Category Archives: Movies & TV Shows

Meet Dirk Flinthart…

I first met Dirk around 15 years ago when he turned up at a Vision Writers’ meeting bare foot talking about ley lines. I soon discovered he was a wonderfully insightful critiquer and came to value his input to our writing craft discussions. When Marianne and I formed the ROR writing group to polish our novel length work we asked Dirk to join. He lives in northern Tasmania with his GP wife and three children, and he is a genius when it comes to food!

His new book Path of Night has just been released through Fablecroft.

flinthart publicity colour small

 

Q: First of all, why ‘Dirk Flinthart’? Your pseudonym reminds me of an episode of the Elizabethan Black Adder series when Lord Flashheart appeared. Were you a fan of Black Adder? What prompted you to use Dirk Flinthart as your writing name?

 

Long, complicated tale. It started – as many things have – at university. For the student newspaper, I wrote a column parodying the US ‘survivalist’ movement, with a friend. The putative writers were Dirk “Some Refuse To Die” Flinthart and Rambo Rockharde. We had a lot of fun, got paid, got drunk, and apparently developed a fanbase. A few years later, after John Birmingham’s He Died With A Felafel In His Hand made so much money that the publisher had to find a tax sink, I got invited to write gutter-level pulp crime fiction. (Brotherly Love, under Autopsy Press, later Duffy and Snellgrove.) All of us involved in that project used pseudonyms, and Birmo suggested I use Flinthart. Then of course that swine Birmingham actually caricatured me under the name of Dirk Flinthart in his sequel to Felafel (The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco). And I wrote a backpacker’s guide to the east coast of Oz in which I was quite rude to the city where my mother lived… so Flinthart took the blame there, too. And I’ve never quite shaken the bastard off.

 

I don’t mind, really. Flinthart has become more of an alternative identity. People who know me will know exactly what I mean, and people who know Flinthart… well, they know Mister Flinthart.

 

Oh! And yes, I’m a big Blackadder fan. Who isn’t?

PathofNightCoverSMQ: According to the back cover blurb for Path of Night: ‘Medical student Michael Devlin is in trouble. With his flatmates murdered and an international cabal of legendary man-monsters on his trail, Devlin’s got nowhere to hide. His only allies are a hot-tempered Sydney cop and a mysterious monster-hunter who may be setting Devlin up for the kill. If he’s going to survive, Devlin will have to embrace his new powers and confront his hunters. But can he hold onto his humanity when he walks the Path of Night?’ I get the feeling this could be a mix of the Jim Butcher novels and Simon R Green’s Nightside series. What did you draw your inspiration from and do you envision a series for Michael Devlin?

I can’t say where the exact ‘inspiration’ came from, but I can say this is intended as a series. Look, currently I’m most of the way through a Masters’ degree in creative writing, and I’ve been studying genre fiction. (Why not?) In doing the reading, I realised something very important.

All of us here in speculative fiction – we want an audience. We want to be published. And as writers, we are conditioned to think that the only effective tool we have is our prose, so we struggle and we strive and we polish and we edit and we critique… and then Dan Brown publishes something that is truly painful to read, and draws millions of readers. (Sorry, Dan. Your writing is awful, and your storytelling makes me cringe. But you’re entertaining a lot of people, so best of luck to you.)

The quality of our prose is important, but only to a certain degree. More important is having work out there, and entertaining an audience. Big publishers are constantly looking for the book that repeats yesterday’s bestseller. Writers want to be original. But audiences? They want to enjoy their reading, and there’s a lot of scope in that.

That was the real inspiration for Path of Night, right there. Realising that I’d reached a place where I could construct a novel and that it could be enjoyed by readers, I felt that I didn’t want to struggle and strive and  have the MS looked at for the next two years by big publishers who wouldn’t take it in the end because it didn’t look like a commercial prospect. I thought I’d write a book that was fun, and interesting, and a bit different, and that I’d approach a small, agile publisher and jump straight into the e-book realms.

Hey: we all started writing because it was fun, right? We tell stories because we enjoy it. But the more we have to compromise our ideas and chase after the here-today, gone-tomorrow will-o-wisp vision of the big publishers, the less storytelling and the less FUN we have.

You want to know something cool? Writing Path of Night was a hoot. I like the main character. I like the main support character so much that I didn’t wind up killing her, and she’s going to be at least as important in the next book, or two, or three. I got a kick out of the villains. I enjoyed adding a distinctly Australian humour to it. I enjoyed the plot and the ideas, and once the ball got rolling, I had the first draft done in less than six months and it didn’t feel like work at all.

Now it’s out there, and the folks who have read it are getting back to me and saying: hey, yeah! This thing is fun! It’s interesting and entertaining!

That right there – that is the alpha and the omega of why and how I became a writer.

No, I haven’t written off the big publishers. That would be silly. But rather than chase them with ever more elegant works, I’m simply going to spend some time enjoying my writing. The challenge of writing elegant, arresting prose remains, and I’ll keep working on projects of that nature, but after the sheer pleasure I got from creating Path of Night, there’s no way I’m making the elegant, poetic stuff my only approach.

 

Q: In a blog post on Ebon Shores you say: ‘I’ve been writing stories since I was a kid. I figure most writers would say the same thing. I started getting paid in University, writing articles for this and that. Being paid was cool, but the point was much more about having fun. I convinced magazines to let me go to Maleny-Woodford to interview feral babes. I got myself paid to attend the National Festival of Beer. I got paid to ride around in a 4WD-converted Rolls Royce. I made money, but more: I had a lot of fun.’ Sounds like your early twenties were a hoot but it is a long way from this kind of writing to speculative fiction. Where and when did the fantasy and SF element come in?

First and foremost, of course. What do you think I read when I was growing up? Smart, isolated kid with a funny accent in Far North Queensland – yeah, I read science fiction and fantasy. I got hold of the Ancient Greek and Norse myths when I was about six. I got the Myths And Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and a huge volume of Robin Hood in faux-Elizabethan English when I was about eight. I stumbled onto the Robert Howard Conan books before I was ten, and vaulted from there to Moorcock in all his hallucinogenic glory. After that? I read anything I could find that had a speculative element. Horror. Fantasy. Lots and lots of SF, gleaned from school fetes and library sales and everywhere, anywhere at all. I read the Gormenghast books and The Master and Margharita when I was thirteen, at the same time (and from the same private library) as I found Tove Jansson’s marvellous Moomintroll stories.

Yes. I’ve written for magazines. And newspapers. I’ve written radio scripts and interviews and plays, and adapted stories for short films. I’ve published at least one peer-reviewed paper on the topic of online education in an international education journal, and I did that as Dirk Flinthart which I think is pretty funny. I’ve written a backpacker’s guide, and stuff on lifestyle and humour, and I expect I’ll write a lot more of all sorts of things before I drop dead…

…but I love telling stories. Imaginative, speculative stories. And that’s what I’m doing with Path of Night.

 

Q: Your Red Priest stories have been very successful with The Red Priest’s Homecoming appearing in The Year’s Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy Volume 2.  I know at one point you were working on a Red Priest book. Can we look forward to seeing a novel length story about the Red Priest?

Yep. Actually, I’d intended to break out with a Red Priest novel, but about halfway in I realised I was writing about more or less the end of the character’s career, and that seemed a damn’ fool way to introduce him in a big way. So I put that one on the back burner. My goal is to work through a few more quick, enjoyable books about Mick Devlin and the Night Beasts, and hopefully acquire enough of an audience that I can then turn around and introduce the Red Priest properly.

That’s the plan, anyhow. Who knows how it will go? I also have to finish that Queen of Bedlam novel pretty soon… and the Masters Degree with it. And more short stories. And… well, hell. Is there a writer that isn’t busy?

I love the Red Priest, though. I’m definitely not done with Tomaso Dellaforte. (Currently working on a story placing him in Iceland, as a matter of interest.)

 

9781875989935Q: Going way back you co-wrote How to be a Man with John Birmingham and I see you had a book called Brotherly Love published in 1995. What genre was this and why can’t I find an image of the cover? Is it out of print?

Brotherly Love is indeed out of print. As I mentioned before, Birmingham’s “Felafel” opus kind of scared the publisher, and he needed a new project to balance his books. Michael Duffy was a man ahead of his time. He figured there was a market for novella-length crime done quick and dirty… and of course, today he’s right. The novella is emerging as a real sweet-spot length for e-publishing. But back in ’95, the cost of printing a 30,000 word book was significant, and you couldn’t really deliver a throwaway price on the things. Meanwhile, the trend was towards doorstop sized airport novels, so after a half-dozen or so books in the collection (Birmo wrote another. So did Peter Robb. I can’t recall who else was involved.) they shelved the concept.

I really enjoyed writing it, though. Thirty thousand words in two weeks, followed by a revision. I can’t believe I made it work. We all did it, though. And yeah: it was fun. A lot of fun.

 

Canterbury-2100-coverQ: A few years ago you compiled and edited a shared world anthology called Canterbury Tales 2100. In an interview on the ROR site you say: ‘Canterbury was a major challenge. It was an homage to the Canterbury Tales: a collection of oral stories by travellers on a stranded train in the year 2109, on their way to Canterbury in an England trying to recover from a century of climate change, ecodisaster, economic catastrophe, plague – a collapse of the worldwide civilisation we have today.’ This sounds fascinating. Do you have any plans to do another shared world anthology?

I adored the Canterbury idea, and I loved working on this project. I picked up very early pieces from writers including Lisa Hannett, Laura Goodin and Thoraiya Dyer, all of whom have gone from strength to strength. Cat Sparks backed me to put it together to suit myself and I remain inexpressibly grateful to her for that.

This is a book that should have gone through a big publishing firm. The idea was not so much a shared world anthology as a collection of stories from the people of a shared fictional world. As a reader, you don’t get a straightforward depiction of “the future” from this book. You get the stories that the people of that future tell each other, and you have to piece together your own image of the future that created those stories. To me, that’s the essence of good storytelling: giving readers enough that they want to create more for themselves.

Canterbury 2100 is unique. Nobody’s done anything quite like it before, or since, and come what may, the writers and I own a little piece of science fiction history for that. I am extremely proud of this collection, and it was indeed a real challenge. However, storytelling is my first love. Editing is second-best, no matter how much fun you’re having with it. If I do another shared world anthology, it will be because I’m being paid for it!

 

Q: Your Young Adult stories have been shortlisted several times for Aurealis awards and This is not my Story appeared in the Year’s Best Australian Science fiction and Fantasy Volume 5. Are you particularly drawn to YA stories and if so, why?

YA? No special appeal. But think how much speculative fiction has been more or less YA. Look at Frank Herbert’s Dune: Paul Atreides is 14 years old at the outset. And Ged, in Ursula LeGuin’s wonderful Wizard of Earthsea – a boy who becomes a very young adult over the course of the tale. Think how much YA stuff Robert Heinlein did – and Diana Wynne Jones, and oh, how many others?

There’s a reason for that, you know.

This world we’ve created does a terrible thing to children as they grow up. When you’re small, the world is full of ghosts and fairies, witches and magic, Jedi masters and superheroes and all manner of marvels and wonders. But as you get older, they take these things away from you one at a time. They kill off the Tooth Fairy, and Santa. The fairy tales become… just stories. The witches become sad, misinterpreted and persecuted women from difficult historical times. The speed of light keeps the alien invasion fleets away from Earth forever, and keeps every space-ranger and free-trader planetbound.

All this they take, and they give back nothing but wreckage. Consumerism. Climate change. Mass extinctions. Trade wars. Terrorism. It’s not an equitable exchange at all: it’s vicious, and it’s cruel.

But there’s that one last joyful period in the life of a growing, thinking person: that time when you’re old enough to comprehend and enjoy complex storytelling, yet not so beaten and defeated that all the magic has gone from the world. That, right there: that’s why so much YA fiction is also speculative fiction. The audience is still young enough and strong enough to suspend disbelief, but they’re also old enough and smart enough to handle a good, strong, twisty story with teeth.

What’s that quote from Ursula leGuin? Oh, I remember: “The creative adult is the child who has survived.” Well, that’s what good YA fiction is for – helping keep alive the child that so very much of this appalling world seems intent on killing. And speculative fiction of all sorts is for people who can suspend disbelief and play along, so of course it frequently reaches out to a younger audience.

And who knows? If we do a good enough job as writers, maybe we’ll convince some of that audience to devise truths of our myths, and the world can become a better place.

 

dirks-cover1Q: Angel Rising was published by Twelfth Planet Press. You say: ‘Gordon gets to fall in love, fight lots of bad guys, discuss Zen and ethics, and maybe save his world. Oh – and he also gets to take sides in a pitched battle between ninjas and Zen Buddhist nuns. What else could you ask for?’ Sounds like fun. Proctor General Gordon has appeared in several stories tied into the New Ceres shared world. Will you be revisiting New Ceres and Gordon?

I’d quite like to, but… it’s complicated. I’m not really sure where all the rights are, or how it all works. There were a lot of people involved with New Ceres. Still, I’ve got several thousand words in which a typically sardonic and cunning George Gordon more or less single-handedly attacks an invasion fleet… It might see the light of day at some point!

 

Q: Not long ago you were writing a libretto as part of your Masters. It was turned into an operetta called Bedlam where Mab, the Queen of the Fey, and Lord Byron collided. ‘Bedlam is a legendary place of madness, and of course, there’s a long history of association between madness and the Faery folk. To be ‘elf-shot’, for example, is an old term for being mad. And then there’s the term ‘fey’, which is often used interchangeably with faery or fairy or elf – but also means eccentric, mad, ‘doomed’, ‘fated’, and so forth. I want to say it was an easy leap from there to trap an elf-queen in Bedlam, and to put the famous Lord Byron into the role of rescuer. And why not? Club-footed Byron (obviously marked by the faery at birth!) is as fine a role-model for the elf-shot, mad, romantic hero as ever you could want.’

(See a clip here)

This takes collaboration to a whole new height, working with a songwriter, director, dancers and actors. Is it an experience you would revisit?

As it stands, the piece is designed to be an opera. The company in Brisbane – Outcast Opera – are still intent on bringing it to life, but they have to grind their way through the funding process. I really, really hope they manage it: the trailer they put together for presentation to Queensland Arts was absolutely jaw-dropping, as you can see from that clip.

Now, my part in all that visual and auditory glory was small. I just wrote some words! But oh – to see and hear those words as they come back with all that music, those voices, those phenomenal dancers! How much more could a writer ever ask for?

I’ve done this kind of thing a couple of times. There’s a short movie from Dragonwood Studios based on a story of mine, and then there’s this opera. And I honestly cannot convey just how much I have enjoyed this. Writing and storytelling – that’s one process, one dimension, one interpretation of ideas and characters. As soon as you bring in other creative people to add imagery, movement, light and colour and sound… yes, you give away ownership of the words. But you get so much back! Seeing your own dreams come back at you, reshaped and re-coloured by the imagination and creativity of others – that’s a special kind of magic.

I’d do this again in a heartbeat. Any time at all. You know what would be a real dream? Writing for animation. That would be just too damned cool.

Still. I’ll be happy if the opera gets to the stage. I’ve promised I’ll attend the premiere in a proper tuxedo… although I think I’ll have to Steampunk it up in honour of the story itself.

 

Q: Your writing background is very eclectic. Was this a deliberate choice or did the stories drive you in their own directions?

There wasn’t a choice. I’m afraid that’s just me. I have an odd kind of mind. I have an unusually retentive memory (far from photographic; I just keep oddments and facts and trivia) and an odd propensity for forming connections and patterns. I have no idea how other people create stories, and even less on how they can keep creating in a single niche. Stories are everywhere! Just… join the dots, right?

I’m not explaining this very well, am I? Probably because I cannot. I think most of us are blind to the strange wellsprings of our own creativity, and I think that’s probably a necessary thing. If we understood where it all came from, it seems likely it would vanish.

 

Q: I understand you teach Ju Jitsu, are learning Iaido, and have been known to take your bow out and shoot a wallaby to cook for dinner, as well as write. How did your degree in Entomology prepare you for this? Seriously, what advice would you give aspiring writers?

Okay, this is getting silly. Ummm… yes, to all the above. (Except bow-hunting wallabies. That’s illegal. But I own a duly licensed firearm, and occasionally I use it to reduce the plague-proportion numbers of wallabies here, and yes – they’re delicious. But I only ever shoot targets with the bow.) I also take photographs, and play the Irish whistle and flute. Doesn’t everyone?

Advice for aspiring writers is simple, though: write.

Don’t expect to publish. Just write. Write because you need to, because it’s your joy, because it gets you through the day. Write what you like writing, and enjoy the writing that you do.

Yes, your prose has to work. But there are enough highly popular, thoroughly execrable books out there to prove beyond all doubt that deathless prose isn’t the secret.

What is? Well, if I knew that I’d be parked next to Dan Brown’s yacht, wouldn’t I? But I know this: if you’re not having fun, you’re wasting your life. So write, and take pleasure in the stories you tell, and once you’ve placed a few stories and maybe won a competition or two, just take the plunge.

Let the readers decide. They’re the ones you want to reach, after all.

 

Catch up with Dirk:

Blog

Goodreads

 

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Filed under Australian Writers, Characterisation, creativity, Fantasy books, Fun Stuff, Genre, Movies & TV Shows, Readers, Script Writing, Thrillers and Crime, Tips for Developing Writers, Writing craft, Young Adult Books

Drive-by Post about Supanova

Here I am with Lindy Cameron from ClanDestine Press at Supanova, Brisbane. We’re in Artists’ Alley, where all the cool people are.

I’m looking forward to catching up with lots of readers today. Already caught up with people I’d met at Supanova in Brisbane and Sydney. Wow, some people are dedicated, travelling interstate. And you should see the costumes!

Alison Goodman’s new book will be launched in the Wrestling  Ring with John Birmingham. Get a ‘lucky door prize’ ticket. If your number comes up you’ll be given the first signed copy of her book for free!

Here’s a list of the Supanova Movie, TV and Author guests if you’re thinking of coming…

Fiona McIntosh
Rumplegeist, The Percheron, The Valisar

Billy West
Ren and Stimpy, Futurama

Paul Mason
The Soldier Legacy

Juliet Marillier
The ‘Seven Waters’ Trilogy

Tom Felton
Harry Potter, Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Kathleen Zuelch
Tex in Red Vs Blue

Masakazu Morita
Bleach, Tidus in FFX, Pegasus Seiya

Nelsan Ellis
Lafayette Reynolds from True Blood

Billy Tan
Uncanny X-Men, New Avengers, Shadowland

Alfred Enoch
Dean Thomas in the Harry Potter films

Felicia Day
The Guild, Dollhouse, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Chris Rankin
Percy Weasley in the Harry Potter films

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Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Conferences and Conventions, Conventions, Female Fantasy Authors, Movies & TV Shows

Meet John Richards, Script Writer, Comedian & SF Fan…

I have been featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) but this has morphed into interesting people in the speculative fiction world. Today I’ve invited the talented John Richards to drop by.

First a bit of background. John Richards is one of the two writers behind Outland, the new 6 part ABC comedy about a bunch of gay geeks, who are trying to hide their nerdy dark secret – they’re SF fans!

 

Adam Richard and John Richards (no relation)

Q: I see you and Adam first came up with the idea for this show back in 2005. Do the pair of you have a long working history together? Does this make it easier when working on comedy? And (one more) do you have to go through the – No, he’s no relation to me. Our last names just happen to be almost the same? – routine when you meet people?

The name thing happens all the time – I’ve even seen us referred to as “the Richards brothers” in articles. We’ve become the new Wachowski brothers. Or siblings, as they are now. At the press launch for the 2012 ABC programming the brochure got both our surnames wrong, which was new!

I’d known Adam through comedy circles since he first started comedy (actually, before – I first saw him when I was editing a spoken-word event for Bent TV on Channel 31 and they’d got his surname wrong on the caption list). But the Outland pilot script was the first thing we did together.

Writing comedy as a team is good in that you get a lot more ideas and jokes, and bad in that you eventually want to kill each other. I think the best writing teams are the ones with rigid rules to make it work – Monty Python had a veto system in place, for example. Outland was in development for a while so the approach changed several times. In the end Adam and I co-wrote three episodes and I wrote three solo, but we were both involved in the creation and concept of the show and the characters.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJHIygkQd1w&feature=relmfu]

Q: I see you have a background in stand-up comedy and you’ve worked for the 3RRR comedy show, The Third Ear. I bet you were the sort of little boy who would clown around in school and drive the teacher’s crazy. Was school hell for you?

I suspect I had an unusual school experience in that I was a geek and a nerd and a nancy boy, but also 6 feet tall and quite wide. So I was never bullied. I hated school – like any normal person does – but more because it was a thing you had to wade through before life could really start. I was fairly quiet in class, I think, and I was a really bad student. I just couldn’t get interested in things like calculus. I was bored, basically. At the same time I started high school I also joined The West Lodge, Perth’s Doctor Who fan club, so I spent a fair amount of time hanging out at the University Of Western Australia – I even attended some lectures, out of curiosity. But failed high school.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=kNXq2fZ9r08]

Q: My kids have grown up watching British comedy like The Young Ones, the Ab Fab, Fawlty Towers, Monty Python, Red Dwarf, The Black Adders, The IT Crowd and local shows such as Flight of the Concords and Lano and Woodley. When you were growing up what comedy shows did you watch? What inspired you?

Growing up I remember loving Australia, You’re Standing In It and Rod Quantock made me want to try stand-up. I loved his intelligent-yet-surreal pieces to camera on that. I watched all the terrible “ooh-err-missus” comedies like Are You Being Served that my parents liked, and I’ve ended up with a weird mix of disgust at their double-standards but respect for the work that went into the writing (Outland episode 3 is intended as an examination/tribute to those sorts of shows). And I remember loving WKRP In Cincinatti, which I recently rewatched to find it has aged incredibly badly. As I got a bit older the “alternative comedy” movement in the UK happened and I remember the excitement of The Young Ones and the shows that came out of that. And many, many years later – like many people – I fell in love with Spaced.

Q: I really enjoyed Outland. The dialogue was really snappy and the direction was tight. It came across as very polished. Have you been workshopping these 6 episodes for a while?

The original pilot script was written in 2005, and we made the short film in 2006. When the ABC came on board we developed 6 episodes and then worked on them in fits and starts as funding came through. So while the first episode always followed the same general plot of that original script, the scripts would change. A lot of people were involved – Adam, producer Andrea Denholm, script-editor Philip Dalkin, myself – and even now I occasionally can’t remember if a certain joke is in the finished version or an earlier draft. I would’ve liked the first episode to be even tighter, myself! First episodes are notoriously tricky – the first episode of 30 Rock is generally held to be one of the worst, even by fans of the show – and I think we did pretty well. But it also went down a few dark alleys before coming back again. So the first episode was certainly workshopped a fair bit, but often it fought back… Those people who’ve seen the short film will probably be surprised by how similar it is.

Q: I’ve worked as a graphic artist, been involved in Indy Press, am currently a writer and I know people who are musicians. It is really hard to make a living as a creative person. Did you always want to be a comedian/script writer? And if you had a child and they came to you and said – Hey, Dad, I wanna be a (insert, writer/actor/comedian/musician) – what would you say to them?

I’d say “get a real job!”. But seriously… I’d probably say “get a real job”. It is so hard. I am monstrously proud of Outland, but you spend 7 years on a project, living on two-minute-noodles and hope, and then see someone on a blog has dismissed it in one sentence, often without even bothering to watch it…

I always wanted to be a writer, originally a film writer, but in the last decade or so television has taken over as the place interesting and inventive work is happening. At least, in the US and the UK. Australia is still lagging behind on that and while I can name a dozen great, respected TV writers from overseas, in Australia there isn’t that tradition. The concept of the “show-runner” is finally coming in here but rather than being the head-writer – as it is everywhere else – it seems to have become another producer’s title. Until we embrace the idea that the writer should be able to drive and own the creative idea we’re not going to make anything to match Six Feet Under or Mad Men. Princess Pictures gets this, and that’s why people love to work for them, but it might take a little longer to catch on everywhere.

So what would I say to my fictional children, really? Nothing. Because they’re fictional.

Q: In an article by Frances Atkinson, she says:

‘beneath the sci-fi-inspired double entendres, of which there are many, Outland is a character-driven comedy about relationships – an affectionate look at how shared passions can make us feel like outsiders but also less alone.

Would you see this is the show’s underlying theme, in the same way the first 3 seasons of Being Human (UK version) was about a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost trying to stay in touch with their humanity?

I think the series is about making peace with yourself – embracing who you are. Without giving any spoilers, the characters are often having to re-examine themselves and come to terms with who they are and how they behave. And the group is both support and contrast to that. But they can’t really join the group until they’re honest about who they are and embrace that.

Lordy, that sounded deep. And there’s fisting jokes!

Q: I gather that most of the people involved in the show as SF fans. I thought it was so mainstream now everyone knew the tropes. Do you go to SF Cons and events like Supanova? Is there still a stigma around being an SF fan? 

I can’t decide – I keep thinking things have changed but if you ever see something SF or fantasy being praised in the press it usually comes with a caveat – “There’s only a little bit of fantasy, so it’s OK”. When we were preparing the show we discovered that the BBC doesn’t consider Doctor Who to be science fiction – it’s officially a “family drama”. And if something is really loved then the words “science fiction” will disappear completely – no-one’s going to call Margaret Atwood a science fiction writer, no matter how many science fiction novels she writes. I remember going to see Pan’s Labyrinth and being disappointed that it was actually a straight-forward war film with three short fantasy sequences, rather than a full-on fantasy-fest as promised by the ads. But non-fans thought it WAS a full-on fantasy films – for them, three sequences in a two hour films was mind-bending.

I went to cons when I was a teenager but it’s only recently I’ve been back. I went to Aussiecon4 mostly because I have a brain-crush on Robert Shearman, and had a great time. And with my Boxcutters co-host Josh Kinal I’ve done some panels and podcasts at the Continuums. Continuua?

I haven’t been to the Supernovas/Armageddons yet, but I’d like to. They’re very “star” focussed and I’m probably more drawn to the behind-the-scenes creatives, but I think they look like a lot of fun.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4oBn7tNnnM&feature=relmfu]

Q: I see there’s an Outland Institute Blog. It takes a lot of work to maintain a blog. (We writers should know. We write for a living).  Is this something you’ve done before for other projects, or is Outland your first venture into blogging?

Ha! I started the blog to force myself to write more – I was in one of those “Gaiman-envy” moments, I think. I thought that if I forced myself to write more, I would write more. But it’s a bit like buying an exercise bike at Christmas, isn’t it? I update it maybe two or three times a year now. It was fun to do, and it led to the radio show of the same name on Joy 94.9 in 2009 which I loved, but I suspect podcasts have ousted the blog. Podcasts and tumblr. Have you seen the horrendous internet term “tl;dr”? It means “too long – didn’t read”. It’s a celebration of stupidity. But I suspect that long-form internet writing may be on the way out.

Q: I see the full series played over two nights at the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival in October 2011.  How did Outland go with a US audience? Did they have any trouble following the Australian accents or humour?

The festival found us through Continuum – they’d read about the show online. We offered two episodes two them – episode one and their choice of 2, 3 or 4 (we couldn’t decide). Keith Bacon, the programmer, came back saying he adored it and could he please see the last two so he could see how it ends! And then he asked to play the whole series across two nights, which was incredibly flattering, and the festival had me over as a guest. I stayed in a hotel room that was bigger than my flat.

I was worried about the accents and the humour, but I had seen the original short film play in Texas and that had gone well. I never expected how much the Seattle audience would love it, though. The reception was astonishing. We made people cry! That’s not something you expect for a comedy! Or want, even. At the end they gave us an award – the audience had voted it one of the highlights of the festival. It was a great festival and I loved Seattle. I want to make another series now just to have an excuse to go back.

Q: At this point, I usually I ask a couple of questions about gender and writers or comic artists. Christine Anu plays a lesbian (in a wheelchair – were you ticking boxes?). The other four regular cast members are all male, the director is male and the show is written by two males. Is it harder for a female comedian or director to get ahead?

In an ideal world there’d be more female roles in Outland, but there was a reason for each character to be there and part of the story does involve Rae being the odd one out. Which is my way of saying she’s deliberately the only woman, not accidentally – not better perhaps, but we did at least think about it. There’s also very few other roles in the series, as almost every episode focuses entirely on the five leads, but we do have three more female characters coming up and a guest appearance by Sue Ann Post. But only episode two really passes the Bechdel Test. If we make a second series I’m hoping to amend that.

It’s hard to work out issues of gender behind the camera – is it harder for a woman to get ahead as a director? I don’t know. I do know that our producers are all women, as was the DOP, the production designer, the costume designer, the sound designer, the casting agent, the editor and the accountant! And, indeed, the head of ABC comedy.

But is it harder to get a gig as a director if you’re a woman? Maybe. But most of Australia’s producers are women, so I’m not sure. How does anyone get a job in this industry? Seriously, I’d love to know…

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?

Well, first I’d take a VCR and pop back to 1966 to record episode four of “The Tenth Planet”. When I think about time travel – which is alarmingly often – I find I often want to make fairly small jumps. Like, did the 1970s of my early childhood really smell like chemicals as I think it did? Was everything really brown? And I’d like to have a cocktail in the lower bar of the Ritz Hotel in 1942, just to see what it was like, and to go window-shopping in the 1960s. But mostly I’d go to the future, to see how everything turns out. Spoilers!

 

For Outland Institute Blog podcasts see here.

Outland Facebook.

(the other writer) Adam Richard’s blog.

Boxcutters podcast (co-hosted by John – check out the award-winning interview with Doctor Who writers Paul Cornell and Rob Shearman)

Where’s Outland tumblr -

John’s unofficial online commentary tracks for Outland

ABC iview

Outland Series iTunes

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Filed under Australian Writers, Conventions, creativity, Gender Issues, Movies & TV Shows, Nourish the Writer, Script Writing

Meet Keri Arthur…

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

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

Q: Between 2001 and 2011 you released more than two books a year (23 in total). I’m guessing you had a backlog of books that you’d written. Or are you going to put us all to shame and say you’ve written 23 books in 10 to 12 years?

Well, if you want to get technical (and include the two I’ve written this year) its 27 books, 1 novella, and three short stories for anthologies.

I didn’t really have a backlog of already written books when I signed the contract for Dancing with the Devil. I had completed five books by then, but three of those will never see the light of day. Great ideas, but horrible writing.  So yes, I’ve basically written 25 books in ten years.

Q: You have four series that were originally published with Imajin.  Spook Squad series, the Ripple Creek Werewolf series, the Damask Circle series ( which has a release date of 2001) and the Nikki and Michael series. Which was your first series? I’m asking because I like to read author’s books in chronological order of when they were written to see how they develop as a writer. When you look back at these books are you tempted to edit them? I see Bantam are going to release these books. Will you be given a chance to go over them? (Lots of questions, sorry, but all related).

Dancing with the Devil, the first of the Nikki and Michael books, was the first book I had accepted and published, so that’s the series to start with–although I alternated between that series and the Circle books when I was writing them. The Ripple Creek series was next, then finally the Spook Squad series.

All the books will be re-edited before Bantam release them in mass market format. I’ve just completed the edits on Beneath a Rising Moon, the first of the Ripple Creek books which is being re-released in May next year. I was actually surprised how well it held up considering how much I think I’ve grown as a writer since these books were first published.

Q: I see you are one of the guests of Conflux in 2012. Have you been to other SF conventions? Will you know many of the writers and the fans?

I’ve been going to Conflux for a few years now, but tend to stick more to the romance conferences, as that’s the market Bantam have been aiming the Riley Jenson series at (even though they’re dark urban fantasy rather than romance). After the open friendliness of all the Romance conferences, it was a little intimidating going to an SF convention like Conflux, as I very much felt like an outsider.  Thankfully, it is getting better now that I’m becoming a little more known in the SF community.

Q: You blog on a group blog called Deadline Dames, (how the Deadline Dames met, LOL), with Devon Monk, Jackie Kessler, Jenna Black, Karen Mahoney, Lilith Saintcrow, Rachel Vincent, Rinda Elliot and Toni Andrews. I belong to a writing group called ROR and find the support of fellow authors invaluable. We critique each other’s books once every year or so, but I gather you and the other dames share the blog to spread the good word about your books. Would you recommend a shared blog to other writers thinking of blogging, but overwhelmed by the pressure?

I’d definitely recommend it, because the dames have been a huge source of both inspiration and support over the years (as has my crit group). It’s good to be a part of a close knit group of writers who totally understand what you’re going through at any given point in your career. It’s also brilliant to a have a ‘safe’ place—somewhere where you can let off steam and know with complete certainty it will go no further.

However, it can sometimes get overwhelming, especially if you also have your own blog (as I do) as well as twitter, facebook, google+ and whatever else they decide to come up with in the future. Getting the word out there about your books is all well and good, but in the end, it’s the books that count.

Q: When we were talking at Supanova you mentioned you’re renovating. My sympathies, we’re just reaching the end of more than 12 months of renovating. I find having well ordered surroundings helps me to think clearly. Messy room equals messy mind for me. Hopefully, your renovations will be smoother than mine. Are you the kind of person who is heavily influenced by their surroundings? I know some authors collect ‘play lists’ for each book they write, while others collect a resonance file of images. Which are you?

I write by music, and it’s always the same music–Eco Zen 2. It’s gotten to the stage where I put that cd on, and my muse instantly gets to work. I can have the TV going, the daughter in the next room playing shoot-em ups, the neighbour mowing, and none of it matters as long as the music is going.

Mind you, I’m not sure the same will be said when the builders start pulling down the house around us. Especially if they’re well built builders.

Q: In an interview on EUSA Today Books you said the idea for book one, Destiny Kills, of Myth and Magic series came to you while watching The Bourne Identity. You said:

‘Seriously. I know the two have nothing in common, but I was sitting there, watching the beginning, thinking, Why is it always a guy? Why can’t it be a woman? And then I got to thinking what I’d do with that sort of start. Which is how we ended up with a heroine washed up on a beach with no memory of how she got there or why there was a dead man beside her. How dragons got into the equation I have no idea — other than the fact I have a very twisted, very imaginative muse.’

 Dragons, Keri? Are you a fan of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Riders of Pern books? Or have you taken a totally different slant on dragons?

 I love the Pern books–well, all of Anne McCaffrey’s. I’m not so keen on the later ones she did with her son. My dragons are different–they’re dragon shifters not actual dragons, and there’s both fire breathing dragons and sea dragons in my mythology. The books are also urban fantasy rather than fantasy.

Q: Your Riley Jensen series is set in Melbourne. Was there any resistance to the Australian setting when you pitched the idea to the publishers?

We were totally expecting resistance, and I had in fact began researching places in America that I could use instead of Melbourne. But it never came up with any of the three publishers who were bidding for the book. Of course, the Melbourne I use is very Americanised, so that might have made the setting less of a problem.

 

 

US Cover

Q: With your Dark Angels series (as with all the others) I notice there are US and UK covers. The US ones look more sensual, while the UK covers play up the strength of the female character and the threat. Would say that that this is the difference between the two readerships? And how much input do you get in your covers?

 

I have no input on the covers–although if I have occasionally asked for some minor changes. The US covers aim for the huge romance market, whereas the UK/Australian covers tend to go more for the fantasy market. I don’t think there’s any difference in the readerships, I just think the covers are a result of marketing people targeting their markets differently.

UK cover

Q: I see you watch a lot of TV series. I must admit I like to get the whole series of something like Deadwood and have an orgy of TV watching. I like to be able to watch the narrative arc for the series, plus the development of the characters. I find I can’t switch off my internal editor unless the show is really gripping. Do you have any specific TV series that you watch, that are guaranteed to switch off your internal editor?

God, how much time have you got? TV has become my escape–more so than books these days. I’m also a whole lot less critical of TV shows and movies than I am of books–a show has to be really, really bad before my internal editor starts getting snarky. I love shows like Deadwood, Justified, Supernatural, Haven, Torchwood, Primeval, Being Human, NCIS, NCIS LA, Castle, Blood on the Wire.….the list goes on. And on.  lol

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 think female fantasy writers approach a novel on a more emotional level than most male writers. Or at least, that’s how it used to be (and it was one of the things that drove me to write fantasy in the first place). These days, with writers like Jim Butcher, it has improved somewhat, and there’s not such a noticeable difference in emotional depth.

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

Not really, because when I pick up a book all I’m expecting is to be entertained. If they succeed in doing that, I’m a happy reader. Hell, I read–and love–Matthew Reilly, and his books could very definitely be described as boys own adventure books for grown-ups, but they’re fantastically entertaining.

 

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?

Weirdly, I’d love to go back to Jane Austin’s era, just to see if men like Mr Darcy really did exist. I wouldn’t want to stay there though–couldn’t stand not having a shower every day, let alone no internet access!

 

Keri has a signed copy of Darkness Unbound to give-away (or a copy of one of her books to complete your set, subject to availability). Give-away Question:

If paranormal creatures existed and humans were lowest on the pecking order, which kind of paranormal creature would you like to be?

 

Keri’s blog

Follow Keri on Twitter: @kezarthur

Catch up with Keri on GoodReads

See Keri Arthur quote on GoodReads

See Keri Arthur’s official fan page on Facebook

Keri’s extras

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Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Covers, creativity, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Gender Issues, Movies & TV Shows, Music and Writers, Paranormal_Crime, Story Arc

Rhonda Roberts’ Time Travelling Detective visits Holllywood in the glamorous 30s

This week we welcome back Rhonda Roberts with her new book Hoodwink.

I know I must’ve been a chain smoking binge drinker in a past life because in this one I throw up whenever I drink wine and faint dead away if I have even a puff of a cigarette. As you can imagine my experimental teenage years were a series of memorably messy incidents.

That said I must’ve done something good some time (I have no idea what) because I now have the arduous job of carefully selecting and scheduling my holiday destinations for the next decade.

You see I write the Timestalker series about a time travelling detective called Kannon Dupree. (She’s named after Kannon, the Japanese Bodhisattva of Compassion aka ‘she who hears all cries for help’.) The first book, Gladiatrix (2009) was set in ancient Rome, while the second, Hoodwink (out now) is set in Hollywood in 1939. Each book in the series solves a mystery set in a different time and place.

And here’s where the strangely good karma bit comes in… I have a filing cabinet full of cases lined up for Kannon to handle – and boy does she travel around! So I do too…

Well I have to do research don’t I?

I treat all my research trips like full on anthropological expeditions, including camels and pith helmets if necessary. I go prepared for anything and everything and expect it all to go wrong. And it usually does – but as I’m peering out from the midst of the rumble something truly spectacular rises up like a phoenix…and gives me the key to Kannon’s next adventure.

Leonard Cohen has a song called Anthem, which is one of my all times favourites. One segment goes: ‘Forget your perfect offering. There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.’ Well I’ve found that it’s the unexpected twist in the path that takes me round a corner to the spectacular view.

And believe me I’d experienced a few twists in that path. I’m writing Book 4 now and in the past few years I’ve been stuck up a shaky ladder in an ancient cliff top pueblo city with a 200 metre drop below, stumbled across a horny male crocodile on his way to his girlfriend’s love nest, been caught in a sand storm on a non existent road through the desert and been threatened by three furious (and gargantuan!) armed guards at an LA studio who mistook me for a member of the paparazzi.

Speaking of which leads me to doing the research for Hoodwink, which has just hit the bookshops….

Hoodwink starts with a body covered in a Mayan occult tattoo being discovered cemented into the floor of a Hollywood film set. It’s the body of a famous film director who went missing in 1939. Kannon is hired to return to 1939 to find out who killed him. While on the set of Gone With The Wind, mixing with the big stars of Hollywood, she stumbles onto a mystery that stretches back to the Civil War…

Why Gone With The Wind?’ you might say. ‘Isn’t that just some old film about a Southern woman’s determination to survive the American Civil War and its aftermath?’

Yep it is that…plus a lot more. (The sound of chuckling) Trust me…what happened during the making of that film is more fantastic than anything I could possibly make up!

Anyway…I wanted to write about a murder on a film set in 1939, the most glamorous period in the Golden Years of Hollywood. So I had to choose a movie that’d give me the maximum room to explore the feeling of the 1930s as well as yield some interesting plot points I could play with. Gone With The Wind fitted that bill plus some!

So now to do some research on old Hollywood…in new LA!

Well I did a whole lot of research before I left our eucalyptus-lined shores and arranged appointments in Los Angeles where I could. And I was lucky enough to get permission to visit the famous Culver Studios, which is where Gone With The Wind (as well as Citizen Kane, two of Hitchcock’s most famous films and some episodes of Star Trek) was filmed. The CEO was very friendly and arranged for the stage manager to take me on a three hour tour of the place. I saw the historic bungalows that Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable used, the main GWTW sound stage as well as many other places of interest. It was amazing.

The rest of the time I wandered around Los Angeles searching for locations to use in Hoodwink. I trudged around Beverly Hills carrying a map to the homes of the old movie stars, hiked around Griffith Park looking for a place to stick my Temple of Lost Souls, walked along the famous canals of Venice searching for a place to hide a suitcase full of money, studied the Mayan statues in the garden at the Forrest Lawn Cemetery wondering how the hell they fitted into the puzzle…

And all the time I was still waiting for that epiphany, that precious moment when I’d know what Hoodwink was really about…when I’d get a glimpse of its soul.

Then I ended up at Hollyhock House, which became the inspiration for Ceiba House…the home of my murder victim.

Now some places are amazing. We all have memories of the first time we walked into a particular space. It could be a cathedral, a temple, Uluru, whatever…

To me, Hollyhock House is one such space.

Frank Lloyd Wright, one of America’s most famous architects, built several stunning Mayan-inspired houses in Los Angeles during the 1920s. The most beautiful is Hollyhock House in East Hollywood. It’s modeled on the ancient Mayan city-state of Palenque in southern Mexico and covered in highly stylized hollyhocks. They decorate the whole house, appearing in stonework, windows and wooden furniture.

And the first thing I saw when I walked into this amazing temple to grace and beauty was a big statue of Kwan Yin… Or as she is known in Japan – Kannon the Bodhisattva of Compassion. She who hears all cries for help.

She stands in the foyer of Hollyhock House welcoming all with a warm smile full of peace and compassion…a heavenly sign of hope for all humanity.

And in that moment I knew the key to writing Hoodwink.

Give away question:

I love festivals and think that Australia doesn’t have enough of them. When I lived in Japan there seemed to be a new one on every week – everything from fertility festivals to welcoming the dead back home for a night.

If you could introduce a new festival to Australia what would it celebrate and how?

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Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, creativity, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Historical Books, Movies & TV Shows, Obscure and Interesting, Resonance, Writers and Redearch

Meet Douglas Holgate…

I’m expanding my series featuring fantastic authors to include fantastically creative people across the different mediums, which is why I’ve invited the talented Douglas Holgate to drop by.

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

Q: We met at Supanova and hung out at the cocktail party. Do you get to many of the Supanovas? Is it fun to mix with other illustrators and talk shop?

Doug with Skye, one of the Amazing Supanova Team

I’ve been to Supanova on the east coast fairly consistently over the last 3 or 4 years. I’ve yet to make the trek to Perth but I’m keen (and not just because I’ve never been to Perth).

Absolutely one of the best parts of the shows is mixing with peers, it’s always great to catch up, especially with people out of state and while the internet keeps us all up to date on what we’re up to it’s not a substitute for a drink and chat. I’ve found of late though I actually really like meeting and talking shop with people NOT doing what I’m doing…but working in similar creative fields. I had a ball talking to all the writers just recently at the Brisbane show (where we met), and came away with different perspectives, work ethics and ideas around publishing and the like.

Q: Back in the 80s when I was working as an illustrator in Melbourne we used to have to make appointments with the art directors of publishing houses, lug our folios in and be interviewed in hope that they’d send us work. Now artists have pages on all sorts of sites, as well as their own blog sites, to promote their artwork. (eg. The Loop. Illustrators Australia). Do you still have to do the ‘meet and greet’ with art directors or is it all done over the internet now?

I was saying to someone the other week that I have no idea how I’d work if I didn’t have a scanner, a computer and email. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to navigate the creative process via the postal system. I do a lot of work for the US market so predominantly I work exclusively with them via the likes of email and sometimes skype. Local clients I do like to try and get a face to face with at some point. It’s nice to put a face and a voice to a name.

As for approaching clients for potential work, when I first started freelancing about 10 years ago it was still a phone call to the AD and physical hard copies of my folio sent to them if they were keen to see it. Now though…it’s pretty much all email and the internet. Which I think is good for ease of breaching that inner sanctum (It makes it less intimidating), and promotion wise you can have global reach instantly. But there is still something about even just talking to someone on the phone and a physical copy of your work in that person’s hands which can’t be replaced (Though I am a bit of a sucker for beautiful printed objects).

Q: You illustrated the Zack Proton (genuine intergalactic hero) books. Was this a chance to let your ‘inner kid’ loose? And how did you hook up with the writer, Brian Anderson, (I see he lives in Austen, Texas)?

I have such a soft spot for Zack proton. Not just a ridiculous, over the top, irreverent and just plain FUN series but also my first big time published work in the US.

All set up through my agent. The way it works is a publisher has a project, they approach my agent and ask if I’m free to work on the series and if I’d like to…and then I (always) say yes.

I then will back and forth with the publishers art director, receive a manuscript, any art direction they’re keen on, cover concepts, internal illustrations etc.

It’s very very rare that I’ll actually talk to the writer at all, especially during the process of putting the books together. This seems to be standard in the industry, which is a bit of a shame…but I can understand it from the publisher’s perspective, they want control of the books and don’t want creative decisions made without being in the loop.

I did however end up after the series was published getting in touch with Brian and we’ve stayed in touch every since, which is great!

Q: You worked on The Amazing Joy Buzzards from Image Comics, which is about an adventure rock-and-roll band. Look like lots of fun. When you work on a project like this how closely do you collaborate with the writer? Are there really tight deadlines?

I sort of already answered this one, but there are always exceptions to the rule. For original material I’m generating with writers to pitch, or self publish then absolutely it’s a complete collaboration.

Of course every writer is different and in some cases they’re happy to let me go away and work on the visual design of these things with minimal guidance. Others I’ve worked with have a strong vision and want to see it realised, from character design and aesthetic through to direction of what is happening specifically in a given scene. Writers like Alan Moore (whom I’ve not worked with) are notoriously specific about their art direction that in some cases almost becomes a novel in itself.

I do like a middle ground though. And there is nothing quite like brainstorming, back and forthing with someone and creating worlds and plots and characters from scratch.

For things like Joy Buzzards there was already an established universe that I was coming in to play around in. So the main characters and the like had pretty much already been fully realised. Which isn’t to say I didn’t have any creative input, it’s just a different challenge to say something original with someone else’s characters.

Q: And you worked on Super Chicken Nugget boy. When you were doing your Post Graduate Degree in Illustration at the University of Newcastle did you think you’d end up drawing animated chicken nuggets? LOL Do you have a personal project that you are madly working on in your spare time?

Haha! YES! Well…sort of. Maybe not chicken nuggets, but certainly I was aiming my sights on comics and material for kids and younger readers. There was a small group of us who were constantly getting in strife with the lecturers for pushing our project work in the comic book, cartooning direction. We were repeatedly told there was no future in it. Ironically I’m pretty sure we’re the only ones from our graduating class now working fulltime as artists and designers.

And I’ve got a list as long as eternity of personal projects. It’s one of the things that frustrates me some about what I do. IT TAKES SO LONG! If only I could snap my fingers, get that thing that’s gnawing at the back of my head DONE and then move onto the next thing. OH…and be paid a gazillion dollars for it…that would seriously not only make me happy but the world!

But yes. Right now I’ve got a couple of things in the works that I’m really excited about. The main one taking up all my time (When I get it) is an all ages graphic novel with a fantastic local Melbourne (though she’s been swanning about the streets of New York for the last 12 months) kids comic writer, Jen Breach.

Q: On Twitter we were talking about fantasy movies we loved like Mystery Men. “We struck down evil with the mighty sword of teamwork and the hammer of not bickering.” What were your biggest influences when you were growing up?

Oh, you mean the list of things that never seems to end? It’s funny, it’s only in the last couple of years since I’ve had a little boy that I’m rediscovering things that I used to love and adore as a kid…and I realise are a direct influence on what I’m doing right now. They’re obviously always in the back of your head, consciously or unconsciously, but tracking down vintage copies of Richard Scarry’s busy town series to introduce to him, looking at them and having this epiphany that he is a major influence is pretty wild. I spent some formative years in the UK and was obsessed with weekly kids comics magazines like Beano and Dennis The Menace. A lot of annuals like Eagle. Was a big fan of Roald Dahl and CS Lewis. And long form comics wise I was reading things like Asterix, Tintin and Lucky Luke a long time before I discovered American comics. Herge and Uderzo definitely are the two seminal influences though. Relatively strict realism of form with a cartoon sensibility inhabiting that world.

Q: If you could go back and give that starry-eyed kid advice, what would it be?

Get serious sooner. YOU’RE WASTING TIME!

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 (in books) is a bit of a boy’s club. I’ve come across quite a bit of talk on the blogs recently about female comic artists and writers, and their lack of representation in large companies like DC. Have you come across this in your professional life?

Not really no. I’d argue that illustration is actually a pretty even spread, in my experience anyway. There are as many female illustrators (if not more) whom I know and love working fulltime and being consistently published by major publishers. Also the majority of art directors I’ve worked with at the major US and Australian publishers have been women.

I’m a little torn on the issue of women in comics. On one hand I think that It’s pretty well established that there is indeed a boys club at the upper echelons of the likes of the major publishers, and obviously being a man I have no idea what that boys club mentality would be like to breach being a female creator. Not to mention the weird curtain wall of fandom thing you have to scale before even making your way to the keep.

But I also think that now is probably the best time in the history of comics for women. I can name you dozens who might not be published by the likes of DC or Marvel but they’re making original comics that are above and beyond in creativity, aesthetic, storytelling and vision than any run of the mill churned out monthly.

The push by established book publishers such as Random House and Scholastic into graphic novels, Independent comics publishers like IDW, First Second and Adhouse, the rise and rise of webcomics, artist sites like Deviant Art, Concept Art and the growing tendency for a lot of animators dipping their toes into comics making are all being driven by some incredible amazingly talented female cartoonists. I don’t see that stopping anytime soon.

This can’t help but change attitudes eventually at the dinosaurs. You know…if working on spiderman is something that you really want to do.

Q: Following on from that, does the gender of the writer/artist change your expectations when you approach their work?

No not at all. If it’s well written, drawn, crafted and published I’m all over it. You know…I read my first babysitters club a few years ago and LOVED it, all because it was adapted by one of my favourite cartoonists (Raina Telgemeier) into a brilliant graphic novel.

There are as many male creators I like and don’t like as female. And none of that is based on gender it’s just about the work they create.

I don’t go into a movie or a novel thinking “oh it’s directed or written by a woman therefore it’s going to be formula X.”

Certainly there are directors and writers and creators who work in specific genres so you’re going to consume that material based on that. But that has little to do with gender and more to do with the genre’s I appreciate.

I think if a creator is specifically broaching topics of gender or social acceptance or struggle and it’s a key part of their approach or the material they’re producing then absolutely you view that work with that in mind. And that’s probably why you’re reading or watching it in the first place.

At the end of the day it should be about creating the best material you can, and letting your story speak for itself regardless of gender.

The best work always will.

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?

Rowena, this isn’t the fun question, this is the HARD question! I’m a pretty mad history buff…can I go EVERYWHERE?!

God…just one?

I love pre history…but I’m not sure I’d want to get eaten by a giant mosquito (It’s not the dino’s you’ve got to watch out for).

Adore American history…from Revolution, The Westward push to Civil war to Cold War and modern politics.

I’m doing a lot of reading and playing around with  Gallo/Romano Britain at the moment for a project. So I’m a little obsessed with that. And Roman history in particular…so maybe Ancient Rome?

Do I really want to gad about in tartan and blue body paint screaming murder at Roman legionaries in their incredibly well drilled formations? Yes…probably. So I think I’ll go there. But only if I can use the time machine again to scoot to medieval England for lunch, then shoot to Aztec south America for a couple of days and then over to Ancient China for tea and then take a break on a circumnavigation of the globe with Magellan, back in time for dinner with Caravaggio.

(And then wake up in WWII occupied France.)

To win a copy of Zinc Alloy and Super Chicken Nugget Boy here’s the give-away Question:

 What was your favourite comic book character when you were growing up?

 

Follow Doug on Twitter: @douglasbot

See Doug’s Blog

My folio is here – http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglasbot/sets/72157627375431276/with/3265305994/

But some of my favourite (read, newer) images are at these links -

http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglasbot/5830416545/in/set-72157627375431276

http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglasbot/6304341159/in/photostream

http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglasbot/5239949004/in/set-72157627375431276

http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglasbot/5308333564/in/set-72157627375431276

http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglasbot/4673721219/in/set-72157627375431276

http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglasbot/4884587173/in/set-72157627375431276

http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglasbot/2208125088/in/set-72157627375431276

http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglasbot/3265305994/in/set-72157627375431276

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One Writer’s Daydream Directors

Normally, I would put an interview up today, but I figured everyone is probably madly scrambling doing holiday/christmasy things so I thought I would indulge myself. I’ve watched the trailer for The Hobbit.  Who hasn’t?

Sigh … Love that deep, melodic male singing.

Since this is the silly season I’ve compiled a list of the directors I would like to see turn my books into movies/TV series. Here goes:

Peter Jackson. Why? Because he took LOTR and did what I did when I read it for to boys. He picked the narrative high points. He knows how to craft a story. Have you seen The Frighteners?

Allan Ball. Why? Because I’m impressed by his interpretation of Charlaine Harris’s books – the humour, the exploration of prejudice and the humanity. A very perceptive man.

Guillermo del Toro. Why? I find his sensibility fascinating. Look at what he did with Pan’s Labyrinth and the backstory of Hellboy 2. Something can be both beautiful and frigthening.

So there you have it. This is what writers daydream about when they should be writing …

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Filed under creativity, Fantasy books, Fun Stuff, Genre, Inspiring Art, Movies & TV Shows, Nourish the Writer, Obscure and Interesting, Resonance, Story Arc, Writing craft

Meet Tom Taylor …

I’m expanding my series featuring fantastic authors to include fantastically creative people across the different mediums, which is why I’ve invited the talented Tom Taylor to drop by.

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

I usually put a photo right here, but I couldn’t resist this:

Artist Harrison Chua draws comicbook writer Tom Taylor

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCDGPRKdn8A]

Q: Not only do you write for comics, but you’re also an ‘award-winning playwright who has written for radio, musicals, film, magazines, satirical news and sketch comedy. (For a full list of Tom’s works see here). Tell me, did you sit there doodling in your school books while daydreaming about what you’d do one day? Did your teachers encourage you, or tell you no-one ever makes any money from writing? Did you ever dream you’d see your work performed in the Sydney Opera House?

Yes, I absolutely spent all of high school doodling in books, especially in Geography, where I just drew and drew… in-between sleeping. My geography teacher wasn’t very engaging. He’d probably have far less-kind things to say about me.
Outside of the arts, the education system was never really my friend. I did have a few teachers who encouraged me, and one in particular who used to let me leave class and do creative writing up a tree.

No, I can’t say I ever thought my work would be on at the Sydney Opera House or at the Edinburgh Festival. However, being involved in theatre from the age of 12, and in a singing group before that, I probably thought I’d have a better chance of having something on at the Opera House than to be writing in a galaxy far, far away.

Q: I’ve interviewed authors who write books for Star Wars, Star Gate, Doctor Who etc. And many of them start out as fans, so it is no trouble for them to immerse themselves in the world. You’re currently writing for Star WarsBlood Ties with Chris Scalf, Invasion with Colin Wilson published by Dark Horse Comics, with more on the way. Looks like you are thoroughly immersed! Is there a huge ‘bible’ of information you have to refer to? Do you get to add to this ‘bible’ as you develop your stories?

Absolutely. Star Wars canon is immense. On top of the movies, you have the cartoons, computer games, short stories, role playing games, novels, and more, and almost everything that is created becomes canon. So yes, all creators need a bible and I think everybody becomes fast email friends with a man known as Leland Chee, Lucasfilm’s keeper of continuity.  He’ll be called on a lot in the next year as I work on the next instalment of Star Wars: Blood Ties ‘Boba Fett is Dead’ and some other Star Wars work.

Q: You also write your own original material. The Deep: Here be Dragons has just come out from Gestalt Publishing, art work by James Brouwer. In a review on Broken Frontier Kris Bather says: ‘Comedy in this artform can always be tricky, but the pair know what they’re doing and elicit the most laughs out of each comedic moment, thanks to great pacing, expressions, and dialogue’. Comedy can be challenging. Did you have to work at developing your relationship with artist James Brouwer, or did the two of you just click?

I’ve written a lot of comedy over the years – musicals, sketch comedy, and plays, including for the Comedy Festival, and generally I don’t really have to think about, or analyze, if something is funny. With James, I found a guy who also just gets it, and just as importantly, is a fantastic storyteller. I used to direct theatre back in the day, and for me the characters on the page need to react appropriately to situations, and need to react to whatever people are saying, just like actors. There are some fantastic artists in professional comics who think that 22 pages of some dark superhero, switching between the same two expressions tells a story. James isn’t one of those guys. James puts so much character and life into the Nekton family (The main characters of The Deep). No character stands around blank-faced while someone else is talking. Every page he sends me has me smiling. So yes, James and I did just click. And, thanks to that click, The Deep is the most joyous comic I’ve been a part of. Seriously, get this book for Christmas, for yourself and for your children. It will fill your heart with rainbows. It will fill your heart with exactly six rainbows. Any more than that and your arteries would begin to clog with rainbows and that would end messily… but probably very colourfully.

Q: Rombies (written by Tom Taylor, illustrated by Skye Ogden, Colours by Mikiko Ponczeck) is a historical paranormal tale set in ancient Rome. What inspired you to set a story in ancient Rome? Have you always been fascinated by its history?

Skye Ogden inspired me. Honestly, this was originally his idea. I just ran with it, and I’m very glad I did. Gestalt actually asked me to write this very early on in our working relationship and I said no.  I’m not a massive horror fan and I wasn’t sure this was the project for me. The night after I said no, I had a dream about Gladiators fighting zombie lions beneath the Coliseum. I called them the very next morning to say yes. I wanted to see Zombie Lions come to un-life. We made that happen. Where we plan to go next is epic.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=9eVw0wPd7vI#]

Q: Example (written by Tom Taylor, Illustrated by Colin Wilson) is being made into a short film. Newsarama said: ‘This book should be used in writing classes everywhere, and should be the primary example (no pun intended) for aspiring comic writers to reference when trying to learn how to write dramatic and compelling dialogue.’   This is quite an accolade for any work, let alone a graphic novel. (I see it is an adaption of your award-winning play Example. I always tell my kids a play needs to be really well written because it has to hold the audience with the power of the premise, characterisation and dialogue – no special effects).  Do you do a lot of train travel? Do you listen in to people’s conversations or does it all spring from some deep dark part of your psyche?

The Example was written in the wake of the London Bombing. And it was these events, along with a typically appalling, fear-mongering ad for A Current Affair, which inspired the play. The government in Australia at the time was pushing the ‘Be alert, not alarmed’ slogan and that was also driving me insane. A lot of my writing is a vehicle for vent – an outlet for outrage. Almost all of my short plays stem from this.

On the surface, The Example is a story about a man, a woman and their reactions to an abandoned briefcase on a railway platform. Below the surface, it’s an exploration of terror and racism. It’s essentially a prejudice versus preservation story. And it’s just been optioned and filmed.  Yay!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1KCYq11GHY&feature=player_embedded]

Q: Flinch is a collection of stories including Shaun Tan, Justin Randall, James Barclay, Terry Dowling and yourself among others. The stories all revolve around each person’s interpretation of the word ‘flinch’. One of your stories White Dove 111 is about a colonist ship leaving a dying earth. This looks like an SF mystery from the description. Did you grow up reading Science Fiction?

I did read a lot of sci-fi, but I was far more into Fantasy. White Dove III was another great excuse to work with the man, Colin Wilson.  I also wrote another short story in Flinch called 96,000m, illustrated by Tom Bonin, which was my first published underwater story. It was the first time I’d publicly shown my fascination for all things underwater and squid-like.  Although, that story was a far cry from the joyous all-ages adventure of The Deep: Here Be Dragons. 96000m is pretty disturbing. If you like disturbed, or are disturbed, you’ll probably like 96000m.

 

Q: You are working for DC comics (Green Lantern and Sinestro). Is this one of your childhood dreams to write in the DC universe?

Yes. So many times, yes.

I grew up with DC comics. I loved all of these characters as a kid and never stopped loving them (except outwardly when I was a teenager). Superman is my absolute hero and writing him is one of my ultimate goals. I’m really proud of The Brainiac/Sinestro Corp War which is the story I’ve just written in DCUO Legends #16 and #17 and I was very lucky to get to work with a great artist like Bruno Redondo (another guy who, like James, just gets it). I’ve written something else unannounced, and I’m also still staggered I got to write The Authority for a year. The Authority was the super team that made me realise that superhero comics could also serve as an outlet for outrage.

Q: Looking at your published works you have been amazingly productive. In an interview on HYPERLINK SciFiBlock you say: ‘Like any work, there are times when it’s a hard slog and things get very hard, but then you just have to pick up the nearest blunt object, smash yourself in the face, and remind yourself that you’re writing Jedi and superheroes for a living.’ Do you have a work routine that helps you meet these deadlines?

I’d like to say I have a routine but, really, I have kids, including a baby who doesn’t sleep very well, and that throws all routines out. My only real routine is that I stay up very late to write. The rest of the world needs to be asleep before I can do my best work. The Example was written one night between 1am and 5am. I started writing this very interview at 2am, it’s now 4.27am… and the baby’s already been up twice.

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 (in books) is a bit of a boy’s club. I’ve come across quite a bit of talk on the blogs recently about female comic artists and writers, and their lack of representation in large companies like DC. Have you come across this in your professional life?

I have heard this, and I do know this was an issue for DC in the announcement of the New 52, one they’re trying very hard to rectify. I think mainstream superhero comics have the perception of being a boys club, but the comics medium absolutely isn’t.

This year alone, I’ve worked with four female artists on eight different projects, which is possibly more female creators than some of the majors are working with.

I’m not sure superheroes have the same appeal for women. And I’d argue that they are often narrowly written and illustrated with men in mind. For every brilliantly written and lovingly illustrated superhero book like Secret Six by Gail Simone and (Australia’s own) Nicola Scott, there is a book with a scantily clad superheroine tearing her clothing while scratching the face of… probably another scantily clad woman who is tearing her clothing.

But outside of the Superhero genre, there are a lot of women telling brilliant stories.

Keep an eye out for Believe, which is set to be published soon, to see the incredible work of Emily Smith (and two other huge unannounced things we’re doing together). On top of Rombies, Mikiko Ponczek has just handed in the last pages of a 22 page story she has illustrated and coloured. I can’t wait for that one to be announced. It’s a script I’m very happy with and Miki has just smashed it.
Kate Moon has already finished the story Poppins which will be included in Brief Cases (whenever that comes out) and I have a small, but very cool story coming out with someone else who must remain nameless for now. She knows who she is. Hi, you!

Q: Following on from that, does the gender of the writer/artist change your expectations when you approach their work?

Nope. I never really think about it. And, when I do, I actually tend to get genders wrong.

Sorry, Robin Hobb.

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?

I think it’s ridiculous that a time-machine company needs to take bookings. You can be anywhere and anywhen! Why do you need me at the time-machine depot at 9.30am?? It’s a disgrace!

Having gotten over my rant, and glared at the Time Machine operator who apparently couldn’t come to my house at 12, I would take a trip a very long way back.

I hypothesized earlier tonight that a pterodactyl may have eaten a missing link which would have caused humans to have one extra thumb. I would go back in time and ride that Pterodactyl into a live volcano before it ate our three-thumbed ancestor, thereby making all of us fifty percent more opposable.

You’re welcome.

Give-away Question:

For your chance to win a copy of The Deep: Here Be Dragons, and the six rainbows in your heart that come with it, answer this question.

If you had three thumbs, what would you do differently?

 

 

Follow Tom on Twitter:  @TomTaylorMade

See Tom’s Blog

Catch up with Tom on Facebook

 

 

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Filed under Australian Artists, Book Giveaway, Book trailers, Characterisation, Collaboration, Comics/Graphic Novels, Covers, creativity, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Gender Issues, Genre, Indy Press, Inspiring Art, Movies & TV Shows, Nourish the Writer, Writers Working Across Mediums

Meet Felicity Pulman …

I have been featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) but this has morphed into interesting people in the speculative fiction world. Today I’ve invited the talented Felicity Pulman to drop by.

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

Something’s gone wrong with my blog’s ability to embed videos. Here’s the link to Felciity’s great new promo for the Janna Mystery Series.

 

Q: We ran into each other at SheKilda, the women’s crime writers conference, but you write across a number of genres and ages. Your first novel (to appear under your own name) Ghost Boy was set in two timelines, the present and the past set, in part, around the small pox outbreak in 1881 when travellers were quarantined on arriving in Australia. There is a special Ghost Boy tour for school children at the Quarantine Station. It must be a real thrill to make a connection with children and bring the past to life like this. Have you been on the Ghost Boy tour and do you get a lot of emails from school children?

A: Yes and yes to both questions.  I found it very moving to watch my novel come to life up at the Quarantine Station. It’s a wonderful place to visit, very atmospheric.  It gives students a real feel for what life was like back in those times and of course they’re always sure they’re going to see a ghost!  (The guides themselves are quite sure the place is haunted!)

Q: In your Shalott Trilogy, which was inspired by Tennyson’s The Lady of Shallot a group of five Australian teenagers try to rewrite the legend and save the Lady of Shalott. Have you always been fascinated by the King Arthur legends? Have you been to the UK to see Tintagel Castle?

A: I wrote the Shalott trilogy because I was being bugged by the questions: why was the lady trapped in the tower, why was there a curse on her, plus the questions that followed on from that: what if it’s possible to go back in time and change history (or a legend);  what if you’re also rewriting your destiny at the same time? I didn’t know much about anything at first so it was a HUGE learning curve. I began to acquire a library of Arthuriana old and new, plus books on magic, on life in medieval time, and so on. And I went on my first research trip, following the ‘Arthurian trail’ through England, Wales, Brittany and France.  Tintagel was only one of the marvellous places I visited; other sites included Merlin’s ‘cave’ and Merlin’s ‘tomb’, Glastonbury and the Isle of Avalon, the ‘home’ of the Lady of the Lake, plus South Cadbury Castle, Caerleon and Winchester, all of which have been variously named as Arthur’s seat of power, sometimes called Camelot.

Q: Your current series The Janna Mysteries are set in England in the 1140s during the King Stephen/Queen Matilda civil war. This series contains a number of mysteries which the main character, Janna, has to solve. I think I’m seeing a theme here. You have a BA in Communication and an MA in Children’s Literature. Were you ever tempted to do further study in the area of history? (See Felicity’s Tips on Writing Historical Fiction).

A: Actually I’m a late convert to history; I found it so boring when I was at school, probably because my teacher didn’t teach it as the continuing soap opera it really is!  Those who marry – or murder for a crown, those who drive themselves to acts of great courage or bastardry for the sake of love, rivalry, power or wealth. Those idealists who dream of a brave new world, sometimes at a price too terrible to bear … the history I study is the history that informs my books. If I wasn’t so busy writing I’d love to go back to uni and immerse myself in the middle ages – or ancient Greece – or Egypt – or …? So difficult to know where to start!

Q: You wrote two of the Guinevere Jones books, based on the hit TV series. Was it hard to immerse yourself in the series and the back-story, then write creatively about characters you didn’t invent?

A:  Sophie Masson and I wrote the four books based on the series, working from notes, scripts and recorded episodes that were sent to us.  Writing the GJ books was a very different experience from anything else I’ve written.  The books also had to be written very fast so there really wasn’t a great deal of time for angst over characters and back story, we pretty much had to work with what we were given. So there wasn’t a lot of scope for imaginative input; it was more a recording of other people’s lives.  One of the things I need to do is walk the place I’m writing about, but this wasn’t possible as GJ was filmed on set in Melbourne (I live in Sydney) so I found that a real challenge – where do the characters go and what do they do once they go ‘off screen’?

Q: In an interview on Need to Read This, when talking about your new  book you say: ‘Most recently, I went to Norfolk Island. Hearts in Chains is a time-slip romance going back to the mid-19th century and the time of the brutal second penal settlement. I visited the museums, the ruins of the gaol, the houses along Military Road (now called Quality Row) and also Government House (and I am deeply grateful to the administrator and his wife for allowing me free access and even finding for me a hidey-hole for Alice to hide her diary!)  I think it’s essential for me, as an author, to walk in my characters’ footsteps, to experience the landscape and identify what he/she might have seen – wildlife, trees, flowers, buildings (or their ruins), weather and the light, etc.’ (Felicity has a whole page dedicated to research on her web site. See here). I envy you the chance to do this. Where will you be going to next to research?

A:  I loved writing the Shalott trilogy so much, and became so immersed in Arthurian legend that I’m thinking of revisiting that time and place, with hopefully the chance to explore the Arthurian trail once more.

Q: You write books with a strong historical base. In the past females had many restrictions on what they could do from the inability to own property to the choice of who they married. Do you ever worry that young readers could have trouble identifying with a female character whose life choices are limited?

A: Society might change but human nature doesn’t, so my belief is that readers identify with and feel sympathy for Janna’s predicament, left alone in a hostile world with only her skills and her courage to save her; her life constantly under threat from everything from wolves and wild boar in the forest to an assassin on a mission to silence her – quite apart from having to find such basic necessities as food and shelter to keep herself alive. And then there are the three young men in her life – who will she choose?  Readers are certainly VERY interested in that question!

Q: I’ve been interviewing quite a few authors and discovered many of them combine similar genres, mystery, fantasy and history. Why do you think these genres blend so well?

A: Good question! It’s not something I’ve considered before, but I think in my case I enjoy reading and writing all these different genres, and if you can combine them, so much the better! I particularly enjoy time-slip stories, combining history with fantasy although of course they can also encompass the future (like my favourite author Connie Willis, for example.)  Plus a mystery to solve or some sort of quest to fulfil is usually at the heart of every story, especially a fantasy.

Q: You go by the nick-name Flick. Did you have an annoying older brother who teased you and the name stuck? How did this come about?

A: I actually had an annoying older sister who called me ‘Fwiz’, which became the family nickname, while I was Fuzz (pronounced Fooz) to everyone else.  My family still call me that but anyone else does so at their peril!  I became Flick when I went to uni (in my late teens) and was christened thus by a girl in my res who subsequently became my best friend and who had known a Felicity/Flick at school.  Infinitely better than Fwiz, so I don’t mind that the name has stuck. ‘Felicity’ is far too formal.

Q: I understand you are cooking up a new project to write about. Can you share it with us?

A: It’s still in the cooking stage but, as I said earlier, it will be centred on King Arthur and Camelot, exploring in more detail some of the issues I found so fascinating while writing the Shalott trilogy – but this novel will be for adults.

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?

A: I don’t read ‘high fantasy’ at all, so this is not a question I can answer, except to say there do seem to be any number of wonderful women fantasy writers around so I’m surprised by your observation. Perhaps female fantasy writers need to establish a Sisters in Fantasy, the equivalent of the international Sisters in Crime movement?

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

A:  Perhaps subliminally, not consciously.  If I find an author I like I’ll keep going, in which case I know what to expect.  With a new writer, I’ll go with the blurb and whether it sounds like an interesting story rather than defining it by gender.

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?

 A: Fun??  That’s a very difficult question with so many people and places to choose from!  Backwards?  Forwards?  Decisions, decisions…and the temptation to try to change the course of history while you’re at it!  I might opt for Jerusalem at the time of Christ. I always wondered how I’d have reacted to the Messiah if I’d been around then. I’m sure it would be a very interesting time and place to visit.

Give-away Question:  Following on from the question above:  if you could meet anyone past or present, who would it be … and why?

Felicity’s Blog

Follow Felicity on Facebook

Network with Felicity on Linked-in

Catch up with Felicity on GoodReads

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Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Children's Books, Collaboration, creativity, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Gender Issues, Historical Books, Movies & TV Shows, Thrillers and Crime, Thrillers and Mysteries, Tips for Developing Writers

Meet Yvonne Navarro …

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

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

Q: You originally wanted to be an artist. I’ve done some surveys of writers and found four out of five are aural – they listen to music when writing, but the other one out of five are visually – they collect images and ideas spring from visual sources. Do you collect images that haunt you and trigger ideas? When you write a book do you collect a file of images that you associate with that book?

I did, although I currently consider myself as a “sort-of” artist now.  I’m lucky enough to be at a point in my life where I can go back and actively chase a dream that might have otherwise slipped away.  I’ve finally taken some painting classes and collected some output, and we’re perhaps a month away from me having a formal art studio in which to work.  I guess that answers your question in a roundabout way—I’m a very visual person.  As that applies to writing, you hit it on the proverbial head: I collect all kinds of images.  Sometimes the images inspire me, sometimes I seek them out to go with a work already in progress.  When I wrote Mirror Me, I had a notebook with photographs of the characters, neighbourhoods, even the kind of furniture in some of the characters’ homes.  Now that I think of it, going all the way back to my first novel, AfterAge , I did the same thing but for the city itself– I got up on Sunday mornings and went downtown in the dark so I could take photographs of a completely empty downtown and get the “feel” of what Chicago might be like if it was empty of people.

Q: You’ve written four books in the ‘Buffyverse’ and contributed to three anthologies. I know a couple of authors who write for Starwars, or Stargate, or the Buffyverse. It always strikes me as taking a lot of discipline. You must need to immerse yourself so thoroughly in the Buffyverse that writing those characters becomes instinctive. Do you do a lot of research before you start?

Actually, I’ve written seven when you include the Wicked Willow Trilogy.  It’s been awhile since I’ve written a Buffyverse book, but I can say that I did research as necessary when I was involved in the projects, specifically to make sure I kept all the details and interactions correct.  However, I was definitely immersed in the Buffy universe, in that completely geeky way that someone lives and breathes a series or movie that they absolutely adore.  (I was the same way with Babylon 5.)  I can still quote lines from Buffy shows (“Those are my chicken feet!”), just as I can from certain Aliens movies.  :o)

Q: You have an impressive list of awards and nominations to your credit. Several final-listings in the Bram Stoker Award, a win for the Women In Publishing Award and a win in the National Federation Press Women’s  Award in the Juvenile book category, to name a few. I guess the champagne corks have been popping in your house. Does it help to raise an author’s profile when they place or win in these awards?

Perhaps, although I haven’t really been aware of it.  Willow Files, Vol. 2 won the Bram Stoker Award in the category of Young Adult Fiction, and yet it was the last YA book I wrote until co‑writing a YA adventure with my husband, Weston Ochse.  I will say that it’s awfully nice to have all your hard work recognized publicly.  Hopefully there’s a certain ex out there somewhere who sees it and gets a silent moment of “She told me so.”  Oh, wait—was that my out loud voice?!

Q: You’ve also written for Species and Ultraviolet. Does this mean that you see the movie before it is released, or do you work from the script? What happens if scenes get left out on the cutting room floor?

How interesting that you chose Species and Ultraviolet, which were polar opposite experiences for me!  First off, all of the movie tie‑ins are written from the script, before the movie is released.  The object is generally to get the book out preferably before the movie is released, or at the very least, at the same time.  With Species, I worked very closely with Dennis Feldman, the scriptwriter, and we had the best time.  He actually read the manuscript and would call me directly and make comments; by the same token, I could call him anytime and ask questions.  One particularly telling question he asked me after reading the manuscript was, “What about the bus stop scene?”  To which I replied, “What bus stop scene?”  This, apparently, was something that had been added into an updated version of the script after I’d already written the first draft of the book.  That he and I were able to talk back and forth like that is a real rarity in the world of movie tie‑ins, and it really helped to make the book the best it could be.  Folks who read tie‑ins know that the best thing to do is to see the movie first, then read the book.  Invariably things are cut from the movie script because of time and money; if you read about them first and then see the movie, you’ll be disappointed that they aren’t included. If you see the movie, then read about them in the book, you’ll be delighted at the extra stuff in the book.  Which, by the way, isn’t just deleted scenes—authors often include past history, universe‑building, and detailed characterization.

Ultraviolet was interesting because I never received a single comment or change request on the manuscript.  I know I’m not a perfect writer, and that’s happened to me a couple of times (it also happened with Hellboy), but feedback is always a good thing, you know?

Q: In a review of your book Highborn, the reviewer said: ‘The term ‘Urban Fantasy’ can strike fear into the heart of many people, and not in a good way. Thankfully, this first novel in Yvonne Navarro’s Dark Redemption series (which is now followed by CONCRETE SAVIOR) is an example of the genre not only done well, but done damn near to perfection.’ They go on to say that the book is refreshing. Was it hard to come up with a fresh take on this genre?

I remember that review, and to say I feel flattered by those nice words would definitely be an understatement.  But I also have to admit that I wasn’t aiming to write an urban fantasy.  When I thought of the basis for HIGHBORN and then planned it out, it was just the book I wanted to write.  It wasn’t specifically geared to any genre, and it wasn’t until my agent sold it and the purchasing editor called it an urban fantasy that I even thought about where it might fit in terms of sales.

Q: You’ve written over a hundred short stories. It looks like you are most comfortable writing what is called Dark Fantasy now, but used to be known as horror. What’s led you down this path? Did you discover Poe when you were thirteen and have never been the same since?

My Mom and sister always liked scary stories.  I grew up watching Creature Features, reading Creepy and Eerie magazines, and looking for the spookiest fiction I could find in the library.  The first movie I remember watching was Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” at the drive-in.  I like a good, scary story because it gets your blood running and your mind working, and you don’t always know there’s going to be a happy ending.

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 think people write the way they want to, and if there’s any difference, it’s because the writer does it intentionally.  There are men writing romances under pseudonyms and women writing crime thrillers using their first and middle initials whose own readers don’t realize are female.   If a woman believes she shouldn’t write about certain things because she’s a woman, she’s imposed restrictions on herself… and she’s the only person who can break those chains.  I don’t write like a woman.  I don’t write like a man.  I write like a writer.

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

No, but I know that it does for some people.

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?

Well, it’s tempting to say I’d go backward and fix a few of my bigger mistakes in life, but then I’d probably just make different ones, right?  I tend to look at that on more of a personal basis than you’re probably intending.  If I stick to the fun side of things, I think I’d like to go into the future a hundred years or so, just to see where technology has taken us.  Of course, a thousand years from now we might actually have space travel.  Hmmmm…

Give-away Question:

Who’s your favorite female movie star heroine, and from what movie?

Yvonne says: If I was to answer this, it would be a tie between Sigourney Weaver from Aliens and Kate Beckinsale from the Underworld movies.

Follow Yvonne on Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/YvonneNavarro

See Yvonne’s Blog and Website.

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