Monthly Archives: August, 2007

Snapshot 2007: Geoff Maloney


Geoff Maloney is the author of numerous short stories, which can be found in such places as Orb #6, Aurealis #33/34/35, and Ticonderoga Online. He has also edited a few anthologies, such as the recent Fantastical Journeys to Brisbane, and can be found online here.

Q1: Fantastical Journeys to Brisbane came out this year, which you co-edited with Zoran Zivkovic. The title made me laugh, since Brisbane is not the sort of place I imagine having a fantastical journey towards! What has the response been like to this anthology, and what do you think of the final product?

I think the title needs to be looked at in a couple of ways. Firstly, the origin of the anthology goes back to Zoran Zivkovic’s visit to Australia as a guest writer at the 2004 Brisbane Writers’ Festival. At that time Zoran, who lives in Belgrade, Serbia, had recently won a World Fantasy Award for his novella, “The Library”. I had already made Zoran’s acquaintance through Kirsten Bishop and the fact that we were both involved with Prime Books in the US at that time. While he was in Brisbane, Zoran held a writers’ masterclass for the Queensland Writers’ Centre and, out of that class, “The Devil in Brisbane“ was born. Zoran was very keen to follow this up with a second anthology and so “Fantastical Journeys to Brisbane“ was launched. This time Trent Jamieson came onboard to help with the selection of the stories and assist with the editing process. Trent‘s experience from his work on “Redsine” was invaluable.

While we in Australia think of Brisbane as just another Australian city and one perhaps with a politically shady past the reality is that for many people in the northern hemisphere Brisbane is exotic and just the sort of place you might have a magical journey to. As the publisher is Izvori in Zagreb, Croatia, this is entirely suitable.

Secondly, by grounding the anthology in a named city, we were able to give writers, who wished to contribute, clear directions we were after stories that were in the nature of travelling or returning to an urban destination, and this would avoid getting many stories that were set in the “inexplicable nowhere”. The writers handled this concept extremely well and if Brisbane wasn’t exotic to people in Australia before, it should be now. As we say in the promo for the book:

Inspired by World Fantasy Award winner Zoran Zivkovic’s mosaic novella, “Compartments”, each writer has crafted their own special tale of a journey to the mythical city of Brisbane. It is a place that only appears on the map of the imagination, a place where suspected terrorists and supernatural beings are incarcerated, where renegade cyborgs and lads from the bush seek salvation… a city awaiting the arrival of the new messiah, while malevolent water-spirits wander the reaches of its river. It is also the place your aunties visit on holidays of transformation and others find their own special road to heaven and hell.

At this stage, it’s too early to gauge the response. We’ve had a review at ASif! which everybody agreed was pretty good, but we’re only just starting to get some local distribution, and haven’t got the Izvori website set-up yet for European and international sales. All of that is coming soon.

Coming from Izvori in Croatia, the production quality of this book is unique and exceptional. It’s in a hard cover format that is often used in Croatia. The cover is like a sunny day in Brisbane, and the internal layout, which was done by Damir Mikulicic at Izvori, is one of the best I’ve ever seen.


Q2: Ben Peek interviewed you for the ancestor of this project, Snapshot 2005. In it, Peek asked your opinion on the Aussie scene, and one of your comments was about the short story scene: “Personally, I like short stories, but if I was a person who really wanted to write novels in Australia, I wouldn’t go anywhere near the short story market. There’s very little money in it and the time it takes to write several short stories would be much better spent on writing your next novel…”. Do you think this still holds true for the Aussie scene, two years later? And if it does, is there anything we can do about it?

Yes, I think it’s still true. It’s a model that American friends tell me works in the US, but I don’t think it ever has in Australia. I think the only thing to be done is to be careful not to assume that US publishing advice applies in Australia. It simply means that Australian writers shouldn’t feel compelled in any way to write short stories if they’re aiming to get a novel published in the local market.

It’s a fact of life at the moment that short stories are just not as popular as they used to be, but neither are slim novels. The long novel is very popular across most genres.

Impossible to say whether that will change. But nobody should start writing short stories thinking they can make a career out of it. You write them because you personally like the form, or to be perfectly pragmatic because you simply don’t have the time to commit to writing long novels.

Although I do have a few novel drafts in the bottom drawer.

Q3: You’ve been involved in editing two anthologies with Zoran Zivkovic in the past, The Devil in Brisbane and Fantastical Journeys to Brisbane. Do you see yourself being involved in more anthologies and editing over the next five years, or concentrating solely on your own writing?

I also did the editorial work on the first CSFG anthology, “Nor of Human” and had a range of editorial roles in relation to Lee Battersby and Paul Haines’ collections through Prime Books. I was also guest editor on Znak Sagite #15, which Bill Congreve contributed an article for on the state of Australian speculative fiction, and included some great stories by Australian writers. Anybody in Australia who has seen a copy of that magazine has been very impressed by its quite amazing art work. They couldn’t read it, however, because it’s all in Serbian.

Overall, I see myself as a writer, not an editor, although I’m quite proud of the editorial work I’ve done. The editorial role has mostly come about because I’ve been invited to do it, by Zoran and others. But I should make the point that my role in production of the books has only been that of editor. Unlike Russell Farr at Ticonderoga or Cat Sparks at Agog! or Angela Challis at Brimstone, I haven’t had to worry about publishing the book as well.

So, no, I’m not actively seeking editorial opportunities. Not sure at this stage if Zoran has any future plans; you never know what Zoran has up his sleeve. He is quite a magician.

And, you know, my short stories continue to get published, here and overseas, and I’m happy about that. I was published in the first issue of Aurealis and I’ll have a story coming out in the next issue. I guess some people would think that’s bad. I think it’s good.

I don’t actually think of things in terms of my writing career or “my editorial career”. Writing is important to me, but when I put the editor’s hat on its important to me too. When I go to my day job, working on housing policy issues, it’s important as well, and bringing up three young daughters with my wife Diana is possibly the most important thing I could ever do. It’s more about having a life where writing plays an important part, rather than writing or editing being the only thing you do.

Q4: Along with working and so forth, I presume you’ve had time to relax and read: what’s the best thing you’ve read this year?

People who know me know that I have a passion for European fiction, especially Russian writers, and if they write dark urban fantasies with a wicked sense of humour that’s even better. The best novel I read this year was the Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. It’s a classic of speculative fiction. Masterful writing and wonderful story-telling. The other best novel I read was also by Bulgakov, The White Guard about the fall of Kiev during the Russian Revolution. Not speculative fiction, but a must read book for anybody who is interested in the techniques of writing. Just brilliant writing from start to finish, and a marvellous historical story.

Q5: And, to finish in a totally shameless way: you’ve got the chance to get it on with any fictional character. Who would it be?

Does Samantha in Bewitched count?


Snapshot 2007: Glenda Larke

Glenda Larke is the author of many published novels, including the Isles of Glory trilogy. She can be found online here.

Q1: You are heavily involved in rainforest conservation issues in Malaysia, where you live at the moment: is this something that you have tried, or would like to, include in your novels? Do you think issues such as this can, or should, be brought into fantasy?

Certainly I have dealt with issues of the interconnectivity of the natural environment and humankind in my books – particularly in the Isles of Glory trilogy, and yes, I believe that fantasy is uniquely situated to bring home such important issues to readers. A fantasy/sf writer can say things without sounding too dogmatic or personal because it is all set in a fantasy or future world. I love a many-layered story, and this is one of the ways I try to achieve this. I haven’t – yet – dealt with a tropical rainforest, though. I believe it is possible to write stories which both entertain and have a message, without sounding didactic.

Such stories can be read on any level – I’ve had readers comment on the entertainment value and remark that’s all there is, and I’ve had readers say they love the many layers…and they are talking about the same book.

Q2: You’ve moved around a great deal: WA, Malaysia, Austria and Tunisia…. Has this moving around made writing easier or harder? And has it influenced what and how you write? As well – if it’s not a rude thing to say – you’ve started to be published “later in life,” as they say. Has this influenced your writing?

Writing is never easy, at least not for me. It is always hard work, but where I am matters not one whit. Having lived in so many places has given me an enormous amount of material and insight into other cultures, though. I tend to think in terms of the complex as a result, and rarely see things or people in terms of black and white. Or is that all part of growing older, or being an older (and one would like to think – wiser) writer? And if I know one thing, it is what it is like to be an outsider.

Q3: What do you see yourself doing in five years’ time? You’ve written non-fiction, as well as fiction: is this an area you would like to work in more?

I enjoy writing non-fiction, certainly, but not as much as fiction. So given the choice…

In five years time, I would like to see myself receiving accolades for writing the great fantasy of the 21st century…ok, one can dream, right?

Q4: Do you get much time to read, amidst all the other stuff that you do? What’s the best thing you’ve read this year?

I used to read more before I had deadlines, that’s for sure. But I can’t imagine not reading at all. Right now most of what I read is by my fellow Voyager authors, often in MS form. (They do the same for me). And there’s is some fantastic writing there – Russell Kirkpatrick’s new Husk trilogy is a stupendous epic that deserves international accolades and far more recognition than it is getting. Karen Miller is the most versatile of us all, writing equally well in different sub-sets of the genre and making it all look so very easy, when of course it is not. I love Jenny Fallon for sheer exuberant entertainment and its “can’t-put-it-down” nature. Her latest trilogy is her best yet. On the international scene, I’d have to say Naomi Novak’s Temeraire books were one of the highlights of the year for me.

Q5: And, since surely you’ve thought about it… which fictional character would you most like to get it on with, and why?

If you mean one of my own characters, it would have to be Kelwyn Gilfeather…such a lovely, compassionate and totally confused man. Of someone else’s characters? Hmm…Tyrion Lannister. Because I’m curious, and I like to live dangerously.

This interview has been undertaken as part of Snapshot 2007. The other interviews can be read at:

Snapshot 2007: Grace Dugan

Grace Dugan is the author of the novel The Silver Road and numerous short stories. She can be found online here.

Q1: You’ve been working on an MA in Creative Writing. What’s your focus there, and do you think it will be of benefit in your novel-writing career? And if not, why are you doing it?

I started the MA because I was interested in teaching creative writing as a sideline to writing, ie. a day job. There’s been a lot of side benefits along the way. The week I enrolled, someone offered me some tutoring work in a short story subject. That’s been my main income over the last 18 months, as well as a quite enjoyable and interesting part-time job, basically critting stories for a living. I’ve also had a wonderful time working with my supervisor, Nike Bourke, who’s been a great mentor to me.

My project was what they call practice-led research, where you write a novel (or some other such creative thing) and then write a relatively short academic exegesis which relates in some tenuous or not-so-tenuous way to the creative work. My exegesis was about novel writing processes and strategies. You know some people say they plan everything out and how could you do it any other way, and others say they “work organically,” &c. It’s something I’ve experimented with over time and I wanted to shed some light on it, because it seems to be a slightly loaded topic and people talk a lot of rubbish about it. So I surveyed about twenty novelists over email, and then I got kind of ill and I haven’t done anything about it since. I took as much sick leave as I could, which was a year, but really my heart has gone out of the whole thing and I’ve just withdrawn from the program. In fact, I’ve decided to go off on a bit of a different course and I’ve spent the last little while trying to get into a medical degree. I’ve jumped through most of the hoops and with any luck I’ll start next year.
I’ll still finish the novel I was working on, of course, but I won’t finish the exegesis or the pesky coursework that I had left.

Q2: You wrote The Silver Road while you were still at high school, but it took a while for it to be published. How much changed in that time? and was it all for the good?

I started it in the last few months of high school. It’s gone through a lot of changing and mooshing around. At first it was two books, a pair running concurrently, that would be published as part of a series. That presented a lot of problems, to reconcile the dramatic aspects with continuity between both books. When I was at the Varuna Manuscript Development workshop, Linda Funnell from HarperCollins suggested slicing the two books up and combining them. I think that worked pretty well, but it took about a year and was a real slog. In case you were wondering, the original two books followed Yelela and Zuven respectively, and I wrote Haga, the third character, at the same time that I was combining them. That was the version Penguin bought, and then it went through a very substantial structural edit, and a line edit which was as heavy as some people’s structural edits, and proofs which had five things marked up on every page. I’m exhausted just telling you about it.

It was definitely all for the good. I basically rewrote that novel as I learned to write better, but because it took such a long time, by the time I finished I was quite distant from the story. About once a month I get an email asking me to write a sequel, or even an epilogue, but I really can’t imagine doing it. The expressive impulse for the story was from long ago, and most of the work I did in the last few years was just making it work.

Q3: Your next novel will ‘probably’ be called The Motherland Garden. Any hints as to what it will be about?

It’s a fantasy set in a world which is industrialised but relatively low-tech. The protagonist lives in a women-only hermitage studying magic, in a country which is a subject nation of a much bigger empire. She falls in love, gets her heart broken, works in a mailroom, fails to learn magic, gets involved with guerillas, &c. Plus there’s lots of weather.

Q4: I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had some medical issues recently – I hope it’s left you more time for reading! On which note, what’s the best thing you’ve read so far in 2007?

I try to get Small Beer Press books when I can afford them, (which is often, as many of them are pretty cheap). This year I’ve absolutely loved both Howard Who?, an old Howard Waldrop collection, and Travel Light by Naomi Mitchison. Some friends of mine in the US have also started a new press, Blind Eye Books, and their first book, Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale, was really great, too. I also loved Sixty Days and Counting by Kim Stanley Robinson, and recently picked up one of his older ones, Escape from Kathmandu, which was more fun than it had any right to be. Last one: I read “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” by James Tiptree Jr, which was really compelling and persuasive.

Q5: Finally, on a completely different tangent: if you could get it on with any fictional character, who would it be, and why?!

I had a lot of trouble with this question. I scanned my bookcase and thought about all the heroes, but they’re mostly troubled, in a way which arouses sympathy but is not really attractive; or enigmatic loners who I might like reading about but who, in real life, would be those people who take themselves too seriously; or they’re those comfy-love-interest fellows that you feel good about the protagonist ending up with, but I wouldn’t necessarily go for them myself.

This interview has been undertaken as part of Snapshot 2007. The other interviews can be read at:

Snapshot 2007: Jackie French

Jackie French is the author of numerous novels, including Macbeth and Son and Pharoah most recently. She can be found online here

Q1: A lot of your stories revolve around historical people or places: Macbeth and Son, Pharoah, Dinkum Histories, A Rose for the ANZAC Boys… and those are just the recent ones! What is it about historical stories that appeals to you? Is there any person or time that you would *never* write about?

Nothing that I’ve deliberately censored from my mind and thought “that’s out.”

History? Partly because i’ve never quite believed in the concept of linear time, even though we may experience it that way. have always felt that the past and present is only a membrane away.

Partly early conditioning- as a child growing up in Brisbane in the 50’s I was subjected to long stretches in Church and religious instruction and the only acceptable thing to read instead of listening to the sermon was the Bible..which is a stunning source document for ancient history. Moved onto the great dialogues of Plato and had a crush on Socrates- all in all, lived in the past for large chunks of the week.

And partly too because of history’s sheer diversity and complexity. When you start thinking about the past you see it in terms of your own age. the more deeply you understand it the more different you realise it is.

But mostly…well, I don’t like being fenced in. Couldn’t live in a city, or work in an office- and would hate to be boxed up in a small world called ‘the present’ too.

Q2: You’ve received a huge number of accolades for your stories: shortlists and Notable Titles from the Children’s Book Council of Australia, YABBA and Bilby and WAYBRA shortlists… and that’s just this year! Two questions, then, really: is there one story or project that you are most proud of? And how do you react when you find out you’ve shortlisted or nominated for an award yet again?!

For every award I get there’s the rejection when a book I love DOESN’T get an award… especially the ones that i know are better than some of the ones that have.

Writing is a pretty solitary occupation. Sometimes it seems as though the publishers just kindly send you a cheque twice a year. Awards are when you suddenly realise that it was a book that you wrote, not just a pile of words.

Q3: Where to from here for Jackie French? You’ve been prolific in the last few years – will you keep up the pace for the next few?

When you suddenly have to face that you may not make it through the next few years, I suppose everyone starts wondering what they’ve missed doing. But for me it’s simple- I just want more. More books to write, more lunches with friends and family, more wombats to watch and trees to plant and see grow.

Q4: In between your writing, and public appearances, and other demands on your time – do you get to read much? What’s the best thing you’ve read in 2007?

I read at least a book every day (I read fairly quickly). But the best? Bloody hell… Audrey Niffenegers’s The Time Traveller’s Wife. Jasper Fforde’s The Fourth Bear. Graham Green’s Travels with my Aunt (re read that last night- simply perfect). But there must eb at least another twenty somewhere there- proably in one of the boxes in my bedroom of books I’ve yet to put back on the shelves!

Q5: Should you ever have the chance to visit a fictional world, which would it be – and are there any characters you would like to meet and, shall we say, be intimate with?!

I think I could settle down quite happily in Lancre. But I’d prefer the Island of Aldous Huxley…minus the invasion at the end.

This interview has been undertaken as part of Snapshot 2007. The other interviews can be read at:

Snapshot 2007: Garth Nix

Garth Nix is the author of the Keys to the Kingdom series, as well as the Old Kingdom series (Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen). He can be found online here.

Q1: The fifth book in the Keys to the Kingdom series, Lady Friday, was published this year, so there’s just two more to go – Superior Saturday and Lord Sunday. Have you already completed these? If so, how does it feel to have to sit on them for years before they actually get published – does it get frustrating? (Also, as a bonus: what did it feel like to have the UK bookstore WH Smith give away Mister Monday free to people who ordered Harry Potter 7?!)

I wish I had already written them, but unfortunately I’m still working on SUPERIOR SATURDAY and will have LORD SUNDAY to do after that. But it’s a nice feeling to be most of the way through the series, and also to be able to begin to reveal in more detail the entirety of the ‘big story’ that I had in mind when I started thinking about the series back in 2000-2001.

The WH Smith promotion was a good one, and I always like my books being part of some clever marketing. They ended up giving away more than 250,000 copies of MISTER MONDAY and if all has worked out as planned, some appreciable proportion of those readers will pick up the rest of the series or some of my other books.

Q2: You’ve been a guest at a number of conventions now: the Brisbane and Sydney Writers’ Festival, for example, and most recently at Conflux in Canberra. Is this just to keep the fans happy and get a chance to travel, or do you get something out of it as well?

The whole festival/convention scene is a funny one. Like everyone else, when I first started out I didn’t get invited to be a guest at any of them, but I had time to go and would have liked to be a guest. Then as time passed and I had more books published I started being invited to some, and then a few more and now I get invited to so many that I could probably be a guest at some sort of festival or convention somewhere in the world almost all the time. But now I don’t have time, and of course, I couldn’t do that and live my normal family life, let alone get any writing done. I have met other authors who can write when they’re at festivals or on tour, but I find it very difficult myself. Nowadays, I tend to accept invitations that tie in with when I’m going to be on tour anyway, like the Bath Festival of Children’s Literature in the UK in September, or where I have not been able to take up an invitation for a few years, like Melbourne Writers Festival later this month. I also decided to try to get to the World Fantasy Convention every two years, mainly to catch up with fellow writers from all over the world. Apart from the social aspect of catching up with other writers and publishing folk, festivals and conventions are also a good way to connect with a lot of readers in a short space of time.

Q3: You’ve written a number of novels, and quite a few short stories – those collected in Across the Wall, as well as being published in the webzine Jim Baen’s Universe and anthology Dark Alchemy. In the next five or so years, where do you see yourself concentrating your efforts – novel or short? And will you stick with writing for young adults?

I don’t really plan the short fiction, just every now and then an idea crops up and it turns out to be a short story rather than part of a current novel or notes for a future book-length work. So I expect that I will keep writing occasional pieces of short fiction as well as working on novels. I have a story in Jonathan Strahan’s forthcoming ECLIPSE anthology, for example, and another in Ellen Datlow’s and Terri Windling’s CINDERELLA GAME. Some of these stories are for young adults, some are slanted older, but I don’t really think much about that either, they just turn out to have a natural reading entry age which may be younger or older.

Q4: Amidst the traveling and writing you’ve done this year, hopefully you’ve squeezed in some reading too: what do you think is the best thing you’ve read so far in 2007?

I don’t read as much as I used to, nor as much as I would like, and a lot of my reading is non-fiction. One of the best things I’ve read this year is DOUBLE EAGLE AND CRESCENT: VIENNA’S SECOND TURKISH SIEGE AND ITS HISTORICAL SETTING by Thomas M. Barker, which is quite an old book. In terms of new genre fiction, I’ve enjoyed SATURN RETURNS by Sean Williams and many of the stories in THE NEW SPACE OPERA edited by Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan. Apart from that, I’ve been re-reading some old favourites, including a bunch of children’s historical novels by Ronald Welch, KNIGHT’S FEE by Rosemary Sutcliff and to round out the eclectic mix, the GUNNER ASCH books by Hans Helmut Kirst.

Q5: Finally, to finish on a silly note: are there any fictional characters that you would like to meet, and be… intimate… with?!

Oddly enough, given that I love the deep immersion of reading and I love writing and trying to make characters ‘real’, I never think of my real life and any world of fiction or the people in it intersecting, either intimately or not. I suppose that even when engrossed in a book I am also observing it and my own experience reading it, so am forever fated to be detached. I also have a strong instinct for the ‘rightness’ of stories, they are whole constructs that exist in themselves, and taking characters out of the story or out of their relationships within the story to have one with me feels like breaking an 18th century porcelain teapot to run off with the handle. There, plenty for the amateur psychologists to think about!

Snapshot 2007: DM Cornish

DM Cornish is the author and illustrator of Monster Blood Tattoo, and can be found online here.

Q1: You’ve been shortlisted, with Monster Blood Tattoo, for the Children’s Book Council of Australia awards – congratulations! And for your first published work, too… tell us about it: how did you find out, how did you feel, what does it mean to you to be shortlisted?

Thank you very much, ma’am. My publisher, Dyan Blacklock, called me and told me and it felt very good; my hope and desire is to write good stories, to write them well, I have no idea if I have achieved this with MBT but a short-listing is certainly encouraging. As for what it means, in purely banal, fiduciary terms it means extra sales – the shortlist is viewed as a buying guide for most schools and libraries – but more especially it just feels like a big gold star (in the right kind of way), a “well done and keep going” – and I am very very grateful to be included.

Q2: Monster Blood Tattoo is one of the prettiest books I’ve seen in a long time – the illustrations are lovely, and the whole book is an experience of the world you’ve created, the Half-Continent, down to the name-plate at the very beginning. (Who me? A simpering fan?!) Was it your idea, to market the book that way, or some bright spark with your publisher?

It was very much my hope to make a book that was a complete experience and Dyan Blacklock was equally as keen (as long as the numbers worked – as in $$$). In 4th year uni I had a visual journal that was blue and black and cloth covered. I loved that book, loved sticking weird collages and doing odd doodles in it and when it came time to publish my very own book (woohoo!) I wanted to make something that replicated that loved tome of my younger years. Indeed, I took a reduction in my royalty to make it possible to afford the production of the MBT series in the hardback form (Australian & New Zealand) readers can buy. That blue hard bound edition is very much close to my heart.

The name plate was very much about me wanting to make the reading experience as rich and immersing as possible – this is all about suspending disbelief and escaping into another place after all. I figured that for the right reader the idea of a) feeling like you just might be holding a book made in the Half-Continent, and b) even identifying with the protagonist by naming yourself as a foundling too just might make the immersion just that much more deep. By way of a sneak preview, the book plate for Lamplighter (MBT Book 2) will be of a book given to you from the Empire itself.

As to the character illustrations, they are there because of the influence of Mervyn Peake’s books and those wonderful character studies that pepper his works. The way the illustrations appear in MBT is more formal – with frames and name plates – but the heart of the idea is Mr Peake. I might just add to this that I only wanted to show characters rather than whole scenes, to still allow the reader space to imagine these scenes for themselves – the reader of a novel has to have that freedom, surely.

In the end, I think of the Half-Continent itself like others might remember great holiday destinations they have really been too, and regard its characters like recalling close friends who happen to live in another city at the moment – and I would love to impart some of that to my readers. If I do then joy!, mission very much accomplished.

Q3: Monster Blood Tattoo is going to be at least a trilogy, I presume – there seems to be a lot of scope in the Half-Continent for Rossamund to keep getting into, and out of, trouble. Paint yourself a prophet, and look at the next 5 years: where to? Will you stay with young adult fiction? Are there short story ideas lurking in your mind, that might fill in some odd corners of the world you’ve created? Or is writing going to take second place to world domination?

In the next 5 years, Lord willing, I would love to write other stories about other characters in different situations – to explore the H-c (as I abbreviate the Half-Continent) from other points of view. I have swilling about my noggin a couple of ideas, one being an whole novel about two characters thrust together by circumstances and off to see the world, the other a collection of short stories – just as you said (ma’am, after reading your review of Book 1 and the above bit of foresight I reckon you and I might be on a sympathetic wave-length). The very first proper narrative writings of the H-c were short stories (barely a handful and poorly written at that) and it is a form I can see being very liberating as I explore all sorts of aspects of the H-c and the lands around it from many different periods in its history too. I reckon it might be a great way to show folks the breadth of my ideas – Rossamünd’s story only goes a small way into the ideas I have in my head and scribbled in my notebooks. There is even a notion for a graphic novel of short stories too, but we shall have to wait and see.

The YA section is such a rich and vibrant part of publishing currently and my working relationship with my publisher so fruitful I see no need to venture anywhere else. I just wish people would stop thinking that doing things for children is somehow less than writing for adults; you can see the , look in some folk’s eyes when they find out I’m a writer then I tell them it’s YA, it is a look that goes from keen interest to “oh, so you’re not a real writer then…” Very disheartening. Still, if I did or did not do things based on the comprehension of others there would be no H-c or MBT.

As to world domination, I had a great idea about it that I wrote down but – stupid me! – I left them in the pocket of my jeans and they went through the wash, paper utterly destroyed plans lost. So that was a bit of a setback I can tell you, ah well…

Q4: Hopefully you’ve had the chance to do some reading this year, along with the excitement of Monster Blood Tattoo coming out: what has been the best thing you’ve read this year?

I, Claudius, Robert Graves – wonderfully written (and much plundered for possible concepts that fit the H-c); “Red Spikes,” Margo Lanagan – I love the short story form and this is such a sweet sweet example of the craft; Ock von Fiend, Luke Edwards – a fellow stable-mate at Omnibus Books and one of the best picture books I have in my largish collection; Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell – a superb book on re-thinking Christian thought and expectation.

Q5: And finally, if wishes were fishes is there any fictional character you would want to get it on with?! (Don’t worry, everyone is getting this question!)

Umm… well, those who know MBT might think I might say Europe, yet I tend not to think of my characters that way. If I made my wife, Tiffany, into a fictional character then I would say her – but I get to be with her for real so that kinda covers it for me. (This is a nice, boring answer I’m sure, but there you go…)

Snapshot 2007: Juliet Marillier

Juliet Marillier has been a full time writer since about 2002. She has written nine novels so far, with a tenth due out later this year. She can be found on the web here.

Q1: Wildwood Dancing has been included in the Books Alive promotion this year. Was there a process you had to go through for that to happen? And you’ve also been doing talks at libraries and bookshops in conjunction with that: have they been a good experience for you?

I earn my living as a writer, and it’s a standard part of my work to deliver talks at libraries, bookshops, writers’ festivals and so on. Libraries and librarians played a big part in fostering my childhood love of books, so I especially like being involved in library events. The Q&A sessions this time around produced some interesting discussion about the craft of writing.

With Books Alive, I had no involvement in the process for inclusion. I do know the book choices for each category were made by different panels of experts. This year about 80% of the titles chosen are by Australian authors – a vigorous campaign by ASA helped that come about.

Q2: You’ve written about quite different countries and cultural groups in your books – the Bridei Chronicles set with the Picts, Wolfskin and Foxmask with the Vikings, Wildwood Dancing in Romania. How much research have you done for each area, and has it been difficult to maintain their distinct cultural voices over extended periods of writing?

I do extensive research for every novel. Generally by the time I begin writing I am pretty much immersed in the appropriate culture. For Wolfskin and Foxmask, for instance, I read a lot of the Icelandic sagas and also visited both Orkney and the Faroe Islands so that my portrayal of place would be as accurate as possible. And I studied the history. Researching Wildwood Dancing took me to Transylvania, and although I didn’t meet any vampires, I learned far more about the Romanian people’s attitudes to their own culture than I could ever have found out by reading background material.

Cultural voices – I do my best to capture them, but it can be hard to get the balance right between cultural authenticity and a mode of storytelling that will work for a present day audience. The core of the story should be in some way relevant to the reader’s own life, and the challenge is to achieve that while pulling the reader right into the time and place of the book. My stories contain human dilemmas that are common in any age and culture (for instance, tangled relationships, divided loyalties, tests of faith and courage, political imperatives warring with personal beliefs and so on). Dialogue can be tricky. None of the cultures of my books was English-speaking. The question is how to phrase the characters’ everyday, casual language so it is neither too archaic nor too modern. I veer towards modern idiom for informal dialogue and some readers don’t like that. But a lot of our colloquial expressions would have had their medieval Pictish equivalents, after all.

Q3: The sequel to Wildwood Dancing, Cybele’s Secret, is due out fairly soon, and you’re also working on a couple of adult novels. Would you see yourself working on more adult, or more young adult, novels in the next five years or so, and why?

Because writing is the way I make my living, I have to consider three questions: What do I want to write? What do my readers want me to write? What are my publishers prepared to publish? I have two stand-alone adult novels under contract and after those are done I hope to write a fourth instalment of the Bridei Chronicles. So if there is another YA book to come, it won’t be for a while. I generally work at the rate of one novel per year.

I’ve enjoyed writing Wildwood Dancing and Cybele’s Secret and I feel there should definitely be a third in this series, featuring the youngest sister in the Piscul Dracului family, Stela. But overall I prefer to write for adults, partly because I struggle to tell a story within the shorter length of a YA novel and partly because I found editorial requirements for my YA books a little restrictive. Having said that, I’ve learned some economy of style through writing these two YA novels and that is a good thing.

Q4: Apart from writing, hopefully you’ve had time to do some reading this year as well. What would you say has been the best thing you’ve read so far in 2007?

I just finished Kushiel’s Justice by Jacqueline Carey, which I really loved. This is Carey back in top form, an intricate, absorbing, utterly stylish novel.

Q5: Finally, as a completely inappropriate way to conclude this interview: if you could get it on with any fictional character, who would it be?!

One-night stands are not my thing, so I’d be looking for long-term partner material. Good character would matter more than physical attributes. When I wrote my first novel, Daughter of the Forest, I deliberately gave the hero, nicknamed Red, all the qualities I’d like in a real-life partner: kindness, consistency, honour and integrity. Also, he’s physically rather well endowed. Alienated, difficult men make interesting lovers on the printed page, but they’re a lot less appealing in real life.

Snapshot 2007: Tansy Rayner Roberts

Dr Tansy Rayner Roberts’ novel for children, Seacastle – book 1 of The Lost Shimmaron series – was published this year. She is also involved in the Young Adult-focussed ezine Shiny, and can be found online here.

Q1. So. Shiny and Shimmaron. What’s the go with the Young Adult focus? And the alliteration?

The alliteration is coincidental! I’ve been moving towards doing children’s and young adult fiction for some time, because I really believe that’s where the exciting stuff is happening in our genre right now (plus, the books? shorter!) but it’s something of a coincidence that it’s all happening for me this year. The Shimmaron has been a project in motion for four years that just happened to appear Right Now, and as for Shiny… well, I take total credit for the idea, if not the project!

Internationally, as the profile of YA SF has increased, there have been a number of anthologies released to appeal to that audience (that audience including teenagers who don’t want to be talked down to, and adults who like to read about smart teens) but no magazine markets that follow up on that. So we made one! We’re really excited with some of the authors and stories we’ve picked up so far, and will be making a splash with our first issues later this year. Stay tuned!

PS: The Lost Shimmaron series is actually aimed at children – it occasionally gets listed as YA, but it’s definitely the lower end, as in 8-12 yr olds. I keep getting fan comments from people who read it to their 4 year olds! I don’t want people to expect there are going to be, like, faery drugs and troll sex and all those other good YA things in it. It’s a mermaidy adventure story.

Q2. You’ve had a few short stories published in places like Andromeda Spaceways, and more recently Fantastical Journeys to Brisbane, as well as novels. Do you have a preferred length to write towards? – do you always know whether an idea is a short or a novel?

Actually, the perfect length for a story for me is about 13,000 words. Which is tragic, really. It’s a cross I have to bear.

I’m a novel girl at heart, it’s how I think. I’m always surprised and delighted when I get a short story idea that will actually work in 6,000 words or less, but it doesn’t come naturally to me. Having said that, I *loved* writing Seacastle, Book 1 of the Lost Shimmaron, because 20,000 words is such a beautiful novel length. Should be more of it!

My trouble is that I think in worlds, so even when I write shorts, I usually want to jam them into a series. It has to be all about the novels right now, though, because last year I swore I’d have three new novel-length manuscripts completed by the time I was thirty, and I have just under a year to go. Score is currently at one with just minor edits to go, one which needs about 30,000 words added to the front of it, plus edits, and one that needs to be written from scratch. I can totally do it.

Q3. You’ve just completed your PhD looking at the use of the term ‘Augusta’ and how it was applied to various Roman women. Can we look forward to a historical fantasy story from you sometime in the future – perhaps with Agrippina or Julia meeting a mermaid? And if not, why not, choose your favourite colour… or explain what else might be coming up.

Heh – I have just completed it, as of about 6pm yesterday [Friday]! Hooray! You may address me as Dr Tansy.

I’ve been wanting to write about my period of Ancient Rome for years, but never quite got up the nerve. I had an alternate history all planned for a while, kind of Roman steampunk (because there’s this legend that steam engines were invented but the Emperor dismissed them because “what would we do with the slaves”) and I was researching Egyptian technology for ages, but I’ve never followed through.

I’ve written half a short story about Caesar being haunted by Pompey’s severed head when he meets Cleopatra. I want to finish that, but as usual, I have no idea how to finish the damn thing. Maybe I need to add smut…

I *really* want to write about the romance of Octavian and Livia, because that story fascinates me (she was pregnant with her second child to first husband when he married her), and none of the historical novelists seem willing/interested to cover it. I adore young Octavian, he was such a little psychopath and yet he reinvented himself so effectively later on.

And I had this whole idea about writing a story about the afterlife of the deified members of the Julio-Claudian family. Drusilla and Livia, in particular. Such a catfight waiting to happen. Livia died first, but her great-granddaughter got to be a goddess first! Imagine the tensions.

I actually have a huge epic book/series planned which incorporates magic and Roman women’s history, but it’s way down the list of manageable projects, because it’s going to be so damn big! And of course there’s the ‘history fear’ thing to get over, where the more you know about a historical era, the more paranoid you become about getting it Wrong.

In the mean time, the novel I’m working on (the one that needs the beginning added to it) revolves around a festival calendar directly inspired by the Ancient Romans, and the city itself is grounded in my memories of Rome. So that will have to be enough for now!

PS: My favourite colour is green.

Q4. You’re part of the Last Short Story crew, and well known as having a Harry Potter fanfic obsession: what’s the best thing you’ve read this year?

Ooh, that is a really difficult question. I’ve read over 90 books, over 1000 short stories and um, mumble, over 1500 fanfics (including at least 50 novel & 100 novella length ones).

Having said all that, the one piece of reading I’ve picked up this year and adored uncritically is the Fruits Basket manga series – I resent it when I really like something that’s hugely popular and have to join the crowd, but I couldn’t resist this one.

I also loved Castle Waiting by Linda Medley, The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke, The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs Beeton by Kathryn Hughes, everything that fanfic writers mistful and sam_storyteller have ever written, and two stories from Aurealis #37: “John Wayne,” by Ben Peek and “Domine” by Rjurik Davidson. And I’m ordering Steve Berman’s novel Vintage on the strength of his gingerbread boys story “Bittersweet” in the new Endicott Studio zine.

Q5. Last, but most salacious: choose one fictional character to get it on with. Who would it be?

Colleen McCullough’s version of Julius Caesar. Mmmm.


This interview was conducted as part of the 2007 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from Monday 13 August to Sunday 19 August and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read other interviews at:

If you’re involved in the Scene and have something to plug, then send us an email and we’ll see what we can do!

Snapshot 2007: Justine Larbalestier

Justine Larbalestier is the author of the Magic or Madness trilogy, editor of the anthology Daughters of Earth, and her website can be found here.

Q1. The Magic or Madness trilogy has, deservingly in my opinion, been nominated for a number of awards – and won one, congratulations! Do you get actual trophies for these awards, and if so do you use them as bookends? As well, what do you see as the value of being nominated for, and winning, such awards?

Yes, it [the award] was an actual thing: A big lump of lucite with a galaxy inside. But as there’s only one it’s failing me as a bookend.

Awards exist for readers not for writers. The purpose of most awards is to draw attention to a particular genre or country or whatever. Like the Miles Franklin Award was to encourage more people to take Australian literature seriously. Same for the National Book Award in the United States. In the US the big YA award is the Printz Award which was created with the purpose of helping librarians build their collections.

I think it’s a big mistake for writers to think that awards have anything to do with them. Being shortlisted or winning is a big old fluke. Be happy, but don’t be thinking it actually certifies you a genius or anything. Many many brilliant books get overlooked and crappy books have been known to win awards. Also I’ve been part of the award process and seen the best book be hated by other jurors, while I hated their fave books. And when an award is popularly voted it’s still a crap shoot.

Certain awards have a huge effect on a writer’s career. In Australia winning a Children’s Book of the Year Award means lots of guaranteed sales and the Premier’s awards mean a nice big cheque. In the USA winning a Newbery means HUGE guaranteed sales and your book never going out of print. However, there are very few awards with anything like that impact.

If I had to choose between winning lots of awards and having huge sales I’d take the sales any day of the week. I’d also take sales over critical acclaim.

Q2. You collected together eleven short stories written by women for Daughters of Earth. Did you choose stories you already liked, or have to go out hunting? And – as a bonus – what was the inspiration for the collection?

I did not choose any of the stories. I chose the scholars who wrote essays about the stories. I figured it would be a lot more fun for them to write about a story they were passionate about so I let them pick out which story to write about. I had the fun job of clearing copyright. The inspiration was Wesleyan University Press asking me if I would put together an anthology for them. Ah, the romance!

Q3. Magic or Madness is aimed at the young adult audience. Do you see yourself continuing to aim at this audience in the future, or changing focus? And why?

I’ll be writing YA for as long as they’ll publish me. I love reading the genre even more than I enjoy writing it. Because it’s a genre defined by audience more than subject matter I feel unconstrained writing it. I know that my editors will not freak if my next book is crime fiction or literary realism or a comic novel or an historical. They also have no problem with graphic novels. That’s a lot harder to get away with as an adult writer.

Q4. Looking further afield now: presuming that you’ve had time to read, in between award nominations and writing, what’s the best thing you’ve read this year?

I can never recommend just one. So far this year I’ve loved Dramarama by E. Lockhart, Helsing by Kohta Hirano (manga), Emma by Kaoru Mori (also manga), and The Scandal of the Season by Sophie Gee. Though I feel like pretty much every book I’ve read this year has been fabulous.

Q5. And finally, the all-important question: you’ve got the chance to get it on with any fictional character. Who would it be?

I must be a total weirdo but I have never thought about having sex with fictional characters. Sorry!

This interview was conducted as part of the 2007 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from Monday 13 August to Sunday 19 August and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read other interviews at:

If you’re involved in the Scene and have something to plug, then send us an email and we’ll see what we can do!

Snapshot 2007

So there was this thing in 2005 where Ben Peek decided to interview some folks in the Aussie speculative fiction scene, and post the results. Five questions each, 43 people, one week.

Peek opens up his big mouth to talk about something he was reminded of about it, or whatever, Girlie Jones says “hey, good idea!”, and what happens then? It’s happening again. And I’m a volunteering junkie.

So over the next week, look out here and a few other blogs for interviews with cool Aussie authors, editors, etc to be posted; they’ll also all be gathered at your Place for All Things Aussie Spec Fic.

Highly exciting.