Category Archives: Covers

The Eagle Has Landed!

My copies of Beseiged have arrived!

Why is it that books only seem real when you hold them in your hand? Besieged is bigger than I expected. The cover looks lovely. Solaris have done something with the figure on the front so that it is shiny on a matt background.

Here are the books on the kitchen bench, leaning up against the retro toaster and kettle, the kids bought me for my birthday.  The ‘ghost who walks’ is Monie. He’s part Russian blue and and likes to inspect things. Just as I took the picture he heard a noise by the door.

And here are the books on my office shelf with King Rolen’s Kin. But I think I’ll move them down a row,when I get the other two Outcast Chronicle books, so I can put all three books in a line.

That’s my news for today. Now I have to package up the books to send off to reviewers and people who have won give-away competitions. In no time at all they’ll be gone – hopefully to people who will enjoy them!

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Filed under Australian Writers, Covers, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Nourish the Writer, Promoting your Book

Besieged has been released into the wild…

Solaris sent me my author copies weeks ago, but I think the books must have been left on the docks in London, or maybe they’re taking the scenic route to Australia. Everyone but me seems to have copies.

First Pulp Fiction the Brisbane specialist bookstore sent me this photo to prove they had my book in stock.

Then Tehani Wesley sent me this photo to prove she had a copy and she’s in Western Australia!

Still waiting for my copies…

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Filed under Covers, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Nourish the Writer, Promoting your Book, The World in all its Absurdity

Meet Simon Haynes, Hal Spacejock’s alter ego…

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 Simon Haynes to drop by.

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

Q: I discovered the first of your Hal Spacejock series  years ago and bought the whole set.  On your web page you have a list of humour SF series, Bill the Galactic Hero, Red Dwarf, Hal Spacejock, Stainless Steel Rat and Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. It’s a very small pool of really brilliant books. It is incredibly hard to write humour and then to write humorous SF makes it even harder. What’s your philosophy about humour?

First off, thanks for buying the books. If everyone did that SF Comedy wouldn’t be such a niche genre. Then again, publishers would leap on the unexpected craze and the market would be swamped. So, whatever you do, don’t buy SF Comedy!

The problem with adding humour to any novel is that the gatekeepers (editors, publishers, bean counters) have to GET it. If the style of humour doesn’t appeal to them, they can extrapolate from that and decide nobody else will enjoy it, either. There’s also that whole ‘am I the only one laughing?’ thing with humour. If you’re the only one smiling, does that mean you have a keen sense of humour, or does everyone else just have better taste for fine comedy? (It’s like sipping wine and making appreciative noises while everyone else is pulling faces and emptying their glasses into pot plants.)

Hal Spacejock contains a fair bit of geek humour, with in-jokes about operating systems and computers, and pokes at genre classics such as Star Wars and Star Trek. If that whistles past the reader, they’re left with the next layer of humour, and they might think that’s all there is.

I guess this is why humorous novels polarise reviewers and readers, although it’s all too easy for authors to throw their hands up and exclaim that nobody ‘gets it’. You have to work hard to make sure as many people as possible get it, without dumbing things down.

Q: Your BIO says you… ‘returned to Curtin (University) in 1997, graduating with a degree in Computer Science two years later. An early version of Hal Spacejock was written during the lectures.’  Seriously, did you write your book during lectures? I lecture first year UNI students. I don’t think many of them are sitting up the back writing books. I think they’re texting or on Facebook.

By the time I signed up for my computing degree I’d been programming for over 15 years. The only reason I applied for the degree was because I was self-taught, and I figured the qualification wouldn’t do any harm.

A lot of the early lectures covered really basic stuff – peripherals, really trivial programming, etc – and so I sat up the back with my trusty old laptop, plotting and typing away.

Once the material moved ahead of me I put the laptop away and paid proper attention. I still managed to write most of the novel at uni though –  I used to finish work at 4-ish, go straight to Curtin and type in the library until the lectures or tutes started.

Q: I can see how Hal Junior would be heaps of fun to write. You say, ‘I drew on my childhood for inspiration. My younger brother and I grew up in a small village in rural Spain, and ‘untamed’ doesn’t cover the daily scenes of chaos and destruction.’  Do you have sons? Are they giving you grey hairs?

Two daughters, and yes 😉  They’ve had access to a wide range of hobbies and physical activities, from archery to bike riding, martial arts to soccer, digital art to oil painting. There weren’t any frilly dresses or dollies, that’s for sure. They’re mad keen computer games, the pair of them. One’s running her own minecraft server, and the other is working on a graphic novel based on her favourite computer game.

Q: You decided to self publish your Hal Junior books. I’ve met a lot of authors who have been down the traditional publishing route and have opted for self publishing. What was your reasoning behind your decision?

There were several, and they all came to a head at once:

Fremantle Press have treated me well, so it was natural to offer them the new series first. After a couple of months they let me know they were going to pass on Hal Junior – not because it was a pile of crap, but because they felt I should take it to a bigger publisher who would be able to do it justice. This was just after several bookselling chains had folded, and Fremantle Press doesn’t have distribution into the big department stores.

So, I changed the title from ‘Hal Spacejock Junior’ to ‘Hal Junior’, and rejigged the book. I decided to change it so that it featured Hal Spacejock’s son (not Hal as a child). In June last year I sent queries off to three Aussie publishers. Honestly, it was a token effort: I would send out three queries, probably get rejected within a week, move on.

So, I started making plans to self-publish the book. I had a meeting with Fremantle Press because I wanted to discuss the Hal Spacejock ebook rights. None of the books were on Kindle, and I wanted to take them back and issue them myself. At the same meeting I confessed that all my time was going into Hal Jnr, and I didn’t feel Hal Spacejock 5 was anywhere near completion. We agreed to terminate Hal Spacjeock, and I got my Hal Spacejock e-rights back.

At this point (July), I suddenly had four new titles to self-publish, and it seemed crazy to give the Hal Junior series to another publisher instead of releasing it through my own imprint.

Then the kicker … Tehani told me Lightning Source had just set up in Australia. I checked their print prices and was instantly converted. I wrote to the Aussie publishers, who’d already had the queries for three months, and withdrew my submissions. Then I started tidying up Hal Junior for an indie release, including commissioning a cover artist and hiring an editor.

About two months after Hal Junior came out I got an email from one of the Aussie publishers expressing interest in the series and requesting a full manuscript. Oops, missed the boat, should have been quicker off the mark. (I honestly thought publishers would treat an enquiry from an established author a little quicker, but hey, it’s not my problem any more. And I’ve never really considered myself established, just perched precariously on the second rung.)

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?

The finished version of any novel depends on the writer’s skill, influences, tastes and the environment they grew up, not their sex. Take one aspect: sword fighting. Imagine a male writer who has never swung a sword in anger, sitting down to write a sword fighting scene. Now imagine a female writer who is a member of SCA, or a keen fencer, sitting down to write a combat scene. I’m betting the latter will be far more authentic, and the writer’s gender has nothing to do with it.

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

Nope. I pick books based on recommendations, buzz, and my own taste. Most years my new book purchases are at cons, which means GOH books and those by fellow writers. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of junior (middle grade) fiction to see what I’m doing right (or wrong) in terms of tone, language, content and so on. I couldn’t tell you the gender of the authors, because I’ve been reading whatever I can lay my hands on.

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?

It would be good to go back to certain moments in my childhood so I could correct a few wrongs. I’m saying no more.

 

Giveaway Question:  If you were ten years old and you lived aboard a futuristic space station, what’s the first thing you’d do?

The winner will receive an autographed copy of Hal Junior: The Secret Signal OR Hal Junior: The Missing Case. If your idea is better than mine I’ll probably steal it for Hal Junior 27: The Stolen Idea.

 

Catch up with Hal Junior on Facebook

Catch up with Simon on Goodreads

Catch up with Simon’s blog on writing and publishing

Follow Simon on Twitter @spacejock

Check out Simon’s free writing and reading software

And finally, the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior website

 

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Filed under Australian Artists, Australian Writers, Characterisation, Children's Books, Covers, creativity, Fun Stuff, Gender Issues, Nourish the Writer, Promoting your Book, Publishing Industry, Readers, Story Arc, Tips for Developing Writers, Young Adult Books

How cool is this?

My Dh had finished the trailer for The Outcast Chronicles. Ta Da!

I’m going to interview him in a couple of weeks about putting the trailer together, so if you have any questions, drop them in the comments.

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Filed under Book trailers, Covers, creativity, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Fun Stuff, Promoting your Book

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

Follow James on GoodReads

Catch up with James on Facebook

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Characterisation, Comics/Graphic Novels, Covers, creativity, E-books, Fantasy books, Gender Issues, Genre, Indy Press, Music and Writers

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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Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Covers, creativity, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Gender Issues, Movies & TV Shows, Music and Writers, Paranormal_Crime, Story Arc

Meet Isobelle Carmody…

As the next of my series featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) I’ve invited the talented and incredibly popular (non-stop queues at Supanova)  Isobelle Carmody to drop by.

Q: Where to begin, Isobelle? You have four fantasy series, numerous stand alone novels, collections, short stories and picture books. You’ve been writing since you were fourteen, published since you were (19?). Your whole life seems to have revolved around writing. Not to disparage your writing achievements, but do you ever look back and think I wish I’d done veterinary science, or become an archaeologist?

No, but I wish I had worked harder at school and learned to be something else as well. A doctor or something really practical so I could sometimes do something decisively about the things that trouble me in the world. I envy Ian Irvine his marine science back and Nick Earls his ability to heal. But in truth, I am pretty happy with what I have done with my life, because I do think writing matters. It certainly mattered to me – It built me – my mind and my imagination.  It saved me…

Q: You live part of your time in Prague and part in a small township near Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road. I’ve never been to Prague, but I do know the Great Ocean Road. My husband’s family come from Warrnambool. This stretch of coast, known as the shipwreck coast, is stark and beautiful. Do you find the isolation and beauty help you to focus and write?

Absolutely. Both are essential, and for me beauty is often found in starkness. I have always found really desolate places visually appealing – sandy deserts, arctic , industrial wastelands. I suspect I am attracted them because there is less or no sign of humanity- no people or shops or signs. I remember looking at a film if  beautiful. Somehow I am very attracted to wastelands- dumpsites, nuclear drop zones like Chernobyl, end of the world scenarios with a touch of dystopia. The coast along the Great Ocean Road is beauty in its wild and savage and dangerous mode. And Prague is like a fairy tale with its cobbled twisty streets and buildings.

Q: You are married to a Jazz musician from Czechoslovakia and spend half the year in Prague. (I really enjoyed the photos you posted on twitter of the snow and ice at Christmas time. We were enduring humidity and floods in Brisbane and those pictures helped me get through summer). I guess your daughter is bi-lingual. Do you find that the insight gained from living in Europe, in a society very different from Australia, has helped you create different worlds?

It is lovely here in Winter. There is a very black and white and grey poetry about the city, cloaked in snow. Not that we are having much snow this year- it is very, very mild so far. I prove what an Australian I am by wishing for it to snow when every local hopes it won’t! In some ways I think I have always felt myself to be a stranger in a strange land. I was one of those kids who was a total outsider. At least, I thought myself so, but the reality was more that I felt so out of place that I probably ensured it. I mean, to some extent we are how we see ourselves. So I felt I did not fit in and I guess a lot of my writing comes from that feeling of not fitting in. Because when you don’t fit in, the world feels alien and so it is not such a big step to create another world for characters, who, like me, often feel they don’t fit in. But they are searching pretty much always for a place they can feel ok. For me, Prague is one of those places. Because here I am truly an alien, a stranger and after all these years, I guess in a weird way THAT is what feels comfortable to me. I think it is always good for writers not to be totally comfortable with their surroundings- at least some of the time.

Q: I wasn’t aware that you were also an artist. Does this mean that you are a visual person? I’ve interviewed a lot of writers and most seem to be aural. They will make up ‘play lists’ of music for certain books to help them get in the mood. I have a background as an illustrator, so I tend to collect images to create a resonance file. Do you collect music or images when you write?

I don’t collect music but I collect images. I always have in mind the next illustrated thing I am going to do- right now it is The Cloud Road and I know there will be clouds and mountains and maybe some kind of monkey or monkey-ish thing and cats and desert so those are the images that I am collecting. I cut pictures out of National Geographics and I take photos of things that would fit- I am also always looking for new patterns or techniques of drawing- I don’t use colour except for the front cover- I really love black and white pen and ink drawings so that is what I collect as a form, too. I listen to book tapes as much as to music when I draw, and sometimes to nothing when I am so absorbed that I just don’t notice the music stops. But it can’t be something I adore, like Nina Simone. It is too intense for me to be able to draw. It has to be something I like a lot but maybe have listened to a lot as well so it does not demand too much attention…

Q: In an interview on TLC Books you talked about fantasy as a genre. You describe fantasy as ‘conscious dreaming’. You say write fantasy:

‘…not  in order to escape vacuously, as is often the perception, but in order to think about things that matter to me. Like what it means to have free will and yet to co exist with others who also have free will that might infringe upon mine; about why some people are cruel and why some are courageous; about how it is that someone grows up to be Mother Teresa while someone else become Hitler; it is about what makes a person able to sacrifice themselves for others; about what is required of me if I want to be a friend to someone; about what the difference is between a human who is cruel and the cruelty of a cat to a mouse it has caught; about how important powerful people can make decision that a child can see will cause great harm, as if they and their children were going to be exempt from the consequences.’

To me the fantasy genre, like the science fiction genre, gives authors a chance to hold a distorted mirror up to society (sometimes distortion can help us see things more clearly).  The writer can use these genres prompt the reader to think about things that seem normal in everyday life. Terry Pratchett does this with his books by pointing out how ridiculous certain things are. From the sounds of your comment you are interested in ‘good and evil’ and the choices that we make as human beings. Is this a recurring theme in your books?

I want to say yes, but somehow talking about themes always feels as if I am planning them, like using them as the bones on which to hang my story. For me the themes usually rise out of a question I am wanting to think about- something that bothers me or has come to my attention and stuck like a burr, and finally I take it into the arena of writing, to see what I can work out. It is absolutely not ever for me, about wanting readers to think or think about anything. It is always an inward journey for me. I am not criticizing writers who set out to say something to their audience. I think a lot of good and great literature comes about by people wanting to flesh out a theme, wanting to make a point, wanting to make a statement to the world. But that is just not how it is for me. I am more self-centred as a writer. It is all about what I am thinking about and trying to figure it out. I dislike unfairness and injustice, but all too often, when I start looking into an issue, I can see mostly, how the person in the wrong has got into that position. I guess it is trying to navigate the greys.  And the reason I write fantasy is because the tools that work best for me, produce work that fits into that category.  Externally, I can see how what I write can be seen as making a statement, but the reality is that I am only trying to figure things out for myself. Then it gets published and it has this whole other life as whatever it becomes when people take it into their minds and imaginations.

Q: In the same interview you were asked ‘what is the most difficult thing about being a writer?’ and I had to smile because it is the same thing that gives me trouble. You said:

Odd as it sounds, sometimes the sitting and typing for hours. I get really sore elbows and back. I get physically bored. You are supposed to get up and move around every twenty minutes or something but I am so engrossed that I never do. Then I pay for it.’

Sometimes I wish I could do my ‘conscious dreaming’ straight into the computer. Do you do yoga or something to counteract the problems caused by spending so long at the computer?

Yeah my back and neck are killing me right now and my editor just emailed me this exercise to ease a back problem she said is so common to editors it is actually called editor’s back!

Q: In an interview on Kids Book Review you say you were ‘a bossy older sister’. This made me laugh as I was an older sister, who bossed all the local children organising concerts and long involved games. We’re the same age, when we grew up kids roamed the neighbourhood and were a lot more independent. My children have had a very different childhood and I’m guessing your daughter is in the same position. Do you think being the eldest of your family shaped the person you are today? And do you think growing up in the 60s and 70s, when children were more autonomous, gives you an advantage?

Well we, my brothers and sisters and I, were anything but autonomous. We lived this hermetically sealed life inside our house. We didn’t go to neighbors houses or mess in the street. The people I bossed were exclusively my own brothers and sisters. My daughter, on the other hand, has been catching trams, crossing busy city streets and heading off to the city with her friends since she was 11. So in a funny way she is freer than I was. She actually dreads coming back there to the ‘car culture’ where she will be forced by distances to rely on us driving her places. She hates when we visit that she is not able to be independent.

Q: You write for children, young adults and adults. In the same interview you talk about child characters in books and how a book may contain a child character but not necessarily be a children’s book.

One rule of thumb I once heard which seemed true to me was that children’s books have children in them who grow, but they do not grow up. If a child grows up that is an adult book.’

You mention To Kill a Mockingbird as an example. Another book I read which explored adult concepts through a child’s viewpoint was A High Wind in Jamaica, (book and movie). I found this book excellent for re-creating the world-view of a child and the same for the movie. Why do you think it is that child point of view characters in adult books can be so powerful?

I think we all tend to have vivid memories of childhood and adolescence when we forget what we did in all of last year. I think child characters that are well written waking that slumbering child that once was, and allows the reader to become that vulnerable, open, thin-skinned person again for a little, and it is a very strange and wonderful business to be taken back to that younger more pristine self.

Q: When we were at Supanova recently  you launched the last book in the Obernewtyn series, The Sending. Coming back to this world and these characters must be like visiting old friends. At the same time you have matured as a person and a writer. George Lucas is notorious for going back and tweaking his Star Wars movies. With the movie, Blade Runner, Ridley Scott has said Deckard isn’t a replicant, then that he is – which completely changes the dynamic between him and Rachel (a replicant). Are you ever tempted to revisit the original books of the Obernewtyn series and tweak them?

I did reedit them with the American publisher Random House. In a way it is a nightmarish thing to contemplate, but in the case of the first book, I was quite happy to be able to tidy a couple of the mistakes made by my younger self. But as a rule, I am not in favor of it. I think it takes a saint to do it well- Nadia Wheatley went back and rewrote The House that as Eureka because some new information had come to light, historically speaking, and she wanted to correct her work. But of course she is an historian as well as a writer and a real perfectionist as well as a true idealist. But my stories are all about internal worlds, really. The inside turned so that it is outside. The invisible made visible. The intangible made tangible.

Q: I notice in the Penguin Presents interview (see below) there are original artworks on the walls of your home on the Great Ocean Road. They look like you commissioned them. Who painted them? Is one of your brothers or sisters an artist? Did you paint them? They are really lovely!

The paintings are mostly by Anne Spudvilas, who is a fine artist as well as a children’s book Illustrator. In fact I knew her as a fine artist first and brought work from her in that incarnation. She did her first ever work as an illustrator for Penguin for the cover of The Gathering. She also did the wonderful picture of my daughter and I. I love her work. I love how she uses green in flesh. I also have some wonderful aquatints by Rachel Litherland who is the daughter of the British poet Jacquie Litherland – in fact I first saw her work in one of her mothers’ poetry collections. I also have a few by Jiri Novak, who is also a fine artist as well as an illustrator.

Q: You mention that your husband is a jazz saxophonist. My daughter is a jazz vocalist and has studied at the QLD conservatorium. I’ve heard that jazz musicians require a different type of mind from classical musicians because jazz is more free form. It’s a bit like writing a book, you have to trust your instincts. Do you find even though your husband is a musician and you are a writer, that the creative source in both of you is similar?

He is a writer, too. By that I mean he writes poetry – he is known as a cubist poet – and he is a very well known poetry critic here. He actually won the FX Chalda prize for criticism last year. His medal looks a lot like my Book of the year Medal. But he makes a living as a Jazz pianist. He loves modern jazz but spent a lot of years doing traditional jazz as well. I always think of his as a musician with the mind of a writer, if that makes any sense. His writing is High Art and mine is story telling. But it is lovely to have someone enjoy words as much as I do.

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?

Hmm I am not sure. I was tempted to say yes but I don’t really know. I like Charles de Lint and Guy Gavriel Kay and I love the late David Gemmell’s writing- they are all very different, and I love Sheri Tepper and Robin Hobb … and they are different too. No. Maybe what I think is that there is a difference between male and female writers of bad fantasy which tends to rely too heavily on stereotypes, and therefore is itself more likely to fall into being stereotypical.

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

No. Either I like the character and get into the book, or I don’t. A great writer can make even the most peculiar character a door you want to enter- look at China Mieville in Perdido St station! A female character with a female bottom half and the head of an ant, who makes art with spit, and you really like her.

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

I’d go back and talk to my dad and my brother, who died ten years apart on the same road in car accidents. I’d like to tell them what happened to us all, and talk over things. I’d like to say sorry to my brother, whom I was quarrelling with when he died… I’d also like to talk to Martin Luthor King and Sapho.

 

Follow Isobelle on Twitter ISOBELLE CARMODY @FIRECATz

Listen to Isobelle talk about her love of writing and what it’s like to live between Australia and Prague.

Listen to an interview with Isobelle by Louise Maher.

Catch up with Isobelle on GoodReads

Catch up with Isobelle on Facebook

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