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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014 – Raymond Gates

Raymond Gates is an Aboriginal Australian writer based on the Gold Coast, whose childhood crush on reading everything dark and disturbing evolved into an adult love affair with writing horror. He has published a number of short stories, several of which have been nominated for the Australian Shadows Awards. With the help of his muse, he plans to drag the novel that lurks within him into the light. Delve into his mind at: http://www.raymondgates.com. You can aslo find him on Facebook and Twitter.

You¹ve built up a strong list of short fiction sales, appearing in some great anthologies, and storming the Australian Shadows Awards! What is it about short fiction that appeals to you?

I think all would-be writers can benefit from cutting their teeth on short fiction. It’s a great way to practice getting the elements of writing – characterisation, storyline, voice, etc. – just right for the story you want to tell. It’s also a good way of getting ideas out of your head and onto the
page. Not every story is novel-length, however that doesn’t mean it’s any less of a story. It still deserves to be told. When I write, I don’t start with a word count in mind. I just write and the story is as long as it needs to be. I think short fiction works well for many readers as well,
particularly those reading digital formats and reading between activities. If a novel opens a window to another world, short fiction allows you to peek through the curtain, and sometimes that’s all you want to do.
Ray_AuthorPicRecently, you did a radio interview where you talked about, amongst other things, issues relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers in genre fiction. How do you feel the Australian spec fic community is doing when it comes to welcoming indigenous writers What are some of the challenges? Are there any writers we should be keeping an eye out for?

I think the Rhianna Patrick’s Beyond Unaipon series showed that Indigenous spec fic writers are starting to make inroads into the Australian community, and I think the community is ready to embrace this. Part of this is that, as other writers interviewed in the series stated, the development of the indie market and relative ease of self-publishing has given Indigenous writers unprecedented opportunities to get their work into the public arena. Traditional or ‘mainstream’ publishers seem to have been reluctant to run with anything Indigenous that was not biographical, historic, or about social issues. The feedback I’ve had in the past indicates this is primarily based on fear: fear of getting the cultural sensitivity issues right, so as not to receive any backlash – real or perceived – from Indigenous communities, and fear that the Australian public won’t support spec fic with Indigenous overtones, or grounded in Indigenous culture.

dead-red-heart-webYet I think writers such as Ambelin Kwaymullina, Teagan Chilcott, and Tristan Savage are demonstrating that not only is the spec fic community ready to hear stories told by Indigenous writers, they’re finding that Indigenous writers bring something unique to the spec fic world through their culture and background. Publishers need to start working with Indigenous writers not only to bring out great stories, but to understand how to incorporate Indigenous culture and ideas into spec fic while maintaining cultural safety. That will get us past these fears, and once that happens, I think you’ll witness an explosion of Indigenous writers and stories into the spec fic market.

What’ s on the horizon for Raymond Gates? I believe there might be a novel lurking, and even some game development?

I have produced some short fiction for an Australian table-top miniatures game developer, Demigod Games, as part of the background to their historical-fantasy setting of their game, Conquest of the Gods, and there may be more opportunities to work with them on similar projects in the future. I have been forever threatening to produce a novel, and have spent the last several months engaged in some serious research with Brisbane’s Goth community and the Carpathian Magistratus Vampire Society to help make sure I get things right (there’s a hint as to what it might be about!).

I’ve also been approached by a small television and film production studio to discuss the possibility of adapting some of my short fiction to the screen, which is very exciting – I’d love to see some of my work brought to life in a Tales from the Crypt type of show, or as part of a short film festival!

Beyond that, I just keep writing, and looking for and welcoming opportunities to share my imagination with others.

ahwaWhat Australian works have you loved recently?

Sadly, I haven’t had the opportunity lately to spend any time with fiction. The last Australian writer I read was Ruby Langford Ginibi’s account of her life through her first book, Don’t Take Your Love to Town. It was especially important to me because not only is it a poignant and moving insight into the life of an extraordinary Aboriginal woman, and life for many Aboriginal people over the last half-century, but as Ruby and I are related it gave me an insight into a side of my family that I’ve never known.

Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

There’s no question the rise of self-publishing and the indie market has changed the publishing industry forever. That alone is not only influencing what and how people write, but how people read and access works. I don’t believe we’ll ever see the predicted demise of the paperback though, because reading is more than just ingesting words, it’s an experience. Those dog-eared, creased, coffee-stained, slightly torn pages are far more intimate that the cold glare of a screen will ever be. As for how it influences my work over the next five years; I’m still keen to adhere to the traditional publishing route for now, because I believe this is more likely to keep challenging and developing me as a writer and (hopefully) move me into the upper echelons of the spec fic world. My next goals are to crack the professional markets and see at least one novel of mine on the shelves.

I would like to see the horror genre – my genre – return to its former glory days when horror meant exploring the deep, dark recesses of the imagination and unknown, rather than piggybacking onto the latest trends. And if I can be part of, or even instrumental, in that process, all the better.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to the World Science Fiction Convention 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.

To read the interviews hot off the press, check out these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done. You can find the past Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007,  2010 and 2012.

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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014 – Holly Kench

Holly Kench is a writer and a feminist, with a classics degree and a fear of spiders. She lives in Tasmania, Australia, where a lack of sun provides ample opportunity for hiding indoors and writing off-kilter stories. Holly writes about her life as a stuffed olive on her blog Confessions of a Stuffed Olive and manages the website Visibility Fiction, promoting and publishing inclusive young adult fiction.

I am a huge fan of your cartoons! When did you first start creating them, and can you tell us a bit about the process involved?

Thank you, David!

I started creating my cartoons nearly three years ago when I first decided to start taking my writing seriously (more than writing only for myself and friends). I wrote a few stories and put them on my blog, but they seemed really boring without pictures (because I have the maturity of a 3 year old and the attention span of a dead goldfish) so I decided to illustrate them with stick figures, and it snowballed from there. At some point the illustrations kind of took over…

My process? You make it sound like these things are the result of some kind of forethought. Typically each comic or story begins with me experiencing some socially awkward event, or remembering some mortifying childhood experience. Then I write. All my posts begin as text – usually long rambles written at 3am. Often by the time I finish writing, I realise I can say the same thing with more punch if I delete all the words and just draw a few sad looking stick figures. Of course, words are my enduring love, so a lot of the time the fun for me comes from crafting those rambles. The luxury of my Olive cartoons is that I can pick and choose whether I want to create a short comic or a short story, and can use supplementary stick figures to give my stories another dimension.

astronautI create all my Olive pictures in MS Paint and maintain that it is the best graphics program since, well, MacPaint. Once I’ve added in the pictures, I hit ‘publish’ before I can think about it too long and chicken out.

You have a story in the upcoming YA anthology from Twelfth Planet Press, Kaleidoscope, alongside an amazing range of YA authors. What inspired you to write your story, and why did that anthology in particular appeal?

I was so excited when I first heard about Kaleidoscope. I’ve been a fan of Julia Rios, via The Outer Alliance Podcast, and Alisa Krasnostein, via the Galactic Suburbia Podcast and Twelfth Planet Press, for quite a while. Both their podcasts are on my must-listen list. So when I heard they had teamed up to create an anthology with a theme that basically summarised everything I was dying to see in fiction… well, I happy-freaked out.

I didn’t have to read the planned table of contents to know this was going to be a fantastic anthology. Then when I did discover the amazing authors they had included… I mean, what can I say? I just feel so lucky to be involved.

Kaleidoscope-Cover-706x1024My fan-girling for Alisa, Julia and the rest of the Kaleidoscope authors aside, the theme of Kaleidoscope is something I feel very passionately about. I’ve written quite a bit in the past about the need for more diversity in fiction and it was clear from Alisa and Julia’s initial posts about the anthology that they were coming from a very similar perspective to my reasons behind starting Visibility Fiction.

My story “Every Little Thing” was loosely inspired by a novel I wrote (but never quite finished) a few years ago. Even though I eventually put that novel in the drawer-of-doomed-manuscripts, one of the secondary characters really stuck with me. When I read the submission call for Kaleidoscope, that character came straight to mind and I knew I had to tell a story from her perspective – though Mandy ended up being significantly modified from her original being. I can’t tell you how happy I am to have her story included in Kaleidoscope. I hope people like it.

You manage the site visibilityfiction.com. What is the site’s mission, and where do you see it going in the future?

As I mentioned, Visibility Fiction’s mission coincides a lot with that of the Kaleidoscope anthology. We publish and promote young adult fiction with protagonists from diverse backgrounds. Our aim is to create a space where people can access free, positive stories about diverse characters, and to address the imbalance of representation in fiction, which tends to focus on straight, white, cis, able (etc) characters.

When I first started the site, I had just finished some university work focusing on LGBT representations in teen culture (comparing the representation of the closet in Buffy and Pretty Little Liars – heh), but I soon realised that the lack of LGBT characters in TV, film and fiction was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to missing representations.

Visibility Fiction CoverI also realised that no matter how much I wrote about the current imbalances in character representations, if I wanted to really commit to seeing change, I needed to actively address the problem from within fiction. I began writing more diverse stories, but I also realised there were so many experiences that I could not even fathom. I decided there needed to be more spaces where people could access diverse stories from diverse voices, and spaces that promoted inclusive fiction in all its forms. So I made one.

My dream for the future is to be able to offer pro-payments to authors. I want to see more stories and a wider range of authors on the site. I’m very fussy about the stories we publish, in terms of the writing and the nature of the diversity presented. We have some fantastic stories up there and I’d like to see more. A pro-payment would help with this, but I also think it’s only fair for authors to receive that kind of compensation for their work. We run on donations, though, so our budget is fairly restricted.

Looking even further down the track than that, I’d love for the site to eventually become obsolete. I want to get to the point where diversity in fiction isn’t something we have to search for and actively promote, but where diversity in fiction goes hand in hand with fiction itself. I think that would be amazing.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

I fell into a steampunk spiral a little while ago and haven’t quite managed to pull myself out. There’s a lot more of it out there this year than in the past, both adult and YA, and this is both good and bad – good because it feeds my obsession, and bad because it’s beginning to get to that point where finding the good stuff amongst the rubbish can be a bit of a chore. That said, Australian author Bec McMaster totally brings the good stuff. I’m currently reading My Lady Quicksilver, which is the third in her London Steampunk series. These are some of the most addictive books I’ve read in a while, but a word of warning, they are VERY high on the steam scale of romance, so not for those who squirm at a bit of sexy times in their fiction. There’s a great overarching intrigue plot as well, and some of the best steampunk world building I’ve read.

Getting away from steampunk for a bit, I’ve also just started Nina D’Aleo’s The Whitelist. Last year I really enjoyed Nina D’Aleo’s The Last City, which was all fabulous characters and an amazing world. She has a very unique way of writing that really appeals to me and is very captivating, so I’m excited to be starting another of her novels.

Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

I only read digital content these days, so the increase in the availability of digital content has hugely influenced my access to reading material. I love ebooks and I’m also a complete audiobook addict. I don’t remember how I functioned before audiobooks. I don’t even want to think about it. I’m also a big fan of libraries, and despite what some of the end-is-nigh paper book fanatics might say, the wonderful thing about libraries these days is the way they are adapting to provide more and more digital content (including audiobooks). Libraries are a good example of how previous models of book consumption can be adapted to make the most of the digital world, while still providing spaces that are all about book love. Seriously, guys, hug your librarian!

I think outlets for digital publications have also made it possible for more diverse and interesting fiction to be published. Stories that previously might have failed to find a path to publication through traditional models now have more opportunity to find an audience, not only via self-publishing, but also through digital first publishers which seem to be more willing to take risks with less mainstream content. For example, I’ve been reading a few female superhero novels lately (The Masked Songbird by Emmie Mears, Sidekick by Auralee Wallace and Scorched by Erica Hayes), all of which were released by digital first publishers, and I honestly have my doubts about whether some of these novels would have seen the light of day in the past.

As you can tell, I’m pretty positive about the way things are moving. There are definitely scary factors, but that’s the nature of transition, and I can see more good results from the new world of publishing than bad.

I have no idea what I’ll be publishing/writing/reading five years from now. Probably fiction, maybe some non-fiction. I can’t really say more than that.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to the World Science Fiction Convention 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.

To read the interviews hot off the press, check out these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done. You can find the past Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007,  2010 and 2012.

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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014 – Lewis Morley

Lewis  has a Bachelor of the Arts in Interior design from Sydney College of the Arts, and a Certificate in Art Direction from the Australian Film, TV and Radio School. He has worked for almost 30 years in the Australian film & TV industries. His specialities are miniatures and visual effects, special props, concept modelmaking and illustration. He has also won the “Ditmar” award for best Australian Science Fiction Artist. You can find out more here.

In the past you have worked for WETA on some incredible movies. What was your favourite project, and why?

Being asked to work at WETA was one of the high points of my film career. The Workshop is like Mount Olympus, everyone there is the best, working at the peak of their abilities. My traditional work method is to be involved in all aspects of the design, construction, finishing and filming of my projects. WETA is organised on a much more partitioned operation, with work often shared around to give everyone a go. I worked on Weta Collectables, both Lord of the Rings and Dr. Grodbort’s blasters as well as the films “The Hobbit” and “Elysium”. The Hobbit workload was Goblin weapon finishing, Azog costume development and constructing a lightweight Gandalf dummy for the final battle. Elysium tasks included sculpting a maquette of the robot suit (my personal favourite), building a mock-up robot suit and developing an on-set disintegrating Chem-Rail gun effect.

The guitar that you made for Richard Harland is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. Can you tell us how that project came about? Have you made any other custom projects based on objects from books? If you could pick any object from any book to make, what would it be?

I was asked by Richard to create something impressive on a budget (which is my natural comfort zone!). I have a laser cutter/etcher which was perfect to produce the engraved brass and inlaid marble components that change the look of the guitar but still allow it to be played. There are some antique style brass handles over the strings which look great but may cramp his style a little! I’m also indebted to Eric Lindsay who bought a lightning-effect display which he generously gave to me because he felt I could make better use of it. Concealed beneath a clear plastic hemisphere filled with crystal shred, it gives the perfect illusion of a pulsating power crystal.

guitarIn the past, I’ve made faux tin-toys based on stories by Ray Bradbury.

minitAs for other book inspired works, I’d love to do the Martian machines from War of the Worlds. Warwick Goble, Frank Paul, Mike Trim and Roger Dean have all done distinctive versions, but with my laser cutter, I think I could do something interesting with Well’s description of the Martian pivot-less sliding knee joint…

What projects are you currently working on? Where can we see more of your work?

I have many uncompleted projects, two that I really want to get back to are short films that have already had pre-viz animatics completed, so I know how long they run and what needs to be filmed to complete them.

One is “March of Progress” a faux 1960’s style documentary about a veteran flyer of the Inner World War who used his magnetic powered aircraft to vanquish inter-dimensional bio weapons.

The other is “Your standard day on the Nets” a claymation short featuring my comic character “Peregrine Besset” dealing with inter-dimensional junk falling into her world…

I created this character almost 15 years ago and am currently developing a rebooted version with a more considered world view. I take the writing workshops at Continuum very seriously and am attempting to integrate the insights I’ve learned there into a more holistic narrative.

godofthedeadThe existing 7 issues I have written, drawn or produced are archived in the comics page at www.redworldstories.com but I feel they are a very crude version of the story I now want to tell.

redworld2
A more complete overview of my various works can be seen at www.morleypride.com

What Australian works have you loved recently?

My most recent film was “Infini” which had an ambitious high concept “Outland meets 28 Days later” vibe. I haven’t seen the final cut, so I don’t know if they’ve successfully pulled off the story structure, but I had a great opportunity to inject some interesting design work into the hand guns and helmets. In a world clogged with spacey combat helmets, I was able to give the final look a slightly different feel.

With Australian  stuff that I’ve had nothing to do with, the writings of Anna Tambour are a firm favourite, not just her stories like “Crandolin” but also her blog “Medlar Comfits“.

Have recent changes in the film industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

The basic structure for film production has changed in the last 15 years, moving away from a reliance on multi-skilled individuals and towards more ordered workers within highly compartmentalized skill sets. This makes it a lot harder to learn different skills, move between departments or progress beyond a defined pay scale. The simplest example is Ray Harryhausen doing most of the effects for “Earth Vs the Flying Saucers” by himself versus the 15,000 people employed in the latest “Planet of the Apes” film. The increased sophistication and demands of modern big budget production means it is almost impossible for one person (no matter how skilled) to produce a finished work. I have found my options within big productions shrinking and I am moving towards independent productions that still allow me some creative freedom.

I think the only way forward for my own comic story is as a web comic. This imposes a three-panel episode structure, but also allows for full colour in the final images (something beyond the economics of photocopied comics) Chopping the story into smaller instalments may also allow for more regular delivery.

peregrinebessetThe only thing I can’t solve is how to get any sort of return on the effort expended. Maybe some kind of micro-payment might give some incentive, but as it exists the project is purely a labour of love. I have dreams of some kind of animated version, but as yet, no practical way of achieving it…

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to the World Science Fiction Convention 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.

To read the interviews hot off the press, check out these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done. You can find the past Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007,  2010 and 2012.

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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014 – Amanda J Spedding

Amanda J Spedding is an award-winning author, editor and proofreader. Her stories have been published in local and international markets earning honourable mentions and recommended reads. She won the 2011 Australian Shadows Award (short fiction) for her steampunk-horror, ‘Shovel-Man Joe’.

Amanda is the owner of Phoenix Editing and Proofreading, and between bouts of editing, is currently writing the first draft of her novel.

Amanda lives in Sydney with her sarcastically-gifted husband and two very cool kids.

You’ve been a big contributor to the growth of the Australian Horror Writers Association. What are some of the AHWA’s achievements that you are most proud of? Where do you see it heading, and what challenges does it face?

Thanks, but it’s more being one of the many volunteers who’ve worked together to provide a home and voice for Australian writers and publishers. What achievements stand out for me? I’d have to say Midnight Echo and the Mentor Program. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with both. It was the Mentor Program that drew me to the AHWA, and getting mentored by the extraordinary Kaaron Warren gave me incredible insight into my writing and the publishing industry. It also made me want to give back, so I became a committee member and held the position for three years – I hope the AHWA goes on to do more great things.

As for Midnight Echo, just holding a copy in your hands, with its horrifically beautiful covers and insanely good stories speaks for itself. As co-editor of issue 8 (with Marty Young and Mark Farrugia), getting to shape an issue and work with fantastic authors from both here and overseas was definitely a highlight.

AJspeddingYou also run an editing and proofreading business. How does working on the other side of the desk influence your own writing?

As an editor, I have an innate understanding of grammar, story structure and elements – all the things I work with authors on achieving in their work. ‘Write tight’, I tell them, and it’s something I definitely take on with my own work. Words have to fight for their right in the story.

However, as a writer, being an editor can have its drawbacks, especially when it comes to unrealistic expectations of perfection (I’m anything if not self-aware) – I’m an editor, I should be getting everything right. It does help, though, when sending off a story submission, that I’ve got the grammar, syntax and tense issues right. Being able to look at a story from both sides of the desk is a definite plus, but it’s no guarantee.

snafuYou’ve been very successful with your short fiction, with award recognition and appearances on an international RRL. What is it you enjoy about writing short stories? Are there any longer works in the pipeline?

Short stories are a blast to write. Being able to tell a fully-rounded story within a limited word-count is part of what has always drawn me to the short form. Writing horror allows me to reach into the worst time of a character’s life and… exploit it. Be it one hellish scene, or a drawn-out tortuous series of events, a short story forces you to really focus the horror and the effect of this on the character. Like I said, a blast!

I have two projects in the works at the moment. I’m currently writing the draft of my first novel – an apocalypse story that doesn’t shy from the horrors (inflicted on and by the characters in this world) that come with extinction-events. Creating on such a big scale – geography, faith-systems, inter-connectivity… it’s been a steep learning curve, and I’m loving it.

The other project is a comic based on my short story ‘The Road’ (Midnight Echo #9). The short story was ripe with imagery that really suited this medium. The script is now with illustrator Montgomery Borror, who is doing an incredible job bringing it to life. I’m very excited about both projects.

road page 17What Australian works have you loved recently?

I’ve been reading a lot of Aussie pieces of late. I’ve just finished reading Carnies by Martin Livings, and that was a great tale – it really dragged me into the story, and I was more than happy to spend time in his old-world carnival. I’m currently reading Davey Ribbon by Matthew Tait, and am really enjoying its supernatural flavour. Alan Baxter’s Bound, and Andrew McKeirnan’s short story collection, Last Year, When We Were Young, are next on my ‘to read’ list.

Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

In regard to writing, no – I don’t think the changes affect the way anyone writes. Sweeping statement aside, it’s more how a writer decides they wish to publish – a choice many writers didn’t have ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. Anything other than traditional publishing was looked down upon. That stigma is almost gone now, and with a lot of author-published books being on par, or even better than traditionally published books, it definitely is a viable option for many authors. With my editing business, I’m seeing a lot more writers wanting to take the author-publishing route; wanting control of the final finished product and how it’s presented and marketed.

Five years from now? I’ll still be writing horror – I have a passion for the genre and its many sub-genres. I fell in love with steampunk when I wrote ‘Shovel-Man Joe’, which won the Australian Shadows Award for short fiction in 2011, so there’s definitely a steampunk/horror novel in my future. Reading? Any great story with a dark bent, and hopefully many great stories from Australian authors. I couldn’t even begin to predict what will be ‘on trend’ in five years. Publishing? I hope to be publishing novels and comics that leave readers reeling and have them thinking ‘what would I do?’

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to the World Science Fiction Convention 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.

To read the interviews hot off the press, check out these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done. You can find the past Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007,  2010 and 2012.

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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014 – Kimberley Gaal

Kimberley Gaal is a 29-year-old speculative fiction writer who lives in Canberra, ACT. She was accepted into the 2012 JUMP National Mentoring Program for Young and Emerging Artists and was mentored by award-winning horror and speculative fiction writer Kaaron Warren. Her first novel, Dark Soul, is the product of that mentorship. Kimberley is on the committee of the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild and has participated in panels on the place of mentorship in your writing at the speculative fiction conferences Conflux and Natcon, as well as appearing on less formal panels discussing the general awesomeness of zombies.

A few years ago, you went through the JUMP National Mentoring Program for Emerging Artists, and were mentored by the amazing Kaaron Warren! Looking back, what did you get from the mentor program? Did it have an impact on your writing, and its direction?

Absolutely – it had a huge impact. Kaaron is perfect parts art and business when it comes to writing. She is committed to her work and won’t compromise when it comes to quality or style, but also recognises the realities of the industry and is completely professional about it all. Working with her helped me cultivate that balance in my own practice.

I write very different content to Kaaron, in a very different style; it was never a case of trying to emulate her results, but rather to learn from her methods and experience. The JUMP Program encourages participants to choose mentors that can help you grow in areas that you know you are lacking in. Since I’m still in the early days of my writing career, I have a lot of those areas (I’m one big ball of lack, really) but Kaaron has an excellent way of drawing out my strengths while forcing me to face my weaknesses instead of hiding from them like a big scaredy runaway. She taught me to commit to my projects, to finish them even when I’m not ‘feeling the vibe’, and to look at the results from two very different angles: objectively, in terms of how good a product it is on its own, and subjectively, in terms of how well does it tell the story I want to tell, the way I want to tell it.

I learned a lot during the JUMP program, but I think that lesson – about the importance of recognising both the artistic side of writing and the ‘get down and get on with it’ side – was the most important. I don’t view writing as something I only do when the muse hits me anymore. I don’t quite buy into the ‘view it like you view your job’ idea, because to me a job is something you do for a guaranteed result, and it’s very hard to guarantee the result of your writing. I certainly treat it with more dedication and perseverance than I used to, though. Stories are like wombats trying to cross a highway (work with me here). On one side of the highway they’re just ideas. On the other side of the highway they’re finished works. You want to get them from one side to the other, and the only way to do that is by building those little underground tunnel things and hoping they go through them.

Kim_B&WEach time I sit at my keyboard and put in some writing time, I’m building another tunnel. Sometimes I can work for hours and nothing happens – no wombats like my tunnel, and the things coming through that I think are wombats are just fat dogs in wombat suits. Sometimes I sit down and find six wombats waiting to get through at once. Sometimes I think, ‘Kim, it’s time to come up with a better metaphor for this writing thing’ but then the wombats get jack of waiting for me, and if there’s one thing you don’t want, it’s a jacked-off wombat. In the end, the more time you put in, the more tunnels you can make and the better your chances of the right wombats being on the right side of the highway at the right time. Kaaron taught me that. But she did it without wombats, because she’s a lot classier than me.

Your manuscript has been accepted by the Cooke Literary Agency – congratulations! How has it been working with an agent?

I love my agent, Rachel Letofsky. I went into my working relationship with her in a very serious fashion – agents are business people, and I had to be very business-y in my dealings with them. That ended when Rachel sent me a photo of a duck statue she has on her mantelpiece and I made up a story about how its unfortunate wing-to-body-size crushed its hopes of a musical career and forced it into a seedy life as a Duck of the Night. She’s brilliant, and the rest of the team at Cooke seem pretty great as well.

She’s also been surprisingly helpful in terms of manuscript development. I say surprising because I didn’t think agents did all that much work with their authors in that regard. Working with Rachel has been a lot like working with an editor. My novel, Dark Soul, is miles better as a result, and much more marketable too. I’m excited, and nervous, and very busy picturing best and worse case scenarios, because I like to think if I can imagine every possible outcome I can somehow be prepared for stuff. In 29 years of living that has never worked, but I’m nothing if not consistent.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m making steady progress on the second novel in my series, Old Soul. My protagonist, Mae, spent the first book building a family for herself and working out who she was when she wasn’t a rage-blind monster. Now that she’s got that sorted, I thought I’d break her family apart and shatter her beliefs. Just for fun. She gets to travel though, so she can’t complain too much.

I’ve also been making headway in short story writing, and my first substantial publication will happen in a few months. Shorts have never been a strength of mine, but working with Kaaron and getting more involved with the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild’s short story crit circle has given me a much better understanding of how they work. I discovered a secret: when you’re just getting into short stories, don’t start by reading all the massively award winning stuff. Those stories were selected by other writers who recognise the skills and techniques involved, and who have read so many stories they are often drawn to unusual, cutting-edge stuff that can be difficult to appreciate when all you want is a good, fun read. Instead, find a genre you like and look for collections in that genre. My favourites so far have been the “Zombies vs Robots” stuff (zombies are my favourite, closely followed by robots) and some of the Twelfth Planet Press collections. They are quality works that are still accessible enough to read and enjoy before bed.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

After she kicked butt at the Aurealis Awards I got Allyse Near’s novel “Fairytales for Wilde Girls” and pretty much loved it. I hope she keeps doing great things. I’m also a fan of Craig Cormick and he seems to spit books out like Yoshi shoots eggs, so there’s always something new to read. The CSFG is full of writers that have kicked a lot of goals lately. And Kaaron, naturally.

Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

I think I’m too new to the game to really have an established ‘way that I work.’ I do follow all the industry talk with interest, but things are changing so rapidly that my personal, very inexperienced opinion is that it would be stupid to spend too much time trying to catch the waves that are forming, because by the time you’re on one it’s broken and the next is already half-formed. If you find yourself on a good wave, ride it and enjoy, but don’t go out of your way to follow someone else’s example just because it worked for them, because that’s no guarantee it will work for you. There are successes and failures in every area of publishing: for every person screaming ‘traditional publishing is dead, long live self-publishing’ there’s another person bemoaning how self-publishing has gotten so out-of-hand that it’s impossible to find good work amidst the sea of dross. I think both are probably true, and neither are probably true, and maybe nothing is true at all and we’re all figments of George R.R. Martin’s imagination and he’s just looking for ways to kill us all off. I swear I saw a white walker the other day. He was riding a Vespa.

I do think you need to be smart – or at least, as smart as you can. If you want a writing career, by all means take your shot. Work hard, learn constantly, be nice to those around you whether they’re ahead of you in the game or not. Be professional, be brave, do your research and try your best. But be willing to accept that it might not happen regardless, and that’s ok. If you want to be a successful author because that’s the only way you think you can feel special, or worthwhile, then you’re setting yourself up for major pain, because no matter how good you are there will always be factors you just can’t control, and they could be the deciding ones. My writing career, such as it is and such as it might be, only really started when I accepted that, and I’ve never enjoyed writing as much as I’m enjoying it now. I hope I make it. I really do. But I’ll be ok if I don’t.

In five years I think I’ll be reading the same stuff I read now, but maybe in different formats. I already write all across the board, so I don’t think that will change except that hopefully I’ll be better. Getting better is the one goal I think every writer should have, all the time, no matter how good they already are. If you don’t want to get better at anything you’re doing, or do it in new ways, stop doing it. You don’t love it anymore and you only get one shot at life, so you shouldn’t waste it.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to the World Science Fiction Convention 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.

To read the interviews hot off the press, check out these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done. You can find the past Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007,  2010 and 2012.

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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014 – Aidan Doyle

Aidan Doyle is a Melbourne based writer and computer programmer. His first short story was published in Aurealis in 1993. He attended Clarion South in 2009 and has since been published in places such as Lightspeed, Strange Horizons and Fantasy. He has visited more than 80 countries and his experiences include teaching English in Japan, interviewing ninjas in Bolivia and going ten-pin bowling in North Korea.

You’ve found success in writing for both children (including an Aurealis nomination), and for adults (with numerous pro sales and mentions on international RRLs). Do many of the same skills and methods translate between the age groups, or is there a big adjustment in mindset required?

My natural writing style – lean, and with an emphasis on plot and humour is suited to writing for children. The main adjustment for me when writing for different age groups is subject material. Some of my stories for adults revolve around the regret of the passing of time, which is a theme that doesn’t have as strong an appeal for children.

DrabblecastHokkaidoGreenYou are a bit of a citizen of the world, regularly travelling to some amazing destinations! Do the different locations bleed into your writing, or inspire you?

For me travel is one of the best ways to get ideas. The people you meet and the history you learn. Worldbuilding is important in speculative fiction and it helps to have seen a bit of our world. I lived in Japan for 4 years and many of my stories are set in Japan. Last year I did a trip from Svalbard to Antarctica and I have a few ideas for stories set in those locations. Lots of markets these days like stories set somewhere other than a generic New York style big city.

IMG_21090I am a big fan of your writing goal tracker Planet Bingo (in fact it is my desktop screen saver on my writing machine). How important is the setting of goals to your writing process?

Jeff VanderMeer was one of my tutors at Clarion South and stressed the importance of setting goals. His Booklife writing guide has lots of useful information on the topic. I’m a big fan of checklists and to do lists. It is easier to achieve your goals if you know what they are! I use Workflowy (http://workflowy.com/) to keep a list of current activities. I also use Trello (http://trello.com/) with a small group of other writers to compare our weekly or monthly writing goals and encourage each other.

goalsJeff stressed the importance of setting concrete goals (I’m going to write 10 short stories this year versus I want to write more) and goals that are within your control (I’m going to submit 5 stories to Clarkesworld this year versus I want to be published in Clarkesworld). That being said, it’s nice to record your achievements. Christie Yant created a writing career bingo spreadsheet and I adapted the idea and made a program (http://www.aidandoyle.net/2013/08/21/writing-career-bingo/) that spits out an image with planets when I achieve a goal. Taking over the galaxy one planet at a time.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

The amount of historical detail in Hannah Kents’ Burial Rites is amazing. Jason Franks’ Sixsmiths is very funny. Cat Sparks’ collection, The Bride Price, is packed full of short story goodness.

IMG_20000Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

The main thing for me is that it’s now much easier to submit to overseas markets. Email is much quicker and cheaper than overseas postage and international reply coupons. I have a young adult novel out on submission now and I’m close to finishing a middle grade novel based on my Aurealis nominated story. After that I have plans for some young adult novels and a novel based on my swordwriter stories.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to the World Science Fiction Convention 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.

To read the interviews hot off the press, check out these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done. You can find the past Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007,  2010 and 2012.

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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014 – Pete Aldin

Pete Aldin lives in the burbs of Melbourne, Australia. His professional life is spent helping people make major life decisions and re-training people for the workforce. His private life is spent making things up.

His short stories have haunted the pages of many a magazine and anthology including Niteblade, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, A is for Apocalypse and Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show. As a father himself, he has written for several parenting magazines.

He is a rabid Chelsea FC supporter, he wastes countless hours playing FIFA games on xBox and he makes a reasonable stir fry. He can often be found lurking in the shadows at www.petealdin.com.

You’ve built up a strong list of short fiction credits (including a pro sale to Intergalactic Medicine Show). What inspired you to start writing? Who are your influences?

As a teenager, I discovered Asimov’s robot tales, Narnia, space operas and believe it or not Catweazle(!) – and I dreamed of writing a book, bringing other people the same joy I’d felt.

I let that dream die in my late 20s with dozens of novel projects started and never completed, believing it was “dumb” and an unworthy expenditure of my time and attention. Late in my 30s, I began writing non-fiction articles for management and parenting magazines, as well as blogging in a community of Dad Bloggers. I had so much positive feedback, I figured, “Maybe I am a writer.” Then the experience of holding a glossy paper magazine with my name and my words in it sealed the deal. I was turning 40, I’d had a good idea for a novel since 1994 and I thought “If not now, when?”

peteInfluences: Stephen King, Raymond E Feist, Martin Cruz Smith, Harry Harrison (his Rat series) and a bunch of less-successful authors whose names I could no longer tell you. But these authors taught me about style, about maintaining a dark edge, about the art of humour in hard fiction and about poignancy. I love to make people feel  something as they read my work. I was particularly stoked when a beta reader told me she read one of my action scenes late at night and was so hopped up on adrenaline, she couldn’t sleep that night! I’m drawn to writers like that, who play with style and with emotions, who write complexity.

Congratulations on the sale of your novel to Clan Destine Press! Could you tell us a bit about the book, and the journey to finding a home for it?

Thank you! Wow, the journey. The journey. Well, I started Eventide in 1994 (or made a series of false starts, I should say, between then and ’95), then left the opening 3 chapters in a drawer until I turned 40 in 2006. It took me three years then to write and edit it. Just as I was completing it, James Cameron’s Avatar came out in cinemas, and I had to do yet another round of edits because he had used many of the same names and even the same scene(!) as I had in my novel. A month or two later, I was happy with it and started querying publishers and agents.

Two agents wrote back in the 12 months following, saying they were very interested, but at 180 thousand words (say 650 pages in a paperback) it was wayyyy too long for a first time author and could I cut it back to 100,000 words? I said, No, but thanks and put the book aside to start working on two different novels, planning them to that 100 thousand word mark.

I met Lindy Cameron at the Melbourne Continuum con mid-2013 and pitched her the idea (badly). She was gracious and asked me to send a sample and a synopsis. She got back to me and said, “Love the idea. But way too long. Can you cut it down to 130k?” Over the next three months (with some expert and serendipitous advice from Cat Sparks) I got it down to 149, 000 without ruining the story. Still too long for any publisher to risk with a paper book, but Clan Destine read it, loved it and said they would publish it as an eBook with the possibility of a hard copy print down further down the track. And I was one very happy writer!

My blurb for the book follows (though Clan Destine may well change this upon publishing it in 2015, because it could certainly do with fresh eyes!):

Corporate military cop John Ryder thought he had a deal going with his employers, one that meant he’d never do planets. Apparently he was wrong.

With the recent arrest of a serial killer to his credit, Ryder finds himself the victim of his own success when he’s sent to solve the murder of a Marine at a research facility on a classified world. Twenty years living in space – where things are clean, orderly and techno-chic, where advanced forensics make solving crime simple – haven’t prepared him for an investigation amidst the mud, dank heat and chaos of an unsettled planet.

In this place where the indigenous stone-age Jarinyi are the ancient guardians of a wonder-drug sought by Ryder’s corporate masters, he becomes increasingly aware that the role his bosses have cast him in is spin-doctor … and becomes ever more compelled to pursue the truth. Assisted only by a military policewoman whose deeply religious nature and resemblance to Ryder’s dead lover cause him an increasingly uncomfortable attraction, his inquiry is obstructed by a smarmy anthropologist siding with the locals, a scheming Lieutenant with a hidden agenda and a drug-addicted and sadistic commando whose psychosis is fast spiraling out of control.

What’s next for Pete Aldin?

Another novel (a fifth novel project) after I’ve completed my current werewolf one in a month or so: this new one’s a Buddy Story set post-apocalypse. I have loved post-apocalyptic tales since I saw the Omega Man at about age 15. I’ve toyed with a few short stories, had a couple published, but the entire full-length story for this novel downloaded itself into my brain about a week ago and has been clawing its way out onto paper ever since.

A isI’m also enjoying writing for Rhonda Parrish’s series of anthologies A is for Apocalypse (out later this month), B is for Broken, etc. Still working on my fantasy short story for B. Apart from that, I’m putting short stories to rest as I need to focus on telling longer tales…

What Australian works have you loved recently?

Heaps of them. Devin Madson’s The Blood of Whisperers is simply the best epic fantasy I’ve ever read, and I’m horribly slack in getting around to the sequel. Meanwhile I’m halfway through Jason Frank’s Bloody Waters which is a charming read. Earlier this year I enjoyed A New Kind of Death by Alison Goodman (5 star thriller). The opening and closing stories in the Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land anthology were sheer genius (aw shucks -Ed), as were all the stories in Surviving the End. Also SM Johnstone’s Sleeper was a very tight and punchy YA novel I read very early this year – that’s worth a look for teenagers, especially girls.

The standout for me at the moment is the historical drama I’m 50 pages off finishing called Burial Rites. I mentioned earlier that I love poignancy in books I read. This book is so emotional, that I find myself quite choked up and even angry at times. It depicts a sad 19th Century world that is cruel to the people in it. And the prose is to die for.

Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

I am one of those people who vowed never to read eBooks…and who now owns a Kindle with about 50 books on it. From time to time, I’ll continue to buy eBooks when they’re problematic to pick up in a local store or when eBook is the only option available (as it will be with my own novel next year!) But I’m a big believer in both paper books (which become treasured artefacts) and buying from local bookstores.

ASIM_56_229_317-220x304I think the opportunities for emerging writers like myself into the near future include both epublishing and small press. With both, there is the chance to not become stuck in a rut or labelled: for instance, I had never considered the option of writing novellas until recently, since these are more attractive to both small publishing houses and are easier to create and market if an author self-publishes. This has meant I now have rough outlines/ideas for three novellas sitting in my “Maybe” folder in my office.

I think it’s a larger world for authors now, but with bookstores on the decline, it’s a tougher one for readers to find some of the new gold that’s out there.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to the World Science Fiction Convention 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.

To read the interviews hot off the press, check out these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done. You can find the past Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007,  2010 and 2012.

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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014 – T.B McKenzie

Born just before the 80’s began T.B McKenzie grew up in South Gippsland, Victoria, where boys either surfed or played football. He did neither, and, as this was a time before the Internet, he found his escape in books. Somehow he missed the boat on Tolkien but discovered instead the works of Loyd Alexander, Terry Pratchett and Ursula Le-Guin, who all had a lot to say about things people seemed to have forgotten. He never looked back and ever since his first story — written in grade four about a monster, a sword, and a hero — he knew he wanted to be a writer. He lives now with his wife and young son in Melbourne, where he teaches Art at high school by day, and swings a sword in a Western Martial Art class by night (turns out this is way more fun than surfing or football). Every now and then he even finds the time to write.

You can find out more on his blog, http://magickless.blogspot.com.au/ and facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/magickless

You devote a large part of your blog to the process of writing, approaching it from directions that I had never even thought of – such as the concept of Kishōtenketsu. Could you tell us a bit about your process, and how some of these methods have helped with your writing?

I was a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants (panster) writer for the first few years, and only when I had an editor did I realise how much time I’d wasted. Then I became what George RR Martin calls a Gardener, and spent most of my re-drafting weeding. Along the way I became very interested in plot structure, using the three act arc as a guide to inject conflict and tension in every scene. My book was published and just as I sat down to repeat the process with the sequel, along came an article on Kishōtenketsu. It was a bit of a revelation as it’s structure of KI (intro)shō (follow), ten (twist) and ketsu (consolidate), fit more closely to what I loved most about my genre. I’ve read somewhere that we don’t gravitate to a genre of book, so much as the emotion we want that book to give us. Romance fans want love, Crime and Horror readers hunger for fear and suspense.  I think with Science Fiction and Fantasy, what I’m looking for both as a reader and writer is a sense of wonder. Kishōtenketsu, I believe, has wonder at its heart. Perhaps no better example is the movie ‘My neighbour Totoro’ which I think might be the most pure adherent to the structure that I have found.

TravisheadshotB&WforNewSiteUsing this lens has made me see more clearly what I want my writing to do, both on the micro scale of scenes and chapters, and the macro with the individual novels and the series as a whole. Originally I was going to wrap Magickless up in a trilogy, each book divided into three parts. Now each novel has four parts, and it will be a quadrology. Or a tetrology–I never have worked out what to call it, but there will be four of them. The writing program, Scrivener, has helped this kind of approach, as it is set up to work outside in. In this sense I’ve become an architect, but instead of being limited by this, it has set me free.

Worldbuilding seems to a big part of your writing, with a lot of work going into the back ground of your stories. How do you approach creating a secondary world?

The whole idea for Magickless came to me when I was arguing with friends about how stupid it was to have a quasi-medieval setting were only a few ‘chosen ones’ could use magic. If magic was real in the world, then there had better be a damn good reason why only a small percentage got to use it, and if there wasn’t then everyone should be able to access this power. But if that was the case, then there was going to have to be some rules. Money would be meaningless unless power itself was the currency. Then there is the question of limitation–does everyone get to work any spell they like if they have the right book, or are there more intricate laws that dictate magic use? Once I asked the question ‘and what would you do in this world if you didn’t have magic?’ I knew I had a book. So I guess Magickless all began with world building. If you keep giving logical answers to questions about how a world will function, you cannot help but build a believable place. Customs, names–even the layout of towns–must all link to the driving force of a society. And of course there is the language itself. I am no Tolkien, but from the beginning I wanted a unique way for the inhabitants of Arkadia to cast their spells. I started looking into a priory or philosophical languages, as I knew that magic words and grammar needed to be far more precise that our metaphorical English. In my search I stumbled on Solresol, a forgotten musical language. I was lucky to find a small community of linguists who were trying to revive both its written and spoken forms, and they helped formulate the spells you can see in the book. This was a big part of the world building, as it shaped one of the most crucial questions–how does a child learn to be a magician? Of course, I also take world building literally and make my own maps.

Dragon and the Crow cover_POD_04 (2)

Your fantasy series, Magickless, has had an interesting journey, with the original publisher, Dragonfall Press, closing down. I believe that you’ve found a new home (congratulations!) for your books, but it must have been a tough thing to deal with? Can you tell us a bit about the ups and downs?

I signed with Dragonfall in 2011, and was thrilled to be part of a fledgling mission to bring independent Australian SF to bookstores. My editor, Michael Foster, helped shape the early manuscript into something I was really proud of, and after its release I was getting great reviews and making steady sales. All was well in the world and I was just finishing up the final edit on the sequel when out of the blue, Dragonfall had to close. I was devastated, of course, but I saw Michael’s point. He was a writer first and foremost, and running a publishing house by himself was leaving him with zero time for his own projects. He made the call to get out while the going was good, and not only returned all the rights to the authors he had signed, gave us the rights to the cover art he had paid for. I was flat for a while to say the least, but then realised I had a unique opportunity. So much of what I now wanted to do with the series had come to me towards the end of writing the sequel. Most writers move on, some return years later to do their definitive edition, but I could get it right now. So I started to re-write, and at the same time I re-submitted my work to new publishers, being very upfront with my situation. Satalyte Publications, a Melbourne based house, said yes, and slowly everything fell into place. Once again I am with an exciting independent publisher, have a brilliant editor, and am among an incredible line up of writers–old and new–who have a collective noun of books in the stores with many more to come next year. It’s been nine years since I first started writing Magickless, and I hope 2015 will be the year all the hard work pays off.

Sceptre and the Sword cover_POD_05 (3)What Australian works have you loved recently?

By day I teach Art, and this term I have an artist in residence, Bernard Caleo, working with my classes and teaching them all about graphic novels. I was never a big comic book fan, and if I had to chose one medium as my primary source of entertainment, it would be audio books–about as far from a graphic novel as you can get. Then Bernard opened my eyes to the amazing underground comic scene in Melbourne and I realised that there are some stories that cannot be conveyed by words alone. Artist like Shaun Tan and his book ‘The Arrival’ can only work in the nuance of the panel. But the one I’ve really fallen in love with is Nicki Greenberg’s ‘Hamlet’. Shakespeare has always been tough for me to get into. I can’t stand the BBC style acting, or the overly earnest movie adaptations, and trying to read the plays in script form is jarring. Yet all writers should study the Bard, right? Well, it turns out that the ‘staged on the page’ version was the answer for me. All the original dialogue is there, delivered by a cast of surreal characters and juxtaposed against backgrounds that add symbology and resonance to the text. I might not be able to read it as I ride to work, but then again, just as some books need more than words, some stories  need to be read sitting down, somewhere quiet.

Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

Aside from reading to my son, I don’t read many paper books anymore. I am what they call an audio-book-o-phile, and my audible library is growing fast. No one can deny that the book industry has changed, and while some are still waiting for the ebook magic bullet to hit its target, I think the greatest threat is TV. Books take time, and so does a season of Game of Thrones. Unfortunately, for an overly stimulated audience, reading seems set to become a forgotten hobby.The industry needs to find a new marketing angle and I think it could be audio books. At the moment they are still seen by many teenagers as something their parents listen to, but more and more are taking them up. Ecosystems like Audible, which will soon be opening its publication branch ACX worldwide, not only provide a way for authors to get their works recorded, but also into the earphones of anyone with a smartphone and the app. Some writers I talk to about this balk at the idea. Books have to be printed, they say, read! But to me, audio books take what we do back to the very beginning, when an elder sat across the fire-pit and told you a tale that captivated your imagination. Writing came later. We are story tellers, and my hope is that the narrated versions of books not only re-engage a generation with novels, but also re-invigorate the ecosystem of publishing.

Travis is also looking for anonymous beta readers for his new novel. If you are interested, contact me and I will organise a copy.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to the World Science Fiction Convention 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.

To read the interviews hot off the press, check out these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done. You can find the past Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007,  2010 and 2012.

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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014 – Rocky Wood

Rocky Wood lives in Melbourne and is the co-author of three major works about Stephen King, each of which was nominated for the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Non-Fiction – ‘Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished’, ‘Stephen King: The Non-Fiction’ and ‘Stephen King: The Literary Companion’. The latter won the Bram Stoker Award for 2011.

He is also the author of ‘Horrors! Great Tales of Fear and Their Creators’, a graphic novel illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne, which was shortlisted for a Black Quills Award and nominated for an Aurealis Award; and the upcoming ‘Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times’, a graphic novel co-written with Lisa Morton, and illustrated by Greg Chapman.

He has spoken at numerous conventions, including the SKEMER Con in Estes Park, Colorado (2003); Continuum 3 (2005) and Continuum 4 (2006) in Melbourne; Conflux 3 in Canberra (2006); the 2nd Annual Stephen King Dollar Baby Festival in Bangor, Maine (2005); the World Horror Conventions in Salt Lake City (2008 and 2012) and Austin, Texas (2011); the Bram Stoker Award Weekends in Burbank, California (2009) and Long Island, New York (2011); and Worldcon in Melbourne (2010). He has even addressed Stephen King’s hometown Historical Society about the author’s works and motivations. He has published non-fiction worldwide for the past thirty five years.

Rocky is President of the Horror Writers Association, having served on the Board since 2008 and is also a proud member of the Australian Horror Writers Association.

You’re known as being one of the foremost experts, if not the expert, on the works of Stephen King. When did you first encounter his work, and what was it that captured your interest?

I saw ‘Carrie’ at the movies in 1977. I headed straight for a bookshop to get the book but they didn’t have it. They did have ‘Salem’s Lot’ and the rest, as they say, is history. I’d never read any writer quite like King, and haven’t since. He has a unique voice, the characters were absolutely real (I felt like I knew them, or at least, people just like them), and the story lines compelling. Each book and story built on those reader benefits. Steve has never let me down.

rocky-wood-3 rocky-wood-le-fan-n-1-de-stephen-king,M131738You are currently President of the Horror Writers Association. What do you consider your greatest achievement so far, either personally or collectively? What do you see as the greatest challenges lying ahead for the HWA?

Under achievements our expansion of membership from 400 to 1100 is pleasing as it shows that members are happy with the broad program of the HWA. The expansion of membership provides us with funds to reinvest, for example in buying booths and tables at various festivals and conventions where we can promote our genre, the HWA and our members wares. It also allows us to invest in a wide range of member benefits.

The expansion in membership also gives us many more volunteers to run these programs, for example in the areas of our Young Adult, Library and Poetry outreach programs, our Halloween Haunts and Women in Horror blogs, member discounts, agents listings and so on. I’m particularly proud of the world class conventions we have hosted under my Presidency, including the combination of our Bram Stoker Award (R) Weekend with the World Horror Convention in New Orleans in 2013 and the upcoming combination of the Weekend and the 25th World Horror Convention in Atlanta next year.

As to challenges, we need to maintain our momentum in dozens of areas – hard work for any organisation entirely made up of volunteer members. We need to stay relevant to our members as the publishing industry changes. We need to provide fresh approaches to horror conventions. And we need to do everything in our power to promote the horror genre to an ever growing number of readers and viewers.

8bd50b2243ecfbfbd5c6ae5865271685_resized1You’ve produced a number of acclaimed graphic novels. Are there any more on the horizon? Have you considered any other forms of fiction, or are graphic novels your preference?

I’m in awe of those who write great fiction. Graphic novels are a form I learnt and am grateful for the good reviews they garnered and the Bram Stoker Award Lisa Morton and I won for ‘Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times’. Unfortunately, I suffer from Motor Neurone Disease (ALS in North America) that is severely impacting my ability to type and therefore commit to major projects.

witch-huntsWhat Australian works have you loved recently?

‘Wolf Creek: Origin’ by Greg McLean and Aaron Sterns is a chilling and all too plausible explanation of how Mick Taylor became an implacable serial killer.

Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work?

Ebook publishing has expanded my reach and sales (and income). I’ve published (but not self-published) exclusive ebook editions of one book and will publish an update to that book in both ebook and print shortly. I don’t know that the latter would have been published if ebooks weren’t around and so effective as a channel. So, the main influence is on the target market I’m writing for.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to the World Science Fiction Convention 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.

To read the interviews hot off the press, check out these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done. You can find the past Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007,  2010 and 2012.

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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014 – Stephanie Lai

Stephanie Lai is a writer, publicist, and left-handed archer; she is occasionally paid to train people in surviving our oncoming dystopic climate change future. She writes about identities, queerness, and steampunk. Tweet her at @yiduiqie. Check her out on stephanielai.net and no-award.net

As the Chair of Continuum 9, it seemed that you had a real focus on not only ensuring diversity and accessibility, but seeing issues of social justice addressed and discussed. Two years on, what do you see as the legacy of that approach? How do you think it was received by con goers?

I think it was received very well! One con later, we had some nice feedback at C10 on some of the continuing themes, some really engaged and engaging GoHs, and some great responses. And I’m gonna be programming for C11, so I’m looking forward to continuing my agenda for addressing these issues. I especially love- and note I do not take responsibility for any of these things – that Ambelin and Jim, Continuum 10’s guests, so strongly addressed diversity, social justice, and shitty history in their speeches and appearances. On a personal appearance level, I enjoyed the support I received when I took people to task for being clueless, offensive, or just plain racist. And I love that I feel like that would continue, even without me around.

stephanielaiOne of your current projects is the excellent No Award blog, which you run with Liz Barr. What was the impetus in starting the blog, and what is your mission?

No Award was actually an extension of my secret agenda for Continuum 9. Liz and I found, whilst running a panel on social justice 101, that people were asking for Australian SFF social justice resources and we were really having to direct them to USA ones. So we decided to start our own. The focus of No Award is not solely on SFF, but as SFF fans (and with Liz and I being past and future Continuum Chairs) SFF features frequently. No Award’s mission is to look at media with a critical, and particularly Australian-hyphenate, eye.

Other than your blog, are you currently working on any other projects?

So many! Later this year I’m involved in Chinese Whispers, a play/installation piece that will be premièring at this year’s Melbourne Fringe, looking at identity and racism through the lens of the race riots in Jakarta in 1998. I’m about to finalise a piece I’ve written for a Dr Who Companions antho, and I also have an exciting series in the works for No Award, looking at climate change dystopias.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

Actually the piece I’ve probably enjoyed the most isn’t sff – its YA crime, by an old friend, Ellie Marney. And its set around inner north Melbourne, which was nice.

Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

I’ve become very focused on short pieces of late, especially non-fiction, in large part because of the faster turnarounds than short fiction and long fiction. And, unexpectedly, I really love it! I have a piece in the most recent The Lifted Brow (Sympathy for Lady Vengeance: feminist ghosts and female monsters of Asia), 8500 words that I wrote in 2 days because it was all I could think about, and I’m really excited to keep reading and writing in that direction.

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This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to the World Science Fiction Convention 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.

To read the interviews hot off the press, check out these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done. You can find the past Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007,  2010 and 2012.