As the next of my series featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) I’ve invited the talented debut novelist Jo Anderton to drop by.
Watch out for the give-away question at the end of the interview.
Q: You entered the 2008 Orbit/QWC Manuscript Development competition and your book was among the 10 selected for further development. This must have been a wonderful opportunity. Can you tell us a little about the experience?
The Orbit/QWC Manuscript Development program was absolutely amazing. The opportunity to meet a publisher from Orbit and get face-to-face feedback on my book was invaluable. We also got to spend a week in beautiful sunny Queensland, doing nothing but working on those novels, under the mentorship of the generous and wise Marianne de Pierres. The ten other writers were a great bunch, and we’ve kept in touch since. They’re like a support group and a cheering squad all in one! We even gave ourselves a name, we are the Orbiteers!
Even though I had the flu at the time and couldn’t quite make it to all the activities (sadly I did some lying in bed feeling sorry for myself while my fellow Orbiteers were learning and networking and being generally fabulous) it was still a defining experience for me. The book I took to the program didn’t end up selling, but the experience I gained, the things I learned and the people I met truly helped Debris get to where it is today.
Q: You have since gone on to sell this book, Debris, plus the sequel, Suited, to Angry Robot. Congratulations! Editor Marc Gascione says: ‘With the ever-increasing popularity of Japanese and Korean anime, manga and computer games, it’s been surprising that there hasn’t been more SF and fantasy showing its influence. Debris’s mix of SF and fantasy themes, exotic future-medieval settings, Dune-esque warring factions, and a fabulous kick-ass heroine is exactly the sort of on-trend science fiction Angry Robot was set up to publish. We’re damned pleased to have Jo on board.’ Are you a manga fan? Did you realise you were writing cutting edge SF?
Thank you! It’s still very exciting! And sometimes I find it hard to believe it’s real.
I’m a big fan of manga and anime, as well as video games. All three are definitely influences on Debris. Manga like Fullmetal Alchemist, anime like Planets, and pretty much every Japanese RPG I’ve ever played! I particularly love the mix of magic and technology in games like the Final Fantasy series.
I certainly didn’t set out to write cutting edge anything. I mean, I wanted to write something that felt different, but fun was always more important than different! I also wanted to play with that combination of magic and technology, and create a world where the lines between them are blurred.
Q: Your debut novel Debris is described as ‘far future, where science is indistinguishable from magic’ and also as your ‘own unique vision of steampunk’. (For sample chapters see here). Have you finished the second book and, if so, what project are you working on next?
It’s been really interesting seeing how other people describe the world in Debris. While it’s definitely got some steampunk elements, it’s also kind of futuristic and a little dystopian. As I was writing it I was quite firmly convinced it was fantasy, just a different kind of fantasy. I guess I’m seeing now that it’s a little bit of everything.
Yes indeed, the second book is finished. At the moment I’m working on something completely different! I call it a ‘post-apocalyptic romantic comedy, set in Sydney of the not too distant future, with ghosts’. It’s a world of fun!
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?
In the way they write? Not that I’ve noticed. A lot of blokes have influenced my addiction to genre. My Dad read Tolkien to me, I loved his old E.E. Doc Smith and Theodore Sturgeon, and I’ll never forget the day I found my first David Eddings book in the local library. But so did Julian May, and Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Katharine Kerr, and then Sara Douglass and Jennifer Fallon, and more! I’m still finding new addictions.
As I type this I’m trying to think what the differences might be? I wouldn’t say one is more bloodthirsty than the other. I don’t think one gender does more romance, or better romance. Or more politics, or better politics. Isn’t it interesting that those are the first ‘differences’ that occurred to me? Bloodthirstyness, romance, and politics.
But is there a difference in the way their books are marketed? And discussed? And awarded? I reckon that’s where the important differences lie.
Q: Following on from that, does the gender of the writer change your expectations when you pick up their book?
Ah no. I’d say my expectations are based more on the blurb on the back, the publisher (yes, I actually notice publishers and imprints! But that could be due to my day job), the endorsement quotes, recommendations from friends, stuff I’ve read on the internet… Cover image (I’m a sucker for a good cover, I can’t help it). The usual!
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?
Into the future, definitely. I’d like it to be a Gene Roddenberry type future, with space travel, and exploration. I’m not so sure it would be. But I want to know how future generations will look back on us, what we did, what we could have done, and the kind of planet we bequeathed them.
One of the things I love about those Japanese RPGs is there’s always a bigger baddie. The evil-doers you think are the baddies aren’t the real deal, there’s always an ultimate enemy you don’t know about, usually hiding in plain sight. So, for the giveaway prize, who is your favourite ultimate baddie?
Follow Jo on Twitter: @joanneanderton
Catch up with Jo on GoodReads
Catch up with Jo on Facebook.
See Jo’s Blog