Born in Indonesia of French parents, and brought up in Australia and France, Sophie Masson is the author of more than 50 novels for children, young adults and adults, published in Australia and many other countries. Her historical novel, The Hunt for Ned Kelly (Scholastic Australia), won the Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature in the 2011 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, while she has won the YA category of the Aurealis Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy twice: for The Green Prince (Hodder, 2000) and The Hand of Glory (Hodder 2002). Many of her titles have also been shortlisted for major awards, including for the Davitt Awards with her 2012 novel, Moonlight and Ashes (Random House Australia, 2012). Other recent novels include Ned Kelly’s Secret (Scholastic 2012) and Scarlet in the Snow (Random House Australia, May 2013). Titles out in 2014 are: The Crystal Heart (RHA, young adult), Emilio (Allen and Unwin, children’s) and 1914 (Scholastic Australia, children’s), as well as the adult non-fiction title, The Adaptable Author: Coping with Change in the Digital Age(Keesing Press). Her adult novel, Trinity, a thriller with supernatural elements set in modern Russia, will be coming out as an e-book with Momentum in November 2014. Forthcoming in 2015 is Hunter’s Moon (RHA). She has also written four popular YA romantic thrillers, with fairy tale and mythical elements, under the name of Isabelle Merlin. Under the name of Jenna Austen, she has also published two romantic comedies for tweens and early teens, The Romance Diaries: Ruby (ABC Books/Harper Collins, 2013) and The Romance Diaries: Stella (ABC Books/Harper Collins, 2013) . Sophie’s essays, articles and reviews have appeared frequently in print and online, in many different outlets. She has served on the Literature Board of the Australia Council, the Book Industry Collaborative Council, the Board of Directors of the Australian Society of Authors (as Chair and Deputy Chair), the Board of the New England Writers’ Centre (as Chair)and the committee of the New England and North West sub-branch of the Children’s Book Council of NSW (as President). Her website is at www.sophiemasson.org
1. Your latest fairytale adaptation, The Crystal Heart, has just been released. Can you tell us a little bit about this particular book, and about the process by which you draw inspiration from fairytales to create novels?
The Crystal Heart, which is set in the imaginary country of Krainos, is told against the background of a ‘cold war’ existing between the military state of Krainos and the magical underground country of Night. It’s told in two alternating viewpoints; in the voice of Kasper, a young soldier chosen to be a Tower Guard, an elite corps who guard an important and apparently very dangerous prisoner; and Izolda, the prisoner herself, who has been kept in the Tower since she was a child (you learn that very early on). For both of them, their meeting will utterly change their lives and lead them into even greater danger but also love, betrayal, pain, and transform their respective countries. It’s part of my non-sequential series of fairytale novels set in an alternative world based on fairytale but using an alternative version of the late 19th century in Central and Eastern Europe (the other two are Moonlight and Ashes and Scarlet in the Snow, and I’m working on a fourth). The story is inspired by the motif of Rapunzel, but also the Irish tale of Deirdre of the Seven Sorrows, and as well by a real setting in Poland, the deep underground salt mines of Wieliczka near Krakow–a truly magical place full of amazing statues and figures carved out of salt, and even an entire underground cathedral where everything–statues, carvings, altar, floor ceiling, is carved out of salt and the chandeliers are made of white, glittering salt crystals. As soon as I set foot in it, I knew I would be using it as a setting in a book!
2. Your work spans several different genres and target audience ages. Do you find that there is a difference in how your work is received based on genre and/or target age group, and if so, how?
No, generally reviewers have been very good about taking the works on their own terms–but later this year I’ll have a new adult novel out (with Momentum), Trinity, which is me moving into a very different area–a mix of thriller, romance and the paranormal set in modern Russia around the struggle for the soul of a major company. So we’ll have to wait and see how people respond to that as a new direction! (I’m still continuing with my fairytale novels; this is just a different string to the bow!)
3. Are you working on any projects right now?
Yes–I’ve nearly finished wiring the fourth fairytale novel, Hunter’s Moon (out in May 2015); also I am thinking about the sequel to Trinity; and researching–in Denmark, actually–the fifth fairytale novel, A Splinter of Ice, which is based around a writer inspired by Hans Christian Andersen.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
Kate Forsyth’s gorgeous Bitter Greens–such a magical yet earthy take on Rapunzel!
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?
Yes, they have–I work as hard as ever I have and am lucky enough to still very much attract the interest of publishers but I’m even more aware of the fact you have to be flexible, versatile and quick-witted in this business. Actually, I’ve recently published a book , The adaptable Author: Coping with Change in the Digital Age
( Keesing Press, through the Australian Society of Authors) which is a collection of interviews with over 40 authors, agents, publishers about this very topic(including many authors of speculative fiction), and many people say the same thing–it is harder. On the other hand, there are new opportunities and a direct example of that for me is that Trinity
will be published by Momentum (Pan Macmillan) as an e-book: as an unusual, not easy-to-categorise novel it might have been difficult in the past to sell it, but now it will have its chance! As well, in the past I don’t think I’d have taken a chance on starting the little publishing house I founded last year with two friends, Christmas Press (specialising in traditional tales from many lands, retold by well-known authors and classically illustrated, see www.christmaspresspicturebooks.com
) That is a part of the often-overlooked side of the digital revolution–the fact that printing is much more affordable now than ever before (and we print in Australia as a matter of principle) because of the fact you can work from digital files.
As to the second part–I have no idea! Except that I will continue to write as long as I can–and read as many good books as I can–and also hopefully, that Christmas Press will continue as strongly as its promising beginning gives us leave to hope!
This 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.