Snapshot 2012: Louise Cusack

australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logoLOUISE Cusack is an international-award winning fantasy author whose best-selling Shadow Through Time trilogy with Simon & Schuster was selected by the Doubleday Book Club as their ‘Editors Choice’. This trilogy was released as e-books in February by Pan Macmillan’s digital imprint Momentum Books. Louise has been a Writer in Residence at the Queensland Writers Centre, and a key regional tutor. She also mentors other writers through her manuscript development business and conducts writing workshops, residencies and retreats with adults writers and in schools. louisecusack.wordpress.com


Your Shadows Through Time fantasy trilogy has been re-released in e-format by Momentum. What have you been doing to add some puff to this second wind?
In the lead-up to the re-release I created a new website which I linked to Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. My friend Lisa at Twine Marketing helped me organise my ideas into practical steps that would promote the books while at the same time engaging with other writers and readers to build my brand (I know that sounds pretentious but I’m starting to see what she means!). When you break it down into steps it’s actually fun and easy and I love the immediacy of Twitter and the feedback comments on blogs.


How has your move to the picturesque cane coast of Queensland impacted on your writing?
For a start, my productivity doubled! I think that’s a combination of not being distracted by writerly things in Brisbane, and not visiting family and friends as much as I had been. Once I arrived here, I was spending long stretches just pouring out drafts and I upped my output from 5000 good words a week to 10,000, which is pretty awesome when it’s rolling out like that. I also think the change of scenery has helped. Being near the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef is amazing. My tiny town is surrounded by fields of sugarcane, sweet potato, melons and strawberries that are always growing, being harvested or ploughed, which means I never have the same drive through it twice. Even my afternoon ambles along the esplanade are different depending on the tide time, the wind, the cloud cover. So much of Brisbane was the same day after day. I find the constantly changing environment here is really stimulating my creativity. As a fantasy author that’s gold.


What lessons or themes have you brought to your fantasy fiction from your early days in Romance?
I’ve always loved a good love story, so no matter what genre I write in I’ll always want to incorporate attraction, rejection, desire and love/hate in the stories. I’m also drawn to the theme of ‘stranger in a strange land’ which lends itself to fantasy and lost world stories, but that theme was also revealing itself early in my fledgling romance writing when I had an city animal rights activist turning up at a country rodeo for example. I like the clash of cultures, of landscapes, of characters feeling like they don’t belong, and then realising that they do. I think I had all these ideas before I even started writing romance, but what romance writing did teach me was to hold the thread. Once the hero and heroine met you were never allowed to sever the thread of their attraction to each other, and while that’s less important in novels where there’s a whole lot more going on than just the love story, it taught me to hold each thread and not break it: the thread of romance, the thread of political intrigue, the thread of physical/emotional/supernatural attack for instance. Every plot has its own threads that need to be maintained, and romance writing taught me not to break them — fabulous lessons in structure for a beginning writer.


What Australian works have you loved recently?
I’ve just finished Jessica Shirvington’s Embrace which I adored. I’m a pushover for a good love triangle, but Jessica has done so much more with hers than the usual YA fantasy, and her bad-boy angel Phoenix is seriously hot! I can’t wait to read other novels in the series.


What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction in the past two years since Aussiecon 4?
I can only speak for my own experience, both as a reader and a writer, to say that the price and availability of e-readers has changed my world profoundly. I bought a Kindle a year ago and since then have read more fiction in a year (both spec fic and other genres) than I had in the five years preceding it. I’ve read best-sellers, cheap and free self-published books, as well as novellas and short stories (which I never normally bought) and more ‘sample’ opening chapters of novels than I can readily remember. It’s a whole new way to select what you read, and being able to sample the openings of novels before I buy has sharpened my personal eye for what I like instead of just being drawn in by a book cover or a recommendation or review.

This year I had a previously print-published fantasy trilogy released as e-books and I’m hearing that people who would never normally buy fantasy novels have sampled the opening of my first novel and bought it because the characters appealed to them. So I think that people buying e-books are going to be reading across genres more than they had, and also now that writers can self-publish, the power to decide what sells is largely back in the hands of readers rather than being solely at the discretion of publishing house editors. I see that some writers are self-publishing e-books without editing them properly, but a proportion of readers are fine with that so long as they love the story. It’s all about options, really, and the rise of e-books has increased options for writers and readers. That has to be good.

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THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 1-8 June and archiving them at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus. You can read interviews at:

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Snapshot 2012: Traci Harding

australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logoTRACI Harding’s books blend the esoteric mysteries, time travel and quantum physics in adventurous romps through history, alternative dimensions, universes and states of consciousness. She has had 16 books published by HarperCollins Voyager (four trilogies and three stand alone novels). The first book of The Timekeepers trilogy, Dreaming of Zhou Gong, is due for release in February 2013, with another trilogy to follow. Her first book, The Ancient Future, has featured regularly on the Dymocks’ Top 101 Books. It also made the ABC’s lists of Most Loved Books of All Time and Favourite Australian Book, and has been reprinted more than 35 times. It and her stand-alone novel The Alchemist’s Key have been published in Complex Chinese, while The Mystique Trilogy has been published in Russian, Czech, Slavic and Romanian. The Alchemist’s Key has been optioned to Dragonlight Productions and is being developed as a feature film project.

Traci’s website is at traciharding.com.


You were able to arrange to have free short stories made available as part of promotion for your most recent novel. Did you find that readers appreciated this?
The readers loved this, and it certainly served to get the traffic flowing through my web pages and Facebook Fan pages. This was actually an idea I came up with while chatting to Kim Falconer and our editor at the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival last year – thanks girls – it was a great success! It was a hell of a promotion to get organised to happen over the Christmas break, but HarperCollins did an amazing job and the entire promotion flowed really smoothly.


What are some of the outstanding perils and pleasures of writing in historical periods other than the present that you’ve encountered?
The pleasure of writing ancient history is uncovering little know facts buried throughout time; the peril is not finding them LOL.

I have just had an extended stint in Ancient China, and although I felt really very at home there, I have found a gentleman in Hong Kong who has kindly agreed to proof read the MS for me and he has already pointed out several amusing mistakes – when I mess with other cultures I like to get it right, if I can.


Is there a genre you’re dying to write in other than your SF/fantasy realm? Perhaps another collection of supernatural stories?
I wouldn’t mind having a crack at non-fiction, actually. I have shares in a company Gamma Power who have recently rediscovered Tesla’s free energy and are doing all sorts of amazing things with it. They are calling it ambient energy and I would very much like to write about that rediscovery in the not too distant future.


What Australian works have you loved recently?
So many good Aussie authors, but here are those I’ve enjoyed lately: my fav Aussie author is Kim Wilkins aka Kimberley Freeman, Belinda Alexandra, Grant Hyde, Christopher Ride, Kate Morton, Nathan Burrage and Jessica Shirvington. There is so many really great Australian authors out there; I wish I had more time to read them all!


What are some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction in the past two years (since Aussiecon 4)?
The most obvious change that I am aware of is that e-books have sent hardback book sales plummeting – we’re seeing the collapse of the big book chains, and its a much tougher market now for new authors. But, on the upside, I see the independent book stores doing better and they’ll keep local authors alive and thriving, and e-books can reach a bigger a market. Yet with so many different delivery formats and troublesome data transfers, one wonders how long it will be before people discover that you cannot beat having the book in your hand.

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THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 1-8 June and archiving them at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus. You can read interviews at: