Monthly Archives: September 2011

Winner Kylie Griffin Give-away!

Kylie says:

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read the interview and comment. There were some great answers here and a walk down memory lane with people’s recount of books they really enjoyed.

Book Chatter Cath’s comment about preferring to disappear into the fantasy world of a book as opposed to playing on the sings or with dolls made me smile – I was so much like this as a kid too! LOL 

It’s clear Louis L’amour and Stephen King have had a huge impact on Richard. His passion for their writing and their worlds is evident and his goal to animate worlds like this is inspiring in itself. As an author, to know that someone feels moved to make it a goal to achieve is humbling.

But the comment that really, really resonated with me came from Belinda’s Baubles – I love writing and reading about strong, female characters and the idea that a man can be struck by love but doesn’t realise it. They’re two of the elements I’ve tried to portray in my Light Blade series – (the heroine) Annika’s fighting against the odds to make a new life for herself, and Kalan (the hero) discovers over time, once he delves deeper into who Annika is as opposed to what he believes her to be (his enemy), she’s a woman he can and does love.

So, I’d like to send the eco-VENGEANCE BORN bag to Belinda’s Baubles. I hope she likes it. 

Belinda, email Kylie on:   kyliegriffin71(at)optusnet(dot)come(dot)au
And here’s Kylie’s updated cover and blurb, due for release 2012.
There is no mercy in the demon realm. No escape. In this place of desperation and conflict, anyone who is not pure bred is virtually powerless. Until an unlikely champion is born…
Annika, half-blood daughter of the Na’Reish King, longs for more than her tormented life among her father’s people. Conceived in hatred and bred as a tool of retribution, she’s gifted with a special talent that can heal as well as destroy.
With the Na’Reish vastly outnumbering them, Kalan, a Light Blade warrior, knows the future of humankind depends on him alone. Incursions into human territory and raids for blood-slaves by the Na’Reish Horde have increased. As Chosen-leader, he faces the task of stopping the demons—and convincing the Council of aging Light Blade warriors that change is necessary for survival.
When Annika learns Kalan is a prisoner in her father’s dungeon, her dream of escape seems within reach. She agrees to free him in exchange for his protection once they reach human territory. Now, marked for death for helping him, Annika must learn to trust Kalan as they face not only the perilous journey to the border but enemies within the Council—and discover a shocking truth that could throw the human race into civil war…
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Filed under Australian Writers, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Fun Stuff

Winner Kate Elliot Give-away!

Kate says:

Many thanks to Rowena for the interview with its great questions and the giveaway.

Thank you all so much for the great entries. I was intrigued by Melissa and Lexie’s assassins and thieves, and I’ve had a long and deep love for bad ass warriors women like the ones Mervih mentions. Of course, Austen, with Tolkien, is my favorite novelistic influence, which gives points to Mary and Blodeuedd. And Cecilia makes a really strong case for the bad boy we ought to run away from but can’t resist.

However, even though I’ve not yet read any Sherrilyn Kenyon, I have to go with Belinda for the awesomely wonderful phrase “sick pleasure.” I know exactly that feeling.

Belinda, email Kate to organise your prize.  Kate(dot)Elliott(at)sff(dot)net

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

Meet Simon Higgins …

Today I’m interviewing Simon Higgins because he’s a fellow Iaido practitioner as well as a great writer, also I thought I’d ask him about fantasy writing and gender, to get his perspective as a male writer.

Look out for the give-away at the end of the post.

 

Q: You have a series of Young Adult novels set in Japan called the Moonshadow series. I like the covers, very manga.  Are you a big fan of Manga? Do you get much say in what appears on your covers?

I do like Manga very much, and find it fascinating that most people don’t realize how old it actually is. Apparently, Manga first evolved from experimental perspective sketches that woodblock artists in Japan tinkered with during the Edo period, which in turn slowly evolved into a unique ‘pop-culture’ form of stylized drawing. Now of course, Manga has several main schools (multiple ‘dojos’ have evolved, which seems to happen with all things Japanese) and numerous sub and fusion styles. Working in conjunction with Random House Australia, I chose Ari Gibson of The People’s Republic of Animation as the cover artist for the Moonshadow books…Ari’s Manga is unique: strong, with classic lines, but still quite individual – I love it, and it’s pretty much the way I picture the characters in the series when I’m writing. The various foreign editions including the US version published by Little, Brown (the Twilight people) conjure up very different visions of the heroes. I should probably mention also that the Moonshadow series is actually pitched at the ‘middle school’ market, just a shade younger than the traditional ‘young adult’  category (not that everybody agrees on the age range those pigeon-holes actually encompass, of course)…

 

Q: The American Library Association described your Moonshadow books as  ‘good old-fashioned adventure set in medieval Japan…exhilarating opening sequence…nonstop action…the pacing is so intense…the language is modern, but the setting, clothing, tactics and tools are well placed in their time period’. In Tomodachi, you had an English boy stranded in sixteenth century Japan.  With the Moonshadow series do you use a European character to ground the audience in medieval Japan or do you plunge straight in?

The Moonshadow books feature pretty much an all Asian cast, as in this series I am dealing with a unique historical phenomenon, rather than an outsider’s eye on a specialized, complex warrior culture, as in Tomodachi. The Moonshadow series actually arose from an inspiring historical fact that I stumbled on while researching in Japan: that at one stage, Tokugawa Ieyasu, in order to keep his grip on the Shogunate, employed the spies of Clan Iga, many of whom (and this is the cool part) started their dangerous careers while they were still children.

Q: I see you competed in the Iaido World Titles in Kyoto Japan and came in fifth in 2008. Not bad for a ‘gaijin’. (For more info on the samurai sword see Simon’s page on his Kyoto Adventures). I remember the pair of us sitting in the bar at a national SF convention talking martial arts all evening. I think it takes a particular type of mind to appreciate Bushido. I know you do a lot of school talks. Do you find the kids respond well? Do you think they go away with some insight into the philosophy behind the martial arts?

It certainly seems that way to me; I often see evidence of students really getting where I am coming from in terms of my own martial arts paradigm: that we train to perfect technique and therefore ultimately ourselves, not to grow skilled at actually killing; that the more one trains, the gentler one tends to become; that violence does not equal strength any more than mercy equals weakness; and that as the Japanese have always maintained, the sharpest swords rarely leave their scabbards (for they rarely need to). If there is any one message I am constantly hoping to transmit to young readers it’s this: adopting a challenging code and choosing to follow an exacting path doesn’t make you old-fashioned, quaint or weak. It does the opposite; it’s empowering. It’s a secret for enjoying and making strong progress through the landscape of life.

Q: You worked as police officer, prosecutor and a licensed private investigator  on murder cases. You have written thrillers such as The Stalking Zone as well as near future thrillers like Under no Flag, Thunderfish, Beyond the Shaking Time.  Was this a bit like bringing your work home with you?

Not really, because the three crime thrillers I wrote, Doctor Id, Cybercage and The Stalking Zone, sat more at the fantastic end of the law enforcement story genre, though much of the gritty psychology of those tales was true to the environment that inspired them. My (young vigilante) heroes were allowed to have wins, to get results, though they had to really suffer along the way, so I suppose that in the end, the stories were in fact very positive though harrowing. Thunderfish, Under No Flag, and In the Jaws of the Sea, explored the idea that people labelled criminals under one perspective might actually be not only good guys from another viewpoint, but in fact the most useful humans in that particular equation. I found it ironic that numerous imaginary elements of the Thunderfish trilogy kept coming true in one form or another, such as the battles in Antarctic waters between whalers and the Sea Shepherd activists, or the discovery of a fissure in the earth’s crust, deep in the Atlantic.

 

Q: I see way back in 1975 you were part of a heavy metal band. It’s amazing how many writers have a musical background. Do you still practice music?

I still play guitar and sing, and have consistently written songs for most of my life. Music is very much a part of my family’s culture, as my wife and daughter are both songwriters and my son is a professional musician. If you love soul, funk or acid jazz, you can check out his sounds here

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?

Perhaps (as a generalization) but I also think that most of us could cite ripping action-rich fantasy novels penned by women and satisfyingly emotional and cerebral fantasy tales written by men; and I do find it a little funny that there is a perception of fantasy in some quarters as being male-oriented, after personally having heard publishers joke about pink, hazy covers (replete with flying horses) stretched around a solid high-quest fantasy book ‘that we can count on girls to buy’.

I reckon that one of the peculiarities of writing culture has always been that while most story tellers obsess over how to tell a timeless, boundary-breaking, universal tale, publishers are meanwhile apparently obliged to obsess over how to categorize, brand and anchor the field of interest in that story, in other words, to narrow and define its scope, so as to better sell it. The clash of these two unrelenting focuses can produce some interesting cross-perceptions about who writes or reads what exactly (and for who) while I guess the truth is that out here in the real world, we simply end up with a great deal of diversity.

 

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

Not in my case, as a lifetime of reading has convinced me that a skilful, gifted storyteller can channel a thousand people whose skin they will never occupy; I’ve read the work of female writers whose male voice, drives and perceptions felt utterly real, and vice versa. So a good writer can always pleasantly surprise us, not only with their imaginings, but with all kinds of truths they can own and convey which transcend their culture, gender or generation. Of course I realize that many people are swayed, unduly perhaps, by unspoken notions of ‘gender suitability’. That old ‘men can’t write good romance, women don’t do bloodshed well’ viewpoint. I think it’s so often wrong, it’s worth dismissing entirely.

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?

Like the traveler in HG Wells’ groundbreaking novel, though the past fascinates me, if only one trip was possible, I would opt to see the distant future (or yes, that current, possible future the machine could take me to, based on things as they now stand).  So I’d visit my own locale, here in Australia, say, two hundred years from now. Why? Part of me just has to know: do we finally grow up as a species? Or does it turn out that our damned gadgets wound up destroying us because they kept evolving while their creators remained inherently paranoid and primitive? Hey! That’s a question that spec fic seems to keep asking!

Giveaway Question: 

When you are forced to suffer through some ‘oh no, not this again!’ cliché in a book or movie, what sassy, mocking or witty twist-outcome might you assign to it? Example: Vader wheezes ‘I-am-your-father!’ and Luke (at least in your rewrite) retorts, ‘The hell you are. I had DNA done. So I know it was a wookie.’ So yeah…pick your most nauseating cliché and…strike back!

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Meet Kylie Griffin …

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

Kylie has her first book due out in 2012. I thought it might be interesting for readers to hear from a writer who is at this point in their career.

Q: First let me say congratulations. You must have been over the moon when you go the Call with the offer of a contract! Your first book Vengeance Born is due out from Berkley in February 2012, with two more in The Light Blade series already contracted. Have you been working on this series for a long time?

Hi, Rowena, thanks for inviting me and for the congratulations. I was over the moon getting the Call (and the three-book deal just thrilled me). You work so hard that when it happens there’s a real sense of disbelief that you’ve finally achieved that goal, then you run the gamut of emotions, from elation to relief and happy-crying, LOL.

To answer your question, I wouldn’t say I’ve been working on the Light Blade series all that long but I do think the foundation for writing a fantasy romance series has been building over many years.

I’m an avid fantasy reader from way back – Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton, Mercedes Lackey, David Eddings, Isobelle Carmody and their books (and your T’En series), just to name a few. All of their books had a huge impact on me growing up – and I wanted to write fantasy but with a romance interwoven through the story. I love putting a hero and heroine together and watching their story unfold, usually helped along by an epic-style external plot.

VENGEANCE BORN started out as a stand-alone book in 2007 with all the elements I love about fantasy – world-building, empires and wars, other races – demons, human warriors, hybrids, a goddess – but there’s also the story of the main character’s romance. Then, as I wrote, some of the secondary characters began demanding that I write their stories.

While I’ve a three-book contract there’s another four characters clamoring for attention. Whether they’ll be written remains to be seen. 🙂 I hope readers will get the chance to meet them.

Q: In your day job you are a teacher, but your passion is writing, specifically fantasy-romance. There are a lot of paranormal-romance on the shelves now days, but not so many fantasy-romance. For readers who don’t know the genre, how would you describe it?

I like to think of fantasy romance as being a combination of traditional fantasy and traditional romance.

You get all the fantasy elements, as in a cast of characters, plot archetypes, world-building, magic, etc. yet with the additional element of a romance thrown into the mix, and you end up exploring the gamut of relationships – political, social and romantic.

I love the appeal of having the best of all worlds in my stories (no pun intended *grin*).

Q: That leads to – what drew you to write in this genre and its associated sub genres?

My heart belongs to the genre – specifically fantasy romance, science fiction romance and post-apocalyptic romance – I love, live and breathe it. I can’t remember a time I wasn’t fascinated by it.

My earliest exposure to this genre was as an impressionable 6y.o. watching a rather scary episode of Dr.Who (a British SF TV series), being terrified but at the same time fascinated by the whole concept of time-lords and travelling to different worlds with varying technologies etc.

I also grew up devouring every book, TV show and movie in this genre – Star Wars, Star Trek, The Hobbit, the Dragons of Pern series, the Witch World series etc. Writing my own stories seemed just a natural extension.

The pure escapism of writing about characters who exist in an imaginary world, the vast scope of story lines, the human to non-human range of characters, the development of a romance and the challenge of making everything so real as to suspend a reader’s disbelief. I just love it!

Q: You are known as the Contest Queen because you have placed and won so many Romance Writers competitions. (Kylie is a member of RWAustralia, RWNZ and RWAmerica). You won the RWAmerica Golden Heart (Paranormal section), the Emma Darcy, the Valerie Parv, the Clendon, the Emily and have placed man times in the RWAust Emerald Award. I know how advantageous it is to an aspiring writer to join these organisations and to enter these awards, but the readers might not. Would you like to explain how placing and winning awards helps a writer’s career?

This is a great question, Rowena. You’d think the purpose of entering a contest would be to win, and for some writers this might be valid. When I first started entering contests, I didn’t have a writing group or a critique partner service to draw on for feedback, so this was a way of meeting that need and improving on my skills as a writer.

These days many writing organisations have other services like critique partner schemes, isolated writer programs or writing groups. So it’s one of many ways, not just the only way, to receive feedback.

A lot of the larger publishing houses these days don’t take unsolicited manuscripts ie. you need an agent to represent you to get editors to look at your work. The houses I were aiming for – Berkley, St.Martins, EOS, Harlequin LUNA, Grand Central Publishing – no longer accepted unagented submissions.

So, another strategy I employed was to look at the final judge of the contest. It’s usually either an editor or agent who acquires/represents the genre you’re writing in. Reaching the final round or placing in contests gets your work in front of these specific editors and agents. You can bypass what’s affectionately known as the “slushpile” or the “no unsolicited submissions” rule.

Another reason for entering and aiming to place in contests is that it builds your contest resume and gets your name “out there”. Including this this contest success list in your query letters to agents and editors or when pitching in person to them can make your work stand out. It can also show that your work has consistency and that it also had a potential readership.

Q: By day you are a mild mannered school teacher but your alter-ego is a Rural Fire Fighter, State Emergency volunteer and Community First Responder (responds to 000 calls). You must be drawn towards helping people in dangerous situations. Could you tell us about some of the experiences you’ve had?

I find a lot of satisfaction in helping people, that’s true.

I’ve spent most of my teaching career in small, isolated rural areas and getting to know the people and families in these villages and surrounding farmlands is something that evolves. There’s a huge sense of mateship or looking out for one another because you have to and you know one day you may need their help too.

Also, from a more pragmatic point of view, there tends to be a lack of emergency services (or swift access to them), so that need to help one another tends to be a way of life in these communities but in this day and age that means volunteering and gaining qualifications and along the way you make some great friends, not to mention learn skills you may never have experienced had your life taken a different path.

Some emergencies do hold an element of danger but that’s something our training helps us to prepare for and deal with. In the Rural Fire Service I’ve been to everything from bushfires (some deliberately lit, others started by lightning strikes) to house fires. On the scare factor scale, being a fire-fighter is probably the most immediately dangerous occupation of all the services I’m involved in.

I’ve been a member of the State Emergency Service for 15 years and in that time have participated in several searches for missing people and gone away on out of area calls as a part of a flood and storm damage crew (tarping houses, removing trees, evacuating people from their houses during floods), eg.most recently Cyclone Yasi and the devastating floods in Queensland. Because of our geographic isolation, our unit also responds to road crashes and I’ve helped extricate people trapped in vehicles and, unfortunately, I’ve also assisted with body retrieval when the casualty has died.

I’m also one of five SES members who’ve trained with the New South Wales Ambulance Service as a Community First Responder – an advanced first aider (similar training a junior ambulance office receives). We have a vehicle outfitted with almost everything you see in an ambulance. Over the last few years I’ve attended numerous emergency call outs, everything from broken limbs, heart problems, asthma attacks, amputations, severe burns, to performing CPR on casualties.

Not every emergency situation has ended well but I get a huge amount of satisfaction knowing my team mates and I are able to provide help when it’s needed. Our community appreciates it too. A couple of examples, one of the local oldies bakes us cakes and other goodies when we’re on 24hr flood duty, a passing motorist we helped free from floodwater sent us a large box of chocolates and a wonderful thank you card, and a family whose house we saved from burning down made a lovely donation to the fire unit.

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?

The 'Front door Dragon' that Kylie commissioned a local stained glass artist to make for her.

Personally, I’m saddened to think that there is this sort of perception out there. We have such a rich diversity of authors, male and female, who love writing in this genre and each bring their own unique styles and stories to our bookshelves.

Even if there is a difference in the way male and female fantasy authors write, isn’t the sole purpose of writing to entertain the reader (and ourselves)? We all do it in different ways and it’s the diversity that feeds and entertains the reader.

As a fantasy author, this is the way I prefer to think of myself.

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

I’m a huge believer that the story is paramount. I read the back cover blurb with the expectation of being sucked in – if it hooks me then I’ll read it regardless of the gender of the author.

As a reader I want to be engaged, I want to identify with the characters, I want adventure in whatever form it comes. I want to be entertained for a few hours. If the author’s writing does all this, then mission accomplished.

It’s as simple as that.

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

Oh, the possibilities are endless. This is so not a fair question!!! LOL

I have a passion for ancient civilisations – the Romans, the Vikings, the Greeks, the Mayans, the Egyptians, the Celts – so anywhere/anywhen with them would be amazing.

I also like alternate histories. Exploring alternate turning points in the present would be fascinating, a bit like the Choose-Your Own-Adventure stories where you decide which pathways determine your present story line.

But I also love the unknown future – what will humanity be like in a hundred or a thousand years? What technology will we be using? Do we share this universe with any other race? So, going forward in time would be fun too!

Thanks for this opportunity to be interviewed, Rowena. It’s been a hoot and I’ve really enjoyed answering your questions.

Give-away Question:

Kylie says: While I haven’t received my author copies of VENGEANCE BORN, I do have a eco-friendly tote bag with the cover of my book on it to give-away.

I’ve shared a little bit about some of the fantasy authors who’ve have impacted me as a reader and writer. So, which books and fantasy world/s have made an impression on you and why?

 

Follow Kylie on Twitter: @KylieGriffin1

See Kylie Griffin’s Blog.

Follow Kylie on GoodReads.

Follow Kylie on Facebook.


 

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Filed under Australian Writers, creativity, Female Fantasy Authors, Fun Stuff, Gender Issues, Movies & TV Shows, Nourish the Writer, Publishing Industry, The Writing Fraternity, Tips for Developing Writers, Writing craft

Meet Robin Hobb …

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

Robin at Supanova with Cinderella

Q: It was great to meet you at Supanova. As a best-selling fantasy author you must get invited to a lot of conventions. How do you juggle writing to meet deadlines with the pressure to attend these events?

Truthfully?  Usually, I just say, “No, thank you, I’ve a deadline.”

This year, I didn’t.  I went to Supanova and absolutely loved it.  I havenever seen a pop culture festival that treats its professional guests so well and with such thoughtfulness. And then I went on, to Trolls&Legendes in Belgium, and Imaginales in Epinal, France and to Etonnants Voyageurs in France.  And I had a wonderful time and met many people, but now I’m behind on a deadline.  So.  I think I need to go back to saying “No, thank you” to most of the invitations, and staying home and getting the books written.

Q: You started out writing as Megan Lindholm and even though your Robin Hobb books are really popular, you’ve continued to write under your original name. Have you come across readers who only read Robin or Megan’s books?

Most definitely.  The two pseudonyms have vastly different writing styles and also differ in choice of subject matter.  So I’m now getting notes from people who enjoyed one and not the other, or seeing posts about it on-line. And such letters and posts very much validate my decision to write under two different names. Readers do want to know what they are riding into when they open a book. On the other hand, I also hear from readers who enjoy the contrast and have enjoyed both sets of stories.  My best experience was with my French translator, Arnaud Mousnier-Lompre.  He was delighted with the Lindholm stories and told me that it was like translating a completely different writer.

Q: With two names and numerous trilogies/series under each name, (Robin Hobb: The Farseer Trilogy, The Liveship Trilogy, The Tawny Man Trilogy, Soldier Son trilogy, The Rain Wild Chronicles. Megan Lindholm: The Ki and Vandien Quartest, Tillu and Kerlew, as well as stand alone books), how do you keep all the worlds, characters and narrative threads straight in your mind? Do you have a giant cork board with flow charts? Do you only work on one series at a time?

OH, do I have to admit this?  When I re-read some of my earlier work, it’s like someone else wrote it.  Often I encounter minor characters I’ve forgotten completely, or plot twists that I don’t recognize as my own. I think that one book just crowds out what has gone before.  When I’m writing on a long book, or series of books, as I am now, I do have glossaries of characters and place names and even timelines for books that run for years and years.

My greatest fear is that I will contradict myself on some key point.

Q: In an interview at Shades of Sentience when asked how you create such believable minor characters you said: I try to remember that no one is a minor character in his or her own life. I love this sentiment. It made me laugh when I read it. Do you find your characters take on a life of their own?

Inevitably. And sometime a minor character, such as the Fool, refuses to take a back seat but jumps up into a major position. Then there are lesser characters, such as Hands, who really had his life twisted by events so far outside his control that I still feel bad about his very last encounter with Fitz.  Not that I could have done anything to change it.  He reacted as he did because he is Hands, and that was how Hands would have reacted. And that is the best part of characters taking on a life of their own. In some ways they make the writing easier.  In others, when they insist on doing something that is contrary to the outline . . . well, that is when the writing gets very interesting.

Q: In an interview  on Pat’s Hot List you talk about how you start out with one intention for the book and by the time you’ve written it, the book has veered in a different direction. Can I take it from this you are more of a Pantser than a Plotter? (For non-writers Pantsers just sit down and write, while Plotters plan).

Definitely flying through Story by the seat of my pants, with only a glance or two at the instruments and charts from time to time.  I get to land in some very interesting places that way, and sometimes I’m in completely uncharted territory, and wondering just as much as the reader might about exactly where I am bound.

Q: We’re around the same age. In an interview you speak of reading Fritz Lieber and learning from the terrible things he did to his characters. (He was one of my great inspirations when I first discovered fantasy). How do you feel the genre has changed since the 70s?

Oh, my Fritz Leiber.  How I loved that man’s characters and writing, and still do.

Since the 70’s, I think Fantasy has changed by finally being allowed the page space we need to fully enjoy plot, setting and characters.  I am still amazed at the talent of those writers who conveyed such strange settings and unique characters within such a tight word restriction.

Nowadays, too, there are far fewer restrictions on what we can write in terms of sex scenes, gender identity, race, violence and, well any other former taboo you can think of. And that isn’t always good, at least in my opinion.  Just because you can shock or brutalize the reader and get it published doesn’t mean that you should.  But in the stories that require it, where it’s there for a reason, we suddenly get fantasy and SF with great emotional depth to it.

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 think there’s a difference between any two writers who write fantasy or sf or romance or poetry, and that that difference is far greater than can ever be explained by gender. In my opinion, yes, there are differences between

male and female writers.  But the spectrum of sexuality is so broad that it’s impossible to make any generalized statement about it.  “Men write about sex and women write about romance.”  That’s the sort of thing I hear, and I think it’s just silly. Which men, what woman?

And I really don’t understand the idea that fantasy is dominated by writers of one sex or the other. If you look at the book racks, I’d almost say there are more women writers of fantasy right now than men.  I don’t think I’ve ever made the sex of the writer part of the criteria for choosing a book in any genre.  When I was a younger reader, I could seldom tell you the name of the author of a book I’d just read.  I didn’t care about the author, only the story.

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

Oh, I think I accidentally already answered that!

If you look back through the history of our genre, you will see that yes, there were women who used men’s names or only initials as a way to conceal their gender. And at one time, doubtless it was harder for a woman to be published in SF.  But I think that barrier fell so long ago that it’s scarcely worth worrying about any more.

Now with that said, I’ll add that when I chose my pseudonym, Robin Hobb, I deliberately chose an androgynous name.  I knew I’d be writing at least the first three books from the first person view point of a young male, and so I chose to lower the threshold for ‘suspension of disbelief’ by using a name that left the gender of the writer in doubt.  But if I’d been writing a story told from the POV of an ultra-feminine woman, I’d probably have been tempted to choose a name that reflected that, as well.

I’d never want anyone to choose one of my books on the sole basis that I was female.  I’d feel really insulted if that was the only reason a reader picked up my 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?

I’d go home.  I’d want to be dropped off in the late 60’s by the mailbox on Davis Road, in December about 8 at night, when the darkness in Fairbanks, Alaska is absolute.  I’d want to walk down the lane with the snow crunching and squeaking under my boots and the birches arched down over it with the weight of snow on their bare branches. I’d want to see the lights through the trees and then finally see that log house again.  And all my dogs would start barking and they come racing through the snow to challenge me. And then they’d recognize me, and I’d get hit in the chest with 120 pounds of malemute and I’d be with my best friends ever again.

Follow Robin on Twitter: @robinhobb

Follow Robin on GoodReads.

See an interview with Robin Hobb on You Tube.

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Filed under Characterisation, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Nourish the Writer, The Writing Fraternity, Writing craft

Winner Dave Freer Give-away!

Dave is a such a good sport. He says:

I loved all of the ideas. My dragons – I have dragons in Pyramid Scheme, Pyramid Power, and Save the Dragons, and Dragons Ring and in Dog and Dragon and Wyverns in Much Fall of Blood. They’re all ‘taboo’in different ways. So I decided I’d give Thoraiya, Mary, Cecilia and Melissa May each a book.

If you e-mail at daveza(at)bigpond(dot)com with addresses and any personalisation you want put in them, I’ll send them off.

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Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Fantasy books, Fun Stuff, Readers

Meet Duncan Lay …

Today I’m interviewing Duncan Lay because he’s an Australian fantasy writer who’s just signed with Voyager to produce his second trilogy, and 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 writer.

Look out for the give-away at the end of the post.

Q: On Voyager, you say you were seduced to the dark side of reading fantasy by a friend who gave you a copy of David Gemmell’s Legend. Do you still have that book? Did you end up reading all of David Gemmell’s books? (I can see why he’d appeal to a fifteen year-old).

I do indeed have that copy of Legend, dog-eared and yellowing though it may be! I have read all of Gemmell’s books, which take up an entire bookshelf!

Q: Lucky you! I see you interviewed Raymond Feist in 2002 when he was here on his Talon of Silver Hawk tour. You say: ‘we began talking about writing, and he described how his characters sometimes take his story threads off in different directions to the one he planned. That they almost tell the story for him. The way he described it they begin at A and have to get to Z but they don’t go there via B, C, D etc – they might jump to H, then back again and so on.’  You say you walked away with your head buzzing and mind afire. Seven years later, your first book, Wounded Guardian came out. But you’d spent many years before that, writing and getting rejected. (Which we all do). If you could go back twenty years, what would you tell that younger aspiring writer that was you?

To be honest, there is very little I could tell myself that would enable me to “jump the gap’’ and write the way I do now. My growth as a writer is definitely an organic, ongoing process. I had to suffer pain and anguish, take myself to my own borders, to see death, to watch my children being born and hold them in my arms before being published.

I’m not saying everyone has to do these things to be published – obviously they don’t. But I had to.  Seeing more of life, experiencing highs and lows is what I needed to do, to unlock the characters in my head and merge them with the stories that I have carried around with me since I was a small child.

I could tell the younger me about those things but some things must be experienced to be understood.

On a practical note, I would tip the younger me off about some winning Lotto numbers …!

Q: Your fantasy trilogy, The Dragon Sword Histories, has been described as gritty with characters that are neither good nor evil. Do you think that fantasy as a genre is maturing?

Firstly, I would say there ARE characters who are good, and others who are evil. But they are not distinguishable by white and black hats. The point about Dragon Sword Histories is the “good’ characters have made mistakes, continue to make mistakes and definitely don’t always act in the way a “typical’’ good character might.

Secondly, I don’t think I’d say fantasy is maturing. It is certainly growing, splitting off into all sorts of sub-categories and gaining more and more acceptance and popularity. Maturing, to me, implies a slowing down and  a certain level of comfort.  I don’t  see that – rather it is, by turns, exciting, innovative, annoying, thrilling, funny, wise and thought-provoking. I hear mature and I think beige cardigans and tartan slippers – fantasy is more a pair of purple Doc Martens and a loud T-shirt!

Q: In an interview on Voyager you say that you wrote while travelling on the train to work (as a layout designed and headline writer at the Sunday Telegraph). Did you find that you could dip into the world of your story for half an hour each day, or was it hard to get back into the right mind-set to write?

Sadly, my train trip is far more than half an hour! It’s between 75 and 90 minutes on the train each way! I find writing on the train a really useful exercise – about 2.5 to 3 hours a day of quality writing time that enables me to compartmentalise my writing, work and family lives!

Q: I see you have a new trilogy coming out:

Book 1 (currently called The Cursed Tears but may well become Bridge Of Swords or indeed something else entirely!) will be out in August 2012.
Book 2 (now The Grieving Son but hopefully Pass Of Arrows) will be out February 2013
Book 3 (now The Raging Night but perhaps Hill Of Shields) will be out August 2013.

I guess we can take from this that writers don’t have much say over what their books are called. Did you get much input into the covers and titles of your first trilogy?

Writers do have plenty of say over what their stories are called – mine has been evolving rapidly over the last few months and so what seemed the right and proper emphasis has shifted. I can’t comment on other publishers but HarperCollins has been fantastic about letting me work out the right titles for my books.

As for the covers, they had the original ideas but I had plenty of input into how they came out and was able to get them altered until I was happy with them – there are earlier posts on my Facebook page that show the development of those book covers, if anyone wants to see!

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 that perception quite amusing, as in Australia 70% of fantasy readers are women. I’ve made more than 60 bookstores appearances in the last three years and I find I get many more sales from women than men.

Of course there is a difference in the way males and females write fantasy – but those differences are often relatively small and it would be natural for fantasy readers to have a stock of favoured male and female readers. You can read and enjoy both, for different reasons.

Australian Bookseller + Publisher said I write the “best battle scenes since the late (David) Gemmell’’. I took that as a huge compliment – but I know I also appeal to a female readership with two of the three main characters being strong females.

I haven’t read enough female fantasy writers to offer more than a limited, and generalized opinion, but if there is one area where they perhaps fall down is in the last 5% of a male character – the x-factor if you will. Testosterone, as well as an instinct to win and be dominant often make men do strange and foolish things for what seems to be no good reason. It’s something I have found often lacking in my –admittedly limited – reading of fantasy male characters written by women.

I’m sure the reverse is true as well. I have three sisters, a wife and a daughter but as much as I like to think I understand women – perhaps my female characters are also missing that top 5%!

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

The gender of a writer does not change my expectations – it’s what the blurb suggests they are writing about and what they are hoping to achieve that sets my expectations. Two of the worst fantasy books I ever read (to the point where I gave up on them before I even finished the middle of the first book in the series) were written by men. There’s another male writer who annoys me intensely and I regret ever buying his books.

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 would go back to about 500AD, when the Saxons were slowly conquering Celtic Britain but were turned back for a generation by a British (as in Welsh) warleader or King. Some have called him Arthur, others claim no such man existed. Given history is written by the victors, we’ll never know for sure. But I’d like to go back and find out for sure!

Giveaway Question: 

The hero of The Dragon Sword Histories is Martil, a warrior whose life is changed and forever defined by one mistake that he hopes, yet fails to atone for. He longs for the chance to go back and make a choice again. What one thing would you change in your life – if you had the chance to go back in time and make a different choice in your life, what would it be?

 

Catch up with Duncan on Goodreads

Follow Duncan on Twitter. @DuncanLay

Duncan’s  Blog.

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Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Characterisation, Fantasy books, Gender Issues, Genre, Publishing Industry, Readers