Snapshot 2014: Andrea K Höst

July 31st, 2014 at 8:00 am (Interviews)

Andrea K Höst writes what she likes to read: stories about worlds where magic is real, women aren’t relegated to the background, and expectations are twisted slightly out of skew.

1. You’ve given a (worth reading) breakdown of one of the reasons you decided to self-publish your work on your website, so I don’t want to go into that here. However, I would love to hear about your process for getting your books out there – what are the best and worst bits of being a self-publisher?

The best bit is the readers: I get some lovely fan mail, and it brightens my day every time.  Though that’s something to be found in all forms of publishing.  For the self-publishing aspect, I’ll cite the standard ‘control’ and also freedom from the submission-go-round.

The mechanical parts – getting covers, working out how to create an ebook – are fun (or can be out-sourced, if you don’t find that kind of thing fun), but the first year, before you’ve built any form of audience, can be extremely daunting.  Self-publishing works in a very different way from trade publishing.  There is none of the pressure to make a big debut, to get out of the gate with a bang so as to be able to sell the next book.  But there’s also no-one firing you out of that gate, no advocate going around hanging superlatives off your work.  You’re a drop in the ocean and shouting will get you nowhere.

Fortunately, I’ve found the ‘set and forget’ method of promotion (with occasional freebies and a couple of judicious ads) works quite well for me.  Self-pub is definitely a path that fits with a five year plan outlook, rather than attempting to shoot your first book into the stratosphere.

Huntingmed2. You have had two novels shortlisted for the Aurealis Awards in recent years. In fact, I think you may have been one of the first self-published writers to achieve this, which is fantastic. Can you tell us why you think your work hit that milestone?

There’s no real answer to that question. The more books and reviews I read, the less I believe in a “best”.  Every single person has their very own taste, and standards of excellence, and I was enormously fortunate that those three books happened to work for the particular combination of judges in their respective years.  It’s an amazing compliment, though, and I still remember the walking on air feeling for when Medair was nominated.

3. What’s coming up next from you, and what are your goals as an author?

I’m currently working on a kitchen-and-the-sink alt-history series called The Trifold Age.  More mythology mashed into one monstrous mass than my ability to alliterate can maintain!  The first volume, The Pyramids of London, will be out either at the end of this year, or early next year.

My goals as an author are fairly straightforward.  Keep writing books.  Keep growing my fan base.  Have fun.  Hopefully write full time some day.  [That last is problematic, as my absolute most productive time to write is on the train during the morning commute!

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

The last Australian books I read were Malaysian-Australian author K S Augustin’s Check Your Luck Agency series, which hit my sweet spot for both narrative voice and for a fun trip into both supernatural and everyday Singapore and Malaysia.

Pyramids_medium5. 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?

The most direct impact on my writing has been what I call the positive circle - I have a more positive attitude toward my writing due to fan feedback and encouragement.  This leads me to write more, and to push myself as a writer.

In five years, I expect to be finishing up The Trifold Age, and probably mired in half a dozen other partials.  One thing I’m not short of is ideas. :)

SnaphotLogo2014This 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: 

http://bookonaut.blogspot.com.au/search/label/2014snapshot 

http://www.davidmcdonaldspage.com/tag/2014snapshot/ 

http://fablecroft.com.au/tag/2014snapshot

http://helenstubbs.wordpress.com/tag/2014snapshot/ 

http://jasonnahrung.com/tag/2014snapshot/

http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/tag/2014snapshot

http://mayakitten.livejournal.com/tag/2014snapshot

http://www.merwood.com.au/worldsend/tag/2014snapshot

http://crankynick.livejournal.com/tag/2014snapshot

http://randomalex.net/tag/2014snapshot/

http://stephaniegunn.com/tag/2014snapshot/ 

http://tansyrr.com/tansywp/tag/2014snapshot/

http://tsanasreads.blogspot.com/search/label/2014snapshot 

http://ventureadlaxre.wordpress.com/tag/2014snapshot/

 

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Snapshot 2014: Mark Harding

July 30th, 2014 at 8:00 am (Interviews)

602848_10151419262490941_581226322_n (1)Mark has worked in books and publishing for several years, starting out as a bookseller with Shearer’s Bookshop before making the move to publishing. He’s helped run the When Genres Attack literary events that take place in Sydney, and also writes about Stephen King at The Night Shift: http://thenightshiftblog.wordpress.com/ You can follow him on Twitter at @ml_harding

  1. You have been working with Momentum as Digital Marketing Executive for over two and a half years, and with the company, have been working on ways to build communities around publishing – why do you think this is so important?

Momentum publishes a lot of genre fiction, and when a genre community embraces a work it can make a huge difference to that title’s success. Genre readers are also voracious, and will devour content quickly – it’s therefore important to be in that community indicating where readers can find more. It’s also rare for publishers to instil brand loyalty. Readers are loyal to authors, but often have no idea who publishes them, aside from a handful of community-focused imprints like Tor. Part of what we’ve tried to do with Momentum is build a community around us in addition to our authors.

  1. What has been the most interesting experience you have had working for Momentum?

I’ve been fortunate to have quite a few things to choose from with this question. I’d have to say that it was seeing the Kylie Scott juggernaut take off. Kylie’s book Lick became an Amazon top 20 bestseller and led to her being offered a 4-book deal with Macmillan. While Lick is a new adult rock star romance, Kylie built herself first with the books Flesh and Skin, erotic romance novels set after a zombie apocalypse. The hook (it’s a zom-rom) was so unique that we were all very curious as to how audiences would respond. And the community loved it. It was very satisfying to be able to help someone go from aspiring writer to full-time author.

  1. You are leaving publishing this month and heading into a different direction altogether. Can you tell us why you’ve made this move?

I’ve had a passion for social media for many years now and I was recently offered an exciting opportunity to manage social for a company outside the publishing industry. It was a tough choice. I’ll miss publishing, but I’ll continue to be a big supporter of the local industry as a fan and customer.

  1. What Australian works have you loved recently?

The Last City and The Forgotten City by Nina D’Aleo are amazing. READ NINA D’ALEO’S BOOKS, I cannot stress this enough. These novels are wonderful works of speculative fiction from a massively talented author. She has a big future ahead of her, so it would be best to read these books ASAP so you can brag about how you knew all about her before she won a Hugo award.

Fury by Charlotte McConaghy is also a brilliant novel that’s set in a really interesting dystopia where an oppressive regime has ‘cured’ the population of negative emotions. That concept is an awesome hook, and Charlotte has structured the story in a really interesting way.  It’s the first in a series so there’s a lot more of the world she’s created to be explored.

I’m also partial to crime novels and have to say that Luke Preston’s novels Dark City Blue and Out of Exile are among the most hardcore, riveting and gleefully violent crime noirs around. Luke knows the genre back-to-front and just has an absolute blast torturing his characters.

  1. In one way, Momentum itself is a reaction to changes in publishing, in that’s it’s a digital first imprint – how else did the recent changes in the publishing industry influence the way you work? 

We’ve been free to experiment, and much of my role for these two and a half years has been to find out just what it takes to make an ebook successful. It’s an ongoing process as we’re constantly learning new things, and the landscape is shifting all the time.

SnaphotLogo2014This 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: 

http://bookonaut.blogspot.com.au/search/label/2014snapshot 

http://www.davidmcdonaldspage.com/tag/2014snapshot/ 

http://fablecroft.com.au/tag/2014snapshot

http://helenstubbs.wordpress.com/tag/2014snapshot/ 

http://jasonnahrung.com/tag/2014snapshot/

http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/tag/2014snapshot

http://mayakitten.livejournal.com/tag/2014snapshot

http://stephaniegunn.com/tag/2014snapshot/ 

http://ventureadlaxre.wordpress.com/tag/2014snapshot/

 

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Snapshot 2014: Julie Hunt

July 29th, 2014 at 8:00 am (Interviews)

julie_huntJulie 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.

SnaphotLogo2014This 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: 

http://bookonaut.blogspot.com.au/search/label/2014snapshot 

http://www.davidmcdonaldspage.com/tag/2014snapshot/ 

http://fablecroft.com.au/tag/2014snapshot

http://helenstubbs.wordpress.com/tag/2014snapshot/ 

http://jasonnahrung.com/tag/2014snapshot/

http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/tag/2014snapshot

http://mayakitten.livejournal.com/tag/2014snapshot

http://www.merwood.com.au/worldsend/tag/2014snapshot

http://crankynick.livejournal.com/tag/2014snapshot

http://randomalex.net/tag/2014snapshot/

http://stephaniegunn.com/tag/2014snapshot/ 

http://tansyrr.com/tansywp/tag/2014snapshot/

http://tsanasreads.blogspot.com/search/label/2014snapshot 

http://ventureadlaxre.wordpress.com/tag/2014snapshot/

 

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Snapshot 2014: Philippa (Pip) Maddern, in memorium

July 28th, 2014 at 8:00 am (Interviews)

Image via History of Emotions

PHILIPPA MADDERN

(1952-2014)

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.

SnaphotLogo2014This 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: 

http://bookonaut.blogspot.com.au/search/label/2014snapshot 

http://www.davidmcdonaldspage.com/tag/2014snapshot/ 

http://fablecroft.com.au/tag/2014snapshot

http://helenstubbs.wordpress.com/tag/2014snapshot/ 

http://jasonnahrung.com/tag/2014snapshot/

http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/tag/2014snapshot

http://mayakitten.livejournal.com/tag/2014snapshot

http://www.merwood.com.au/worldsend/tag/2014snapshot

http://stephaniegunn.com/tag/2014snapshot/ 

http://ventureadlaxre.wordpress.com/tag/2014snapshot/

 

 

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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014

July 27th, 2014 at 11:15 am (Interviews)

SnaphotLogo2014Snapshot 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:

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Interview at Headspring Press!

July 13th, 2012 at 3:27 pm (Interviews)

I have been interviewed at Headspring Press – some great questions (and some curly ones!) to answer, thanks to Katharine Stubbs. She asked me what my favourite story in Epilogue was! Enjoy :)

Guest Post: Andrea Cremer

March 6th, 2012 at 7:21 pm (Interviews)

I’m delighted to host author Andrea Cremer, as part of her blog tour to celebrate the release of her new book, Bloodrose (book 3 of her supernatural YA fantasy series which began with Nightshade and Wolfsbane – all available from Atom).

I asked Andrea this question: There are a lot of young adult novels out there these days – how do you write a paranormal book that stands out in the crowd? – this post is her response. Thanks for guesting with FableCroft, Andrea!

A common response to Nightshade from readers is the comment that it’s one of his or her favorite werewolf books. As much as I understand where that idea comes from, I think it’s time for me to take and stand and say Nightshade and Wolfsbane are not werewolf books. Here’s what I mean:

I’ve lived long in the realm of paranormal/fantasy proudly bearing my badge of vampire girl. That’s right; I came on board as a fan of vamps, not werewolves. I was Team Edward for all four books of Twilight. I prefer Bill and Eric to Sam in True Blood. But before you start throwing tomatoes, let me tell you why.

Friends who knew I was a vampire girl presumed that meant I love ALL forms of paranormal, so they’d push werewolves at me enthusiastically. I wasn’t interested, and I couldn’t figure out why. After all they were fierce, strong, magical – all things I liked. So what was the problem? And then it hit me – I didn’t like werewolves because I love wolves.

That’s right – I’m a wolf girl, but a real wolf girl. I grew up so far north in Wisconsin that it’s practically Canada. Wolves roamed the forests of my homeland. I also loved National Geographic television specials even more than cartoons. So by age 9 I could rattle off biological and ecological info like a pro. Wolves to me were beautiful, intelligent, social, and graceful.

Werewolves seemed to be none of these things. The werewolves I’d encountered on page and screen were hideous – half man/half beast, usually ugly, often unintelligent, driven only by rage or bloodlust.

And worst of all: they didn’t want to be wolves. Lycanthropy occurs as a curse, or a disease. The endgoal of most werewolf tales was to kill the wolf or free the affected person of the wolf curse.

I couldn’t come to grips with that idea. If someone asked me – hey wanna turn into a wolf? I’d say, “Heck, yeah!” Wouldn’t you rather be a wolf? From what I know of wolves, the answer is indisputably YES.

Nightshade’s Guardians are my way of coming to terms with my love of wolves and my trouble with classic werewolf tales. Calla – the alpha female who narrates Nightshade – is powerful and revels in her life as a wolf.

Her troubles arise not from her ability to shift, but from the ways in which her masters try to limit her power, to restrain her freedoms.

Wolves also inspire me because of their sociability.

Pack relationships offered a wonderful way to explore a world of friendship, servitude, loyalty, and betrayal. While Nightshade is about Calla’s journey, it’s also the story of her pack. The other wolves in the book play key roles throughout the trilogy. Wolves offered a wonderful framework around which to explore relationships, love, fear, and rivalry.

Wolves carry a magic and mystery to me that captured my heart and hasn’t let go. It was just a matter of finding my own way to tell their story and I believe that staying true to those feelings and letting them lead me was the key to creating a different kind of paranormal tale, one that revisits traditional mythologies, making them new again.

Photo by Gina Monroe (via Andrea's website)

Andrea Cremer spent her childhood daydreaming while roaming the forests and lakeshores of Northern Wisconsin. She went to school until there wasn’t any more school to go to, ending up with a Ph.D. in early modern history – a reflection of her fascination with witchcraft and warfare. She currently lives in Minnesota with her husband, two dogs and a parakeet.

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Interview with Lisa Mantchev

June 30th, 2010 at 2:30 am (Interviews)

Next up in the Nebula Awards interviews I did earlier this year is Lisa Mantchev. I noticed Lisa’s book a long time before the Nebula shortlists because of its stunning cover, and am really looking forward to reading the next instalment of the series!

Interviewed by Tehani Wessely on April 08 2010 – originally published at the Nebula Awards website.

Lisa Mantchev is nominated for the Andrew Norton Award for her novel Eyes Like Stars.

Congratulations on your shortlisting for the Andre Norton Award! Eyes Like Stars has received a very positive response. As a first-time novelist, that must be extremely gratifying – can you describe what it has been like to see your baby be so well received?

It’s been thrilling… very much like standing on a stage and receiving applause at the end of an Opening Night performance. No actor is ever quite certain how an audience is going to receive a play, and I think it’s the same for writers. No one wants the curtain to come down for their to be only cricket noises… or worse yet, booing!

There’s a big focus on the theatre and Shakespeare in the novel – where does this interest come from? What made you pour so much of this interest into the book (and presumably the books that will follow), but in a fantasy setting? What challenges did this present?

I started doing community theater when I was seven years old, as well as writing scripts for class performances. That continued through high school, when I got a scholarship to study drama at the University of California, Irvine. At the time, I was far more interested in acting than writing, but I switched gears my senior year during an intensive playwriting course.

I’d been writing and publishing short stories for nearly seven years, and I was incredibly intimidated by the idea of writing something that was novel-length. When I decided to tackle something longer than five thousand words, I knew it would help to make it a very familiar world (to me) so I could concentrate more on the process of writing than the research. It’s that old adage of “write what you know”!

I know a lot of writers rarely write shorts after they become novelists, due to both time restrictions and the different requirements of the forms. Are you still finding the time and inclination to write short stories, or has novel writing taken precedence?

I haven’t actually found a lot of time for writing short stories lately, both as a result from the novel-writing and from Real Life getting progressively crazier. I did manage a really fun collaboration of James A. Grant called “As Recorded on Brass Cylinders: Adagio for Two Dancers” which will be appearing in the steampunk-themed issue of Weird Tales and is also slated for reprint in the Vandermeers’ upcoming anthology Steampunk Reloaded.

Speaking of the series, is there anything you can tell desperate readers about the rest of the books?

Perchance To Dream will be out at the end of May, and it picks up where Eyes Like Stars left off *spoiler alert!* with Bertie, her fairy friends, and Ariel on the road, heading out to rescue Nate from the clutches of the Sea Goddess. I got to introduce several new characters in PtD, and I’m very excited to see how the theater readership feels about them.

Have you any more novel ideas percolating when you’re finished with these books? Anything on the drawing board you can tell us about?

In between revisions for Theater Book Three, tentatively titled So Silver Bright, I am revising a long-time-in-the-works steampunk novel (which I jokingly refer to as “retrofuturistic NeoVictorian.”) At the moment, it is in decided need of more grime and grit to balance out all the schmancy costuming and gadgetry.

Eyes Like Stars has a gorgeous cover, but recently there has been quite a lot of controversy over book covers not accurately representing race and culture of the characters contained in the novel. How do you feel about your cover, and what are your thoughts on this issue?

I fell madly in love with Jason’s artwork the moment I saw it, and there isn’t a single thing I would change about the cover for ELS. He perfectly captured Bertie, the fairies, and the feeling of lurking backstage with the lights just out of reach.

The whitewashing issue is an extremely troubling one, and I’ve been exceptionally happy to see that publishers are listening when the blogging community calls them on their mistakes. Given the pervasiveness of the issue, however, I think it would be sensible of the publishers to discuss such things with the authors BEFORE art is commissioned or licensed.

It’s also important to remember that it’s not just an issue of race and culture, but one of body image as well… I see far too many covers of extraordinarily thin girls when the protagonists are dealing with weight issues as well.

It might be said that authors of young adult books have a big responsibility regarding the issues they examine in their writing, because of the nature of their readership. Do you agree with this? What do you think are the most important elements for the success of a young adult novel?

It’s the responsibility of any author to tell the story honestly, however dark and deep and ugly that story might be. Both my short stories and the novels tend to explore some dark areas of the soul, but I didn’t go into writing ELS thinking, “I need to be careful with this, because SOMEONE needs to think of the CHILDREN!” I wasn’t thinking about marketing slots when drafting it, and honestly I think “YA” is more a marketing tool, a place to set the book on the shelf in the store and a label under which to file it in an online store, than it is anything else. Younger readers do not want authors writing down to them, and they will call an author out faster than anyone on the planet for doing so.

As for success, there’s too many ways to define that! There’s the success that comes with busting out on the bestselling lists (which seems to require massive PR campaigns and hype/buzz) and there’s the success that comes with being an award winner, and there’s the success of taking an idea, putting it on paper, and then holding a finished book in your hands, with your name on the cover, two years after the whole crazy notion came into your head.

Lisa Mantchev is the author of Eyes Like Stars and the forthcoming Perchance To Dream, the first two novels in the Théâtre Illuminata series. She has also published numerous short stories in venues including Strange Horizons, Fantasy, Clarkesworld, and Weird Tales. She lives on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state with her husband, daughter, and hairy miscreant dogs. You can read more about it at http://www.theatre-illuminata.com

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Interview with Malinda Lo

June 28th, 2010 at 2:30 am (Interviews)

The second of my interviews with Andre Norton Award nominees brings us Malinda Lo, whose book (with its gorgeous cover) is now on the shelves in my school library, and I wasn’t even the one to purchase it!

Interviewed by Tehani Wessely on April 02 2010 – first published at the Nebula Awards website.

Malinda Lo is nominated for the Andrew Norton Award for her novel Ash.

Ash, a lesbian retelling of Cinderella, has been shortlisted for a whole BUNCH of awards and recommended reading lists and it’s only your first (published) novel! Have you been surprised by the reception for the book? What can you tell us about where the story came from and how it has been received by the general public?

Have I been surprised? Absolutely, totally surprised—and overjoyed, obviously!

Before Ash was published, I worked in the LGBT media, reporting on the representations of lesbians and bisexual women in TV, film, music, and books. Books in general are loads more progressive than Hollywood, so I hoped that Ash might be well-received, but at the same time, I am very well aware of mainstream beliefs about LGBT people. Young adult fiction has seen an increasing number of books about LGBTQ teens in recent years, but not so many in fantasy.

So, you know, it was within this context—which I was aware of—that Ash was published. I think that many readers have responded incredibly positively to the fact that being gay is totally normal in Ash’sworld. Many queer teens I’ve spoken to have especially liked this. I’m also happy that Ash has found so many straight (heterosexual) fans. That was something I was worried about; I did want Ash to be accessible to everyone, straight or queer.

Where do you go after such success? Huntress is the forthcoming companion novel to Ash. Can you tell us a bit about the new book?

Well, luckily I wrote the first two drafts of Huntress before Ash was published. Otherwise, I think I would have been totally blocked by fear of failure. In fact, writing the third draft of Huntress was extremely difficult at first, because I was doing that while I was promoting Ash. That experience, though, really forced me to separate my identity as a writer from the accolades that Ash has gotten. Obviously, I’m so happy that Ash has been so well-received. But it’s only my first published novel. I do hope that Huntress is better. I hope that I continue to write better books. The only way to do that is to put my nose to the grindstone and work.

Huntress is a book I love so much. In Ash, hunting is a major sport; each hunt is led by a Huntress. The novel Huntress, which is set several centuries before Ash in the same world, is about the firstHuntress in that Kingdom. It’s a heroine’s quest about the power of love and loss. And there are weapons and monsters and magic and lesbians!

We’ll definitely be looking out for Huntress! Have you any other projects in the works you can tell us about?

I’m superstitious, so, um, no. smile

You posted on your blog that while you personally identify your characters Ash and Kaisa as Asian, you don’t feel that Ash is necessarily identifiable as a book with characters of colour. Obviously though, sexuality, another aspect of mainstream literature that is often defaulted to a certain type of “normal”, is a big part of the book. What are your feelings about the importance of how these two issues are being represented in mainstream literature, and particularly in Young Adult literature?

I’d like to clarify that I see Ash and Kaisa as looking Asian in appearance, not as Asian in descent, because there is no Asia in Ash‘s world.

I think that the recent discussion in the YA blogosphere about the representation of people of color in YA fiction has been incredibly stimulating and useful. I think there are books being published with people of color as main characters, but often they fall through the cracks. The advantage of having this ongoing discussion is that it highlights some of these books and gets readers thinking about their own reading habits.

As for the queer stuff … YA has increasingly included LGBTQ characters over the past few years. There are still more books about gay boys than gay girls, and I’d like to see that balanced out. There is a giant need for more books about transgender teens. In general, though, I think things are moving in the right direction, and I’m very excited to be part of that movement.

There’s a growing understanding among publishers, libraries, schools and the reading world in general that it is absolutely essential for there to be realistic portrayals of race other than white, and sexuality other than straight, in young adult fiction. What are your thoughts on this?

I think that including diversity in all forms of media (adult as well as young adult fiction, TV, film, etc.) is very important, and it’s great that more gatekeepers are aware of this these days.

Have you come across any fallout among parents or librarians because of the sexuality portrayed in this YA novel?

I’d say 98% of the reactions I’ve heard about have been positive. (I don’t google myself, though.) I have read a couple of reviews in which the reader was obviously uncomfortable with the lesbian story line, but that’s to be expected.

However, two things have happened that remind me that some people are still not OK with gay folks.

At one library event a teacher told me that she was unable to bring several of her students because their parents objected to my biography. I think she meant the copy on the book flap that says I was awarded the Sarah Pettit Memorial Prize for Excellence in LGBT Journalism—that’s the only thing I can think of that might have raised a flag, because it has the term “LGBT” in it. The cover copy of Ash itself does not trumpet the fact that Ash falls in love with a woman.

I was really shocked, actually, to hear this—probably because the teacher was so blunt about it. I am happy that she came and brought other students (oddly, younger ones) whose parents did not object to my bio.

I also had an amusing experience last fall. The Pacific Sun, a local newspaper, did a cover story aboutAsh and illustrated it with an image of two Disney princesses dancing together. (You can see it here:http://www.malindalo.com/2009/11/we-have-news/) Many parents wrote into the newspaper to object to that image, saying it was inappropriate for their children to see two girls dancing together. So, it wasn’t about Ash at all, but about a perception of sexuality where frankly there was none. In response to these parents’ letters, many other people wrote in and defended the image.

In 2010, there seems to be an expectation on authors that they play a big role in the online marketing of their books through blogs and other social media. What are your thoughts on this? You have a background in blogging; do you think this gives you an advantage in this area?

I think that every author should do what she can handle and what she’s comfortable with, while knowing that there is a limit to how much you can do on your own. Also, it’s much more important to write your next book than spend all your time promoting your last one.

I do think my background in working online helped me figure out what I wanted to do, but actually, the fact that my background was in online journalism helped even more. I came to this knowing enough about how the media works that I think I had realistic expectations of the kind of coverage I could get for Ash. And, honestly, I had some contacts in the media who helped me out. The fact that I worked in gay media was even better, because Ash has gay content. So, in a way I was perfectly prepared to promote Ash online.

On the other hand, I had never been a “young adult author” before, so I had no idea what that truly entailed. Figuring out what that means has also affected the way I view blogging and promotion. Basically, I’ve learned that writing has to come first, before any promoting, because I plan to be in this for the long haul.

Malinda Lo is the author of Ash (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), which is a nominee for the Andre Norton Award, was a finalist for the 2010 William C. Morris Award, and was a Kirkus Best Young Adult Novel of 2009. Formerly, she was an entertainment reporter, and was awarded the 2006 Sarah Pettit Memorial Award for Excellence in LGBT Journalism by the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association. She is a graduate of Wellesley College and has master’s degrees from Harvard and Stanford universities. She has lived in Colorado, Boston, New York, London, Beijing, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, but now lives in a small town in Northern California with her partner and their dog.

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Interview with John Scalzi

June 26th, 2010 at 2:30 am (Interviews)

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to interview some of the 2010 Nebula Award nominees, specifically those who were shortlisted in the Andre Norton (Young Adult) category. It was a big thrill for me to do this, and I had a lot of fun researching the authors, reading their books, and asking them questions. I’ve been given the okay to reproduce those interviews here (thanks Charles Tan!), and will post them over the next few weeks. First up, multi-award nominee John Scalzi. I read John’s “Old Man’s War” books a couple of years ago, and have since foisted them onto a number of friends because they are so brilliant.

Interviewed by Tehani Wessely on March 18 2010 – originally published at the Nebula Awards website.

John Scalzi was nominee for the novella The God Engines and the Andre Norton Award for Zoe’s Tale.

Zoe’s Tale, a Young Adult novel which retells the events of The Last Colony (the third book in the Old Man’s War series) from the perspective of Zoe, was shortlisted for the Hugos last year and now it’s up for the Andre Norton Award, with your novella “The God Engines” also on the Nebula ballot. Would you please tell us how Zoe’s Tale came to be? And is it always exciting for your work to be recognised this way?

I wrote Zoe’s Tale partly because Tor, my publisher, was interested in me trying to write something that they could put into school libraries. This had coincided with my own interest in trying to write a story from Zoe’s point of view, which was convenient, so I went ahead and tried my hand at writing from the point of view of a teenage girl, which, if you are a late 30-something dude trying that stunt for the first time, as I was, is really a lot harder than it looks.

Getting award nominations for your work, whether from your writing peers (as in the case of the Nebulas) or from fans (in the case of the Hugos) is always a kick; to quote Sally Field, it means they like you! They really like you! And in the case of Zoe, it’s especially nice for me because it means I did a creditable job of bringing the character of Zoe to life, which as a writer was a challenge for me.

You say you struggled with Zoe’s point of view – what were some of the biggest hurdles in that journey? And have you had any feedback from young adults on the book and the character? Anything particularly special?

The biggest hurdle was simply that I had never been a teenage girl at any point in my life, so I had to work on making sure that when I wrote one, she didn’t sound like me in teenage girl drag (and I apologize for putting that image into your head). I ended up running early chapters past my wife and some female friends, including Mary Robinette Kowal, who gave me some excellent criticism when I needed it most. The end result has been pretty good; I do get a lot of “I can’t believe this book was written by a man” comments about it, which I take as a compliment.

You started out as a non-fiction writer, and your blog, Whatever, has a very high profile out there in Internet-land. I know you make use of a variety of social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, as well. How much do you think your online presence has influenced your success as a writer? What do you think about social networking as a whole, as a tool for other authors out there?

I think in my case it’s pretty clear that online presence has helped my fiction career—after all, I sold my first novel because I posted it on my site! And I think social networks can help keep authors connected to fans, especially during those period where the author is between major works, and keeping in touch with your readers is always a good thing.

That said, at the end of the day, if you’re not writing fiction worth reading, it won’t matter how many Facebook friends or Twitter followers or blog readers you have. The work has to be there, and it has to be good, in order for any of this social networking stuff to be useful in one’s career. None of the online stuff means anything for one’s career otherwise.

You’ve had two books compiled from your blog writings, with the most recent, Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever 1998 – 2008, winning the Hugo for Best Related Book in 2009. Are there plans for any more books from the blog? Or other non-fiction?

No current plan for more books from the blog, but remember that Hate Mail covered a whole decade. So perhaps in 2018 it’ll be time again. I do definitely have plans for more non-fiction, however—I like writing non-fiction because it uses other parts of my brain than the fiction writing, and that helps keep me from burnout.

You are running for President of SFWA. Why did you decide to take this challenge, and what changes do you hope to achieve for the organisation if you are elected?

I’m running in no small part because the current administration has a number of things in process—including reincorporation, new bylaws and other things fundamental to the well-being of the organization—that may not be entirely finished by the end of June, and thus may have to be seen to their conclusion. In a general sense I’ve supported these initiatives, so by running and by running with a slate of candidates who are also interested in seeing these processes to their conclusion, I’m helping to make sure these things get done. So in one sense this particular election isn’t about “changing” SFWA in a new way as it is about finishing the changes that are already underway.

Beyond this, however, I think one of the things I would very much like to do is help to bring in new members. I think the previous administration has done a good job in revitalizing SFWA’s reputation and appearance with non-members, and in particular with writers who could be members but are not. I’d like to help bring some of those writers into the fold in the next year—not only to give the organization a jolt of new blood but (and very importantly) to let these newer writers benefit from the experience and knowledge base that our current members have and can share. It’s an “everyone wins” scenario, in my opinion.

Is the novel The High Castle (set in the same world as The Android’s Dream) still in your sights? Fans of Harry need to know! Can you tell us a little about the journey you’ve taken with this novel?

I do still plan to write The High Castle although at the moment there’s no set schedule for it. The reason for its delay (it was originally meant to be out in 2009) is pretty simple: I was writing it, and it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be, and I have strong quality standards. So I put it aside and worked on some other things instead. I have a good story for High Castle in my head, but if it’s not coming out in the writing I’ll wait until it does.

You recently became the creative consultant for Stargate Universe. What does your role on the show involve and what made you make this leap into the world of television? Would your career to continue in this direction, or is this somewhat of a sidestep?

My role is to read the scripts of the show and offer notes on what’s been written—often on science-related things, but also on characters and the overall arc of the show. I should note that my role is not to get the science 100% right—there’s always an element of speculation—but to make sure that we get right what we already know, and that what we speculate on doesn’t throw people out of the episode. I took the gig because the producers asked me, and it seemed like a fun and interesting way to explore the world of television. And it is. Will it lead to other things? I don’t know, and I’m not too worried about that. At the moment I’m having fun.

John Scalzi is the author of seven science fiction novels; he lives in Ohio with his family and pets. This is the first time he’s been nominated for the Nebula or the Norton. He’s very excited.

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