Category Archives: Steampunk

Dynamic Duo run National SF Con (Conflux 9)and have new books out…

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 Dynamic Duo, Donna Hanson and Nicole Murphy who are co-chairs of the Australian National SF Convention, Conflux 9 and who both happen to have a book coming out this year. They are proof that you can be creative and successful, and give back to your community.

 

Donna and Nicole

Donna and Nicole

Q: Both of you have work and families, you are part of a writing group (the Canberra SF Guild and part of Fantasy Writers on Retreat), you’re published and you both have books coming out this year (more later), on top of all this, you put your hands up to be co-chairs of Conflux 9. Tell me honestly, when you came home from that meeting and told your significant others that you’d volunteered to run the Nat Con, what did they say? (From the photo it looks like you might have had one glass to many).

Donna

Well that photo on the website was my birthday shot ( a High Tea)  so I’m not sure we’d dived into the champers at that time. We think we’re insane and I think our partners know it. Matthew (Farrer) my partner has this wide-eyed stare every time we talk Conflux 9. The worried frown sort of says-‘she’s going to rope me in?’ And just last weekend I did too, do a couple of panels. It’s the power of the inevitable. However, this is definitely my last con.

 

Nicole

I dreaded telling my husband, Tim, cause he really didn’t like the time it took from me when I chaired Conflux 4. But the fact that a) it was with Donna, so the workload wouldn’t be as bad and b) I love doing this meant he was fine with it. However, we’re both swearing that this will be the last time we organise a con and hoping our partners will keep us to that. Not that that means it’s the last thing we’ll do for the community. We have ideas. One that keeps popping up in particular (you know what I mean, Donna).

 

Donna

Nicole do not go there. Do not pass go and do not collect $200. Think of the work involved. You’re insane.

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Q: Not only are you doing all of the above, but Nicole, you’re teaching Year of the Novel with the QLD Writing Centre and the ACT Writers Centre, and Donna you are doing a Masters in Creative Writing, and a course in Millinery (hat making). Is there a point where you think, I can’t take on one more thing? Or is your philosophy, the more I take on the stimulating life is and it’s just as well I’m really good at juggling?

 

Donna

I have my limits. Like if I sold a trilogy I’d probably have massive brain melt. But that’s not going to happen in the next 3 months. I’d like it but you know gee a girl can only do so much. Ironically, I do find the more I have on the more productive I get. RSI stymies me a little. I guess it’s a matter of stacking. Conflux is over at the end of April. Things are hotting up now with Conflux so I ease off on the writing. The Masters starts soon, but I’m taking all of April off to get the Conflux thing done and uni if needs me. Millinery if the course goes ahead (they need a minimum number) will be my time out. I have arthritis in the neck and one day I’m not going to be a happy camper so I do have this philosophy of doing as much as I can now rather than waiting until I retire or something. And to ease the pressure in my writing gears and cogs, I wrote two novels in the last half of 2012 and I just have to polish them and send them out this year. The pressure to write has eased a bit.

 

Nicole

There is no doubt in my mind that I am quite, quite mad. However, there’s nothing that annoys me more than being bored, and this year there’s little chance of that happening! The two Year of the Novel courses were important to me because I love teaching and helping people – I get as much satisfaction from seeing friends and those I’m mentored and taught succeed as I do from my own success. More, even, cause I don’t have to deal with the worry and fretting and constant fear of bad sales figures J And as Donna said Conflux is over is just over three months (eep, eep, eep!) and I’m going easy on myself on the writing front in order to keep things under control. That said – I’ve got two books coming out between now and then, one of which I’m editing and publishing, so… Back to the comment about being mad.

Marc Gascoigne

Marc Gascoigne

Q: You’ve been involved in running other Confluxes and other events like the World SF Con 2010. How did you get involved in running events? Was it overwhelming the first time? I know Conflux 9 is running a pitching opportunity with Marc Gascoigne from Angry Robot. Nalo Hopkins is the International writer GOH, Karen Miller is the Australian GOH writer and Kaaron Warren is the Special Guest writer, (see here for details), so you get to meet cool writers and editors. Are there other benefits to running a Con and is it something you’d recommend to people wanting to become writers? (For information on the pitching opportunity see here).

 

Nalo Hopkins (Photo David Findlay, 2007)

Nalo Hopkins (Photo David Findlay, 2007)

Donna

Nicole will tell you I roped her in. I’ll blame Maxine McArthur because I’d never heard of SF cons (well I had been to a Star Trek convention and knew about those but not fan run lit cons). I ended up being the Chair of Conflux (number 1) but I was just helping out on the committee (cough because Maxine gave me strong hints that I should) and then I ended up being the chair. I did the next one and then scaled down my activities to focus on writing.

I did make a lot of contacts and made many friends as a result. In those early days I was very enthusiastic and networked a lot and I guess brought in other writers to the fan scene. The rest is history. For that first con though I had 10 months off work and I didn’t write much either. I think I did other things like edit anthologies.

I do recommend getting involved with organising these conventions and helping out. It’s a good experience and you make great contacts. However, I do recommend a little balancing between your activities. I got invited to help out with worldcon because I got noticed doing the Conflux convention running. It can be addictive. Worldcons are great fun (going to them and being involved).

 

Karen Miller (Photo Mary CT Webber)

Karen Miller (Photo Mary CT Webber)

Kaaron Warren

Kaaron Warren

 

 

 

Nicole

Yes, it’s all Donna’s fault. She asked me to run the short story competition at the first Conflux. I wasn’t totally happy with my work on that, so I decided to work on the next convention to prove I could do it. And then the next convention. And then I chaired one. And then. And then…

And now, thanks to Conflux, I work full-time as a professional conference organiser. So yeah, I love them.

I’m not sure I’d recommend it to other writers, because it is very time consuming. That said, if you’re not good at networking (like me, I’m atrocious at it, unlike Donna who is an absolute marvel at it), then getting involved in convention organising is a great idea because you have to meet and interact with these people. I’ve not doubt that my work with Conflux helped me get my foot in the door with Harper Collins. Didn’t get me published – it was the fact the company loved the books that did that, but it helped.

So balance it up – the time it takes versus the fact it can be very beneficial. And fun. And you get to meet the coolest people, and often they’ll stay friends for a long time after.

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Q: Donna your book Rayessa the Space Pirate is available from Escape Publishing. You edited the Australian Speculative Fiction: Genre Overview, which was published in 2005. You’ve had a lot of short stories published which range from fantasy, through erotic horror, to SF (is this right?), yet Rayessa the Space Pirate is a rollicking Space Opera, which doesn’t take itself too seriously. Was it a relief to let your hair down and write for the fun of it?

AustralianSpeculativeFiction

Donna

I had fun writing Rayessa and the Space Pirates. I wrote it a long time ago, when I was a fairly new writer. Even though it’s been revised, I stayed true to the character during those rewrites. She’s fun, the story is fun. But when you take in my other work, it is surely different and not what you’d expect from me. I’m very proud of it because of its lightness, its vibrancy and like you said rollicking space opera.

Many of my short stories are me flexing my writing muscles. I evolved from just writing a story to experimenting with styles and content. I do tend to go a bit dark at times. ‘Heat’ was a bit like that with the split narrative (it’s in my free fiction section on my blog-warning adult content) and in the last couple of years I’d been writing short paranormal too, just to see if I could. I’m a bit astounded that I really like writing happy ever afters just as much as the soul sucking endings. I write what is in my head, pursue ideas and go with it. Who knows what I’m going to do next.

3 books.axd

Q: Nicole you’ve had numerous short stories published, and an Urban Fantasy trilogy set in Australia called The Gadda (Harper Collins). The tag-line on your blog is: Where Fantasy and Romance Collide. So your next book’s genre is a step sideway, but not that far. Arranged to Love is written under your pseudonym, Elizabeth Dunk. (For a taste of Elizabeth Dunk’s writing style see here, Claudine’s New Adventure). What was the genesis of Nicole the fantasy writer evolving  to include Elizabeth the romance writer?

claudine-clrsml

Nicole

It all started way back when I was originally writing the first lot of Gadda books. I’d been thinking I was a straight fantasy/SF writer, but I had one of those blinding moments of inspiration where I realised I kept putting romance in as a sub-plot and I’d probably be better off pulling it to the forefront. That was the genesis of writing the Gadda books and when they were done, I kept having ideas for contemporary romances as well.

In 2011 I was at home, writing full-time, and I needed to do something apart from the Gadda books to challenge myself. So yes, I took a step sideways – a small one, but definitely still a step. My aim was to write a Mills and Boon category style romance. The only way Arranged to Love matches that is in length – otherwise it fails. But it’s a great story and it had a checkered road to publication but I’m so happy it’s there.

I’d always intended to use a pseudonym, but to be open about it because some people read only genre, some people read an author. So there will be people who will read anything I publish and there will be romance readers who won’t touch the Gadda books with a barge pole and vice versa. Here’s hoping it works.

 

donna-corset

Q: I understand there is a Steampunk High Tea is planned for Conflux 9 on the Thursday afternoon at 3pm.  (For the full program, see here). I’m guessing this mean we all get to dress up in really cool steampunk gear, sip tea and nibble cucumber sandwiches. Do you have any fashion advice for the event?

 

Donna

I think people should go with that they feel comfortable with. I’m dressing up because: hey I made a dress so I must wear it. But people can come with a bow tie, or goggles or a gun or just in day clothes. I bought Matthew a Nerf Gun. I expect him to paint it and make it look all steampunky. My son gave me a steampunk necklace for Christmas. I’m almost kitted up.

It’s a bit of fun. People can do traditional Victorian or make it up with whatever they like. I’ve seen men and women in corsets, kilts, junk, jodhpurs and google, top hats, parasols. Any and all. Just come for the fun and the high tea. I believe we get lovely sparkling wine too. Try googling steampunk clothing and you’ll be amazed at what is out there. Mind bogglingly awesome. There are some very talented and creative people out there. Just remember you have to book and pay for the high tea as it is an extra event.

 

Nicole

Can I just add – cucumber sandwiches are awesome! Honestly, you read about them and think, how old fashioned, how silly, making sandwiches with cucumber only, what a strange thing to do. But they’re great. I prefer them with a yoghurt dressing, rather than cream cheese. Take note, Rydges!

JAFA2013-small

Q: You are also staging a Regency Banquet. Does this involved getting dressed up like Elizabeth and Mr Darcy? What can people expect at a Regency banquet?

 

Donna

Yes, if you want. We ran a Regency Banquet a few years ago and we had a great turn out. A lot of people love the period and went all out. Some had period costumes, some people adapted modern wear to make it look period, some of those were very effective.

The menu for the banquet is taken from the Conflux cookbook, Five Historical Feasts, by Gillian Polack. We are re-running that. The menu was researched and put together by Gillian, who is our very own historian (she’s a Dr), with the help of a bunch of us who tested and tasted the recipes. The food was really good to eat. Not good for my waistline.

This year to spice things up we have entertainment from Earthly Delights. They are the group that run the Jane Austen Festival in Canberra the week before Conflux. (they always get TV coverage of the event). John Gardiner, his wife Aylwen Gardiner-Garden will be organising the impromptu dancing and also music. John has agreed to do a 3 hour workshop on Regency Dance and Manners on the Friday. I’m so going to that. ($45 for members) and Aylwen is bringing items of costume to do a hands on workshop on costume design ($10 for members), so we are getting into the Regency thing. I hope we get takers because the dance workshop needs 16 people to work.

 

Lewis Morely and Marilyn Pride Conflux 5 (Photo Cat Sparks)

Lewis Morely and Marilyn Pride Conflux 5 (Photo Cat Sparks)

Nicole

The original Regency banquet was run during my conference, Conflux 4 and I may be biased, but I think it was the best of the lot. Everyone really went all out with the costuming and the whole place looked wonderful. The food was overwhelming – there was very little desert eaten because it was so rich we were already full. A fabulous night.

Note that while we’ve cut a lot of allergens out of the menu (eg there’s no fish/shellfish, no nuts), there’s one thing we can’t avoid – dairy. The Regency folks were nuts for it. And butter, so forget your diet! But if you’re lactose intolerant, there’s so little food available for you that you’ve got to seriously consider if it’s worth your while.

 

Donna Hanson, Cat Sparks, Alisa Krasnostein  Conflux 4 (Photo by Cat Sparks)

Donna Hanson, Cat Sparks, Alisa Krasnostein, Conflux 5 (Photo by Cat Sparks)

 

Q: Do you have any tips for first time convention goers who are planning to come to Conflux 9? (For membership information see here)

Donna

Be prepared to meet people, have fun, be entertained, learn things, network (drink). Be prepared to be thoroughly knackered. Come to our Meet the newbie session in the bar after the steampunk high tea. You’ll get to meet seasoned con goers to find out how to make the best of your convention.

 

Adam Browne and Keith Stevenson (Photo Claire McKenna)

Adam Browne and Keith Stevenson (Photo Claire McKenna)

Nicole

Don’t be afraid to approach your favourite writer. One of the great things about our industry is that we’ve all been in the same boat – having to greet our hero for the first time. A lot of the time, we made complete and utter fools of ourselves but we’ve always survived. Australia’s SF industry is wonderfully supportive, encouraging and fabulous and generally we only bite if asked to.

If you’re coming as a writer, intending to network with editors, agents and publishers – be cool about it. For professionals, conventions are part work, part fun and hanging with friends. So be aware of the circumstances and if you are going to approach them for a chat about your work, be polite and understand if they ask you to come back another time.

And whatever you do – don’t do what some shmuck did to poor Stephen King at a convention and chase a writer/editor/agent/publisher into the toilet with your manuscript and fling it under the door to them!

That said, a lot of us are very bribable. I drink red wine :-)

 

 

Rowena thanks for the interview. You’ve done heaps of research. It is much appreciated.

 

Donna Hanson

Donna Hanson

Catch up with Donna on GoodReads

Donna’s blog

Follow Donna on Twitter  @DonnaMHanson

 

 

 

 

Nicole Murphy

Nicole Murphy

Catch up with Nicole on GoodReads

Nicole’s Blog

Catch up with Nicole on Facebook

Follow Nicole on Twitter  @nicole_r_murphy  

 

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Filed under Australian Artists, Australian Writers, Conferences and Conventions, Conventions, creativity, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fandom, Fantasy books, Fun Stuff, Indy Press, Pitching your book, Promoting your Book, Publishing Industry, SF Books, Specialist Bookshops, Steampunk, The Writing Fraternity, Tips for Developing Artists, Tips for Developing Writers, Workshop/s, Writing craft, Writing Groups

Trent Jamieson’s Book Launch for ‘Night’s Engines’. (Book 2 of the Nightbound Land)

Back in 2003 the ROR group went to Varuna to critiue our books in progress. Oh my, we all look so young! (Tansy, Marianne, Trent, Maxine and me). Trent put in a book which would later be developed into the Nightbound Land duology. I remember being in awe of his vision for this world, so different and inventive. And Margaret, would she escape…

Flash foward to 2012 and the second book of the Nightbound land is about to be released. Yay!

Trent says:

The Nightbound Land was inspired by my love of monsters and Steampunk. I wanted to write a big secondary world science fantasy filled with steam engines, mad men, and creatures out of nightmare, and the world of Shale was the perfect canvas for my obsessions. It’s everything I love about fantasy bound up in tooth and claw and clockwork machines. I only hope that it’s as fun to read as it was to write.

AVID READER (in Westend,brisbane) are holding a “Night’s Engines” evening, where they’ll celebrate a stella year of writing and publishing books!
Thursday 19th July
6pm for a 6.30pm start
Free event but RSVP essential
RSVP to events@avidreader.com.au 38463422
Trent Jamieson must be the hardest working writer in Australia. We have had book launches for 5 Jamieson books in the past two years and we are SO PROUD! To celebrate publication of the second book in his Nightbound Land series we are holding our first ever dress up party. Come as Trent Jamieson means obligatory moustaches, beards and/or glasses. Dress up and have some fun or just come on down and celebrate with us in the traditional un-hirsute manner.
So, here’s wishing Trent, all the best with this duology. I’ll be coming along to the launch, although I won’t be in steam punk costume. (Haven’t got anything suitable).
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cd-GIecM1jQ&feature=player_embedded]

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Filed under Australian Writers, Book trailers, creativity, Dark Urban Fantasy, Promoting Friend's Books, Steampunk

Winner Jo Anderton Book Give-away!

Jo says:

“Oh this is a difficult choice! Melissa’s answer, The Powers that Be was a real “oh I hadn’t thought of them” moment for me. I like Father from FMA too, as suggested by Lexie. But the winner has to be Tyler with Kuja from FFIX. Kuja has everything I love in an ultimate baddie, in particular a tortured past that has led him to decide that destroying the world is the best answer to all his problems.”

Tyler, contact Jo to organise the posting of your book!

anderton(dot)joanne(Aat)gmail(dot)com

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Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Dark Urban Fantasy, Steampunk

Meet Jo Anderton …

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

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

Q: You entered the 2008 Orbit/QWC Manuscript Development competition and your book was among the 10 selected for further development. This must have been a wonderful opportunity. Can you tell us a little about the experience?

The Orbit/QWC Manuscript Development program was absolutely amazing. The opportunity to meet a publisher from Orbit and get face-to-face feedback on my book was invaluable. We also got to spend a week in beautiful sunny Queensland, doing nothing but working on those novels, under the mentorship of the generous and wise Marianne de Pierres. The ten other writers were a great bunch, and we’ve kept in touch since. They’re like a support group and a cheering squad all in one! We even gave ourselves a name, we are the Orbiteers!

Even though I had the flu at the time and couldn’t quite make it to all the activities (sadly I did some lying in bed feeling sorry for myself while my fellow Orbiteers were learning and networking and being generally fabulous) it was still a defining experience for me. The book I took to the program didn’t end up selling, but the experience I gained, the things I learned and the people I met truly helped Debris get to where it is today.

Q: You have since gone on to sell this book, Debris, plus the sequel, Suited, to Angry Robot. Congratulations! Editor Marc Gascione says: ‘With the ever-increasing popularity of Japanese and Korean anime, manga and computer games, it’s been surprising that there hasn’t been more SF and fantasy showing its influence. Debris’s mix of SF and fantasy themes, exotic future-medieval settings, Dune-esque warring factions, and a fabulous kick-ass heroine is exactly the sort of on-trend science fiction Angry Robot was set up to publish. We’re damned pleased to have Jo on board.’ Are you a manga fan? Did you realise you were writing cutting edge SF?

Thank you! It’s still very exciting! And sometimes I find it hard to believe it’s real.

I’m a big fan of manga and anime, as well as video games. All three are definitely influences on Debris. Manga like Fullmetal Alchemist, anime like Planets, and pretty much every Japanese RPG I’ve ever played! I particularly love the mix of magic and technology in games like the Final Fantasy series.

I certainly didn’t set out to write cutting edge anything. I mean, I wanted to write something that felt different, but fun was always more important than different! I also wanted to play with that combination of magic and technology, and create a world where the lines between them are blurred.

 Q: Your debut novel Debris is described as ‘far future, where science is indistinguishable from magic’ and also as your ‘own unique vision of steampunk’. (For sample chapters see here).  Have you finished the second book and, if so, what project are you working on next?

It’s been really interesting seeing how other people describe the world in Debris. While it’s definitely got some steampunk elements, it’s also kind of futuristic and a little dystopian. As I was writing it I was quite firmly convinced it was fantasy, just a different kind of fantasy. I guess I’m seeing now that it’s a little bit of everything.

Yes indeed, the second book is finished. At the moment I’m working on something completely different! I call it a ‘post-apocalyptic romantic comedy, set in Sydney of the not too distant future, with ghosts’. It’s a world of fun!

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

In the way they write? Not that I’ve noticed. A lot of blokes have influenced my addiction to genre. My Dad read Tolkien to me, I loved his old E.E. Doc Smith and Theodore Sturgeon, and I’ll never forget the day I found my first David Eddings book in the local library. But so did Julian May, and Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Katharine Kerr, and then Sara Douglass and Jennifer Fallon, and more! I’m still finding new addictions.

As I type this I’m trying to think what the differences might be? I wouldn’t say one is more bloodthirsty than the other. I don’t think one gender does more romance, or better romance. Or more politics, or better politics. Isn’t it interesting that those are the first ‘differences’ that occurred to me? Bloodthirstyness, romance, and politics.

But is there a difference in the way their books are marketed? And discussed? And awarded? I reckon that’s where the important differences lie.

It's a thrill the first time you see your book out there in the real world sitting on a bookshop shelf.

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

Ah no. I’d say my expectations are based more on the blurb on the back, the publisher (yes, I actually notice publishers and imprints! But that could be due to my day job), the endorsement quotes, recommendations from friends, stuff I’ve read on the internet… Cover image (I’m a sucker for a good cover, I can’t help it). The usual!

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

Into the future, definitely. I’d like it to be a Gene Roddenberry type future, with space travel, and exploration. I’m not so sure it would be. But I want to know how future generations will look back on us, what we did, what we could have done, and the kind of planet we bequeathed them.

Give-away Question:

One of the things I love about those Japanese RPGs is there’s always a bigger baddie. The evil-doers you think are the baddies aren’t the real deal, there’s always an ultimate enemy you don’t know about, usually hiding in plain sight. So, for the giveaway prize, who is your favourite ultimate baddie?

 

 Follow Jo on Twitter:  @joanneanderton

Catch up with Jo on GoodReads

Catch up with Jo on Facebook.

See Jo’s Blog

Free fiction from Jo.

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Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Comics/Graphic Novels, creativity, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Gender Issues, Genre, Movies & TV Shows, SF Books, Steampunk

Meet Kate Elliot …

As the next of my series featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) I’ve invited the prolific and cross-genre author, the talented  Kate Elliott to drop by.

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

Q: We met at World Con in Melbourne in 2010. This was only the fourth time a World Con has been to Australia since 1975. As you are based in Hawaii do you miss out on a lot of conventions, or do you make the effort to get to them?

Since moving to Hawaii in 2002, I do not have the opportunity to attend many conventions. The closest is a 5 + hour flight, and flights to and from Hawaii are not cheap. So these days I am likely to attend only one convention a year, if that. Conventionally speaking, my isolation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean has worked in my favor in one way, however: Going to Australia was relatively “close” so I jumped at the chance to attend AussieCon in Melbourne and am glad I did.

Q: I have to ask this question. You had four books published under  Alis A Rasmussen  - The Labyrinth Gate, a ‘through the tarot cards to another world’ fantasy and the Highroad Trilogy, which looks like a fun space opera. Why did you change to the Kate Elliot name?

I was asked to take a pen name to launch a new series (Jaran 1992) with a new publisher. Three years later, Robin Hobb was born when Megan Lindholm was asked to do the same thing. Launching a new series and what publishers often call a “new brand” is now relatively commonplace, although readers aren’t necessarily aware of it. It’s a way to create a new identity in a different genre, or to get out from under a series that did not sell well and try to make a bigger splash with a new series. This worked well 15 years ago before the explosion of social media. Now I think it is much more difficult to pull off a new public writing identity.

 

Q:  I see you have a page dedicated to  The Writing Life on your web site, with lots of useful information for aspiring writers. Do you run workshops and get involved with developing writers?

I recall clearly the long lonely road I took in my early years of writing. I think many aspiring writers don’t have access to writing groups or workshops because there aren’t any writing groups near by, they may not be able to afford the time or money to attend a workshop, or they simply don’t know how to connect up with such groups. I write my articles on writing for those people, who may be working in what feels to them like isolation. I want them to know there are many writers out here, and we all face many of the same problems.

I’ve never run a workshop myself. I don’t really have the personality to be a teacher, as I find it very exhausting. While I have personally helped a few developing writers, these days I don’t do so except in rare cases because I simply do not have time.

Q: Your first series was  Novels of Jaran, and it was SF, but somehow the book made it onto Locus’s Recommended List for SF, Fantasy and Horror. How did this come about?

I’m not sure! The first book is set almost exclusively on an interdicted planet with low technology cultures, and the heroine and the people she is traveling with ride horses, so perhaps there was a sense that it “felt like” a fantasy novel even though it is clearly science fiction.

Q: There are four books in the series. I like your description of the series: ‘It’s about people, mostly, and about the historical process: what happens when two cultures come into contact — and conflict. It’s about consequences.’ I see the protagonist in the fourth book, The Law of Becoming, was 16. Is the series YA?

Jaran is not a YA series, although teenagers can certainly read it and many have. In fact, my current editor at Orbit Books, Devi Pillai, read Jaran when she was 13.

The protagonist of Jaran (the first novel) is 22 and has just graduated from university. The subsequent books add additional protagonists, some of whom are younger and some older, but certainly the character of Ilyana in book 4 is the youngest of all the point of view characters in the series as a whole.

Q: In 1996 you co-wrote  The Golden Key with Melanie Rawn and Jennifer Roberson. The book was a World Fantasy Finalist. Can you tell us a little about the collaboration process? I always find this fascinating.

After we agreed to collaborate, the two most important issues were how we would handle 1) the world-building and 2) the actual blending of writing.

We met for a long weekend for an initial world-building sessions in which we hammered out the main elements of the world, culture, main characters, and plot. It was a really fabulous three days. What I remember most is that we came up with things out of the synergy of the three of us bouncing ideas off each other in a way we couldn’t have done if we had each been working separately and alone. It was a great experience.

For the other, we decided not to try to write a braided novel with three points of view moving in and out of the tale. Instead we deliberately went for a generational saga, so that we would each write one generation’s story. That way we used all the same world building and the overarching plot we had come up with together, but we each wrote a separate “novella” (actually, a short novel in length each) that was complete in itself. That way we avoided trampling on each other’s toes during the writing process.

I’m very proud of The Golden Key. It was truly a collaboration: It is the book it is because the three of us, working together, came up with something bigger than any one of us would have managed alone.

Q: With  The Crown of Stars, book one: King’s Dragon was a Nebula Finalist. This series is set in an alternate Europe. Did you let your inner history buff out to play?

I did a lot of research. I’m not sure I’m a history buff as much as I was very aware of how much scholars know about the medieval period and how little I do. I didn’t want to screw up too much so I worked hard at making sure as much of the bigger picture as well as the details had a degree of authenticity even though the books are not set in our medieval Europe. Certainly, however, almost everything in the books is directly borrowed from history and from scholarship I read that illuminated that history for me. Translations into English of works from that time were invaluable as I tried to get a handle on ways people would look at the world differently than we do. I think that is at the heart of writing good fantasy: That the people in your books live the way they live in their world, not the way you live in your world.

Q: This is a seven book series. While you were writing it, did you have a flow chart that showed who was related to who and where they were over the years that the books cover? How do you keep it all straight?

There is a lot I simply kept in my head. However, I did create a calendar on which I wrote events on the day and month and year they happened. It spans the same timeline as the story, which takes place over seven years. I also made an index of character names and their associations, because there were so many characters that if I needed to know the name of the attendant of one of the nobles, say, it was far less time consuming if I had a place I could look it up than if I had to flip through the books looking for a reference to that character.

Other than that, I mostly have multiple file folders of scrawled notes in no particular order except by categories, things like astronomy, architecture, and so on, and many many academic articles on various subjects in folders by topic.

I actually did a better job creating a reference notebook for the Crossroads Trilogy, with tabbed dividers with subjects like Calendar, Language, Guardians and Eagles, Geography. What I learned from my less organized work in Crown of Stars was that the better organized my reference notebook was, the easier it was to look up details when I needed them rather than relying on my memory.

Q:  The Crossroads Series is described as High Fantasy. I love the covers on these in both editions. Do you get much say in the look of your covers?

No.

With the USA cover for Spirit Gate, I did specifically mention two things, however, although technically these were merely requests because in fact I don’t have any say over covers. I wrote up a description of how the reeves are harnessed to the eagles, and the artist clearly used my description rather than having the reeve riding atop the eagle as a person rides a horse. The other request was that the woman depicted as a reeve on Spirit Gate be a woman of color, not blonde or white, as there is only a single white-skinned, blonde character in the land known as the Hundred, where most of the action takes place.

Q: The  Spiritwalker Trilogy. With a description like this: ‘An Afro-Celtic post-Roman icepunk Regency fantasy adventure with airships, Phoenician spies, the intelligent descendents of troodons, and a dash of steampunk whose gas lamps can be easily doused by the touch of a powerful cold mage.’ Who could resist this series? Do you find that publishers are more open to cross genre now than they used to be when you were first writing?

I think publishers reflect the times in that sense. The entire artistic genre of mash-ups is a product of the new media and very much a part of the new century. I think that books that have a mashed-up quality therefore fit right into the new artistic sensibilities. Publishers, writers, and readers all seem more interested in cross genre and mash-ups. I don’t think they’re at all unusual any more.

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

In essentials? No.

I think there are differences in the way individuals write fantasy, and then in our culture those differences tend to get mapped onto a gender axis because our culture is comfortable defining and patterning things along the gender axis as if differences between genders are more important than differences between individuals.

But it might be possible to quantify some weighted differences.

As far as I know, no one has done a study of the last 30 or 40 years of the science fiction and fantasy fields in which they analyze something as simple as character presence in fantasy fiction. Do male writers mostly write about male protagonists? How about female writers? And what about the percentages of secondary characters? Do male writers disproportionately populate their worlds with male characters (including protagonists and minor characters) overall, in a way not consistent with the actual presence of people in the world? That is, rather than showing a world in which there is an approximate 50/50 split of male to female characters, do these worlds foreground and give speaking roles to far more male characters than female? And if female characters are represented, are they represented in only a few limited types of roles, and how do they function both within the society and within the story? What about female writers? Do they tend to have more female characters throughout their books? In a wider variety of roles, with more agency and importance? Or not?

I think a lot of the idea that males and females “write fantasy differently” has more to do with emphasis. And I personally don’t believe the emphasis has much to do with an biologically quantifiable essentialist differences; even if there were some, it would be practically impossible to tease out what those were from the morass of cultural expectations and assumptions that tend to bury everything else.

Because in addition to the quantifiable issue of character presence, there is also the issue of what actions, events, details, and experiences are emphasised. Emphasis and “worthiness” can be culturally influenced by unexamined assumptions about what matters enough to be written about or noticed. So in that sense, it’s a little difficult to say that men write differently than women BECAUSE of their gender rather than because of what culture tells us about gender. It’s a subtle difference, but if we’re talking about “real” potential differences in writing, I think it is the crucial one.

I think we carry exceedingly strong cultural expectations about gender and about the past, and especially about ideas about “how” the past “was” that often ignore or deem unimportant entire swathes of human existence. I think we still assume that a male point of view combined with the male gaze (seeing things from a particular set of assumptions about what is important and worthy) is the norm. So it is perfectly possible to pick up an epic fantasy novel in which almost all the characters are male, and women practically invisible, and somehow think there is nothing exceptional or even wrong about a depiction of a world in which women barely figure. To me these are flawed depictions and bad world building. They’re not “male” or “female.”

And anyway, what is “male” and “female?“ If I want to write about clothes or sewing, then am I “writing female” even though tailoring was and is a male occupation in many societies? Or are our ideas that this must be gendered-writing cultural? If I want to write two women talking to each other about something other than a man (see also The Bechdel Test for films), does that make my writing “girly?” Are male writers more likely to have only one or a handful of female characters, few of whom ever talk to each other or relate in a meaningful way? Are female writers more likely to emphasise female relationships within a story? Again, I would call this cultural, not biological.

Until we have actual data on such questions rather than anecdotal information or suppositions based on “what everyone knows” or our assumptions about how things must be or the last two books we read, I think we can’t draw any firm conclusions.

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

Probably to the extent that I’m more cautious, when reading a male writer, because I’m less certain there will be as wide a variety of characters in the story, and I’m more likely to fear that people like me won’t be included and more surprised and pleased when they are. Because personally, as a reader, I get tired of feeling excluded in stories.

Two of the best examples of men writing women I’ve read recently have come from outside the field and were written decades ago in the 20th century: Minty Alley by C.L.R. James and God’s Bits of Wood by Ousmane Sembene. Frankly, many a fantasy writer could take a lesson in how to truly incorporate women in what could have been a solely male-centered story from Sembene’s masterpiece about a railroad strike in West Africa in the late 1940s.

 

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

Into a future with medical advances and space travel.

Give-away Question:

What is a favorite “guilty pleasure” character type, the one you know you probably shouldn’t enjoy reading about so much but really love anyway?

One of mine (I have more than one!) is the arrogant jerk who falls in love despite himself (Darcy in Pride and Prejudice is a classic example of this type).

 

 

Follow Kate on Twitter: @KateElliottSFF

Catch up with Kate’s blog.

Catch up with  Kate Elliot on GoodReads.

If you are trying to keep Kate’s vast list of books straight in your mind,  here’s her bibliography.

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Characterisation, Collaboration, Covers, creativity, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Gender Issues, Publishing Industry, Readers, SF Books, Steampunk

Winner Trent Jamieson Give-away!

Trent says:

I’ve read through the answers and they’re all great – really, there isn’t one that doesn’t appeal – but for me the best was Melissa Mays.

Who wouldn’t want to travel that way, and the sky plays a very important part of Roil, and an even greater role in the sequel Night’s Engines. So Melissa, as soon as my copies of Roil arrive I’ll send on your way. And thanks to everyone else.

Melissa can you email me:  rowena(at)corydaniells(dot)com with your postal address, and I’ll forward your email to Trent.

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Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Steampunk

Meet Richard Harland …

I have been running a series of  interview with female fantasy writers to redress a perception I came across – that fantasy was a bit of a boy’s club. It really isn’t like that here in Australia. We have many wonderful fantasy writers who just happen to be female.

 

Today I’m interviewing Richard Harland, author of the hugely popular Worldshaker books. I have been doing a series of interviews of female fantasy authors and thought it would be interesting to get a male fantasy writer’s perspective on the question of writing, gender and fantasy.

 

 

 

See Richard’s cool Worldshaker book trailer.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ATZ8Z1Nmxo&feature=player_embedded]

Q: In an interview on Readings you describe Steampunk as: ‘a kind of retro imagining of machinery and gadgets that might have happened. … Jules Verne in his own day imagined future technology, but nowadays it looks to us like an alternative technology of the past that never actually happened. Steampunk worlds usually have a 19th century or pre-WW I feel about them.’ To me it seems a genre you are ideally suited to write because of your English background and your penchant for waistcoats. (Richard has a page on Tips for Writing Steampunk).  Reading Worldshaker  and the sequel, Liberator, it feels like it comes very naturally to you. Is this right?

It comes naturally to me, for sure. I look back on my earlier novels and I can see steampunky bits creeping in – the early industrial scenery in parts of the ‘Ferren’ books, the Victorian elements in The Vicar of Morbing Vyle and The Black Crusade. Deep down, I always wanted to write steampunk, and the  Worldshaker world was ten years in the planning before I began writing it, fifteen years before publication. I had no hope of getting it taken up by an Australian publisher until the steampunk trend started to build momentum internationally.

My interest in early industrial technology and Victoriana goes back to my childhood, which happened to be in England. But did it have to be in England? I look at some great steampunk writers in Australia – like Michael Pryor and Scott Westerfeld (as ‘honorary Australian’) and they don’t have that kind of background.

The one area where I’m sure my English background does count is in my depiction of class. The class system is strong and flourishing on the juggernaut ‘Worldshaker’ – and that’s something that doesn’t come in much with most other steampunk writers. I think you need to suffer under a class system to have a strong emotional feel about it!

See Richard talking about Steampunk at Bialik College, Melbourne.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elLXY8629b0&feature=player_embedded]

Q: I see there was a point where you dropped out of Sydney UNI and ‘bummed around’ writing songs and performing them at venues around the city. I bet there’s a book in there somewhere. Are you ever tempted to write about this period (disguised of course)?

Yes, and I will. Promise!

Q: You are not a novice to winning awards with many final-listings in the Aurealis Awards, several wins and the Golden Aurealis Award in 2004. Recently Worldshaker won the prestigious Tam-Tam Je Bouquine award for best novel ages 10 -15.  I bet you wished you were in France at the time to pick up the award. Did it come out of the blue?

I’d never even heard of the Tam-Tam Je Bouquine award until I won it! In fact, it never occurred to me that there were YA awards in France. (Makes me wonder whether it means much to anyone overseas when I can boast of winning those six Aurealis Awards.) My publisher and editor dressed up specially to accept the award on the night – and I’m sure they expressed our shared reactions to the honour of the award far better then I could have done. At least they could express them in understandable French!

See Richard reading from Worldshaker at Bialik College, Melbourne.

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

Q: You have written 145 pages of writing tips for aspiring authors. (Find them here). This must have taken ages, Richard. As a University Lecturer you have a background in teaching. Have you had a good response from aspiring writers to your Writing Tips pages? Do you get emails from people? (I know I would have devoured your writing tips when I was first starting out. I still find useful things in there whenever I dip into it).

Yes, I keep getting emails and positive responses – which makes me feel good about setting up the website. Because you’re right, it ate up an enormous amount of time – four months when I could have been writing my own novels. But the feedback makes it all worthwhile.

Q: And now Liberator is coming out. Having read an earlier draft at one of our ROR weekends, I know it delivers more Steampunkery goodness. Do you envisage a another book in this series?

Not immediately. it’s a duology that resolves in an almighty battle – and although there’s obviously more story to come, the Col-Riff romance has worked itself out by the end of LIBERATOR.  Not much you can do with male lead and female lead after that!

So I’m taking a breather from that particular strand of history in the juggernaut world. The novel I’ve now started writing belongs in a different time and place, with different characters. I hope to continue the Worldshaker/Liberator narrative some time further down the track.

See the Allen & Unwin Worldshaker Book trailer.

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

Q: Wow, Richard I think I have book trailer envy. It looks like your Worldshaker has inspired quite a few people. Did you ever think you’d have book trailers?

I never thought much about book trailers. I see what people have done (in the UK, Germany and Australia), and think how clever and creative it is. But it’s an art-form I don’t have any personal connection to. I imagine my books almost like a movies unrolling in my head before I ever start writing them – that’s my form of visual imagination.

What I’d really like to see is a movie trailer!

See another book Worldshaker book trailer.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5Gg0U5QGdU&feature=player_embedded]

Q:You’ve been a busy man in the last ten years or so with the Wolf Kingdom books. (This won the Aurealis Best Children’s Illustrate Work/Picture Book). Have you been approached to write more in this series?

No, and at the moment I wouldn’t want to. I’m zooming in on steampunk and YA fiction. I don’t want any distractions!

Q: And there are many other books, some aimed at children, like Sassy cat one of my son’s favourites, right through Ferren and the Angel for teens, to the SF/Mystery series Eddon and Vail.  Plus there’s the duology, The Vicar of Morning Vyle and,  The Black Crusade which won Best Horror and the Golden Aurealis. You say you suffered writer’s block for 25 years. When you got over this, it must have felt like a dam breaking. How did you get over your writer’s block?

Many factors, including setting up a regular writing routine. And sheer bloody-minded stubbornness, because I bogged down time after time on my first novel – and went back to begin again over and over. I guess in the end I managed to live up to my own standards. Very stupid – I couldn’t bear to show my work to anyone until it was perfect … When I should have been learning how to improve by finishing imperfect stuff and getting feedback on it from other people.

I’m a very bad role model for other writers. My writing tips website is like a way of telling other intending writers how to steer clear of the traps I fell into!

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 boys club. Do you think there’s a difference in the way males and females write fantasy?

Do they really think that in the US and UK? Sounds like a hangover from the far past. No one could ever think of fantasy in Australia as a boy’s club. Here, the most successful fantasy writers are mostly women, as are the vast majority of readers.

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

I hope I can change my expectations according to what I read when I open the book, but maybe I do expect some things things more from male or female authors. From male authors, wild supposition and fantastical imaginings; from female authors, a fullness of fleshed-out reality, a sense of detail, and being there right in the scene.

Having said that, of course, good fantasy writing has to have both. I can think of heaps of examples of male authors who can flesh out their creations until you’re right there in the scene; and heaps of examples of female authors with powers of the very wildest imagination.

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

The time of the French Revolution, end of the eighteenth century. The most exciting period ever, for me. (Anyone who reads LIBERATOR could guess that!)

I’m assuming that I’m guaranteed survival, though – or that I can hop back into my time machine and escape if the guillotine gets too close to my neck!

Richard’s Blog

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Filed under Australian Writers, Awards, Book trailers, Covers, creativity, Fantasy books, Fun Stuff, Genre, Promoting Friend's Books, Steampunk, Young Adult Books

Squee for writing friend

Trent Jamieson, one of the last romantics and all-round-nice-guy has the cover for his new trilogy. It’s real, it’s up on Amazon!

This book is a particularly thrilling for me because Trent has been part of my writing group for ages and I’ve seen this book develop over various rewrites. In fact, I remember dropping him at the ferry after one of our critique meetings and telling him, this premise is so inventive and interesting, I just know it is going to sell.

So, YAY for Trent!

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Filed under Australian Writers, creativity, Dark Urban Fantasy, Promoting Friend's Books, Steampunk, The Writing Fraternity, Writing Groups

You know you’ve made it when …

As a writer, you know you’ve made it  when one of your invented words ends up in the Oxford Dictionary. eg.

(Photo from Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition)

Here’s the Oxford Dictionary definitnon of Steampunk (See here for the origin of the word)

My definition of Steampunk – A reason to wear really cool costumes and celebrate intricate and elegant machinery from a time when things were not designed to wear out in 2 years to force you to buy the next model.

See my article on the Allure of Steampunk here.

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Filed under Fun Stuff, Genre, Steampunk, Story Arc