heroes – many of the people I saw exploring strange lands and encountering wondrous creatures – were often researchers who divided their time between the desk and the field.

To me, passionate scientists, researchers and academics are a natural fit for fantastic adventures. When I hear Sir David Attenborough talk about his extraordinary and sometimes reckless experiences as a pioneering naturalist and documentary maker, his exuberance when describing everything from gorillas to sea cucumbers is absolutely enthralling.

Likewise, when I listen to oceanographer Sylvia Earle – aka The Sturgeon General – describing her dives from the undersea laboratory Aquarius, or forensic entomologist Amoret Whitaker enthusing about the role of maggots in solving murders, it’s hard not to be drawn in. Seeing their passion, commitment and curiosity, it’s clear why otherwise ordinary people brave gun-runners, death threats or malaria to study shy, pink iguanas or bellicose volcanos.

The eventual impetus for my writing The Other Tree came from my sister, who’s also an author and an avid reader. She mentioned one day that she’d like to read a story about people searching for the lost garden of Eden, and I immediately thought: the protagonist has to be a botanist. The idea kicked around inside my head for quite some time, transforming slowly from a fantastic adventure romp into a story with deeper themes of family, mortality, priorities, and the choices we make.

The protagonist in The Other Tree, Chris Arlin, owes a debt to all the passionate researchers I’ve admired, and she’s infused with the same spirit of discovery. She’s a cryptobotanist whose passion for rare and improbable plants makes her the subject of ridicule at her alma mater, Varria University. However, when Chris learns that her father is suffering from an incurable illness, desperation and determination impel her on a search for Eden and the Biblical Tree of Life.

When it comes to the writing process, I used to be a pantser, but I’m now a dedicated plotter. I had the arc of the story planned before I began writing, because it’s the only way I can keep track of multiple plot threads and characters who insist on running around absolutely everywhere. I wrote for several hours each evening after work, all day on weekends, and I scribbled in my notepad whenever I had a spare moment. It took about six months to reach a decent early draft, and another several months of editing, revising, and addressing feedback from beta readers to arrive at a polished manuscript.

The final book brings together many of the themes and elements I love, and I hope The Other Tree connects with other readers who enjoy fantasy and mythology, botany and archaeology, and geek culture with touches of humour.

2. Your story, Morning Star, appeared in the Fablecroft anthology, One Small Step: An Anthology of Discoveries.  This story garnered you an Aurealis Award nomination (for Best YA Short Fiction) and was noted by many readers as being one of their favourites in the anthology. The call for submissions for the anthology gave a very broad idea of what was being looked for – involving literal or figurative “small steps”, discoveries or beginnings.  How did you go from such a general idea to a story like Morning Star?

OneSmallStepCoverYou might want to settle down with a cup of tea for this answer, because it’s another long one. In the absence of a word limit, or someone playing increasingly loud exit-music over the top of me, I’m going to give the extended-edition response.

‘Morning Star’ is the culmination of my lifelong fascination with androids, consciousness, and the definition of humanity. I grew up watching Astro Boy, a children’s anime about a robot boy and his often poignant adventures. He had red rockets for feet, and pathos beyond his years. A winning combination.

In high school, I was introduced to Star Trek: The Next Generation, with its android crewmember, Lieutenant Commander Data: an artless, cat-loving, mystery solving, socially awkward Chief Operations Officer. Episodes such as ‘The Measure of a Man’, dealing with questions of sentience and liberty, had a profound impact on my growing awareness of human rights and discrimination.

By now, I’d started reading Isaac Asimov’s books, including The Caves of Steel, which featured the cunning and eloquent R. Daneel Olivaw. I had my heart wrenched by stories like ‘The Bicentennial Man’. I idolised Susan Calvin, a female robopsychologist character at a time when women were far less visible in programming and engineering careers than they are today.

And then, I watched Blade Runner.

Sir Ridley Scott’s masterpiece of science fiction noir poetry left an indelible impression on me. The plight of the replicants, the tangled conflict between troubled bounty hunter Rick Deckard and charismatic android Roy Batty, and that unforgettable ‘time to die’ speech, crystallised so many of the nebulous concepts I’d been wrestling with.

I love android stories because they raise questions about identity and humanity, sentience and freedom. They explore ideas about what it means to live, what it means to be human, and all the messy, contentious and important territory that covers. Android stories also often act as an allegory for the marginalised, the oppressed, and the dispossessed, illuminating issues of equality and civil rights.

Fast-forward over a decade to 2012. Around the time I saw FableCroft’s call for submissions, Prometheus was released at the cinemas. This was Scott’s long-awaited return to science fiction, and I relished the spaceships, the cool tech-toys, the gritty holograms, and, of course, the complex and compelling android, David 8.

Another – more sombre – event happened around this time. Neil Armstrong – the astronaut whose words inspired the anthology’s title – passed away. He was greatly admired not only for his iconic role in the Apollo 11 moon landing, but for his quiet, solid work as an aerospace engineer and researcher. I’d grown up with a passion for stories about space exploration and distant worlds, and the passing of such a legendary man was deeply felt.

So, ‘Morning Star’ was a story that had waited patiently to be written, and One Small Step was part of a confluence of events that finally rallied me to write it. I’d encountered many stories revolving around the last human in the universe, and I wanted to write a story about what it would be like to be the last android in the universe. I loved inventing all the futuristic tech, and weaving in the elements of mystery, biology and ethics. However, at its heart, ‘Morning Star’ is a story about self-awareness, mortality, human nature, and the fragile, tender, complicated connections between people.

The Aurealis Award nomination was incredibly unexpected, and it was surreal to see my name on the list alongside authors such as Joanne Anderton, Juliet Marillier and Kim Wilkins. ‘Morning Star’ is a special story for me, and I’m glad to see it touching a chord with others.

3. Are you currently at work on any fiction, or have any projects on the horizon?

My next novel is a standalone epic fantasy titled Hunt for Valamon. It’s coming out in February 2015 via Spence City (an imprint of Spencer Hill Press), and I’m currently busy working on edits and exciting pre-release activities. I’m also in the early stages of writing an epic fantasy trilogy, which is another story I’ve been wanting to tell for some time. It’s exciting to be working on so many projects that I’m passionate about, and I can’t wait to share more news with everyone as things progress.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

I’ve just finished reading A Crucible of Souls, a richly imaginative epic fantasy by Mitchell Hogan, and winner of this year’s Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel. I also recently enjoyed Ink Black Magic, a fun fantasy romp by Tansy Rayner Roberts; and The Cobbler Mage, a bittersweet fable written by Angela Rega and illustrated by Rebekah Pearson.

I adore Shaun Tan’s work – I still consider The Arrival to be an absolute masterpiece – and his latest picture book, Rules of Summer, is another gorgeous, imaginative and poignant story. I also still delight in every new Graeme Base book, and Little Elephants is another sweet and whimsical story with beautiful illustrations.

My to-be-read pile continues to grow happily.

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?

My objective is to continue writing entertaining, thoughtful, fantastical and meaningful stories. To paraphrase author John Connolly, you should write the story that’s calling to you the loudest. Whether navigating calm seas or tempests, I consider this excellent advice.

Over the last few years, technology has made it easier than ever for people to create, distribute and consume content. We’ve already seen seismic shifts in the music and media industries, and the publishing industry is now undergoing a similar transformation. It’s a turbulent, exciting and uncertain time to be a writer, artist or maker.

We’ve seen the rise of digital-only imprints, crowd-funded projects, and self-published authors. Platforms and communities like Smashwords, Wattpad, Leanpub, comiXology, Etsy and deviantART have made it easier for creators to find an audience. It’s encouraging to see such diversification, especially for communities outside of the mainstream. In the face of these changes, the role of curators remains as valuable as ever, whether it’s passionate bookshop staff, bloggers, librarians, newspaper reviewers, Goodreads ratings, publishers, forums or friends.

As both a creator and a consumer, I hope the unfolding of these changes will be a collaborative and constructive process, rather than a purely competitive one. I believe traditional publishing, indie publishing and self-publishing are complementary options, just as ebooks and print books satisfy different needs, and online stores and bricks-and-mortar bookshops offer very different experiences. I think we’d all be diminished if any of these things vanished.

I haven’t changed the way I work, but I’m much more aware of the diversity in publishing now, and it’s fascinating to gain insight into other people’s experiences.

Five years from now, I hope to be adding to my collection of handmade zines and indie graphic novels; reading ebooks on the go; curling up with a paperback and a cup of tea; discovering new authors on brilliant blogs; raiding my local bookstores and losing myself in new releases and second-hand treasures; supporting other authors – both traditional and self-published; flicking through my digital magazines; and browsing libraries across the city, armed with a deck of library cards and a set of indestructible totes.

I expect to still be writing the stories that are calling to me, and I hope there’ll still be readers happy to welcome them.



SnaphotLogo2014This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 
Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at: Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright.

Snapshot 2014: Juliet Marillier

JM with Harry smallerJuliet Marillier was born in New Zealand and now lives in Western Australia. Her historical fantasy novels for adults and young adults have been translated into many languages and have won a number of awards. Among Juliet’s works are the Sevenwaters novels, the Bridei Chronicles and the Shadowfell series, as well as a short fiction collection, Prickle Moon. Dreamer’s Pool, first book in the Blackthorn & Grim series of uncanny mysteries, will be published in October 2014. Juliet’s lifelong love of folklore, fairy tales and mythology is a major influence on her writing. Find out more at http://www.julietmarillier.com

 

1. Your most recent work is The Caller, the final book in the Shadowfell trilogy, which is aimed at young adults (though it is not your first foray into YA).  How does writing a YA series differ for you, in comparison to your adult books, such as the Sevenwaters books?

The Caller CVRIt doesn’t differ hugely apart from the obvious: a YA novel is shorter, it features a younger protagonist and generally the plot is more tightly focused on that character’s personal journey – it’s usually a ‘getting of wisdom’ story / journey to maturity. Because my adult novels are mostly set in times and cultures when people lived shorter lives and did things earlier (marrying and giving birth, heading a family, fighting w
ars etc) their central characters are also quite young. That has meant those novels attract readers at the upper end of the YA age range as well as adult readers.

The Shadowfell trilogy is more of a crossover series, suited to the upper end of YA and also satisfying (I’ve been told) for adult readers who like folkloric fantasy. It contains some pretty challenging themes and situations.

2. Your work has frequently woven history and fairytales into the fabric of fantasy, and your books have a wonderful dreamlike, mythic quality to them.  Have you always drawn inspiration from fairytales?  Why do you feel that fairytales have such strong resonance today?

I’ve loved fairytales, folklore and mythology since I was a small child, and I’ve continued to study them all my life. All that lore is hidden away somewhere inside me, and comes out in my writing almost despite me. I believe fairytales have always had a strong resonance. They existed in the oral tradition long before anyone started composing literary versions, and their purpose was not only to entertain the community, but also to provide wise advice for dealing with whatever challenges life might put in one’s path. They also provided healing and solace. Although today’s world is very different from the world of the original tales, the qualities we need to live good lives haven’t changed. Fairytales demonstrate the values of true love, faith, honour, loyalty, comradeship and so on, neatly packaged in the easy-to-understand form of an entertaining story.
3. You have a book coming out later this year – Dreamer’s Pool – which is the beginning of a new series for you.  Would you care to share something about it?
DP Dreamer’s Pool is the first novel in the Blackthorn & Grim series for adult readers. It’s a combination of historical fantasy and mystery, with a fairytale thread woven in. The central characters are significantly older and more damaged than the protagonists of any of my earlier books, and the series has a darker, grittier feel. But there’s also true love and magic. The story starts with the main protagonist, embittered healer Blackthorn, incarcerated in a hellish lockup, awaiting execution. When an unlikely reprieve is offered, it comes with a set of conditions she knows she won’t be able to keep.

 

 

 

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Lee Battersby’s darkly humorous fantasy novels, The Corpse-Rat King and The Walking Dead (published by Angry Robot.) Short fiction by Angela Slatter, Thoraiya Dyer, Jo Anderton and others. I’m currently reading Kirstyn McDermott’s novel Perfections, which I’m finding both intriguing and unsettling. A big heads-up for Aussie small presses such as Ticonderoga, Fablecroft and Twelfth Planet, for their role in publishing quality anthologies and collections as well as new novels in the various genres covered by the term ‘speculative fiction’.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work?

It’s now 16 years since my first novel was published and during that time I’ve seen lots of changes. Readers expect far more direct engagement with their favourite writers these days, and it is time-consuming to keep up with that demand. But publishers now have reduced resources for publicity and marketing so the onus falls more heavily on the writer not only to engage with readers on social media, but to organise launches, blog tours etc. The more time a writer spends on all of that, the less time she has to write. I find that difficult as I am the slow, careful kind of writer.

A few years ago I would have been very concerned if my backlist was available only in e-book format, not in print. These days, having the backlist available at all is great, and e-book format makes perfect sense. At this point I’m lucky enough to have most of my 18 books still available in print editions as well as e-books here in Australia.

I have very mixed feelings on self-publishing (so-called ‘indie publishing’.) I generally don’t try out new authors unless I read a good review from a reliable source, or get a personal recommendation from someone whose judgement I trust. With the huge flood of self-published books on the market now, my caution has only increased. Some of them are very good, yes, but the quality control is pretty variable. I am more likely to purchase a book by an unknown author if it’s published by someone with a good track record – a mainstream publishing house or well-regarded small independent publisher.

On the other hand, self-publishing, when done with due attention to quality control not only in the actual writing but in every aspect of editing and design, can be a real boon for writers. A number of writers I know who have previously been published in the mainstream and have seen their books go out of print have self-published their backlists in e-book and/or POD, and have achieved good sales and greater visibility in the market.

6. What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?
Reading: In five years’ time I’ll be reading new novels and short fiction in a wide range of genres. I’ll continue to re-read my old favourites. I’ll be reading in both e-book and print editions and using new technology.
Writing: I’ll be writing more short fiction/novellas. I’ll write a novel outside the fantasy genre.
Publishing: I hope my current publishers will continue with my books, though I understand the uncertainty of the business and the market. I like to think that I’ll be exploring new horizons and seizing new opportunities. Perhaps working more with small independent publishing houses.



SnaphotLogo2014This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 
Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at: Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright.

 

Snapshot 2014: Ian McHugh

Ian McHugh’s first success as a speculative fiction writer was winning the short story contest at the 2004 Australian national SF convention (he still has the certificate). Since then he has sold stories to professional and semi-pro magazines, webzines and anthologies in Australia and internationally. His stories have garnered other recognition along the way as described in question #2, below.

He rants intermittently about writing and posts many of his previously published works at ianmchugh.wordpress.com.

1. Your first collection, Angel Dust, is due out from Ticonderoga Publications this year.  How has it been putting together your first collection, and what can readers expect to see in it?

Erm, intermittent? Life has been getting in the way a bit for both Russell and I. I expect most of the stories will be drawn from my publications in places like Asimov’s, BCS and the Clockwork Phoenix anthologies. Russell’s picked one original story so far and he’s having a look at another four. So not sure yet what the final shape will be, or whether we’ll choose stories for a particular theme. One loose theme Russell’s suggested is ‘encounters with the other’, which broadly speaking can cover a lot of my stories. Another thread that runs through a lot (but far from all) of my stories is how men fail at being men – and the ways I’m afraid of failing as a man. Whether anyone wants to read an entire book about men failing, though, I have my doubts.

2. You have attended the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop, been a grand prize winner of Writers of the Future, been shortlisted for Aurealis Awards, received honourable mentions in several Year’s Best collections and been included on the Locus recommended reading list. You also lead writing workshops.  That’s a hell of a career, and it shows no sign of stopping any time soon.  What do you believe are the factors that have led to so much success for you?

Gosh, when you put it like that… In all honesty, it really doesn’t seem like I’ve gotten very far yet. And remember that this has all happened over a span of ten years – more than, now. In terms of answers that might be worth something to someone reading this: getting into Clarion West, being part of an active writers’ group, seeking criticism of my work and acting on it, looking outside Australia to sell my work as well as within. And, above all, persisting. Have you ever come across Helsinki Bus Station Theory? It applies to writers too: With the story you’re writing: stay on the bus, persist until you finish it. With the story you’re submitting: stay on the bus, keep submitting until you sell it or reach your personal tipping point between persistence and insanity (mine is about 15 rejections per story). With your whole writing career and aspirations: stay on the bus.

3. Do you plan on continuing mainly in the realm of short fiction in the future, or are you hoping to also write novel length fiction?

I think I like short stories the best. But that might just be because I’ve struggled a lot with making the leap to long form storytelling. I’m currently finishing the final draft of a novel that I first drafted about five years ago. I do really love writing short stories, and I’m looking forward to being able to really dedicate myself to them again, rather than feeling like I’m squeezing them in where I can.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

The Australian work I’m really loving right now is a book called What If? Australian history as it might have been, which is a collection of essays published in 2006, but that I picked up at my local second hand bookshop on the weekend before writing these answers. I love it because it’s full of ideas, for things to bang together and make story sparks.
In terms of fiction, or speculative fiction, the work that’s kicking my arse right now isn’t Australian at all, it’s a short story collection called North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud. The friend who lent it to me said not to read it right before bed. I see what she means – it’s not that the stories are scary so much as so horrifically human. I’ve managed to get through two of nine stories so far, because they each left me feeling like I’d been beaten up. The (first two) stories are also saturated with the places where they’re set, which is something I look for in fiction as a general rule, Australian or otherwise.
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?
No. I think you have to write for yourself, first, and then figure out how you can show it off. And as to the second part of the question, I haven’t the faintest idea. It seems like we’re in a similar sort of place to when mechanical printing first became widespread, and suddenly any and every lunatic who thought they had something to say was out pamphleteering. That settled down over time as people figured out how to gatekeep for quality, both as consumers and publishers, and how to exercise control over this new market. Something similar will happen with e-publishing over time, although how it will pan out I have no idea. Hopefully it brings back the novella.

 

SnaphotLogo2014This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at: Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright.