Monthly Archives: March 2011

Meet CE Murphy …

As the next of my series featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) I’ve invited the talented CE Murphy to drop by.

Watch out for the give-away question at the end of the interview.

Q: Looking at your publication list you are incredibly prolific. There’s the Walker Papers, the Negotiator Trilogy, the Inheritors’ Cycle. Then there is the comic and the books you write under your pseudonym Cate Dermody. You say you generally write a book in 6 to 8 weeks. It sounds like you become completely immersed in your books. Do your invented worlds and characters become more real to you than the real world?

Ah, I used to write books that fast. It usually takes 3-4 months now, though I still prefer it if I can get the rough draft done that quickly.

The writing and characters and worlds, though, never have superseded reality. I only realized recently that people actually literally mean it when they say they become so immersed in their worlds that the real world disappears. Truth be told, I think that’s really bizarre. 🙂

Q: Are you one of those writers who create a music play list for each series that they work on and only play that music while you are writing that series?

I’m not. I really dislike having music playing when I’m working, in fact. It distracts me. I *can* work with music on if I really have to drown other things out, but it has to be music I’m very very familiar with or it just becomes part of the problem.

Q: You write as both CE Murphy and Cate Dermody. The CE Murphy books are fantasy (with a strong female protagonist). The Cate Dermody books are action-adventure romance. Did you plan to write under two names to give yourself flexibility as a writer?

That’s exactly why. Turns out I should’ve been even more flexible, since the Inheritors’ Cycle, which is very different from my urban fantasy, didn’t sell all that well and might have done better under a different name. Ah well!

Q: Your Cate Dermody books seem to be espionage in a contemporary setting. Do you love writing and reading mystery/thrillers?

Does it show? 🙂 Yeah, I do. I like stories that just rip along and take me for a great ride, and I think the Dermody books offer that for readers. They’re huge fun. Or at least they were huge fun to write!

Q: Do you think having a gender neutral name for your fantasy books makes them more accessible to male readers?

*laughs* Honestly, that never occurred to me. I write under CE because I don’t care for being called by my full name, and people tend to call you what’s on the cover of a book. I go by Catie in real life, and I never thought that looked grown-up enough for adult books, so when a friend suggested the initials I thought “Good idea!” It only came up after I’d been published a couple years and people started asking me variations on this question. 🙂

Q: You also write for comics. Are you one of those people who come from an illustrator/comic background but also write? Following on from that are you a fan of graphic novels from way back? If so which artists inspired you?

Ah, I wish. I’m a decent artist, but I’m both good enough to know how good I’m not and also not an illustrator. Every once in a while I think “Y’know, I could be really good at this if I tried,” but pretty much my creative efforts have been long focused on writing, so art is just a rarely-visited hobby for me.

I got into comics through ElfQuest when I was about twelve, so yeah, pretty much the first thing beyond Archie and Richie Rich that I read were the graphic novel versions of ElfQuest, which basically makes me a fan of the format since childhood. I still default to Pini-style elves in my doodling. 🙂

Q: Was it difficult to make the writing craft adjustments to write for comics/graphic novels?

Yes and no. It’s completely different, but being the sort of person I am, I went out and researched how to write comics before I gave it a shot. (Nat Gertler’s PANEL ONE, for those who are interested, is a great resource.) I was under no time pressure when I did that, which helped, but once I got the idea in place, it wasn’t so bad. Writing comics is fun. Totally different ballgame, and lemme tell you, there’s pretty much *nothing* as awesome as seeing pages come back to you: your words transformed into art. Just wow.

Q: I love your description of your mother: ‘My mom’s a choreographer and a costumer, is wonderfully sensible and extremely silly, and when you have someone like that in your life as your role model for what it is to be an adult female, you just kind of naturally assume that’s what it is to be a woman: strong, talented, inventive, intelligent.’ You write strong, intelligent female characters. Was there ever a conscious decision, or did they just flow?

Well, y’know, they say write what you know. I have a few series ideas with male leads, but mostly I’ve always written girls and women because that’s what I am.
Tell ya something that drives me bugnuts, though, is the idea (often found in romance and paranormal romance) that an “alpha male” is a complete jackass. I like to think there are plenty of alpha males in my books–Morrison, Gary, Alban, Tony–but man, to me, a strong male character is not one who is also automatically an asshole.

Panel discussion strong female characters San Diego Comic-Con 2008.

Q: I was prompted to start this series of interviews because there seems to be a perception in the US and the UK that fantasy is a bit of a boy’s club. Do you think there’s a difference in the way males and females write fantasy?

Eh. Not really. I think there’s a difference in how *people* write books. I’ll never write exactly the same story as anyone else, even if we’re given the exact same premise. That’s because we bring different things to the table, different talents, different voices, different viewpoints. Some of those will be female viewpoints, some of them won’t. Some of them I’ll connect with, some of them I won’t. It’s all about storytelling, not who’s telling it, to me.

Q: Following on from that, does the gender of the writer change your expectations when you pick up their book?

Nah. I read a lot of women authors, but I stopped reading them *because* they were women when I was about, I don’t know, fifteen, and I ran into a slew of books I thought I Should Like, because they were by well-respected female names in the fantasy field. I bounced off them like a bouncing thing, so it was around then that it became clear to me that the author’s gender did not necessarily give me anything in common with the story they were telling or the way they told it…although I seriously doubt I thought of it that way at the time. 🙂

Q: And here’s the fun question. If you could book a trip on a time machine, where and when would you go, and why?

Only *one*, she wailed? Is it cheating to say “Anywhere, any time, as long as it’s with the Tenth Doctor”? 🙂

All right, all right. One trip, eh? Okay. I’d go back to the Library at Alexandria just before the fire and clean the place out so all those amazing ancient texts could be rediscovered now. 🙂

Give-away question:

I’ll do a give-away of one copy of SPIRIT DANCES to the commenter who comes up with the time-travel destination I wish I’d thought of… 🙂

Follow CE Murphy on Twitter: @ce_murphy

CE Murphy Blog

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Characterisation, Comics/Graphic Novels, Covers, creativity, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Genre, The Writing Fraternity

Turns out Vivid Dreamers are more Creative.

(I’ve cross posted this one on dreaming an creative people because it’s a fascinating topic. It first appeared on Drey”s blogspot, February, 2011)

One of the most visited posts on my KRK blog is Do Creative People have more Vivid Dreams? And from the research I’ve done the answer would have to be yes.

I’ve always had vivid dreams, in full colour complete with back-story. If I’ve been reading graphic novels the dreams will be stylised and, on occasion, they’ve been set to music with people speaking in rhyme. I’ve used the feeling that resonates with me after dreams as the basis for stories and even a book series.

This painting by Maxfield Parrish is called Daybreak. It’s his most famous piece. My grandparents had a print hanging on the wall in their living room. I distinctly remember looking up and seeing it for the first time. I must have been five or six because it was very high on the wall and I couldn’t get close enough to it. I love the dreamlike quality of this painting.

Here is a list of dreams some of which prompted people to create a book or song, others led to scientific break throughs. My son, who is studying computer programming dreams about logic sequences. I dream up solutions to plot problems.

In his article ‘The Dream Canvas’ Tori DeAngelis quotes Stickgold. ‘There may be a good metaphorical reason that artists are so attached to their dreams. In the broadest sense, dreams mimic a critical stage of creativity: brainstorming the range of possibilities, or what psychoanalysts call free association.’ Apparently, when dreaming the ‘ … brain areas responsible for executive control, logical decision-making and focused attention shut down … while sensory and emotional areas come alive. In addition, short-term memory functions are deactivated, so that the emotional content of images remains, but the waking context does not.’

Recent research has shown that there are people who are prone to lucid dreaming. ‘Watson … says that he was surprised by the finding. “I actually thought dream recall was going to be related to stress and anxiety, because the literature indicates that the things that disturb sleep tend to promote dream recall,” … Instead, his data support the idea that there’s a type of person more likely to tune into their dreams than others.’ And that was the creative person.

Do you experience Lucid Dreaming? This is a form of dreaming where you know you are dreaming, and you can exercise control over the dream. This may sound impossible, but it is believed computer game players have control over their dreams.

In their study of creativity and dreaming, Pagel and Kwiatkowski found that ‘dreaming is likely to have a functional role in the creative process’. And now scientific studies have found that if you nap after studying and dream about what you were studying you are likely to retain more. So the tip is to study, then sleep on it before an exam. Maybe you find it hard to sleep before and exam.  If you’re like my cat you can sleep anywhere, any time.

For me, dreams are very real. I’ve had conversations with people, only to realise by their blank expression that the discussion I remember occurred in a dream. No wonder they looked confused. (Now I’m starting to sound really weird. LOL).

 

Do you have vivid dreams? Do you draw from them to inspire your writing, music or art? Do dreams help you sort through problems in your waking life?  Do you dream more vividly after starting a new job and learning new skills?

 

 

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Filed under creativity, Inspiring Art, Nourish the Writer, The World in all its Absurdity

Meet Margo Lanagan …

As the next of my series featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) I’ve invited the talented (and slightly weird in the best possible way!) Margo Lanagan to drop by.

Watch out for the give-away question at the end of the interview.

 

 

 

Q: As a writer who has a foot firmly in two camps, the literary world and the fantasy world, do you find readers react differently to your books depending on whether they are genre readers, or literary readers?

Literary readers can sometimes make a bit of preliminary apologetic noise about how they don’t read much in the way of fantasy. (I’m talking about face to face reactions here.) And they can be more unnerved by the weird content that genre readers take in their stride. That’s probably about the extent of the difference—and that’s also a gross generalisation, too, on my part! There are as many degrees of enthusiasm/indifference/puzzlement in one camp as in the other.

Q: Your short story collections or individual stories/novellas have won three World fantasy Awards. (Black Juice – Anthology, Singing my Sister Down – Fantasy Short Story, Sea-Hearts – Novella).Do you think of yourself as primarily a short story writer, or are you novel writer who wandered into short stories by chance?

At first I was a poetry writer, who wandered into novel writing in a bid to get some readers, any readers—also to enjoy the capaciousness of the form. Then I got myself into a whole bunch of trouble biting off HUGE novels that I could not chew, so I ran screaming to the short story to save my sanity. Yes, that’s pretty much how it went.

Q: There is a surreal quality to your short stories. Many of them feel as if they happen in our world, with a slight twist. In an interview on SF Site you said: ‘the balance of the real and unreal in my stories is pretty much how I see the world. Some weird small thing in the real world strikes me (like misreading a magazine title Modern Bride as Wooden Bride, out of the corner of my eye) and my mind just builds and builds on it until there’s a whole other world there, full of wooden brides! (This is a Black Juice story.)’  Have you always viewed the world through this surreal lens? And conversely, when did you realise that other people didn’t see the world as you see it?

Oh yes. I’m the third of four daughters, and I discovered early that the way to get attention was to be the clown. Making people laugh, by noticing that sort of thing, was my role in the family. I didn’t realise it could be put to wider use for quite some time, until my realistic-story ideas started getting weirder and weirder. Then I twigged that there was a whole fantasy genre over here, ready to welcome me in with open arms!

Q: Your latest novel Tender Morsels, which was a joint winner of the Best Novel World Fantasy Award in 2009, was published many years after your previous novel Touching Earth Lightly (1996). Was Tender Morsels novel a long time in gestation? Or did you work on others novels in the mean time.


Oh yes yes yes I worked on other novels, and you know it, Rowena! 😀 There was the Big Fantasy Brick with which I broke my own back; then there was the junior fantasy quartet, which also grew and put out tentacles and complicated itself until it was insupportable. Then came the aforementioned running screaming to short stories, and then Tender Morsels was the pick-on-something-your-own-size project that I finally managed to complete. It really was quite efficient once I got going, taking about 18 months to complete.

Q: I see your Selkie novel, called Watered Silk, is due out in 2011. Can you tell us a little about it?

Ah, the selkie novel. *weeps a little* The selkies so far have accumulated three titles, one for each market (Aus, US and UK). And their publication in Australia has been put back until probably February 2012, because they need a second round of structural editing, probably because the first round was done in a tearing hurry just before Christmas last year.

All I can say about the novel (because it’s changing under my hands even as I speak), is that it’s very watery, very silky and very, very sad. It has a madly atmospheric fictional-version-of-the-Hebrides setting; there’s a witch at the centre of the story of whom I’m very fond; and pretty much everyone in it has a thoroughly heartbreaking time. I think my next novel will have to be some kind of ‘romp’ to compensate.

Q: Much of your work (stories and books) is described as YA. In an interview on Tabularasa you said: ‘I think the attraction of writing fiction for younger people is the escape into characters’ lives who haven’t yet made decisions that will set them up for a predictable path through life. But I also like the fact that characters are encountering things for the first time, or just starting to make sense of the world, or just starting to question the world that they’ve found themselves in.’ Do you still set out to write for the YA market or is it just that the stories that come to you have YA aged protagonists?


I try not to think too carefully about markets when I write (yes, that is the sound of my publishers’ eyes rolling, in the background). Probably my attitude can best be summed up as avoiding putting explicitly unsuitable-for-YA-readers material in the novels. I still find the young-adult stage of life the most interesting to explore, for the same reasons as you’ve quoted; it’s partly escapism from the kinds of middle-aged issues I find I’m having to face now—a kind of making-over of my own life, perhaps, in my head.

Q: In an interview on Meanjin you said that you write longhand. Do you still do this, and if so what is it about writing longhand that appeals to you?

Yes, I still do it. My day-job work involves keyboarding, so sitting at a keyboard doesn’t set up the right vibe for me, for creative writing; it feels as if longhand writing taps into my writing-brain more readily. Also, it just provides variety of hand movements, so forestalls RSI a bit longer—I know, it all has to be typed up eventually, but transcribing is a much more relaxed form of typing than composing, so it’s less likely to result in injury. And I like the concrete evidence of pages piling up on the left as I do my day’s quota—that little message at the bottom of the screen, ‘Page 4 of 4’ just doesn’t do it for me the way crinkly pages of messy handwriting do.

Q: In a guest post on Justine Larblestier’s site you said: ‘Sometimes you have to lie fallow for a while, remove yourself far enough from your own words, your own style, that you can come at them afresh later. Sometimes there’s a good story waiting, but your subconscious hasn’t worked out how you’ll approach it yet. Leave it alone; let it grow …’  What do you do, when you need to let your subconscious do the work?


It depends on time constraints. Sometimes the deadline is so pressing that a task like washing the dishes is all the time you can spare from the story—something manual and mindless like that is good. A walk, a movie that wrenches you completely out of the story’s mindset, some music, a trip away or perhaps just the passing of a normal working week/month—all these activities are useful for putting distance between yourself and the story and letting it cook without you getting in the way. Sometimes you need to hold the story in your head while you do these things, sometimes you just need to come back and prod it every now and then; sometimes it’s healthier just to put it out of your mind completely and come back fresh at a later time, when your imagination’s feeling all elastic and full of possibilities again.

Q: I was prompted to start this series of interviews because there seems to be a perception in the US and the UK that fantasy is a bit of a boy’s club. Do you think there’s a difference in the way males and females write fantasy?

Not substantially; I just think that as soon as a field is shown to offer solid rewards (in this case, by Rowling and Meyer), blokes will be all over it like a rash, making big, possessive noises that attract media attention. For years, fantasy was consistently sneered at and sidelined because it was seen as a kind of squashy, undisciplined, overly romantic little sister of science fiction. It amuses me, in a sour sort of way, this boys’-club issue.

Q: Following on from that, does the gender of the writer change your expectations when you pick up their book?

Not at that early stage (presuming I haven’t read that author’s work before); I’m always hopeful that a writer will be able to inhabit male and female characters equally convincingly, and create a world whose appeal isn’t only to one gender. Once I’ve started, cliches of gender-blinkered-ness are only one kind of slip-up that can kill my interest in a book; throw in a bit of sloppy writing and a dull plot and I’m gone.

Q: And here’s the fun question. If you could book a trip on a time machine, where and when would you go, and why?

For my next novel, I need to go back to 1830s New South Wales, and walk for a while in the virgin bush, also hang about on the fringes of the European settlements and listen to how people speak. How I would do that without arousing suspicion and being clapped in irons as a madwoman, I don’t know.

The best answer in the comments below wins a copy of Margo’s new story collection Yellowcake, and of The Wilful Eye, the bewitching first volume of Tales from the Tower, stories (including one by Margo) gathered by Isobelle Carmody and Nan McNab.

Tell us about the BEST cake you’ve ever eaten. The most mouth-watering comment will win a copy of Margo’s YELLOWCAKE collection, and a copy of THE WILFUL EYE anthology, which also contains a slice of Lanagan.

Margo’s Blog.

Follow Margo on Twitter @margolanagan

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Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Nourish the Writer, Promoting Friend's Books, The World in all its Absurdity, The Writing Fraternity, Writing craft

Winner Tansy rayner Roberts’ give-away

Thanks to everyone who sent in their comments on favourite eras of fashion!  Lovely to chat with you all – there definitely needs to be more conversations about fashion and fantasy.  It was very difficult to choose a winner but I eventually went with (drum roll) Belinda!

Contact me at tansyrr (at) gmail (dot) com for your prize.

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Filed under Australian Writers, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Promoting Friend's Books

Meet Tansy Rayner Roberts

As the next of my series featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) I’ve invited the sweet but sharp Tansy Rayner Roberts to drop by.

Watch out for the give-away question at the end of the interview.

Q: Your story  Siren Beat published by Twelfth Planet Press won the Washington Association Small Press Short Fiction Award. This must have come as a delightful surprise. Can you tell us a little about Siren Beat, and Twelfth Planet Press which has taken the unusual step of publishing back-to-back novellas?

The win was absolutely wonderful and completely out of the blue.  I’m only sorry I wasn’t able to collect the prize in person.  Siren Beat came from me wanting to create an urban fantasy which wasn’t just Australian in tone but uniquely Tasmanian.  We have a very different landscape in Hobart to anywhere else in the country, and I wanted to steer away from more common monsters from the genre such as vampires and werewolves.  Which is how I ended up with my guardian, Nancy Napoleon, whose job it is to guard her city against creatures from water mythology.  It occurred to me that, in a world where each culture’s unique myths and legends were real, the ocean itself would be one hell of a chaotic melting pot.  Siren Beat was the first Nancy adventure, and I’m going to be continuing her story in novel form.

As for Twelfth Planet Press, they picked up my story (which was orphaned from an anthology that didn’t come to pass) and paired it with a fantastic piece by World Fantasy Award winner (and Doctor Who writer) Rob Shearman, which completely delighted me.  I really like slender volumes, there’s something quite enticing about them, and Twelfth Planet have turned the old ‘Ace Doubles’ format into a shiny 21st Century product.

Q: You’re not a newcomer to winning awards, having started your career by winning the George Turner award with a book that you wrote when you were 19, Splashdance Silver. I believe the rights have reverted to you. Are you going to release this book and its sequel Liquid Gold as an e-book? (I read an article saying you’d be crazy not to make your back-list work for you by selling books from your web site).

Whoever wrote that article must have a lot more spare time than I do!

I think about this from time to time, as I still get emails from readers who have come across the Mocklore books (not sure how, libraries maybe?) and while the market for humorous fantasy is no better than it was ten years ago, Splashdance Silver and its sequels have a girlie YA sensibility that I think could probably find an audience.  Most of the fanmail I receive from those books is from teenage girls, then and now!  But my heart sinks a little at the thought of it, too.  I have so much in my life to juggle, between writing, running a small business, raising two small girls, and publicising the current books I have out.  Do I really want to set myself up as a self-publisher?  Even without printing overheads I’d have to think about editing, proofing, figuring out how to produce an e-book that doesn’t look like hell (harder than you think!) and it just makes me tired to think about it.

There’s also the thing where this is old work – and while I still have strong affection for Mocklore, it’s not anything like what I’m writing now.  I’m not saying never ever, but right now I’d far rather look to the future than delve back into my past.

Q: Galactic Suburbia is a series of podcasts to quote: ‘Alisa, Alex and Tansy bring you speculative fiction news, reading notes and chat from the galactic suburbs of Australia.’ You seem to be having a lot of fun with this. How did you get started doing podcasts?

I started listening to podcasts about two years ago and it honestly changed my life.  It happened around the time that I was becoming completely disillusioned with radio, and I was delighted to find that I could download a whole bunch of cool people (from all over the world) talking about subjects that I actually care about (mostly spec fic publishing, Doctor Who and Arsenal football, if you’re interested!).  I was also fascinated by the communities that emerged from groups of similarly themed podcasts – the Doctor Who podcasting community is brilliant for this, they are all so supportive of and interested in each other, and it reminded me of what I love about the SF community and the blogoverse.

Then Sofanauts ended, which made me so sad!  This was a side project by Tony C Smith of Starship Sofa in which he and several interesting people would sit around and chat about publishing, science fiction, and the spec fic “scene.”  I loved it, and got several other people addicted to it.  Tony did say that if anyone else wanted to take up the Sofanauts brand, he’d be happy to see that happen, and I talked about it with Alisa and Alex.  We seriously considered becoming the New Sofanauts (like the old Sofanauts but in mod 70’s funky gear) but decided that anything we did would be so different that it might as well be a different show.  So we made it our own!

Galactic Suburbia has just celebrated its first birthday, and we love it.  It’s so cool having a chance to talk to Alisa and Alex about books, publishing, science fiction and feminism every fortnight.  I don’t feel nearly as far away from everyone, and it’s been utterly squeeful to have so many people listening, commenting and becoming invested in what we have to say.  The really exciting thing is that the last year has seen a bunch of other Australian SF podcasts starting up, many of them crediting us with inspiring them, and so we have a community of back-and-forth, all covering different (but often overlapping) areas of interest.

Q: Your Creature Court Trilogy is being published by Harper Collins, Voyager.   I’ve read Power and Majesty and loved it. Now Shattered City (book Two) will be released. The premise for this series is really interesting. It combines ancient Rome with the 1920s in a dark urban fantasy with shapeshifters. What led you to combine these two elements?

It wasn’t quite that organised, actually!  I just started writing, and poured in lots of things that I love.  The Ancient Roman calendar of festivals has been deeply buried in my subconscious since I did my Honours degree on women in Roman religion, and I’ve wanted to write a story about dressmaking in the 1920’s since… well, since The House of Elliot did it first, and the shapechangers pretty much just leapt off the page and started talking to me.  When I was teaching creative writing I would often advise students to create a ‘list of awesome’ – basically a list of things they love and are interested in or obsessed by, to fuel their stories.  I never did that for Creature Court, and yet somehow it’s packed with many of my favourite things.

Q: Central to the trilogy is the friendship of three women. This is unusual in the urban fantasy genre, which tends to have strong female ‘kick-butt’ characters. Your characters aren’t the stereotypical urban fantasy types, one is a dressmaker, another makes garlands and the third is a florister. (Their city has a lot of festivals, LOL). Did you set out to write a story about the friendships that are central to women’s lives, or did it just evolve?

The friendship of those three was an integral part of the story –  Velody, Delphine and Rhian are craftswomen because I love to sew and make things, but also because having a craft was historically a way for women to acquire independence.  It was really important to me that my protagonist have a job, and one she cared about, to balance out the crazy I was about to hurl into her life.  So much fantasy puts the heroes in the position where saving the world is their job, and I wanted to address the idea that this wasn’t an overly healthy situation to be in.  Velody’s friends are what she has instead of a family, and I love the complex relationship that these three women have woven around themselves.  They are very supportive of each other, but there are fractures there if you poke at it (which of course I do, repeatedly) – they are quite enabling of bad habits in each other as well as being supportive when the chips are down.

I love myself a kick butt heroine in the mould of Ripley or Starbuck or Parrish Plessis but for this particular book I was interested in the juxtaposition of giving superpowers to someone who wasn’t at all cut out for violence or leadership.  I also wanted a mature female protagonist – and it’s kind of sad that Velody would count as mature, being 26, but I’ve written teen girl and early twenties girl protagonists, and I was interested in exploring someone who was a bit more adult and settled and experienced before she starts having to deal with power and naked cat people falling out of the sky.  Buffy is a great hero of our age, but I can’t help thinking she had it easy in many ways because she discovered her destiny when she was young enough to adapt.  Having to explain to your friends that you’re busy saving the world is a bit more embarrassing when you’re an adult!

Q: Following on from that last question, your book contains descriptions of gorgeous clothes which, I should add, are pertinent to the story. Have you thought of teaming up with a fashion designer to release a line of romantic-sexy clothes for males and females? Do you design and make clothes?

Ohhh Rowena this is not the first time you have put this to me, and I would adore to do such a project.  Sadly I don’t know anyone who is into fashion design who might take it on!

I love fabrics, and I love to sew, though dressmaking is not my superpower.  I work in quilting and textile arts mostly.  I even have a Creature Court crazy quilt I have been working on and really need to get back to…  I love and admire beautiful clothing, but my inability to sew a straight seam is somewhat embarrassing.  I am also allergic to sewing machines (though not, strange to say, quilting machines which are big and shiny and go vROOOOM)

Q:  Of course The Shattered City isn’t the only book release you have coming out this year.  Tell me about Love and Romanpunk.

This is a book that I am immensely proud of, published by Twelfth Planet Press as one of their ‘Twelve Planets’ short story quartets by twelve Australian women writers.  It’s a very exciting and challenging project to be part of.  My book will be released in May.

Love and Romanpunk is a set of stories set in what I like to call the ‘Agrippinaverse,’ an alternate version of our world in which the Caesars were a family cursed by all manner of strange mythological beasts, Mary Wollstonecraft the younger ran off with a far more dangerous poet than Percy Shelley, Australia built their own replica Roman city in the middle of the bush, and Caligula’s daughter turned out to be a two hundred year old monster-hunting bloke in a funny hat.

I’m well aware that adding -punk to anything as a label for a literary movement is well past its sell by date, but did we have to get bored of the concept before we got to Romanpunk?  It started out as a fun challenge to people – if you’re going to add -punk to everything, why not something that *I’m* interested in?  I asked the universe for Romanpunk and no one wrote it for me, so of course I had to write it myself.  The term also happens to sum up the squirmy discomfort I feel as a classicist from taking real history, smashing it to bits, and adding manticores.  I have always loved the idea of future societies which are obsessed with different parts of history than we are – and in my perfect future, everyone is as obsessed with Ancient Rome as I am!
Q: You live in Tasmania with your partner and ‘two alarming’ little girls. <grin> You have a PHD in the classics. You’ve edited for ASIM, New Ceres, and Shiny. Plus you sell the Deeping Dolls. How do you fit everything in?

See my seams? They are bursting!  The small press work had to go, and did round about the time that I sold Power and Majesty.  I enjoy editing but it’s not my grand passion – and it takes too many of the same brain cells that I need for the novel writing.  It would have to be a hugely enticing project to lure me back in that direction.  The PhD is over now, and you’ll notice the extreme lack of fiction publications during the 7 years it took me to complete?  These days, I am just juggling three or so jobs, which suits me just fine!

I work from home, I get some daycare hours, and I juggle madly.  I learned not to be precious about when and where and how to write.  I learned to write faster.  My daughters have learned that Mummy’s laptop is with her at all times!  I also get great support from my parents, who free up a few precious half days each week for me.  It’s frustrating that I used to write slow like a snail back when I had no other real commitments, and now I KNOW I could write three books in a year I actually have to settle for far less than that because of the cute little baby doing things like learning to roar like a lion, which is utterly distracting, and should be.

I’m terribly lucky to have what I do, and the opportunities I have, but I’m no superwoman.  I’ve learned not to be too hard on myself and to let things go that are too much – recognising how much is too much is a vital skill!  I’ve had to suck it up and sacrifice my pride to ask for deadline extensions, and to be realistic about what I can manage.

I have a secret horror that once my second child is in school, I will have forgotten how to deal with having days to myself, and will just mooch around playing games and watching DVDs instead of WRITE WRITE WRITE.

Q: You review a lot of YA fiction. Are you planning to write a YA series?

Always planning!  I have a YA fairy book that I am still in love with that I have been planning to write for the last 4 years or so, and never quite getting to.  I have co-written a mainstream soccer novel with a friend in Sweden which has been stuck in rewrite hell for about a year and a half because of lack of time on my part – I’ve had deadline after deadline basically since I had my baby, who just turned 18 months.  Lots of other ideas – so yes, I’d love to, at some point.  I also long to sit down and write a middle grade series about girl superheroes which has been steaming away at the back of my head for a while.

Q: I was prompted to start this series of interviews because there seems to be a perception in the US and the UK that fantasy is a bit of a boy’s club. Do you think there’s a difference in the way males and females write fantasy?

I always blink madly at that because as you know, in Australia fantasy has so many successful female authors, and there is a perception here that women rule the fantasy roost, though I get cranky when people suggest it’s unreasonably dominated by women.  There are plenty of successful male authors here too!  Likewise, I’m always a bit bewildered when people start listing fantasy writers and mostly come up with men.  It does seem like the Big Name authors from the US and UK are just that bit big nameyer than the women – and I have certainly heard that men get better advances, etc.  How much does that suck?

I think a big part of it is about which end of the audience you respect.  It’s a shame that publishers do tend to get tunnel vision at times and point their books firmly at one gender or another (which may or may not be the same as the gender of the author – more often than not, I’d say) but it’s incredibly hard to market books universally – to find covers that appeal to women without alienating men, or vice versa.  Some areas of the genre are certainly more attuned to one gender or another – or more precisely to what a couple of guys in suits THINK one gender or another wants to read – and sometimes that’s going to be good for sales and sometimes bad.  There are plenty of women who turn about face if they perceive anything remotely “girly” on a book cover, just as there are plenty of male readers who are going to roll their eyes at a gritty militaristic cover.

Hmm and I just totally answered the question as if it was about marketing and not writing, didn’t I!

I remember being floored once when a man told me to my face that he wouldn’t read by book because he wouldn’t read books by women.  It was about twelve years ago and when I hear it, my head explodes all over again.  Having said that, I have mostly assumed that my recent books would appeal more to a female audience than a male – because, you know, clothes, and girl cooties, and slashy smut in between all the adventures and world-saving.  I’ve never been more pleased to be wrong in my life – I have lots of male readers, and not just people I know.   Hooray!

Q: Following on from that, does the gender of the writer change your expectations when you pick up their book?

I tend to read more fantasy by women because I perceive it as being more likely to have elements I enjoy – and if pressed I would say things like multiple female characters, and the female gaze, and a more complex attitude towards romance and sexuality, and a greater focus on social rather than military concerns.  I am not saying that women can’t write action packed gore fests or that men can’t write sensitive court politics – some of my best writers are men, you know! – but I have been reading and analysing my own reading for a really long time and statistically I know I’m more likely to enjoy a book by a female author.

Partly because of this, I am far more likely to pick up a book by a new author if she is a woman, and it takes a lot more to make me pick up books by men, especially in the fantasy field.  But I am well aware of my biases and I do like to challenge them from time to time.  I do work quite hard to make female-authored fantasy visible, through reading and blogging and podcasting, because it seems to me that when it comes to criticism, awards and other recognition, it’s often women’s books that get forgotten about.  But mostly I do it because I love to share books that I enjoy.

Q: And here’s the fun question. If you could book a trip on a time machine, where and when would you go, and why?

Need you ask?  Ancient Rome!  The actual year is a tricky one, though, as I might have to choose between finding Agrippina’s lost autobiography and attending the wedding of Augustus and Livia.  No, wait.  I know the exact night that I want!  It would have to be the party at Caesar’s house, when Publius Clodius dressed up as a flute girl to gate-crash the rites of the Bona Dea.  If he could make it past their slack security in a frock and a bad wig, I can certainly make it over the threshold, and not only could I meet Aurelia (whom I named my daughter after), I could find out what they used the snakes and honey for!
Catch up with Tansy on Twitter @tansyrr

Tansy’s Writing Blog – http://tansyrr.com
Crunchy SF Feminist Podcast – http://www.galacticsuburbia.com
Pendlerook Designs, Tasmanian Hand-painted Dolls – www.pendlerook.com

Steampunk costumes are very popular. In the Creature Court series tansy combines fashions of the 1920s with Ancient Rome, here’s the give-away question:

What’s your favourite time period for fashion and why?

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Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Book trailers, Characterisation, creativity, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Fun Stuff, Indy Press, Promoting Friend's Books, The Writing Fraternity, Writing craft

Winner Marianne’s Burn Bright!

Congratulations to Janni Nell who wanted to put Susan Howatch’s Starbridge series to music by Michael Nyman.

Email me on: rowena(at)corydaniells(dot)com to organise postage.

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Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Female Fantasy Authors, Fun Stuff, Promoting Friend's Books

A podcast interview

A little while ago Gail Z Martin, author of the Necromancer series, interviewed me for a podcast. It’s available here.

(With thanks to Eleni for fixing the link!).

I can’t listen to it because I can’t bear to listen to myself. LoL

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Filed under Dialogue, Fun Stuff, The World in all its Absurdity