Snapshot: Narrelle M Harris

As Narrelle M Harris, I’m a writer of crime, fantasy, horror and non-fiction. My first book was Fly By Night (2004), containing the novellas Fly By Night and Sacrifice, about Frank and Milo, musicians who are also a couple and get caught up murders. The book was nominated for a Ned Kelly Award for best first crime novel, and was translated into Croatian. In 2013, my vampire novel Walking Shadows (Clan Destine Press) – sequel to The Opposite of Life – was nominated for a Chronos Award for SF and fantasy, and shortlisted for the Davitt Awards for crime writing. Other books include Witch Honour and Witch Faith and the short story collection, Showtime. When Clan Destine Press invited me to submit stories for a new erotic fiction imprint, I accepted the challenge. Now writing as NM Harris, I have two series currently underway with the Encounters imprint and a third on the way. My short story, Sky High, Bone Deep was published by Escape Publishing in July 2014. My new romance blog is Adventurous Hearts (http://harrisheart.wordpress.com/). My other current project is an online novel about a rock band that saves the world from monsters, at http://www.kittyandcadaver.com. I’m preparing the manuscript for submission and embarking on a research trip to London for the second in the series. Find out more about all my work at http://www.narrellemharris.com

1. You’ve recently finished up Kitty and Cadaver, your online novel about family and vampires and music. Did the novel itself accomplish what you hoped, and what was it like to publish it as a serial?

In terms of the book itself, I am pretty happy with how it turned out. I’d structured most of it in advance and I think apart from one week, I posted a new update of the book each Monday for the duration. I’m happy with the result – I got some lovely comments on the story posts – and am currently editing and polishing it for submission to a publisher.

It was slightly terrifying publishing it online in this way – but it kept the push on to keep writing, to keep ahead of the deadline. It’s as well I did plot it all out in advance. It could have been a disaster, story-telling wise. I used to laugh in a slighty panicked way about having seen a cliff-face, deciding ‘fuck, yeah, I can fly’ and flinging myself off into space – only to spend the next 12 months flapping my arms like crazy and hoping I won’t crash too hard.

In terms of the bigger project – it was much harder than I’d expected. I really should have thought that through a bit more! I was trying to write a book, promote a book, maintain the related blog, develop creative partnerships for the music, comic and jewellery side projects (and when you’re working with others, you just don’t have the control over the output) – all at the same time as holding down a day job, working on other writing projects, maintaining two other blogs and just getting through the challenges of everyday life as well.

No wonder I’m tired.

But seriously, even just looking at the Kitty project by itself – that’s a lot of stuff to be doing, and while I feel I have the capacity within myself to do all of those jobs, given time to learn, the fact is that they take separate skill sets and a lot of time, so I set that bar a bit high.

Having said that – the jewellery project side is underway now and we have an Etsy store set up. I’m still working with Jess on music and we’re going to bring in some more musicians to complete the songs, so I still plan on getting the album done. It’ll just take time.

The same is true of the comic project – the artist will need money up front to pay for his materials, but he’s busy establishing his career in another comic project and as a tattoo artist. When we have time, we’ll do costings and look at a Kickstarter or Pozible fundraiser to get the comic done.

In the meantime, I’m about to head off to London for a few weeks to research the second book of the series. If all goes well, there will be even more to come, each book set in a different city.

2. Much of your work in speculative fiction tends towards the darker side of things, while also including significant amounts of humour. What appeals to you about this combination?

It’s just life, isn’t it? Full of darkness and light, and often simultaneously. I have always enjoyed juxtapositions – the humour in dark situations, the darkness in the mundane. All of that. In story telling terms, it’s where the meat is, too – the exploration of what it is to be human, and to suffer, and to seek hope and redemption, and we do that through our self-kknowledge and in the way we form relationships.

Basically, people are fascinating, and what makes us tick is fascinating, and I doubt I’ll ever get tired of poking into all of that with a pencil (or a keyboard) and trying to unravel it all.

3. You’ve got at least one more Kitty and Cadaver story in your head – do you think you will go the web-novel route again, or go for a more traditional approach?

It may depend on what happens with finding a publisher for the first book, Not the Zombie Apocalypse. My intention at this point is to find a publisher (either web or print) to take them both on, but continue with the blog site to post related stuff, things about the ongoing projects and short stories. I have more than one Kitty story idea in my head, you see – I have ideas for a story in Montreal as well, and some stories set along the band’s 700 year history. The concept has legs and I want to see how far it can run.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

*quickly checks Goodreads to see what I’ve read this year*

I’ve just finished The Rosie Project, which was terrific. Nobody told me it was a romance novel, and it really was among the very best of its genre. Kate Hendrick’s The Accident was also fantastic. I caught up on some of the anthologies on my bookshelf too, so loved the variety of Australian talent showcased in collections like Worlds Next Door, After the Rain and Australis Imaginarium (all Fablecroft books I think). And I loved Marianne de Pierres’s ‘Aussie Sf Western’ Peacemaker. She’s always a good read.

5. Recent changes in the publishing industry have obviously influenced the way you work, having explored the web-serial option. What other changes do you anticipate in the future? What do you think you will be writing in five years from now?

I think it’s really hard to see how the future will shape up – the whole industry is still very much in flux. Bookshops haven’t quite died out in the way predicted, and there remains a place for print and digital books, both. Maybe that will change as a generation used to reading on screens grows up without the nostalgia for print.

I expect that, rather than consolidating, the way books are presented will remain diverse. We’re in the age of ‘mass customisation’ after all – with small press and small print runs having a place alongside people trying online multimedia projects, and everything in between. The idea of ‘artisan books’ has grown, too.

The internet has shown that people like to engage more actively in their entertainment – though there are plenty who are happy to just consume. But cosplay isn’t limited to fan conventions any more, and online reviewing and discussion is lively. People are keen to support interesting, niche publications through crowdsourced funding models. There’s a lot going on!

Self-publishing through digital has brought a huge number of books into the arena and in ways that makes it harder to sort through the volume to find work you like – but there are huge numbers of reviewers and blog sites too, and people share their favourite finds through word of mouth (or type of tweets) so I think that quality will continue to be found. (After all, as I’ve said before, not all books that make it to print are that good either. Excellence and dross are equally to be found everywhere.)

I think while the methods of distribution will remain diverse (print as well as digital) perhaps the main changes will come in the ways readers are encouraged (or choose to take on) different channels for engagement with the work. Those ways have existed for decades, at least, of course (as any fan can tell you – from 19th Century Holmesians onward) but the technology and opportunities for doing so have increased.

So in the end, five years from now I hope to still be writing stories that interest and excite me, and I hope that I’ll have found the time and expertise to better engage with readers using the tech at our disposal, whether those stories are published on paper, as digital books, in serial form on a blog or in a weekly engraving on a thin sheet of tin to be found at hidden locations all around the Melbourne CBD…

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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:

 

Snapshot: Tehani Wessely

Tehani Wessely was a founding member of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine in 2001 and started her own boutique publishing house, FableCroft Publishing, in 2010. Now firmly entrenched in Australian speculative fiction and independent press, she also judges for several national literary awards and reads far more in one genre than is healthy.

Since 2002, Tehani has edited ASIM #4, #16, #27, #31, #36 (co-edited) and #37, three Best Of ASIM e-anthologies, the Twelfth Planet Press anthology New Ceres Nights and e-mag Shiny, and for FableCroft produced the original anthologies Worlds Next Door, After the Rain, Epilogue, One Small Step, reprint anthologies Australis Imaginarium and Focus 2012. She is currently working on FableCroft’s Insert Title Here anthology, Cranky Ladies of History (with Tansy Rayner Roberts) and several other projects. Tehani also edited To Spin a Darker Stair (a boutique gift book), the original novels Path of Night (Dirk Flinthart), Ink Black Magic (Tansy Rayner Roberts) andGuardian (Jo Anderton), and the award-winning debut collection The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories by Joanne Anderton.

In her spare moments, she works as Head of Library in a Canberra boys’ school and enjoys spending time with her husband and four children. You can find Tehani online as @editormum75 and @fablecroft on Twitter, or at http://fablecroft.com.auhttp://thebooknut.wordpress.com and https://www.facebook.com/FablecroftPublishing

1. You’re currently working on the anthology Cranky Ladies, which was crowdfunded earlier this year. What was it like to crowdfund a project like this? and what’s it like editing this anthology in general, given such an awesome premise? 

Cranky Ladies was my first foray into crowdfunding, and it was a great experience – I think the fact we funded less than halfway through the campaign was a big help with that! The Cranky Ladies concept really seemed to strike a chord with people, and we were fortunate to get a good amount of mainstream media attention for the campaign, which was a huge help. Well, I say fortunate, but really that was partly good management – Tansy realised that March was Women’s History Month, and we pushed up our timeline to fit in with that – super smart move Tansy! This is why it’s important to work with clever people :) It was a heck of a ride, running the campaign and the blog tour, and I don’t think my nerves could handle doing it regularly. That said, it’s a really interesting way to finance a project that has a broad appeal, and when the funding is essentially a pre-order system, and the funding is designed to funnel straight to the authors/artist, I think that helps.

The editing process hasn’t really started yet, although some of our wonderful authors have already sent in stories (which I am resisting, because I’m neck deep in edits for other projects!). It’s very exciting working with new authors though, and particularly international authors I’ve not been privileged to publish before. I’m looking forward to the challenge of balancing the historical and speculative elements that some stories will have, and absolutely cannot wait to see what our writers have come up with. It’s also been a long while since I’ve co-edited with anyone, so I’m really pleased to be doing that again with Tansy, too!

2. Something you’ve done recently is rescue a series of books where the final book hasn’t been published, for some reason. You’ve done this for Tansy Rayner Roberts, publishing Ink Black Magic, and for Joanne Anderton with Guardian. Is this the frustrated reader in you swaying the publisher, and do you anticipate doing more of the same in future? 

Tansy coined the phrase “bibliophile search and rescue” when we launched Jo’s book at Continuum in June, and I’m totally stealing it! It’s an interesting experience, publishing the last book of a trilogy, with some adjustments in thinking required. There are some challenges involved – how do you market to a new audience if it’s been a while between books? Conversely, what if you’re targeting an existing audience, how do you reach them? There were some differences with Guardian and Ink Black Magic, in that we had the rights to reprint the first two Mocklore books for Tansy, but Jo’s are still being sold through Angry Robot, which has some implications for marketing and promotion. Given we were following through on relatively recent releases with Guardian, we really wanted to make sure the cover art looked like it belonged with the series, and that the format of the book itself (and the price point), was as close as we could get to the first books, in order to be appealing to those who already had the first books. One challenge has been in reviewing – third books are often really hard to get reviews for, because many reviewers are reluctant to invest the time in them if they don’t standalone. We like to think that both Guardian and Ink Black Magic DO work as individual books, though of course the experience may be enhanced by reading the others in the series!

I don’t think it’s something I would do without having already loved the first books of the series, which of course I did for both of these, but it certainly is not something I would write off doing again in the future, that’s for sure. In fact, I may have a little something similar already on the boil, but shhhh…

3. You always seem to have a ludicrous number of projects simmering away. Will Fablecroft be branching into new arenas in the future, or do you anticipate strengthening the things you’re already doing well? 

Heh, yes, ludicrous is probably a very GOOD word for it! It’s quite amazing to me how many avenues keep popping up that I’d like to explore. I will continue to produce anthologies regularly, as long as I keep having crazy ideas for them, and I’m keen to look into more original novels as well as the ebook reprint line, such as with Glenda Larke’s Isles of Glory trilogy. That said, FableCroft is definitely branching out – I’m working on several children’s book projects right now, one under the Cranky Ladies banner, and another that involves several works in a shared world series – although given our first book was a children’s anthology, maybe it’s not so much branching out as coming back to our roots! I’m also looking at a new non-fiction range of ebooks that will essentially be “related works” for SF & F. Still working on some details there, so don’t want to say too much yet. Keep an eye on the website or the Facebook/Twitter page for announcements!

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Other than books I’ve published myself? Oh, SO MANY! I judged for the CBCA Book of the Year last year, so I can’t really talk too much about the fantastic YA and Children’s books I read as part of that, though I do encourage people to check out the OR category, as there are several speculative books on the list that I highly recommend :) Likewise the Aurealis Awards shortlists – I’ve worked my way through most of those, and really enjoyed them (go AA judges!).

In 2014 work, I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of the Twelfth Planet Press anthology Kaleidoscope a few weeks ago, and I will be terribly surprised if the book and stories from it don’t appear on shortlists all over the world. It’s an amazing collection of diverse YA fantasy and SF, and it’s brilliant. I read Glenda Larke’s new book The Lascar’s Dagger earlier this year and it’s just as good as everything else she’s done – awesome fantasy with great plot and characters. DK Mok’s first novel also crossed my path, which was a really fun but also thought-provoking read. I enjoyed Marianne de Pierres’ Peacemaker, which holds a little piece of my heart because I was lucky enough to republish the original short story the novel grew from in Australis Imaginarium, and I love seeing things like that happen! I’m sneak reading Sean Williams’ next book (nyah nyah, you’re not!) which is excellent, and I have a bunch of Aussie books on my TBR shelf right now that I’m looking forward to – some really new, some that I just haven’t had a chance to get to yet, but I’m looking forward to. My Goodreads page will have them when I get to them!

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing in five years from now?

It’s a really fascinating time to be a boutique publisher, because we have more opportunities now than ever before to reach a global audience and engage with readers all over the world. Rapid changes in technology have seen us broaden our horizons and our expectations immensely, and this brings with it both challenges and rewards. We’re able to market to an international audience now, in both print and ebook, and we’re really seeing the advantages of this, particularly in the ebook field, which seems to be so much more advanced in the US and UK, so that helps! However, of course we’re competing with the internationals too, but that’s okay, because Australia produces darn fine writers, and I think an international stage can only mean good things for them. We’ve seen some pretty big changes to the major publishers in recent years too, which seems to mean there are a lot more fantastic manuscripts out there that the majors aren’t willing to take a risk on, but that offer great opportunities for boutique publishers.

Self-publishing is becoming more mainstream and accepted, particularly when a lot of self-publishers are putting in the hard yards and finances to professional editing and design. However, the authors are also seeing established small press as a good option over self-publishing, because when it comes down to it, most of them would rather be writing than hustling their books, and marketing and promotion is such a big part of the job! It’s also an area that indie press still does it tough in against the majors, but with our social media connectedness, that too is gradually changing.

I think we’re moving towards a situation where loose conglomerates of publishers of various sizes will really work together to support and promote each other – not necessarily in a proscribed way, but in that really, working together makes so much more sense than competing with each other!

What will FableCroft be publishing in five years? I have NO idea! I daresay our ebook catalogue will continue to grow – I’m excited about bringing awesome books back into “print”, particularly those which didn’t receive the fanfare they deserved when they first appeared, so I’m looking out for that sort of thing. I would love to see Cranky Ladies or similar projects have legs that take them five years into the future. I hope to be publishing more brilliant original novels, and to keep my finger in the anthology pie. But given the changes in the past five years? Well, I think the best thing I can do is be open to ANYTHING, and see what comes.

SnaphotLogo2014

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:

Snapshot: Angela Slatter

Queensland Writers Fellow Angela Slatter is the author of the Aurealis Award-winning The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales, World Fantasy finalist Sourdough and Other Stories, British Fantasy Award-winning “The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter”, Aurealis finalist Midnight and Moonshine (with Lisa Hannett), and the forthcoming The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, Black-Winged Angels, and The Female Factory (also with Lisa L. Hannett). She has an MA and a PhD in Creative Writing, and is a graduate of Clarion South 2009 and the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop 2006. She blogs at www.angelaslatter.com about shiny things that catch her eye.

1. You’ve recently finished a novel, Vigil, based on a short story you wrote for the anthology Sprawl. As someone who loved that story I’m very excited, and I’m curious about the process of transforming a story from one length to another. Was this something you always had in mind, or did it grow on you over time? 
Haha! At first I thought it was just a single one-off story, but I enjoyed writing it so much and I got so much great feedback on it that I thought I should take it a little further. Originally I thought I’d write three novellas with the same characters and pitch them to small presses in Australia. But I got to the point (after writing the original short story and two of the novellas) of thinking “You’re an idiot, just write the damned novel.” So I did and it’s taken three and a half years, and that’s as much because I’ve had to pick story threads apart and re-work them to fit into a more traditional novel structure as because I was also working on other projects and doing part-time work (and finishing a PhD). In short, it was a nightmare I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. But I got there in the end, with a huge amount of beta reading from Lisa Hannett, Peter M Ball and Alan Baxter — thanks, guys! Now it’s a matter of seeing how it goes out in the real world on the hamster wheel of agents and publishers — which has started.
2. You’re well known for collaborating with Lisa L Hannett in writing fiction, for instance on Midnight and Moonshine and your up-coming collection The Female Factory. Can you tell me how that partnership came about, and what helps it to be so successful?
Lisa and I met at Clarion South in 2009 and became fast friends there — two halves of one very big, very messy, slightly evil Brain — and the opportunity came about after Clarion to co-write a story. That became “The February Dragon”, which Liz Grzyb ended up buying for the Scary Kisses anthology. The story then went on to win the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Short Story, so we figured we were doing something right! Basically the process succeeds because we absolutely trust each other as writers (or, as Lisa’s said before “We trust each other not to make our work shit!”), and neither of us is precious* about having someone else change our words because we can see how those changes improve the overall quality.
We spend a lot of time working out the overarching structure of what we’re going to do, which is basically sitting around telling each other stories (and when is that ever not fun??) and just developing and mining these characters we make up. At its core? It’s just so much fun to do. We’re currently plotting how we can fit writing the Sepphoris Mosaic, which is a mosaic novel/collection that will include “The February Dragon”, into our schedules. Write it, find a publisher, etc.
*Caveat: it only works with each other. Should someone else try to change our writing we would put on our tiaras and turn into Drama Empresses.
3. Your work has ranged over a number of genres within the speculative fiction field, and you seem as comfortable at the shorter end as at the longer end. Are there stories or ideas that are desperate to get out of your head and onto the page? 
I’ve been really lucky that Stephen Jones has invited me to submit for a number of anthologies that gave me a real challenge to write something different (Zombie Apocalypse, Weirder Shadows Over Innsmouth, and some other things that are genuinely more seated in the horror field than I’d done before). And The Female Factory is a mix of horror and science fiction because Alisa said “Hey, how about something science-fictiony?” I must admit Lisa and I gave each other sidelong glances and muttered “Science-fictiony? Have you met us?” But again, a really great challenge and chance to break away from whatever the usual is perceived to be.
I started out with short stories and honed my skills on that form. The word length has been growing the longer I spend writing — I’ve done two novellas this year — and some of the stories in The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings are novelette or novella length. It feels a bit like stretching the wings — I’m still a bit terrified of the idea of a full-length novel, but the novellas and Vigil have shown me that I can actually do it, I just need to become more of a plotter and planner than I am as a short story writer.
As for stories that want to spew forth … there are some for sure. I’ve found it difficult the last couple of years … no, actually not difficult, but different to how I started out because I’ve not had to cold submit a story in that time. All the shorts I’ve done have been commissioned and that’s a really nice place to be as a writer — so most of the ideas I’ve had have been channelled into an anthology that I am already fairly certain of having a place in. The other stories, those that made up collections like Sourdough and Other Stories, and The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, and The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales (which I’m finishing now), have been written for mosaics collections, so the tales need to fit together as part of a greater whole.
That being said, I had a story pop up the other week and demand to be written. Not sure where “Mr Underhill” will live when he’s done, but I’m pretty happy with it so far.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Ah, Kirstyn McDermott’s Caution: May Contain Small Parts, Alan Baxter’s Bound, Jason Nahrung’s Blood and Dust, and a lot of the material that’s been appearing in The Australian Review of Fiction.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? Do you think you will be writing differently in five years from now?

I’m still writing the same thing, but I keep my eye on what’s happening in the publishing industry. I think the ructions in the big trade publishers have been to the benefit of the small presses and writers because the small presses can pick up books that the biggies wouldn’t take a chance on, and writers can get a book published that might not otherwise have been taken up. Of course, you’ve got to watch that you’re still getting your advances and royalties — a small press might be someone’s beloved hobby but for a writer it’s their bread and butter, and getting paid is sometimes the difference between paying the phone bill and being reduced to smoke signals.
I keep an eye on the big publishers to see who’s being bought by whom, and whether it will affect the markets the books are being sold into. Who is doing ebooks? Who is doing them well? What kinds of advances are being offered and which agents are negotiating good deals? Which agents and which publishers are taking on new writers? I try to be a well-informed writer who takes charge of my career rather than one who spends a lot of time whinging about ‘things no one told me’.

One of the things that I really like is that novellas are on the rise again: small presses like Earthling, TTA, Twelfth Planet, and Gray Friar Press are producing some terrific works.

I don’t think I’ll be writing any differently, but the means of getting the work out there may well change. The message stays the same though the medium might change. And I think it’s important for writers to network and maintain relationships with individuals in the industry, rather than think their future is entirely invested in a single publishing house — very few writers nowadays are ever published by a single house. But editors and publishers and agents and booksellers all move around the industry: keep your ties with them and new opportunities may well come from that.

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:

http://crankynick.livejournal.com/tag/2014snapshot

Galactic Suburbia 105!

drowned vanilla coverThis episode of Galactic Suburbia is brought to you by the flavour vanilla and the colour of fairytales. You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

News

Drowned Vanilla Cover reveal – order the book at the publisher’s site.

Tansy’s Drowned Vanilla Pinterest board

Wiscon Update

Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot is on again.

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Tansy: Go Bayside (April Richardson); Breaking Bubbles; Dimetrodon, the Doubleclicks; First 3 Harry Potter movies, The Prisoner of Azkaban

Alisa: Squaresville; The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet; What book will she discard?

Alex: The Elenium and The Tamuli trilogies, David Eddings; Snowpiercer; Reality Dysfunction, Peter F Hamilton; Extant

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/galacticsuburbia) and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Snapshot: Sean Williams

Sean Williams is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of over forty award-winning novels for children, young adults and adults. His latest include Jump and Missing, Presumed Evil, with Garth Nix. For more information, please visit twinmakerbooks.com.

1. You’ve recently completed a PhD – congratulations! – and you’ve published a few stories connected to the topic of your research. How did your fascination with “d-mat” start, and do you think it’s a concept you’ll use in future stories?

I’ve been obsessed with matter transmitters for about as long as I’ve been obsessed with stories. Where the obsession comes from isn’t hard to identify–it’s Doctor Who (not Star Trek)–but it’s taken me forty years to work out why I keep coming back to it. And boy, do I. Before Twinmaker, I had over two dozen published novels and short stories featuring the trope (plus my very first, unpublished short), and the number of Twinmaker-related stories just passed twenty-five. I’m currently working on two more, and I have an unsold novel featuring matter transmitters that I co-wrote with a friend last year. It would be fair to say that there’s no sign of the flood easing any time soon.

But why keep coming back to it? Because the matter transmitter is a trope that allows an author to tackle any aspect of society, identity, physicality, and spatiality she wants. It is the perfect SFnal trope, in fact: there’s literally nothing about the present world you can’t interrogate with it. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it!

2. Some of your best known work is your Star Wars novels. What was it like working in a shared universe like that? Has it had much of an impact on your other writing? 

It’s both fun and extremely hard work. I enjoy doing it because it takes me out of my own worlds and into a much larger collaborative space than the one in which I normal operate, where I’m working on my own or with another author, with the help of my agent and editors. Tie-in work is massively constrained in lots of ways, but that forces you to be more creative. I find that kind of thing immensely stimulating.

3. You’re in the midst of a children’s series, with Garth Nix, called Troubletwisters. Do you already have an idea of where the story will take the twins, and how many more books are there to go? 

Yes and yes. We have always known pretty much where the twins would end up, although the journey there has brought its share of surprises, as with all writing. As with all journeys, I guess. I feel like we could write about Jaide and Jack forever, but sadly all stories must come to an end, and Garth and I are even now looking into the stories we’ll be telling next.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

I’m way behind on everything, including, most shamefully, the work of my friends and peers. Here’s some I’ve read this year, in no particular order:

These Broken Stars, Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Beauty’s Sister, James Bradley

Newt’s Emerald, Garth Nix

It Shines and Shakes and Laughs, Tim Molloy

The Bride Price, Cat Sparks

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be writing in five years from now?

As I mentioned earlier, Garth and I are mapping out our post-Troubletwisters series, while at the same time I’m looking at what will come after Twinmaker. There have been no radical changes to the way this falls into place, for me, anyway. I still work pretty much the same way I did when I sold my first novels, ie drafting stories in a word processor (no Scrivener), delivering through a traditional publisher and an agent, and selling books mainly in paper form. That doesn’t mean I have a problem with e-books. Quite the contrary! They’re all I read, and most of my earlier novels are available that way now. The only reason I haven’t gone down that road yet is because I have no interest in being a publisher myself, not to mention the time to learn the skills required. But that could change if the right project comes along.

What do I think I’ll be writing in five years? Five years ago I thought I’d be writing adult crime novels, and here I am loving every moment in YA and MG, so what do I know? Whatever it is, I’ll be totally invested, and totally loving it. That’s the only way to be.

SnaphotLogo2014

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:

Snapshot 2014

Snapshot has taken place four times in the past 10 years. In 2005, Ben Peek spent a frantic week interviewing 43 people in the Australian spec fic scene, and since then, it’s grown every time, now taking a team of interviewers working together to accomplish!

In the lead up to Worldcon in London, we will be blogging interviews for Snapshot 2014, conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely, Sean Wright and me. Last time we covered nearly 160 members of the Australian speculative fiction community with the Snapshot – can we top that this year?

To read the interviews hot off the press, check these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done:

http://crankynick.livejournal.com/tag/2014snapshot

http://bookonaut.blogspot.com.au/search/label/2014snapshot

http://www.davidmcdonaldspage.com/tag/2014snapshot/

http://fablecroft.com.au/tag/2014snapshot

http://helenstubbs.wordpress.com/tag/2014snapshot/

http://jasonnahrung.com/tag/2014snapshot/

http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/tag/2014snapshot

http://mayakitten.livejournal.com/tag/2014snapshot

http://www.merwood.com.au/worldsend/tag/2014snapshot

http://randomalex.net/tag/2014snapshot/

http://stephaniegunn.com/tag/2014snapshot/

http://tansyrr.com/tansywp/tag/2014snapshot/

http://tsanasreads.blogspot.com/search/label/2014snapshot

http://ventureadlaxre.wordpress.com/tag/2014snapshot/

Galactic Suburbia does Orphan Black AGAIN!

Yes, Alisa and I got together after watching the second season of Orphan Black to debrief about all things clone. You can hear us on iTunes or over at Galactic Suburbia – we are very, VERY spoilery!

And just to get you in the mood, this is one of my favourite scenes of television in ages:

A View to a Kill

MV5BMTMwMTYzOTIwM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODY5MDg0NA@@._V1_SX640_SY720_This review is part of Project Bond, wherein over the course of 2014 we watch all of the James Bond movies in production order.Unknown

Summary: in which microchips are a thing, and so are horse-breeding and earthquakes; Christopher Walken and Grace Jones are A Thing; and Roger Moore is really quite old. But that’s ok, because this is his last Bond!!

Alex:  last Moore last Moore last Moore…

This is the first (only?) Bond to start with a legal disclaimer. Weird! But it turns out that when they named the villain’s company Zorin – which, among other things, makes microchips – they creators didn’t realise that there was already a company in existence called Zoran which, among other things, makes microchips. How on EARTH does something like that get past the people in charge? Or the researchers?

Anyway, the microchip appears set to be at the heart of the story when that’s what Bond retrieves in the Siberian snow in the prologue (which is a relatively good chase scene, until it turns out that his iceberg hidey-hole is actually a submarine complete with blonde and cocktails). This particular chip has somehow been manufactured to be resistant to the EMP of a nuclear bomb – clearly a useful advantage if you’re worried about nasty commie retaliatory or preemptive strikes. But then it’s discovered that the commies have this tech too! So we need to go investigate the producer of the chips.

Which leads to the racetrack, and Moneypenny wearing an appalling dress. Zorin’s horse comes first out of nowhere, which leads to Bond visiting the stud farm (oh gahd the possible jokes, most of which are avoided). It turns out the horse what won had a microchip in its leg which released a hormone when activated.

… all of this stuff about the usefulness of microchips is actually build-up for the fact that Zorin is put out about Silicon Valley producing way more than he does, so he’s got a Cunning Plan: destroy Silicon Valley. Buy the factories out? Use poisonous gas? Direct a space-controlled laser on to them? Goodness no! He’s going to instigate an earthquake in both faults that run alongside the Valley, which will destroy it and leave it flooded. Of course! And then the rest of the film is about how Bond finds that out and how he Foils the Dastardly Plan.

Is it obvious that I am so over Moore?

Moore: is old. Seriously. Um, what else… the scene where he drives a Citroen taxi, badly, through Paris is about the most forgettable Bond chase sequence ever, even though he’s chasing Grace Jones with a parachute. And he’s shown, yet again, to be unbearably Good At Everything when he’s able to ride the unrideable horse, over the unrideable steeplechase course. He has a moment of not sleeping with the cute young blonde woman – which was refreshing – but it doesn’t last. images

The villain: Christopher Walken chews scenery. Once again we have an ‘abnormal’ villain: this time it’s revealed that he is (almost certainly) the product of a Nazi experiment, where pregnant women were injected with steroids. images-1And the doctor in charge is the same doctor responsible for dosing his horses, which just… ew. Weird. Zorin is also a KGB agent, at least in theory – he has a chat with General Gogol, played by the same actor as always, about having decided to ditch them and go his own way now, thanks. In case we were in any doubt about his villainy, Zorin’s headquarters a lot of the time are on an airship. Most intriguingly about Walken’s character is his relationship with Grace Jones: Mayday.

Mayday: It’s unclear early on whether they’re an item or she is just his bodyguard; they kiss after sparring, but then he allows he to go sleep with Bond (when he’s put himself in her bed, to avoid being found out as wandering the chateau). At the end, though, Mayday helps Bond because Zorin has left her for dead in a flooded mine – she shrieks: “I thought that creep loved me!” and then she sacrifices herself for Bond, after making him promise to “get Zorin for me.” Grace Jones is the best bit about this film. She is tough and competent, she has outrageous costumes (including that most 80s of outfits, a g-string leotard – and a look on her face that says “go on, I dare you, make a comment about my black butt”).

Women: well, there’s Mayday. … And a random Soviet agent, working for Gogol, with whom Bond has already had a relationship and with whom he ends up in a hot tub…  and there’s Stacey, the geologist (who seems to be a precursor for Denise Richards as nuclear physicist, but maybe I’m just scarred by that. Stacey is not nearly as bad as Christmas). Bond first tries to chat her up at Zorin’s stud but it doesn’t work (again with the possible innuendo that doesn’t get exploited! It seems like the writers were actually calming the heck down!). He meets here again in America, where it turns out she hates Zorin because he took over her oil company (inherited from her father, but totally still her thing) in a highly dubious manner. He rescues her, and ends up sleeping in a chair – thank goodness. Then there’s discussion of geology and nearly getting burned alive, a truly appalling chase scene with Bond then Stacey driving a firetruck, and the Golden Gate Bridge scene where she’s hanging from a girder and he’s fighting Zorin, after she got kidnapped on an airship. Only THEN do they get it on.

Race: the American CIA agent who connects with Bond is Chinese-American. Sadly, we’re back to PoC-sidekick-dying territory. And while I quite liked him, I was sad it wasn’t Felix Leiter. Plus of course the Walken/Jones couple – there’s no mention of race in any discussion of Mayday, as far as I noticed. Bond films never seem to have a problem with mixed race couples, which is admirable.

Finally, I have to share this photo:

dolph2That, my friends, is Dolph Lundgren, on the set of his first movie: A View to a Kill.

James: Jumping off the Eiffel Tower. Saggy old Bond.  I struggled to get excited about the last of the awful Moore Bonds… bring on the new era.  1 Martini.

The Ruby Knight

UnknownEDDINGS RE-READ: The Ruby Knight, BOOK TWO OF THE ELENIUM

Because we just don’t have enough to do, Tehani, Joanne and I have decided to re-read The Elenium and The Tamuli trilogies by David (and Leigh) Eddings, and – partly to justify that, partly because it’s fun to compare notes – we’re blogging a conversation about each book. We respond to each other in the post itself, but you can find Tehani’s post over here and Jo’s post here if you’d like to read the conversation going on in the comments. Also, there are spoilers!

ALEX:

Sparhawk starts this book a) immediately after the end of the first one, and b) wanting someone to jump him, so that he can get all violent on some unsuspecting footpad. I don’t think I was really paying attention to that sort of thing when I was a teen. He’s actually not a very nice man a lot of the time, and that makes me sad.

JO:

It is a bit sad isn’t it :( Sparhawk’s most common reaction seems to be violence, and the narrative and tone celebrates that part of him.

TEHANI:

Alex, you say “not a very nice man” but I never read it that way (and still don’t, I guess!) – he’s a product of his culture and his time. They seem to quite happily wreak havoc on people at the drop of a hat, and he IS a knight, trained to battle!

ALEX:

OK, maybe I don’t have to be quite so sad about him – that he’s a product of his time – but still his active desire for violence does act, for me now, against my lionising of him as a teenager. He is flawed, and I’m troubled because Jo is exactly right – the narrative celebrates him and his anger/violent tendencies.

TEHANI:

You’re both completely right. I still choose to read it in the context of the book, AND STICK MY HEAD IN THE SAND. Damn. That’s the problem with rereading with a few more brains behind us, isn’t it?!

ALEX:

Something we didn’t note in our review of The Diamond Throne is that the book is prefaced by a short excerpt from a ‘history’. This is a really neat way of building up back story and developing the world without having to info-dump – although of course the Eddings pair don’t really have an issue with info-dumps; after all, why else assign a novice knight to teach a young thief history? Anyway, I still like it, and it does show that there has been a fair bit of thought put into the world, even if much of it simplistic.

JO:

Yeah I enjoy these histories too. Good way to set the scene, highlight anything that’s going to be important for the book (like Lake Randera) and do a quick recap. They definitely like an info-dump, but at least the Eddings do it with style and humour!

TEHANI:

I reckon there’s reams of world-building behind these books, especially if the work that we see in The Rivan Codex (for the Belgariad/Mallorean world) is any context!

JO:

I enjoyed this book a lot more than I expected. I remembered The Ruby Knight as a very ‘middle book’, just basically a long build up to finding Bhelliom and saving Ehlana. But on the reread it was a lot more engaging than that. Maybe it’s because Eddings has the space here to really get into the characters, and I love these characters so much that I enjoyed that to no end.

TEHANI:

It really does boggle me that even though I’ve read this several times, I still don’t get bored of this long questy-ride-alonging. It really IS a middle book, and nothing terribly much happens, but it’s still a really enjoyable read! Bizarre. Is it nostalgia that makes it so, or some quality about the book that means I don’t chuck it across the room like I would most other “middle books” that really just march in place?

ALEX:

I found this one a bit more boring than I remembered – it really is just them wandering around. I totally still enjoyed the character development, and it is banter-ific, but on this re-read I got a bit impatient with the lack of actual plot movement.

JO:

They’re also very good at throwing everything in Sparhawk’s way. I mean, this is basically a quest book. We even have a ‘fellowship’ don’t we – Sephrenia mentions how important it is to have a certain number of people on the quest, it’s all about symmetry. But from the outset, everything that can go wrong does, and all of this does a great job of increasing the tension. Not only that, but characters we meet in the beginning and/or middle come back towards the end, which makes these side-quests feel a little less side-questy. By the time Sparhawk and Co. get roped into Wargun’s army I just wanted to scream because they were so close and it is so not fair! But I do love it when characters get put through the wringer like that. Nothing’s easy.

TEHANI:

Masochist! But I’m right there with you – wouldn’t be any fun if things just went to plan, right?

ALEX:

omg when I got to that and remembered that they were being co-opted I think I might actually have groaned out loud. GET ON WITH IT.

TEHANI:

I like that there’s a few points in this book that smack back at the classism – Wat and his fellows teach Sparhawk a thing or two: “Not meanin’ no offence, yer worship, but you gentle-folk think that us commoners don’ know nothin’, but when y’ stack us all together, there’s not very much in this world we don’t know.”

Ulath backs this up some chapters later: “Sometimes I think this whole nobility business is a farce anyway. Men are men – titled or not. I don’t think God cares, so why should we?”

“You’re going to stir up a revolution talking like that, Ulath.”

“Maybe it’s time for one.”

ALEX:

Tehani, you beat me to it – I LOVE that bit; I metaphorically punched the air.

JO:

Go Ulath! :)

TEHANI:

Unfortunately, there is also some nasty gender stuff – it doesn’t stem from our heroes, but isn’t challenged by them, and is somewhat supported by them to an extent (Kurik emphasises the nasty noble’s words by drawing his sword in this exchange):

“Mother will punish you.”

The noble’s laugh was chilling. “Your mother has begun to tire me, Jaken,” he said. “She’s self-indulgent, shrewish and more than a little stupid. She’s turned you into something I’d rather not look at. Besides, she’s not very attractive any more. I think I’ll send her to a nunnery for the rest of her life. The prayer and fasting may bring her closer to heaven, and the amendment of her spirit is my duty as a loving husband, wouldn’t you say?”

(more follows on p. 217 – of my copy…)

ALEX:

urgh. Hate that.

JO:

And it’s ok that he feels this way because it was an ‘arranged marriage’. Poor bloke, getting stuck in an arranged marriage like that. *flat stare* There are a lot of comments in these books about women being obsessed with marriage and men ‘escaping’.

ALEX:

And there’s other uncomfortable gender moments, too, like the serving girls in the tavern often being blonde, busty, and none too bright… *sigh* And then there’s Kring, who asks whether it’s ok to loot, commit arson, and/or rape when they partake in war with the Church Knights.

TEHANI:

Oh, so many uncomfortable moments…

JO:

Yeah I’d totally forgotten that about Kring. I was so excited to see him, because I always liked him, but that took the wind out of my sails a bit.

TEHANI:

But Kring kind of changes, I think (though later on) and that element is quite lost later. However, it does NOT do well to realise which culture the Peloi are intended to represent. Oh, the casual racism…

ALEX:

On the topic of racism – every time Sephrenia rolls her eyes and says “Elenes,” I can’t help but think of the bit in The Mummy where Jonathan says “Americans” in that insulting tone of voice (which I can’t find on YouTube, darn it).

TEHANI:

I think Sephrenia is quite within her rights saying it in that EXACT tone of voice!

ALEX:

Also, Ghwerig being ‘misshapen’ isn’t quite suggested as the reason for his being evil, but it’s pretty close – and keeps cropping up throughout the series. I can’t imagine how that makes a non-able-bodied reader feel, given it makes even me gnash my teeth.

TEHANI:

You know, I never actually read it that way – it mustn’t be quite as overt as some of the other uncomfortable things. But of course, now you’ve pointed it out, yes, I completely see it.

JO:

Oh hey I never really noticed that either! But now that you mention it, I can’t unsee it. Which says a lot. Why do I see all the gender stuff immediately, but this passed me by? Of course there’s a long literary tradition of physical deformities = spiritual ones. That’s no excuse. I must be more aware in my reading.

TEHANI:

Kurik’s acknowledgment of Talen (p. 392) made me cry as much as it did Talen!

ALEX:

You softy. I didn’t cry in THAT bit…

JO:

Oh no, the bit that always made me cry is still to come…

ALEX:

Mine too.

Apropos of nothing, did either of you find it a bit odd that Kurik checks on Sparhawk in the middle of the night?? I bet there’s fanfic out there…

TEHANI:

There’s fanfic out there for EVERYTHING! I didn’t think it odd, though I did love the naked man-hug in the early pages of the first book! (go on, go check, I’ll wait…) :)

JO:

I am NOT going to go looking for fan fic. I am NOT…

ALEX:

Oh, I don’t need to check, Tehani, I remember  :D

Also, do you remember whether you suspected Flute of being actually divine before the great revelation at the end of this story? I’m not sure! I hope I did…

TEHANI:

Well, I read these completely backwards (Tamuli before Elenium), so I was spoiled for that already I’m afraid!

JO:

Tehani that breaks my brain.

I had suspicions about Flute from very early on. I remember being very impressed with myself at the time. I reread it now and think how could you not? They do kinda hit you over the head with it :p

TEHANI:

I think by now we’ve read WAY too much in the field to be surprised by something like that – but a newish reader to the genre? Maybe they wouldn’t pick it!

Well, being the middle book of the trilogy, there isn’t really much by way of plot to chat about, I guess, so shall we move along? Perhaps faster than the plot of the book itself… :)

JO:

We should talk about plot shouldn’t we :)

Sooo… As usual the book opens up with Sparhawk travelling through Cimmura at night in the fog. Notice how often that happens in these books?

TEHANI:

Yes, you’re right! It’s a trend in the books, for sure.

JO:

I quite like the repetition. He’s got both rings, and now he knows he needs Bhelliom to cure Ehlana and it’s time for the sapphire rose to be found again anyway. The fellowship head off on their quest for the magic jewel and have adventures along the way, including being stuck in the middle of a siege, dealing with Count Ghasek’s possessed sister, raising the dead and finally fighting the Seeker who has been chasing them all this time.

Eventually they make it to Ghwerig’s cave – after the introduction of Milord Stragen, another favourite character – fight and defeat the troll. Flute is revealed as the child-Goddess Aphrael, and gives Bhelliom over to Sparhawk.

Was that the kind of thing you had in mind? ;)

TEHANI:

This is why YOU’RE the writer…! Nicely summed up indeed. The Count Ghasek storyline was a bit of a tough one. On one hand, Ghasek seemed like a nice enough chap. On the other, the motives behind his sister’s madness, well, not great to examine that too closely, I think.

JO:

Although I did appreciate the throwback to book one – Eddings could have introduced any old character here, but Bellina is the woman Sparhawk and Sephrenia witnessed going into that evil Zemoch house.

TEHANI:

Well seeded indeed…

ALEX:

GET ON WITH THE STORY, EDDINGS PEOPLE!

 

Galactic Suburbia 104

In which we gaze into the World of the Future with a double dose of Culture Consumed and Culture Yet To Consume. Get us at iTunes or Galactic Suburbia.

Culture We Are Looking Forward To

Alex: new James SA Corey; Isobelle Carmody’s last Obernewtyn novel; every TPP; Guardians of the Galaxy; Snowpiercer; Saga.

Tansy: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison; Kameron Hurley, The Mirror Empire; Ben Peek, The Godless; Sailor Moon

Alisa: Extant

Culture We Have Consumed

Alisa: Twinmaker, Sean Williams

Alex: holidays!! Diaspora, Greg Egan; The Reluctant Swordsman, Dave Duncan; James Tiptree Award Anthology 3

Tansy: The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet.

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

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