2014 Snapshot – Glenda Larke

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GLENDA Larke spent most of her adult life abroad, living in Malaysia (including Borneo), Austria and Tunisia, but has recently returned to live in W.A. She has worked as an English teacher and as a conservationist, specifically tropical bird conservation, on jobs that have taken her from peat swamps and tropical islands to logging camps and fishing villages. Her 11 published novels include three trilogies (Isles of Glory, Mirage Makers and the Watergivers) and she has had books short-listed seven times for the Aurealis Best Fantasy of the Year. Her latest trilogy, The Forsaken Lands, is a fantasy version of the 18th century European spice trade, involving buccaneers, birds of paradise, witchery and magical daggers. Book one, The Lascar’s Dagger, is now available; the second, The Dagger’s Path, comes out worldwide in January 2015.

Find Glenda online at www.glendalarke.com and on her blog,www.glendalarke.blogspot.com.

1. The Lascar’s Dagger is the first book in The Forsaken Lands series (published March 2014), which has a strong sense of setting and culture throughout the book. What inspires you especially down this path, and how important do you think cultures are to the speculative fiction scene?

TheLascarsDaggerWhen I was 25, I went to live in my husband’s country. Very little about it was familiar — language, climate, customs, family structure, law, religion, food, festivals: those things were all fundamentally different for someone brought up in Australia, especially in that era. We weren’t privileged expatriates; we were locals, paid a local salary; I became part of my husband’s family. For me, it was an exciting adventure, but also a traumatic adjustment; it was a wonderful, broadening experience, yet also a destabilising upheaval. In fact, all those things at one and the same time. I was mostly accepted and welcomed — but not always.

As if that experience was not enough, we later moved to Austria and then Tunisia. Believe me, if there is one thing living on four different continents taught me, it is how fundamental setting and culture are to our lives, to our sense of security, to our personal happiness.

I write stories that I hope are entertaining, but at the same time I like to think that speculative fiction can also encourage readers to think about issues that are important to us as individuals and as a society — without the confrontational aspects of: “Hey, that’s MY culture/race/beliefs you’re talking about there!” We pride ourselves in Australia for being multicultural and tolerant. That’s the theory. We sometimes don’t succeed at being either, and I think we should be aware of why not. Looking at an artificially constructed fictional culture might help, even as the story entertains.

2. Your Isles of Glory series has been re-released with FableCroft Publishing in ebook form, would you be able to tell us a little about this series, and what it’s been like to have it re-released?

It’s given the story a new lease of life — and I’ve found new readers because of it. It never was published as a paperback in the UK, so for readers there the eBooks have given them a chance to get to know Blaze Halfbreed. Happily, the tale seems to have aged well, and the end of Gilfeather (book two) still blows readers away…

3. What lies in store for us with the next two books in The Forsaken Lands series? The Dagger’s Path (book two) is currently due out in January 2015; what has been decided for the third book?

Neither a title nor a publication date has yet been confirmed for Book 3. It is already underway though, and I’m not a writer who believes in keeping my readers waiting for years! I’m hoping it will be in print within a year of Dagger’s Path, which is already in the final stages of publication.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

At the moment I’m reading Bruce McCabe’s Skinjob — so far, a fabulous SF thriller-mystery. In fact, I’ve enjoyed enormously some of the latest Australian SF — The Rook (Daniel O’Malley) and Lexicon (Max Barry), for example. In horror, I thought Lee Battersby’s The Corpse-Rat King was excellent and I must get the sequel.

As for fantasy, the best Australian novel I’ve read this year is Karen Miller’s The Falcon Throne, bar none. This is book 1 of The Tarnished Crown, which promises to be a remarkable 5 part epic. I think it will prove to be on a par with the work of some of the greats of fantasy, such as Robin Hobb and G.R.R. Martin. It comes out in September. Not to be missed. For classic-fantasy readers, there’s Satima Flavell’s The Dagger of Dresnia… Young adult? Dave Freer’s Cuttlefish and The Steam Mole.

TheLastStormlord5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

There aren’t too many writers unaffected by what has been happening. Present advances are not what writers were getting fifteen years ago! I was just getting to the stage where I had enough books published to actually earn a decent living — when bookshops began to disappear… I haven’t the faintest idea what will happen next.

My first reaction was to self-publish/go to small presses to publish my backlist, and I’m happy to say having all my early books available again in one form or another, is finding me new readers. For my new work, I will continue with traditional publishing if possible. If not, I will probably go to a small press. (Luckily, Australia has some very fine and dedicated small press editors!) Failing that, I’ll self-publish. I have to write, so I may as well aim to have readers too!

~

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at: 

2014 Snapshot – Barry Jonsberg

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Barry Jonsberg is a writer and teacher living in Darwin in the Top End. His first book, The Whole Business with Kiffo and the Pitbull was published in 2004 and since then he has written a further sixteen novels and won six major literary awards. His books have been published in fourteen countries and translated into seven languages.
Writing and teaching are his consuming passions, but he still finds time to walk his dogs on the uncrowded beaches of Darwin and watches, whenever possible, his beloved Liverpool Football Club in the English Premier League.

1. In May this year Allen & Unwin released the first book in your new Pandora Jones series, Admission, and in October the second book, Deception is due out. These are in the dystopian thriller genre which is a bit different from your other books – what inspired this series, and what can you tell us about it?

PJAdmissionYes, I suppose Pandora Jones is something of a departure for me. I generally write realistic fiction but, to be honest. I tend not to think too much about genres when writing a book. All of my stories come from small ideas or images and I write to find out where those ideas might take me. Sometimes this results in “straight” realism and at other times I find myself in different territories. Being Here, for example [which won the Queensland Premier’s Award], started as realistic but developed a strand of magic realism. I wasn’t expecting this and certainly hadn’t planned it. It’s just where the story took me. So, too, with the Pandora trilogy.
Pandora Jones was, in part, inspired by a television series called The Prisoner back in the 1960s. The main character found himself trapped in a strange village where personal identity was subsumed beneath a system of rigid conformity. Everyone was given a number and no escape [or even questioning of the system] was permitted. I have always been fascinated by the program and I wondered what would happen if a young Australian PJDeceptiongirl found herself removed from society and placed in a closed system, a kind of school, where answers to important questions were positively discouraged. What secrets would The School be hiding and how could she discover answers? As always, I had no idea where the story would take me. I wrote it to find out and in so doing surprised myself. For a start, what was going to be a standalone book became a trilogy. It was only when I finished the third book that I realised I had written speculative fiction.

That’s fine. It wasn’t a choice. It’s just the way it turned out. And I quite like the idea that the book determines the genre rather than the author. I have a sneaking suspicion that writers tend to channel stories rather than create them…

2. My Life As An Alphabet has been shortlisted for The Adelaide Festival Award 2013; The CBCA Book of the Year 2014; the NSW Premier’s Award [Ethel Turner, YA], 2014, and has so far won The Gold Inky 2013; The Children’s Peace Prize 2013; The Victorian Premier’s Award for YA fiction, 2013, The Territory Read Award 2014. The book was inspired when you set the same writing assignment we see in the book to your own students, where you received three thousand word assignments from kids who previously struggled to get a few sentences down. What do you think worked so well about the assignment itself, and what about it made the novel so brilliant?

How kind of you to call the book “brilliant”! Alphabet has achieved amazing success so far [it’s due out in Germany, France and The U.S. within a couple of months] and this was not something I anticipated. It’s a very simple tale after all but it appears to have captured the imaginations of many readers. Why is that so? I don’t really know, but I suppose I could make an educated guess.

MyLifeAsThe original assignment worked because it subverted the normal “rules” of written English assignments which tend to be dominated by learning outcomes that are the preserve of the teacher [or the examining body that instructs the teacher]. The alphabet autobiography gives writing back to the students. It isn’t an artificial exercise but is about the students’ own experiences and they have control over the content. “Write about what you know” is a rather simplistic piece of advice given to new writers of fiction but this is exactly what the assignment gave to the students. And they embraced the chance. I learned so much from the assignments submitted and that was incredibly refreshing. Most times, students give back to me what I’ve given them [often mangled in the process]. This time they were in control and it proved liberating.

As far as My Life As An Alphabet is concerned, I think the success of this book, perhaps more than most, depends upon the main character. Candice writes a chapter for each letter of the alphabet, rather than a paragraph as the assignment suggests. What kind of kid would do that? It became clear early on in the writing that only a very strange kid would do that. Candice has her own ways of looking at the world and she is comfortable in her own skin. Maybe that’s the appeal. We admire others who live by their own standards and don’t care too much what other people think. And, in a sense, that’s what I felt when I wrote it. I was having so much fun and I didn’t stop to wonder whether others would have fun reading it. The essence of the book wasn’t filtered through my sense of what readers might find appealing. It seems like it worked.

3. You’ve written a book for adults now, titled ‘The City of the Second Chance’. Would you like to tell us a little about it, and do you think you may write speculative fiction for adults at some stage in the near future?

Yes, City is my first book for adults and I took the chance to self-publish [partly because I was curious about the process]. It’s a comedy thriller set in Darwin, involving an English teacher who decides to become a private investigator, a bogan harmonica-playing male hitchhiker called Carol King, a religious hitman and the embattled Prime Minister of Australia. So, pretty much standard characters, as you can tell. I really enjoyed writing it and, again, didn’t care really that it was crossing different genres. I laughed quite a bit writing it and hopefully others will find it funny too. You can download the Ebook here less than the price of a cup of coffee!

And maybe I’ll write speculative fiction for adults in the future. It all depends on the kernel of the idea and where that story takes me.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas. I was lucky enough to meet Christos at the recent Wordstorm festival here in Darwin. It’s a fantastic book – the kind that hits you in the gut.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

Obviously I’m aware of the changes in the publishing industry and it’s certainly a worrying, yet exciting time to be a writer. However, I don’t think it does to change the way one works in anticipation of what changes might mean for the future. It’s a little like deciding to write a certain type of book because of a current trend – Divergent has done well, so therefore I should write my own version. This never works for obvious reasons: the book has already been written. I have to write my own books and I believe if they’re good enough they’ll find an audience, whatever format the book comes out in. Maybe print is dead [though I don’t think so]. Maybe electronic books are declining [there’s some evidence to suggest so]. What I am confident about is that there will always be demand for stories and therefore story tellers. I believe story is a fundamental human need, like food or breathing. The manner by which we consume stories may change but story and the demand for stories will always be here.

So I’ll keep on writing them.

~

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at: 

Haul & News – 2 August 2014

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I’ve decided that each weekend shall be the time I take to discuss books I’ve received to review and/or books I’ve bought the week before, and any news that particular caught my interest.

Books Received:

  • H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (bought)

So I may have gone a little crazy – I pre-ordered Helen’s book on my kindle, on my iPad, and ordered a hardcover copy also :D I first got to see snatches of it at the end of 2011 (and H would have been writing so much earlier than that, of course, if that’s just when she sent me the word doc!), and now in mid 2014, the book is actually here. No matter how much I see of the publishing process it always astounds me how long it all takes.

You can read an excellent interview with Helen, here. 

No other review books for now – I’ve requested a few on NetGalley but haven’t been approved/denied on titles even going back until July 7th – bit odd. Still, I currently have five ARCs awaiting reading/reviewing, so I’m glad for the chance to catch up!

News:

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You may have noticed dozens of interviews going up around the place! This best-kind-of-spam happens every two years as a group of bloggers takes a ‘snapshot’ of what Spec Fic is currently like in Australia. We ask five questions of the subject, vaguely in the same direction (past, present, future work, etc). Information can be found here, and a large index post once we’re done shall be posted at SF Signal once we’re done!

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Tansy Rayner Roberts is one of my favourite authors. She is currently releasing a weekly web-serial that shall run for the next year and a half, called Musketeer Space – a gender-swapped retelling of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, set in space.

To find out more about this, please click here to see Tansy’s blog entry.

Though this project shall be available for free, there’s also the option to become a patreon for as little as $1 a month. To see more about supporting the project, please click here.

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For listeners of the podcast Galactic Suburbia, you can now patreon them per episode, and get a bunch of cool incentives along the way! Recently having hit 100 episodes and proud winners and nominees of multiple awards, they’re easily my favourite podcast.

Haven’t listened to the podcast yet? You can do so here, as well as in iTunes.

To see more information about becoming a patreon, please click here.

 Links: 

  • Tor.com have announced the fantastic news that Holly Black will be writing a Doctor Who short for the 12/12 anthology!
  • themarysue have what we hope is leaked footage from what could become an actually excellent Deadpool movie
  • Did you guys hear how the very lovely Laura Lam has found a new publishing home? The first is called False Hearts and is a near-future thriller set in San Francisco!
  • Laura Lam has also posted a very interesting breakdown for how her self-publishing of short stories has been going

2014 Snapshot – George Ivanoff

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George Ivanoff is an author and stay-at-home dad residing in Melbourne, Australia.

He has written over 80 books for children and teenagers, including fiction and non-fiction. He has written school readers, library reference books, chapter books, novelettes, novels and even a short story collection. He has books on both the Victorian Premier’s and the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge booklists.

He has won two Chronos Awards for his Gamers trilogy (Ford Street Publishing) and been shortlisted for a few other awards he didn’t win. His current series, You Choose, is published by Random House Australia.

George also writes short stories and articles for adults as well as kids. Of all these, he is most proud to have had the opportunity to write a Doctor Who story for the Short Trips: Defining Patterns anthology (Big Finish, UK, 2008).

Occasionally, George has been known to moonlight as an actor. He has had small roles in numerous productions including the television series Neighbours and the feature film Frozen Butterflies.

George eats too much chocolate and drinks too much coffee. He will sometime indulge in a nice bottle of wine or a single malt Scotch.

He has one wife, two children, two cats and five chickens. And he is very content!

georgeivanoff.com.au

1. You seem to have four books (in the You Choose series) coming out this year alone, wow! Would you like to tell us a bit about them?

The You Choose books are a series of multiple-path, interactive books. Readers get to make choices that influence the direction of the stories. They are a result of my teenage obsession with the old Choose Your Own Adventure books. I loved reading those books! The ability to influence the stories blew my mind. And the ability to re-read the stories with different outcomes was so much FUN! I figured it would be just as much fun writing them. And it has been.

There were four books released this year. I’m now working on another two, which will be published next year.

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2. Your talent seems to stretch in all directions – writing short stories and children’s books, non fiction and scripts, and you’ve also stepped into acting, and are well known in the Australian convention scene for being a pretty excellent host! What’s something you’ve most enjoyed?

Gosh! I’m not sure that all those directions involve talent. Enthusiasm, certainly. But talent? Well, there’s a reason I haven’t made a career out of acting. ;-)

But I have enjoyed doing all those things. I consider myself extremely fortunate for the opportunities that I have been given over the years. A lot of those opportunities have come about through fandom.

I’ve been in fandom since I was 12 and Aussiecon 2 was my first convention. I’ve been going to cons ever since. They are heaps of fun to attend — and even more fun if you get involved. In terms of hosting, getting to co-host the awards night at Continuum X with Narrelle M Harris was a definite highlight.

3. What can we expect from you in the future? Perhaps another foray into writing for Doctor Who?

GeorgeWithDrWhoBook_webDoctor Who! Oh how I would love to write another Doctor Who story. Sadly, I’ve not had the opportunity since my one story in a Short Trips anthology back in 2008. But I live in hope (or is that delusion?) that an opportunity may one day again present itself. [If a Doctor Who editor happens to be reading this… please note: I AM AVAILABLE!]

I do console myself by writing about Doctor Who, most recently for an eBook of Aussie essays about the series — Whose Doctor? Reflections on a Time Lord. (You can buy a copy here, or here at Smashwords.)

As for the definite future… I’ve got stories coming up in three kids anthologies due for publication in December from Random House Australia. And, of course, I’m working on some more You Choose books.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

I adored LynC’s Nil By Mouth. It’s a good old-fashion science fiction novel — full of adventure, great characters and fascinating situations. I had the great pleasure of launching this book at Continuum X earlier this year. At CX, I also had the chance to hear several authors read some of their work. Janeen Webb read a story from her collection Death at the Blue Elephant. I was so impressed, I went straight to the dealer’s room and bought a copy. It’s currently sitting at the top of my to-be-read stack.

I also launched Michael’s Pryor’s middle grade novel Machine Time a few months ago. Each time I read Michael’s writing I am impressed anew. His Laws of Magic series is a highlight of Aussie YA fiction.

Then there’s Trudi Canavan’s Doctor Who eBook novella, Salt of the Earth. It’s a third Doctor tale and it is spot on for characterisation and atmosphere. Loved it!

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

For someone who writes spec fic, I’m CRAP at trying to predict the future. I don’t know what things will be like in five years. But what I can tell you is that I hope to still be writing books; I hope that publishers will still be interested in publishing them; and I hope to still be buying/reading print books as well as eBooks.

~

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at: 

2014 Snapshot – Mitchell Hogan

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When Mitchell was eleven he was given the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy to read and a love of fantasy novels was born. He has since accumulated numerous bookcases full of fantasy and sci-fi novels and doesn’t look to stop anytime soon.
He lives in Sydney, Australia, with his wife, Angela, and daughter, Isabelle. Mitchell has a degree in Chemical Engineering and worked for a pharmaceutical company and a bank, before following his dream of writing fantasy novels (making stuff up) and home brewing.
His novels (A Crucible of Souls and Blood of Innocents) are available at ebook retailers such as Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBookstore and Scribd, and in print through indie supportive bookstores. Mitchell has also signed with Audible to produce audiobooks of his current series.
A Crucible of Souls won the 2013 Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel.

1. You self published your current series and have seen quite a bit of success in doing so! What was that experience like, and what challenges did you find along the way?

CrucibleofSoulsThe first challenge was whether to self publish or not! There’s a lot of conflicting information out there but after spending a lot of time researching I realised the choice wasn’t to self publish or go with a traditional publisher, because you can’t choose to traditionally publish. I could either self publish or submit to the publishing industry (i.e. agents) and in the end I chose not to submit.Having decided to go down the self publishing path it was then up to me to decide what to do next. You have all the control but that means making all the decisions and taking all the costs on yourself. You can spend as much or as little as you want but finding talented freelancers to help isn’t cheap. The actual process is almost the same as publishing any book, except you are the one deciding which editors to work with, which cover designer to go with, who will format your book etc. Very early on I learned there’s writing and the business of writing, and you need to be good at both. My goal was to produce a book indistinguishable from a traditionally published book and I think I struck not far off the mark. I’d say the biggest challenge was learning how self publishing works, and what the steps were to produce a quality book that was available at multiple retailers in multiple formats. It was initially a tough task but very rewarding. The second book was much easier to produce.

2. You have two books out so far, but what have you written before this? Anything you hope to publish in the future, or pieces that won’t ever see the light of day?

I’d love to say I have 10 books stuffed in my bottom drawer! But unfortunately I hadn’t written anything before my first book. I read a lot of epic fantasy and that’s what I wanted to write. I definitely bit off more than I could chew though and my first draft (and fourth and fifth…) were terrible.

Actually I tell a lie… I wrote a page or two of fantasy when I was at university. It went straight into the bin as it was full of evil old wizards with grey beards, dressed in black, living in a tower… it was so bad!

3. You’re currently working on the third book in your Sorcery Ascendant Sequence trilogy, but do you have any other works currently in progress that you’d like to tell us about?

I love reading science fiction and there have been a few ideas percolating around inside my head for a while. Believe it or not I attended a speculative fiction festival, and at an interesting session on retelling fairy tales it made me reconsider my sci-fi story and character ideas in a different light. I won’t say much more except it was thinking about fairy tales which brought all my ideas together, except in a sci-fi way… it’s tentatively titled Emerald Eyes Rising and will be shorter than my fantasy novels, with plenty of action. A seat of your pants ride interlaced with themes of finding freedom, deepest desires, oppression and objectification. I would like to release it in 2014 but that’s looking less and less likely at the moment. With the success of my fantasy series those books have to take priority.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

I haven’t had a lot of time for reading in the last 6 months, and I’ve been disappointed with the books I started to read which is unusual. I tried a couple of bestselling and acclaimed books by non-Australian authors only to put them down early on as I lost interest. Then I was lucky enough to get my hands on The Other Tree by DK Mok, an Aurealis award nominated Australian author. It’s not my usual fare, but DK’s writing is quirky, intelligent, and sometimes snarky, and it’s a fantastic read so far! As an author it can be disheartening when you realise someone has far greater talent than you, but after having a little cry I pulled myself together and kept reading… DK is a pretty sharp writer, and one to watch.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

BloodOfinnocentI’ve only been published for about 12 months, and because I’m self published and relatively new on the scene any recent changes in the publishing industry have had no effect on me. Though you could say the self publishing shadow industry is a recent phenomenon, and as such has had a huge effect! A year ago my plan was to write, edit, publish, repeat, and that hasn’t changed.

In 5 years I think the face of publishing will be quite different. Currently indie published ebooks make up 27% of ebooks sold on Amazon (though only 15% of gross $ sales) and in 5 years that will increase substantially. There are fantastic opportunities for both writers and publishers at the moment, and a place for everyone. But change is inevitable. Whatever happens, it’s a great time to be a writer!

For myself, I’ll still be writing and reading fantasy and sci-fi. I have no plans to try my hand at any other genre. In 5 years I expect to have another 6-7 novels published, mostly fantasy plus a few sci-fi. I’ve just signed a three book deal with Audible to produce audiobooks of my Sorcery Ascendant Sequence trilogy and I also hope to expand to foreign translations. And possibly a publishing contract for additional career building and exposure, and to get print books into bookstores.

~

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at: