Watch out for the give-away question at the end of the interview.
Q: I once heard you describe yourself as a girl from an average family in Redcliffe (a bayside suburb of Brisbane). For someone who won the University of Queensland Medal for Academic Achievement and went on to do a PHD, this is a long way from the long hot summers of your childhood. If you could go back to that little girl and give her one piece of advice, what would it be?
Chillax, little girl. I grew up with an alcoholic dad, we never had money, I was unpopular at school, so all I ever did was fantasise about escape. I was drawn to books because I could disappear into them, and found the disappearing act was a billion times more brilliant if I was writing the story instead of reading it. I was so desperate to get away from that horrid life, and I worked so hard to be free of it. I still have a tiger on my tail, and still wish I could chillax even as a grown-up.
Q: Your first book The Infernal won the 1997 horror and fantasy awards. In an interview on Tablua Rassa you said: ‘I’m still waiting for someone to describe my work as Stephen King collaborating with the Brontë sisters. There’s such a strong feminine element, and often a strong historical element, and horror as a term isn’t elastic enough to cope with those extra elements.’ I love the description f Stephen King collaborating with the Bronte sisters. With your love of history and literature were you ever tempted to take the Bronte sisters and give them a more exciting life? (I’m thinking what you did in Angel of Ruin with the Great Fire of London and Milton’s daughters).
I was tempted, yes, but then somebody did a similar story (something about Charlotte being a murderer?) and I’ve never been all that interested in writing about the 19th century. I’d already written Grimoire, which was partly set in that period, and that had scratched the itch sufficiently. I tend not to go back to a historical period twice without a compelling reason. That would be like going to the same place over and over on holidays.
Q: You wrote 7 dark fantasy books in 8 years. Since Rosa and The Veil of Gold came out you haven’t written another adult dark fantasy. Have you been letting the ground like fallow so that when you come back to the genre you’ll feel refreshed?
I started writing another, but every time I sat down to work out how it might end, or what kinds of events might structure it, I kept repeating myself. I found this utterly dismaying and lost my confidence and hid in my bed for a while. Then I came out and said to my agent that I wanted to do something else for a while. That’s when I started writing the Kimberley Freeman books, which are epic romances, I guess, or adventure books for women. The problem (if it can be called that) was that Kimberley Freeman has done very well, so I was signed up for more of those. But I have recently finished a novel, a straight-up historical fantasy (nothing dark or urban). I published a novella that is kind of a prequel in 2010’s “Legends of Australian Fantasy”. I would like to write at least one more book set in that world. I still think I might come back to my original dark fantasy idea, but we’ll see where life takes me.
One thing that does annoy me is when people say, “you ought to write a book with angels in it” or the like. I have to say, “I already did.”
Q: You write for both Children and Young Adults. Your stand alone YA book The Pearl Hunters is set in 1799. I know have a deep love of history. In your YA series The Sunken Kingdom there are castles and ships and children in peril. Does having a good grounding in history help you produce well rounded fantasy worlds?
I’m just too lazy to create fantasy worlds from nothing. Seriously. The thought makes me feel completely drained. So I find a historical period and add magic. I find historical research easy and stimulating, and it makes me great at Trivial Pursuit.
Q: The Gina Champion Mysteries were contemporary YA with a supernatural twist. ‘From witchcraft to ghosts, from curses to spirit possession, the Gina Champion books are smart, sassy, and very scary.’ There were five books in the series and the last one came out in 2006. Are you tempted to dip into Gina’s world again?
No. I’m too busy. Too busy. I work at UQ, I teach at QWC, I am two authors. I can’t write for children as well. I feel as though I have the brakes on when writing for children or young adults. I find it very stifling.
Q: You also write women’s fiction as Kimberley Freeman. That’s a big leap from horror and YA paranormal-crime. Do you feel like you have to think yourself into a different head-space to write the Kimberley Freeman books?
Yes and no. Wildflower Hill is just The Resurrectionists without ghosts. The stories are very similar, just some of the conventions are different. I love being Kimberley Freeman some days, and other days I want to kill her. But it’s still writing; it’s still that immense pleasure of making up stories that I have adored for as long as I can remember. There doesn’t always have to be dragons.
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 couldn’t say with any confidence. I don’t think fantasy is a boys’ club by any stretch of the imagination. When I think of contemporary fantasy writers, the first 10 names that pop into my head are women.
It’s nothing to do with the writer. It’s to do with whether the book has a female lead. I have to have a female lead. Women generally write better about women. So in a roundabout way, maybe the answer is yes.
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?
England, 8th century. But just for a few days.
Kim has a copy of Rosa and The Veil of Gold to give-away. The Give-away Question is: If you could meet one of the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen or Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who would it be and why?
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