Category Archives: The World in all its Absurdity

Meet Margo Lanagan …

As the next of my series featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) I’ve invited the talented (and slightly weird in the best possible way!) Margo Lanagan to drop by.

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




Q: As a writer who has a foot firmly in two camps, the literary world and the fantasy world, do you find readers react differently to your books depending on whether they are genre readers, or literary readers?

Literary readers can sometimes make a bit of preliminary apologetic noise about how they don’t read much in the way of fantasy. (I’m talking about face to face reactions here.) And they can be more unnerved by the weird content that genre readers take in their stride. That’s probably about the extent of the difference—and that’s also a gross generalisation, too, on my part! There are as many degrees of enthusiasm/indifference/puzzlement in one camp as in the other.

Q: Your short story collections or individual stories/novellas have won three World fantasy Awards. (Black Juice – Anthology, Singing my Sister Down – Fantasy Short Story, Sea-Hearts – Novella).Do you think of yourself as primarily a short story writer, or are you novel writer who wandered into short stories by chance?

At first I was a poetry writer, who wandered into novel writing in a bid to get some readers, any readers—also to enjoy the capaciousness of the form. Then I got myself into a whole bunch of trouble biting off HUGE novels that I could not chew, so I ran screaming to the short story to save my sanity. Yes, that’s pretty much how it went.

Q: There is a surreal quality to your short stories. Many of them feel as if they happen in our world, with a slight twist. In an interview on SF Site you said: ‘the balance of the real and unreal in my stories is pretty much how I see the world. Some weird small thing in the real world strikes me (like misreading a magazine title Modern Bride as Wooden Bride, out of the corner of my eye) and my mind just builds and builds on it until there’s a whole other world there, full of wooden brides! (This is a Black Juice story.)’  Have you always viewed the world through this surreal lens? And conversely, when did you realise that other people didn’t see the world as you see it?

Oh yes. I’m the third of four daughters, and I discovered early that the way to get attention was to be the clown. Making people laugh, by noticing that sort of thing, was my role in the family. I didn’t realise it could be put to wider use for quite some time, until my realistic-story ideas started getting weirder and weirder. Then I twigged that there was a whole fantasy genre over here, ready to welcome me in with open arms!

Q: Your latest novel Tender Morsels, which was a joint winner of the Best Novel World Fantasy Award in 2009, was published many years after your previous novel Touching Earth Lightly (1996). Was Tender Morsels novel a long time in gestation? Or did you work on others novels in the mean time.

Oh yes yes yes I worked on other novels, and you know it, Rowena! 😀 There was the Big Fantasy Brick with which I broke my own back; then there was the junior fantasy quartet, which also grew and put out tentacles and complicated itself until it was insupportable. Then came the aforementioned running screaming to short stories, and then Tender Morsels was the pick-on-something-your-own-size project that I finally managed to complete. It really was quite efficient once I got going, taking about 18 months to complete.

Q: I see your Selkie novel, called Watered Silk, is due out in 2011. Can you tell us a little about it?

Ah, the selkie novel. *weeps a little* The selkies so far have accumulated three titles, one for each market (Aus, US and UK). And their publication in Australia has been put back until probably February 2012, because they need a second round of structural editing, probably because the first round was done in a tearing hurry just before Christmas last year.

All I can say about the novel (because it’s changing under my hands even as I speak), is that it’s very watery, very silky and very, very sad. It has a madly atmospheric fictional-version-of-the-Hebrides setting; there’s a witch at the centre of the story of whom I’m very fond; and pretty much everyone in it has a thoroughly heartbreaking time. I think my next novel will have to be some kind of ‘romp’ to compensate.

Q: Much of your work (stories and books) is described as YA. In an interview on Tabularasa you said: ‘I think the attraction of writing fiction for younger people is the escape into characters’ lives who haven’t yet made decisions that will set them up for a predictable path through life. But I also like the fact that characters are encountering things for the first time, or just starting to make sense of the world, or just starting to question the world that they’ve found themselves in.’ Do you still set out to write for the YA market or is it just that the stories that come to you have YA aged protagonists?

I try not to think too carefully about markets when I write (yes, that is the sound of my publishers’ eyes rolling, in the background). Probably my attitude can best be summed up as avoiding putting explicitly unsuitable-for-YA-readers material in the novels. I still find the young-adult stage of life the most interesting to explore, for the same reasons as you’ve quoted; it’s partly escapism from the kinds of middle-aged issues I find I’m having to face now—a kind of making-over of my own life, perhaps, in my head.

Q: In an interview on Meanjin you said that you write longhand. Do you still do this, and if so what is it about writing longhand that appeals to you?

Yes, I still do it. My day-job work involves keyboarding, so sitting at a keyboard doesn’t set up the right vibe for me, for creative writing; it feels as if longhand writing taps into my writing-brain more readily. Also, it just provides variety of hand movements, so forestalls RSI a bit longer—I know, it all has to be typed up eventually, but transcribing is a much more relaxed form of typing than composing, so it’s less likely to result in injury. And I like the concrete evidence of pages piling up on the left as I do my day’s quota—that little message at the bottom of the screen, ‘Page 4 of 4’ just doesn’t do it for me the way crinkly pages of messy handwriting do.

Q: In a guest post on Justine Larblestier’s site you said: ‘Sometimes you have to lie fallow for a while, remove yourself far enough from your own words, your own style, that you can come at them afresh later. Sometimes there’s a good story waiting, but your subconscious hasn’t worked out how you’ll approach it yet. Leave it alone; let it grow …’  What do you do, when you need to let your subconscious do the work?

It depends on time constraints. Sometimes the deadline is so pressing that a task like washing the dishes is all the time you can spare from the story—something manual and mindless like that is good. A walk, a movie that wrenches you completely out of the story’s mindset, some music, a trip away or perhaps just the passing of a normal working week/month—all these activities are useful for putting distance between yourself and the story and letting it cook without you getting in the way. Sometimes you need to hold the story in your head while you do these things, sometimes you just need to come back and prod it every now and then; sometimes it’s healthier just to put it out of your mind completely and come back fresh at a later time, when your imagination’s feeling all elastic and full of possibilities again.

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?

Not substantially; I just think that as soon as a field is shown to offer solid rewards (in this case, by Rowling and Meyer), blokes will be all over it like a rash, making big, possessive noises that attract media attention. For years, fantasy was consistently sneered at and sidelined because it was seen as a kind of squashy, undisciplined, overly romantic little sister of science fiction. It amuses me, in a sour sort of way, this boys’-club issue.

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

Not at that early stage (presuming I haven’t read that author’s work before); I’m always hopeful that a writer will be able to inhabit male and female characters equally convincingly, and create a world whose appeal isn’t only to one gender. Once I’ve started, cliches of gender-blinkered-ness are only one kind of slip-up that can kill my interest in a book; throw in a bit of sloppy writing and a dull plot and I’m gone.

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?

For my next novel, I need to go back to 1830s New South Wales, and walk for a while in the virgin bush, also hang about on the fringes of the European settlements and listen to how people speak. How I would do that without arousing suspicion and being clapped in irons as a madwoman, I don’t know.

The best answer in the comments below wins a copy of Margo’s new story collection Yellowcake, and of The Wilful Eye, the bewitching first volume of Tales from the Tower, stories (including one by Margo) gathered by Isobelle Carmody and Nan McNab.

Tell us about the BEST cake you’ve ever eaten. The most mouth-watering comment will win a copy of Margo’s YELLOWCAKE collection, and a copy of THE WILFUL EYE anthology, which also contains a slice of Lanagan.

Margo’s Blog.

Follow Margo on Twitter @margolanagan


Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Nourish the Writer, Promoting Friend's Books, The World in all its Absurdity, The Writing Fraternity, Writing craft

A podcast interview

A little while ago Gail Z Martin, author of the Necromancer series, interviewed me for a podcast. It’s available here.

(With thanks to Eleni for fixing the link!).

I can’t listen to it because I can’t bear to listen to myself. LoL


Filed under Dialogue, Fun Stuff, The World in all its Absurdity

Meet Marianne de Pierres …

As the next of my series featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) I’ve invited the multi-genre talented Marianne de Pierres to drop by.

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

Q: You’ve just seen the release of the fourth book of your huge space opera series Sentients of Orion. Was writing the YA fantasy series that starts with Burn Bright a fun break for you?

Well to be honest  … there is some science fiction in Burn Bright. It just wrote itself in without my say! But the fantasy side of the story was lovely to compose. I found myself more able to indulge my word muse and loved writing the younger character.

Q: You combined with singer song writer Yunyu to produce a song and book trailer for Burn Bright. Since much of the book takes place in and around dance clubs, this seems very appropriate. How much collaboration was involved in this project?


Simply, Yunyu read an early draft of the novel and went away and wrote a sensational song. Or songs, actually, three of them. In the end we could only afford to record one, so we picked Angel Arias. From her end, there was a lot more arranging and production to do after that. I was able to sit back and enjoy her genius. We got together a couple of times in Sydney and brainstormed the business side of it, but essentially the creative side was one artist inspiring another.

Q: Burn Bright takes its main character, Retra to some pretty dark places. She’s looking for her brother on an island where teenagers party non-stop and there are no rules except the warning not to wander off the path. It feels very surreal and dreamlike. Was it hard to slip into this alternate fantasy world when you sat down to write? (Read the first chapter of Burn Bright).

Not at all. It’s been sitting in my hindbrain since I was a teenager. I think it reflects the fact that I had my own dark places to contend with back then. Perhaps, if anything, writing the book has been a catharsis.

Q: Book two Angel Arias is due out late in 2011. (Love the cover, by the way). Did you have the second book finished before the first one was released? And, following on from that, did you plan the whole series before you started to write?

No, the second book was not written but in early meeting with my publisher, Zoe Walton, we discussed where the story might go and how many books it might take to get there. The second book synopsis was written, I just needed to decide whether it should be structured in on or two parts (hence bk 3.)

Q:Slightly off the topic of fantasy, since your Parrish series was described as near-future Australian cyber punk, I see there’s a We want more Parrish site on Facebook. Are you planning any more books on Parrish?

That will rather depend on a publisher wanting to publish them. At the moment I’m in talks with someone on a sideline Parrish project,  and I’m writing a novelette (1o K) for an e-book publisher. But a full blown series is not something that’s likely to happen in the immediate future.

Q: You also write ‘frivolous, fun-filled urban fantasy’ under the pen-name Marianne Delacourt. Your first Tara Sharp book, Sharp Shooter, won the Davitt Award. There’s a touch of paranormal in this series because the main character can tell what people are thinking from their body language. Did you do a lot of research to make the paranormal element believable?

I did do a lot of research but much of it was anecdotal or “dubious”. What was really interesting were the studies done on paralanguage itself. We are so much more than the words we speak. Communication is complex and largely subconscious.

Q: I notice you have a degree in film and television. Do you plan to get back into writing scripts and, if you do, are there some exciting projects brewing away in the background?

I’ve been slowly working on a script with New Zealand writer Lynne Jamneck for Enchanter Productions called Stalking Daylight. It’s been a slow process because Lynne’s been studying full time and I’ve been writing full time. However we’re nearly there on it. It’s an original SF thriller (not an adaption of a book) in the vein of PK Dick and Vernor Vinge’s work.

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?

Well, I just have to say that if some people think fantasy is a boy’s club, they should look over the fence at SF J

To answer your second question though, I think there is a difference in way that male and female writers tell fantasy stories. But you have to be careful about making blanket statements because there are also many commonalities. And for every difference you might point out, there is an exception to the rule you’re trying to define. I guess the only thing I’d be comment on is that male authors write male characters a little differently. And it’s a difference that is both gratifying and enlightening.

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

No. Not at all. I never think about the author’s sex when I read a book. Afterwards, though, if it gives me cause to reflect, those considerations might crop up. I certainly never choose a book to read based on 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?

Right now (post deadline!) I’d settle for masseuse and a slice of banana cake right here in my own time!

Give-away question to win a copy of Burn Bright:

If you could choose your favourite musician to compose music for your favourite book, who would it be and what would be the book?


Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Characterisation, Collaboration, Covers, creativity, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Fun Stuff, Music and Writers, Nourish the Writer, Promoting Friend's Books, Script Writing, The World in all its Absurdity, The Writing Fraternity

It’s not every day… someone you know wins an Oscar

Yay for Shaun Tan. He won an Oscar for his work on The Lost Thing in the Short Film category!

Bet his mum and dad are proud of him!


Filed under Australian Writers, Awards, Children's Books, creativity, Fun Stuff, Genre, Inspiring Art, Promoting Friend's Books, The World in all its Absurdity

Why I’m featuring Female Fantasy Authors …

It’s not that I don’t like male fantasy authors, or males in general. (I have four sons and a husband, all of whom I adore). It’s because of something that’s come to my attention recently and it all has to do with where I live.

We all know little girls are sugar and spice and everything nice, don't we?

Brisbane, Australia, is a subtropical paradise (floods one day, cyclone the next LOL).  No, seriously I live in Australia which is a pretty laid back country where the people are, generally, reasonable. I keep in touch with fellow writers in the UK and the US. (I was in touch with a writer in South Africa, but he moved to Australia). I do have some contact with reviewers in Europe. All of this is leading up to why I’m featuring female fantasy authors.

When I was at World Con I met US fantasy authors who were discussing how fantasy is a bit of a boy’s club. I’d never come across this before because here, in Australia, it’s a bit of a girl’s club, if anything. Then, just last week I was reviewed by a UK site and one of the questions was about the rarity of female fantasy authors. OK, I thought, time to feature some of terrific fantasy authors , who happen to be female.

Of course they are also tough as nails!

So, if you drop by my site and notice a lot of female authors, this is why. I’m just trying to redress a perceived lack.


Filed under Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Promoting Friend's Books, The World in all its Absurdity, The Writing Fraternity

Almost Squeee for Firefly!

According to this article the Science Channel has acquired the rights to Firefly and will be screening it in its entirety.  Plus there’s an interview with Nathan Fillion about Firefly, where he says that if he won the lottery, he’d buy the rights to Firefly, make more episodes and distribute them on the internet!

Who’s seen Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog?

Now we can all dream what would happen if Nathan Fillion and Joss Whedon won enough money to pick up the Firefly series …



Filed under Fun Stuff, Genre, Movies & TV Shows, The World in all its Absurdity

The universe is like really big, man.

When Douglas Adams said the Universe was really, like really really big. He wasn’t kidding.

Here is a wonderful visual walk through the universe from the smallest known particle to … the universe!

And you thought you were insignificant…



Filed under The World in all its Absurdity

Shaun Tan up for an Oscar!

“The Lost Thing” Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann has been nominated in the Short Film Animated section of the Oscars.

Here’s what Shaun has to say about the nomination.

It’s not every day that someone you know is nominated for an Oscar.  Not that I know Shaun all that well, but I have met him. A couple of years ago, when I was on the Queensland Writers Management Committee, Shaun Tan ran a workshop for the QWC and I took him out to dinner. Since then, one of my sons has become a mad Shaun Tan fan and has all his books.

His artwork is quite haunting, so take the time to look him up.

Shaun is one of those quiet unassuming types and I have to confess I have a very dark sense of humour and no impulse control. When I took him out to dinner his books had won the Children’s Book Council award several times and he may have a won a World Fantasy award at that time too.  I asked him about his family and he told me about a brother and sister, one was a lawyer and one was a doctor (or something like that).  Gee, I said, Where did you parents go wrong with you?

He stared at me for a moment, then gave a dry little chuckle. I don’t think Sean gets teased much, but he took it in good humour.

So, here goes Shaun, wishing you all the best and I’m sure your parents are be very proud of you!

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Filed under Australian Writers, Awards, Children's Books, creativity, Fun Stuff, Inspiring Art, Promoting Friend's Books, The World in all its Absurdity, The Writing Fraternity

Writers pitch in to help flood victims

See blog post about this picture.

You might have noticed that my home town, state and most of Australia has been flooded (or suffered bush fires, what next?) in the last month. The Queensland Writers Centre has organised a fund raiser Writers on Rafts to raise money to help the flood victims.  Lots of prizes such as book packs, author visits and writer support up for grabs. Drop by and enter. Every little bit helps!



Filed under Australian Writers, The World in all its Absurdity

King Rolen’s Kin Facebook Page

Sending out a big thank you to the person who set up the King Rolen’s Kin facebook page. You made my day!

LOL Cat picture to say thanks!



Filed under Fun Stuff, The World in all its Absurdity