Tag Archives: writing

Galactic Chat 61 – Kameron Hurley

In this latest episode of Galactic Chat, I get to talk to another one of my favourite writers—Kameron Hurley. I discovered her writing through the Bel Dame Apocrypha (God’s War Trilogy), one of the most original works of sci fi in recent times. But, she is also one of the leading fan writers in the spec fic community, and continues to challenge and subvert many of the things we take for granted with her blogging and essays.

As usual, my inner fanboy was fighting for control the whole time, but Kameron still managed to deliver a fascinating interview, where she talks about everything from Dragonlance to blog tours, and other topics listed below.

Plus, you get to find out more about her amazing new series!

This week David chats with award winning author and blogger Kameron Hurley. Kameron has been nominated for the Nebula, Clarke and the BSFA, selected for the Tiptree honour list and this year won the Hugo for Best Fan Writer. Additionally, her essay “‘We Have Always Fought': Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative” also won the Hugo for Best Related Work.

Please enjoy their chat where they talk about the influences on her most famous trilogy (including a dodgy rental apartment with bugs), when authors should speak out on issues of poor or disadvantageous contracts and what’s next on Hurley’s agenda.

You can find Kameron at her website

Credits
Interviewer: David McDonald
Guest: Kameron Hurley
Music & Intro: Tansy Rayner Roberts
Post-prod.: Sean Wright
Feedback:
Twitter: @galactichat
Email: galactichat at gmail dot com

Galactic Chat 58 – Ken Liu

In this latest episode of Galactic Chat, I get to talk to one of my favourite writers – Ken Liu! I have to apologise to all our listeners, because I was completely starstruck, and not very articulate. Fortunately, Ken more than makes up for it with one of the most fascinating interviews I have done.

We cover a huge range of ground, from the art of short stories to the challenges and pleasures of translating into English. We also get to hear about Ken’s upcoming “silkpunk” novel, which sounds absolutely amazing.

Anyone who loves short stories, epic fantasy, going out into the broader culture of spec fic or sweeping sci fi will get a huge amount out of this podcast. Actually, any spec fic fan is going to love it!

In this week’s episode David interviews Hugo and Nebula Award winning author Ken Liu. They talk about the short story form, the difficulty in translating from Chinese to English, Ken’s translation of the Chinese sci-fi masterpiece The Three Body Problem by  Liu Cixin and Ken’s own epic fantasy”Silkpunk” series called The Grace of Kings. 

The blog post they reference in the cast is  http://www.jasonsanford.com/blog/2014/8/want-to-be-a-successful-writer-avoid-short-stories

You can find Ken at his website.

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WSFA Small Press Award Winner Announced

The winner of the WSFA Small Press Award was announced today at Capclave 2014. Congratulations to Alex Shvartsman on his winning story, Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma!

I know it is one of those things people say so often that can be seen as a cliché, but it really was an honour to simply see my name next to the other nominees, all writers whom I look up to. It is also an honour have my name associated with all the past nominees and winners—talk about being in exalted company!

I think that the WSFA deserve our commendation for creating this award. To me, small press is the heart of the publishing world, and is worth celebrating and promoting. For many authors like myself, small presses are the first place we are given an opportunity to see our work in print, to work with editors and publishers, and learn our trade as writers. Through small presses, I have had a chance to work with editors like Tehani Wessely and Robert Greenberger, both of whom who have had stories appear on WSFA shortlists, and who have gone out of their way outside that initial relationship to take me under their wing, to mentor me, and continue to take an interest in my progress.

I also wanted to acknowledge John McKinlay, my great-great-great-great grandfather. He doesn’t have the same recognition as Sturt or Major Mitchell, but his journeys make incredible reading, and his resourcefulness and achievements make him the rival of any of Australia’s great explorers. It was a truly special experience to be able to take his journals and turn them into this story and I hope that it will lead people to read the originals, which are available in the public domain (you can find a copy here).

Writing this story brought some uncomfortable challenges. As I read, I realised that I couldn’t talk about McKinlay’s journeys without touching on his encounters with indigenous Australians. When writing about a culture that is not your own there is always the fear of getting things wrong or committing cultural appropriation, but it seemed to me that the only other choice was to erase them from this history, and that has been done too many times before. So, I attempted to portray them with respect, disavow the bankrupt idea of an empty land that white settlers filled by default, and acknowledge the place that the first inhabitants of our land have in all its stories. How well I have succeeded I will leave to the reader to decide.

I also need to thank Steve and Marieke Ormsby, the owners of Satalyte Publishing. It is no exaggeration to say that this story would not have been written without Steve’s prompting and coaxing and patience­—thanks for sticking with it, Steve! And, without Marieke, there would have been no were-dingoes! It’s a measure of the quality of what they are doing that two stories from their inaugural anthology made it on to this shortlist and I am sure it is just the beginning.

Congratulations to all the nominees, and especially the winner!

  • WINNER: “Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma” by Alex Shvartsman, published in Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, edited by Edmund R. Schubert (Hatrack Publishing, April 2013)
  • “Acts of Chivalry” by Sean McMullen, published in Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land, edited by Stephen C. Ormsby and Ellen Mae Franklin (Satalyte Publishing, December 2013)
  • “Bits” by Naomi Kritzer, published in Clarkesworld Magazine, edited by Neil Clarke (October 2013)
  • “Like a Bat Out of Hell” by Jonathan Shipley, published in After Death, edited by Eric C. Guignard (Dark Moon Books, April 2013)
  • “Morning Star” by DK Mok, published in One Small Step, an anthology of discoveries, edited by Tehani Wessely (FableCroft Publishing, May 2013)
  • “Set Your Face Towards the Darkness” by David McDonald, published in Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land, edited by Stephen C. Ormsby and Ellen Mae Franklin (Satalyte Publishing, December 2013)
  • “The Traditional” by Maria Dahvana Headley, published in Lightspeed, edited by John Joseph Adams (May 2013)
  • “Trap-weed” by Gemma Files, published in Clockwork Phoenix 4, edited by Mike Allen (Mythic Delirium Books, July 2013)

2014 Ditmar Award ballot released

Well, the past few weeks have been intense, so much so that I forgot all about this (after the first bit of squeeing), but the 2014 Ditmar Award ballot has been released, and I feature twice (highlighted in bold below)!!!

I have been very fortunate in how many wonderful people I have met since I first entered the scene, not only are most of the names on the ballot good friends, I have also had the chance to work with some amazingly talented people. Both Galactic Chat and the New Who reviewing stuff are so much fun to do, and that comes down to the great company in which I find myself.

Given that in both categories I am up against Hugo nominated works I don’t expect to win, but that’s more than okay. I am just proud to see my name up alongside so many people I respect and admire. Thank you to all those who nominated Galactic Chat and Reviewing New Who!

Whether you vote for me or not, please do make sure you do vote if you are eligible to do so. The more people who do, the more respectability the Ditmars have as the representation of the opinions of the entire Aussie spec fic community.

Good luck to all the nominees!

Voting has now opened, and will remain open until one minute before midnight AEST (ie. 11.59pm, GMT+11),
Wednesday, 28th of May, 2014.

You can vote online here, or visit here for more information.

Best Novel

  • Ink Black Magic, Tansy Rayner Roberts (FableCroft Publishing)
  • Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead, Robert Hood (Wildside Press)
  • The Beckoning, Paul Collins (Damnation Books)
  • Trucksong, Andrew Macrae (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • The Only Game in the Galaxy (The Maximus Black Files 3), Paul Collins (Ford Street Publishing)

Best Novella or Novelette

  • “Prickle Moon”, Juliet Marillier, in Prickle Moon (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • “The Year of Ancient Ghosts”, Kim Wilkins, in The Year of Ancient Ghosts (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • “By Bone-Light”, Juliet Marillier, in Prickle Moon (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • “The Home for Broken Dolls”, Kirstyn McDermott, in Caution: Contains Small Parts (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “What Amanda Wants”, Kirstyn McDermott, in Caution: Contains Small Parts (Twelfth Planet Press)

Best Short Story

  • “Mah Song”, Joanne Anderton, in The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories (FableCroft Publishing)
  • “Air, Water and the Grove”, Kaaron Warren, in The Lowest Heaven (Jurassic London)
  • “Seven Days in Paris”, Thoraiya Dyer, in Asymmetry (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “Scarp”, Cat Sparks, in The Bride Price (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • “Not the Worst of Sins”, Alan Baxter, in Beneath Ceaseless Skies 133 (Firkin Press)
  • “Cold White Daughter”, Tansy Rayner Roberts, in One Small Step (FableCroft Publishing)

Best Collected Work

  • The Back of the Back of Beyond, Edwina Harvey, edited by Simon Petrie (Peggy Bright Books)
  • Asymmetry, Thoraiya Dyer, edited by Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Caution: Contains Small Parts, Kirstyn McDermott, edited by Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, Joanne Anderton, edited by Tehani Wesseley (FableCroft Publishing)
  • The Bride Price, Cat Sparks, edited by Russell B. Farr (Ticonderoga Publications)

Best Artwork

  • Cover art, Eleanor Clarke, for The Back of the Back of Beyond by Edwina Harvey (Peggy Bright Books)
  • Illustrations, Kathleen Jennings, for Eclipse Online (Nightshade Books)
  • Cover art, Shauna O’Meara, for Next edited by Simon Petrie and Rob Porteous (CSFG Publishing)
  • Cover art, Cat Sparks, for The Bride Price by Cat Sparks (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • Rules of Summer, Shaun Tan (Hachette Australia)
  • Cover art, Pia Ravenari, for Prickle Moon by Juliet Marillier (Ticonderoga Publications)

Best Fan Writer

  • Tsana Dolichva, for body of work, including reviews and interviews in Tsana’s Reads and Reviews
  • Sean Wright, for body of work, including reviews in Adventures of a Bookonaut
  • Grant Watson, for body of work, including reviews in The Angriest
  • Foz Meadows, for body of work, including reviews in Shattersnipe: Malcontent & Rainbows
  • Alexandra Pierce, for body of work, including reviews in Randomly Yours, Alex
  • Tansy Rayner Roberts, for body of work, including essays and reviews at www.tansyrr.com

Best Fan Artist

  • Nalini Haynes, for body of work, including “Defender of the Faith”, “The Suck Fairy”, “Doctor Who vampire” and “The Last Cyberman” in Dark Matter
  • Kathleen Jennings, for body of work, including “Illustration Friday”
  • Dick Jenssen, for body of work, including cover art for Interstellar Ramjet Scoop and SF Commentary

Best Fan Publication in Any Medium

  • Dark Matter Zine, Nalini Haynes
  • SF Commentary, Bruce Gillespie
  • The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond
  • Galactic Chat Podcast, Sean Wright, Alex Pierce, Helen Stubbs, David McDonald, and Mark Webb
  • The Coode Street Podcast, Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan
  • Galactic Suburbia, Alisa Krasnostein, Alex Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts

Best New Talent

  • Michelle Goldsmith
  • Zena Shapter
  • Faith Mudge
  • Jo Spurrier
  • Stacey Larner

William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review

  • Reviews in Randomly Yours, Alex, Alexandra Pierce
  • “Things Invisible: Human and Ab-Human in Two of Hodgson’s Carnacki stories”, Leigh Blackmore, in Sargasso: The Journal of William Hope Hodgson Studies #1 edited by Sam Gafford (Ulthar Press)
  • Galactic Suburbia Episode 87: Saga Spoilerific Book Club, Alisa Krasnostein, Alex Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • The Reviewing New Who series, David McDonald, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Tehani Wessely
  • “A Puppet’s Parody of Joy: Dolls, Puppets and Mannikins as Diabolical Other”, Leigh Blackmore, in Ramsey Campbell: Critical Essays on the Master of Modern Horror edited by Gary William Crawford (Scarecrow Press)
  • “That was then, this is now: how my perceptions have changed”, George Ivanoff, in Doctor Who and Race edited by Lindy Orthia (Intellect Books)

Another review of Great Southern Land

Yes, it has been quiet around here. However, life continues apace and I am busily engaged in a  few secret projects that will hopefully be ready to announce soon.

In the meantime, I stumbled across another lovely review of Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land. The reviewer had some great things to say about the anthology, and was particularly kind about my story.

“Set Your Face Toward the Darkness” by David McDonald, told in journal style, also hit the spot for me. It’s a dark gothic story that re-imagines the fate of explorers Burke and Wills. While touching lightly on social commentary about the invasion of the country, the tale also shows the characters’ growing understanding about the natives’ “connection to the spirit of the land”, with descriptions of the harsh terrain emphasising the growing terror and isolation they feel. A great sense of place, well-developed tension and all-round, a good story.

It’s a very nice feeling when someone “gets” your story, and seems to understand what you were trying to achieve. I am new enough to all this to be unused to reading people’s thoughts on my stories, and I am thrilled. You can follow the link above for the full review and read about the other awesome stories in the anthology.

And, if you so desire, you can buy both paper and electronic copies of the anthology here!

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Obligatory New Year’s Post

One moment you are making lists of all the things that you want to achieve by the end of the year, and the next thing you know you are dissecting the Hobbit and setting off party poppers to welcome the New Year.

Looking back over 2013 it was a pretty good year, but I have to admit I didn’t achieve all the things I had hoped. Of course, that just gives me some more goals for this year!

Some of the highlights:

Some of the disappointments:

  • Still haven’t cracked that pro sale
  • Not catching up with New Who in time for the 50th anniversary special
  • Not submitting to all the markets I had planned to through procrastination

So, what does 2014 hold, other than plugging away with the short fiction?

  • Another tie -in anthology which I can’t announce yet
  • A  sci fi novel which already has a few nibbles of interest
  • Revising my completed first draft of another novel (fantasy) with a view towards shopping it around
  • A YA novel in collobaration with a US author
  • Another conversational review series
  • Loncon and hopefully another con in the States!

I’ve come to realisation that the only thing holding me back is me, and that I need to develop a better work ethic and stop procrastinating. While I am setting myself some high expectations, there is no reason why 2014 can’t be an even better year than 2013.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me over the last 12 months and I look forward to celebrating all your successes over the next year. May 2014 be a wonderful year for you all! :-)

The Trophy

The Trophy

Review of Great Southern Land

I don’t know about other writers, but I really struggle to judge the quality of my own work so I usually just assume it is terrible! So, it has been nice this week to get some great feedback on a couple of stories. It was an especially pleasant surprise to come across a review of Tales of Australia:Great Southern Land by the industrious Aussie reviewer, Sean the Bookonaut. He covers most of the stories in the book, and has some very kind things to say about mine:

The collection finishes on David McDonald’s Set Your Face Towards the Darkness and having read his work before, this story is a bit of a departure from his normal style.  It is written in journal format – the secret journals of explorer John McKinlay, who was sent to find Burke and Wills.  McDonald does a good job of capturing a reserved 19 century style in these entries written to McKinlay’s sweetheart, Jane.  I think the most challenging thing in writing fiction in journal and letter form, is building and maintaining tension and McDonald does this in his interesting mix of alternative history and pop culture horror trope. If you like Australian gothic horror and reading between the lines of historical journals you’ll appreciate Set Your Face Towards the Darkness.

You can read the complete review here.

And, if you want to pickup a copy of the anthology, either directly from the publisher, or from Amazon. At only $4.99 for the ebook you can’t go wrong!

GSL Cover

My writing space

Over at her blog, the indefatigable Zena Shapter has been running a fun series of posts called #WhereWritersWrite. As the name would suggest, she is posting a series of pictures of the writing spaces of a number of authors. As a writer, I find it fascinating to get a peek at how other authors work so I’ve been following it with interest, and you should go check it out.

Zena has also opened up her Facebook page for anyone to post pictures of their writing space, so I took advantage of that and posted a pic of mine. After a few questions I added an annotated version. I have to say, I am usually a bit neater than this. Enjoy!

My writing spaceAnd in its annotated glory!

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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.

IF THIS IS PARADISE, WHY DO THE DRAINS STINK?

 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.

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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.

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Wednesday Writers: Tor Roxburgh

The Aussie Spec Fic scene is interconnected enough that even if you don’t know someone, you are friends with people who do. I have to be careful sometimes, there are people whom I have heard so much about from my friends that I feel like I know them and when I do meet them or interact with them online I have to restrain myself from being overenthusiastically effusive and treating them like we are bosom buddies (my apologies to people that has happened to!).

While I hadn’t met Tor Roxburgh in person, there was a pretty big overlap of friends,and I had definitely heard the name. In fact, the week before I did meet her, I had just had two separate lunches with people who had mentioned her, and praised her highly as a writer, and as a person. So, when we caught up at a book launch there could have been two problems – forgetting that she would have no idea who I was, and being disappointed if the reality didn’t match the reputation!

Fortunately, Tor not only proved extremely approachable, but was even nicer in person than I had been told! And, as I chatted to her, I could immediately see that here was someone extremely passionate not only about her writing, but about her artistic pursuits in general – to the point where she had moved in part because her local council was not supportive of the arts. I’m really pleased to have Tor here today, as she talks about a subject every writer can identify with.

Hiding From Your Writing

June hasn’t been a great writing month. It began with an allegedly work-related viewing and reading binge. I was on a couple of panels at Continuum 9 in Melbourne and wanted to be better prepared than I had been the year before.

I’m not one of those lucky people who can remember plot lines and characters so I decided to revisit some of the narratives that the other panellists and I had decided we’d focus on. I watched six movies and a season of Game of Thrones. I also read a couple of Tamora Pierce’s books and lots of scholarly articles on fantasy and mediaevalism and on female warriors in speculative fiction. And I made notes.

It all sounds really worthy but, honestly, it wasn’t called for. Continuum discussion panels are relatively informal and friendly affairs and they don’t demand the sort of preparation that calls for you to halt your writing.

I spent the post-Continuum week getting ready to open my new shop, which was necessary, but which also stopped me writing. I then spent a couple of days on writing-related activities that didn’t actually involve writing (meeting up with my writers’ group and then attending a social media master class). I realised something was up when I found myself reading four of Lois McMaster Bujold’s novels in a classic on-the-couch-wrapped-up-in-a-blanket-feeling-guilty binge.

Before I go any further, I’m going to show you a breakdown of my 2013 word count:

January – 4,547 words
February – 4,363 words
March – 22,497 words
April – 6,406 words
May – 3,915 words
June (with two working days left) – 2,477 words

The obvious stand-out months are March and June.

Productive March is easy to explain. I woke up one morning and decided I was getting lazy. I recalled my late twenties when I used to produce three teen romances a year and I compared that with my most recent fantasy novel, The Light Heart of Stone, which took about five years to write. I resolved to do better, pushed aside the other tasks in my life and wrote.

The slower the writing, the messier the desk.

The slower the writing, the messier the desk.

It felt good but there is a difference between writing a light and simple teen romance and writing a deeply plotted, YA, sci-fi/murder mystery in a fully resolved future world. There is more imaginative work involved in the latter so I wasn’t upset that I couldn’t keep up the pace.

But what about Unproductive June? Well, there was all of that busy, busy stuff that I’ve already told you about, but that wasn’t the real problem. The problem was I lost my vision for my novel and my vision of myself as a writer. Both states are familiar to most writers. Personally, I can manage one or the other but combined… Well, it was a challenge.

A writer friend of mine once told me that when you’re having trouble writing it can be a signal that there is a specific plot, character or a world-building problem. I realised my novel had all three. I forced myself to keep working on the novel while I tried to find the solution (because there’s nothing worse than stopping and having to restart) but mainly I just thought.

I lay in bed and wondered about the world I’d created. I imagined being one character or another and I thought about how I’d feel and what I’d do, what I’d believe in and what values I’d hold. I dwelt on the world itself and took little logical steps: if this, then that. I remembered what that same writer friend had once said to me: think about what’s happening off-stage, when your protagonist isn’t around. In a realistically drawn world there is a momentum beyond the actions of your protagonist and supporting characters.

It all helped, but my plot problem refused to resolve. In the end, my characters had to creep forward, word by word, into the problematic territory that stood between the written story and the envisioned end. Soon enough, things started to order themselves and the problem disappeared. Such an act of faith can be difficult for a hard-line atheist.

The good news is I discovered that losing your vision of yourself as a writer clears up when you find yourself back in the grip of your novel. Evidently, that sort of existential pain only hangs about when you’re disengaged from the sweet siren of narrative.

Tor Roxburgh is a writer and artist. Her non-fiction includes Taking Control, one of the first successful Australian titles about family violence, and The Book of Weeks, a tale of the complex story of the weeks of pregnancy. She was senior writer and researcher on the National Inquiry into Youth Homelessness. She is also the author of 12 teen romances.

Tor’s latest book, The Light Heart of Stone, is an epic fantasy novel that explores many contemporary themes. The Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Prue Bentley calls it “very Australian”.

You can find out more at www.torroxburgh.com

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