Monthly Archives: June 2011

Meet Deborah Kalin …

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

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

Q: Your manuscript sold from the slush pile to Louise Thurtell during one of her Friday Pitch sessions. This must have been thrilling. Can you tell us a little about the path to publication for your fantasy trilogy The Binding? Did you belong to a writing group?

I can’t remember if I was still a member at the time of the sale, but before attending Clarion South I was a member of the Online Writing Workshop, a fabulous internet writing community that I’d highly recommend.

I first heard of the Friday Pitch shortly after finishing Shadow Queen. What appealed to me was the chance to submit a chapter of my manuscript (as opposed to simply a query letter), and the fast response time of a week (as opposed to anywhere from 3-24 months).

The first response landed exactly a week after I’d submitted — a request for more time, since Louise had been on holidays and hadn’t started on last week’s submissions yet. I remember thinking that was just a whole week longer that I didn’t have to research which market to submit to next.

The second response came a week later — and I didn’t open it until the next day, I was so sure it would be a rejection. Instead it was a request for the full manuscript. Suddenly all my powers of blasé disappeared!

I didn’t have to wait long, however. Louise called me when she was a quarter of the way through the manuscript, wanting to make sure I hadn’t sold it to anyone else. Two days later she called again. She was ten pages from the end, and she was going to take the book to the acquisitions meeting so she could make an offer, and did I have an agent she should be talking to?

I don’t think I made a single coherent noise for at least a month afterwards.

Q: You used to work as a chemical engineer. Are you tempted to write hard SF?

Science fiction, definitely; hard SF … yes and no.

I have a handful of SF novels jostling in my head, just waiting for their turn to be written. But I’ve noticed my stories are always very character-driven, so any SF I do end up writing will probably be more correctly described as soft or social SF. The only way technology would get a starring, centre-stage role is if the world I was writing about featured a type of technology that was a character in its own right.

Q: In a review on Specusphere the reviewer said: ‘Told in the first person by Matilde, who but for her grandmother’s tenacity would, by the time the book starts, already be Duenin of the landlocked country of Sueben, Shadow Queen is a fantasy that keeps the reader on edge and looking over one shoulder for an attack or a betrayal.’ It is unusual to tell a trilogy from first person. Did you find this a challenge?

Absolutely. My default choice for point of view is third person, so that comes a bit more naturally to me than first. But Matilde is the character who loses the most, time and again, and she’s the character with the most at stake from the outset. The story was so thoroughly hers that first person felt like the best — maybe even only — option.

It leads to difficulties in keeping the reader up-to-date on what’s happening when Matilde isn’t on-scene, of course. To be included those scenes have to be related to Matilde, which brings up so much potential for telling rather than showing, and also for the readers to mistake Matilde’s sometimes-unreliable perceptions as the literal truth of what happened.

Q: The Binding books elicited quite a strong reader reaction on the issue of Matilde’s decisions. Infuriating is a word that crops up often. Can you tell us a little more about that?

One of the things I wanted to do, with Matilde’s story, was to create a believably flawed character. I also wanted to explore the issue of powerlessness, and making mistakes, and what that does to a person.

The fantasy genre is full of the boy king (or girl queen) trope: the youngster catapulted into leadership, for one reason or another. And time and again what I saw with this trope was that said youngster performed admirably. If they did put a foot awry, it often didn’t have a serious bearing on the plot.

Apart from being clichéd, and smacking of society’s obsession with youth and celebrity, it’s also painfully unrealistic. An untried young person thrust into a position of power or influence or even just high visibility is going to make mistakes, and those mistakes are going to cost them dear. To anyone watching from the outside, from an experienced perspective, that young person may even seem bleedingly stupid.

Matilde is 19 at the start of Shadow Queen. She’s untested and, though she’s educated in the ways of politics, she’s also been sheltered from it. She’s impatient, in the way of youth. Her main strength is simultaneously a weakness: she thinks on her feet, and she decides fast. She doesn’t second-guess, she just commits.

So when she’s tested, and sorely tested at that, she doesn’t always get it right.

But Matilde isn’t just young, impatient and decisive — she’s also powerless. She’s a prisoner of war, fighting for her life, and she’s doing it almost entirely alone. So her decisions are sometimes not to win so much as to survive — and maybe change the playing field to her advantage in the process.

I think that combination is inevitably going to lead to some infuriating decisions! Hopefully, though, they’ll also be understandable in the wider context of the story.

My favourite characters are the deeply flawed. Too often strength, particularly in relation to female characters, can be interpreted or portrayed quite narrowly. There’s a fabulous post about “why strong female characters are bad for women” with which I wholeheartedly agree.

Q: You attended Clarion South, a six week intensive bootcamp for writers. Can you share this experience with us?

Clarion South was simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting. I remember getting to bed around 1-2am, and rising around 6am, every single day for 6 weeks. In the afternoon I’d take a nap — which was strictly 10 minutes, no longer. (When the alarm woke me out of that nap, it was inevitably to a strong urge to throw up). The sleep debt was so severe that when I got home, I spent the next fortnight sleeping 12-13 hours a night, and taking a 5 hour nap during the day.

It was worth it. The chance to spend 6 weeks in a world where writing wasn’t a luxury but instead a priority was amazing. I found a community while I was there, and that in itself was invaluable — but I also found validation of what I wanted most to do with my time, which was write. At Clarion, no one expects you to put your writing second, or squeeze it in at the end of the day, or put it off or skip it “just this once”. Instead, writing dictates and informs every waking second: talking about the craft, pulling apart your classmate’s stories, having them pull yours apart.

I learnt so much at Clarion I think I spent the next year unpacking it all. Sometimes I still feel like I’m writing with the voices of my classmates in my head, banning me from using “just”, telling me the story starts on page 3, that sort of thing. There’s no way Shadow Queen would have emerged from my head in publishable format so swiftly if it wasn’t for what I learnt from my time at Clarion.

Q: Book one: Shadow Queen and Book two: Shadow Bound are published by Allen and Unwin. I love this line:

‘The story of an unbreakable young woman, The Binding is a study of what defines us, what binds us, and what sets us free.’ Did the first book come out before the second and third were written? Has this proved a challenge because you can’t go back and tweak events in book one to match up with the way the plot has gone? Or do you plan your whole trilogy before you start writing?

I’m definitely a pantser, rather than an outliner. When I sold Shadow Queen and Shadow Bound to Allen & Unwin, SQ was finished but I’d barely started SB.

I wasn’t too worried, because even when I started writing The Binding books, I knew the ending, down to the closing line. So I’d written SQ with an eye towards that ending, and all I had to do in SB was … get there.

This was not quite so straightforward as I’d hoped, of course. (The inevitable lament of the pantser!) Most notably because the plot of SB hinges on Matilde’s vow at the end of SQ, and when I reached the critical moment where Matilde has to face the consequences of that vow and attempt to untangle it, I found myself utterly stuck. The simplest, easiest and most elegant solution was to go back to SQ and change one word of the vow, swap it out for a more apt synonym. But that simply wasn’t an option.

Luckily as a pantser, I’m very practiced at writing without headlights, and I trust my process. Even when it looks like I’m veering away from the ending and I can’t see a way back, or through, the story always ends up where I thought it would — only now it makes more sense. It took a lot of cursing myself, and false starts, but in the end I came up with an alternative solution to that tricksome tangle which I think worked better — so much better that now I can’t remember what it was I originally wanted to change.

These days, perhaps because of that experience, I find I’m tending a little more towards some level of outlining. I’ll probably never be one of those writers with a beat-by-beat outline, but the current work in progress at least has a synopsis to guide me. Although I’ve already departed from it. Oops.

Q: What will you be writing next?

I’m currently working on an urban fantasy about time-travelling faeries and loneliness, which has taken a lot longer than I expected or hoped but I think I have the plot worked out at last. I also have a synopsis-type outline for a third Binding book, which is currently with A&U. I also want to work on something that deals with mental illness in the near future, but I haven’t quite got the idea fleshed out yet.

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 find rules breed exceptions!

I also think that what informs an author’s writing — at least in terms of tone, voice and style, if not content — are deeper issues such as education levels, socio-economic influences, the cultures to which that author has been exposed, and the range (or narrowness) of their experiences and opportunities in the world to date. To name but a few.

It’s impossible to separate some of those from a society’s gender roles, so superficially it seems inevitable that there will be some kind of noticeable difference in the writing of men and women that can be traced to gender. But I think that risks ignoring the larger picture.

Certainly I can’t pick an author’s gender simply from a sample of their writing.

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

I think it used to – when I was a teen, I learnt to expect male protagonists from male authors, and vice versa. But I’m happy to say I don’t think that’s been true for a long time (if it ever was — my expectations could well have had more to do with the books I was exposed to during those years). These days I don’t even notice an author’s name except to note whether I’ve heard of their work before.

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?

DINOSAURS! To bring one home with me, of course.

Although, to be entirely honest – I think I’d hijack the machine so I could take as many trips as I could possibly ever imagine.

Give-away Question:

Who is your favourite fictional character, and why?

Follow Deb on Twitter:  debkalin@twitter

Find Deb on Facebook

Find Deb onGoodReads

See Deb’s Blog.

 

 

 

 

14 Comments

Filed under Australian Writers, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Publishing Industry, Writing craft

Winner Glenda Larke Give-away!

Glenda has very genrously offered the wnner of her give-away a choice of one of her three tilogies! She says:

Thank you everyone, for your comments! And thanks to Rowena for having me over.

To Lexie, the book I am working on at the moment is set in an imaginary world, but it is very much based on historical fact (with added magic!), lots of adventure, and yes – with pirates. Only back in those days, it was called “privateering”. It’s all about the name…

Kaaron – it’s certainly world scale. It covers “Europe” to “South-east Asia”.  And oh, I wish I could fix the world. I’ve spent a life-time trying, but I don’t see much improvement! (Now, if I only had a few magical powers…)

Cecilia – not sure I could write a romance and pull it off.  I really admire how writers like Nora Roberts can write so many books and still produce love scenes that sound fresh…but it’s just not me.  Hunky fae, now…hmmm.

Thoraiya and Brendan – I’m hoping a Malaysian author will write the urban Malaysian fantasy. There are a couple of very talented woman writers up here who are on track to do just that. I’ll keep you posted. Problem with fantasy standalones is getting publishers for them. In Australia, that is especially difficult, unless it’s paranormal. The trilogy I am working on has the second book placed in a 17th century spice trade Asian setting…lots of skullduggery and Asian fantasy stuff going on, with a mix of European and Asian protagonists. Villains and heroes from both sides. Can’t wait!

And the winner of the free book is Tsana, because she had a number of thoughtful comments on what I should write next!

Tsana, please email Glenda on

info(at)glendalarke(dot)com

1 Comment

Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Fun Stuff

Back from Sydney Supanova

This time last week I was sitting at the Dymock’s store at Supanova surrounded by wonderful costumes and fellow writers trying desperately to talk. I have my voice back, but I’m still suffering with the ‘flu. Can’t hear properly and it’s been almost a week since I flew home. Here I am with my amazing pull-up behind me. Clint Langley‘s artwork came up really well. Made people stop and take a second look

Was wonderful to catch up with Marianne de Pierres, Alison Goodman, Kate Forsyth and Jennifer Fallon. Also met up with Kevin J Anderson and Rebecca Moesta, who I’d met at the Brisbane Writers Festival a couple of years ago. It is nice to get away with fellow writers and talk shop, everything from career moves and publishing industry to writing craft. Although I didn’t do much talking. Very frustrating. Here we are all lined up for the obligatory photo with the storm troopers!

You couldn’t be bored. There were comic artists, manga artists and lots of amazing costumes. People who’d bought the KRK trilogy at other Supanovas came by to chat.

One girl told me, I bought your books in Melbourne. You said they’d keep me up all night and I thought you were just saying that, but they did. I finished all three in three days!

I wonder if she got any sleep.

The nice thing about Supanova is that when I was growing up there were hardly any TV shows with a spec fic theme, Lost in Space, I Dream of Jeanie and Bewitched spring to mind. It wasn’t until Star Wars in 1977 that the genre I loved started to become mainstream. Back in those days there was definitely a sense of them and us. We were the fans and everyone else thought we were crazy. Now, every second TV show has elements of paranormal/SF and no one thinks anything of it. So a pop culture event like Supanova can attract crowds of between 10 to 25 thousand. People turn up in costume and they feel like they fit right in.

Thinking of wearing a costume to Supanova? Here’s some inspiration.

Had to miss the Perth Supanova, my work load, the ‘flu and the cost made it impossible, but I’m looking forward to the more Supanovas in future. Maybe I’ll see you there.

2 Comments

Filed under Australian Writers, Comics/Graphic Novels, Conventions, Female Fantasy Authors, Fun Stuff, Genre, Inspiring Art, Nourish the Writer, Readers, The World in all its Absurdity, The Writing Fraternity

Winner of CE Murphy Give-away!

CE Murphy says:

Sorry about the wait, deadlines and life got in the way. I like “Cecilia”, who wanted to go either to Pompeii (and hope the volcano hadn’t already erupted!) or Queen Victoria.

Cecilia, please email CE on …

cemurphyauthor(at)gmail(dot)com

.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Giveaway, Dark Urban Fantasy, Female Fantasy Authors

Meet Glenda Larke …

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Q: You come from Western Australia originally. That’s a long way culturally from Malaysia where you now live. As a child growing up, did you long for something different?

Yes and no. I was a farm kid and I loved – and still love – the Australian landscape. But I made up my mind very young that I was going to travel – a lot. It was more just wanting to get out there and have a look: I never dreamed that life would conspire to keep me away so long. But I am coming back, for good, next year. It’s time!

Q: You are in involved in rain forest conservation and you post some wonderful photos on your blog. Do you find aspects of this come through in your writing?

Well, my desert transport was inspired by the unlikely example of rainforest millipedes! Every book has a hundred different ideas and they are often inspired by my travels, not just in the rainforest. An understanding of ecology, of how things fit together and are reliant on one another, is an excellent guide to world-building.

Q: Your first series was The Isle of Glory. I remember stumbling across your first book, The Aware and being blown away by your fresh voice. Do you think you will be exploring this world again?

Probably not. I find that after three books I want to do something new: new magic, new characters, new world. I reckon if I start something brand new, then my writing stays fresh and I feel rejuvenated.

Although I’m not going back to the Isles of Glory, I am visiting  another island archipelago in the trilogy I have just started to write. The middle book will be set on a tropical island. With spices and buccaneers and birds of paradise and general skulduggery. I have not managed to sell it yet, though…

And I am keen to go back to the Havenstar world – because I only ever wrote one book in that world! There’s room for more.

Q: I discovered The Mirage Makers when I was doing my Masters. It was particularly good timing as I was looking for books that explored the theme of discrimination. Do you consciously set out to explore themes, or do they creep up on you while you’re writing?

I’ve had it happen both ways. With The Mirage Makers the theme started as a combination of the Disappeared Ones of Argentina – when parents were murdered and the children adopted by the murderers and brought up to despise their parents’ politics – and the lost generation of Australian children, where Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from both their parents and their culture. So that was very deliberate, right from the beginning.

In The Isles of Glory, I set out to write a fantasy adventure, but themes crept in along the way.

Q: Your most recent trilogy is Watergivers. Like you, I can remember a time when our water came from a water tank. And we were only allowed an inch of brown water in the bath to wash. This trilogy sounds wonderful. ‘Ancient water tunnels, moving red dunes, singing sands, salt pans, settlements in dry water courses, waterpaintings, precious water.’ Do you find your books grow organically, or do you plan them?

Both. If I write a synopsis, then I often end up changing it substantially as I go along, especially by the time I get to book three. I keep on having better ideas! However, I think it is essential to know where you are going. If you don’t have an ending in mind, how can you push the story forward?

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 do actually, although the moment you say something like that, someone else will find twenty different exceptions to the rule! However, let me take the plunge. I can’t imagine anyone but a male writer penning something like Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself and the subsequent books set in that world. The level of violence and gore, the number and detail of the battles: it shrieks male author to me.

Women also write such scenes, but I think there is a subtle difference. In real life women tend to see victims as much as heroes when it comes to wars and fighting. And in fiction, the people who die are seen as more than just a body count to many (most?) female authors. Battle scenes written by a women always seem … sadder, more wrenching, and therefore less heroic, to me.

Women authors write epic fantasy just as well as men, but often differently, presenting more of the intimate and less of the big picture. Some male writers do this too, of course. In fact I’d say they do it more often than women write the more masculine heroic-scale story.

Have I said enough to earn myself a roasting in the comments yet?

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

I think it does. And occasionally, of course, I am surprised. I’ve always been happy to read writers from any position along the gender spectrum, and it shocked me senseless when I was told that there were men who wouldn’t read women authors. I found it hard to believe that such extraordinary people existed. (I’m not kidding – I was absolutely astonished that there were men who happily wiped out half the human race from their reading. I guess I was once very naïve.)

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?

One thing for sure, I’d never go too far into the future. I don’t want to know. And what if you transferred to 2100, for example – and the world had been wiped out by an asteroid in the meantime? And anyone who wants to go back in time ought to read Connie Willis to see all the things that can go wrong… Nah, no thanks.

 

Give-away Question:

What kind of fantasy (e.g. epic world-scale, rollicking adventure escapism, urban paranormal, romantic, historical, Havenstar world…) would you like me to write next and why?

 

Follow Glenda on Twitter:  @glendalarke

See Glenda’s Blog.

Find Glenda on GoodReads.

Find Glenda on Facebook.

26 Comments

Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Characterisation, creativity, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Genre, Writing craft

Winner Kylie Chan give-away!

Kylie says:

I think Lexie’s answer, where she vividly describes the advantage to being human in form – she won me over with that one! Being in the US isn’t a disadvantage. Shaun’s comment about the prejudice against women writers struck such a chord – it’s a big talking point right now – look at your own choice to honour the Russ pledge with this blog! I really liked Mary’s answer as well – she’s content to be what she is – and I’d like to give her a copy as well. So two winners – Lexie and Mary. And I’ll talk to my publicist about getting a review copy for Sean’s blog!

So email Kylie on kylie(at)kyliechan(dot)com  to organise this.

2 Comments

Filed under Book Giveaway, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Fun Stuff, Genre

Winner of Jennifer Fallon’s Give-away!

While at Supanova in Sydney on the weekend I was seated next to Jennifer and I managed to pin her down about the give-away. (She’s had the last couple of months from hell with earthquakes and a deadline).

So Jennifer said to announce Mark Yannalunas as the winner. Mark, if you email me  <rowena(at)corydaniells(dot)come> I’ll pass your email along to Jennifer and she can organise your book for you.

Meanwhile, I happen to know that Jennifer’s next book will contain Ninja Fairies! So there’s a thought to conjure with!

1 Comment

Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Fun Stuff, Genre, Nourish the Writer