Monthly Archives: January 2012

Meet Lucy Sussex…

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

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

Q: You have a PHD and are a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne. And also lecturing at La Trobe University.

 Your PhD thesis focused on early women crime writers and you describe yourself as a ‘literary archaeologist’. What a wonderful term! Does this mean you sift through original sources in university and state libraries, looking for references to and original manuscripts by long dead authors?

That is precisely what I do…

Q: What amazing things have you discovered?

So many good writers, so undeservedly neglected! Some examples: there was a novel with three female detectives, and centred on a murder mystery, four months before Poe’s ‘The Mysteries of the Rue Morgue’, widely and wrongly regarded as the birth of the detective genre. The novel was SUSAN HOPLEY: OR, CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE, by Catherine Crowe. Or that Mary Fortune wrote 500 crime stories in the AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL, the longest known early crime series, worldwide.

I have an article in the next issue of SOUTHERLY on Agnes Murphy, best known as the first biographer of Melba, but who wrote an 1895 novel that can be best described as a lesbian MY BRILLIANT CAREER…

Q: Your speculative fiction stories have won Ditmar Awards, Aurealis Awards and the Sir Julius Vogel Award. You have judged for the James Jr. Award. Having sat on both sides of the fence what insights can you give us into award judging?

It’s a lottery. So much depends on what the judge brings to the judging table, and the method used in cutting to the chase, the really worthwhile texts. I am no respecter of literary reputation, and that a book is hyped makes me regard it with suspicion. But so many people are afraid to take a book on its own merits, without the PR framing!

The Tiptree award judging (my first major act of judging) produced a kind of group mind, in that the judges were reading the books and commenting on them over a long period of time. We had to, as we had to decide on the definition of what the award honours: fiction that explores and expands notions of gender (for this reason I regard the Norma Hemming as superfluous. Her name should have given to something else, like a drama award).  Other judging involved such things as a table full of books, and the repeated question: ‘Can we toss this book aside, or does it have any merits?’

I would also add that any judge worth their salt should consider the text, and not the writer, however obnoxious they may be.

So, in retrospect, I can say that any award that involves me is liable to come out unexpected, simply because I don’t have mainstream taste. And as for any award honouring me…well, I hope it proves that the judges showed taste and discernment!

Q: You’ve edited several anthologies, including She’s Fantastical, which was shortlisted for the World fantasy Award. Your edited works are a glimpse of the range of your interests. They include: A selection of autobiographical writing by Mary Fortune (a nineteenth century woman who wrote about the gold fields), two anthologies of Fortune’s crime short stories, a mystery book by Ellen Davitt which was first published in 1865 and would have been lost if you hadn’t recovered it, two anthologies of YA spec fic and a YA crime anthology. Plus I’ve just finished reading ‘Saltwater in the Ink’ letters and journals of people travelling between Australia and the UK in the nineteenth century. There’s a broad spectrum here. What attracts you to a certain project?

With the historical anthologies, a voice or voices that demanded to be heard anew. With the YA anthologies, because a publisher asked me to do it. I prefer anthologies of dead writers–you don’t have to write polite rejection letters.

With SALTWATER I literally sold the anthology because I was drunk and loud at a publisher’s party. I was talking to film critic Jim Schembri (a man of taste and discernment, unlike usual the ignorant yahoos infesting the film review pages) about MASTER AND COMMANDER, and mentioned I’d been reading C19th travel diaries, and how wonderful they were. An illustrator who was part of the conversation ducked off and returned with the publisher, who stood and listened, then said: ‘Can we have a proposal?’  I then had to reconstruct what the hell I had been talking about, the conversation having moved on somewhat.

As it happened, the GFC put paid to that project, but on the third attempt it found a home.Which only proves that it pays to persist.

Q: Your novels range from children’s books like The Revongnase, through YA books like Black Ice to your novel which won the Ditmar, The Scarlet Rider. Do you have another book length fiction project under development?

 I have a project to co-write, on Australian writers and journalists in London at the turn of last century (which includes Agnes Murphy). And a novel that is in limbo until I can get some uninterrupted time. There is also another anthology (of the dead) planned.

Q: You’re an award winning short story writer. (See here, here and here for anthologies of Lucy’s stories. Read a review of A Tour Guide in Utopia). I remember reading one of your stories, The Sentenielle, the year I was judging on the horror Aurealis Awards panel and was delighted when it won a Ditmar. The visuals still return to me now and then, along with a little shiver. I’m a big fan of Saki. Was there a short story writer who first inspired you?

Aha! You spotted Saki. Also James Tiptree Jr, Le Guin’s short stories,and Chekhov. It is a very hard medium to work in successfully, but when it goes right it is the happiest of literary homes.

Q: You review for the Melbourne paper, the Sunday Age. (See some of Lucy’s book reviews). Do you think reviewing is good discipline for a writer?

It gives you an understanding of the market. It gives you great joy with marvellous writers whom you have never heard of before, and despair at the crap that is so easily published, it seems.

Q: Due to your research Mary Fortune and Ellen Davitt’s original crime stories and books from the mid nineteenth century have been recovered for posterity. (See here for Lucy’s work on crime writing). You are a member of Sisters in Crime and you released a book in 2010: Women Writers and Detectives in Nineteenth Century Crime Fiction:  Mothers of the Mystery Genre. You say ‘Contrary to popular belief, Conan Doyle, Wilkie Collins and Edgar Allen Poe did not invent the crime genre.’ In a review Kate Watson said  ‘perhaps had nineteenth-century women writers been accorded the same status as male authors such as Poe – or even been acknowledged – then similar texts detailing women’s international influence might have materialised. It was not until 2010 that Sussex filled the previously unmarked space with her book.’

The point I was trying to make was that they were acclaimed and best-selling IN THEIR TIME. It was only retrospectively that they were relegated to the margins by the self-styled canon makers. Who are active in every litery genre, and should be exterminated for the vermin they are. In the 1980s there was a huge amount of research and publication done on mothers of various literary genres, from Mary Shelley to female dramatists. Crime was a gap in this genre research, due to its sheer size. It is estimated that there were 5000 crime novels in English between 1800-1900, to say nothing of works in French and the multitudinous crime short stories. I only read a fraction of the texts concerned, and there are many more mothers of crime to be rediscovered.

Q:You are also known as a feminist writer.

And proud of it!

Q: I believe you are involved in organising a new literary award for female writers. Can you tell us a little about it, or is it still hush hush?

If you mean the Stellas (to redress the appalling gender imbalance of the Miles Franklins), then that’s not me, though I support the notion.

Q: As well as being a writer of speculative fiction, you also write crime and your short story The Fountain of Justice was shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Award in 2010. I’ve come across quite a few spec fic authors who also write crime. Why do you think there is this cross over? Is it something about building a world and building a mystery that attracts a certain type of mind?

It has to do with narrative: both sf and crime are narrative-driven and similar in their intellectual rigour and concern with plot. They also both derive from the Gothic, that Pangaea of modern literatures.

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?

We have fewer rape scenes, and more convincing female characters.

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

I would hope it didn’t. I nearly cheered aloud when a student told me she had got halfway through W. G. Sebald’s THE RINGS OF SATURN before realising the author was a man.

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?

Babylon in the Akkadian era, to meet Tapputi, the first woman chemist (and perfumier), who figures in my story ‘Alchemy’. Or to a party given by C19th crime writer Mary Braddon, who was not only a great writer and great company, but pals with the likes of Conan Doyle, Wilkie Collins, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde.

Lucy has a copy of either ‘She’s Fantastical’ or ‘Saltwater in the Ink’  to give-away.

Give-away Question:

If you could have a dinner party to meet your favourite writers from the past, who would you invite? And what would you serve them?

Lucy’s Blog.  On my webpage, which needs updating

Catch up with Lucy GoodReads

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Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Children's Books, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Gender Issues, Historical Books, Obscure and Interesting, Publishing Industry, Thrillers and Crime, Thrillers and Mysteries, Writers and Redearch

I Disappeared down a Rabbit Hole

But I will resurface!

(I set myself a goal for a rewrite and have been chained to the keyboard but more on that later).

The good news is that I’m going to ROR next week and apart from the wonderful time I’ll be having with my writing buddies, I get to launch Tansy new book! We’re going to make it a double launch so Richard will be launching Margo’s new book. Her book, Sea Hearts, is based on the novella by the same name that won the World Fantasy Award for its section.

If you live in Tassie or are going to be there Thursday, Feb 2nd…

We’re pleased to spread the news that Margo Lanagan will now be joining us on February 2nd for a launch of her new book, Sea Hearts. Margo and Tansy Rayner Roberts will share the evening, making it a very exciting double launch for us — don’t miss it!
See below for details of both books.

Thursday February 2nd
5:30pm
The Hobart Bookshop
Rowena Cory Daniells will launch Reign of Beasts by Tansy Rayner Roberts.
This is the final book in Rayner-Roberts’ The Creature Court trilogy.
Richard Harland will launch Margo Lanagan‘s Sea Hearts — an an extraordinary tale of desire and revenge, of loyalty, heartache and human weakness, and of the unforeseen consequences of all-consuming love.


The Hobart Bookshop
22 Salamanca Square
Hobart Tasmania 7000
P 03 6223 1803 . F 03 6223 1804
hobooks@ozemail.com.au
www.hobartbookshop.com.au

If you happen to be a Taswegian, then drop by the Hobart Bookshop and say Hi!

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Filed under Australian Writers, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Fun Stuff, Genre, Nourish the Writer, Promoting Friend's Books, Specialist Bookshops, The Writing Fraternity

Winner Tom Taylor ‘The Deep’ Give-away!

Tom says:

So many good answers! I love Mexican thumb wrestler El Thumbo and ‘buying different gloves’ was absolutely perfect. However, it’s impossible to ignore the effort of Ray. More comments should involve poetry.
So, Ray, a signed copy of The Deep will be swimming your way!
Thanks for reading, everyone. And thanks for having me, Rowena.

Ray, if you email I’ll pass your details along to Tom.

rowena(at)corydaniells.(dot)com

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Filed under Australian Artists, Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Comics/Graphic Novels, Fantasy books

Meet James Maxey…

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 James Maxey to drop by. (Further disclaimer, James and I are both published by Solaris).

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

Q: Your series is called Dragon Age and the books are called Bitterwood, Dragonseed and Dragonforce. Your new series is called Dragon Apocalypse and the first book is GreatShadow– who is a ‘primal dragon of fire, an elemental evil whose malign intelligence spies upon mankind through every candle flame, waiting to devour any careless victim he can claim’. Can we take it from this that you really like dragons? 

The first thing you should know is that dragons are constantly stalking me in my bedroom. (See the photos of the shadow dragons I’ve attached. I swear these are not photoshopped.) Since they have yet to devour me, I assume they’re instead whispering subliminal messages in my ears filling me with urges to write about them.

As an author, I’m fascinated with dragons for their mythic impact. I think humans are hardwired to be on the lookout for dragons. If you think about it, we evolved from small monkey-like creatures who had strong evolutionary pressure to watch out for big snakes, big cats, and big birds. Blend these animals together, and you get a dragon. Dragons provide a path into the deep and primal instincts of readers. The small mammals inside us feel compelled to keep their eyes fixed on these ultra-predators.

Q: In an interview on Shimmer you said:  ‘My books feature dragons as the oppressive rulers of humanity, and Burke is a rebel who hates dragons.  Anza is his only child, and, while he might have wanted a son, he’s decided to turn his daughter into a dragon-killing machine.  After I decided that Anza had been trained since she could walk to be a fighter, I wrote a battle scene where she kills someone in complete silence.  It was then that the character revealed to me that she never talked; she’d been mute since birth.  I had to go back and rewrite all the scenes where she spoke, which was a pain, but completely worth the effort.  With a lot of my best characters, I don’t so much design them as discover them.’ From this I take it you are not a plotter so much as a pantser? (Pantsers write by the seat of their pants. ie. they let the story take them where it and the characters want to go).

I normally go into a book with some sort of broad outline, but outlining only helps me think about the big plot points and the most obvious character motivations. So, in Greatshadow, when I’m thinking on the outline level, Infidel’s motivation for wanting to slay the dragon Greatshadow is so that she can steal his treasure and have enough wealth to retire from her life as a mercenary and live the rest of her days in peace. That sort of straight-forward, big picture motivation is all I need to start writing. But, if I only wrote down the big picture stuff, I’d have a book about 20 pages long. So, I’ve got to fill in each scene with detail and dialogue, and the more the characters talk, the more they evolve, and I’m able to start drilling down deeper and deeper into what really, really motivates them. To the degree that I’m a pantser, it’s because I’m willing to toss out my outlined plot points and let the characters go where they want to go as my knowledge of them increases. Sometimes I wind up back exactly where the plot required them to be (for instance, Infidel still has a climatic scene where it all comes down to her facing off against the dragon). But, other times, my plot does a 180 turn as the character rejects my master plans and tells me what they really want to do, and I wing it and charge blindly into terra incognita.

Q: Do you think that writers are in a unique position to explore and process the major experiences of their life through their writing?

Hmm. I don’t know about unique. Certainly an actor or musician or artist would have similar opportunities to channel their emotion into their chosen careers. But, an accountant or a mall security guard… maybe not so much.

I process a lot of pain through my writing. Greatshadow is dedicated to my best friend Greg Hungerford, who passed away two years ago. The novel is narrated by a ghost named Stagger, who is sort of a wastrel poet intellectual who looks back on his too-short life with a mix of fondness, cynicism, and black humor. Anyone who knew Greg will probably recognize a bit of him in Stagger. But, my writing isn’t informed only by loss. Greatshadow is also a love story; Stagger is secretly in love with his best friend, a butt-kicking female mercenary named Infidel. They spend almost all their time together, but Stagger is so addicted to her friendship he’s terrified of telling her of his romantic feelings, worried he’ll drive her away. As I was writing this, I happened to have a female friend who I spent a great deal of time with. Her name was Cheryl, and we liked to get together and go for hikes, but early on we’d decided that we weren’t dating and were just friends. This opened up a whole new level of conversation between us, as I wasn’t trying to impress her, so I was a bit less guarded. The more time I spent with her, the more I realized she was perfect for me, only now I was stuck. I enjoyed spending time with her so much that I was terrified that if I told her I loved her, she’d skedaddle. So, we were “just friends” for about three years. As I was writing Greatshadow with its “friends in love” plot, I kept thinking, “What if Cheryl reads this and thinks it’s about her?” Which eventually forced me to ask, “Is this about her?” Suddenly the book sounded very much like a secret message to tell myself that I really needed to man up and tell her how I felt. I did , learned she felt the same way, and we were married on 11-11-11.

Q: On a completely different note your book Nobody Gets the Girl is a superhero story. This looks like a heap of fun. Were you the sort of little boy who crept away to read comic books in a cubbyhouse?

What do you mean, little boy? I still sneak away to read comic books. I’m a hard core superhero junkie. I’ve followed up Nobody with a novel from the villain’s perspective called Burn Baby Burn. And, the not so secret secret about Greatshadow is that it’s a superhero novel as well. All the main characters have superpowers. Infidel is super strong and invulnerable, Lord Tower flies and wears indestructible armor made of prayer, the Truthspeaker can edit reality with his words, and Menagerie can shapeshift into any of the animals that are shown in his head-to-toe tattoos. The book is kind of X-men meets Tolkien, supermen verus dragons. It’s an unapologetic orgy of geekiness.

 Q: You seem to be very keen on music (See Favourite Albums I discovered in 2011). Are you also a musician?

I wish! Alas, somehow my fingers are capable of banging out a hundred words a minute on a QWERTY keyboard, yet completely unable to master five strings on a guitar. My voice has a vocal range of three notes, which only takes me so far when I’m singing. But, my tastes in music are strongly related to my literary urges. I’m drawn toward singer songwriters who confess all, like the Mountain Goats, and to dazzling, daring lyrical juggling acts like the Decemberists. Melody is important, but for good lyrics I’ll devour any musical style or genre.

Q: I notice you have several books up on Smashwords. Are you experimenting with self publishing? What have you learned from this?

With the exception of Burn Baby Burn, all my e-books are traditionally published books where I’d either never sold the e-rights or else they’d reverted back to me. Self-publishing e-books is a headache. All the major e-book outlets have completely different format requirement for listing your work, and you don’t really appreciate such subtle elements of cover art as the font choice until you’ve had to design your own covers.

However, the rewards are definitely worth it. Amazon has completely upended the whole career path for authors by offering 70% royalties on self-published e-books paid monthly. I’ve published four novels through traditional publishers, with three more under contract, and for the most part these have earned me more money than e-books… so far. But, traditional publishing usually only brings you two paychecks a year, and you’re in the dark on sales all the time. When you self publish an ebook, you get most sales data in real time. I not only know how many books I’ve sold this month, I can tell you how many I’ve sold this hour. I know when and how much I’ll get paid for each book sold, and usually get paid about a week early. It’s pretty amazing, and I think that any author with a back catalogue of existing books is foolish if they don’t self-publish it.

The big question is whether or not it makes sense to pursue self-publishing and ignore the more traditional path. Right now, I’m not quite willing to make that leap. I still get a thrill out of walking into a bookstore and seeing my books on the shelf. And, while ebook royalties are wonderful, the reality is that ebooks reach a smaller pool of readers right now than traditional books. So, if you want to be read widely and get broad bookstore distribution, selling your work to a traditional publisher is currently the best path to that end. But, this is changing rapidly. Getting your books into bookstores might not be as valuable ten years from now, since there might not be very many bookstores left. Readers who insist on paper books will probably persist for decades, but they will increasingly become like audiophiles who insist on only listening to music on LPs when everyone around them is streaming songs through their phones.

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 assume you are talking about epic fantasy? Because I would argue that the fantasy shelves of most bookstores are dominated by female writers, mostly writing urban fantasy. At most conventions I go to, the mix of male to female writers seems to be pretty well balanced. As for a difference in the writing, I don’t think I can point to any difference in male and female writing that isn’t completely masked by the variations between individual authors. I don’t think an average reader could read one of Gail Z. Martin’s novels and one of my books and come away thinking they were written by the same writer. But, the same is true of me and any male fantasy author as well.

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

Not really. I suppose that there might be certain sub-genres where I might make an assumption on the likely gender of the writer; i.e., if I was told a book was military science fiction, I might assume the writer was male, and if I was told the book was a bodice-ripper romance, I might guess that the writer was female. But, for the most part, the gender of the author is just not a factor at all when I’m deciding what book to read next.

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?

How is this fun? If genuinely presented with this choice, it would torment me. Should I spend time with loved ones I’ve lost? Should I go back to my younger self and offer advice on what stocks to buy? Could I settle some big question once and for all, like whether Shakespeare wrote his own plays or if there really was a historical Jesus? Should I go to the Library in Alexandria before it burns and scoop us as many scrolls as humanly possible? What did dinosaurs really look like? What was Gobekli Tepe really used for? Could I come back with a dodo? A Tasmanian tiger? A snap shot of Cleopatra? Could I find out where the %#@$! Genghis Khan was buried?

I would forever be haunted by the ghosts of the choices I didn’t make.

Take this burden away from me. I do not have the strength to bear it.

Giveaway Question: 

Which superpower would you rather have: Flight, invisibility, mind-reading, or regeneration? And, as a follow up, which of these powers do you think science is likely to bring to you via a wearable device in the next twenty years?

I’ll award a copy of Greatshadow to the most interesting answer.

 

James Maxey (ranting) Blog

James Maxey (writing) Blog

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Meet Keri Arthur…

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

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

Q: Between 2001 and 2011 you released more than two books a year (23 in total). I’m guessing you had a backlog of books that you’d written. Or are you going to put us all to shame and say you’ve written 23 books in 10 to 12 years?

Well, if you want to get technical (and include the two I’ve written this year) its 27 books, 1 novella, and three short stories for anthologies.

I didn’t really have a backlog of already written books when I signed the contract for Dancing with the Devil. I had completed five books by then, but three of those will never see the light of day. Great ideas, but horrible writing.  So yes, I’ve basically written 25 books in ten years.

Q: You have four series that were originally published with Imajin.  Spook Squad series, the Ripple Creek Werewolf series, the Damask Circle series ( which has a release date of 2001) and the Nikki and Michael series. Which was your first series? I’m asking because I like to read author’s books in chronological order of when they were written to see how they develop as a writer. When you look back at these books are you tempted to edit them? I see Bantam are going to release these books. Will you be given a chance to go over them? (Lots of questions, sorry, but all related).

Dancing with the Devil, the first of the Nikki and Michael books, was the first book I had accepted and published, so that’s the series to start with–although I alternated between that series and the Circle books when I was writing them. The Ripple Creek series was next, then finally the Spook Squad series.

All the books will be re-edited before Bantam release them in mass market format. I’ve just completed the edits on Beneath a Rising Moon, the first of the Ripple Creek books which is being re-released in May next year. I was actually surprised how well it held up considering how much I think I’ve grown as a writer since these books were first published.

Q: I see you are one of the guests of Conflux in 2012. Have you been to other SF conventions? Will you know many of the writers and the fans?

I’ve been going to Conflux for a few years now, but tend to stick more to the romance conferences, as that’s the market Bantam have been aiming the Riley Jenson series at (even though they’re dark urban fantasy rather than romance). After the open friendliness of all the Romance conferences, it was a little intimidating going to an SF convention like Conflux, as I very much felt like an outsider.  Thankfully, it is getting better now that I’m becoming a little more known in the SF community.

Q: You blog on a group blog called Deadline Dames, (how the Deadline Dames met, LOL), with Devon Monk, Jackie Kessler, Jenna Black, Karen Mahoney, Lilith Saintcrow, Rachel Vincent, Rinda Elliot and Toni Andrews. I belong to a writing group called ROR and find the support of fellow authors invaluable. We critique each other’s books once every year or so, but I gather you and the other dames share the blog to spread the good word about your books. Would you recommend a shared blog to other writers thinking of blogging, but overwhelmed by the pressure?

I’d definitely recommend it, because the dames have been a huge source of both inspiration and support over the years (as has my crit group). It’s good to be a part of a close knit group of writers who totally understand what you’re going through at any given point in your career. It’s also brilliant to a have a ‘safe’ place—somewhere where you can let off steam and know with complete certainty it will go no further.

However, it can sometimes get overwhelming, especially if you also have your own blog (as I do) as well as twitter, facebook, google+ and whatever else they decide to come up with in the future. Getting the word out there about your books is all well and good, but in the end, it’s the books that count.

Q: When we were talking at Supanova you mentioned you’re renovating. My sympathies, we’re just reaching the end of more than 12 months of renovating. I find having well ordered surroundings helps me to think clearly. Messy room equals messy mind for me. Hopefully, your renovations will be smoother than mine. Are you the kind of person who is heavily influenced by their surroundings? I know some authors collect ‘play lists’ for each book they write, while others collect a resonance file of images. Which are you?

I write by music, and it’s always the same music–Eco Zen 2. It’s gotten to the stage where I put that cd on, and my muse instantly gets to work. I can have the TV going, the daughter in the next room playing shoot-em ups, the neighbour mowing, and none of it matters as long as the music is going.

Mind you, I’m not sure the same will be said when the builders start pulling down the house around us. Especially if they’re well built builders.

Q: In an interview on EUSA Today Books you said the idea for book one, Destiny Kills, of Myth and Magic series came to you while watching The Bourne Identity. You said:

‘Seriously. I know the two have nothing in common, but I was sitting there, watching the beginning, thinking, Why is it always a guy? Why can’t it be a woman? And then I got to thinking what I’d do with that sort of start. Which is how we ended up with a heroine washed up on a beach with no memory of how she got there or why there was a dead man beside her. How dragons got into the equation I have no idea — other than the fact I have a very twisted, very imaginative muse.’

 Dragons, Keri? Are you a fan of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Riders of Pern books? Or have you taken a totally different slant on dragons?

 I love the Pern books–well, all of Anne McCaffrey’s. I’m not so keen on the later ones she did with her son. My dragons are different–they’re dragon shifters not actual dragons, and there’s both fire breathing dragons and sea dragons in my mythology. The books are also urban fantasy rather than fantasy.

Q: Your Riley Jensen series is set in Melbourne. Was there any resistance to the Australian setting when you pitched the idea to the publishers?

We were totally expecting resistance, and I had in fact began researching places in America that I could use instead of Melbourne. But it never came up with any of the three publishers who were bidding for the book. Of course, the Melbourne I use is very Americanised, so that might have made the setting less of a problem.

 

 

US Cover

Q: With your Dark Angels series (as with all the others) I notice there are US and UK covers. The US ones look more sensual, while the UK covers play up the strength of the female character and the threat. Would say that that this is the difference between the two readerships? And how much input do you get in your covers?

 

I have no input on the covers–although if I have occasionally asked for some minor changes. The US covers aim for the huge romance market, whereas the UK/Australian covers tend to go more for the fantasy market. I don’t think there’s any difference in the readerships, I just think the covers are a result of marketing people targeting their markets differently.

UK cover

Q: I see you watch a lot of TV series. I must admit I like to get the whole series of something like Deadwood and have an orgy of TV watching. I like to be able to watch the narrative arc for the series, plus the development of the characters. I find I can’t switch off my internal editor unless the show is really gripping. Do you have any specific TV series that you watch, that are guaranteed to switch off your internal editor?

God, how much time have you got? TV has become my escape–more so than books these days. I’m also a whole lot less critical of TV shows and movies than I am of books–a show has to be really, really bad before my internal editor starts getting snarky. I love shows like Deadwood, Justified, Supernatural, Haven, Torchwood, Primeval, Being Human, NCIS, NCIS LA, Castle, Blood on the Wire.….the list goes on. And on.  lol

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 female fantasy writers approach a novel on a more emotional level than most male writers. Or at least, that’s how it used to be (and it was one of the things that drove me to write fantasy in the first place). These days, with writers like Jim Butcher, it has improved somewhat, and there’s not such a noticeable difference in emotional depth.

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

Not really, because when I pick up a book all I’m expecting is to be entertained. If they succeed in doing that, I’m a happy reader. Hell, I read–and love–Matthew Reilly, and his books could very definitely be described as boys own adventure books for grown-ups, but they’re fantastically entertaining.

 

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?

Weirdly, I’d love to go back to Jane Austin’s era, just to see if men like Mr Darcy really did exist. I wouldn’t want to stay there though–couldn’t stand not having a shower every day, let alone no internet access!

 

Keri has a signed copy of Darkness Unbound to give-away (or a copy of one of her books to complete your set, subject to availability). Give-away Question:

If paranormal creatures existed and humans were lowest on the pecking order, which kind of paranormal creature would you like to be?

 

Keri’s blog

Follow Keri on Twitter: @kezarthur

Catch up with Keri on GoodReads

See Keri Arthur quote on GoodReads

See Keri Arthur’s official fan page on Facebook

Keri’s extras

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Rhonda Roberts’ Time Travelling Detective visits Holllywood in the glamorous 30s

This week we welcome back Rhonda Roberts with her new book Hoodwink.

I know I must’ve been a chain smoking binge drinker in a past life because in this one I throw up whenever I drink wine and faint dead away if I have even a puff of a cigarette. As you can imagine my experimental teenage years were a series of memorably messy incidents.

That said I must’ve done something good some time (I have no idea what) because I now have the arduous job of carefully selecting and scheduling my holiday destinations for the next decade.

You see I write the Timestalker series about a time travelling detective called Kannon Dupree. (She’s named after Kannon, the Japanese Bodhisattva of Compassion aka ‘she who hears all cries for help’.) The first book, Gladiatrix (2009) was set in ancient Rome, while the second, Hoodwink (out now) is set in Hollywood in 1939. Each book in the series solves a mystery set in a different time and place.

And here’s where the strangely good karma bit comes in… I have a filing cabinet full of cases lined up for Kannon to handle – and boy does she travel around! So I do too…

Well I have to do research don’t I?

I treat all my research trips like full on anthropological expeditions, including camels and pith helmets if necessary. I go prepared for anything and everything and expect it all to go wrong. And it usually does – but as I’m peering out from the midst of the rumble something truly spectacular rises up like a phoenix…and gives me the key to Kannon’s next adventure.

Leonard Cohen has a song called Anthem, which is one of my all times favourites. One segment goes: ‘Forget your perfect offering. There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.’ Well I’ve found that it’s the unexpected twist in the path that takes me round a corner to the spectacular view.

And believe me I’d experienced a few twists in that path. I’m writing Book 4 now and in the past few years I’ve been stuck up a shaky ladder in an ancient cliff top pueblo city with a 200 metre drop below, stumbled across a horny male crocodile on his way to his girlfriend’s love nest, been caught in a sand storm on a non existent road through the desert and been threatened by three furious (and gargantuan!) armed guards at an LA studio who mistook me for a member of the paparazzi.

Speaking of which leads me to doing the research for Hoodwink, which has just hit the bookshops….

Hoodwink starts with a body covered in a Mayan occult tattoo being discovered cemented into the floor of a Hollywood film set. It’s the body of a famous film director who went missing in 1939. Kannon is hired to return to 1939 to find out who killed him. While on the set of Gone With The Wind, mixing with the big stars of Hollywood, she stumbles onto a mystery that stretches back to the Civil War…

Why Gone With The Wind?’ you might say. ‘Isn’t that just some old film about a Southern woman’s determination to survive the American Civil War and its aftermath?’

Yep it is that…plus a lot more. (The sound of chuckling) Trust me…what happened during the making of that film is more fantastic than anything I could possibly make up!

Anyway…I wanted to write about a murder on a film set in 1939, the most glamorous period in the Golden Years of Hollywood. So I had to choose a movie that’d give me the maximum room to explore the feeling of the 1930s as well as yield some interesting plot points I could play with. Gone With The Wind fitted that bill plus some!

So now to do some research on old Hollywood…in new LA!

Well I did a whole lot of research before I left our eucalyptus-lined shores and arranged appointments in Los Angeles where I could. And I was lucky enough to get permission to visit the famous Culver Studios, which is where Gone With The Wind (as well as Citizen Kane, two of Hitchcock’s most famous films and some episodes of Star Trek) was filmed. The CEO was very friendly and arranged for the stage manager to take me on a three hour tour of the place. I saw the historic bungalows that Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable used, the main GWTW sound stage as well as many other places of interest. It was amazing.

The rest of the time I wandered around Los Angeles searching for locations to use in Hoodwink. I trudged around Beverly Hills carrying a map to the homes of the old movie stars, hiked around Griffith Park looking for a place to stick my Temple of Lost Souls, walked along the famous canals of Venice searching for a place to hide a suitcase full of money, studied the Mayan statues in the garden at the Forrest Lawn Cemetery wondering how the hell they fitted into the puzzle…

And all the time I was still waiting for that epiphany, that precious moment when I’d know what Hoodwink was really about…when I’d get a glimpse of its soul.

Then I ended up at Hollyhock House, which became the inspiration for Ceiba House…the home of my murder victim.

Now some places are amazing. We all have memories of the first time we walked into a particular space. It could be a cathedral, a temple, Uluru, whatever…

To me, Hollyhock House is one such space.

Frank Lloyd Wright, one of America’s most famous architects, built several stunning Mayan-inspired houses in Los Angeles during the 1920s. The most beautiful is Hollyhock House in East Hollywood. It’s modeled on the ancient Mayan city-state of Palenque in southern Mexico and covered in highly stylized hollyhocks. They decorate the whole house, appearing in stonework, windows and wooden furniture.

And the first thing I saw when I walked into this amazing temple to grace and beauty was a big statue of Kwan Yin… Or as she is known in Japan – Kannon the Bodhisattva of Compassion. She who hears all cries for help.

She stands in the foyer of Hollyhock House welcoming all with a warm smile full of peace and compassion…a heavenly sign of hope for all humanity.

And in that moment I knew the key to writing Hoodwink.

Give away question:

I love festivals and think that Australia doesn’t have enough of them. When I lived in Japan there seemed to be a new one on every week – everything from fertility festivals to welcoming the dead back home for a night.

If you could introduce a new festival to Australia what would it celebrate and how?

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Winners of Narrelle Harris Give-away!

Narrelle says:

I enjoyed Cecilia’s choice to read zombie stories as a how-to manual for the zombie apocalypse, and of coures all the people having a bet each way on vampires/zombies, but I really liked Vintage Zombie’s answer, both for remembering that the brain-eating undead used to be people and for the fact taht she’s scared of Shaun of the Dead. I hope she enjoys Best New Zombie Tales Volument Two.

For the copy of The Opposite of Life, Paula’s vocal support of the hot vamps has got popular backing, but I liked Melissa May for citing Bram Stoker. Gary (from The Opposite of Life) would approve of that, so the copy of The Opposite of Life goes to her!

Thanks to everyone for joining in the fun!

Vintage Zombie and Melissa May, please email Narrelle Harris to organise the postage of your give-aways.

narrelle(at)iwriter(dot)com(dot)au

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