But wait, there’s more Snapshot 2014: Kyla Lee Ward

Kyla Lee WardKYLA LEE WARD is a Sydney-based creative who works in many modes. Her latest release is The Land of Bad Dreams, a collection of dark and fantastic poetry. Her novel Prismatic (co-authored as Edwina Grey) won an Aurealis Award for Best Horror. Her short fiction has appeared in Ticonderoga Online, Shadowed Realms, Gothic.net and in The New Hero and Schemers anthologies, amongst others. Her work on RPGs including Buffy the Vampire Slayer saw her appear as a guest at the inaugural Gencon Australia. Her short film, ‘Bad Reception’, screened at the Third International Vampire Film Festival and she was a member of the Theatre of Blood repertory company, which also produced her work. In addition, she programmed the horror stream for the 2010 Worldcon. A practising occultist, she likes raptors, swordplay and the Hellfire Club. To see some very strange things, try www.tabula-rasa.info

 
1. You’ve recently had a poem published in a new journal, Spectral Realms (amongst others), and have been reading at live events. How is the market for poetry from the dark side?

Market? No one is actually buying poetry, from any side. It’s been squeezed out by the current attitude that paying for any kind of creative work is an imposition, especially online. Stephen King comments specifically on this loss to poetry in Doctor Sleep. I even heard that Les Murray, whom I studied at school (and incidentally, such works as ‘A Victorian Hangman Tells His Love’ are very dark indeed) was having trouble finding a publisher for his most recent collection, and he’s a Living National Treasure. Which reveals that poetry is still being written. I have always found poetry to be something you have to write, if you had any choice in the matter, you would obviously do something else. Poetry is being written, and if you swing by the websites of the Pedestal Magazine or Abyss & Apex, you may read some excellent freestyle verse. Jenny Blackford‘s superb ‘Their Cold Eyes Pierced My Skin’ first appeared in Pedestal #74. If your taste is more formal, I can only recommend that you snare a copy of that excellent new journal from Hippocampus Press. Issue #1 features Leigh Blackmore, Margi Curtis, Danny Lovecraft and David Schembri, as well as myself.

One of the few potential advantages of poetry in the current climate is that poetry can be a performance art. I have performed at conventions, and at the Masked Bard’s Ball thrown by the North Sydney Live Poets Society. I’ve been investigating other potential venues, such as libraries and the more outré cabarets around town, so we shall see.
land of broken dreams by kyla ward
 
2. Your work in progress (The Castle), which I believe has just had ‘the end’ written on the first draft, fancies a castle in Australia – something that a few people have actually built over the years. How are you using your fictional castle in the Australian setting?

Ruthlessly. People have been seeing castles in Australia for a long time – First Fleeter Daniel Southwall diarised his impression of ‘… superb buildings, the grand ruins of stately edifices …’ in the cliffs of Port Jackson. But castles, as natural historical products, don’t belong here and by implication, neither do all the things that go with them, like chivalry and feudalism, and a certain attitude towards your neighbours. To really bring a castle into an Australian setting, a lot of other things have to change and some of these changes are wonderful, others dreadful. I See The Castle is about this effort of imagination and its consequences. But being contemporary urban fantasy, it also about discovering that people you know are actually hideous monsters or possessed of inhuman powers, setting swords and spells against guns and cars, and a soupçon of ill-advised romance.

 
3. Your story ‘Who Looks Back?’ opens the Shotguns vs Cthulhu anthology from Stone Skin Press (2013). Why is it, do you think, that Lovecraft’s world continues to have its tentacles in writers’ minds?

Because ‘The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.’ When we shall be required to build castles once again.

Seriously, have you seen Luc Besson’s Lucy? Even with the nostalgia and racism – actually, especially with them – the Old Providence Gent isn’t getting any less relevant. The symbols he provided us are only growing more potent. This is worrisome.

 
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

I adored Anna Tambour’s otherwise indescribable novel Crandolin. Fantasy? Travelogue? Recipe Book? If the latter, is it a recipe for Crammed Amphisbaena, cabbage soup, or LIFE? Only you can decide! I also enjoyed Walking Shadows, the sequel to Narrelle M Harris’s The Opposite of Life. Her unique take on vampirism and the incredible characters she draws from it go up to 11 here. And while we’re on the subject, Kim Wilkins‘s ‘Popular genres and the Australian literary community: The case of fantasy fiction’ (Journal of Australian Studies, Vol 32 #2, 2008) is very fine indeed.

 
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?

The changes have not affected the way I work, just my daydreams about where that work will end up. Having a novel downloadable for $3 from a website just doesn’t have the same gloss as copies on a shelf in a flagship book shop. But perhaps that’s just me, sitting in my castle and preparing fresh vellum by the light of tallow candles. It has been interesting of late, having all this work come out in beautifully produced anthologies that are only available overseas. A Twenty-First Century Bestiary will be out soon, and I’m told they’re doing a hardback run. But to the best of my knowledge, no one in Australia stocks Stone Skin Press and this is doubtless part and parcel of the way our book shops are vanishing. Which is part and parcel of the whole payment thing. In short, I don’t know what I’ll be publishing/writing/reading five years from now: I just have sad, sad doubts I will have bought it from a book shop.

Having said this, I do sincerely hope that other people will be reading the novels I’ve just completed, in whatever form becomes the new standard of professional publication.

 
2014 aussie spec fiction snapshot

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THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian speculative fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

Snapshot 2014: Mark Webb

mark webbMARK WEBB’s midlife crisis came in the form of attempting to write speculative fiction at a very slow pace. His wife maintains this is a good outcome considering the more expensive and clichéd alternatives. He has had short fiction published at Antipodean SF, Robot and Raygun, and Electric Spec magazines. Evidence of Mark’s attempt to procrastinate in his writing, including general musings and reviews of books he has been reading, can be found at www.markwebb.name and you can connect with him on Twitter at @webb_ma

 
1. You’re part of the Ditmar-winning Galactic Chat team. What are some of the joys and challenges to running a literary podcast?

Working on Galactic Chat has been a fantastic experience. I was very lucky that Sean (Wright) thought of me when he was putting his new team together. I shudder to think of how many people must have turned him down for him to get to me on a list of potential interviewers. Well, boo sucks to them. They missed out on a Ditmar.

I think the thing I love about the podcast the most is how much I’ve learnt from both talking with interviewees and researching to put together questions. We try to talk with people from different parts of the story trade – authors, publishers, editors, agents – anyone who we think could add something to the conversation. And to a person, the people we’ve interviewed have been thoughtful and insightful. Not just trying to sell their latest production, but genuinely interested in the industry we all love to work in and willing to talk about it candidly and intelligently. And there is a great opportunity for someone like me in that. I’m relatively new to the writing game, and I’m constantly amazed at how much thought has been given to issues I’m only just beginning to wrestle with.

galactic chat podcast logoAnother joy associated with the podcast is my fellow Galactic Chat team members. We did a special, group discussion podcast recently and I was just blown away by what a fantastic group of people I’m working with. They are all very inspiring. I’ve learnt a huge amount just watching how they all operate.

And of course, another large part of the joy is that our fearless leader, Sean Wright, does all the heavy lifting of editing and publishing the podcast.

For me, one of the challenges of the podcast is that I’d love the conversations to go on for much longer. I could listen to an interviewee talk for hours, but we do need to keep the podcast to a manageable length. I’ve also been somewhat horrified to listen to myself. Not just the whole ‘I hate the way my voice sounds’ thing – that is just part of the human condition. No, I was deeply disturbed to realised just how often I mutter the word ‘fantastic’ when someone I’m interviewing pauses for breath. I mean seriously. Every single time. I had to edit it out of the last podcast I recorded – couldn’t bear the thought that someone might make a drinking game out of my interview technique. ‘I know, every time he says “fantastic” take a shot.’ That realisation was bloody awful.

I’ve also been grappling with the best way to record. My first interview was with Keith Stevenson. We’re both based in Sydney. I know, I thought, we’ll meet face to face. Record into two microphones. The sound will be much better. Well, that was just patently not true. Background noise was a killer. I’m not sure what I was thinking really. Every time I see Keith I feel like apologising on general principle. As it turns out, Skype is a much cleaner mechanism for recording interviews for someone with my level of investment in recording technology. I envy people who have had the means to acquire things like mixing decks, and seem to have the capability to use them.

(Fantastic)

 
2. I believe you like to draft stories longhand. What’s the advantage in doing that?

Now there is one thing I need to make clear from the start of this answer. I love computers. I studied engineering and science at university. I spent the first half of my career working exclusively in the IT industry. I’ve been fascinated by electronic calculating devices ever since the day my Dad surprised us all by getting us a Commodore 64 as a family Christmas present (we’d been pushing for the older Vic 20 because we didn’t think the budget would stretch to a C64 – ah, the practical mercantile instincts of youth). So when I started writing I just assumed I would draft everything on the computer.

And I tried. Oh, how I tried. But no matter how much I persevered, I struggled to get any momentum in my writing. I would pick over paragraphs trying to get them exactly right, edit and re-edit the same sentence until it fell apart from overuse. And my stories crept forward, making slow progress, never quite finishing.

I tried writing in different locations. I tried getting a new, ultra portable laptop so I could carry it around with me. I made elaborate plans to free up chunks of time to really knuckle down and use my electronic typewriter. It never quite came together.

And then, one day, I was off on a holiday with the family and was cut off from the electronic conveniences of modern life, so I grabbed a notepad and started to write. Before I knew – bam! I’d written more over the course of a few days than I had in months beforehand. And it all came down to one thing. With longhand writing, I seem to be more capable of turning off my inner editor and just going with the flow of writing. Something about the messiness of scribbling erased my neuroses about trying to capture perfection. Analog approximations were less troubling than the pursuit of digital purity. Used the same word too many times in the last paragraph? Who cares. Can’t remember how to spell something? Just flick your pen to create a wobbly line and come back to it. Can’t remember what you called that minor character nine chapters back? Call her Jane, underline it and pick it up in editing. Know the kind of mood your aiming for but can’t think of the perfect, original phrase to capture it? Jot down a cliché as a placeholder.

Suddenly my writing had momentum. To paraphrase one of my daughter’s favourite movies at the moment, I was a vector. I had both direction and velocity. And a few weeks after writing something, I could come back and type it into the computer, giving it a first-pass polish as I went. Replacing those clichés. Finding the right name. Letting red wriggly lines tell me where my spelling had failed me. Using the joy of an online thesaurus to eliminate word repetition.

I’ve read a lot of advice about writing. The main thing I’ve taken away from it all is that the process is intensely personal, and that there may be a difference between the kind of process that logic says should work for you and the kind of process that actually does work for you. I was at GenreCon last year, and listened to a couple of writers talk about how to write when you have a day job and family commitments (both of which I also have). The consensus was that getting up an hour early every day was the way to go. Yes, I thought. You’re freshest first thing in the morning. The family is still asleep so you can write uninterrupted. You can carve out an island of free time that otherwise wouldn’t exist. It made perfect sense. It was logical. It would suit my situation perfectly.

The only problem was that, for me, it was complete bollocks. I couldn’t do it. I press snooze. Five-thirty in the morning is something that happens to other people, not me. So instead of following a process that logic tells me should be perfect for me and my situation, I have set up a system whereby I can’t go to bed until I’ve written something. And that means I do most of my writing after 10.30 at night. When I’m tired. When the day job has drained my creative energy. When I’m often absolutely aching to just go to sleep.

What the hell. Logic is overrated anyway.

 
3. You’ve been getting a few short stories out – one that comes to mind involving ‘backpacking’ kobolds! Is fantasy where it’s at for you and is it something you’d like to write in longer form?

I’ve been a bit all over the place with my genre selection since I started writing. My flash fiction pieces have ranged across science fiction, fantasy and horror. My latest published short story, Showdown (here be kobolds! JN), was a rural-fringe fantasy piece, but the short story before that, Wefting the Warp, was pure science fiction. The novel-length piece I’ve been working on is urban fantasy, and I’ve just starting writing something which is falling fairly directly into the space opera classification. I love reading across the speculative fiction spectrum, and my writing seems to be following the same path.

I recently typed the words ‘THE END’ against my first novel-length work, with great relief. For too long I’d been saying to people that I was two thirds of the way through a bloody awful first draft of a novel. It has been of great comfort to me that I can now say that I am all the way through a bloody awful first draft of a novel. The sense of completion is sublime.

For some reason, writing fantasy, horror and science fiction seem to exercise different parts of the creative bit of my brain. Writing fantasy for a while allows the science fiction ideas to bubble away in the background. And vice versa. I’m not great at horror, but I find writing some (unpublishable) pieces in the background acts as a kind of palate cleanser. So for the time being I will classify myself as a literary dilettante, and flirt my way across the genres with a breathtaking disregard for propriety.

 
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

At the risk of making my interviewer blush, I loved Blood and Dust by Jason Nahrung and am absolutely hanging out for The Big Smoke to see how the story plays out. I’ve been a fan of Jason’s work since hearing one of his short stories, ‘Smoking, Waiting for the Dawn’ on Keith Stevenson’s Terra Incognita Speculative Fiction podcast a couple of years back. Blood and Dust was a rip snorter of a yarn. Vampires in the Australian outback. Fantastic stuff.

I also really enjoyed Perfections by Kirstyn McDermott last year, and was very pleased to get a copy of the inadvertently limited edition first print run of the book at Continuum this year. Wonderfully unsettling work set in a modern context.

Speaking of Kirstyn, her podcast with Ian Mond, The Writer and the Critic, is one of my favourites and remains on my ‘must listen’ podcast playlist.

I’ve been fascinated by Tansy Rayner Roberts’ online experiment in serial writing, Musketeer Space. Not just for the story, which has been very enjoyable in and of itself, but also for the experience of watching someone push the boundaries of what modern publishing can do.

The Twelve Planets series (now 13) of books from Twelfth Planet Press have been highly entertaining. Choosing a favourite there would be difficult, but I must admit to an inordinate fondness for Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti.

Bloody Waters by Jason Franks had a wonderfully different style to it, which I loved. I would like to see it get more attention, it was a fantastic read.

And look, I know it’s New Zealand in origin, but given Australia hasn’t had any home grown SF TV for a while, I think I’ll sneak in a cheeky plug for The Almighty Johnsons as my pick for recent televisual delight. Norse Gods emigrated to New Zealand. What’s not to love?

 
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?

I don’t think we’ve seen the end of the step change publishing seems to be going through at the moment. As e-publishing and print on demand technology becomes more sophisticated, more options are going to be available for authors, especially those that already have an audience. I mentioned Tansy Rayner Roberts and her experiment in serialised fiction in one of my other answers. I’ll be interested to see whether this kind of “patronage” model becomes more prevalent for mid list authors with enough of a following to try more experimental pieces of work.

Of course, for a newer writer such as myself, the sheer volume of fiction now available over the internet makes building an audience a challenge. And I think that because of the volume issues inherent in the use of new publishing technology, the role of the gatekeeper is going to become even more important in directing people towards new talent.

Of course, it is still an open question as to whether traditional big publishers will be able to position themselves in that way. I look at the strategies being employed by places like Tor, Angry Robot and Subterranean overseas, and even small press like Twelfth Planet, Ticonderoga and Fablecroft here in Australia, and I can see a trend towards establishing brands which focus on ‘taste setting’. People talk about liking Angry Robot authors. The Twelve Planets series from Twelfth Planet Press reinvigorates a conversation about female authors in the genre. These are the actions of organisations trying not just to publish books, but to create brand loyalty to the publisher themselves, much more so than I remember in the past. I see some of the big publishers starting to reinvigorate their speculative fiction imprints and I wonder if they are trying to create the same branding edge. I’ll be fascinated to see how that plays out.

I’m not sure I can pick any trends in what may be hot in terms of sub-genres or story types. I suspect I’ll just be writing whatever takes my fancy and hoping that I can find people that enjoy the work. I did dabble in a form of self publishing recently, when I wanted to collect my flash fiction pieces together into one place for ease of sending people. And as a result, A Flash in the Pan? was born. But again, without an existing audience an effort like that sinks without a trace.

So, in summary, I’ll probably still be writing via longhand and lurching from project to project without much of a coherent plan, while finding it increasingly difficult to find an audience.

Fantastic.
 
2014 aussie spec fiction snapshot

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THIS is my final interview conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian speculative fiction, which concludes today. We’ve been blogging interviews since 28 July and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read the rest of the team’s interviews at:

Snapshot 2014: KJ Bishop

etched city by kj bishopKJ BISHOP writes, sculpts, gardens, and really hates writing bios. Her website is at www.kjbishop.net

 
1. You’ve been living in Thailand for how many years now? Is it having an influence on your artistic practice?

Getting on for nine years. I learnt sculpture here, so a new door has definitely opened. So far I’ve drawn ideas mainly from my own background, though I can see a Thai influence coming in here and there. I have a few ideas for pieces inspired by Thailand, but haven’t got going on them yet!

 
2. Do you find the themes of your fiction showing through in your sculpture? What is that sculpture does for you, that the words do not?

Yeah, I think they do show through. Or they’re just things I’m obsessed with that turn up whether I’m writing or making art. Loneliness, insanity, cheerful stuff like that. Masks. I’ve made a couple of minotaurs and a creepy baby that might look familiar to people who’ve read The Etched City. But I also find that sculpture gives me a visa to a few places I can’t manage to go to with writing. I happily get quite traditional with sculpture. I made a figure of a dancing Pan, playing his pipes – nothing weird or surreal about him. I don’t know how to write about a purely magical otherworld, but it’s been calling to me lately when I sit down with wax.

 
that book your mad ancestor wrote by kj bishop3. Your Aurealis Award-winning collection, That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote, shows a breadth of the fantastic, from an Ashamoil scene of Gwynn dealing with the paparazzi, to a take on Beauty and the Beast, to conspiring curtains. Where is your fiction heading? What can we expect to see from you next? Will you have a new sculpture in your pocket at Loncon?

I’ve learned not to jinx writing by talking about it. At the moment I’m not writing much, which isn’t to say I’m not writing at all. Maybe I should just say expect the unexpected? I’ll have some work in the art show at Loncon. My pockets are more likely to contain yucky bits of melted chocolate.

 
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Anna Tambour’s Crandolin was one of the most amazingly original books I’ve ever read, and I loved Christian Read’s Black City. (The sequel, Devil City, is out now. Just bought 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?

I chose to self-publish Mad Ancestor through Createspace, and did all the work myself. Would I do it again? I’d certainly consider it, though it was hard yakka, especially doing my own copyediting. I read a lot of dead authors, and expect I’ll still be reading them in five years.
 

2014 aussie spec fiction snapshot

* * *

THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian speculative fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

Snapshot 2014: Maria Lewis

maria lewisMARIA LEWIS is an authority on film and pop culture. Currently a showbusiness reporter at The Daily Mail Australia, she has also written her debut novel Who’s Afraid? which is represented by the Alex Adsett Literary Agency. She currently hosts Gaggle Of Geeks and TV Talk on 2SER 107.3FM. You can visit her website at marialewis.com.au
 
1. What led you to get involved in pop culture podcasting, and what have you enjoyed most about doing them?

The great thing about podcasting is no matter how specific or weird your niche, there’s always an audience for it. For my co-host Blake Howard and I, we would have these hour-long rambling conversations about new releases that would lead into vintage film comparisons and weird trivia inserts, and it occurred to us one day that we should record it. Pod Save Our Screen is less a movie review show – although we do review weekly releases – and more a pop culture lifestyle podcast, where we talk comics, movies news, share anecdotes about celebrity encounters and relevant interviews. The strange, specific places we go to is what I love about it and it’s the same thing that has seen me fall for Kevin Smith’s Fatman On Batman (a weekly podcast about The Dark Knight) and The Ladyist (where females discuss female centric pop culture). I also love the opportunities we’ve had to do it in a live setting, like when we got to pick the brain of Star Wars and Alien concept artist Ron Cobb – who conveniently lived just around the corner – in front of a packed cinema, which was a dream come true.

 
2. How has your journalism experience affected or influenced your creative work?

It’s influenced every aspect, undoubtedly. Mostly I think being a professional journalist for almost a decade has trained me to be an aggressive researcher (HULK GOOGLE!). An internet search is never sufficient enough and knowing that there are other routes to take – randomly calling professors, hunting down people on social media, face-to-face interviews, going through public records – helps inform my writing in a way that it wouldn’t necessarily if I didn’t come from a press background. Also, I’ve mentioned this before, but it really does make you grow ladyballs and teach you to be fearless in terms of hunting down the story – which is endlessly helpful when trying to construct a world of your own.

 
3. You have an agent shopping around your debut novel, Who’s Afraid?, about werewolves. What is the attraction or theme or shapechangers that attracted you to write this story?

I’ve always been fascinated by werewolves as I grew up in a small town in New Zealand where you were able to see snow-capped mountains from the windows, and my grandfather used to tell me werewolf tales at night when he put me to be. So really it’s his fault I’ve developed this weird obsession. But much as the idea of two identities existing within the same person has fascinated me in the superhero universe with secret identities and pseudonyms, etc.; the darker side of that coin always seemed much more interesting. The idea that someone could exist with a monster inside of them (metaphorical or otherwise) and how they can either learn to embrace or control that is infinitely fascinating to me. It’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde syndrome.

 
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

I have loved Michael Adams‘ young adult series (The Last Girl) even though I’m technically too old to be in the target market (don’t judge me). It’s one of the rare high-concept stories that I’ve read which is actually set in Australia, the last probably being the Tomorrow, When The War Began series (by John Marsden). He’s a brilliant writer and has a great female voice. I loved his first book Showgirls, Teen Wolves And Astro Zombies: One Man’s Quest To Find The Worst Film Ever Made and it’s interesting to see the transition from his non-fiction work to something like The Last Girl and The Last Shot.

 
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?

Not for me personally. There seems to be a strong need from publishers to constantly tell you that ‘it’s all about E and not about P’ which although I think there has been a significant growth in e-publishing, print will ever be defunct. I also don’t understand this obsession with one or the other. Like the girl in the Old El Paso add says, why not both? I still buy books, I still love the feel of a book in my hand and building a personal library, but there’s a beauty to the convenience of an e-reader that can’t be beat. It doesn’t bother me whether people are turning the page or an ‘on’ switch, as long as people are still reading stories, still engaging in make-believe, I don’t care how they do it.

In five years… what will I be reading? I’m a genre loyalist, and I have always grown up on and read horror, fantasy and urban fantasy titles. I don’t see my love of that changing anytime soon. In the same way Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games have brought a lot of first-time genre readers into the equation, I’ve been reading a lot more crime purely thanks to novels like Gone Girl and Jeffrey Deaver’s return with The Skin Collector drawing me in. I’m not a genre snob, I just trot over to wherever there’s a tale that intrigues me: whether that’s Pride and Prejudice or Pride, Prejudice and Zombies.

 
2014 aussie spec fiction snapshot

* * *

THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian speculative fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

Snapshot 2014: Ian Irvine

ian irvineIAN IRVINE, a marine scientist who has developed some of Australia’s national guidelines for protection of the marine environment, has also written 30 novels. These include the bestselling Three Worlds fantasy sequence (The View from the Mirror, The Well of Echoes and Song of the Tears), which has sold over a million copies, a trilogy of eco-thrillers set in a world undergoing catastrophic climate change, and 12 novels for younger readers. Ian’s latest fantasy novel is Justice, Book 3 of The Tainted Realm trilogy. He is currently writing the long-awaited sequel to The View from the Mirror. Find out more at www.ian-irvine.com and on Facebook.

 

1. You’ve been self-publishing some of your back catalogue. What have been the challenges and rewards of that?

The challenges:

It’s relatively easy to publish an e-book, but it takes a fair bit of work to make it look good on the full range of reading devices – various kinds of computers, Kindles, iPads, other tablets, other e-readers, and smart phones. To self-publish successfully requires a considerable investment in time to learn how the system works, including book formatting, graphics, cover design, tax issues, uploading issues, marketing and promotion. I’d put it at a couple of hundred hours, all up.

For instance, I took the final Microsoft Word files for my backlist, stripped the formatting out in a text editor then reformatted each book from scratch. This took several hours for each book (and I did 15 books). You don’t have to do this, but it’s strongly recommended, otherwise hidden formatting codes in your book may cause it to look terrible on some e-readers.

Some of the rewards:

• I’ve made available a number of my children’s books that were hard to find in some markets, or out of print.

• I’ve enjoyed the process and learned a lot.

• I’ve had the opportunity to correct and update some of my books.

• I can give away e-books whenever I want for promotional purposes or in competitions.

• I can price my books in any way I want, and change the price at need to encourage sales.

• Even though I’ve done virtually no promotion of my e-books so far, I’m earning five times as much from them as when they were published by my previous publisher.

 
2. What have been the challenges in going back to write a sequel (indeed, a new trilogy) to The View From the Mirror quartet, some 15 years later?

shadow of the glass by ian irvineThe View from the Mirror quartet, which I began in 1987 and was first published in 1998-1999, is my biggest selling series and begins my 11-volume Three Worlds epic fantasy sequence. The quartet is a greatly loved work – at conventions people constantly come up to me with battered old copies they’ve read many times, and tell me how they grew up reading the sequence.

I wrote the quartet in an elevated, high fantasy style, but with each succeeding series my style has changed, especially when writing kids’ books, or thrillers. These days I write in a much simpler style, so should I go back to my old style, or not? I’m not sure I can write in that style any more, or want to.

The greatest challenge, though, is that very few sequels are as good as the original. I’m putting everything into this one, trying to make it as good as The View from the Mirror, if not better. But even if it is better, it may not seem so to people who were profoundly influenced by the original when they were young.

 
3. You get to travel to some interesting places as part of your marine science work – most recently the seemingly unlikely marine destination of Mongolia. How has that travel informed your work?

My scientific work is mainly in the marine environment (I’m an expert on contaminated sediments) but I’ve also done a lot of work on contaminated industrial sites, and on river sediments. The Mongolia job has to do with river sediments.

Over the past 30-odd years I’ve worked in more than a dozen countries, and it’s fantastic for recharging the batteries, and for the exposure to new landscapes, cultures, histories, political systems, and ordinary and extraordinary people. I rarely use any of this directly in a book, but it all goes into the melting pot and helps when I’m creating new characters, settings and conflicts.

At the moment I’m reading a book on Mongolian shamanism, which is still important there. It may well influence a character I create sometime in the future.

 
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

I haven’t read much spec fic lately, to be honest – I find it difficult to read it when I’m writing it. However I picked up a copy of Scott Baker’s The Rule of Knowledge at Supanova in Sydney recently, and boy, if you like furious-paced, bloodthirsty, all-action time-travelling thrillers, this book is for you. It’s like Matthew Reilly on steroids.

 
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?

A couple of years back I decided to simplify my life – I’d been writing one huge epic fantasy novel plus one or more kids’ books or other novels every year for a decade, and I was fed up with being totally overcommitted. I’m now focusing on fantasy and I’m just writing one book a year, plus one or two related novellas or shorter stories.

In five years time, I hope I’ll still be writing epic fantasy and publishing it with Orbit Books, my publisher since 1999. I expect I’ll be self-publishing those books whose rights have reverted, and possibly one or two anthologies of novellas or short stories, since big publishers aren’t much interested in them. But the industry is changing very rapidly and I don’t think anyone can predict what publishing will be like in the future.

However one thing is certain – since e-books never go out of print, the number of titles available for sale will keep increasing at a rapid rate, and hence the competition for sales and attention. And the law of supply and demand says that the price of books can only decrease. Challenging times.

Reading? Hopefully, some of the thousand or so books I’ve bought in the past few years that I haven’t managed to read yet.

 

2014 aussie spec fiction snapshot

* * *

THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian speculative fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

Snapshot 2014: Andrez Bergen

andrez bergenANDREZ BERGEN is an expat Australian writer, journalist, artist and DJ from Melbourne, entrenched in Tokyo these past 13 years. He published his debut novel Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat in 2011, followed by One Hundred Years of Vicissitude (2012), Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? (2013), and Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth (2014).
He has also published short stories and comics (such as Bullet Girl and Tales to Admonish with Matt Kyme) through Perfect Edge, Crime Factory, Snubnose Press, Shotgun Honey, 8th Wonder Press, IF? Commix, Big Pulp, Ace Comics and Another Sky Press. He also edited an anthology of post-apocalyptic noir.
On the side Bergen worked on adapting scripts for feature films by Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell), Kazuchika Kise and Naoyoshi Shiotani at Production I.G.
He additionally hammers together tunes as Little Nobody; he covets sashimi and saké, and lives in Japan with his wife and eight-year-old daughter.
Find out more at andrezbergen.wordpress.com
 

1. You ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to transform Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat into a graphic novel: what’s your advice for others about running crowdfunding campaigns? What would you do differently?

tobacco stained mountain goat by andrez bergenA good question — I’m not quite sure, except perhaps to ensure that you truly believe in your project and are able to pass on that enthusiasm to others. I like to think I accomplished that, though I’m not sure. I’m blown away that the campaign was successful, but I’ve seen other worthies sink. The trick is to promote without bombarding people senseless, I think — plus you need good product.

If I did it again I’d probably invite someone else on board to help with the legwork, particularly coordinating and then putting together a hundred-odd packages to ship off round the world!

 
2. As an expat in Japan, what can you tell us about the speculative fiction scene there?

It’s a toughie still because of the language barrier — even these days. When I came here 13 years ago I knew about Haruki Murakami, Ryu Murakami, Banana Yoshimito, Natsuo Kirino, and classic scribes like Mishima, Tanazaki and Kawabata. I’ve since picked up on Shuichi Yoshida, Hitomi Kanehara, Koji Suzuki, and far too much manga. There are some real treasures, and a lot of missed. Most of this stuff simply isn’t being translated, and probably never will be.

 
3. You’re launching a whole bunch of stuff in Melbourne this month – tell us about that; and how easy, or hard, have you found it to work across different mediums, and what are some of the advantages?

depth charging ice planet goth by andrez bergenYep, this is my first time home in three years, so there’s quite a bit to catch up on! I’m launching my fourth novel, which was published on July 25 through British imprint Perfect Edge Books, on August 13 at Brunswick Bound in Sydney Road. It’s mix-genre coming-of-age yarn called Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth that’s set in Melbourne in the 1980s — and also not.

On August 17, at Classic Comics in the city, I’m launching a graphic novel — the noir/dystopia oriented Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat — along with my new comic book series Bullet Gal, which is based on a character from last year’s novel Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? I did the art and writing for both. We’re also launching Tales to Admonish #3, which is the collaborative comic series I do with artist Matt Kyme.

While fiction writing is something I’ve been doing for years, I only really slipped back into the comic book creativity thing a couple of years ago. It was my dream to create comic books in high school, and while pottering occasionally over the years I’d never really followed through — so this has been an enlightening as well as inspiring experience. Inspiring because it’s a new medium into which to channel creativity and stretch myself a bit. It’s amazing how much fun it’s been writing comics, and especially now I’m doing some of the art as well. Doing that slows me down, so I think more about plot and continuity. And comic books suit the whole noir ethic so darned well, and noir is still my favourite genre.

 
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Funnily enough, being ‘isolated’ in Tokyo means I haven’t really kept abreast of the literary scene in Australia, although I do keep an eye on the output from the Crime Factory crew in Melbourne. Right now I’m more into the burgeoning Australian comic book industry. Bernard Caleo has been orchestrating awesome stuff for years, and then there are current creators like Matt Kyme, Paul Mason, Craig Bruyn, Jason Franks, Paul Bedford, Matt Nicholls, and a lot of other very cool cats at play.

 
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?

Probably they’ve influenced the width of my wallet — or lack of decent heft so far as that is concerned! But at the same time it’s far easier to push through projects you really want to pursue, since the bottom-line isn’t really an issue so much. Definitely the cheaper cost of printing and limited print-runs has enabled Matt and I to run with some crazy titles via IF? Commix. The fact is I don’t do this for the money anyway. Any cash I do happen to make is a bonus extra that’ll probably be channeled straight back into the next project.

Five years from now? Um … I can still see myself reading the variety of stuff I do now, from noir and detective stories to sci-fi, dystopia, manga, comic books, whatever. And I hope I’m still pushing myself creatively speaking, rather than settling back to colour-by-numbers. Yawn.

 
2014 aussie spec fiction snapshot

* * *

THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian speculative fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

Snapshot 2014: Sonja Hammer

sonja hammerSONJA HAMMER’s live radio show on JOY 94.9 in Melbourne, Sci-Fi and Squeam, turns five on December 10, making it one of the longest running dedicated LGBTIQA speculative fiction shows on air. Sonja has edited and uploaded about 290 podcasts of the show, including one-off interviews with writers to media personalities, film makers, comics artists and video games developers. Her passion for the horror film genre has led her to support organisations and events for the annual Women in Horror Recognition Month, and to developing Queer Geeks of Oz – the first LGBTIQA pop culture panel, held at Armageddon Melbourne 2013 and Oz Comic-Con Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney in 2014. Its manifesto is to support and encourage diversity in geek culture and to be a voice for LGBTIQ geeks and nerds in Australia.

 

1. What drew you to become a radio broadcaster? And why spec fic?

I always wanted to talk to people and listen to what people have to say about interesting things, and so radio was the perfect medium to do that: talk and be heard, and meet and talk with fascinating people about subjects I want to hear more about … passionate people talking about science fiction and horror fiction, all fit perfectly in a radio show in my mind! Even though everyone turns more and more to television and webcasts and web TV, everyone in the world still has a radio somewhere! And so Sci-Fi and Squeam was born!

 
2. You ran a great interview with comics writer Gail Simone when she was out last year about how important she felt it was to have minority groups in her work, whether of race, sexuality or ablement. Are there any shows or books that you think have done a brilliant job of portraying such characters?

Yes, I am excited and genuinely enthused by the past few years efforts in particular with television shows made in Canada (though not always exclusively so), SyFy TV has done ground breaking stuff when it comes to representation of the ‘other’ or with normally marginalised or ‘minority’ peoples, shows like Lost Girl particularly for lesbian and bisexual female inclusiveness, and even more recent shows like Orphan Black with its sexually diverse characters and its normalising of pan and omni sexuality as well as gay and bisexuality: very satisfying when it comes to that sort of content, let alone that it is well crafted and has intriguing plot lines.

On on the topic of Gail Simone, even though she has left writing Bat Girl now, she has left a great legacy with her introduction of one of the first transgender characters in a mainstream comic franchise: well done to her, she is a fantastic advocate for LGBTIQ rights.

 
3. Since you started doing Sci-fi & Squeam on Joy 94.9, have you noticed any themes or changes in the material that’s been coming your way?

Yes, since beginning Sci-fi and Squeam in 2009, one of the biggest shifts I have seen and that has affected the show and its content more and more, is the growing influence and strength of women in genre, in particular horror film making, and the visibility of transgender characters in genre, and this also becoming apparent in the guests on the show and the fantastic ongoing contributors to the show’s content as well.

Video games and the changes in that community have been more influential in the last year or so, and that is generally due to the inclusion and the debate around inclusiveness of LGBTIQ characters in games.

It is certainly a wonderful time to be doing the show as more and more positive things are happening in genre for the LGBTIQ communities. Definitely more visibility!

 
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Well, it would have to be in comics, Aussie comics! Australian comics is another growth area in genre that I have watched go through so many changes, and the work and quality of it is terrific. I am most impressed by Home Brew Vampire Bullets – an anthology of comic artists and writers done here in Melbourne. Ambitious, adventurous and daring and … very Aussie.
Here is the link to PODCAST with the man who put it all together, Garth Jones: Home Brew Vampire Bullets

 
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?

I think more and more artists, creatives and comic artists especially, are self-publishing their works, and online publishing is also growing faster too; micro-publishing is the future and independent publishers are being recognised for their ingenuity, hard work and talents, which is awesome! Gestalt Comics are one of the success stories of what can happen to a micro-publishing house, and an Aussie one at that! This is a good move, as the creative can have more control over their work and there is also more variety for the collector/reader. I hope to publish a comic too one of these days, based loosely on the show, and it will include the experiences of a queer zombie unicorn going to its first pop culture convention and … and just what happens next? Well, we will have to wait and see!!

 
2014 aussie spec fiction snapshot

* * *

THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian speculative fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

Snapshot 2014: Alison Goodman

alison goodmanALISON GOODMAN is the author of four novels including EON and EONA, a New York Times bestselling fantasy duology. She won the Aurealis award for Best Fantasy Novel (EON aka The Two Pearls of Wisdom) and for Best Young Adult novel (Singing the Dogstar Blues), and was the DJ O’Hearn Memorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne. The first book in her new historical/supernatural series, Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club, is due out in January 2016.
Visit Alison’s website at www.alisongoodman.com.au

 

1. Some might think that having a book release date set back is a lemon. How have you been making lemonade from the delay in Lady Helen’s debut from this year to early 2016?

Lemonade from lemons, huh? Well, on that note I can’t be too sour about the set back of the first release date since it is mainly for my benefit. My new series is a historical/supernatural trilogy set in the Regency and my publishers want to release a book a year to maintain the series momentum. That doesn’t quite fit with my writing speed – it takes me about 18 months to write a novel that I am happy to have out in the world – so we have decided to ‘front-load’ the books. That is, when Book 1 is published in January 2016, Book 2 will already be finished, and I will have started Book 3. That way, we can release a Lady Helen book each year and I can write at my best pace and not implode from deadline stress. Admittedly it is a very long wait for the first book to come out – it is already written and edited – but in the end, I think the delay will work in favour of the series. Not only does it enable me to keep to that preferred one book a year momentum, but the longer lead time has already been worked into the marketing plans of my various publishers.

 
2. As part of your Lady Helen research, you’ve been embracing the Austen aesthetic: so how do you balance a modern sensibility with that older sense?

It is a fascinating process. While I want to maintain a modern sensibility for my modern readers, I also want to create a world that feels authentic. I also want my main character, Lady Helen, to be a woman of her time, but still maintain the empathy and identification of today’s reader. It is why I have chosen to write the novels in third person point of view: there is more narrative room to make subtle comment on the world. I am also trying to keep to the worldview of that time as much as possible and not overlay 21st century concepts on to my early 19th century characters. Interestingly, however, the western world had just gone through the Enlightenment, which more or less was the foundation of modern sensibility, particularly the ideas of individualism (the importance of the individual and his/her inborn rights) and relativism (the idea that different beliefs, cultures and ideas have equal merit). That gives me a bit of wriggle room in regards to the characters’ perspectives on self and environment. In terms of the style of the novel, I have developed a subtle syntax to give that early 19th century cadence, but always with an eye to the books being an accessible and fun read. I’m also enjoying the language, which adds a lot of flavour. I get to use words like sapskull and fustian, and my favourite, Gadzooks!

eon by alison goodman
 
3. Your stories consistently show superb plotting – things happen when they need to happen, and are never inexplicable. To what detail do you design your narratives, and what advice do you have for plotters?

Thank you – I spend a lot of time thinking about the design of a story and try to make the events feel inevitable but also, at the same time, surprising. Before I start writing, I ask myself a number of questions: what starts the action of the story, where to place it, what is the mid-point, how does that lead into the climax, what is the action around the big climactic decision? I ask these questions (and many more) all through the planning stage, through the research stage, and then all through the writing stage. They are not static; throughout the creation of the novel there is a constant dialogue between the plot that I want to build and the characters that I have created. Plot and character inform each other, so while I do plan my plot before I start writing, I also accept that it is an organic process and my careful planning will inevitably shift and bend around character psychology.

My best bit of advice to plotters is to really think through your character motivations: make them as strong and as logical as possible, in terms of each character’s psychology. Take the time to trace back why your characters have made those particular decisions, and if any of the decisions don’t make sense or are weak, then look that weakness square in the eye and ask yourself: is this character making this decision only because the author needs that plot point? If the answer is yes, then don’t let yourself off the hook. Return to the drawing board: either you need to create a character whose motivations and decisions will fulfill that particular plot point in a satisfying way, or adjust the plot point to fit the character you have already created.

eona aka necklace of the gods by alison goodman

 
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
I was fortunate enough to be given preview copies of Garth Nix’s new novel Clariel, and Trudi Canavan’s Thief’s Magic. They are both cracker reads.

 
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?

The recent changes haven’t really affected the way that I work, but they’ve certainly affected the way that I publish and think about my career. The rise of the e-book has given authors a way to revive backlists and return-of-rights books, as well as bypass traditional publishing models for new work. I e-published my crime novel A New Kind of Death (traditionally published in the US as Killing The Rabbit) alongside a print edition from Clan Destine Press, and I am investigating the idea of collecting my short stories into an e-anthology. I would never have been thinking along those lines five years ago.

Five years from now, I will have just finished writing and trad-publishing the Lady Helen novels and either be thinking about the next three Lady Helen novels in the series, or starting another project. I have a feeling I will also be working on some shorter works to go straight into e-format. I really like the idea of following up a novel (or a series) with shorter adjunct pieces set in the same world. There are often so many possible paths in a series that you have to resist if you want to maintain the narrative drive, but it would be great to be able to play-out those little gems in shorter works and publish them in e-format.

 
2014 aussie spec fiction snapshot

* * *

THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian speculative fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

Snapshot 2014: Guy Salvidge

guy salvidgeGUY SALVIDGE was born in England in 1981 and moved to Western Australia in 1990. His first novel, The Kingdom of Four Rivers, was published in 2009 and his second, Yellowcake Springs, won the 2011 IP Picks Best Fiction Award and was shortlisted for the 2012 Norma K Hemming Award. Yellowcake Summer was published in 2013. Guy is currently working on a crime novel, Thirsty Work, and he is the co-editor (with Andrez Bergen) of The Tobacco Stained Sky: An Anthology of Post Apocalyptic Noir. His short stories have been published in Alien Sky, The Tobacco-Stained Sky, Tincture Journal and The Great Unknown. He lives in the Avon Valley with his wife and children. Visit him online at guysalvidge.com or guysalvidge.wordpress.com

 

1. You have two novels – the second, Yellowcake Summer, came out last year – dealing with the prospect of a nuclear power plant in WA in the near future. Do you think science fiction is particularly well placed to comment on social and economic policy such as this?

yellowcake summer by guy salvidgeYellowcake Springs and Yellowcake Summer were written, in part, in response to the WA State Government’s desire to allow uranium mining to resume, something I was and remain resolutely opposed to. Speculative fiction has had, since at least the time of Mary Shelley, the capacity to offer grim warnings to the contemporary generation. George Orwell certainly didn’t think of himself as a science fiction writer and yet 1984 is more relevant today than it has ever been. One of the dangers, of course, is that those warnings can become dated very quickly. The Fukushima disaster did more to damage the nuclear power industry than my humble attempts at scaremongering ever could, but I was glad to try.

 
2. You’ve had a couple of short stories out starring Tyler Bramble, dealing again with a near future dystopia. Is there a bigger picture to his story that you’re working on, or otherwise a reason for the recurrence?

The first Tyler Bramble story, ‘The Dying Rain’, was written at the request of Andrez Bergen who was putting together a themed anthology of ‘post-apocalyptic noir’. I enjoyed writing this story so much that I wrote two more, ‘Blue Swirls’ and ‘A Void’, which have since been published in Tincture Journal and The Great Unknown. I saw the stories as transitional in my own development as a writer in that they combined speculative and crime fiction tropes. I’m planning on writing straight crime from now on. I’d like to take Tyler Bramble for another spin at some point though. He was good fun.

 
3. Earlier this year you landed a writer in residence gig in WA, during which you were working on a new novel, Thirsty Work. How did you find the W-in-R experience, and how’s the novel coming along – what are your plans for it?

I’ve been lucky enough to complete two residencies in the past 18 months, at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Centre last year and at the Fellowship of Australian Writers (WA) this past April. It normally takes me two years to write a reasonable draft of a novel, but those two residencies allowed me to complete Thirsty Work in just one year.

The residencies were incredibly enjoyable and productive times for me and I highly recommend applying for them. I have been surprised to discover that most Australian states don’t seem to offer much in the way of paid residencies, so WA might be something of a leader in this regard.

Thirsty Work is notionally finished for now, which means that it’s ready to start doing the rounds with publishers and competitions. Fingers crossed I’ll have some good news to report on that front in the near future.

 
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

This past year I’ve been enamoured with the novels of Peter Temple, especially An Iron Rose, The Broken Shore and Truth. I’ve also been impressed by other Aussie crime writers in David Whish-Wilson, Alan Carter and Robert Schofield. In the speculative arena, I very much enjoyed reading works by the likes of Angela Meyer, Andrez Bergen, Anthony Panegyres and Meg Mundell.

 
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?

I try to ignore the doomsayers in publishing as much as possible. I think it’s a mistake to lose heart. Reading and writing will continue with or without the publishing field that has existed in recent decades. I doubt the situation will be very much changed within five years, although I’m sure many publishers and booksellers will have gone under in that time. That’s sad, but I very much doubt that the printed book will be extinct anytime soon. It may eventually become akin to the record in the music arena, something of a collector’s item. I’ve had a Kindle for 3-4 years now, but I still read more than 90 per cent of my books in printed form.

 

2014 aussie spec fiction snapshot

* * *

THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian speculative fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

Snapshot 2014: Stephen M Irwin

stephen m irwinSTEPHEN M IRWIN is a screenwriter and novelist. His career began with broadcast television documentaries, and broadened to include award-winning short drama films and short stories. Stephen’s debut novel, supernatural thriller The Dead Path, was published in Australia by Hachette and subsequently around the world, being named Top Horror Novel 2011 in the American Library Association’s RUSA Reading List. Stephen’s second novel, The Broken Ones, was released by Hachette and DoubleDay to exceptional reviews, including being named among the 100 Best Fiction of 2012 by Kirkus Reviews. Stephen was writer and creator of a six-part crime drama Secrets & Lies (2014) produced by Hoodlum Active, which has screened around the world and is being remade for American audiences by Kapital Entertainment for ABC (USA). He is currently developing several feature film and television projects for Australian and international audiences, and is writing his third novel. Find out more at www.stephenmirwin.com

 

1. Since the last Snapshot two years ago, you’ve added to your oeuvre of supernatural horror with a story, ’24/7′, in last year’s A Killer Among Demons anthology. What is it about folklore and legends such as the Green Man, ghost and demons that draws you to write about them?

Writers write for different reasons. For some, it’s catharsis; for others it’s simply a job; for yet others it’s a compulsion to express. For me, writing for pleasure presents a chance to go exploring, to go play. And my favourite sandpit is not necessarily this world, or this world as I’ve experienced it in the day-to-day, but a world like ours where fantastical things are possible. The fact that I enjoy my stories to be both well grounded in reality yet to have otherworldly shadows lends me to write about ghosts, spirits, unseen or barely seen forces … so, those stories begin in the ordinary and take that weird side-step into the extraordinary.

One of the things I like about these stories is that they come with a suggestion that the protagonist doubts his or her own perception of reality – wonders, even, if they are mad or heading that way. In this era of social media and instant news, when everything is laid bare, it’s nice to think that some people (even if they are just fictional characters) are forced to keep secrets for fear of condemnation … and try to soldier on in silence … although this usually sows the seeds of peril. Great fun.

 
2. Secrets & Lies is, possibly, your biggest screen project to date, enjoying a US rendition. How have you enjoyed the translation of your Australian story to the United States? In fact most of your written stories have been set here – have you ever felt any pressure to perhaps set them overseas or keep the ocker quotient low to enhance foreign market appeal?

secrets and lies tv showI didn’t have a lot of time to writing the six hours of television that was Secrets & Lies – the preproduction was so charged with urgency that I didn’t really get time to enjoy the process. Now the series is done, and it’s screened here and in the UK, Canada, Scandinavia … I’ve had the chance to look back more fondly on the experience of writing the show. I don’t have any real input in the US version, but on a recent trip to Los Angeles I did get to meet some of the cast, and that was enormously fun – they’ve attracted some great talent, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

Right now, I’m working on an Australian telemovie for a national TV broadcaster, and a supernatural crime show for an American network. The former is set firmly in Australia, the latter firmly in the USA. I’m a big believer in universality of story, but specificity of setting. We humans are territorial creatures – we like to know well our little nests and hunting grounds, our comfort zones. So, I think it’s important to write with respect for that – because people act differently when they are in their own territory, or taken from it, or threatened with removal from it, or discover it is not as safe and comfy as they thought it was. To that extent, character and place are inseparable.

But I haven’t felt any pressure ever to heighten or lower the local tone of stories, either in books or in television – I think if it feels real, it works. The only changes that I’ve needed to be make are in terms of accessibility, so that readers or viewers aren’t jolted from the story because they don’t simply understand what a word means.

 
3. There’s mention on your blog of adapting The Broken Ones for the screen, and a possible novel on the way. How are those projects coming? What’s next for you?

the broken ones by stephen m irwinI was fortunate enough to see The Broken Ones receive the Chauvel Award (Screen Queensland), and I was asked by the producers who optioned the work to also write the screenplay adaptation. That was a strange experience – interrogating my own work, ripping it to component parts, and putting it back together in a different media (a screenplay). But it seems to have worked out well, and the producers are now shopping The Broken Ones around to potential directors. I hope it gets made; it would be fun to meet Oscar Mariani in the flesh!

My third novel is progressing at, sadly, a much slower pace than I wish – my television commitments seem to always be grabbing at my heels like cattle dogs. I am hoping (perhaps foolishly!) to finish the draft by the end of the year.

 
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

I adore Sonya Hartnett’s writing, and enjoyed her Children of the King (yes, it’s for younger readers, but that is no impediment to either great writing or enjoyable reading). I was captivated by Kári Gíslason’s The Promise of Iceland – and knowing the lovely Kári personally made the journey through the book so much richer. And being a contributor to A Killer Among Demons gave me the perfect excuse to read the other authors’ works – and there were some crackers. I’m a fan of Angela Slatter’s and Alan Baxter’s work, and enjoyed enormously reading their stories and the others, too.

 
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?

I think my forays into feature and television writing have come at a good time for me. Since The Broken Ones was published, I’ve got a strong sense that publishers are being increasingly discerning about where (and in what kind of writers) they invest their money. Since I have no other appreciable skills beyond writing, I am grateful that I can derive an income from film and television as well as book writing to help pay the mortgage. But the moving picture media are every bit as volatile as publishing; more and more viewers are consuming content at home and on demand, rather than going to a cinema or waiting for a show to screen on a free-to-air broadcaster.

And I’m as guilty as anyone of this: I consume books, television shows, and movies on my iPad Mini, and I’m the first to grow irritated if I can’t get what I want RIGHT NOW! That’s unhealthy, and light-years from the person I used to be, who could order a book from suburban bookseller and patiently wait weeks for the phonecall announcing that it had arrived.

I think in five years’ time, things will have shifted subtly (but scarily) to a place where there is even more choice of things to consume, but with an ever-widening gap between the ‘big’ studio and publishing house projects, and the indie publications and productions. I hope that I’ll be able to do the splits enough to make a satisfying income from commercial works while still indulging in the free flights of fancy that smaller publishers allow and encourage. As long as I’m writing, I’ll be happy.

 
2014 aussie spec fiction snapshot

* * *

THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian speculative fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at: