Monthly Archives: November 2011

Winner Ian Irvine’s BookGive-away!

Ian says:

“Tough choice. Whose evil plan should be rewarded? Melissa’s? Being hung upside down in a portal would certainly be a challenging end. Grey’s? I’m not sure quite how grim this doom is, not having read Kraken. Or Cecilia’s, which has a nice touch of irony? Yet Belinda’s fate ­ being stuck with an eternal teen ­ is also a delicious reversal. Tempting, very tempting.

However, after evil consideration, I have to go with Saaremartha. Humourless, irritating, pompous bigots have to be brought down, whatever their faith, and I too want to see the encounter between Redlaw and the Elder God.

Saaremartha, please email me at ianirvine@ozemail.com.au with your mailing address and I’ll post your signed book.”

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

Meet Mark Charan Newton …

I have been featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) but this has morphed into interesting people in the speculative fiction world. Today I’ve invited the talented Mark Charan Newton to drop by.

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

Q: I see we are cousins of a sort. I’m published with Solaris. I didn’t realise that you helped create this press. That must have been exciting. Did you have a Mission Statement when you put the editorial team together? And what are your thoughts on how the publishing world has changed in just the last five to ten years?

Yes, guilty as charged! As for a mission statement – if I remember correctly, at the time we were aware of a widening gap between the big mega publishers and the small press; that left a gap for mid-list authors or those authors who write more than one book a year and didn’t have a venue to publish. That lacuna was our publishing niche.

As for how publishing has changed? Well, it’s been doing the same thing solidly for the past ten years. Trends come and go, of course, and now we have ebooks which are simply another format like hardcover or paperback. There are fewer places to buy on the high street, and Amazon now has a powerful influence over the industry. It is tougher than ever for publishers at the moment – but it’s been tough as long as I can remember.

I think, if anything, I’ve become a little wiser of the past few years – in that I know not to react quickly to hype and panic. Things change. Trends come and go. Publishers are still here though.

Q: After working on one side of the fence as an editor, you then sold three books to Pan Macmillan. Did your experience as an editor give you any advantages when it came to writing your own book? And, conversely, did the experience of going through the editing process as an author, make you think, Oh, I wish I’d done things differently in the past with authors?

Probably no more than someone who reads a lot of fantasy and SF anyway. The only advantage I can really think of was to realise that there is a huge amount of creative freedom in both writing and the genre. There are so many critics out there who talk through their bums about prose – as if the art of fiction was some concrete bunch of criteria. How dull would life be, if fiction was a checklist of boxes churned out by a creative writing article?

Most of what’s written about fiction is nonsense – novels can take a huge number of forms, and that was a very pleasurable experience as an editor: to see those many different forms taking shape.

But to be honest, I always tried to keep those worlds separate: for the sake of both myself and the authors I worked with.

Q: You wrote a post about Genre Diversity called Bloggers’ Frontlist Fetish. This is where bloggers review and talk about the latest releases. You suggest we should be talking more about the great speculative fiction books that moved us so that new readers can find these authors. (For instance Joanne Russ and Tim Powers. To which I would add Mervyn Peake and Fritz Leiber. Certain scenes from Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser books have stayed with me 30 years later, same with Joanna Russ.) You suggest that bloggers also take the time to search out interesting books from small press. I love it that small press can take a gamble on books that push the genre. Which authors opened your eyes to the genre?

I’ve mentioned several times about the impact that reading China Miéville’s The Scar had on me (suddenly I realised just what fantasy fiction could achieve). But the authors who opened my eyes the most are problably M John Harrison, Christopher Priest and Steven Erikson; for older authors, Michael G. Coney.

There’s just so much out there that is going to be forgotten in the scramble for the promo tables in bookstores. Sometimes I think bloggers should simply head into a second hand store and find something unusual to review. It’d make the blogosphere a more interesting place.

Q: You have a background as an environmental scientist. I can see shades of this surfacing in your first book, Nights of Villjamur, with refugees fleeing an encroaching ice age.  Did you set out to write this theme into the book, or did it happen when you weren’t looking?

Not especially, I don’t think. I studied Environmental Science at degree level, and I think that does inform my fiction in a more subtle way: that is, a realisation of how politics, economics, climate and so on are connected and that realisation has an impact on the plot.

In Nights of Villjamur, there is an ice age that is predicted by astrologers, as opposed to scientists. But the challenge there is the polar (forgive the pun!) opposite of the challenges our society faces today: there the huge amount of scientific evidence (dating back 200 years) supporting the concept of a planet warming significantly. There’s also the battle against the doubt in the media, which is funded by oil companies and the like.

Q: City of Ruin is a stand-alone book. You say that if anyone is going to read just one of your books, you’d like it to be this one. Why is that?

It’s just a better book by a long way, in my opinion. Technically it’s better, the prose is stronger, I’m less self-conscious, I’m having more fun. Also, you don’t need to read Nights to enjoy City. So I’ll always encourage readers – if they’re going to experiment with my fiction – to head for that book. I’m more proud of it – and it’s got more of a wow factor, in my opinion.

Q: The Book of Transformations revolves around Villjamur and the encroaching ice-age, politics and the consequences of decisions. Do you plot your books in detail or do they evolve as you write?

A bit of both, to be honest. I plot, I write a bit, I revisit the plot to see if can be expanded upon… And it changes from book to book. For my new series, because of the complexities involved in the plot, there is a lot of planning to be done.  I find my approach tends to fit what the book demands.

 

Q: I just discovered you have an earlier novel, The Reef, which has been re-released as an ebook.  Does it also explore the themes of environmental impact on people and society?

Yes, though I wrote it a long time ago, so much of the specifics escapes me! It’s more to do with ecology and botany than environmentalism per se. Those themes were much more stuck in my mind (fresh out of my degree) than for Nights.

Q: You recently signed another 3 book deal with Pan Macmillan. Can you tell us a little about this new series? Will it be set in the same world as Villjamur or a completely new world?

It’s a completely new world – nothing whatsoever to do with the Red Sun books. I’ve drawn a line under those now and want to move on (for my own sanity!).

The world is very much inspired by the classical world, particularly the Roman republic and Empire – there’s so much there which fascinates me, such a level of sophistication and culture, which puts later centuries to shame.

The lead character, Lucan Drakenfeld, is a bit like a young lawyer-slash-detective, and certainly the polar opposite of a private eye (if anything, he’s a public eye). I’m really trying to steer away from noir pastiche because I feel that would be disrespectful to crime readers. The book is as much a crime novel as it is a fantasy novel. Imagine a mainstream writer trying their hand at a fantasy novel, and filled it with a paint-by-numbers story – they’d be strung up by the fanbase, which is why I’m not doing a paint-by-numbers crime novel, either.

So it’s a pseudo-classical-crime-saga!

Q: I’ve been following you on twitter and you often provide links to interesting articles on environmental topics.  Do you think that writing books with these kinds of themes is a way of reaching out to people?

Not especially. I don’t think a mild environmental streak in the novels will reach out in a meaningful way to people; one is fiction, the other is science. Which is not to say it can’t be done, but it seems unlikely. If I want to write about the environment, I’ll write a blog post on it – that’s a much more effective way, in my opinion.

Q: Your mother was Indian and your father English. You grew up in a bilingual household with parents from two different cultures. Do you think this gives you a unique advantage when it comes to writing ‘alien’ worlds?

My mother rarely spoke her native tongue growing up; I had a very English upbringing, as it happens, so I can’t really claim an advantage with alien worlds. I’m not sure I do aim to write alien worlds to an extent – everything I write about is vaguely familiar, or based on our own culture.

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 don’t think there’s a gender difference in why people write. I’d like to think that people write because they want to write, irrespective of gender. As an editor I could certainly see little difference.

The boy’s club aspect probably comes from society wide prejudices – it’s still tough for girls/ladies/women out there, in any industry, and only a conscious effort from readers can help stop that.

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

Not at all. If it’s fiction, my first concern of a writer is: can they inspire me with a paragraph?

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?

Ancient Rome! Probably from just after Caesar stepped across the Rubicon, until Augustus died – can you imagine a more exciting period in history, with such a profound change?

And I’d need to start off as a wealthy citizen of the Republic, of course. If you were poor, you didn’t tend to fare too well…

 

 

Giveaway Question:  If you could bring back a figure from history, to rent your spare room or crash on your sofa, who would that be and where would you take them?

Read Mark’s Blog.

Catch up with Mark on Goodreads

Follow Mark on Twitter. @MarkCN

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Filed under Book Giveaway, creativity, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Gender Issues, Publishing Industry

Meet Felicity Pulman …

I have been featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) but this has morphed into interesting people in the speculative fiction world. Today I’ve invited the talented Felicity Pulman to drop by.

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

Something’s gone wrong with my blog’s ability to embed videos. Here’s the link to Felciity’s great new promo for the Janna Mystery Series.

 

Q: We ran into each other at SheKilda, the women’s crime writers conference, but you write across a number of genres and ages. Your first novel (to appear under your own name) Ghost Boy was set in two timelines, the present and the past set, in part, around the small pox outbreak in 1881 when travellers were quarantined on arriving in Australia. There is a special Ghost Boy tour for school children at the Quarantine Station. It must be a real thrill to make a connection with children and bring the past to life like this. Have you been on the Ghost Boy tour and do you get a lot of emails from school children?

A: Yes and yes to both questions.  I found it very moving to watch my novel come to life up at the Quarantine Station. It’s a wonderful place to visit, very atmospheric.  It gives students a real feel for what life was like back in those times and of course they’re always sure they’re going to see a ghost!  (The guides themselves are quite sure the place is haunted!)

Q: In your Shalott Trilogy, which was inspired by Tennyson’s The Lady of Shallot a group of five Australian teenagers try to rewrite the legend and save the Lady of Shalott. Have you always been fascinated by the King Arthur legends? Have you been to the UK to see Tintagel Castle?

A: I wrote the Shalott trilogy because I was being bugged by the questions: why was the lady trapped in the tower, why was there a curse on her, plus the questions that followed on from that: what if it’s possible to go back in time and change history (or a legend);  what if you’re also rewriting your destiny at the same time? I didn’t know much about anything at first so it was a HUGE learning curve. I began to acquire a library of Arthuriana old and new, plus books on magic, on life in medieval time, and so on. And I went on my first research trip, following the ‘Arthurian trail’ through England, Wales, Brittany and France.  Tintagel was only one of the marvellous places I visited; other sites included Merlin’s ‘cave’ and Merlin’s ‘tomb’, Glastonbury and the Isle of Avalon, the ‘home’ of the Lady of the Lake, plus South Cadbury Castle, Caerleon and Winchester, all of which have been variously named as Arthur’s seat of power, sometimes called Camelot.

Q: Your current series The Janna Mysteries are set in England in the 1140s during the King Stephen/Queen Matilda civil war. This series contains a number of mysteries which the main character, Janna, has to solve. I think I’m seeing a theme here. You have a BA in Communication and an MA in Children’s Literature. Were you ever tempted to do further study in the area of history? (See Felicity’s Tips on Writing Historical Fiction).

A: Actually I’m a late convert to history; I found it so boring when I was at school, probably because my teacher didn’t teach it as the continuing soap opera it really is!  Those who marry – or murder for a crown, those who drive themselves to acts of great courage or bastardry for the sake of love, rivalry, power or wealth. Those idealists who dream of a brave new world, sometimes at a price too terrible to bear … the history I study is the history that informs my books. If I wasn’t so busy writing I’d love to go back to uni and immerse myself in the middle ages – or ancient Greece – or Egypt – or …? So difficult to know where to start!

Q: You wrote two of the Guinevere Jones books, based on the hit TV series. Was it hard to immerse yourself in the series and the back-story, then write creatively about characters you didn’t invent?

A:  Sophie Masson and I wrote the four books based on the series, working from notes, scripts and recorded episodes that were sent to us.  Writing the GJ books was a very different experience from anything else I’ve written.  The books also had to be written very fast so there really wasn’t a great deal of time for angst over characters and back story, we pretty much had to work with what we were given. So there wasn’t a lot of scope for imaginative input; it was more a recording of other people’s lives.  One of the things I need to do is walk the place I’m writing about, but this wasn’t possible as GJ was filmed on set in Melbourne (I live in Sydney) so I found that a real challenge – where do the characters go and what do they do once they go ‘off screen’?

Q: In an interview on Need to Read This, when talking about your new  book you say: ‘Most recently, I went to Norfolk Island. Hearts in Chains is a time-slip romance going back to the mid-19th century and the time of the brutal second penal settlement. I visited the museums, the ruins of the gaol, the houses along Military Road (now called Quality Row) and also Government House (and I am deeply grateful to the administrator and his wife for allowing me free access and even finding for me a hidey-hole for Alice to hide her diary!)  I think it’s essential for me, as an author, to walk in my characters’ footsteps, to experience the landscape and identify what he/she might have seen – wildlife, trees, flowers, buildings (or their ruins), weather and the light, etc.’ (Felicity has a whole page dedicated to research on her web site. See here). I envy you the chance to do this. Where will you be going to next to research?

A:  I loved writing the Shalott trilogy so much, and became so immersed in Arthurian legend that I’m thinking of revisiting that time and place, with hopefully the chance to explore the Arthurian trail once more.

Q: You write books with a strong historical base. In the past females had many restrictions on what they could do from the inability to own property to the choice of who they married. Do you ever worry that young readers could have trouble identifying with a female character whose life choices are limited?

A: Society might change but human nature doesn’t, so my belief is that readers identify with and feel sympathy for Janna’s predicament, left alone in a hostile world with only her skills and her courage to save her; her life constantly under threat from everything from wolves and wild boar in the forest to an assassin on a mission to silence her – quite apart from having to find such basic necessities as food and shelter to keep herself alive. And then there are the three young men in her life – who will she choose?  Readers are certainly VERY interested in that question!

Q: I’ve been interviewing quite a few authors and discovered many of them combine similar genres, mystery, fantasy and history. Why do you think these genres blend so well?

A: Good question! It’s not something I’ve considered before, but I think in my case I enjoy reading and writing all these different genres, and if you can combine them, so much the better! I particularly enjoy time-slip stories, combining history with fantasy although of course they can also encompass the future (like my favourite author Connie Willis, for example.)  Plus a mystery to solve or some sort of quest to fulfil is usually at the heart of every story, especially a fantasy.

Q: You go by the nick-name Flick. Did you have an annoying older brother who teased you and the name stuck? How did this come about?

A: I actually had an annoying older sister who called me ‘Fwiz’, which became the family nickname, while I was Fuzz (pronounced Fooz) to everyone else.  My family still call me that but anyone else does so at their peril!  I became Flick when I went to uni (in my late teens) and was christened thus by a girl in my res who subsequently became my best friend and who had known a Felicity/Flick at school.  Infinitely better than Fwiz, so I don’t mind that the name has stuck. ‘Felicity’ is far too formal.

Q: I understand you are cooking up a new project to write about. Can you share it with us?

A: It’s still in the cooking stage but, as I said earlier, it will be centred on King Arthur and Camelot, exploring in more detail some of the issues I found so fascinating while writing the Shalott trilogy – but this novel will be for adults.

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?

A: I don’t read ‘high fantasy’ at all, so this is not a question I can answer, except to say there do seem to be any number of wonderful women fantasy writers around so I’m surprised by your observation. Perhaps female fantasy writers need to establish a Sisters in Fantasy, the equivalent of the international Sisters in Crime movement?

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

A:  Perhaps subliminally, not consciously.  If I find an author I like I’ll keep going, in which case I know what to expect.  With a new writer, I’ll go with the blurb and whether it sounds like an interesting story rather than defining it by 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?

 A: Fun??  That’s a very difficult question with so many people and places to choose from!  Backwards?  Forwards?  Decisions, decisions…and the temptation to try to change the course of history while you’re at it!  I might opt for Jerusalem at the time of Christ. I always wondered how I’d have reacted to the Messiah if I’d been around then. I’m sure it would be a very interesting time and place to visit.

Give-away Question:  Following on from the question above:  if you could meet anyone past or present, who would it be … and why?

Felicity’s Blog

Follow Felicity on Facebook

Network with Felicity on Linked-in

Catch up with Felicity on GoodReads

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Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Children's Books, Collaboration, creativity, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Gender Issues, Historical Books, Movies & TV Shows, Thrillers and Crime, Thrillers and Mysteries, Tips for Developing Writers

Winner Kin Wilkins Book Give-away!

Kim Wilkins says:

I loved Kim’s response, because I too think it would be amazing to unpack Mary Shelley’s psyche; I agree with Cecilia that Austen is an inspiration to female writers; and  I thank Shadow Wrytr for his/her lovely comments about my book.

BUT for me the winner is Eedamme. I love the image of gossiping behind a fan with Austen, and I would love to do that too!

Congratulations Eedamme. Email me (Rowena) with your address. rowena(at)corydaniells(dot)com

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Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Dark Urban Fantasy

Meet Yvonne Navarro …

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

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

Q: You originally wanted to be an artist. I’ve done some surveys of writers and found four out of five are aural – they listen to music when writing, but the other one out of five are visually – they collect images and ideas spring from visual sources. Do you collect images that haunt you and trigger ideas? When you write a book do you collect a file of images that you associate with that book?

I did, although I currently consider myself as a “sort-of” artist now.  I’m lucky enough to be at a point in my life where I can go back and actively chase a dream that might have otherwise slipped away.  I’ve finally taken some painting classes and collected some output, and we’re perhaps a month away from me having a formal art studio in which to work.  I guess that answers your question in a roundabout way—I’m a very visual person.  As that applies to writing, you hit it on the proverbial head: I collect all kinds of images.  Sometimes the images inspire me, sometimes I seek them out to go with a work already in progress.  When I wrote Mirror Me, I had a notebook with photographs of the characters, neighbourhoods, even the kind of furniture in some of the characters’ homes.  Now that I think of it, going all the way back to my first novel, AfterAge , I did the same thing but for the city itself– I got up on Sunday mornings and went downtown in the dark so I could take photographs of a completely empty downtown and get the “feel” of what Chicago might be like if it was empty of people.

Q: You’ve written four books in the ‘Buffyverse’ and contributed to three anthologies. I know a couple of authors who write for Starwars, or Stargate, or the Buffyverse. It always strikes me as taking a lot of discipline. You must need to immerse yourself so thoroughly in the Buffyverse that writing those characters becomes instinctive. Do you do a lot of research before you start?

Actually, I’ve written seven when you include the Wicked Willow Trilogy.  It’s been awhile since I’ve written a Buffyverse book, but I can say that I did research as necessary when I was involved in the projects, specifically to make sure I kept all the details and interactions correct.  However, I was definitely immersed in the Buffy universe, in that completely geeky way that someone lives and breathes a series or movie that they absolutely adore.  (I was the same way with Babylon 5.)  I can still quote lines from Buffy shows (“Those are my chicken feet!”), just as I can from certain Aliens movies.  :o)

Q: You have an impressive list of awards and nominations to your credit. Several final-listings in the Bram Stoker Award, a win for the Women In Publishing Award and a win in the National Federation Press Women’s  Award in the Juvenile book category, to name a few. I guess the champagne corks have been popping in your house. Does it help to raise an author’s profile when they place or win in these awards?

Perhaps, although I haven’t really been aware of it.  Willow Files, Vol. 2 won the Bram Stoker Award in the category of Young Adult Fiction, and yet it was the last YA book I wrote until co‑writing a YA adventure with my husband, Weston Ochse.  I will say that it’s awfully nice to have all your hard work recognized publicly.  Hopefully there’s a certain ex out there somewhere who sees it and gets a silent moment of “She told me so.”  Oh, wait—was that my out loud voice?!

Q: You’ve also written for Species and Ultraviolet. Does this mean that you see the movie before it is released, or do you work from the script? What happens if scenes get left out on the cutting room floor?

How interesting that you chose Species and Ultraviolet, which were polar opposite experiences for me!  First off, all of the movie tie‑ins are written from the script, before the movie is released.  The object is generally to get the book out preferably before the movie is released, or at the very least, at the same time.  With Species, I worked very closely with Dennis Feldman, the scriptwriter, and we had the best time.  He actually read the manuscript and would call me directly and make comments; by the same token, I could call him anytime and ask questions.  One particularly telling question he asked me after reading the manuscript was, “What about the bus stop scene?”  To which I replied, “What bus stop scene?”  This, apparently, was something that had been added into an updated version of the script after I’d already written the first draft of the book.  That he and I were able to talk back and forth like that is a real rarity in the world of movie tie‑ins, and it really helped to make the book the best it could be.  Folks who read tie‑ins know that the best thing to do is to see the movie first, then read the book.  Invariably things are cut from the movie script because of time and money; if you read about them first and then see the movie, you’ll be disappointed that they aren’t included. If you see the movie, then read about them in the book, you’ll be delighted at the extra stuff in the book.  Which, by the way, isn’t just deleted scenes—authors often include past history, universe‑building, and detailed characterization.

Ultraviolet was interesting because I never received a single comment or change request on the manuscript.  I know I’m not a perfect writer, and that’s happened to me a couple of times (it also happened with Hellboy), but feedback is always a good thing, you know?

Q: In a review of your book Highborn, the reviewer said: ‘The term ‘Urban Fantasy’ can strike fear into the heart of many people, and not in a good way. Thankfully, this first novel in Yvonne Navarro’s Dark Redemption series (which is now followed by CONCRETE SAVIOR) is an example of the genre not only done well, but done damn near to perfection.’ They go on to say that the book is refreshing. Was it hard to come up with a fresh take on this genre?

I remember that review, and to say I feel flattered by those nice words would definitely be an understatement.  But I also have to admit that I wasn’t aiming to write an urban fantasy.  When I thought of the basis for HIGHBORN and then planned it out, it was just the book I wanted to write.  It wasn’t specifically geared to any genre, and it wasn’t until my agent sold it and the purchasing editor called it an urban fantasy that I even thought about where it might fit in terms of sales.

Q: You’ve written over a hundred short stories. It looks like you are most comfortable writing what is called Dark Fantasy now, but used to be known as horror. What’s led you down this path? Did you discover Poe when you were thirteen and have never been the same since?

My Mom and sister always liked scary stories.  I grew up watching Creature Features, reading Creepy and Eerie magazines, and looking for the spookiest fiction I could find in the library.  The first movie I remember watching was Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” at the drive-in.  I like a good, scary story because it gets your blood running and your mind working, and you don’t always know there’s going to be a happy ending.

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 people write the way they want to, and if there’s any difference, it’s because the writer does it intentionally.  There are men writing romances under pseudonyms and women writing crime thrillers using their first and middle initials whose own readers don’t realize are female.   If a woman believes she shouldn’t write about certain things because she’s a woman, she’s imposed restrictions on herself… and she’s the only person who can break those chains.  I don’t write like a woman.  I don’t write like a man.  I write like a writer.

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

No, but I know that it does for some people.

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?

Well, it’s tempting to say I’d go backward and fix a few of my bigger mistakes in life, but then I’d probably just make different ones, right?  I tend to look at that on more of a personal basis than you’re probably intending.  If I stick to the fun side of things, I think I’d like to go into the future a hundred years or so, just to see where technology has taken us.  Of course, a thousand years from now we might actually have space travel.  Hmmmm…

Give-away Question:

Who’s your favorite female movie star heroine, and from what movie?

Yvonne says: If I was to answer this, it would be a tie between Sigourney Weaver from Aliens and Kate Beckinsale from the Underworld movies.

Follow Yvonne on Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/YvonneNavarro

See Yvonne’s Blog and Website.

Catch up with Yvonne on Facebook.

Catch up with Yvonne on GoodReads.

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Filed under Awards, Book Giveaway, creativity, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Fun Stuff, Gender Issues, Genre, Movies & TV Shows, Publishing Industry, Young Adult Books

Meet Chuck Wendig …

I have been running a series of  interviews 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 Chuck Wendig because of his amazing ability to come up with 25 things about all aspects of writing, (for instance 25 Things you should know about Self Publishing) and also 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.

Q: Your ‘Vampire Zombieland’ novel, Double Dead will be released in November 2011. That makes it sound like it is being unleashed on the world and we had all better look out. Having supplied a cover quote, I can say it promises to be a rollercoaster of a read. Did you find that this style of story came naturally to you? As I read it felt like it just poured out of you.

It did come naturally to me. The vampire Coburn is damaged goods, and I find it terribly entertaining to write broken people. Plus, there exists a powerful and obscene joy in writing about vampires and zombies – especially any time you can bring something fresh to it. I’m glad it went down easy.

Q: You’ve signed a two book deal with Angry Robot for Blackbirds and Mockingbird. Are these books very different from Double Dead? What’s the premise?

My initial – and, as it turns out, incorrect – response is that they’re pretty different.

Miriam Black, the protagonist of BLACKBIRDS and MOCKINGBIRD is a girl whose fate and the fates those around her seem woefully carved in stone: she can touch others and see how and when they’re going to die, and by the start of the first novel any attempts to sway death and change the course of fate for these people has only earned her misery. So she subsists as something of a vulture: she steals from the dead.

Of course, then it clicks: in a way, I’m writing about a vampire. A human vampire, one who’s very much alive and with a singular power that differs from the cabinet of horrors most vampires possess, but even still – she is a creature of death, marked by it, and she feeds off of it.

And, in a way, both of these novels ask—for Coburn the vampire and for Miriam the psychic—can they change who they are? Or are they really just monsters all the way to the marrow?

Q: They used to say being good at playing Pool was a sign of a misspent youth. You’ve written RPG games and contributed to over 85 game books. You developed the entire Hunter:The Vigil game line for White Wolf Studios. Is this a sign of a misspent youth? (For an interview on Chuck’s work in the medium see here).

Gosh, I hope it wasn’t misspent, since game writing is how I’ve been making a living writing! And, I’ll add: I seriously believe that all writers would do well to play games. Not just video games or board games, but actual pen-and-paper polyhedral dice role-playing games. Really gets your head around storytelling for an audience.

Q: The Chuck Wendig persona who writes for the Terrible Minds blog is profane, in-your-face, sharply insightful and funny. You have a real flair for humour. Often comedians say their humour springs from a dark, dark place. Is there a dark, dark place deep inside Chuck Wendig?

Thank you! It’s worth noting that the persona is pretty much the reality, though perhaps with the volume knob turned up a bit. Ask my wife – who I am on the blog is the guy she gets every day. (And woe, woe for her.)

As for, is there a deep and dark place inside me? Dang, I dunno. I wouldn’t say any deeper or darker than you’d find in other people. Sure, I hollow out the corpses of government workers and use them as bob-sleds, and I get sexual pleasure from watching owls eat mice, but that’s normal. Right?

Q: Other than the fact that you live on the west coast are married and have a small son, there is very little information about your live available on the net. Is this a philosophical stance you have taken?

I live on the East Coast, actually! Pennsylvania.

As for information about my life – I don’t think it’s all that scarce. I’m pretty bold and forthright about my existence across social media. Twitter, Flickr, Facebook. I don’t keep much of it a secret. I talked at length about when my dog died, about my father, about the trials and tribulations of being a penmonkey parent. About how I got drunk that one time and was found in a New Jersey rest area with an Ambien-dosed llama.

I’m fairly open.

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?

Oh, jeez. I don’t actually read much fantasy. Though I will say that one of my favorite fantasy writers is a woman: Robin Hobb. I don’t know that it has anything to do with her, ahem, femaleness, but her characterization (particularly across both the Fitz-Chivalry series) is deft and elegant.

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

I don’t expect that it does. When I read ZOO CITY by Lauren Beukes I wasn’t expecting anything because of her being a woman.

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?

Nebulous answer: the future. Let’s go with 100 years. Just to see how it all ends up. The past is interesting but ultimately, it’s done – it is what it is and where we are now is a result of that. The future, though, that’s where it gets interesting.

 

Catch up with Chuck on Google+.

Follow Chuck on Twitter. @ChuckWendig

Chuck Wendig’s Blog.

For a complete list of Chuck’s work across the mediums, see here.

For Totally Free Shit from Chuck see here.

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Filed under creativity, Fantasy books, Fun Stuff, Gender Issues, Movies & TV Shows, Music and Writers, Publishing Industry, Tips for Developing Writers

Meet Tara Moss …

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


Q: It’s funny that you should be at the women crime writers conference, then write a post about gender bias in publishing(with a follow up post), because I’ve been running a series of interviews on this topic. Were you surprised by the intensity of the reaction to your post?

I was particularly surprised by the swift reaction of Mr. Woodhead – particularly as he identified himself as a reviewer for the Age and was very quick to dismiss the blog as ‘privileged whining’. Ironically, though I do write opinion pieces, that particular post contained very little opinion. It was a casual blog, reporting statistics relevant to gender bias, the creation of the Stella Prize and info about the SheKilda crime festival I had just returned from. Honestly, I did not imagine it would cause such controversy, though I do think the responses reveal something important about the current climate surrounding gender issues.

Q: The SheKilda conference was run by Sisters in Crime. Even though the Australian chapter has been established 20 years and the original US chapter was established 25 years ago, there still seems to be a need for an organisation specifically to celebrate crime written by women. I have seen comments by male readers to the effect that they simply wouldn’t read a book written by a woman. When you started out writing did you consider using a gender-neutral name like T Moss?

I have never considered presenting my work as gender neutral, either in name or in style, though I don’t begrudge those who have made that choice, or who have had that choice made for them by publishers. Many of the greats, PD James, JK Rowling have made that choice. In Brazil, my novels are published under T.Moss, though that happened without my involvement and I only found out later.

Q: So many of the authors I interview write across several genres and across age groups. You have your Makedde Vanderwall crime thrillers (five so far) and the first book of your Young Adult Pandora English series has been released. I believe you have a young daughter. Are you tempted to try your hand at children’s books?

I’m writing a sixth novel in my crime series at the moment, and my second paranormal book with Pandora English will be out in a matter of weeks, so my writing schedule has been pretty packed this year, but I have had a children’s book series on the back burner for years now. Now that I am reading to my daughter each night, I may be closer to making that series a reality. Let’s just say that if I do make it happen, it won’t be about kittens with mittens.

Q: You’ve certainly immersed yourself in your research: spent time in squad cars, morgues, prisons, taken a polygraph test, shot weapons, conducted surveillance, acquired your CMAS race driver licences, been set on fire by a Hollywood stunt company and been choked unconscious by a professional fighter, all in the name of authenticity. Is there anything left that you’d still like to gain first-hand experience with? A trip to the moon perhaps?

If you have a spare ticket to the moon, I’d love to go for the ride. Truthfully, I am always looking for new opportunities to experience the world as others do, and to face my fears and push my own personal boundaries.

Q: You are a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and an ambassador for the Royal Institute for the Deaf and Blind Children. What exactly does this entail and how did it come about?

I’ve been an ambassador for the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children for over a decade now, and I am really impressed by what they do for children who are visual or hearing impaired, and their families. They help to close the learning gap and ensure a life enriched by literacy. I host their annual charity flight, which is their biggest fundraiser each year, and I lend my hand to other activities for them where I am able, whether it is visiting the schools at the institute or promoting their work.

My involvement with UNICEF began in 2007 when they appointed me a Goodwill Ambassador, and they recently gave me a larger role, appointing me UNICEF Patron for Breastfeeding for the Baby Friendly Health Initiative (BFHI) in Australia, which involves advocating for breastfeeding women in hospitals, the workforce and general community, promoting breastfeeding as the normal and healthy practice that it is, and hopefully combating some of the misinformation on the topic. BFHI is a program spearheaded by the World Health Organization and UNICEF to support mothers and babies, with the aim to hopefully raise the rate of breastfeeding in Australia to the world standard. (The exclusive breastfeeding rate here is about half the world average at the moment) I encourage expectant mothers to choose a BFHI accredited hospital if they can, or to ask for BFHI protocols in their birth plan.

(For more information see here)

Q: You lost your mother while in your teens (I can’t imagine the gap this would leave), and you now have a baby daughter. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I began to appreciate the dedication it takes to rear a child. Do you feel closer to your mother, even though she is no longer with us, now that you have a child?

My mother, Janni, passed away 21 years ago, and I still think of her every day. The evening my daughter was born was emotional for me on a number of levels. It was a beautiful time, but also bitter sweet, as I felt the loss of my mother particularly keenly that day. But I felt her presence as well. Our mothers never really leave us.

Q: You host the true crime documentary series Tough Nuts – Australia’s Hardest Criminals for the Crime and Investigation Network, and you do a series of author interviews for 13th Street Universal Channel called: Tara Moss in Conversation. This must take up a lot of your time, what with the research and the actual filming. How do you get time to write? Do you have a routine that you stick to?

I’ve always been quite self-motivated as a person but in the past couple of years I’ve had to become good at time management, particularly since giving birth to my daughter. I abhor routine, however. I love what I do and I just dive in and do it as best I can. I have a personal motto of sorts, which is that life is too short to live the same day twice. Thankfully, life holds a lot of adventure for me – if not very much sleep. I love the contrast of television work, journalism and fiction writing. Each provides a different challenge.

Q: I believe there is a new Pandora English book due out soon, The Spider Goddess. Why spiders? Are you phobic about spiders?

I am intrigued by ancient mythology and folklore, and the fable of The Spider Goddess caught my eye. As with The Blood Countess, I took truth and legend and wove it into a modern tale, set in an alternate New York. I wasn’t arachnophobic to begin with, but…

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?

Men and women don’t necessarily write fantasy differently because of gender, although more women tend to write female leads, and more men tend to write male leads. I love stories with great female characters, but I read everyone from HP Lovecraft and Neil Gaiman to Charlaine Harris and Marianne de Pierres.

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

If it does, I think that change in perception is largely unconscious.

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 time machine would take me to Mary Wollstonecraft’s bedside in 1797, as she gave birth to Frankenstein creator Mary Shelley. I would keep the doctor away, or teach him about disinfecting his hands, so she would not die of puerperal fever, the ‘doctor’s plague’ that killed women and children for two centuries before germ theory was better understood. I often wonder what more Wollstonecraft, the author of Vindication of the Rights of Woman, would have achieved if she hadn’t been taken from us so young.

Follow Tara on Twitter:  @Tara_Moss

See Tara’s Blog

Catch up with Tara on Facebook

Catch up with Tara on GoodReads

Catch up with Tara on Facebook

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Filed under Australian Writers, Conferences and Conventions, Covers, Dark Urban Fantasy, Female Fantasy Authors, Gender Issues, Paranormal_Crime, The World in all its Absurdity, The Writing Fraternity, Thrillers and Crime, Thrillers and Mysteries, Young Adult Books