Monthly Archives: February 2012

Meet Lian Tanner…

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 Lian Tanner to drop by.

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

Q: Museum of Thieves won the Aurealis Children’s Fiction Award in 2010. (Among many other notables and awards). This must have been a real buzz for your first book.  It was going to be a stand-alone but it is now a trilogy. Did this mean a radical rethink, or did it all just flow?

A: Yes, I was so enormously pleased about the Aurealis Award. Museum had been shortlisted for a couple of things before that, and hadn’t won, and I was beginning to get that ‘always a bridesmaid’ feeling. <ahem> Not that I care about awards, you understand … <laughs>

As for the trilogy thing, I had originally intended Museum of Thieves to be a stand-alone novel, and so in my early drafts I killed off the villains at the end. When I realised that I wanted to make it the first book in a trilogy, the main thing I had to do was add a postscript, making it clear that the villains hadn’t died after all, but were still out there somewhere and would presumably be back at some stage.

Apart from that, I really didn’t change it a lot – I wanted the book to still be able to stand alone as much as possible. When I’m reading, I really hate major cliff-hangers at the end of a book. I don’t mind teasers that make me want to read the next book in a series, but I get very irritated if there’s not at least a temporary resolution of the action.

Q: There are two types of covers that I’ve been able to find the illustrated covers which are very nice and these deliberately aged books that look like they were printed in the 1960s. Have readers told you which they prefer?

A: You often hear about authors hating their covers, but I’ve been very lucky with mine so far – I’ve loved them all. The deliberately aged covers are the Australian ones (Allen & Unwin) and the illustrated ones are American (Random House). There are also some rather nice German covers (Arena Verlag) that are completely different again.

When I’m talking to groups of kids I always ask them which ones they prefer. And it seems the marketing and design departments in both Australia and the US have pretty much got it right – the Australian kids overwhelmingly prefer the Australian covers and the American overwhelmingly prefer the American covers.

Q: On your Inspiration Page you have a number of photos, quotes and a very convoluted plot map. (I keep an inspiration file for my books). Many of the writers I interview make up play lists for specific music while they write a certain book. Are you a visual person as opposed to an aural person?

A: Definitely visual rather than aural. In the past I’ve tried to write to music – mainly because I’ve seen some of those playlists and I was curious to see if it would work for me. But I found it almost impossible. Bird calls are fine, when my office window is open, and I tend to have classical music on very quietly in the background, but anything else is much too distracting.

Visually though I always spend a lot of time collecting photos and drawings of people, places and miscellaneous objects before I start writing. That’s pretty much a necessity for me. I like to have character pictures dotted around my office and on my desk. I also really like to find some wallpaper for my desktop and some screensaver images that relate strongly to whatever I’m working on, so I’m immersed in it while I work. Currently I’m surrounded by icebergs.

Q: In a Q& A on Readings you talk about your love of words, specifically old words like  Slubberdegullion (a dirty nasty person) and Forswunk (worn out by hard labour). Did you read a lot of Dickens when you were a kid? And do you collect words?

A: I was actually put off Dickens as a child by having to read Great Expectations at school. My teacher loved it, but I thought Pip was an irritating and ungrateful wimp, and I loathed his relationship with Estella. (I loathed Estella too.) As an adult I’ve read quite a few of Dickens’ books and discovered the value in them, but have never gotten over my dislike of Pip.

And yes, I do collect words and phrases, particularly ones that have fallen from favour. My current favourite is ‘idle-worms’, which supposedly once bred in the fingertips of lazy girls. If they existed, my fingertips would be riddled with them.

Q: You were born in Tassie and have lived there most of your life, but you did live in Papua New Guinea for three years. I see you were a teacher there. It must have been a very different world.  Have you been able to incorporate any of the things you experienced in Papua New Guinea in your books?

A: Papua New Guinea was a bit of an eye-opener for me. I was twenty-three when I went there, and had never lived outside Tasmania, so it was hugely different and very challenging. My first year I taught in a school just outside Port Moresby, run by Catholic nuns. My second and third years I was at a little bush school thirty km from Rabaul on the Gazelle Peninsula. That school had about 150 kids and three teachers when I arrived – one of those teachers had a full-time job in Rabaul and used to come down in his morning break. The principal trained the kids for interschool sports by chasing them around the oval with a whip, and quite a few of them carried serious scars from not running fast enough.

 In a lot of ways I think PNG woke my imagination from its slumbering state. I’ve incorporated some of the people I knew there in my writing – in fictional form – but have never yet used any of the events to a great degree. I will one day – there are a number of things (apart from the sports training) that have stayed in the back of my mind and are just waiting for the right vehicle to emerge.

Q: You studied drama when you were 38 and travelled around Tasmania schools playing all sorts of characters. You say you were shy as a child. What made you turn to drama?

: It was partly accidental, I think, though I always liked drama at school – it was a way of stepping past my shyness. But when I was in my late twenties and early thirties I hung around with a bunch of people who were very involved in music and political street theatre. Eventually we went from street theatre to amateur stage dramatics, and one of my friends decided to enrol in drama school to consolidate her various skills.

At that time in my life I had never really settled to anything as far as work/career was concerned, but the theatre work struck a real chord for me, and I joined my friend at drama school. It’s one of the best things I ever did. I used to write a lot as a child, but pretty much stopped in my teenage years. Drama school was the thing that got me started again, that showed me how to be creative under pressure, as well as teaching me about dialogue and character motivation and all those other useful things that translate so wonderfully from the theatre to prose.

Q: A lot of women who write for children feel that they have to have a boy as the main protagonist, otherwise boys won’t read their books. They’ll then bring a girl in as a secondary protagonist. But the main character in Museum of Thieves and City of Lies is clearly Goldie Roth, and the boy Toadspit is secondary. Was this deliberate? Were you concerned about whether boys would read your books?

A: It has always seemed to me a total cheat that, because authors assume girls will read books with boy protagonists but boys won’t read books with girl protagonists, they nearly always make their main character a boy to capture the broadest market. Where does this leave girls? Always in second place, and with no exciting role models!

Basically I write for myself when I was 11, and at that age I adored books with bold girls in them, so I was very clear right from the start that I wanted my main character to be a girl. Knowing the sort of story I was intending to write, I thought that boys would probably also enjoy the book, and I did want to have an important boy character. But my main intention was to tell Goldie’s story.

Interestingly, the boy/girl thing hasn’t really been an issue since the books came out. Girls love them and so do boys – mainly I suspect because they’re a good strong adventure series, and that appeals to both genders. Or maybe this is one of those borders that has blurred a little over the last few years – I notice that Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy seems to have almost as many male fans as it does female, and I’m sure it’s not the only example.

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: For a long time I have really wanted to go back to early Hobart and walk down those dusty, smelly, noisy streets. It’s a city I love, and I would dearly love to see its beginnings. I think a lot of my writing – even though it’s fantasy – has been influenced by early Hobart, and it’s a major source of inspiration for me, so to be able to wander around and poke into the shops and talk to people in that little colonial outpost would be my idea of heaven. I’d probably stalk two of my great grandmothers while I was there too – especially the one who was a diarist and a poet.

 

Lian has a paperback copy of the US edition of Book 1, a hard back of the US edition of Book 2 or an audio book of Book 1, as read by Claudia Black. The winner can choose.

Give-away Question:.

What sort of museum would you like to invent?

 

Catch up with Lian on GoodRreads

Lian’s advice for young writers

Advertisements

36 Comments

Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Children's Books, creativity, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Gender Issues, Genre, Young Adult Books

Meet John Richards, Script Writer, Comedian & SF Fan…

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 John Richards to drop by.

First a bit of background. John Richards is one of the two writers behind Outland, the new 6 part ABC comedy about a bunch of gay geeks, who are trying to hide their nerdy dark secret – they’re SF fans!

 

Adam Richard and John Richards (no relation)

Q: I see you and Adam first came up with the idea for this show back in 2005. Do the pair of you have a long working history together? Does this make it easier when working on comedy? And (one more) do you have to go through the – No, he’s no relation to me. Our last names just happen to be almost the same? – routine when you meet people?

The name thing happens all the time – I’ve even seen us referred to as “the Richards brothers” in articles. We’ve become the new Wachowski brothers. Or siblings, as they are now. At the press launch for the 2012 ABC programming the brochure got both our surnames wrong, which was new!

I’d known Adam through comedy circles since he first started comedy (actually, before – I first saw him when I was editing a spoken-word event for Bent TV on Channel 31 and they’d got his surname wrong on the caption list). But the Outland pilot script was the first thing we did together.

Writing comedy as a team is good in that you get a lot more ideas and jokes, and bad in that you eventually want to kill each other. I think the best writing teams are the ones with rigid rules to make it work – Monty Python had a veto system in place, for example. Outland was in development for a while so the approach changed several times. In the end Adam and I co-wrote three episodes and I wrote three solo, but we were both involved in the creation and concept of the show and the characters.

Q: I see you have a background in stand-up comedy and you’ve worked for the 3RRR comedy show, The Third Ear. I bet you were the sort of little boy who would clown around in school and drive the teacher’s crazy. Was school hell for you?

I suspect I had an unusual school experience in that I was a geek and a nerd and a nancy boy, but also 6 feet tall and quite wide. So I was never bullied. I hated school – like any normal person does – but more because it was a thing you had to wade through before life could really start. I was fairly quiet in class, I think, and I was a really bad student. I just couldn’t get interested in things like calculus. I was bored, basically. At the same time I started high school I also joined The West Lodge, Perth’s Doctor Who fan club, so I spent a fair amount of time hanging out at the University Of Western Australia – I even attended some lectures, out of curiosity. But failed high school.

Q: My kids have grown up watching British comedy like The Young Ones, the Ab Fab, Fawlty Towers, Monty Python, Red Dwarf, The Black Adders, The IT Crowd and local shows such as Flight of the Concords and Lano and Woodley. When you were growing up what comedy shows did you watch? What inspired you?

Growing up I remember loving Australia, You’re Standing In It and Rod Quantock made me want to try stand-up. I loved his intelligent-yet-surreal pieces to camera on that. I watched all the terrible “ooh-err-missus” comedies like Are You Being Served that my parents liked, and I’ve ended up with a weird mix of disgust at their double-standards but respect for the work that went into the writing (Outland episode 3 is intended as an examination/tribute to those sorts of shows). And I remember loving WKRP In Cincinatti, which I recently rewatched to find it has aged incredibly badly. As I got a bit older the “alternative comedy” movement in the UK happened and I remember the excitement of The Young Ones and the shows that came out of that. And many, many years later – like many people – I fell in love with Spaced.

Q: I really enjoyed Outland. The dialogue was really snappy and the direction was tight. It came across as very polished. Have you been workshopping these 6 episodes for a while?

The original pilot script was written in 2005, and we made the short film in 2006. When the ABC came on board we developed 6 episodes and then worked on them in fits and starts as funding came through. So while the first episode always followed the same general plot of that original script, the scripts would change. A lot of people were involved – Adam, producer Andrea Denholm, script-editor Philip Dalkin, myself – and even now I occasionally can’t remember if a certain joke is in the finished version or an earlier draft. I would’ve liked the first episode to be even tighter, myself! First episodes are notoriously tricky – the first episode of 30 Rock is generally held to be one of the worst, even by fans of the show – and I think we did pretty well. But it also went down a few dark alleys before coming back again. So the first episode was certainly workshopped a fair bit, but often it fought back… Those people who’ve seen the short film will probably be surprised by how similar it is.

Q: I’ve worked as a graphic artist, been involved in Indy Press, am currently a writer and I know people who are musicians. It is really hard to make a living as a creative person. Did you always want to be a comedian/script writer? And if you had a child and they came to you and said – Hey, Dad, I wanna be a (insert, writer/actor/comedian/musician) – what would you say to them?

I’d say “get a real job!”. But seriously… I’d probably say “get a real job”. It is so hard. I am monstrously proud of Outland, but you spend 7 years on a project, living on two-minute-noodles and hope, and then see someone on a blog has dismissed it in one sentence, often without even bothering to watch it…

I always wanted to be a writer, originally a film writer, but in the last decade or so television has taken over as the place interesting and inventive work is happening. At least, in the US and the UK. Australia is still lagging behind on that and while I can name a dozen great, respected TV writers from overseas, in Australia there isn’t that tradition. The concept of the “show-runner” is finally coming in here but rather than being the head-writer – as it is everywhere else – it seems to have become another producer’s title. Until we embrace the idea that the writer should be able to drive and own the creative idea we’re not going to make anything to match Six Feet Under or Mad Men. Princess Pictures gets this, and that’s why people love to work for them, but it might take a little longer to catch on everywhere.

So what would I say to my fictional children, really? Nothing. Because they’re fictional.

Q: In an article by Frances Atkinson, she says:

‘beneath the sci-fi-inspired double entendres, of which there are many, Outland is a character-driven comedy about relationships – an affectionate look at how shared passions can make us feel like outsiders but also less alone.

Would you see this is the show’s underlying theme, in the same way the first 3 seasons of Being Human (UK version) was about a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost trying to stay in touch with their humanity?

I think the series is about making peace with yourself – embracing who you are. Without giving any spoilers, the characters are often having to re-examine themselves and come to terms with who they are and how they behave. And the group is both support and contrast to that. But they can’t really join the group until they’re honest about who they are and embrace that.

Lordy, that sounded deep. And there’s fisting jokes!

Q: I gather that most of the people involved in the show as SF fans. I thought it was so mainstream now everyone knew the tropes. Do you go to SF Cons and events like Supanova? Is there still a stigma around being an SF fan? 

I can’t decide – I keep thinking things have changed but if you ever see something SF or fantasy being praised in the press it usually comes with a caveat – “There’s only a little bit of fantasy, so it’s OK”. When we were preparing the show we discovered that the BBC doesn’t consider Doctor Who to be science fiction – it’s officially a “family drama”. And if something is really loved then the words “science fiction” will disappear completely – no-one’s going to call Margaret Atwood a science fiction writer, no matter how many science fiction novels she writes. I remember going to see Pan’s Labyrinth and being disappointed that it was actually a straight-forward war film with three short fantasy sequences, rather than a full-on fantasy-fest as promised by the ads. But non-fans thought it WAS a full-on fantasy films – for them, three sequences in a two hour films was mind-bending.

I went to cons when I was a teenager but it’s only recently I’ve been back. I went to Aussiecon4 mostly because I have a brain-crush on Robert Shearman, and had a great time. And with my Boxcutters co-host Josh Kinal I’ve done some panels and podcasts at the Continuums. Continuua?

I haven’t been to the Supernovas/Armageddons yet, but I’d like to. They’re very “star” focussed and I’m probably more drawn to the behind-the-scenes creatives, but I think they look like a lot of fun.

Q: I see there’s an Outland Institute Blog. It takes a lot of work to maintain a blog. (We writers should know. We write for a living).  Is this something you’ve done before for other projects, or is Outland your first venture into blogging?

Ha! I started the blog to force myself to write more – I was in one of those “Gaiman-envy” moments, I think. I thought that if I forced myself to write more, I would write more. But it’s a bit like buying an exercise bike at Christmas, isn’t it? I update it maybe two or three times a year now. It was fun to do, and it led to the radio show of the same name on Joy 94.9 in 2009 which I loved, but I suspect podcasts have ousted the blog. Podcasts and tumblr. Have you seen the horrendous internet term “tl;dr”? It means “too long – didn’t read”. It’s a celebration of stupidity. But I suspect that long-form internet writing may be on the way out.

Q: I see the full series played over two nights at the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival in October 2011.  How did Outland go with a US audience? Did they have any trouble following the Australian accents or humour?

The festival found us through Continuum – they’d read about the show online. We offered two episodes two them – episode one and their choice of 2, 3 or 4 (we couldn’t decide). Keith Bacon, the programmer, came back saying he adored it and could he please see the last two so he could see how it ends! And then he asked to play the whole series across two nights, which was incredibly flattering, and the festival had me over as a guest. I stayed in a hotel room that was bigger than my flat.

I was worried about the accents and the humour, but I had seen the original short film play in Texas and that had gone well. I never expected how much the Seattle audience would love it, though. The reception was astonishing. We made people cry! That’s not something you expect for a comedy! Or want, even. At the end they gave us an award – the audience had voted it one of the highlights of the festival. It was a great festival and I loved Seattle. I want to make another series now just to have an excuse to go back.

Q: At this point, I usually I ask a couple of questions about gender and writers or comic artists. Christine Anu plays a lesbian (in a wheelchair – were you ticking boxes?). The other four regular cast members are all male, the director is male and the show is written by two males. Is it harder for a female comedian or director to get ahead?

In an ideal world there’d be more female roles in Outland, but there was a reason for each character to be there and part of the story does involve Rae being the odd one out. Which is my way of saying she’s deliberately the only woman, not accidentally – not better perhaps, but we did at least think about it. There’s also very few other roles in the series, as almost every episode focuses entirely on the five leads, but we do have three more female characters coming up and a guest appearance by Sue Ann Post. But only episode two really passes the Bechdel Test. If we make a second series I’m hoping to amend that.

It’s hard to work out issues of gender behind the camera – is it harder for a woman to get ahead as a director? I don’t know. I do know that our producers are all women, as was the DOP, the production designer, the costume designer, the sound designer, the casting agent, the editor and the accountant! And, indeed, the head of ABC comedy.

But is it harder to get a gig as a director if you’re a woman? Maybe. But most of Australia’s producers are women, so I’m not sure. How does anyone get a job in this industry? Seriously, I’d love to know…

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, first I’d take a VCR and pop back to 1966 to record episode four of “The Tenth Planet”. When I think about time travel – which is alarmingly often – I find I often want to make fairly small jumps. Like, did the 1970s of my early childhood really smell like chemicals as I think it did? Was everything really brown? And I’d like to have a cocktail in the lower bar of the Ritz Hotel in 1942, just to see what it was like, and to go window-shopping in the 1960s. But mostly I’d go to the future, to see how everything turns out. Spoilers!

 

For Outland Institute Blog podcasts see here.

Outland Facebook.

(the other writer) Adam Richard’s blog.

Boxcutters podcast (co-hosted by John – check out the award-winning interview with Doctor Who writers Paul Cornell and Rob Shearman)

Where’s Outland tumblr

John’s unofficial online commentary tracks for Outland

ABC iview

Outland Series iTunes

8 Comments

Filed under Australian Writers, Conventions, creativity, Gender Issues, Movies & TV Shows, Nourish the Writer, Script Writing

Meet Gaie Sebold…

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 Gaie Sebold to drop by. (Further disclaimer, Gaie is published by Solaris, my publisher and, as it turns out, we share the same agent).

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

Q: You write poetry and have won awards in this area. I once ran a workshop where a woman who wrote poetry could not stop herself from writing in rhyming metre. She set out to write a short children’s story and when she got up to read it to us, realised it rolled off the tongue like a poem. Do you find yourself dreaming in rhyme or blank verse?

A: That’s a very interesting thought! I seldom write poetry at the moment, but when I was writing and reading a great deal of it, I certainly had more ideas come to me as poetry or song lyrics (sadly, since I utterly lack any musical ability, the song lyrics never became actual songs).  I don’t remember ever dreaming in poetry, but I think that absorbing a lot of it did affect my writing style, and still does.  One thing writing in very strict poetic forms did was help me to précis.  There’s nothing like attempting a sonnet, or, heaven help us, a haiku, to try and get everything you want to say in a tight space.  This may sound odd coming from someone who tends to write novels at about 150,000 words – but without it, they’d be longer, believe me.  It’s also left me with a strong belief in the power of the exactly right word in the right place.

Q: I belong to a writing group called ROR who have saved my sanity over the years. I see you belong to a group called The T Party. How did you get involved and what advice would you give a writer who was just starting out and wanted to find or start a support group?

A: I was looking for a writing group when I first moved to London.  I set one up with a friend, but that was largely a poetry rather than a fiction group.  I found T Party Writers (we usually write the name that way these days, to distinguish ourselves from, ahem, certain political affiliations) in a local library list of writing groups, because  the internet barely existed back then. I discovered a group of people who were all interested in writing genre of one sort or another, who were mainly focussed on professional publication, and with whom I got along very well.

I would advise a writer who is starting out to look at what they want from a group.  If you write genre, find a genre-focussed group; whether it’s SF/F, literary, or romance; taking a paranormal romance story to a group only to have people go ‘But why does it have to have elves in it?’ is depressing and unhelpful.

If you’re underconfident and just looking for support, there are cheerleading groups, who do less critiquing and more encouragement.   Though it may get you writing and submitting more, which is good, I don’t think it does you many favours in the long term.  If you’re aiming for professional publication, look for a group that will push you; one that contains some people who are already professionally published, and who are orientated towards that.  T Party Writers have a reputation for being pretty tough; which they are.  But the purpose is to get people better, to give them the best possible chance of publication.  If you’re not ready for tough critique from your writing group, you’re not ready for the crapload of rejections that anyone who is serious about submitting their work for professional publication is going to get.  And once your work is out there there will be bad reviews, too.  You need to grow a thick skin, and take good advice even if it sounds harsh, and a good crit group will help you do that.  Also, learning to critique other people’s work can really help open your eyes to the flaws in your own, and what you can do to improve.

If you are thinking of starting your own group, the same rules apply; what do you want to get out of it, and what are you prepared to offer other people?  How many meetings, how often, where, IRL or online, guidelines for joining, submitting and critiquing…all these things need working out.  Guidelines for dealing with any problems that may arise are also a good idea.

Q: You are also involved in the Plot Medics, a pair of writers who offer workshops. Here’s their writing philosophy. In Australia we have state Writers Centres which offer a range of workshops and support for writers from those just starting out to the multi-published. I gather there isn’t this level of support in the UK. What led you into the field of writing?

I ran some writing exercises with a friend on a writers’ group weekend, and we both realised we enjoyed the mentoring side.  There are so many things about writing I wish I’d known earlier, that I think people can benefit from knowing.  I am a somewhat obsessive collector of books on writing, and there is a huge amount of useful information out there, but sometimes people react better to direct interaction, tasks and games, than to just reading these books on their own.  The joy of running workshops is seeing people light up when something suddenly makes sense, or they realise how much they can achieve in a really short space of time, or they get an idea and are scribbling madly away at something that really excites them.

There are some excellent workshops and classes in the UK, such as those run by City Lit, and of course the Arvon Foundation; but we felt we could do something with one-off workshops that could help people target one particular aspect of writing where they were having difficulty.  And they’re huge fun to do.  Exhausting, but fun.  If I didn’t have the day job I’d like to spend a lot more time doing them.

Q: You write short fiction which, if it is anything like your novel, crosses genres. Your stories have appeared in several anthologies including Under the Rose and End of an Aeon. Three stories, Wet Work, A touch of Crystal and Eaten Cold, received honourable mentions in Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. As you are also a poet, would you say a story/idea has a natural length and medium? Do you sometimes start out writing a poem that turns into a story?

A: I would certainly say that stories and ideas have a natural length.  Poems are good for talking about a single idea or theme, in a very crystallised way.  In a short story you have more space to explore an idea, and fewer restrictions than in a poem, but you still have to focus.  You have to know what your central idea is, the essential thing you want to say, and in the best stories, I think everything else that’s there relates in some way to the central theme.  In a novel, obviously, there are still central ideas and themes, but you can have more than one and explore them in greater depth.  So yes, stories have a natural length. I’ve read books that felt like a short story stretched out thin, and stories (some in my critique group) where I’ve said, “This is a novel, you do know that, don’t you?”  I’ve had it said to me, too; and one short story ended up being expanded into the novel that got me agented.  I’ve also been told that a novel idea I’m working on is probably a trilogy.  Gulp.  (Because I really need another huge project to add to my To Do list…)

I have written poems that suggested they had stories there, but as yet, none has ever turned into one.  Sadly they don’t really work as poems, either, so they languish on my hard drive waiting for me to have time or inclination to do something with them.

Q: Your first novel, Babylon Steel, has just been released. First of all, congratulations! Looking at the blurb:

‘Babylon Steel, ex-sword-for-hire, ex… other things, runs the best brothel in Scalentine; city of many portals, two moons, and a wide variety of races, were-creatures, and religions, not to mention the occasional insane warlock.
She’s not having a good week.  The Vessels of Purity are protesting against brothels, women in the trade are being attacked, it’s tax time, and there’s not enough money to pay the bill.  So when the mysterious Darask Fain offers her a job finding a missing girl, Babylon decides to take it.  But the missing girl is not what she seems, and neither is Darask Fain. In the meantime twomoon is approaching, and more than just a few night’s takings are at risk when Babylon’s hidden past reaches out to grab her by the throat.’

It appears to be a mix of SF and Dark Urban Fantasy and the cover reminds me a little of the Three Musketeers. If you had to sum the genre up in a couple of words, how would you describe it?

A: A couple of words? Tricky.  High Noir? Sword and Sauciness?

Q: Solaris have bought the sequel to Babylon Steel. Can you give a quick glimpse of what it’s about?

A: It’s taking Babylon away from Scalentine to another plane, to fulfil a promise she made in the previous book.  She’ll be trying to stop a civil war, prevent an assassination, stay out of jail and keep her business from descending into bankruptcy.  She’s a busy girl.

Q: In a review of Babylon Steel on SFX, the reviewer said: ‘Sebold has a flair for storytelling. Her world is a cross-planes affair whose main setting is an interdimensional crossroads. It might be all sparkly wish-fulfilment on the surface, but it has a believable seaminess, while its tough lead has plenty of good reasons to be the way she is’ He also added: ‘Fun and fast, you’ll enjoy this if you appreciate the better end of female-friendly fantasy.’ That’s a great wrap, Gaie. Would you describe your book as being oriented for female readers? Does it worry you that a male reader might not pick it up?

A: I was, obviously, pleased with the review, but that phrase about ‘female friendly fantasy’ did give me pause.  Yes, I do hope the book is female friendly, in that Babylon is a tough, confident female lead I hope women can like and identify with.  But from the responses I’ve had, men like her too (actually she’s been described as ‘blokish’.  This was intended as a compliment.) I know there is a truism that women will read books with both female and male leads, whereas men won’t read books with a female lead; I hope most male fantasy readers aren’t that narrow minded.  Certainly the ones I know aren’t.

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 find that perception terribly frustrating. I know loads of women who read and write fantasy; who play fantasy computer games, who do fantasy LARP, (Live Action Role Play).  And it’s not all twinkly vampires and sexy werewolves, either.  There’s a huge amount of gritty, intelligent, grown-up fantasy written and read by women.  The same goes for SF.

As to a difference in the way the genders write fantasy; hmm, let’s step carefully into this minefield, shall we?  I think if there is a difference it’s not confined to fantasy.  Yet, increasingly, as women feel freer to write about whatever subjects, in whatever genres, they choose, I’m not really sure there is a difference.  It would be possible to suggest that more women write more character-focussed fiction, and more men write more plot-focussed fiction; but one can find so many examples where the opposite is true.  I do think that sometimes we can end up writing to fulfil societal expectations of what women should talk about, what men should talk about, what people of a particular race or social strata should talk about.  This, sadly, creates unnecessary limitations for the writer and reduces the possibilities available to the reader.  The more people break out of that, whatever the genre, the better.

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

A: I can honestly say, not so far as I am aware.  If I’m browsing, I look at the covers;  if I don’t recognise the name of the author, I will read the blurb and the first few pages.  Whether the book grabs me or not has nothing to do with the gender of the name on the cover.  I’ll clock it once I know whether or not I like their writing, not otherwise.

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: Oh, that’s a tough one!  I would love to visit Ancient Egypt (I’m actually going to Egypt for the first time later this year, I can’t wait).  It was a fascinating society, highly stable for an extraordinarily long time largely due to its geographical location, with the corollary that it was also deeply conservative, with a positively train-spottery obsession with this massively detailed idea of the afterlife.  Yet they had, at some periods, some surprisingly modern attitudes in terms of women owning property and having some autonomy.  To visit them and get a perspective on their extraordinary obsession with the afterlife, and then to spend some time in Victorian England which was also deeply conservative in some ways, and a time of high-speed, intense change in others, and which had its own highly complex and varied attitudes to death, mourning and the afterlife – that would be interesting.

I’d also like to explore the early European Celtic societies, the Norse, the Babylonians…oh, there are so many places/times I’d like to go.

But I’d probably want to be disguised as a man a lot of the time just so I could access those areas of society denied to women; and I would definitely want to take antibiotics, anaesthetic, reliable contraception and various other life-saving anachronisms (such as my own personal dentist).  And be a lot better at fighting than I am in real life.

 

Give-away Question:

Q: Someone says to you: “I’ve found a gateway to Faerie.  We’re leaving in ten minutes, you coming?”

Would you go, and what would you pack?

 

Follow Gaie on Twitter: @GaieSebold or follow Babylon @Babylon_Steel

Follow Gaie on GoodReads.

Find Gaie on Facebook

See Gaie’s Blog.

Gaie also has a blog with writer Dave Gullen on writing and gardening.

14 Comments

Filed under Book Giveaway, creativity, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Fun Stuff, Gender Issues, Genre, Poetry

KRK Boxed e-book set…

It’s baaaack…

The ‘boxed’ King Rolen’s Kin trilogy is back as an e-book deal. Looks really cool as a virtual boxed set, Tadaaa!

(Available here)

4 Comments

Filed under Australian Writers, E-books, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors

Winner James Maxey book Give-away!

James Dragon-man Maxey says he thoroughly enjoyed both ShadowWrytr and Mary’s answers so he’s going to award a copy of Greatshadow to both of you!

Email James on

nobodynovelwriter(at)yahoo(dot)com

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Giveaway, Fantasy books

Winner Lucy Sussex book give-away!

Lucy is giving away a copy of either ‘She’s Fantastical’ or ‘Saltwater in the Ink’ .

The Question was: 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?

We have Bram Stoker, Mary Shelly, Dorothy Sayers, Charles Dickens, CS Lewis and Stella Miles Franklin. (Yay for an Aussie!). Lucy enjoyed all your answers, loved the thought that went into them.  She says:

I think they’re all good, so will reward all five!

So Melanie, Cecila, Sean, Mary and Melissa please email Lucky to organise your book prizes!

lsussex(at)netspace(dot)net(dot)au

3 Comments

Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Gender Issues

ROR … Recovering

Here I am, back from the 2012 ROR (See here for more info on the ROR writers group). This year we went to Steeles Island. Lovely spot, great premises.

Here's the view up the estury

The view up the estuary

This was an intense week. We read 5 manuscripts beforehand and wrote reports then spent a morning, or an afternoon, on each ms. It reminded me why I love writing – sitting around, getting excited with my fellow writers about plotting, foreshadowing, characterisation, blending back story and of course … talking about the industry.

The room where it all happened.

I had a bit of a problem with the room. The ceiling was at an angle, the chimney fireplace ran at two different angles and then there were the horizontals and the verticals… the angle of one of the chimney sides was at war with all the other angles in the room. It got so I couldn’t look in that direction. The others thought this was hilarious, but it really bothered me. Confession … writers can be a little neurotic. (I can’t find a photo of the wall in question that shows the ceiling and the chimney. You will have to take my word for it).

You can see the energy level from this pic of Tansy and Richard

The guys did a brilliant job of critiquing all the manuscripts. I’m not allowed to say much about the books because we don’t want to jinx them.

Margo being insightful

(Marianne and Trent couldn’t make this ROR due to work commitments and where they were up to in their current manuscripts).

Maxine attended virtually by skype and this worked surprisingly well. Her book is on its second draft and it was really interesting to see how she had incorporated the feedback from the last ROR. (Come on Maxine – get that book finished. I’m dying to read the ending!). Richard put in his usual quirky polished manuscript.

Dirk provided us with amazing cooking while giving excellent insights into our books. Somehow he managed to pull enough of a manuscript together despite life getting in the way, for us to get swept away by his project. Tansy has a follow up to her highly successful novella bubbling in the writing pot. Margo brought a new project along that was in a raw state deliberately to sound us out. This was really interesting and we had a terrific time brain storming.  The guys were great with my book. They helped me realise the difference between book one of a new trilogy and book four of a series. Obvious once you say it, but really hard to see when you are neck deep in manuscript.

That's me enjoying the brilliant banter of the RORees

On the Thursday evening we drove into Hobart for the launch of Tansy’s Reign of Beasts and Margo’s Sea Hearts. (More on the launch). This was held at the Hobart Bookshop in Salamanca Square. Waves to Chris and Janet!  (Here’s Margo being interviewed about Sea Hearts. The original novella won a World Best Fantasy Award). Book one of Tansy’s Creature Court trilogy won the Aurealis Award for fantasy.

There was a terrific turn out for the launch. I want to thank some of the ROR blog followers and the Twitter Team for turning up to wave the flag.

This is me kissing my DH at the launch

And while all this was going on I spent every spare moment chained to my lap top madly working on the rewrites for Solaris. Serious Brain Overload!!!

So, to help me and everyone else calm down, here are some photos from Steeles Island.

The steps down to the beach in the early morning light

Tansy's partner and their youngest on the tidal sands

Sunshine on sea a Wild Tassie Beach

8 Comments

Filed under Australian Writers, creativity, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Fun Stuff, Nourish the Writer, Specialist Bookshops, The Writing Fraternity, Writing Groups