Monthly Archives: August 2011

Meet Anne Bishop …

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

 

 

Q: When I met you at the National SF Convention in Tasmania, it was the first time you had been outside of the States. Have you done much travelling since then?

Going to Tasmania is still my big adventure, but I have done a couple of vacation cruises since then–one to Alaska and one to the Caribbean. I’ve also attended a couple of the World Fantasy conventions that were held in the U.S. For me, this is a significant amount of traveling.

Q: I read your first book, Daughter of the Blood (part of the Black Jewels series) long before I met you and was swept away by your vivid imagery. I see there are nine books in this series now. Do you have more planned?

Nothing more planned at this time. Will there be more? I’m sure there will be. With Black Jewels stories, I seem to need a resting cycle where I write other things before I can go back to them–or before the Blood come back to me.

Q: I love the new covers, particularly Daughter of the Blood. How much say do you get in your covers?

For the U.S. covers, I send in descriptions of the main characters so the artist doesn’t have to hunt for the information. For the Australian covers, I’m sometimes asked to send a few ideas of images that could be used as a starting point. After that, the artist’s vision comes into play, and the end result is fabulous.

Q: What was it about the fae that convinced you to write The Tir Alainn Trilogy? Have you always been fascinated by the Fair Folk?

I’ve read stories about the realms of Faery since I was young, but the Fae weren’t the start of Tir Alainn. I was thinking about what I wanted to write after the Black Jewels Trilogy (I already had a draft of The Invisible Ring), and I had decided that I wanted to play with a world that had a more traditional earth-based magic than the Craft in the Black Jewels world. Then one afternoon I was coming home from a convention and saw a cloud formation that looked like the dark cliff of another world sitting on the horizon–a place you could see but could never reach. I said to the friend who was driving, “That’s the otherland where the Fae live.” After that I began to put the pieces together–the nature of the Fae and how they traveled from Tir Alainn to the human world, the nature of the witches, who else inhabited this world, and what was going to enter their lives and threaten their world. So it was actually the witches who provided the first seeds for that world, and then it was characters like the Hunter and the Gatherer of Souls who changed the texture of the story and Tir Alainn itself into something far richer than I had first envisioned.

Q: With The Landscapes of Ephemera Series it looks like you veered more into the love story side of the plot. Was this intentional or did the characters draw you in this direction?

The stories in Ephemera are about heart, about making a life journey, and about making choices, so I guess it’s the world itself that demands the stories spotlight the connection between two people. On the other hand, I would have said Cassidy and Gray’s relationship in THE SHADOW QUEEN and SHALADOR’S LADY was just as much a love story as Sebastian and Lynnea’s relationship.

Q: You also write short stories. Do you write across other genres as well or are these all fantasy stories? I see Twilight’s Dawn is set in the Black Jewel’s World. For a sneak peek see here.

Almost all of my stories fall into the fantasy/science fiction/horror genres. The one exception is a story chapter I did for SUMMER IN MOSSY CREEK, the third book in the Mossy Creek series. Not only was that mainstream, it was the first time I had written a story in a world that was created by someone else. That was a lot of fun, but the imagery of fantasy feels like home so that’s what I tend to write.

Q: I see you are working on an urban fantasy series. This is a change for you. Can you enlighten us?

I wanted to write a story in a world where the characters could have telephones and television and cars–that is, a contemporary setting even if it wasn’t Earth. And I wanted to try my hand at playing with vampires and werewolves (or shifters in this case since they aren’t really werewolves). And you want some humans in the mix because squeaky toys are fun. I had the framework of the world before the characters grabbed the story and ran off with it, so now the rest of the world building is taking its shape from the story.

It’s dark and it’s fun, and I’m never quite sure what the Others are going to do until I type the words.

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 hope there is a difference. Where would the fun be if we all saw things the same way and wrote the same kinds of stories?

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

Judging by my bookshelves, if I’m looking for a story that is primarily adventure and action and explosions and battles, I lean toward male writers. If I’m looking for a people story that includes adventure and action and explosions and battles, I lean toward female writers. And then there are all the writers on my shelves who don’t fit those choices because the gender of the writer wasn’t part of the decision to pick up the book.

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?

Since I’ve been pondering lately if the TARDIS has a shower and other kinds of plumbing, I’m not sure I’m mentally equipped for time travel.

The official fan site.

Anne Bishop quotes on GoodReads

Anne Bishop on Facebook


 

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Filed under Covers, creativity, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Genre, Resonance, Story Arc, The Writing Fraternity, Writing craft

Winner Rhonda Roberts’ Give-away!

Rhonda says:

‘I think Belinda’s Teams Edward and Jacob idea could be an actual starter for the next Census and I think I actually belonged to Melissa’s Church of Buffy for a while.

But I have to go with Cecilia’s Doctor Who-ism for its sheer scope and detail. I can just almost hear the sermons! ‘

So Cecilia, you’ve won a copy of Gladiatrix. Email Rhonda to organise postage.

rhondaroberts(at)westnet(dot)com(dot)au

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Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, creativity, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Fun Stuff, Genre, Promoting Friend's Books

Meet Sean Williams …

I have been running a series of  interview with female fantasy writers to redress a perception I came across – that fantasy was a bit of a boy’s club. It really isn’t like that here in Australia. We have many wonderful fantasy writers who just happen to be female.

Today I’m interviewing Sean Williams. He’s a wonderful writer, supportive of the community and a real professional so I thought I’d ask him the same questions I’ve asked the female writers about fantasy writing and gender, to get his perspective as a male fantasy writer.

Watch out for the give-away at the end.

Q: Sean Williams, I see your second name is Llewellyn. Are you of Welsh extraction? Is there a wonderful story about your people coming out to Australia?

My father David was very proud of his distant Welsh background. He came from a long line of Owens and Selwyns and Bronwyns, but apart from his great and sometimes very intrusive love of male voice choirs it didn’t impact on my life terribly much. I’ve only been to Wales once, and that was this year, for one day. I felt more connected to my mother’s father’s German heritage (he was descended from the writer Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller) and my father’s mother’s Scottish heritage (I have a tartan tie somewhere). I’m  absolutely positive I don’t pronounce “Llewellyn” properly, but at least I know how to spell it.

Q: You have a page on Wookieepedia (the Star Wars Wikipedia). That is so cool. With 6 Star Wars books out now, you must be really comfortable writing in this world, or do you still have to do a lot of homework before starting a new book?

Every Star Wars novel is different–which sounds a bit pat, but it’s true. In my case, the obvious difference is that I’ve written in three quite different periods of Galactic history: the Old Republic era, three and a half thousand years before the Clone Wars; the dark days when Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader were in charge, just before Episode IV; and the New Jedi Order era, when Han and Leia have kids who are themselves becoming Jedi Knights. Each period has its own flavour, its own crises and characters, its own rich set of assumptions. Research is essential when it comes to embedding oneself creatively in these worlds. Luckily, it’s research I greatly enjoy. I can get lost in Wookieepedia for days if I’m not careful.

(Aside: one of the greatest thrills for me, as both a creator and a Star Wars fan from way back, is to see pages in Wookieepedia relating to elements of canon that I’ve created, be they characters, scenarios, weird aliens or whatever. There are no words for the sense of validation that brings.)

Q: You write for kids and you write for adults. (See TroubleTwisters with Garth Nix).Is there anything you do to get yourself in the right frame of mind when writing for kids? (hang out at the park, think back to your childhood, visit your friends’ kids?)

Having kids in my life really helps. And being childish at heart helps, too. I’ve written eight books for kids and four for young adults, and I’d have to say that I find the YA mindset much more difficult. I like to write characters who see the world through a fairly rational lens, and of course being a teenager isn’t really about being rational. That’s one of the reasons why it’s such a wonderful, terrifying time, and why it’s such a rich vein to mine, creatively speaking. I’m drawn to doing difficult things–each book is a new challenge–hence my focus on YA in my solo work at the moment.

Speaking more generally, I read to get in the right frame of mind. With every project, I’m hunting for a genre or author that will be the right fuel for my own writing. Sometimes it’s the Gothic or 19th Century romances. Sometimes it’s the books I loved as a kid–Weirdstone of Brisingamen or The Dark is Rising, as it was for Troubletwisters. For the next book it could be Tim Powers or Octavia Butler or someone completely know. I never know until I start. But I know when it’s working.

Q: You have a Masters in Arts in Creative Writing.  I see you are currently working on your PHD. What’s your research question? Is it something really interesting to do with the craft of writing?

I’m examining the use of the matter transporter in literature. Sounds pretty dry, doesn’t it? I chose it because my own work has often returned to this trope, from my first complete (and unpublished) short story to my latest novel, Twinmaker, which is so fresh it hasn’t even hit the market yet. It’s a trope that can be used to examine identity and humanity in so many interesting ways–and that, I think, is what science fiction is all about. Crime, too. The Resurrected Man, my second novel, just wallows in these issues, and so does a short story I have coming out in an anthology called Armored next year, “The N-Body Solution”, but in a very different way. I’ll probably keep exploring the trope until I die, or until someone builds a working version so we can explore it in real life.

Q: I see you’ll be at the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego in October. Lucky you! I’ve never been. Can you give us a glimpse of what it’s like?

You should come one day! It’s my favourite con. There are so many great people there, so many friends and writers and new people to get to know–the massed creativity is electric. Whether you go for the panels, the parties or the bar, there’s always someone fascinating to learn from. I go with the intention of hanging out, basically, but always return more energized and better connected than when I left. It’s well worth the effort and expense.

Q: There’s an Australian called Sean Williams on Smashwords. Is that you? Are you planning on releasing some of your backlist as e-books?

I have no recollection of being on Smashwords, so it’s probably not me. I have two other writer friends also called Sean Williams. One’s a musicologist who writes such wonderful books as The Sound of the Ancestral Ship and The Ethnomusicologist’s Cookbook. The other works in LA. We often talk about collaborating, but can’t agree on which name goes first. Boom-boom.

I think ebooks are the best thing to happen for readers since, I don’t know, the invention of the mass-market paperback? Public libraries? Whatever, it’s very cool. Some of my back-catalogue is already available through E-Reads and more is coming. I’m still pondering what to do with the rest. The immediate temptation is to start monetizing everything–short stories, novellas, all that–but I’m not sure I admire that impulse very much, so I’m being patient, waiting to see where it all goes. One day I’ll do something with my first novel, Metal Fatigue, which has been hard to get for a long time. What I decide to do with that, and how well it goes, will probably set the precedent for the rest.

Q: On an interview with Angela Slater, when asked what would you be if you weren’t a writer you said: ‘Dead bored”, because that’s what I am when I’m not writing.’ And then you followed it up with, if someone held a gun to your head and said you couldn’t write, you’d go back to your other love, music. (You won a Young Composer Award in High School). I know you make up play-lists for certain books. Are you doing anything with your music at the moment?

Nothing at all, I’m afraid. It’s a bit depressing. I keep saying that one day I’ll get back to it, but that day just never comes. If I really wanted to, I suppose I would make time, but given the RSI issues I have, the last thing I need is another hobby involving computers . . . .

Still, I’m always on the look-out for new music (current favourite is Erik Wøllo’s live set Silent Currents), and I’m still DJing occasionally, when people let me. I have the illusion of a relationship with my other lover, and that’s better than nothing.

Q: With over 70 short stories published and 35 novels you must be some kind of writing power-house. I once heard you say that you had to write 9 novels in 2.5 years, so you calculated out how many words a day you had to write and no matter what, you wrote them. At the time I asked you, What if you went wrong? And you said, I couldn’t go wrong. Are you still working yourself to such a hard self-imposed deadline?

It’s easy to be a powerhouse if you do something all the time and never stop. I don’t think I’m especially creative or anything. Just stubborn, and a bit OCD, and easily bored. Still, RSI has forced me to be more easy-going lately, wordcount-wise. I’m down to about 150k of new fiction a year, which is not a huge amount compared to what I managed in the past, but still pretty reasonable. Of course, not going for quite so much quantity means I can now engage with the quality side of things in a different way. I’m enjoying the time to rewrite more than I normally would. Although that’s still hard on the wrists, harder in some ways, it does demand more time spent pondering what the hell I’ve done and how I can make it better. Normally I’d have to squeeze this process into very short periods, and while I’d never suggest that I approached this kind of thing in a cavalier kind of way in the past–each book received the identical degree of commitment and passion, whether it was Star Wars or a collaboration or something entirely my own–I do sometimes think I could have done more if I’d had more time to do it in. Now I do have the time, I’m making the most of it, and finding new ways to be obsessive.

 

Q: As someone who has been shortlisted for and won genre awards, and someone who has taught at Clarion, you really know your writing craft. (Here’s the link to Sean’s list of useful advice for aspiring writers). The industry is changing so rapidly now that things professional writers would never have done (self publish) are now real options. Barry Eisler turned down half a million advance to self publish. Are you scrambling to keep up with the changes?

The industry has always been a bit of a scramble. I started publishing SF in the dying days of cyberpunk, and then space opera was hot, and then it was YA and zombies or whatever. Who knows what it’ll be next year? Meanwhile, publishers and magazines constantly fold or merge, the internet’s always changing the game, writing software and computers are constantly evolving. And that’s all good. Change keeps us awake. It keeps our eyes open. That’s the trouble with dreaming for a living: if you get too comfortable, you might nod off and miss something interesting

Q: You’re a member of the RIAUS. (An organisation to bring Science to People).  You must feel very strongly about the role of science in the modern world.  What do you hope to see this organisation achieve?  (Feel free to fiddle with this question, Sean).  

I’m enormously proud that we have the Royal Institution of Australia right here in Adelaide. As the only offshoot of the Royal Institution in the world, its aims are at the same time enormously simple and enormously broad. Scientific thinking has changed everything about human society and is in the process of shaping our entire world, for better or for worse, yet so many people still regard as something outside of them, something to be frightened of, to stay away from, to reject. As part of its brief to bring science to people and people to science, RiAUS performs a role very similar to science fiction–that of familiarising the mainstream with what might once have seemed very strange, and to have fun doing it. Hence things like art exhibitions at the Science Exchange, sci-ku contests (haikus based on science), talks on science in pubs, and so on. As someone who has never formally studied science but is immensely interested in it, being involved is a natural fit for me, and I’m proud to have been on their program several times now. If we can expand people’s understanding of the world we live in, in even a small way, I think that’s a win.

Q: Last time we spoke you were the ‘CurryKing’. Are you still into curries? (If you are, the next time you’re in Brisbane, I’ll take you to our fave Indian restaurant).

Which one is that? I’ve been to a few up there, now, and they’ve all been delicious!

I still love curries, although I’ve been a vegetarian for two years now, which has sadly meant no more lamb kormas. My favourite recipe at the moment is for a pumpkin, chick pea and Brussels sprout curry that most people regard with horror. Their loss, I say, and all the more for me.

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?

My gut feeling is that there’s more variation within the sexes than there is between them–that is, the way I write fantasy versus the way Garth Nix writes fantasy, say, might be greater than the differences between me and Sara Douglass–and if that’s the case then bemoaning boy’s vs girl’s clubs is a bit, I don’t know, off-mission for me, much like the talk about genre itself and its impact on what readers want. Some readers and editors undoubtedly have biases towards particular types of writers, but on the whole, I think, we are all genres of one. (I’m avoiding the word “brand” because that might lead us to a whole different conversation.) Every book I pick up is its own experience, and if I like that experience then I’ll pursue the author further. If I don’t, I won’t. So there are fantasy authors I’ve read lots of and others I’ve read almost nothing. Some of both categories are male, some are female. Some I have no idea (for years I thought Julian May was male) and it doesn’t matter. Each writer is different to my eyes not because they’re male or female, Australian or Alaskan, write fantasy or literary fiction, but because they’re different people.

I’m talking about my own perceptions and experiences, of course. I haven’t studied the field in enough depth to have a solid opinion on the subject. If there is a bias, I hope I haven’t contributed to it. All I can do is take hope from reviews like this one, in which Garth and I are praised for achieving “a level of gender-neutrality that is pleasantly surprising coming from two male authors”, and avoid despairing that such a thing should be surprising.

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

I prefer to have no expectations. I’ll avoid reading the blurb and would love it if books had no covers at all (another reason why I love ebooks and the old Gollancz yellowjackets so much). I want to mainline the story in the purest possible form, and while I know that 100% purity is never possible, that I’ll always be lurking in the mix somewhere, I do figure it’s worth aiming for.

I feel this way because I know I know that expectations are unavoidable. Much as I hate it, I do judge a book by its cover. Bad clichéd cover art (from tramp stamps and leather pants to metal phalluses shooting fiery ejaculate) are an utter turn-off, and it can take ages to get past that, even for writers I love, books I’m really enjoying. And I can be kinder, too, to books that don’t deserve it, because I love the way it’s packaged. Mind you, I think that’s not quite so bad a thing, because every book is a sacrifice offered up by someone. Every book is a gift. That should always be celebrated, even if it involves a little delusion at times.

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?

Much as I’d dearly love to see what really happened on Golgotha, I think I’d have to go forward. No specific date, no specific place. As long as there are ftl spaceships, I’ll be happy.

Sean will give-away one each of MAGIC DIRT,

TROUBLETWISTERS and CENOTAXIS.

Give-away question:

As a long-time Dr Who fan, Sean says, if the Tardis appeared in your

living room and Dr Who stepped out and invited you on an adventure,

which of the Doctors would you like it to be and why?


Catch up with Sean on Facebook.

Catch up with Sean on GoodReads.

For a list of Sean’s numerous publications see here.

For a list of Sean’s opinion pieces see here.

Sean’s Blog.

 

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Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Children's Books, creativity, Fantasy books, Fun Stuff, Nourish the Writer, Publishing Industry, SF Books, The World in all its Absurdity, The Writing Fraternity, Writing craft, Young Adult Books

Meet Lara Morgan …

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

Q: Your mother is from Bermuda and your father from Croatia and you grew up in Western Australia. I’m assuming that you had access to the cultural heritage of both your parents. Does this help you when you are creating fantasy worlds?

I was definitely brought up with stories about countries overseas  but I think what influenced me more was both my parents are avid readers. We always had so many books in the house and I don’t recall ever being told I wasn’t allowed to read anything. I was brought up on a diet of fairy tales, Enid Blyton and CS Lewis and was read Tolkien before I was in double digits so I think naturally veering toward fantasy worlds was unavoidable. Being encouraged to use our imaginations to create our own worlds when we were playing and not being allowed to watch much tv also helped – although I might not have thought that at the time!

Q: On your web site it says you’ve also written under the Lara Martin and Lara Brncic (pronunciation?) names. Did you use these when you were writing as a journalist? And leading on from that why did you choose to write your novels as Lara Morgan?

Martin is my mum’s maiden name which I used once when I was trying to figure out a pen name. Brncic is my maiden name and the name I used when working for the newspaper. I chose to use Morgan because, firstly, having a last name with only one vowel makes it difficult to spell and pronounce, and secondly because my middle name is Marie the M sound worked. I also love having a pen name because it’s like a secret identity to my normal self. Lara Morgan is my writer name separate from the everyday reality of bills and housework.

Q: You write the Rosie Black Chronicles which is set 500 years in the future and is aimed at Young Adults. Genesis has been released with Equinox coming out soon from Walker Books. Set in a post apocalyptic world where Rosie is on the run with a mystery to solve, the story takes Rosie from Earth to Mars. There’s an environmental thread running through the narrative. Is this something you feel strongly about?

Yes very strongly and I know I’m not alone. I live in a state that has a huge amount of money and people invested in mining of all kinds and it’s impossible to live here and not think about how long we can keep all this up. It’s so problematic and complicated, because we need the energy, people need the jobs, but I worry that planet wide we are going to be doing too little too late to find other alternatives to feed this consumerist monster of a society we’re growing – and that a future similar to Rosie’s world might be the result, only possibly worse. I think that’s a fear most people relate to.

Q: You also write adult fantasy books. The Twins of Saranthium series was published by Pan Macmillan. From the cover of The Awakening there looks to be dragons. Were you a Dragon Riders of Pern fan growing up?

I have never read any of them, which surprises the hell out of most people because, Pern being the classic dragon text, most assume I have. Also the dragon – which I call serpents in my books – on the cover was a decision by the publisher because it made sense at the time. The story line itself really focuses much more on the people, the twins, of the series than the serpents. But they are in there so…

Q: In an interview on the ASIM site you say: ‘I … think good fantasy and science fiction can go just as far in exploring the nature of humanity as any literary novel and I get as much satisfaction from reading someone like LeGuin as from reading Hemmingway, if not more.’ What are the themes you keep coming back to when you write SF and F?

I don’t know if it’s really a theme, but I always find myself writing about identity – how no one is ever who they seem to be – and how power and corruption so often go together. It probably relates to my cynical view of authority and corporations – we as humans can’t seem to get our acts together and behave in a moral way when too much responsibility is allowed to too few, or there is too much money involved.

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 hate, hate that boy’s club assumption. It’s so insulting not only to women who write fantasy but also to the vast number of women who read it. And it only encourages the appalling level of ignorance of the amount of women writing fantasy today. (*jumps off soap box*).

I think in early genre writing there tended to be a stronger focus on the technical side, the world building and the wars from male writers as opposed to a greater concentration on the relationships between the characters in those worlds from the (very few) women writers. But now I think those lines are increasingly blurred. Whether it’s because it’s more acceptable now for men to talk about their feelings, and so write more emotionally accessible characters, or for women to go beyond the domestic and explore technology or because we are just learning more from each other, I don’t know but I think it’s of benefit to both. However I do think that women still tend to write more, and in greater detail, about the emotional undercurrents of characters than men, especially in YA fiction.

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

I rarely pay attention to the sex of the author, but I think it depends what kind of book I’ve picked up. In epic fantasy I think what men are writing and what women are writing are pretty similar. I mean I would expect the same kind of fabulous detail of character and complex world from a Kate Elliot book the same as I would from a George RR Martin. It’s the same when I’m looking at adult dystopian like The Windup Girl or Zoo City. When it comes to YA though I do have different expectations simply because the division is fairly clear. Women are writing a lot of paranormal romance whereas men are writing more action orientated/spy thrillers. But there again, the rule is not absolute. It’s not what I write and Suzanne Collins with her Hunger Games series shows that as well.

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?

I’ve always loved history, and would love to see ancient Greece, but the reality would undoubtedly be a lot less romantic. Plus I’m a woman so they’d probably immediately make me some kind of slave, so I’ll have to choose the future.  I’d love to go forward about one thousand years to see, firstly, if humans survive that long without killing ourselves, and if we do, how far our technology goes. Are we going to become a Class 3 civilization? Do we colonise other planets and live like Star Trek and will cake still exist? Fundamental questions of course.

Podcast with Lara Morgan at the Sydney Writers Festival.

Follow Lara on Twitter: @Lara_Morgan

See Lara’s Blog.

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Filed under Australian Writers, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Genre, Nourish the Writer, SF Books, Young Adult Books

Gushing Fan-girl Moment

I’m having a ‘Gushing Fan-girl Moment’ here. My publishers just sent me the Sony Reader Store Newsletter, with the Best Selling Bundles and Bargains.

Look, there’s my trilogy with Trudi Canavan, Brandon Sanderson, Richelle Mead and George RR Martin. Wow!

Wow, I feel all hot and flustered.

I had one of those embarassing Gushing Fan-girl Moments when I met George RR Martin at Worldcon in Glagow in 2005. I grabbed his hand and told him Tyrion was my favourite character. He was very sweet, he must get this sort of thing all the time. He told me Tyrion was his favourite character too. That was before Peter Drinklage played the part in Game of Thrones and everybody thought he was brilliant.

(If you’re interested in the King Rolen’s Kin e-book bundle here’s the link).

I feel like I should rush out and tell my mum, but she wouldn’t know who any of these people are. She’d just say, That’s nice, dear.

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Winner Trent Jamieson Give-away!

Trent says:

I’ve read through the answers and they’re all great – really, there isn’t one that doesn’t appeal – but for me the best was Melissa Mays.

Who wouldn’t want to travel that way, and the sky plays a very important part of Roil, and an even greater role in the sequel Night’s Engines. So Melissa, as soon as my copies of Roil arrive I’ll send on your way. And thanks to everyone else.

Melissa can you email me:  rowena(at)corydaniells(dot)com with your postal address, and I’ll forward your email to Trent.

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Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Steampunk

Meet Richard Harland …

I have been running a series of  interview with female fantasy writers to redress a perception I came across – that fantasy was a bit of a boy’s club. It really isn’t like that here in Australia. We have many wonderful fantasy writers who just happen to be female.

 

Today I’m interviewing Richard Harland, author of the hugely popular Worldshaker books. I have been doing a series of interviews of female fantasy authors and thought it would be interesting to get a male fantasy writer’s perspective on the question of writing, gender and fantasy.

 

 

 

See Richard’s cool Worldshaker book trailer.

Q: In an interview on Readings you describe Steampunk as: ‘a kind of retro imagining of machinery and gadgets that might have happened. … Jules Verne in his own day imagined future technology, but nowadays it looks to us like an alternative technology of the past that never actually happened. Steampunk worlds usually have a 19th century or pre-WW I feel about them.’ To me it seems a genre you are ideally suited to write because of your English background and your penchant for waistcoats. (Richard has a page on Tips for Writing Steampunk).  Reading Worldshaker  and the sequel, Liberator, it feels like it comes very naturally to you. Is this right?

It comes naturally to me, for sure. I look back on my earlier novels and I can see steampunky bits creeping in – the early industrial scenery in parts of the ‘Ferren’ books, the Victorian elements in The Vicar of Morbing Vyle and The Black Crusade. Deep down, I always wanted to write steampunk, and the  Worldshaker world was ten years in the planning before I began writing it, fifteen years before publication. I had no hope of getting it taken up by an Australian publisher until the steampunk trend started to build momentum internationally.

My interest in early industrial technology and Victoriana goes back to my childhood, which happened to be in England. But did it have to be in England? I look at some great steampunk writers in Australia – like Michael Pryor and Scott Westerfeld (as ‘honorary Australian’) and they don’t have that kind of background.

The one area where I’m sure my English background does count is in my depiction of class. The class system is strong and flourishing on the juggernaut ‘Worldshaker’ – and that’s something that doesn’t come in much with most other steampunk writers. I think you need to suffer under a class system to have a strong emotional feel about it!

See Richard talking about Steampunk at Bialik College, Melbourne.

Q: I see there was a point where you dropped out of Sydney UNI and ‘bummed around’ writing songs and performing them at venues around the city. I bet there’s a book in there somewhere. Are you ever tempted to write about this period (disguised of course)?

Yes, and I will. Promise!

Q: You are not a novice to winning awards with many final-listings in the Aurealis Awards, several wins and the Golden Aurealis Award in 2004. Recently Worldshaker won the prestigious Tam-Tam Je Bouquine award for best novel ages 10 -15.  I bet you wished you were in France at the time to pick up the award. Did it come out of the blue?

I’d never even heard of the Tam-Tam Je Bouquine award until I won it! In fact, it never occurred to me that there were YA awards in France. (Makes me wonder whether it means much to anyone overseas when I can boast of winning those six Aurealis Awards.) My publisher and editor dressed up specially to accept the award on the night – and I’m sure they expressed our shared reactions to the honour of the award far better then I could have done. At least they could express them in understandable French!

See Richard reading from Worldshaker at Bialik College, Melbourne.

Q: You have written 145 pages of writing tips for aspiring authors. (Find them here). This must have taken ages, Richard. As a University Lecturer you have a background in teaching. Have you had a good response from aspiring writers to your Writing Tips pages? Do you get emails from people? (I know I would have devoured your writing tips when I was first starting out. I still find useful things in there whenever I dip into it).

Yes, I keep getting emails and positive responses – which makes me feel good about setting up the website. Because you’re right, it ate up an enormous amount of time – four months when I could have been writing my own novels. But the feedback makes it all worthwhile.

Q: And now Liberator is coming out. Having read an earlier draft at one of our ROR weekends, I know it delivers more Steampunkery goodness. Do you envisage a another book in this series?

Not immediately. it’s a duology that resolves in an almighty battle – and although there’s obviously more story to come, the Col-Riff romance has worked itself out by the end of LIBERATOR.  Not much you can do with male lead and female lead after that!

So I’m taking a breather from that particular strand of history in the juggernaut world. The novel I’ve now started writing belongs in a different time and place, with different characters. I hope to continue the Worldshaker/Liberator narrative some time further down the track.

See the Allen & Unwin Worldshaker Book trailer.

Q: Wow, Richard I think I have book trailer envy. It looks like your Worldshaker has inspired quite a few people. Did you ever think you’d have book trailers?

I never thought much about book trailers. I see what people have done (in the UK, Germany and Australia), and think how clever and creative it is. But it’s an art-form I don’t have any personal connection to. I imagine my books almost like a movies unrolling in my head before I ever start writing them – that’s my form of visual imagination.

What I’d really like to see is a movie trailer!

See another book Worldshaker book trailer.

Q:You’ve been a busy man in the last ten years or so with the Wolf Kingdom books. (This won the Aurealis Best Children’s Illustrate Work/Picture Book). Have you been approached to write more in this series?

No, and at the moment I wouldn’t want to. I’m zooming in on steampunk and YA fiction. I don’t want any distractions!

Q: And there are many other books, some aimed at children, like Sassy cat one of my son’s favourites, right through Ferren and the Angel for teens, to the SF/Mystery series Eddon and Vail.  Plus there’s the duology, The Vicar of Morning Vyle and,  The Black Crusade which won Best Horror and the Golden Aurealis. You say you suffered writer’s block for 25 years. When you got over this, it must have felt like a dam breaking. How did you get over your writer’s block?

Many factors, including setting up a regular writing routine. And sheer bloody-minded stubbornness, because I bogged down time after time on my first novel – and went back to begin again over and over. I guess in the end I managed to live up to my own standards. Very stupid – I couldn’t bear to show my work to anyone until it was perfect … When I should have been learning how to improve by finishing imperfect stuff and getting feedback on it from other people.

I’m a very bad role model for other writers. My writing tips website is like a way of telling other intending writers how to steer clear of the traps I fell into!

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 boys club. Do you think there’s a difference in the way males and females write fantasy?

Do they really think that in the US and UK? Sounds like a hangover from the far past. No one could ever think of fantasy in Australia as a boy’s club. Here, the most successful fantasy writers are mostly women, as are the vast majority of readers.

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

I hope I can change my expectations according to what I read when I open the book, but maybe I do expect some things things more from male or female authors. From male authors, wild supposition and fantastical imaginings; from female authors, a fullness of fleshed-out reality, a sense of detail, and being there right in the scene.

Having said that, of course, good fantasy writing has to have both. I can think of heaps of examples of male authors who can flesh out their creations until you’re right there in the scene; and heaps of examples of female authors with powers of the very wildest imagination.

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

The time of the French Revolution, end of the eighteenth century. The most exciting period ever, for me. (Anyone who reads LIBERATOR could guess that!)

I’m assuming that I’m guaranteed survival, though – or that I can hop back into my time machine and escape if the guillotine gets too close to my neck!

Richard’s Blog

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Doing anything Saturday 27th, August, 2011?

Once a year, the good folk down at the Logan North Library run a Speculative Fiction month. On Saturday 27th of August some friends and I will be on a panel talking about writing.

So if you are in the neighbourhood, drop by and say Hi!

(Logan North Library, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia)

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Meet Rhonda Roberts …

Q: First congratulations on the success of Gladiatrix. I feel like a proud big sister because I organised the pitching opportunity at the 2006 National SF Con, which led (eventually) to your sale. (Rhonda talks about this experience on the ROR blog). Since your sale what have you learnt about the publishing industry that you wish you could have told yourself back then?

Thanks Rowena, that pitching opportunity changed everything!

One key lesson is that you need to acquire publicity skills asap. In the standard contract you are legally required to help publicise the book. My experience has been that publishers try to work with you on this – so make choices now rather than later. Different publicity methods suit different books and, more importantly, different authors. The key thing is to go with your strong points.

If public speaking is your strength – then find ways to use that. Your publisher can help you make contacts and set up interviews etc. If, like many authors, you’d rather concentrate on the web – then work out which of the available options suit you and how you want to invest your non-writing time.

Whatever venues you choose, make sure you can sum up your book in 7, 30, and 100 words. That will save you a few uncomfortable silences while you try to compress your magnum opus into a bite size chunk and still do it an iota of justice.

Q: I like the look of your web site, Rhonda, very noir, very suitable for a time travelling detective. Do you have a background in graphic design?

That’s great to hear, thanks!

I do have a distant background in art but my husband, Richard Caladine, did all the artwork on the website, as well as the maps that go with the books. We work closely together on these projects, but he does the final images. He’s in the communication technology industry as well as being a talented artist with his own website.

I love all things noir and have spent a lot of time developing that kind of look and feel in the series. The second book, Hoodwink, is set in Hollywood in 1939 specifically because this is my hero’s first real case as a private investigator. So, of course, she had to go back to the era of The Maltese Falcon and the hard-boiled private eye.

If  you like the website now, check again towards the end of this year, Hoodwink comes out in January 2012 and there’ll be some changes and additions to celebrate the launch. J

Q: I see Gladiatrix was nominated for the Norma K Hemming Award. This award celebrates excellence in the exploration of race, gender, class and sexuality. This must have been a thrill. Did you set out to explore this themes, or did it just arise naturally?

Oh yeah, I certainly was thrilled to be nominated! Gladiatrix was my first book and I had no idea whether anyone would even read it. 🙂

Gladiatrix isn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, a sermon – it’s high adventure – but my politics tend to be inclusive rather than exclusive, so I guess they seep into everything.

Q: Gladiatrix was also nominated for the Davitt Award. This award is sponsored by the Sisters in Crime Australia for the best crime novel by an Australian woman. It looks like you are spanning at least two genres. Have you always been a fan of crime and mystery?

Sisters in Crime is such a wonderful organisation – I was absolutely thrilled they liked it.

Why did I venture across genres? Human history is full of deep dark mysteries and many of them involve unsolved crimes, so following a time travelling detective opens up adventures in any conceivable time or place. When you throw a slightly alternate past and present into the mix, then the adventure gets really exciting because anything can happen – and frequently does. J

Have I always been a fan of crime and mystery? On and off. Then one hot, sweaty summer – when I was bored and desperate for something new – I ended up in the crime section, where I discovered the V.I. Warshawski series by Sara Paretsky. V.I. is not only a smart, tough detective in the old school, noir tradition, but is also a compassionate modern woman. What a combination! I was hooked.

Since then I’ve discovered that noir female characters are very exciting people. You never quite know what they’re going to do next – but you can be damned sure you want to stick around and watch.

Q: Your main character, Kannon Dupree is described as feisty and bit impetuous but smart enough to get herself out of dangerous situations. Did you find that your background in martial arts helped you write realistic fight scenes?

Oh definitely. Especially the injuries incurred side of it. J (I’m rubbing my knee with one hand as I type with the other.)

Q: You PHD and work as an academic specialising in knowledge systems in different cultures and historical periods must help you create realistic settings when your main character travels through time. What advice could you give aspiring writers on research?

It depends on what kind of book you’re researching but if you’re writing about ‘a stranger in a strange land’, I’d suggest you start with what’s the same and what’s different? Then ask yourself why is it so?

Find out what your characters need to operate on a daily basis. Then go on to what belief system is dominant. Is it religious, scientific etc…? How does the power structure operate? Gender/class/ethnic relations? What does their technology look like and how does it fit into the socio-economy? Then the more psychological components come in. What is the family unit like? What are their greatest fears? How do they relax? And so forth…

Q: You grew up in Western Australia and spent your holidays rambling around the old gold rush ghost towns. Will there be a Kannon Dupree time travel mystery set against this background?

The series will regularly return to an Australian setting – that will definitely happen.

Choosing what era to visit next takes a bit of planning. There’s a particular arc going on with the main character that is suited to certain eras, so that has to be catered for. Plus some stories come roaring out of my filing cabinet and gleefully hijack the process…

Both of which happened with my second and third books. Hoodwink, (due out in January 2012) is set in Hollywood in 1939. So Kannon can put on her black trench coat and sunglasses, and slink around noir paradise.

The third book, which I’m now in the process of finishing, comes out later in 2012. I can’t tell you what it’s about yet, as my editor has a sniper ready to fire a warning shot if I mention it too soon. J

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?

Really? But what about J.K. Rowling, Ursula Le Guin, Anne Rice and the million other stunningly wonderful female writers over there? What’s going on?

Sure gender can influence writing choices, just as ethnicity, religion, class, age, breadth of life experience, political beliefs etc, etc, can too. But what’s wrong with that? Does anyone still seriously believe diversity isn’t a good thing? The point is on what basis worth is judged…what is valued, which voices are listened to and which ones are denigrated or dismissed.

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

Like many fantasy authors, there’s always been a special place in my heart for books – whatever the genre, whoever the author – that show off the might of the human spirit and it’s awesome potential. We need more of those books not less…

At the moment I’m besotted by John Carlin’s book on Nelson Mandela. How Mandela overcame the shackles placed on him because of his colour and basically saved South Africa from genocide. Talk about a true-life fantasy story!

So, I will happily pick-up books with any gender combination of author and subject. But…I won’t buy misogynistic books or ones that treat their female characters like convenient wallpaper – whatever the author’s gender.

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?

My two dogs are wondering why I’m laughing… There are so many possibilities! What was Joan of Arc really like? What secrets are encoded in the Voynich manuscript? What were Buddha’s last words? What was written on the Mayan codices destroyed by the Conquistadors?

But this month the answer is: to the VIP seats at the Rugby World Cup Final, Johannesburg, 1995, and in the limo that took President Mandela back home from the game.

This is the day (a fraction of which is portrayed in the film Invictus) that it became clear that Nelson Mandela had managed to divert the South African nation away from a bloody civil war – when blacks and whites alike celebrated the Springboks’ World Cup victory. I’d dearly love to watch Nelson Mandela’s face as he saw HIS people, the South African nation, share the same emotion at the same time – joy.

Give-away Question:  In the last Census there were 58,053 Jedi Knights listed in Australia. What new religion would you propose for the next one? Why? What would they do and wear? How would you spread it? (Get on to merchandising if you feel that is appropriate.)

 

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Winner Gail Z Martin’s Give-away!

Gail says:

What absolutely fantastic replies! Thanks to everyone for reading and for all the suggestions! Goes to prove that characters do become real to us, and live on in our imaginations long after we’re done reading the book.

One winner is too difficult…so I’ll pick two–Sean and Cecilia. I’ve got an autographed copy of The Sworn for you Just please email me at

gail (at) chroniclesofthenecromancer (dot) com

with your addresses and I’ll get those out to you!

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