bec2012_TNBec Stafford interviews Garth Nix about Clariel for the Escape Club.

 

Garth 2014Set approximately 600 years before the birth of Sabriel, Clariel is the highly anticipated prequel to the first book of your Old Kingdom trilogy. What’s it like writing a prequel, and what have been some of your favourites from literary history?

A prequel often gives you more freedom than a sequel, particularly if you set it far enough back that any difference in the world or setting can be explained by the passage of time. An interesting thing for me was having to go back and re-read my earlier novels and notes, and I discovered I had forgotten a great deal, but I had also set up things I needed without ever knowing that I would. The mystery of the writing subconscious . . .

As for favourite prequels, the only one I can immediately think of is The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis, which in a personal ordering of the Narnia novels would be near the top. Apart from that, few spring to mind!

Clariel explores both sorcery and magic. Can you tell us a bit about Clariel’s hidden powers? And have those themes always intrigued you?

The Old Kingdom books are in general heavily about Charter magic, ordered and structured magic cast by visualising and drawing upon symbols that define and describe the universe; and Free magic, a raw sorcery that is directed by will alone. In CLARIEL, I have gone more into the nature of Free Magic and Free Magic entities, exploring this aspect of the world in greater detail. I have always been interested in myth, legend, belief and superstition; all those things are basic building blocks for a fantasy writer to develop magic. I guess I have always been interested in the use, misuse, and cost of power in general, magic being a subset of this.

Nix_ClarielYou’re heading off on a long book tour of the U.S and U.K this month. What do you like most about book tours, and can you share some funny and/or interesting anecdotes from your past experiences?

The best parts are the events themselves, visiting bookshops, meeting the staff, meeting readers. Even after all this time I still find it kind of amazing that real people read my books! What’s not to like about talking about books (not necessarily my own) with other booklovers?

The worst parts are the travelling. I’d love to be able to open a door at the back of one bookshop and step out in front of the next bookshop halfway across the world. Like all authors who have been in the business a long time, I have done my share of mortifying book events, where there are few people, the books aren’t there or other things go wrong.

And then there are the travel complications, like arriving at midnight in a snowstorm to be told by the hotel clerk that “We have your reservations, which were and are confirmed, but we have no rooms.” I left the publicist to sort out that metaphysical conundrum and fell asleep in the lobby. Eventually, a half-painted room with the painter’s ladder still in there was found. By that stage I didn’t care!

You’ve answered this question before, but we wonder if it’s changed: Which of your fictional characters Burns Brightest in your mind and why?

The character that is burning brightest right at this moment is Lady Godiva because I am finishing an overdue story for the anthology CRANKY LADIES OF HISTORY where she is the main character, and I have only left writing that to answer these questions and in a few minutes I will go back. Of course, she is not exactly the character from the well-known legend . . .



bec2012_TNBec Stafford interviews Paul Weston as part of her HAZE book tour.

 

 

paula-weston1. The last time we spoke with you, you’d just released book 1 of The Rephaim, Shadows. Can you tell us a bit about the journey so far and what we can expect from book 2, Haze?

Of course – and thanks for having me again. I don’t want to give too much away, but I can tell you that Haze has a couple of fairly significant plot developments from a series perspective. It picks up a few days after the end of Shadows, and a few things happen early on that set Gaby on a collision course with the Outcasts.

This instalment is primarily driven by Gaby’s search for her brother, Jude, but it also focuses on her own soul-searching about who she used to be, and what that means for who she is now – and how that affects her relationships with everyone else.

She learns more about the Outcasts, and she and Rafa discover a new threat that changes everything for the Rephaim. There are more twists, more swordfights and more heated moments between Gaby and Rafa (romantic and antagonistic!). And you might have heard there’s a bit of a cliffhanger…

 

weston_haze2.   Paula, The Rephaim series includes a number of supernatural creatures, including (half) angels and demons! If you could be any of these creatures for a day, which would you choose and why?

Out of that choice, I’d have to say I’d choose to be one of the Rephaim (half angel). Mostly because of their ability to ‘shift’ (be anywhere in the world in the blink of an eye), which would make travelling so much easier and less expensive! They can also look after themselves in a fight. The downside is the whole ‘why do we exist’ dilemma, and the possibility that they have to fulfill some epic destiny to atone for the sins of their fathers.

 


3. You’ve told us how much you enjoyed creating Rafa’s character and how much fun he’s been to write. Well, we know what a huge hit he’s been with your female fans, in particular. Why do you think he’s so appealing, and did you base him on anyone from reality?

Ha – no, he’s not based on anyone in reality. I’d like to think Rafa appeals to readers because there are a few layers to him, and he shows different sides of himself with each book. I wanted to introduce him as a typical bad boy/smartass and then peel back the layers to show why he acts and reacts the way he does. Yes he can be a bit of a dick at times, but there are reasons why he responds to Gaby so erratically. He has a long and complicated history with her but because she doesn’t remember it, she treats him differently, which confuses the hell out of him. I like keeping him off balance. I also like the fact he’s a brutally efficient fighter, because it makes it interesting when he can’t solve a problem with his fists or a sword. Over the four books of the series, his growth curve is almost as big as Gaby’s.

 

4. Which of your fictional characters Burns Brightest in your mind and why? (We’ve asked you this one before, and you said it was Rafa. Has that changed? If not, who’s next in line?)

Rafa is still fun to write (as are all the characters, actually), but now that I’m deeper into the series I can’t escape that Gaby definitely burns brightest for me. It’s not just that I’m viewing the world and the story through her eyes – it’s also because so many of her questions and reactions reflect my own.

Thanks for the great questions!



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.



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