Julie Hunt lives on an organic farm in southern Tasmania where she writes a variety of stories for children – from picture books to novels and graphic novels. She’s interested in folktales, travel and oral storytelling and is endlessly surprised by the way the supernatural and the everyday seem to exist side by side.
1. Your most recent novel, Song for a Scarlet Runner, is doing wonderfully well, being shortlisted for the CBCA Younger Readers category and the Children’s category of the Aurealis Awards, and winning the Readings Children’s Book Prize – could you tell us where the idea for the book came from and the road to publication?
The story began with the term ‘marsh auntie’. I don’t know where that came from but those two words were the seed of the idea. They arrived one morning and brought a character and a world with them. I decided the marsh auntie would be a storyteller and herbalist and she’d live in the swamp with a community of aunties and each would have a special skill. A trip to Ireland to attend a storytelling festival helped and other ideas came from reading folktales. I used the notion of the ‘external soul’, an idea that appears in quite a few traditional tales: a person takes their soul from their body and hides it away so they can never be killed, but eventually somebody – the hero or heroine – finds it and time catches up with them.
The road to publication? I was lucky enough to have an Australian Society of Authors mentorship with the illustrator, Ann James, and this led to an introduction to the publisher. Working with Erica, Sue, Sarah and others at Allen and Unwin has been a gift. Although I’m the one writing the stories, the process is collaborative and feels very much like a joint effort.
2. Several of your books have received Awards recognition, which must be exciting, but does it come with a weight of expectation too? How do you deal with that as you keep writing?
I don’t feel any weight. Recognition is encouraging and it gives me confidence. There does seem to be an expectation to speak though, and that’s something I find tricky. Still, speaking is not as hard as writing. If Song for a Scarlet Runner had been easy to create – if it had just slipped out ‘accidently’ – I would be worried that I couldn’t do it again, but it was hard won.
3. Tell us what can we look forward to from you in the next 12 months?
My graphic novel, KidGlovz, will be published in 2015. Dale Newman, who did the beautiful cover illustration for Song for a Scarlet Runner, is the artist. It’s a book for 10–14 year-olds about a child prodigy, a pianist. He wears a pair of white gloves and when he discovers the gloves have a sinister past he begins to realise that his talent is a curse and that his wierd musical ability actually lies in the gloves rather than in his fingers.
I read up on 19th century prodigies before I started the story and I wrote much of the book while visiting Romania. My story is full of mountains and music and ice caves. I was amazed at the painted monasteries in Bucovina – graphic novels, comic strips on the walls of the buildings! – that went straight into the book and although I didn’t visit Transylvania, it was on my mind.
I’m working on a sequel to KidGlovz. It will be a hybrid novel, part graphic novel and part prose and will follow the gloves into their next incarnation. They leave the pianist and return on the hands of a thief, a young pickpocket and they give him the ability to steal whatever he desires – hearts, minds and souls.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner. What the Family Needed by Stephen Amsterdam. Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan. I also enjoyed Andrew McGahan’s The Coming of the Whirlpool and The Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie by Kirsty Murray. I loved Tantony by Ananda Braxton-Smith for the marvellously inventive language and Alison Croggon’s Black Spring for the landscape and the intrigues.
5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing in five years from now?
I’ve only begun publishing in a consistent way recently so I can’t say the changes have effected me. Being able to download ebooks has helped my work, and being able to find lost books online has been wonderful. I worry about bookshops and I worry that the library is throwing out too many books. I’m both attracted and repelled by changes in technology. I don’t tweet but I can see the possibilities of augmented reality. A while ago I met an inspiring software developer and considered creating an app based on one of my picture books. I’m open to new ways of storytelling and was pleased when Bologna Book Fair introduced its digital award in children’s publishing.
Perhaps in five years time I’ll have extended my stories into other areas. As far as print goes, one book seems to lead to the next, so I expect whatever I’m writing then will be a continuation of my present work. At the moment I’m experimenting with a story cycle, collection of linked stories for a young adult audience set in a world full of criss-crossing roads, trails and pathways.
This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:
Image via History of Emotions
By Lucy Sussex
I became a writer because of the Australian SF writing workshops. Ursula Le Guin’s name on the cover of the 1975 workshop proceedings, The Altered Eye, was sufficient for me to buy the book. Then I got entranced by the descriptions of the workshop process. I bought The View from the Edge, too. Although they featured various talented young writers, some of whom would publish books, the absolute standout was one Philippa C. Maddern.
It was some years till I met Pip (as people called her), at a restaurant meal around Aussiecon II. I noticed first the mop of black hair, the wide, warm smile. At the time I was considerably in awe. Viv Albertine’s recent memoir describes the effect of seeing the cover of Patti Smith’s Horses; and then the Sex Pistols live. Smith looked like an ‘ordinary girl’, the Pistols like Viv and her friends: young outsiders. When I started out the stars of the Oz SF scene were almost to a man hoary old blokes, tending to the deeply sexist. The women of SF were unattainable goddesses, and overseas. Pip was older than me, but otherwise young, acclaimed and an Aussie girl. I found her inspirational. Moreover, she was a strong feminist.
Not that I could get all fangirl over Pip and a story I adored—“Ignorant of Magic”—because she did not stand upon ceremony. If she liked you, then you knew it. Neither did she hide a razor-sharp intelligence. Her obituary photograph in the Australian was pure Pip: hands on hip, the background cluttered bookcases, feistiness in repose.
In the years following the workshops, she pursued a PhD in medieval history at Oxford, and attended Milford three times. Lisa Tuttle posted on Facebook a photo of Pip at Milford, resplendent in red overalls. Pip’s problem was finding time to write, as a young academic. I can’t remember who suggested an informal series of workshops, which took place over the next few years in our various houses. Pip hosted at her College rooms at Melbourne University, and also at the Champion’s, with whom she had formed a long-lasting Christian community. Although she was deeply religious, she never bothered others about God. She had her worldly pleasures too: she cooked well, and played in a medieval music ensemble.
I knew her best in these few workshop years, and then not well. She was looking for an academic niche, then beginning to be fiendishly difficult, and at one stage got fed up and got an ordinary job. Had she not got a permanent position at the University of West Australia, she might have written more. I heard (not from Pip) of an unpublished novel, and at the workshops she presented extracts from another novel, a human repetends, a love triangle repeating the same mistakes through time. It was very good, but I suspect she never finished it. I did, however, manage to get a story from her for She’s Fantastical.
At various parties I met people from the original workshops, who had a persistent bond. One was Ted Mundie, older, part-Chinese, a charmer in person and prose, with a very relaxed style. One time I saw Pip she mentioned she was ‘having a fling’ with Ted. Next thing they got married—some 25 years after meeting at the Le Guin workshop. I visited them at their Bayswater home, he enjoying looking after her; she cherishing him. Sadly Ted died of a heart attack after 5 years of marriage. The last email I had from Pip, we were both bereaved, and she mentioned publishing his memoir. It was one of those things that she never got around to, but such is the state of academe, the grind of lectures, committees, publications, research etc, etc.
She had ovarian cancer as a young woman. The disease returned, this time fatally. I was told by her fellow medievalists that she was gravely ill, and was able to send a card. In it, I said how inspirational she had been, and that I hoped she would get back to writing. Later I was one of six people who contributed to her obituary in the Australian, which is how her SF got mentioned. Some academics had never heard of it before.
Her memorial service in Melbourne filled a small church on a cold day. I sat gazing at the stained glass window, through which the leaves of trees, rendered bright green by sunlight and the tinting, could be seen tossing. As the minister spoke of the Redeemer and the Light, and how her last meal had been the Sacrament, I recalled “Ignorant of Magic”. In it she used the words “Kaleidoscopic precision”, a good image of how her mind, and by extension her prose worked.
What she leaves, beside a memory of an excellent woman, talented historian and teacher, is her stories. ‘The Ins and Outs of the Hadya City State” was her submission to the 1975 workshop, and it remains a startling debut. It was written under the influence of Le Guin (like we all were!), as was “Ignorant of Magic”, this time mixed with medievalism. In retrospect, the best is “Inhabiting the Interstices”, a scary but utterly prescient story of the future of cities, the future of work. What was sitting in her bottom drawer or hard drive is unknown, but what was published was extraordinary.
Ursula Le Guin gave me permission to quote her words about Pip:
It grieves me very much to know Philippa is dead, yet it gives me joy to remember her in life. Teaching workshops you meet a few people like her, you smile when you think about them, you always are grateful to them for being who they were, for writing what they wrote, for believing that you could teach them anything.
I still have a tiny box Philippa gave me. I had told her that when I saw Blue Wattle acacias flowering in Australia they made me feel at home, because they grew at our place in California, and in the box is a sprig of those blossoms, still yellow after all the years.
This post is part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:
Snapshot has taken place four times in the past 10 years. In 2005, Ben Peek spent a frantic week interviewing 43 people in the Australian spec fic scene, and since then, it’s grown every time, now taking a team of interviewers working together to accomplish!
In the lead up to Worldcon in London, we will be blogging interviews for Snapshot 2014, conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright. Last time we covered nearly 160 members of the Australian speculative fiction community with the Snapshot – can we top that this year?
To read the interviews hot off the press, check these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done:
This year’s interviewers:
Alex Stephenson has written a fantastic review of Guardian in Aurealis #72 – among other things, Alex says:
Guardian is a tremendously satisfying conclusion to an already celebrated series.
…Anderton is to be commended for her ability to create such rich and original settings.
A fitting end, or entry, to the trilogy, Guardian is as excellent as Anderton’s fans deserve. It is a pleasure to read modern science fiction driven by a female lead as strong and nuanced as Tanyana.
Thanks Alex! You can read the whole review (and new fiction and other things as well!) in the issue, just $2.99 at Smashwords.
Another review of Jo’s Veiled World books comes from Paul Bonamy on Goodreads, who calls them: “…an excellent series, and well worth reading.”
Jason Franks has interviewed Dirk Flinthart over at his blog, talking a lot about Path of Night and what’s coming up next. Don’t forget that while you wait for book 2 in the series, “Sanction”, a short story set after the events of Path of Night, is available super cheap from Amazon!
Did we mention that The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories won Best Collection at the Australian Shadows Awards last month? It DID! Nice double with the Aurealis Award – congratulations Jo!
Speaking of The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories Dave Versace reviewed the book on Amazon, saying it’s full of, “Beautiful, dark stories of humanity on the fringes of normality or the verge of extinction.” Much appreciated Dave!
Elanor Matton-Johnson gave Ink Black Magic by Tansy Rayner Roberts five stars on Goodreads, saying it’s, “A brilliantly batty romp…” – we agree! And Cissa on Amazon said, “VERY recommended, especially if you like surreal mash-ups.” Thanks Cissa!
Let us know if you review a FableCroft book on Amazon, Goodreads or your blog, and we’ll happily link to it!
FableCroft Publishing has always been very lucky in the wonderful people who help make our books happen. In particular, people like our awesome designer, Amanda Rainey, proofer Elizabeth Disney, and other generous friends like Dirk Flinthart, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Jo Anderton and Alisa Krasnostein. Without them (and of course the authors and artists I love working with) it would be impossible to publish the books we do, and the books would be FAR poorer for the lack of their input.
But today we’re announcing a new big step for FableCroft – we’re completely over the moon to announce that we officially have an INTERN! Intern Katharine has been offering help and support to FableCroft (and me) for quite some time, as well as volunteering as a judge for the Aurealis Awards and supporting the wider community with excellent reviews of more books than even I can get to! She really knows her stuff, and I’m so grateful for her willingness to be part of our journey.
Katharine Stubbs used to be mentor and municipal liaison for NaNoWriMo (2005-2012) and an ambassador for National Young Writers Month (2011), but has now retired to be a faithful book reviewer. She is currently in her fourth year of being a judge for the Aurealis Awards, and has recently completed a year as a judge of the CBCA Book of the Year Awards. Some day, Katharine would like to be a published author but until then she is happy rewriting her many manuscripts, reading as much as possible, and travelling. She is greatly looking forward to interning with FableCroft Publishing, and simply adores the Australian spec fic scene!
I’ve tried to record some statistics for my anthologies when I can, because I find it interesting myself, and I know that some people like to know this stuff! In the past six months or so, I’ve been reading for Insert Title Here, an unthemed speculative fiction anthology. While it takes a bit of extra time, I recorded (to the best of my ability) the vital statistics of the submissions, and here’s a bit of a breakdown about the slush. The usual disclaimer: I’m an editor/publisher, not a statistician!
252 submissions from at least 16 countries, for a total of over 1,200,000 words.
Gender breakdown 1 unknown, 92 F, 2 M/F duo, 157 M.
Story submissions by country: 76 Australia, 2 Belgium, 9 Canada, 2 Greece, 2 Ireland, 1 Israel, 1 Italy, 1 N. Ireland, 7 New Zealand, 1 Norway, 1 Philippines, 2 Singapore, 1 Sweden, 1 Czech Republic, 33 UK, 106 US, 6 unknown.
19 stories were accepted for Insert Title Here (plus 11 for an alternative anthology that emerged from the slushpile. I also solicited two further works for ITH).
Of the 19 accepted stories for Insert Title Here, 9 female authors, 1 F/M combo, 9 male authors (2 additional stories both by female writers). All 11 for alternative anthology by female writers.
Of 19 acceptances for Insert Title Here, 13 Australian, 1 NZ, 2 UK, 3 US (2 additional both Australian). Of 11 for alternative anthology, 10 Australian, 1 Philippines (plus one solicited US and one solicited AU).
- I asked for two rewrites on submission and received one, but ended up being unable to make it fit.
- Despite clear submission guidelines about multiple and simultaneous submissions, word count and the fact it is a speculative fiction anthology, I received several stories contravening the guidelines, including a number that were withdrawn on acceptance elsewhere. Stories outside of guidelines were rejected unread.
- Several stories reached the very final round of reading, with quite a number being very hard to let go of – the reading for this book was the most challenging I have done, and the quality of the top 25% of stories the highest I’ve seen.
The slush was for an unthemed anthology, but as I was reading, it became clear that several stories themed themselves into the new book (to be titled Phantazein). I had sort of expected I might get a few stories on similar themes, but to have so many evoke a strong sense of connectedness really surprised me. To include them all in Insert Title Here would have unbalanced that book, so I exercised my right as a boutique publisher and decided to build an entirely new book for them! I call this the “Faith Mudge effect”, as it’s the same reason To Spin a Darker Stair evolved, and one of Faith’s stories was the catalyst for both books.
I’m hoping to launch both books at Conflux in Canberra in October! Lots of work to do between now and then…
What is Phantazein, I hear you ask? Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the slush… While reading for the unthemed Insert Title Here, several stories emerged as working very well together, with a strong sense of unity between them. To include all these wonderful pieces in Insert Title Here would have unbalanced that book, but given I’m a boutique publisher and can do things as and when they take my fancy, I decided to create an entirely new project, just for them! I call this the “Faith Mudge effect”, because Faith’s stories have now been the catalyst of two entirely new projects sprung from slushpiles
The title, Phantazein, is both the root word of the word “fantasy” and has its own meaning of “to appear”, which I think is most apt!. The astonishing Kathleen Jennings has agreed to create a cover for the book, and I’m very excited about this project – I hope you will be too!
|Tansy Rayner Roberts
||The love letters of swans
||The village of no women
|Suzanne J. Willis
||Rag and bone heart
||A Cold Day
||How the Jungle Got Its Spirit Guardian
||The Ghost of Hephaestus
||The Seventh Relic
I’m still negotiating on another story for the book, so hopefully we will have more to add to that fantastic lineup, but I’m really looking forward to bringing this anthology to you at Conflux in October!
We’re delighted to announce the table of contents for the forthcoming FableCroft book Insert Title Here, an unthemed anthology of speculative fiction. We read more than 250 stories (over 1.2 million words) and have selected a fabulous lineup of stories from both established and emerging authors, which range from science fiction to fantasy to some truly dark horror, with some of the most unusual and engaging genre-bending stories I’ve ever read. It was really tough to select from the great slushpile, and Insert Title Here will be our biggest anthology yet – check out this amazing lineup!
||The Last Case of Detective Charlemagne
||Sins of meals past
||The Last Voyage of Saint Brendan
||The Winter Stream
||Beyond the Borders of All He Had Been Taught
||The Falcon Races
||Footprints in Venom
||Her face like lightning
|Marianne de Pierres
||Oil and bone
||Ministry of Karma
||The art of deception
|Marissa Lingen & Alec Austin
||Living in the Light
|Alexis A. Hunter
||Always Another Point
We’re aiming for release at Conflux in October (all going well) and I can’t wait to share this book with you!
Image from http://jinleephd.com/2013/06/29/23-why-should-you-write-young-adult-literature/
At Continuum X on the June long weekend, I had the privilege of moderating a panel called “YA: all grown up”, which featured Guest of Honour Ambelin Kwaymullina, and other YA writers Amie Kaufman, Leonie Rogers and Sue Bursztynski as panellists. We had a chat by email beforehand, so kind of knew the sort of things we wanted to talk about, but of course, you never know where the conversation will go. With such intelligent and well-read panellists, it went all sorts of great places!
We talked about why YA was both important and popular, with readers of all ages, with the panel suggesting that YA is important because “the young matter more” (Ambelin), and that it’s popular for reasons such as the fact it share qualities with genre fiction, the writing is pared back, and YA stories tend to be more diverse that adult-oriented fiction. The reasons why our panellists wrote YA were discussed, and we challenged the idea that YA was “easier” than adult fiction, to write or read, although it’s often shorter and more to-the-point!
Recommendations from the panel for quality YA:
Tehani said (though it would change on any given day) that top reads for her are: Laini Taylor (the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series), Liar by Justine Larbalestier and recommends Awards lists such as the Aurealis Awards, CBCA Older Readers, Inky Awards and various Premier’s literary awards.
Amie suggests Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo and Legend by Marie Liu.
Ambelin says to pick what you love and don’t worry about where it comes from in the bookstore. Read something you wouldn’t normally read – diverse and different perspective and challenge you and make you smarter.
Sue recommends anything by Melina Marchetta and Michael Pryor’s Laws of Magic series.
Leonie seconds Ambelin’s words, and adds Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men, Brandon Sanderson’s Rithmatist books, and Bonnie’s story, a blonde’s guide to mathematics by Janis Hill.
I’d like to thank the panellists for being so darn awesome and smart, and for making the hour-long discussion absolutely fly by!
Please note that the notes I took were definitely on the run, and my memory is always suspect. Hopefully I’ve not misrepresented or misremembered anything here – I welcome comments from audience members and the panellists if I’ve got it wrong or missed anything super important!
It’s been a busy time here at FableCroft, and I feel like a duck or an iceberg or something right now. Frantically paddling to keep serenely floating, with so much going on under the surface that you can’t see! However, there are a few things out in the world I wanted to share!
Jo Anderton was interviewed by the AntipodeanSF podcast after winning Best Collection at the Aurealis Awards in April, and the interview went live a couple of weeks ago. Check it out here. Oh, and Jo also won the Australian Shadows award for Best Collection last week! HUGE congratulations!
Suzanne J Willis’s story “Number 73 Glad Avenue” has been reprinted not once but TWICE now! The story became our second to hit the airwaves on the Starship Sofa podcast in April (the first was Michelle Marquardt’s “Almost Greener” back in Novemberlast year), and it will appear again in the anthology Time Travel: recent trips, edited by Paula Guran (Prime Books, October 2014). Well done Suzanne, it’s a fantastic story and we’re delighted to see it getting continued exposure!
I’m 98.3% (or thereabouts) done with story selection for Insert Title Here, and there’s been a somewhat interesting development on that front which I’ll be announcing very shortly – stay tuned for that, and (hopefully) a table of contents reveal real soon!
Cranky Ladies of History stories are starting to trickle in, and we’re looking forward to reading about the amazing women our authors are writing about. I’ve peeked at a few of them already, and WOW – can’t wait to read them all!
I’ve seen some new reviews of FableCroft works out and about on Goodreads and Amazon – thanks to those folks who take the time to write about our books!
Right, back to the grindstone! More news soon…
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