Snapshot 2012: Simon Brown

australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logoSIMON Brown started writing fiction every day at the age of 14, which means he’s been a writer for more than 40 years. He’s had six novels published in Russia, which means his brag shelf has books he’s written that he can’t read. He currently lives in Thailand with his wife, who is an English teacher in Phuket, and his two school-age children.

PanMacmillan, under their Momentum imprint, have just released e-book versions of his previous fantasy trilogy, the Chronicles of Kydan. He’s working on three different books – a young adult/crossover horror, the first book in a new fantasy trilogy and a non-fiction book – because he can’t make up his mind which one to concentrate on.


You’ve been living overseas for the past few years. Grist for the writer’s mill or one huge distraction?
Living overseas is a great way to concentrate the mind on what you’ve left behind, at least initially. After four years in Thailand, I find that some of the things about living in a different country and a different culture are finally starting to get under my skin and become a part of me. It’s a nice feeling. But when I look up and towards the horizon, it’s always towards Australia. I think my time here in Thailand will start seeping into my work about the time I come home. That’s the way of things.


Momentum has re-released one of your series as e-books. What’s been happening to let readers know they’re available?
Mark Harding at Momentum Books has been great at getting the Chronicles of Kydan some attention. It was recently one of the books of the week on Google Play, for example, and the Momentum site has a piece by me on writing the trilogy. Gillian Polack has also kindly let me blog about the trilogy on her site. I just have to save up for an e-book reader now so I can download them myself. Imagine carrying hundreds of books in your pocket. Weird.


Can you tell us more about what’s inspired the latest projects?
The young adult/crossover horror novel, based on a short story I wrote called ‘Water Babies’ (published in Agog! Smashing Stories), is currently with a publisher, so until I get word back it’s difficult to say where it’s going.

The idea for the new fantasy trilogy I’m working on was inspired by reading about the importance of trade in ancient and medieval societies, something usually ignored in most fantasies. Since it’s just kicking off, I’m not sure how it’ll pan out at this point, but I’m enjoying booting ideas around.

The non-fiction book I hope to co-author with a good friend who is also a great writer is about the development of quantum theory. The book will concentrate on the Fifth Solvay Conference in 1927, which featured an amazing array of scientists who were also larger-than-life personalities.


What Australian works have you loved recently?
I’m ashamed to say that I’ve been so detached from the Australian scene over the past four years that I’ve read very little home-grown fiction. I did manage to read and enjoy the first book of Sean and Garth’s Troubletwisters and Scott Westerfeld‘s Leviathan (we’re allowed to poach Scott, aren’t we? (definitely: his snapshot his here — JN).


What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction (or the industry?) in the past two years since Aussiecon 4?
Difficult to assess from a distance, but surely the big development not just over the past two years but the past decade has been the increase in the number of Australian specfic writers and the quality of their work. I think Clarion South has a lot to do with this (and by implication Clarion South’s organisers), as well as the continued and it seems to me against-all-odds existence of short fiction markets such as Aurealis and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.

The other big change has been the slow but inevitable move in Australia from ink to phosphor dot and LED, including e-books and online magazines. We’ll have to wait a year or 10 before properly assessing what effects this has had on writers and writing. If I’m still around, feel free to ask me again in 2022.

* * *

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:

Advertisements

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.

* * *

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:

Good news: Louise Cusack, Zola Jesus — come on down!

Found out last night that all-round nice person Louise Cusack will have her fantasy series given new e-life by Momentum, Pan Mac’s new e-pub arm. w00t!

And in further good news, Zola Jesus has a new album out. Only heard the single, Vessel, so far, but it’s a corker. Meanwhile, the moratorium on buying new music means Ladytron and the Jezabels are also in the holding pattern. Jury’s still out on the new Evanescence album before it gets queued…

And I owe Jay Kristoff a beer for the late-night ROFL his blog about Twitter gave me. (Speaking of blogging, that writer’s crutch or blessing or curse, check out this post from Patrick O’Duffy.) I don’t go on Twitter much, because I’m desktop-bound and I find Twitter to be the equivalent of white noise when FB (The Twitter Mix) is already frustrating the fuck out of me, but I found it curious that the past two times I’ve logged in, it’s to discover what Peter Ball is eating in Rockhampton, a town I once — twice, actually — lived in, both times for just long enough. The old place just hasn’t been the same since Cactus Jack’s closed down. Oops. I forgot this was the good news update. So, Cactus Jack’s is still serving those awesome chicken tenders in Cairns, or at least they were a year ago.

Do keep an eye out for Lou’s Shadow Through Time, you e-reader types. She totally deserves it!

And remember: writing fixes everything.