this year, I’ve talked to:
Fun, visiting! Next, I’m off to Bundaberg. Most excellent.
Fun, visiting! Next, I’m off to Bundaberg. Most excellent.
The calendar of literary events in Australia for 2014 is already looking mighty busy. It’s great to see so many events blocking out their dates early so everyone can plan their travel arrangements!
Corrections and additions welcome, and I’ll keep updating as more come on line.
I’m not sure if it counts as a launch, but Angry Robot (whose supremo Marc Gascoigne is a guest of honour at the con) is having ‘an hour’ from 1.30pm on the Sunday. Angry Robot is chockers with Aussie writers (Kaaron Warren, Jo Anderton, Trent Jamieson, Lee Battersby …) so it’ll be bookish, whatever it is.
So we’re back home, and now that the work has been caught up on — well, kind of — it’s worth reflecting on the good oil that came from GenreCon in Sydney this weekend.
Twas an intimate gathering of writers from across the spectrum of crime, romance and spec fic — a melding of minds, techniques, loves and aspirations. And there were agents and publishers (Hachette, HarperVoyager, Momentum, Xoum, Clan Destine, Dark Prints … to name a few) with an interest in those genres. There were international guests Ginger Clark and Sarah Wendell and Joe Abercrombie:
Ginger let us know about the tough times in publishing and how agents are stepping up to fill the gaps left by publishers, in terms of editing, marketing, production … the line is blurring, the publishers cash-strapped and unable to offer the full suite of resources that has, in the past, made them such a powerful cog in the publishing wheel.
Sarah addressed author platform — the pros and cons of various social media, the importance of politeness — be a person, she said; converse, don’t declare.
And Joe: he’s a damn funny, easy-going fantasy writer who seems just a touch bemused to be selling oodles, but highly appreciative, to be sure. It’s all about getting down and dirty with the characters for him; gritty realism over shiny heroics, though he admits there’s room for both, and more, in fantasy’s huge field.
There was pitching for those with something to pitch — a 70 per cent hit rate for call backs shows some serious quality in the offing, and of the 30 per cent that dipped out, there was a praise for the pitch, even if the actual book didn’t hit that particular agent or publisher’s want list.
The panels were compelling, ranging from industry to craft to workshop topics — Peter M Ball’s business model for writers gave me pause for thought.
LA Larkin described plot as skeleton, characters as flesh and mood as blood: I like that, as you might expect.
There was an awesome debate between planners and pantsers: there was a symbolic glass of water, and a smooch, some of the best insults since Monty Python …
There was catching up and meeting social media pals, making some new friendships and reinforcing some existing ones. It was relaxed but draining. There was morning and afternoon tea and lunch as well, all of which enhanced the social aspect of the event.
As usual with conventions, the hotel didn’t quite come to grips with the bar situation, but the staff were wonderful and, from this outsiders’ viewpoint, apart from the race day madness in the bar, all went to plan.
Martin Livings launched his collection, Living with the Dead, as part of an Australian Horror Writers Association presentation, one of four by various genre groups.
The opening night cocktail party was a hoot of an ice breaker, and it sounded as if we’d missed out by skipping the banquet and a presentation of romance titles, one featuring a platypus that created quite the stir.
The good news: plans are afoot for GenreCon 2013, to be held in Brisbane. The calendar is richer for it.
The magazine is due out at the end of November — egads, that’s this month already! — and features some very fine writers, some from overseas even. And there’s me, with a story about a cat.
This story sprang out from behind a bush near a bus shelter and found full form during the heady, sweaty hours of Rabbit Hole at the Emerging Writers Festival earlier this year. There was a tweet at one stage about ‘the cat’s gonna get it’ — this is that story. It’s called ‘Hello, Kitty’. It’s not nice. Not at all.
I almost didn’t finish it, because it’s not nice. At all. But then I thought, ‘what would Haines say?’, and so emboldened, I said fuck it. And wrote it. And the triumvirate of editors of Midnight Echo 8 bought it. And now it’s rubbing shoulders in good company, and you’ve got to be happy about that.
There are a few of my stories that I wish certain people could’ve read, who never got the chance to.
This is one of those.
Fuck that, too.
Midnight Echo 8 is available to order: here.
And I’d be remiss not to point out that Queensland Writers Centre is again running Rabbit Hole, November 9-11. Free. Fun. Get words written. Just watch out for the cat.
This program really pops my cork: writing stuff such as ‘how to’, villains, and subtext, and then there’s industry stuff like finding the right publisher and life without advances. It’s very cool to see Romance Writers, Sisters in Crime, Conflux and the horror writers hosting ‘community’ events. I keep hearing how damn professional and, ahem, well-oiled a convention machine the RWA is, so it will be great to get an insight into that, and with Conflux hosting the natcon next year (yep, already booked), the timing is right to fly the F&SF flag.
Bottom line, though, is the number of experienced writers, publishers and agents on the program. For an emerging writer such as myself, the osmosis learning will be in overdrive. This is going to be a hoot!
I’m also quite looking forward to publicly picking the brains of Joe Abercrombie at our ‘in conversation’, and talking ‘setting the mood’ in a session on the Sunday. But damn, there’s good stuff on then, too! Too much!
LOUISE 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: