Meet Glenda Larke …

As the next of my series featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) I’ve invited the talented and perceptive Glenda Larke to drop by.

Watch out for the give-away question at the end of the interview.






Q: You come from Western Australia originally. That’s a long way culturally from Malaysia where you now live. As a child growing up, did you long for something different?

Yes and no. I was a farm kid and I loved – and still love – the Australian landscape. But I made up my mind very young that I was going to travel – a lot. It was more just wanting to get out there and have a look: I never dreamed that life would conspire to keep me away so long. But I am coming back, for good, next year. It’s time!

Q: You are in involved in rain forest conservation and you post some wonderful photos on your blog. Do you find aspects of this come through in your writing?

Well, my desert transport was inspired by the unlikely example of rainforest millipedes! Every book has a hundred different ideas and they are often inspired by my travels, not just in the rainforest. An understanding of ecology, of how things fit together and are reliant on one another, is an excellent guide to world-building.

Q: Your first series was The Isle of Glory. I remember stumbling across your first book, The Aware and being blown away by your fresh voice. Do you think you will be exploring this world again?

Probably not. I find that after three books I want to do something new: new magic, new characters, new world. I reckon if I start something brand new, then my writing stays fresh and I feel rejuvenated.

Although I’m not going back to the Isles of Glory, I am visiting  another island archipelago in the trilogy I have just started to write. The middle book will be set on a tropical island. With spices and buccaneers and birds of paradise and general skulduggery. I have not managed to sell it yet, though…

And I am keen to go back to the Havenstar world – because I only ever wrote one book in that world! There’s room for more.

Q: I discovered The Mirage Makers when I was doing my Masters. It was particularly good timing as I was looking for books that explored the theme of discrimination. Do you consciously set out to explore themes, or do they creep up on you while you’re writing?

I’ve had it happen both ways. With The Mirage Makers the theme started as a combination of the Disappeared Ones of Argentina – when parents were murdered and the children adopted by the murderers and brought up to despise their parents’ politics – and the lost generation of Australian children, where Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from both their parents and their culture. So that was very deliberate, right from the beginning.

In The Isles of Glory, I set out to write a fantasy adventure, but themes crept in along the way.

Q: Your most recent trilogy is Watergivers. Like you, I can remember a time when our water came from a water tank. And we were only allowed an inch of brown water in the bath to wash. This trilogy sounds wonderful. ‘Ancient water tunnels, moving red dunes, singing sands, salt pans, settlements in dry water courses, waterpaintings, precious water.’ Do you find your books grow organically, or do you plan them?

Both. If I write a synopsis, then I often end up changing it substantially as I go along, especially by the time I get to book three. I keep on having better ideas! However, I think it is essential to know where you are going. If you don’t have an ending in mind, how can you push the story forward?

Q: I was prompted to start this series of interviews because there seems to be a perception in the US and the UK that fantasy is a bit of a boy’s club. Do you think there’s a difference in the way males and females write fantasy?

I do actually, although the moment you say something like that, someone else will find twenty different exceptions to the rule! However, let me take the plunge. I can’t imagine anyone but a male writer penning something like Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself and the subsequent books set in that world. The level of violence and gore, the number and detail of the battles: it shrieks male author to me.

Women also write such scenes, but I think there is a subtle difference. In real life women tend to see victims as much as heroes when it comes to wars and fighting. And in fiction, the people who die are seen as more than just a body count to many (most?) female authors. Battle scenes written by a women always seem … sadder, more wrenching, and therefore less heroic, to me.

Women authors write epic fantasy just as well as men, but often differently, presenting more of the intimate and less of the big picture. Some male writers do this too, of course. In fact I’d say they do it more often than women write the more masculine heroic-scale story.

Have I said enough to earn myself a roasting in the comments yet?

Q: Following on from that, does the gender of the writer change your expectations when you pick up their book?

I think it does. And occasionally, of course, I am surprised. I’ve always been happy to read writers from any position along the gender spectrum, and it shocked me senseless when I was told that there were men who wouldn’t read women authors. I found it hard to believe that such extraordinary people existed. (I’m not kidding – I was absolutely astonished that there were men who happily wiped out half the human race from their reading. I guess I was once very naïve.)

Q: And here’s the fun question. If you could book a trip on a time machine, where and when would you go, and why?

One thing for sure, I’d never go too far into the future. I don’t want to know. And what if you transferred to 2100, for example – and the world had been wiped out by an asteroid in the meantime? And anyone who wants to go back in time ought to read Connie Willis to see all the things that can go wrong… Nah, no thanks.


Give-away Question:

What kind of fantasy (e.g. epic world-scale, rollicking adventure escapism, urban paranormal, romantic, historical, Havenstar world…) would you like me to write next and why?


Follow Glenda on Twitter:  @glendalarke

See Glenda’s Blog.

Find Glenda on GoodReads.

Find Glenda on Facebook.


Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Characterisation, creativity, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Genre, Writing craft

26 Responses to Meet Glenda Larke …

  1. You know I’ve always said that I prefer to read female authored books because the voice seems different. More inclusive to me perhaps, though I do have my male author obsessions (Brandon Sanderson is one of the few who I think writes as ungendered as it gets). I think you can tell when an author is one or the other–even when they write under an ambiguous or misleading pen name.

    And I really dislike it when folks say Fantasy is such a boy’s club. If that was true then the Lord of the Rings movies wouldn’t have grossed nearly as much as they did! ::grumbles::

    As to your question, Historical Fantasy! Or rollicking Adventure with pirates. No wait, can you make it both? With pirates? 😀

    • Did you notice, Lexie, that in LOTR not one woman went on the adventure with the fellowship. Arwen had no role, other than to be Aragorn’s prize in the book. Peter Jackson gave her a role in the movie. And Eowen only got to play a role in the battle because she dressed up as a man.

      But you were really talking about the people who went to see the movie. Yes, we all enjoy fantasy. But I did see a review of Game of Thrones by a woman, who said she had no idea who watched this sort of thing. No one in her book club had ever stood up and asked to read The Hobbit instead of (some author I had never heard of). So there must be people out there who don’t like fantasy. Of course, I’ve never met them. LOL.

      • Don’t take my Fantasy Lover card away, but I’ve never read LoTR–much as I admire Tolkien’s influence on the genre and generations of writers, his writing drags on…and on….and on. I have similar problems with Robert JOrdan or Frank Herbert–I love their ideas! And the Dune/Children of Dune SyFy mini-series are some of my favorite serials, but the writing itself puts me to sleep.

        But seriously? Now I have less reason to read the books–I loved Arwen and Eowen! (or is it Eowyn? I’m never certain).

        LOL I’ve met some. Male and female–the most popular opinion seems to be that Fantasy is too closely linked with D&D or Conan or some such so people are like ‘I like books that make me THINK’. Which is when I shove them towards my bookshelves and other than a few more comedic fantasy series, tell them to read a book and then tell me Fantasy doesn’t make you think.

        But I’ve always held a similar opinion with hard science fiction. Thought it was for the ‘guys’. The hardest I read will be the Star Trek tie-ins and even then that’s only because I grew up a Trekker/Trekkie so its less I understand the science and more ‘Oh! Geordi said its true so it must be!’ you know?

    • Lexie, I think fantasy can be a thinkgin-reader’s genre of choice. After all, we take the reader to another world. We can explore all sorts of moral dilemmas while making them less confronting because nouns like black or Jew aren’t used.

      If you look at Glenda’s books you’ll find she’s dealing with big issues under the surface of the story.

  2. Kaaron Warren

    Epic World Scale! Filled with fury and scorn. Filled with all your amazing cultural awareness, your knowledge of people, and, just maybe, some solutions for a better world.

  3. Hi all. Kaaron — I am certainly filled with fury and scorn at the moment — still haven’t got a publisher for the next book! .A situation guaranteed to make a writer gnash their teeth…Lol

    Lexie / Rowena — it is astonishing how many women out there don’t read fantasy because they’ve never tried. They think it’s the same as SF and “of course” they won’t like that…( Perceptions can be weird.) One of the good things about the paranormal romance popularity is that it is introducing women readers to fantasy writing, woman who would never have thought of trying it before this.

    But alas, there are still some with a built-in resistance. There’s a woman in my bookgroup who reads my books, and seems to like them, but refuses to try anything else on the grounds that she “doesn’t like fantasy”. How does she know???

    • I’ve met lots of people who won’t read any kind of speculative fiction on principle. It’s all rubbish, you see, and they only like Real Stories about Real People. I try to tell them that all fiction is made of lies, but so far have made no converts. You can’t put anything into a closed mind:-(.

      • Satima, I was doing a tlak on writing at a shigh school and the year 12 English teacher asked me to come and talk to her boys who would only read SF. And I said, but SF has some of the greatest books ever written, and ranoff a list of classics that transcend genre. But she never invited me back. I always felt sorry for her year 12 boys who wanted to read SF and were being told it was rubbish.

    • As I mentioned in Kylie Chan’s interview I was floored by knowledge that there are women in my local community that won’t read anything by another woman – here did they pick that attitude up from?

      As to ideas, I was leafing through Bad Girls & Wicked women, maybe a psuedo-historical on Shi Xianggu (pirates !).

  4. I’m a huge paranormal romance junkie but would die to see more fusion between fantasy and p.r especially if you throw in some hunky fae *hint hint*

  5. Mary Preston

    I will always choose Historical first. To escape to a time gone past is heavenly.

    • Historical is great. I’m a big fan of Georgette Heyer. One day I must write my own take on Regency.

      • I’ll look forward to that, Rowena! Heyer was one of my faves, too , when I was a girl. I keep intending to reread her, but there are so many good new works coming out I never seem to get around to it! (Can’t wait for some perceptive publisher to snap up your new trilogy, Glenda!)

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  7. Glenda, I’d like you to write a standalone (because I am time-poor!) historical fantasy set in Malaysia.

    Having said that…did you say buccaneer?



    P.S. Yes, Rowena, we are supposed to change the world. I LOVE that Paolo Bacigalupi deliberately laces his science fiction with green future technology which he hopes will inspire some clever engineers or scientists to actually MAKE them. Fantasy and science fiction can explore politics, gender roles, etc in a way that’s challenging and culture-altering. The term “stepford wife” comes from a book about robots, which many people might refuse to read. And though Eowyn of the films did have to disguise herself to get into battle, she did kick the ass of the Witch-King (who kicks Gandalf’s ass) with the immortal line, “I am no man!” If someone makes a film of The King’s Bastard, can’t you imagine the line “I am a lover of men” being delivered with equal passion and pride?

    • Thoriaya, I do believe that writers change the world. Writers of TV and movie scripts reach more people.

    • Brendan Podger

      I second Thoraiya’s suggestion about setting it in Malaysia, but why not a modern tale? Some Urban(?) Fantasy set in Kuala Lumar or perhap Johor Bahru or Sarawak since a nice close border(Singapore & Indonesia) is always good for adding some tension.

      • Something Malaysian themed would be interesting, but I disagree with the urban fantasy part. I like the more epic kind of magic that Glenda writes about whereof affects everyone’s life, even if they don’t possess it. Like the rainlords and stormlords and the ruling class of Kardiastan.

  8. Epic world-scale, maybe historical (though I guess its less likely to be epic if it’s historical, so I am less invested in that one), and I wouldn’t say no to some adventure…

    I thought more Havenstar world was next on the table and I certainly wouldn’t say no to that. It will be very interesting to read about your first world through the words of the more developed writer that you are now.

  9. On Havenstar World:
    Tsana, I did start writing the next Havenstar world. Unfortunately my publisher turned it down as not having enough gravitas. It will be written, I promise you. First book is in fact about one quarter done. At the moment I am bit in limbo as to what is going to happen next as I don’t have a publisher.

    On Fusion:
    I love fusion stuff, especially as some of my early work was initially turned down because it didn’t fit nicely into a box with a neat label.

    On Changing the World: (megalomania anyone?)
    As for changing the world — I have read so many wonderful books that made me think about the world, about people, about issues, that I’m actually surprised that we don’t change the world more than we do! Possibly one of the things I find hardest to do as a writer is get the balance between having an interwoven theme and preaching a sermon. It is particularly difficult because readers are so different. I’ve had comments about the SAME book along lines like this: “Great story, lots of adventure, but no layers underneath” and “Has too many issues the author is trying to get across to the reader”.

    In some ways I wonder if I failed with one of the things I was trying to say in “Stormlord Rising” because no one has ever mentioned it anywhwere…

    • That’s unfortunate about the setback in Havenstar. I look forward to reading it whenever it comes out.

      Do we now have to guess what the thing you were trying to say in Stormlord Rising is? ;-p It could just be that reviewers didn’t mention it.

  10. Angela

    Glenda i would love you to write about the paintings that could change things that may happen in the future. First appearing in The Last Stormlord, I so loved that idea and would love a whole book or series about them.

  11. Tsana, it arose from the what in the newspapers about rape as a weapon of war. Some of the stories we read and horrible, but I didn’t want to go there because I prefer to deal in shades of grey. I was partially inspired by a US servicewoman in the 1st Iraq war who was apparently raped when captured. When the press tried to get her to talk about it, she said in effect, “Why do you ask me this, and not the men? You think it doesn’t happen to them to? I’m a soldier and I accept it can happen, and it’s no different from any other war injury.”
    Hence Ryka’s story. The one emotion women should NOT feel about rape is the one they most often feel (especially in non-Western cultures): shame.

    (SPOILERS!!! Do not read further if you haven’t read STORMLORD RISING.)
    Her sister dies, but Ryka takes a less “heroic” stance. She “acquiesces” in what is in effect her repeated rape, in order to save herself, her child and ultimately her husband. What I wanted people to take away from this was how honourable and how wise her choice was, and to emphasise how, at the end, she had no need to feel guilty or even embarrassed about her choices.
    It was very difficult to write, because it was difficult for her — he wasn’t a truly wicked person, and in time she understands exactly where he is coming from, which makes the whole situation even more ambivalent and sad.
    I wanted to say that war for women is not heroic, yet ultimately, they can be true heroines in war time even without a sword. They should walk proud even when their only victory is survival.

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