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

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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: 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

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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: 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

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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: 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:

These Final Hours: time well spent

these final hours movie posterThese Final Hours is what it says: the last hours of Earth, burning to ash as a planet-killing meteorite does the business — the science feels a bit dodgy, but the story is superb.

In the tradition of On the Beach, this beaut Aussie flick traces how James (Nathan Phillips), who admits, finally, that he’s made a few bad choices — hence the prison tats, the wake of disappointment he trails after him — chooses to while away his last moments. Among the options are with his girlfriend at the beach, waiting for the end; with his other girlfriend at a killer party; or less likely, with his sister and her family, or with his mother. Others have chosen different courses: suicide, violence, hedonism, and desperate survival tactics such as wrapping a house in aluminium foil or digging bunkers.

James is en route to party away his fears when he chances upon, amid the anarchy, a young girl in need of help — for once, he makes the right decision. Rose (a delightful Angourie Rice) brings with her conscience and a sense of sacrifice — yes, this road movie is about redemption and finding a sense of self-worth where perhaps there was none. Rather than wanting to numb himself to the pain of that last moment — that last realisation — of mortality, James is given the option of embracing it, and being a better person for it.

There’s a sepia tone, a summer heat, infusing the film, and the soundtrack is well crafted — a jazz number out on the farm, dance for the pool party at the end of the world, and nothing anywhere else but the natural sounds of the world ending. The absence of music adds to the atmosphere and enhances the attempts to drown out reality.

There’s a voice on the radio counting down the hours as the planet boils and James dashes from one event to the next, meeting himself everywhere he goes, with the perceptive Rose riding shotgun.

There is a wonderful conversation between James and his mother that says so much without having to say much at all; the reactions of the characters not only to the apocalypse but to James are convincing and telling.

Written and directed by Zak Hilditch, it’s a relatively minimalist movie, intensely focused, offering tension and pathos in equal measure. As one of James’s girlfriends, Zoe (Jessica De Gouw), says at one point: it’s beautiful.

  • Check it out at the These Final Hours website.