bec2012_TNBec Stafford interviews Kate Gordon on the release of her new book.

 

 

 

SONY DSCClementine Darcy, the central character of your new book, Writing Clementine, is experiencing a range of problems that teens tend to face: winning the acceptance of peers, a tricky home life, needing someone to talk to in the midst of people who seem too busy to listen. Where did the inspiration for Clem come from initially, and what was being a teenager like for you?

Being a teenager was a world of extremes, as it is for most people, as it is for Clementine! I had beautiful friends – friends who are still my best mates today. We had sleepovers, watched trashy rom coms, ate Top Deck chocolate, danced to bad nineties pop and laughed until we cried. I’ll always look back on those times with extreme fondness. On the other hand, I suffered from shocking body image, had rotten health at times, went through some pretty bad bullying experiences and some nasty experiences with boys, like the ones Clementine experiences. I also never felt like I fit in anywhere. I always felt awkward and uncomfortable and shy and wrong. All. The. Time. All of this was my inspiration for Clem. She is more me than any other character in any of my books. So it’s a bit terrifying releasing her into the world and hoping people like her!

2. In the book, Clem’s philosophy teacher, Ms Hiller, sets the class an intriguing writing task that seems uninteresting at first, but which Clem really begins to embrace. Through Clem’s entries, she is able to explore her own identity; and, at the same time, your readers gain insight into her motivations and concerns. What are some of your favourite epistolary novels, and has writing always been in your blood?

Oh gosh, too many! I love The Perks of Being a Wallflower so much it hurts. I also love Jaclyn Moriarty’s novels in The Ashbury/Brookfield series. JD Salinger had some great epistolary stories too, which I loved growing up, and I’m an enormous fan of Nick Earls and Rebecca Sparrow’s Joel and Cat Set the Story Straight. And Bridget Jones. Always and forever Bridget Jones. Writing is as much a part of me as reading is. I’m ninety percent human, ten percent book, I think. And I’ve always thought of writing as penning letters to myself, so it’s interesting you put these two questions together!

gordon_writing clementine3. Kate, since we caught up, you’ve welcomed a little bundle of joy into the world, in the form of your lovely little daughter. (Congrats!) How has being a mum changed your writing activity, if at all, and which books and stories from your own childhood are you looking forward to sharing with your little girl?

I’ve always had to write around other commitments. I worked full-time writing my first novels and had to squeeze in bursts of creativity between hours behind the counter. It’s no different now, other than, while I could shut my mind off from work, I’m never not thinking about Tiger. It also means I take it all a bit less seriously, because she is my focus. That said, I am desperate to keep doing it because I want to show Tiges that you can do anything you dream of, if you work hard enough. I can’t wait to read Roald Dahl with her, and Tamora Pierce, and Thomas Hardy, when she’s older. There is not one book I don’t want to share with her.

4. Which of your fictional characters Burns Brightest in your mind and why?

They’re all my favourites. I’ve heard writers say that their characters are their babies or their friends. Mine are all pieces of me – like the Horcruxes in Harry Potter! They’re all fragments of my soul. But I always love the most recent one the best. And Clementine does hold a special place in my heart, for her bravery, her fragility, her wisdom, and her humour. She is the best parts of me!

 



bec2012_TNBec Stafford interviews Tricia Sullivan about her upcoming young adult novel, Shadowboxer.

 

 

 

sullivan_ShadowboxerShadowboxer incorporates fantasy, martial arts, and crime. Could you tell us a bit about your inspiration for writing this novel and how you became interested in martial arts more generally?

I started with martial arts at 13 because I wanted to be allowed out of the house by my overprotective father!  Initially, I studied Okinawan Goju-ryu karate, but they kicked me out for insubordination! I then bounced around trying different things until many years later I met Steve Morris, who eventually became my partner. He had been experimenting with anything-goes fighting since he ran a big London club in the 1970s, and it was in his small private class that I got my ass handed to me and found out karate is a pretty useless training method for fighting. I threw away everything I knew and started over. Never looked back.

Because I was running Steve’s website for years, I got exposed to the MMA culture and I saw the obstacles women face in training and fighting—it’s a tough, tough sport and women have been discouraged from fighting. In the early years most of the women in MMA who got media attention were ring girls. In the martial arts, women are encouraged to do traditional forms or no-contact sparring, or we’re fobbed off with ‘self-defence’ which is usually really ill-conceived stuff. I got more and more interested in women not as students or disciples (or victims) but as fighters. That’s what switches me on.

I probably channelled a lot of my wishful thinking into Jade. When I started Shadowboxer, I was having babies and breastfeeding. I was full of oxytocin and doing all the nurturing stuff you do with small children, but some part of me wanted to write about an angry young woman who fought. Realistically. Not Buffy, not superpowers, not kung-fu gymnastics or mystical trickery—but real fighting. That’s where Jade comes from.

trish pic wallI’ve read that you’re passionate about the status of women in the SF world, Tricia. What are 3 pieces of advice you’d give an upcoming female SF writer?

1) Be you. Seriously. Don’t try to imitate or live up to anyone’s expectation of what your work is supposed to look like.

2.) Keep your writing and editing processes separate. Don’t judge when you’re writing. Write when you’re writing. Judge when you’re editing. When you’re writing, let it out freely.

3)  Do the work. Do it with passion and commitment. You might be tempted to over-listen to online talk about industry politics or marketing/sales; there are some fascinating conversations. New opportunities are beginning to appear for women. But if you want to take advantage, you have got to have the chops. So no matter what happens, good or bad, keep working. Because in the end, your work is all you have, both as an artefact and as a process. The more you work, the more capable you will become, and this brings an internal power that the world can’t give you and the world can’t take away.

As well as being an acclaimed SF writer, you write fantasy under the pseudonym Valery Leith and are mum to 3 children. What’s it like juggling your many roles, and have your work habits changed much over the years?

I wrote the fantasy novels before I had children, so time wasn’t a problem back then. Right now I’m on a degree program in physics, and I write in the spaces around that.

I think what happens is that you learn to adapt. I wrote my first novel in five months of weekends while working full-time teaching middle school in New York City. I thought that was hard, until I found myself writing in one-hour-a-day slots around a very difficult baby, and then two more babies, with sleep deprivation, and isolation, and lack of money. That went on for years.

I won’t lie: it was tough, and I know that my writing suffered because there was so little of me to go round. That said, I now know how hard I can work, and it’s harder than I thought possible! Writing is really a psychological game you play with yourself. It took me a long time to develop confidence and to understand how to get the best out of myself. After twenty years, I’m finally starting to feel like I might know what I’m doing.  A little.

Which of your fictional characters Burns Brightest in your mind and why?

Jade is my favourite character that I’ve ever  written. Inside she’s hurting, and she’s unsure, and she feels things acutely, but she keeps up this hard exterior because that’s the only way she knows how to survive. She has this wordless fire burning in her all the time, driving her on even when the situation she’s in seems impossible. I love that about her.

 

 



bec2012_TNCharlotte is interviewed by Bec Stafford. Bec is currently completing her MA at the University of Queensland.

 

 

 

Celebrity_photographers_sydney_glamour_nudes_art_photography_SeductiveIn Fury, the population loses their ability to feel anger, thanks to a vaccine developed by their government. How did this concept take shape initially? If you could create a vaccine for anything at all, what would it be?

The concept for this book took a very long time to come to me. Initially, I wrote a story about a girl whose childhood trauma had caused her to believe that she was transforming into a monster. This idea was inspired by a true story I read of a poor man who had been through something so horrific that he actually believed he was a werewolf. It was such an interesting idea to me: that your mind could make you believe your body was physically morphing. But the character on her own didn’t feel big enough—it wasn’t engaging me on a large enough scale, the stakes weren’t high enough, and the story basically just felt too small. So I challenged myself to think about the world, and about Josephine, and it occurred to me that she was the type of person who lived completely in her emotions. She allowed them, good or bad, to fill her up and guide her. Which then made me question the world, and how it is now, and how frightened we are of extreme emotion. This led me to question: what if we continue this way? What if we get to a point where it’s easier for everyone if we just don’t feel so much? That seemed like a tragedy to me, but it gave birth to the world of Fury.

If I could create a vaccine for anything, it would be… Oh gosh, I don’t know! I can’t choose an emotion, or any element of a person’s behaviour, because that’s the entire point of my book! But maybe—disease? That’s a bit of a cop out. Everyone wants to vaccinate against disease. But that’s got to be it.

I read that the idea for your first adult novel, Avery, came to you in a dream. How important are dreams to you and your work? Do you keep a journal by the bed so you can jot down flashes of inspiration that strike you as you wake?

I actually don’t keep a dream journal. I dream very weird and strange things—I often have really epic adventure dreams (the other night I dreamt I was surviving in a zombie apocalypse and it was awesome)—but I don’t write them down, which is a bit stupid, I suppose. I guess I let them inspire me, and keep my mind working on a big, exciting level. They’re exercise for me, practice for storytelling. It’s unusual that I will want to use anything from my dreams—I mostly find them either too disturbing or too garbled or too boring. But the morning I woke up to the idea of Avery (I had dreamt, in incredible detail, the scene that is now the prologue of the book) I knew I had to turn it into a novel and immediately sat down to start writing it.

 mcconaghy_Fury_coverAs its title suggests, Fury deals with anger. Josephine, your central character, is consumed by her fury. What did you do to get yourself in the mood to write from that perspective? Did you listen to certain music, or surround yourself with particular imagery, for example?

I did both of those things! Music is extremely important to me when writing. It really controls my mood. If I’m writing a happy scene I’ll have to have something lively on, but if it accidentally switches to something moody and melancholy, there’s goes the tone of the scene—my characters will be struck by an overwhelming shift in their moods. I let this happen though, because I feel like that’s the natural state of human emotions. They’re ever-changing, morphing and completely unpredictable. We feel a million things at once, more often than not. And we never have any idea what’s going to shift our mood from one minute to the next. Happiness is the lick of an ice-cream or the glimpse of a beautiful bird flying overhead. It’s not a permanent state, just as no emotion is—particularly not fury.

So Josephine’s anger was a complicated thing to try and shape. I definitely listened to moody music when writing her scenes. And I tried an exercise I learnt in my screenwriting degree, which was to gather images and put them into a slide show to a piece of music—this was called a character overture. It allows you to sink into your character in a really tactile way. You start finding peculiar and abstract ideas that shed light on the pieces you never glimpsed. When I started to gather these images that represented Josi’s state of mind, or her inner turmoil, I discovered that her anger was sustainable because it was coming from a very simple place: she was lonely. And that’s what this book is really about. Despite appearances, it’s not about fury. It’s about loneliness. 

Which of your fictional characters Burns Brightest in your mind and why?

Well, it may just be because I’ve recently edited and released Fury, or because I’m currently writing its sequel, but I have to say that both Josephine and Luke from The Cure series are extremely forefront in my mind right now. They’re both flawed in very different ways, struggle to keep their heads above water a lot of the time, but are both really determined to see the beauty and the humour in their bleak world. I like that Josephine has a photographic memory, as this is something that has always intrigued me. Luke, as I am, is synaesthetic, so that was a fun thing to write into his head. I like the dynamic they have together—for me that’s the most important thing in the series, as I’m all about writing relationships.

I have another character from an unpublished novel whose name is Henry. He’s a very damaged abalone diver responsible for his little brother’s death at sea, and he often pops into my head as a really important character for me. Perhaps it’s the burden he carries every day. The way his guilt has shifted into cruelty. His rabid need to be the biggest, the strongest, the bravest—when in fact he’s still a scared little boy inside.

It sounds odd, but I never feel like I’ve made any of them up. They really, truly feel like real people who have passed through my life and I’ve been able to spy on them in their lives. That sounds a bit creepy when I say it out loud! Maybe that’s what writers are—voyeurs. 

Fury is available now from Momentum Books

Charlotte’s Bio:

Charlotte grew up with her nose in a book and her head in the clouds. At fourteen, her English teacher told her that the short story she’d submitted was wildly romantic, so she decided to write a novel. Thus began her foray into epic fantasy and dystopian sci-fi, with sweeping romances, heroic adventures, and as much juicy drama as she could possibly squeeze in.

 Her first novel, Arrival, was published at age seventeen, and was followed by Descent, which launched The Strangers of Paragor series, an adventure fantasy for teenagers.

 She then wrote her first adult fantasy novel, Avery, the prologue of which came to her in a very vivid dream. Her second adult novel, Fury, is the first in a romantic science-fiction series called The Cure, set in a dystopian future.

 Charlotte currently lives in Sydney, having just finished a Masters in Screenwriting from the Australian Film, Television & Radio School. With her television pilot script, she won the Australian Writer’s Guild Award for Best Unproduced Screenplay of 2013. She will, however, always be a novelist at heart, still unable to get her nose out of the books.



bec2012_TNBec Stafford interviews Lynette Lounsbury.

 

 

Lynette Lounsbury

 

Bec: Dominic Mathers is your central character in Afterworld. Can you tell us a bit about him and the Trials he faces in the Necropolis? How long did it take you to write Afterworld?

LL: Dom is a guy who is really uncomfortable with his place in the world – he feels out of place in his skin, in his family and in his country. His family lives in India and he doesn’t know how to deal with the poverty he sees there. He is quite depressive and would be happy never to draw attention to himself. I thought it would be interesting to follow this sort of person into the afterlife – it takes death to make him realise that life is actually quite an amazing thing. The Trials are something I adapted from Roman history – the idea of taking pleasure from wielding a huge amount of power over others suited the Nephilim, particularly Satarial who was incredibly angry with the humans. In the beginning, it was a place to train and prepare, but as people became more listless and “stuck” he turned the Trials into a way to torture and “collect” humans.

It took me nearly two years to write Afterworld – I was writing around having a baby boy who demanded a lot of time – but it was also a complex story and there were periods of time where I just needed to think it through.

Lounsbury_AfterworldBec: Afterworld features a nasty Nephilim, Satarial, and I’ve read that you lecture in ancient history, as well as creative writing. Do you find that the former often informs the latter? Can you talk to us a bit about Satarial and how his character developed?

LL: My love of ancient history definitely influences my writing. I love mythology especially – the stories that people believe and which define their cultures.

The Nephilim are mentioned in quite a few ancient traditions. Sometimes they are called “The Watchers” and other times “Giants” – and in the Bible it mentions that they were the children of Angels and human women.

Satarial is the name of one who is recorded in a Jewish manuscript called The Book of Enoch. Since the first part of the name means “adversary” but the whole name means “on the side of God” I thought he must have been a very interesting and complicated being.

Most religions also have a flood myth – from the Mesopotamians to Indigenous Australians – and so I put the two together. I found Satarial’s motivation in the fact that humans (in this case Noah) allowed his people to die in the flood. It’s just a case of me reading these ancient stories and imagining the human face behind them.

Bec: You grew up in Papua New Guinea, are the editor of Ytraveler.com, and each year you volunteer in the South Pacific on behalf of an Australian aid organisation. How do your travel adventures influence your writing, and do you like to write while you’re in transit and abroad?

LL: Travel influences everything I do. Growing up in PNG meant we had very close contact with magic and witchcraft and people who both practised and completely believed in it. I remember some locals bringing a little owl to our house once when I was about 6 and they were talking about how it was evil and carried spirits in it. It as actually just a very cute little bird, but I can still remember that the locals really believed it was evil, and that was all that mattered. I was heavily influenced by this idea that our beliefs control us.

 Travel has made me very aware of the “serious” side of the world. Which sounds a little bleak – and I don’t mean I like that. I just know from experience that the world is fragile and that for a lot of people it is a difficult journey.

I write a lot when I am overseas. I just feel more open and inspired when I don’t have “everyday” life to worry about. And I like warm weather – hot even – I’ll write anywhere if its hot. 

Lynette Lounsbury

 

BecWhich of your fictional characters Burns Brightest in your mind and why?

LL: Eduardo definitely burns brightest in my mind. This is a being who has been waiting for thousands of years for the love of his life and is committed to continue waiting. He’s not happy about it, he is not enjoying it – but he won’t give up. And at the same time, he is not so jaded that he doesn’t see something valuable in Dom. He invests time, energy and eventually love and loyalty into Dom and because he is willing to give like that, he  opens himself up to the possibility of letting go. When he lets go – he ends up finding what he was looking for.

 



bec2012_TNBec Stafford interviews Bundaberg writer and newly minted novelist Cheryse Durant.

 

 

 

Cheryse Durrant head shot winter blouseBec:  Congrats on the recent launch of The Blood She Betrayed in Brisbane! What does it feel like to send your ‘baby’ out into the big, wide world? Would you share some of your fears and hopes?

Cherie: How does it feel? Like unsheathing my sword for my first-ever battle and discovering my blade’s been changed to rubber – I can either dash off the battlefield and hide behind the geraniums, or stay and face the critics. Fortunately, I’ve been buoyed by some fabulous reviews and gorgeous fan mail since The Blood She Betrayed was published. Readers have written to me and told me how much they’ve loved my characters and storyline. One reader has even begged me to write a new Heart Hunters novel every week (I wish! It takes months and months to put a story like this together – for me, at least).

As a newly published author, I wanted to spin a book that touched people’s hearts. I’m hoping I did that. My second hope is that people will read and share my book and give it the chance to become known not just in my neck of the woods, but around the world.

 My biggest fear? Will I be able to write future Heart Hunters novels that resonate with the same magic as the first? My second novel, The Ghost She Killed, is due at my Publisher by March so once my author tour is over, I’ll be typing my little fingers to the bone to get the manuscript finished. For me, writing is therapy. There are all these images and conversations exploding inside my head and I need to pour them out onto. The hard work is making sense of all the characters and plot arcs and shaping it into a story that deserves to be read by readers. Readers are, after all, very discerning :)

 

Bec: The Blood She Betrayed is Book 1 in the Heart Hunters series. Can you tell us a bit about your gutsy heroine, the half-Taloner Shahkara, and your plans for Book 2, The Ghost She Killed?

Cherie: Seventeen-year-old Shahkara is a warrior princess from another world who comes to Brisbane, Earth, to find an ancient artefact, the Elnara, which can wipe out the heart-devouring Taloner demons plaguing her kingdom. As she arrives on earth, she manages to save the life of Max, brooding, directionless son of the enigmatic billionaire Liam McCalden. Max discovers that Taloners are trying to kill him and Shahkara discovers she needs an Earthern guide so they team up to find the Elnara together. The only problem: Shahkara’s hiding a deadly secret of her own. She’s half-Taloner. This gives her enhanced strength and sensory perceptions, but it also means she shares the same dark heart-lust and fears getting too close to Max in case she rips out his heart. You can watch the book trailer here:

 

Shahkara evolved from an image that flitted through my head – one of a warrior princess with gritty determination and fighter’s heart. I knew that, for her, I needed to create a story where the stakes were high and the sacrifices great. The Blood She Betrayed is a story of life and death, good and evil and an apocalypse that needs to be thwarted… within three days.

 Shahkara’s not a brilliant swordswoman or magician or mathematician, but she knows how to hold her own at court. Stripped of royal title, she becomes a stranger in a strange land, fearful of relying on anyone, but determined to forge her way through the murky, technologically-driven Earthlands so she can save her people. She’s every young woman I know, facing challenging circumstances with no easy answers. We may not be saving the world, but we use our courage, compassion and smarts to wade through the mire, whether it’s an overdue assignment or a dying friend with cancer.

The Ghost She Killed is the second novel in my Heart Hunters series. Without giving away an spoilers, I can say that it has a lot more action and adventures for my main characters. A chunk of the book is set in a huge, hotel/casino in the heart of Brisbane, inspired by a stay at Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, a few years ago. There are also new threats, new demons, new ancient artefacts and a lot more magic.

Durant_BloodBec:  You’ve just chaired a panel at GenreCon 2013 in Brisbane. Authors are famously pretty introverted creatures. Do you get the jitters, or are you confident when it comes to public appearances? What advice would you give first-time panel members?

Cherie: As a child, I was quite shy around strangers. I was more comfortable making friends with books than real-life people – but real-life people are so fascinating! Since my late teens, I’ve learnt to overcome my nerves and step out of my comfort zone so I can talk to strangers.

Some people say imagining their audience naked helps overcome their fears. I’ve never remembered to do that, but I also think it probably wouldn’t work for me – it’d just freak me out!

My advice for first-time panel members:

  1. Know your subject but don’t feel nervous about any areas that aren’t your expertise – that’s why there’s a panel.
  2. Write the three or four most important areas of discussion in short, sharp bullet points on a palm-sized piece of cardboard – so you don’t forget to bring these subjects up.
  3. Imagine you’re only talking to the panel – that the audience doesn’t exist.
  4. If you’re asked a question that you really can’t answer, say: “That’s an interesting question. Panel member B, how would you answer this?”
  5. Remember to breathe! :)

Bec: You come from a strong writing community in Bundaberg. Can you tell us what’s happening up there?

Cherie: Bundaberg has a vibrant writing and arts community and one of the best libraries that you can find down under. Bundy writers are particularly proud of our annual one-day WriteFest in May each year, which brings authors/presenters from across Australia together to deliver cutting-edge info on craft and publishing. We attract attendees from as far away as the northern tip of Queensland and the far south of New South Wales. It’s a warm and close-knit gathering and gives writers like myself the chance to learn heaps – and pitch to top Australian publishers, including Hachette, Random House and HarperCollins. Speakers at next year’s event include international best-selling author Kathryn Fox, children’s picture book author/illustrator Jacque Duffy and industry stalwart Jo Butler who will present a masterclass on fitting your book into the changing shape of Australian publishing. Details will soon be available via bundywriters.com

 

 Bec: Where would you like to be as a writer in ten years’ time?

Cherie: My ultimate goal is to write full-time – and to find beautiful friends/fans who help spread the word about my stories to others. I write to unleash the characters and stories cluttering my mind. I can do that anywhere, anytime, but I often feel stretched because I’m trying to juggle work, writing, family life and community. My dream is to earn a full-time living from my fiction writing and if I could do that within the next decade, that would be fabulous. I have some amazing stories that I want to share with the world. Watch this space.

 

Cherie’s Bio:

Dead fingers curled around an ancient crypt and a love of Celtic mythology were the two inspirations behind Cheryse Durrant’s The Blood She Betrayed, the first novel in her Young Adult Urban Fantasy  Heart Hunters series, published by Clan Destine Press. Durrant grew up on a small farm outside Roma where she chatted to scrub faeries and imaginary friends, including a superhero. She wrote her first story on her aunt’s bedroom wall when she was roughly four, but it failed to attract literary acclaim. She worked as a journalist for 15 years before trading her soul for fiction. The coffee/chocolate/strawberry addict now lives at Bargara on the central Queensland coast where she teaches writing through Creative Dragons (www.creativedragons.com.au) and is an avid WriteFest (www.bundywriters.com) fan.

Social media links:

Website  www.cherysedurrant.com

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/CheryseDurrant

Twitter  @CheryseDurrant

GoodReads http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7166832.Cheryse_Durrant

 



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