Tag Archives: Lee Battersby

Wednesday Writers: Lee Battersby

Lee Battersby has long had a reputation as one of Australia’s leading writers of short fiction – in fact, even I had heard of him when I first came on the scene! The acclaim for his novel, ‘The Corpse-Rat King’, and the buzz surrounding its sequel showed that he is equally adept at the long form. I had the privilege of beta reading CRK and, while I am not sure I was much help, it means that I felt a degree of proprietary interest in its success. For that reason, and because Lee is an all round good guy, I’ve been delighted to see how well it has been received.

Lee is someone who is incredibly supportive of both other writers and the arts scene in Australia (see this amazing exhibition he played a big role in making happen). He also possesses an emotional honesty that is all too rare, something he brings to this guest post. Here, he eschews the usual platitudes about writing being a constant delight and how being a writer is an easy choice to make. It’s something we all think, but are not always brave enough to say aloud. Thank you for doing so, Lee.


 My problem is, I write in bursts: very heavy investments of both emotions and ideas, followed by periods where I lie fallow, exhausted or just plain worked out, and open my receptors to the Universe around me in an effort to refill the idea banks. It’s a great way to create intense, correlation-heavy texts—there’s an amazing synchronicity when your subconscious throws up two unrelated things that suddenly, in a way that neither you nor anybody else has ever seen before, fit together just so—but it’s draining, both mentally and emotionally.

I have down periods; great big down periods, where I question why I even bother writing. It’s a valid question: I have a large family, a job that attracts a lot of pressure and forces me to spend a number of weekends and evenings at work, a monster of a mortgage… writing takes me away from living my daily life. Much of the time I can’t adequately juggle the need to pay attention to all of my responsibilities, so I end up falling between them all and disappointing everybody. I’m not very good at my job, I don’t see enough of my family, I’m constantly under financial pressure, and most days I feel like I’m not a particularly good writer. Certainly, I can’t manage the business side of being a writer as well as some of my peers, because I simply can’t devote the time necessary to learning to be an effective businessman. Like an overweight Southern has-been, I often just rely on the kindness of strangers.


None of this is good for the mindset. Writing is an essentially selfish act. It demands total focus, and all the advice you receive from established professionals reinforces the selfishness—“Write every day”; “Live in the world of your characters”; “inhabit the world of your novel/short story/poem/limerick every single day”. Close yourself off, turn yourself inward, ignore outside influences. Place the imaginary, egocentric world of your imagination above the real, empirical needs of those around you and make them understand that it is more important than them right now and don’t damn well interrupt!

To which my sick son and hungry dog and dripping kitchen sink cry bullshit. Because we live in the real world, and once you’re a husband, and father, and wage-earner, and home-owner—at least, if you’re trying to be a better one than your ancestors—the real world is bigger than you are, and more selfish, and frankly, more important than some figment of your imagination that might, in all likelihood, net you a couple of grand two years after you first start ignoring your family to write the damn thing.

Which begs the question: why do it?

Which would normally beg the answer: I don’t know. And to be honest, 75% of the time, I don’t know why I don’t know. It’s an instinct, like a homing pigeon or an elk that still crosses the same highway, year after year, to get to mating grounds long dried up by an industrial estate, no matter how many times it almost gets run over by 18-wheelers on the way. But every now and again— not often, and sometimes, not often enough—I sit back from my keyboard in the certain knowledge that what I’ve just written, what I can see blinking back at me from the screen, is not only a unique fusion of two thoughts but an amalgam of two concepts that have never, ever, been combined in that way before, and even if it were to happen again it would not be so sweet, so explosive, so goddamned perfect. And it doesn’t matter that I’m eating baked beans for the last three days of the pay cycle, or that the dog’s pulled another work shirt from the line and has chewed a hole through it, or that I’ll be in another meeting tomorrow where the boss who doesn’t believe in me and the subordinates who don’t respect me will take turns to outline all the ways I’m responsible for the world being shit.

Because for that moment, that one, tiny, incandescent moment, I am a creature of sublime thought and purpose.

And apart from my wife and children, there is not a single thing in this world I could not live without to have that one, tiny, moment.

Lee Battersby is the multiple-award winning author of ‘The Corpse-Rat King’ (Angry Robot Books, 2012) and its sequel, ‘Marching Dead’ (2013) as well as over 70 stories in various markets round the round world including Australia, the US and Europe. He blogs at the Battersblog (www.battersblog.blogspot.com) and has a sometimes-belatedly-updated website at www.leebattersby.com. He lives in Mandurah, Western Australia, with his wife Luscious Lyn, three moderately insane children, a dog he doesn’t like much, and the piles of detritus that come from life-long obsessions with Daleks, Lego, Nottingham Forest and the like.


Australian Shadows Awards 2012 Finalists Announced

The Australian Horror Writers Association has announced the finalists for the 2012 Australian Shadow Awards, and what a great list it is! Lots of friends on there, and I am particularly delighted to see my mentor, Jason Fischer, listed. And, The Corpse Rat King is a book whose success I have followed with interest as I was one of the beta readers.

Good luck to all the finalists! You can find the full list below:

Edited Publication

The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2011 – Liz Grzyb & Talie Helene
Surviving the End – Craig Bezant
Cthulhu Unbound 3 – David Conyers

Collected Work

Living with the Dead – Martin Livings
Through Splintered Walls – Kaaron Warren

Bread and Circuses – Felicity Dowker

Short Fiction

To Wish on a Clockwork Heart – Felicity Dowker
A Monstrous Touch – Marty Young
Birthday Suit – Martin Livings
Mountain – Kaaron Warren
Creek – Kaaron Warren
Road – Kaaron Warren
They Don’t Know That We Know What They Know – Andrew J McKiernan
Pigroot Flat – Jason Fischer

Long Fiction

Sky – Kaaron Warren
Critique – Daniel I Russell
Escana De Un Asesinato – Robert Hood


Perfections – Kirstyn McDermott
Blood and Dust – Jason Nahrung
The Corpse Rat King – Lee Battersby

2012 Aussie Snapshot: Lee Battersby

Lee Battersby is the author of the novels ‘The Corpse-Rat King’ (Angry Robot, 2012) and ‘Marching Dead’ (Angry Robot, 2013) as well as over 70 stories in Australia, the US and Europe, with appearances in markets as “Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror”, “Year’s Best Australian SF & F”, and “Writers of the Future”. A collection of his work, entitled “Through Soft Air” has been published by Prime Books. He’s taught at Clarion South and developed and delivered a six-week “Writing the SF Short Story” course for the Australian Writers Marketplace. His work has been praised for its consistent attention to voice and narrative muscle, and has resulted in a number of awards including the Aurealis, Australian Shadows and Australia SF ‘Ditmar’ gongs.

He lives in Mandurah, Western Australia, with his wife, writer Lyn Battersby and an increasingly weird mob of kids. He is sadly obsessed with Lego, Nottingham Forest football club, dinosaurs, the Goon Show and Daleks. He’s been a stand-up comic, tennis coach, cartoonist, poet, and tax officer in previous times, and he currently works as the Arts Co-ordinator for a local council, where he gets to play with artists all day. All in all, life is pretty good.

This year you had some very exciting news, landing a book deal with Angry Robot (congratulations!). As someone who was already a multiple award winning and prolific writer, do you feel that this recognition has changed your profile or your approach to writing?

It’s definitely changed my approach to writing in one very simple but central way: I’m a novelist now. That probably sounds a bit flippant, but the whole texture of my life has changed recently, including a day job promotion to a co-ordinator position that really eats my days. I have very little time left over for writing, so what time I have has to be devoted to one task, whereas in the past I could skip from one project to the other on a whim. Right now, I’m exclusively focused on novels because I have to be: time just doesn’t allow me to do anything else, and I’m on contract, so I have to cut away everything bar the novel work for a while. As to my profile, I don’t know– I’ve been slowly sliding into the background over the last few years, and not being so prolific at magazine level hasn’t helped. Perhaps the promo splash of a novel release will bring me back into peoples’ thinking for a short while, but as long as the work stands up and satisfies people, that’s the important thing, not whether I get recognised at Cons.

Looking back at your time as editor of various publications, are there any writers whose current success you predicted, or ones that we should still be keeping an eye out for?

I’m not much of a prophet. I remember tutoring Peter Ball and Jason Fischer at Clarion South 5 years ago or so and feeling that they were likely to go on and do some impressive things, but there were several others from that class who I felt could do the same, and have done so in different guises, notably Chris Green and Laura Goodin. I’m not currently as involved in mentoring and teaching as I have been in the past, or as I’d like to be, so I’ve not got much of an idea of who’s at the grass roots level waiting to break out. Being surprised by a new voice is part of the fun, though, so it’ll be interesting. I think there are a number of authors who are now stepping up to full time novel production who could go a long way– I’d keep my eye on Joanne Anderton and Trent Jamieson, for two.

Are there further adventures planned in the world of “The Corpse-Rat King”, or do you plan on moving on to new projects once it and its immediate sequel are complete?

I’m contracted for 2 novels, which is standard Angry Robot practice, but there is a clause allowing for a third novel if they so wish, and I’ve got the story arc planned right through to the end of that third novel. The novels are designed to be stand-alones as much as possible, so if we only see two on the shelves it won’t lessen anything. But it feels good to have an extra story in reserve. I’ve also been asked to write a Marius Helles short story for a magazine, so there will probably be one short as well. But I’m easy– I love playing in the world of the Corpse-Rat King, but I’m 52K into a Father Muerte novel and have a couple of others in the early planning stages, including a post-apocalyptic revenger’s tragedy, so whatever comes along it’ll be fun to write.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

I feel guilty, because every time we do a snapshot I get asked this question, and every time I say “I’ve not been reading many Australians”, so I end up feeling like the least supportive guy in the world! I do read, and bloody well enjoy, Midnight Echo when it comes out, and I’m currently partway through Joanne Anderton’s fantastic debut novel ‘Debris’. I have Deb Biancotti’s ‘Bad Power’ and Trent Jamieson’s ‘Roil’ on my to-read list, but God knows when I’ll get to them. My current day job– I’m the Arts Co-ordinator for a City of 120 000 people– is eating my life, and by the time I get home, play with the kids, spend some time with my wife, do my own writing work…. reading is well on the back burner for the moment. But nobody needs my recommendations: go to a Con or an independent book store with a hundred bucks, plonk it on the counter, and demand Australian things. You’ll get a mad selection, if nothing else.

Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?

I don’t know. It’s hard to tell. Everything I’ve ever heard about Aussiecon in 1999 led me to believe there would be a seismic shift in the way we do things, but Aussiecon 4 doesn’t seem to have had any real impact at all. Maybe I’m just too divorced from the scene at the moment to see it, but apart from increased discussion about electronic publishing, which seemed to be on the rise anyway, I haven’t really seen anything massive taking place. I’m not be the best person to ask, though: the story of my journey over the last 3 years seems to be a slow parting of the ways with the intense, involved world of the Australian SF small press scene, which saddens me somewhat because that’s where I keep all my friends (although the friendships remain) and where I’ve had some of the best times of my life over the years. But the scene changes, and evolves, and something new will always arise. It’s the nature of the beast. I think we’re going to have the best small press publisher in the country come out of that scene in the next couple of years, and that’s going to be worth watching.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1 June to 8 June and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at: