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Another Lovely Surprise

Over the Nat Con weekend Marianne asked me if I wanted to come to the Ditmar Awards with her because she had to present the SF book award. (Congratulations to all the nominees and winners by the way). I thought it would be a good chance to catch up with the friends I only see once a year at conventions.

Here we are in the bar, where all writers end up during a Con.

Marianne, Rowena, Dirk, Trent and Grace

Marianne, Rowena, Dirk, Trent and Grace

So there I was in the Ditmar Awards ceremony, clapping in the right places and enjoying the vibe when Sean Williams started to present the Peter McNamara Lifetime Achievement Award. (Peter McNamara was involved in small press publishing and established, then nurtured the Aurealis Awards back in the 1990s. He was a stalwart of speculative fiction in Australia).

Next thing I knew my name was read out and I realised that Marianne and Tehani (who was the judge this year) had been really sneaky!

Pat McNamara, R and Sean Williams

Pat McNamara, Rowena and Sean Williams

It would be honest to say that I was stunned.

When I went up to accept the award and had to stand there while Sean read out my list of achievements. It was excruciating.

In my acceptance speech I told the story of my meeting with Robert Silverberg at the Australian World Con in 1999. We’d been wedged in a corner at an industry party where, being the socially awkward creature that I am, I’d said, ‘How does it feel to be the Grand Old Man of Speculative Fiction.’ To which he said, ‘Pretty strange considering that I used to be the Bright Young Thing.’

And there I was, giving an acceptance speech for a Lifetime Achievement Award when I used to be one of the vanguard of new faces.

I’d moved to in Melbourne in 1976 (aged 18) with Paul Collins, just after the first Australian World Con which was held in 1975. Back then there weren’t very many published authors in Australia and it was SF fandom, with lots of keen young people meeting to discuss ideas and books. Naturally, we all wanted to be writers. When he learned I wanted to write, Wynne Whiteford gave me the old portable typewriter that he had taken through World War Two. After my first book published in 1999, I acknowledged Wynne at the trilogy launch and sent him a copy of the book.

In 2005 at the National SF Con in Tasmania (where the lovely Anne Bishop was GOH) I’d shared a coffee with Stephanie Smith from Harper Collins and Marianne McNamara, never dreaming that one day I would receive the award named in honour of her husband.

Now that is is 2016, it is a funny feeling to realise that I have been involved in SF Fandom for forty years.

Hopefully, this Lifetime Achievement Award will not mean that my life or my achievements are over. :->

Thank you to everyone this weekend.I’m touched by the support and kindness of my peers.

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Thelma and Louise Inspiration

The real Thelma and Louise

The real Thelma and Louise

When Tehani asked Marianne and I to be the co-hosts for the Aurealis Award it made me think about what the two of us had been through. This September it will be twenty years since we met at the first Vision Writers meeting. Back then we were both so determined to become published authors that we had abandoned our husbands on Father’s Day. For years, we wore our fingers to the bone writing and rewriting books. We submitted, were rejected, reworked our books or wrote new books and submitted again. I speak for myself here, but I think it was the same for Marianne – I think our drive to succeed arose partly because we wanted the validation that we weren’t fooling ourselves. We wanted proof that we really could write.

For the awards we decided to be cheeky and do a Thelma and Louise inspired intro. What follows is my opening speech.


This year the Aurealis Awards turn 21. Over the years the awards have evolved, new categories have been added and a great many dedicated people have volunteered their time and energy to grow the awards and the genre. Having been involved in both running and establishing awards I know how much hard work there is and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of those people.

Marianne and I are delighted to be your co-hosts tonight. Like the awards we have evolved over time. We met twenty years ago at the first Vision writers meeting. Between us we had nine children, seven of them boys. Even though our youngest boys were under two, like Thelma and Louise, we dared to dream.

Unlike them, we dreamed of becoming published authors. In between making school lunches and nursing sick children we formed a writing group, went to workshops, attended writers’ festivals and studied the craft of writing. To make the time to critique our work we formed our own play group, and gave each other feedback.

Thanks to our long suffering husbands we were able to escape our families once or twice a year to attend conventions and Aurealis Awards where we really did feel like Thelma and Louise, giddy with the excitement of freedom and mental stimulation.

Somehow we found the time to meet our family responsibilities and still write books and short stories that were good enough to be published. In our spare time we organised national workshops and writers groups and helped judge awards so that we could give back to the writing community and grow the genre.

It’s been a rollicking ride and it is an honour to be here tonight co-hosting the twenty first Aurealis Awards. To celebrate we’re going to do a selfie just like Thelma and Louise.

Unlike Thelma and Louise, we won’t drive the awards off a cliff.

Marianne and I doing our Thelma and Louise impression. Photo courtesy Cat Sparks

Marianne and I doing our Thelma and Louise impression. Photo courtesy Cat Sparks who did a much better job as a photographer than our selfie

After the awards several younger women came up to us and said how they admired what we had done and that we had inspired them to dare to dream, and they spoke of the importance of role models. At the time I hadn’t thought about this, I had been too busy juggling my large family and trying to meet deadlines but hearing from these younger women and sharing in the joy of their successes made me realise that what you do has a ripple effect.

It was lovely to catch up with so many people. If I seemed a little stunned by the end of the evening please accept my apologies. This was the first time I have been out in public doing an event in over two years.


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Whoot Aurealis Award Shortlist

Had some lovely news yesterday. I heard from the Aurealis Awards organisers. Drum roll…

My story, The Giant’s Lady, that appeared in Legends 2, edited by Ian Whates, is a finalist in the Fantasy Short Story section. A big thank you to Ian for inviting me to submit to this anthology in honour of David Gemmell.


And, another drum roll…

My series, The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin, is a finalist in the Inaugural Sara Douglas Fantasy Series Award. This award was named after Sara Douglas who sadly passed away from cancer. There were 55 series entered in this section so I am really honoured to find my work in the shortlist with these wonderful authors.


A big thank you to the team of hard working volunteers who make the Aurealis Awards possible.

And congratulations to everyone on the shortlist. The full list can be found here.




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Off to Melbourne tomorrow…

When I was eighteen I ran away to Melbourne with Paul Collins. We opened a secondhand book and record shop and started Cory and Collins Indy Press. Ah St Kilda. Coming from Brisbane, St Kilda was a slice of Europe, Acland Street with its continental cake shops, the Esplanade with the markets and pier, the seedy underside… It was all grist for the mill. and before I knew it I’d written O’Toole’s story in this book.



This weekend I’m going back to St Kilda to attend the Sisters in Crime event at the St Kilda Strip Fest with fellow writers Lindy Cameron, Leigh Redmond and Simmone Howell. We’ll be talking about how we set out books in St Kilda.

If you’re in Melbourne and you’re a reader of mystery and crime fiction, come along to the Bank of Melbourne in Acland Street and say Hi!


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Countdown to Bundy WriteFest

For quite a few years now Sandy Curtis (a multi-published author in her own right) has been beavering away in Bundy (Bundaberg, QLD) running the Bundaberg Writers Festival, with the help of the Bundy Writers’ Club. The festival caters to readers and aspiring writers across all genres and, over the years, has offered the chance for many writers to pitch their book to editors and agents. (Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th May).

Attendees at the 2012 WriteFest

Attendees at the 2012 WriteFest

This year I’ll be attending WriteFest to run a Pitching Workshop. It’ll be hands-on where you get to work on condensing your book for the pitch. I’ll help find the core of your story.

YA presenter Cheryse Durant with two aspiring writers during one of her school visits.

YA presenter Cheryse Durant with two aspiring writers during one of her school visits.


There’s lots happening. Dr David Craig will run a workshop: Dirty Tricks – the Nature of Undercover Operations I’ve seen David Craig speak on detecting lies using body language. It was fascinating. He’s had over 20 years experience in criminology and his CV reads like the back-story for a thriller hero. His Book, Lie Catcher, is available from Big Sky  Publishing.

Lie Catcher

See more on this here:

There’s workshops on the craft of writing, writing for Young Adults, Branding for Writers and the Chemistry of Reading. (Bet you never expected to hear that). For a full program see here. And for background on all the presenters see here.

Last year Sandy won the QLD Writers Centre Johnno Award for her contribution to QLD writing.

Sandy receiving her award from the chair of the QWC,

Sandy receiving her award from the chair of the QWC


So if you live within a couple of hours drive of Bundy drop in and spend a weekend with people who are passionate about writing and reading.



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Meet Emily Gee …

In the first of my series featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) I’ve invited the talented Emily Gee to drop by. Watch out for the give-away question at the end of the interview.

Emily Gee

Before Solaris bought my King Rolen’s Kin trilogy, I ordered all the books that were shortlisted for the 2008 RITA (The RWAmerica’s best of award) in the sections I liked (paranormal and regency) and I also took a look at the new authors section and ordered a couple there.

So that was how I found Emily Gee’s Thief With No Shadow which was shortlisted in two sections, Best First Book and Best Mainstream with Romantic Elements, which is quite an achievement for a fantasy book. As it turns out, Emily and I are both published by Solaris now.


Thanks for inviting me to your new blog, Rowena – it’s lovely to be here! It’s not often I get to chat with a fellow Solaris author, especially one who’s also from Downunder!

Q: Your latest book, The Sentinel Mage has just been released. (For a taste of The Sentinel Mage, click here). Can you tell us a little about it?

The Sentinel Mage is something new for me. Not only is it the first book in a trilogy, but it has three different storylines. I’d describe it as a fast-paced tale of adventure with some dark overtones.

The primary storyline is the one on the back cover blurb: In a distant corner of the Seven Kingdoms, an ancient curse festers and grows, consuming everything in its path. Only one man can break it: Harkeld of Osgaard, a prince with mage’s blood in his veins. But Harkeld has a bounty on his head – and assassins at his heels.

Innis is a gifted shapeshifter. Now she must do the forbidden: become a man. She must stand at Prince Harkeld’s side as his armsman, protecting and deceiving him.

The second storyline follows Harkeld’s sister, Princess Brigitta, and her armsman as they negotiate palace intrigues, while the third storyline follows a young orphan boy named Jaumé who is trying to outrun the curse. The storylines will start colliding in the next book – rather bloodily!


Q: Your father is the renowned author Maurice Gee. I notice in your bio you said you never had any intention of being a writer and did a science degree instead. Yet, here you are a published writer. Was there a moment of stage fright, when you realised you’d inherited the writing bug?

Not so much stage fright, Rowena – it was more like resignation, since I knew that writers don’t earn much money! Fortunately, I write very different books from my father, so people can’t compare us. I have absolutely no desire to write the great New Zealand novel!

Q: From the gallery on your web page it looks like you do a lot of travelling. Was this because of your work or were you also bitten by the travel bug?

Bitten at a young age. My parents took my sister and me out of school for six months when I was eleven, and we backpacked through Europe. I never recovered from the experience.  Since then I’ve done as much travelling as possible – not just Europe, but also the Middle East, North Africa, China and Pakistan, and North America. If I ever win Lotto, I’ll probably spend most of my life travelling. I’m an addict!



Q: I see you are a Joss Whedon fan. I’m a big fan of Buffy and Firefly, too. Perhaps we should have a fan-girl moment and talk about how wonderful Joss Whedon is. I think when you are a writer, you can appreciate the craft that goes into really good TV show writing. Other than these two shows, do you have some favourite TV shows and why?

Oh, yes, let’s have a fan-girl moment! I love Buffy and Firefly – they’re fabulous shows! Dark and funny and smart. Joss Whedon is a genius!

I’m not sure whether being a writer influences my reactions to TV shows or not, but I really like intelligent dialogue. So many shows dumb everything down. Joss Whedon doesn’t usually fall into that trap.

Lately I’ve been watching Dexter and Glee and Dr Who. Oh, and dare I confess to liking Midsommer Murders? Why do I watch these shows? Because they all amuse me! I watch TV to laugh and be entertained. Yes, I’m shallow.  <grin>

Q: I see you also write Regency romances as Emily May. Why Regencies rather than any other historical period?

I’ve been hooked on the Regency period since I read my first Georgette Heyer as a teenager. (If you haven’t read The Grand Sophy, read it!) Then came the marvellous BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. After that, there was no looking back!

I love the Regency for so many reasons – the glittering and absurdly privileged lives of the Ton; the dark underbelly of society, with poverty and crime and prostitution; the strict rules well-born ladies lived by; the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars; the importance of chivalry and honour. It’s such a fun period!

Q:  As someone who writes both historical and fantasy books can you tell us the similarities and the differences from a writing perspective?

With the fantasies, I can create my own worlds and do what I like with them; with the Regencies, I’m aware that there are a large number of readers who know the period extremely well, so I do a lot of research! I tend to write significantly darker for the fantasies, and to have more humour in the Regencies. Since the Regencies are purely romances, I only write good sex scenes for them, whereas there are some rather unpleasant sex scenes in the fantasy novels!

Q: What are you currently working on?

Currently I’m finishing a Regency romance about a penniless spinster who starts writing erotic tales in order to earn money. The hero is an ex-soldier who barely survived Waterloo. My research has included reading letters from Waterloo soldiers, Fordyce’s Sermons to Young Women, and Regency-era pornography.

<Wow, Emily, you get to do the coolest things!>

Q: Do you think there’s a difference in the way males and females write fantasy?

Good question, Rowena! Do female writers have stronger female protagonists? Do they focus more on the relationships between characters? Do they have more romance in their novels? More description?

I really don’t know if there’s a difference in terms of plot or character — someone out there may have done a doctorate on this and actually have an answer! — but there may be a difference in the nuts and bolts of writing. In general, men and women tend to speak differently — or rather, men tend to use fewer words than women. Perhaps this shows up in the writing in terms of description and dialogue? Who knows?

There’s actually an algorithm on the internet that analyses whether a passage is written by a man or a woman. I tried it with a piece in the armsman, Karel’s, point of view, and it told me it was (just) written by a man, and then I put in another piece in the mage, Innis’s, point of view, and it told me that was most definitely written by a woman, which I think reflected the word choices I made, i.e. Karel’s a guy, so he’s terser, both in how he thinks and speaks, whereas Innis is a young woman and is more emotional and descriptive.

<Emily, I’ve done the same thing with my characters and had the same result. It’s a great way to test if your male VP character is coming across as ‘male’ enough.>

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

With a female writer, I expect there’ll be at least one strong female protagonist. Several of my favourite fantasy authors are women (e.g. Robin McKinley, Diana Wynne Jones, Lois McMaster Bujold) and their strong female characters are part of the reason why I like them so much — although, of course, they write fabulous male characters too! I also hope there’ll be some great writing and an element of romance, because I’m a sucker for romance.  <grin>

Q: I see you would like to interview Pliny the Younger, who witnessed the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. That sort of pre-empts my last question … If you could book a trip on a time machine, where and when would you go, and why?

You’re right, Rowena – I’d choose to go back to Classical times! I did Latin at school and Ancient Greek at uni, plus Classics, and I find that time period utterly fascinating. I’d love to meet Pliny, and also Catullus, who wrote some fantastic poetry. So definitely, if I had a time machine, I’d go back to Greece and Rome – with a side trip to ancient Egypt as well!

Emily has very kindly offered a copy of her latest book The Sentinel Mage as a give-away. We’ll keep the competition open for a week.

Her question is: What do you like most about the fantasy genre?



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