Roundup time!

It’s been a busy busy couple of weeks for interviews, with the 2014 Australian Spec Fic Snapshot taking place. Many of FableCroft’s creators have been snapshot already, and it’s been great reading the interviews from all facets of the Aussie Spec Fic scene! I particularly enjoy seeing what people are working on, and what they’ve been reading.

SnaphotLogo2014Tehani

Katharine Stubbs (our wonderful intern!)

Jo Anderton

Tansy Rayner Roberts

Dirk Flinthart

Kathleen Jennings

Amanda Rainey

And many many more writers we have published are part of the Snapshot – check out the hashtag #2014snapshot on Twitter or follow the tag links in one of the posts to see them!

Some other reviews and interviews around the traps! Dirk Flinthart is interviewed as part of Simon Petrie’s Use only as directed series.

There’s a lovely review of Ink Black Magic by Tansy Rayner Roberts new on Goodreads, which says:

Tansy Rayner Roberts has a gift all her own that sets her apart from all other fantasy writers.

and

…it is a story marvellously complete in itself. So do read and love the Mocklore Chronicles in any order you like, because that’s what I intend to do.

Thanks Carol on Goodreads!

If you’ve reviewed any of our books, please let us know! And we really appreciate cross-posted reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

Snapshot 2014: Michael Pryor

Pryor1cropped lo resMichael Pryor writes fantasy and science fiction for teenagers. He has published over thirty novels and more than 50 short stories. He has been shortlisted for the Aurealis Award six times, and seven of his books have been CBCA Notable books. His latest book is Machine Wars for middle grades readers, and his website is www.michaelpryor.com.au.

1. Your latest book is Machine Wars, a science fiction novel, but most of your books in recent years have been fantasy (particularly steampunk) – how do you have to adjust your headspace for these different types of storytelling? 

The aspect I notice most of all, moving from Fantasy to SF, is the language I use. I’ve been using deliberately formal, slightly old-fashioned language in my Steampunk Fantasies to help scene setting, but ‘Machine Wars’ is a near future story so I had to re-set my language use for a more contemporary feel. It took a little while!

2. All of your work to date has been for young people (I think!), although I can attest to the appeal for adults as well. Do you have any inclination to write for an adult audience? 

I have written short stories for adults, but not for some time, and I would like to take up writing for that audience again, and in a longer format. In fact, the Work in Progress is just that. To tell more would be premature, I’m afraid, since I’m at the very tentative first steps in my first draft. Stay tuned.

3. What can we look forward to from Michael Pryor in the near future? 

As mentioned, I hope this adult novel will come to fruition, but I’m also working on a piece of madcap silliness for younger readers, plus a fantasy romance for older readers. This latter is something close to my heart, and it’s in a space where I feel not enough male writers are writing. We’ll see how this one goes.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

I’m really impressed by the quality of the stories that are coming through Aurealis this year. For a hit pick, keep an eye on a story from a new writer, Steven Ma: ‘Ballard and Ballard: A Biopunk Detective Tale of 2080 AD’. Its setting is urban Australia and it’s gritty, wry and stylish.

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

The changes in the publishing industry keep coming, and they’re hard to ignore. I like to think that I’m still writing in the same way, doing my best to tell engaging stories with characters to care about, but the takeovers, mergers and re-alignments in the industry can be nervous-making – and I probably write best when I’m confident and assured that the business side of writing is stable. Five years from now? That’s a long time in publishing! I’d like to think that I’ll still be writing a couple of books a year, maybe one for adults and one for teen/YA readers. I wouldn’t like that to be written in stone, though. One of the delightful things about my life at the moment is the flexibility. I’m able to take up challenges and opportunities that present themselves unbidden, and that’s invigorating.

SnaphotLogo2014This 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: 

http://benpayne.wordpress.com/tag/snapshot2014/

http://bookonaut.blogspot.com.au/search/label/2014snapshot 

http://www.davidmcdonaldspage.com/tag/2014snapshot/ 

http://fablecroft.com.au/tag/2014snapshot

http://helenstubbs.wordpress.com/tag/2014snapshot/ 

http://jasonnahrung.com/tag/2014snapshot/

http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/tag/2014snapshot

http://mayakitten.livejournal.com/tag/2014snapshot

http://stephaniegunn.com/tag/2014snapshot/ 

http://ventureadlaxre.wordpress.com/tag/2014snapshot/

 

Snapshot 2014: Julie Hunt

julie_huntJulie Hunt lives on an organic farm in southern Tasmania where she writes a variety of stories for children – from picture books to novels and graphic novels. She’s interested in folktales, travel and oral storytelling and is endlessly surprised by the way the supernatural and the everyday seem to exist side by side.

1. Your most recent novel, Song for a Scarlet Runner, is doing wonderfully well, being shortlisted for the CBCA Younger Readers category and the Children’s category of the Aurealis Awards, and winning the Readings Children’s Book Prize – could you tell us where the idea for the book came from and the road to publication?

The story began with the term ‘marsh auntie’. I don’t know where that came from but those two words were the seed of the idea. They arrived one morning and brought a character and a world with them. I decided the marsh auntie would be a storyteller and herbalist and she’d live in the swamp with a community of aunties and each would have a special skill. A trip to Ireland to attend a storytelling festival helped and other ideas came from reading folktales. I used the notion of the ‘external soul’, an idea that appears in quite a few traditional tales: a person takes their soul from their body and hides it away so they can never be killed, but eventually somebody – the hero or heroine – finds it and time catches up with them.

The road to publication? I was lucky enough to have an Australian Society of Authors mentorship with the illustrator, Ann James, and this led to an introduction to the publisher. Working with Erica, Sue, Sarah and others at Allen and Unwin has been a gift. Although I’m the one writing the stories, the process is collaborative and feels very much like a joint effort.

2. Several of your books have received Awards recognition, which must be exciting, but does it come with a weight of expectation too? How do you deal with that as you keep writing?

I don’t feel any weight. Recognition is encouraging and it gives me confidence. There does seem to be an expectation to speak though, and that’s something I find tricky.  Still, speaking is not as hard as writing. If Song for a Scarlet Runner had been easy to create – if it had just slipped out ‘accidently’ –  I would be worried that I couldn’t do it again, but it was hard won.

3. Tell us what can we look forward to from you in the next 12 months?

My graphic novel, KidGlovz, will be published in 2015. Dale Newman, who did the beautiful cover illustration for Song for a Scarlet Runner, is the artist. It’s a book for 10–14 year-olds about a child prodigy, a pianist. He wears a pair of white gloves and when he discovers the gloves have a sinister past he begins to realise that his talent is a curse and that his wierd musical ability actually lies in the gloves rather than in his fingers.

I read up on 19th century prodigies before I started the story and I wrote much of the book while visiting Romania. My story is full of mountains and music and ice caves. I was amazed at the painted monasteries in Bucovina – graphic novels, comic strips on the walls of the buildings! – that went straight into the book and although I didn’t visit Transylvania, it was on my mind.

I’m working on a sequel to KidGlovz. It will be a hybrid novel, part graphic novel and part prose and will follow the gloves into their next incarnation. They leave the pianist and return on the hands of a thief, a young pickpocket and they give him the ability to steal whatever he desires – hearts, minds and souls.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner. What the Family Needed by Stephen Amsterdam. Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan. I also enjoyed Andrew McGahan’s The Coming of the Whirlpool and The Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie by Kirsty Murray. I loved Tantony by Ananda Braxton-Smith for the marvellously inventive language and Alison Croggon’s Black Spring for the landscape and the intrigues.

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

I’ve only begun publishing in a consistent way recently so I can’t say the changes have effected me. Being able to download ebooks has helped my work, and being able to find lost books online has been wonderful. I worry about bookshops and I worry that the library is throwing out too many books. I’m both attracted and repelled by changes in technology. I don’t tweet but I can see the possibilities of augmented reality. A while ago I met an inspiring software developer and considered creating an app based on one of my picture books. I’m open to new ways of storytelling and was pleased when Bologna Book Fair introduced its digital award in children’s publishing.

Perhaps in five years time I’ll have extended my stories into other areas. As far as print goes, one book seems to lead to the next, so I expect whatever I’m writing then will be a continuation of my present work. At the moment I’m experimenting with a story cycle, collection of linked stories for a young adult audience set in a world full of criss-crossing roads, trails and pathways.

SnaphotLogo2014This 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: 

http://benpayne.wordpress.com/tag/snapshot2014/

Random(ish) Links

Realised I started this post some months ago but somehow forgot to finish it! A few random links that are pertinent to our interests 🙂

Kathleen Jennings shares some sketches related to her wonderful story in One Small Step, “Ella and the Flame”.

Zena Shapter interviews editor Tehani Wessely about the editing process.

Joanne Anderton talks about the story behind The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories at Upcoming4Me.

Interview with Lisa Mantchev

Next up in the Nebula Awards interviews I did earlier this year is Lisa Mantchev. I noticed Lisa’s book a long time before the Nebula shortlists because of its stunning cover, and am really looking forward to reading the next instalment of the series!

Interviewed by Tehani Wessely on April 08 2010 – originally published at the Nebula Awards website.

Lisa Mantchev is nominated for the Andrew Norton Award for her novel Eyes Like Stars.

Congratulations on your shortlisting for the Andre Norton Award! Eyes Like Stars has received a very positive response. As a first-time novelist, that must be extremely gratifying – can you describe what it has been like to see your baby be so well received?

It’s been thrilling… very much like standing on a stage and receiving applause at the end of an Opening Night performance. No actor is ever quite certain how an audience is going to receive a play, and I think it’s the same for writers. No one wants the curtain to come down for their to be only cricket noises… or worse yet, booing!

There’s a big focus on the theatre and Shakespeare in the novel – where does this interest come from? What made you pour so much of this interest into the book (and presumably the books that will follow), but in a fantasy setting? What challenges did this present?

I started doing community theater when I was seven years old, as well as writing scripts for class performances. That continued through high school, when I got a scholarship to study drama at the University of California, Irvine. At the time, I was far more interested in acting than writing, but I switched gears my senior year during an intensive playwriting course.

I’d been writing and publishing short stories for nearly seven years, and I was incredibly intimidated by the idea of writing something that was novel-length. When I decided to tackle something longer than five thousand words, I knew it would help to make it a very familiar world (to me) so I could concentrate more on the process of writing than the research. It’s that old adage of “write what you know”!

I know a lot of writers rarely write shorts after they become novelists, due to both time restrictions and the different requirements of the forms. Are you still finding the time and inclination to write short stories, or has novel writing taken precedence?

I haven’t actually found a lot of time for writing short stories lately, both as a result from the novel-writing and from Real Life getting progressively crazier. I did manage a really fun collaboration of James A. Grant called “As Recorded on Brass Cylinders: Adagio for Two Dancers” which will be appearing in the steampunk-themed issue of Weird Tales and is also slated for reprint in the Vandermeers’ upcoming anthology Steampunk Reloaded.

Speaking of the series, is there anything you can tell desperate readers about the rest of the books?

Perchance To Dream will be out at the end of May, and it picks up where Eyes Like Stars left off *spoiler alert!* with Bertie, her fairy friends, and Ariel on the road, heading out to rescue Nate from the clutches of the Sea Goddess. I got to introduce several new characters in PtD, and I’m very excited to see how the theater readership feels about them.

Have you any more novel ideas percolating when you’re finished with these books? Anything on the drawing board you can tell us about?

In between revisions for Theater Book Three, tentatively titled So Silver Bright, I am revising a long-time-in-the-works steampunk novel (which I jokingly refer to as “retrofuturistic NeoVictorian.”) At the moment, it is in decided need of more grime and grit to balance out all the schmancy costuming and gadgetry.

Eyes Like Stars has a gorgeous cover, but recently there has been quite a lot of controversy over book covers not accurately representing race and culture of the characters contained in the novel. How do you feel about your cover, and what are your thoughts on this issue?

I fell madly in love with Jason’s artwork the moment I saw it, and there isn’t a single thing I would change about the cover for ELS. He perfectly captured Bertie, the fairies, and the feeling of lurking backstage with the lights just out of reach.

The whitewashing issue is an extremely troubling one, and I’ve been exceptionally happy to see that publishers are listening when the blogging community calls them on their mistakes. Given the pervasiveness of the issue, however, I think it would be sensible of the publishers to discuss such things with the authors BEFORE art is commissioned or licensed.

It’s also important to remember that it’s not just an issue of race and culture, but one of body image as well… I see far too many covers of extraordinarily thin girls when the protagonists are dealing with weight issues as well.

It might be said that authors of young adult books have a big responsibility regarding the issues they examine in their writing, because of the nature of their readership. Do you agree with this? What do you think are the most important elements for the success of a young adult novel?

It’s the responsibility of any author to tell the story honestly, however dark and deep and ugly that story might be. Both my short stories and the novels tend to explore some dark areas of the soul, but I didn’t go into writing ELS thinking, “I need to be careful with this, because SOMEONE needs to think of the CHILDREN!” I wasn’t thinking about marketing slots when drafting it, and honestly I think “YA” is more a marketing tool, a place to set the book on the shelf in the store and a label under which to file it in an online store, than it is anything else. Younger readers do not want authors writing down to them, and they will call an author out faster than anyone on the planet for doing so.

As for success, there’s too many ways to define that! There’s the success that comes with busting out on the bestselling lists (which seems to require massive PR campaigns and hype/buzz) and there’s the success that comes with being an award winner, and there’s the success of taking an idea, putting it on paper, and then holding a finished book in your hands, with your name on the cover, two years after the whole crazy notion came into your head.

Lisa Mantchev is the author of Eyes Like Stars and the forthcoming Perchance To Dream, the first two novels in the Théâtre Illuminata series. She has also published numerous short stories in venues including Strange Horizons, Fantasy, Clarkesworld, and Weird Tales. She lives on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state with her husband, daughter, and hairy miscreant dogs. You can read more about it at http://www.theatre-illuminata.com

Interview with Malinda Lo

The second of my interviews with Andre Norton Award nominees brings us Malinda Lo, whose book (with its gorgeous cover) is now on the shelves in my school library, and I wasn’t even the one to purchase it!

Interviewed by Tehani Wessely on April 02 2010 – first published at the Nebula Awards website.

Malinda Lo is nominated for the Andrew Norton Award for her novel Ash.

Ash, a lesbian retelling of Cinderella, has been shortlisted for a whole BUNCH of awards and recommended reading lists and it’s only your first (published) novel! Have you been surprised by the reception for the book? What can you tell us about where the story came from and how it has been received by the general public?

Have I been surprised? Absolutely, totally surprised—and overjoyed, obviously!

Before Ash was published, I worked in the LGBT media, reporting on the representations of lesbians and bisexual women in TV, film, music, and books. Books in general are loads more progressive than Hollywood, so I hoped that Ash might be well-received, but at the same time, I am very well aware of mainstream beliefs about LGBT people. Young adult fiction has seen an increasing number of books about LGBTQ teens in recent years, but not so many in fantasy.

So, you know, it was within this context—which I was aware of—that Ash was published. I think that many readers have responded incredibly positively to the fact that being gay is totally normal in Ash’sworld. Many queer teens I’ve spoken to have especially liked this. I’m also happy that Ash has found so many straight (heterosexual) fans. That was something I was worried about; I did want Ash to be accessible to everyone, straight or queer.

Where do you go after such success? Huntress is the forthcoming companion novel to Ash. Can you tell us a bit about the new book?

Well, luckily I wrote the first two drafts of Huntress before Ash was published. Otherwise, I think I would have been totally blocked by fear of failure. In fact, writing the third draft of Huntress was extremely difficult at first, because I was doing that while I was promoting Ash. That experience, though, really forced me to separate my identity as a writer from the accolades that Ash has gotten. Obviously, I’m so happy that Ash has been so well-received. But it’s only my first published novel. I do hope that Huntress is better. I hope that I continue to write better books. The only way to do that is to put my nose to the grindstone and work.

Huntress is a book I love so much. In Ash, hunting is a major sport; each hunt is led by a Huntress. The novel Huntress, which is set several centuries before Ash in the same world, is about the firstHuntress in that Kingdom. It’s a heroine’s quest about the power of love and loss. And there are weapons and monsters and magic and lesbians!

We’ll definitely be looking out for Huntress! Have you any other projects in the works you can tell us about?

I’m superstitious, so, um, no. smile

You posted on your blog that while you personally identify your characters Ash and Kaisa as Asian, you don’t feel that Ash is necessarily identifiable as a book with characters of colour. Obviously though, sexuality, another aspect of mainstream literature that is often defaulted to a certain type of “normal”, is a big part of the book. What are your feelings about the importance of how these two issues are being represented in mainstream literature, and particularly in Young Adult literature?

I’d like to clarify that I see Ash and Kaisa as looking Asian in appearance, not as Asian in descent, because there is no Asia in Ash‘s world.

I think that the recent discussion in the YA blogosphere about the representation of people of color in YA fiction has been incredibly stimulating and useful. I think there are books being published with people of color as main characters, but often they fall through the cracks. The advantage of having this ongoing discussion is that it highlights some of these books and gets readers thinking about their own reading habits.

As for the queer stuff … YA has increasingly included LGBTQ characters over the past few years. There are still more books about gay boys than gay girls, and I’d like to see that balanced out. There is a giant need for more books about transgender teens. In general, though, I think things are moving in the right direction, and I’m very excited to be part of that movement.

There’s a growing understanding among publishers, libraries, schools and the reading world in general that it is absolutely essential for there to be realistic portrayals of race other than white, and sexuality other than straight, in young adult fiction. What are your thoughts on this?

I think that including diversity in all forms of media (adult as well as young adult fiction, TV, film, etc.) is very important, and it’s great that more gatekeepers are aware of this these days.

Have you come across any fallout among parents or librarians because of the sexuality portrayed in this YA novel?

I’d say 98% of the reactions I’ve heard about have been positive. (I don’t google myself, though.) I have read a couple of reviews in which the reader was obviously uncomfortable with the lesbian story line, but that’s to be expected.

However, two things have happened that remind me that some people are still not OK with gay folks.

At one library event a teacher told me that she was unable to bring several of her students because their parents objected to my biography. I think she meant the copy on the book flap that says I was awarded the Sarah Pettit Memorial Prize for Excellence in LGBT Journalism—that’s the only thing I can think of that might have raised a flag, because it has the term “LGBT” in it. The cover copy of Ash itself does not trumpet the fact that Ash falls in love with a woman.

I was really shocked, actually, to hear this—probably because the teacher was so blunt about it. I am happy that she came and brought other students (oddly, younger ones) whose parents did not object to my bio.

I also had an amusing experience last fall. The Pacific Sun, a local newspaper, did a cover story aboutAsh and illustrated it with an image of two Disney princesses dancing together. (You can see it here:http://www.malindalo.com/2009/11/we-have-news/) Many parents wrote into the newspaper to object to that image, saying it was inappropriate for their children to see two girls dancing together. So, it wasn’t about Ash at all, but about a perception of sexuality where frankly there was none. In response to these parents’ letters, many other people wrote in and defended the image.

In 2010, there seems to be an expectation on authors that they play a big role in the online marketing of their books through blogs and other social media. What are your thoughts on this? You have a background in blogging; do you think this gives you an advantage in this area?

I think that every author should do what she can handle and what she’s comfortable with, while knowing that there is a limit to how much you can do on your own. Also, it’s much more important to write your next book than spend all your time promoting your last one.

I do think my background in working online helped me figure out what I wanted to do, but actually, the fact that my background was in online journalism helped even more. I came to this knowing enough about how the media works that I think I had realistic expectations of the kind of coverage I could get for Ash. And, honestly, I had some contacts in the media who helped me out. The fact that I worked in gay media was even better, because Ash has gay content. So, in a way I was perfectly prepared to promote Ash online.

On the other hand, I had never been a “young adult author” before, so I had no idea what that truly entailed. Figuring out what that means has also affected the way I view blogging and promotion. Basically, I’ve learned that writing has to come first, before any promoting, because I plan to be in this for the long haul.

Malinda Lo is the author of Ash (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), which is a nominee for the Andre Norton Award, was a finalist for the 2010 William C. Morris Award, and was a Kirkus Best Young Adult Novel of 2009. Formerly, she was an entertainment reporter, and was awarded the 2006 Sarah Pettit Memorial Award for Excellence in LGBT Journalism by the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association. She is a graduate of Wellesley College and has master’s degrees from Harvard and Stanford universities. She has lived in Colorado, Boston, New York, London, Beijing, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, but now lives in a small town in Northern California with her partner and their dog.