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Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

It is my great pleasure to interview, Debbie Phillips, the president of the Australian Romance Readers Association (ARRA) one of the most organised and efficient organisations I have ever dealt with. They run a biennial conference for readers (with writers) of romance, as well as the annual romance reader awards, surveys of romance readers, signing events, author high teas, local area romance reader lunches and the list goes on. They are awesome. So if you like reading romance you should consider signing up to be a member. It’s a modest fee. And if your fancy goes to meeting other romance readers then you should head to Melbourne in February 2017!!

I was curious about the origins of the organisation so I asked Debbie to answer a few questions.

So, Debbie, how did the Australian Romance Readers Association start and when?

ARRA was established in 2007 to organise the first Australian Romance Readers Convention. That was our sole purpose at the time. Since then we have incorporated the association and have added other events to our activities.

It all started with a discussion on an online loop, where Maggie Nash suggested Australia should have its own romance readers convention. Other members of the loop thought that was a great idea and we set up an expression of interest form and set it out through our various networks. Then came the amazing moment when we received an email from Sherrilyn Kenyon saying she’d heard about the idea and could she come. (Umm, yes!) After that there was no turning back.

How long did it take for your membership levels to reach a critical mass?

Not long at all. We started out with just 16 members—the committee organising ARRC09—and by the end of 2009 we had over 120 members. Our membership today sits at 341. (Donna: OMG! that’s so many. So Fab)

Why is the Australian Romance Readers Association important to readers of romance? What does being a member do?

Other than the obvious benefit of the events we host each year, ARRA also provides a place where readers can find other readers (and authors) who share their interests. We have an online members loop where we chat throughout the month about what we are reading; we have a monthly newsletter that is jam-packed with articles and news about romance fiction; we have an active blog with regular articles from authors and publishers, with giveaways as well. We also have active groups on social media.

Being a member of ARRA means you are supporting that community. We have taken the $20 membership fees from our members and turned them into an enormous enterprise that is getting attention from around the world.

In addition to the biennial conventions we host a signing each August in conjunction with the Romance Writers of Australia conference. Taking advantage of the opportunity presented by so many authors in one place has meant we can keep costs low and offer a unique opportunity for local readers to come along and meet authors and get books signed.

We have also hosted special events with authors like Julia Quinn, Karen Rose and Maya Banks when they visited Australia. Being able to do that is something really special for both readers and authors.

What made ARRA decide to run biennial conferences? What is special about these conferences?

With the growth of online communities and social media Australian romance readers were able to see all the fun readers have at the RT conventions in the United States. For most readers a trip to RT was something they would probably never be able to afford. So we decided to establish our own convention here in Australia. We move it around the country to make it more accessible to readers.

They’re special because they’re total immersion in romance fiction for an entire weekend. You get to meet and chat with authors and readers for two whole days (longer if you come to some of the optional social events). And even better, it is a judgment-free zone! Everyone there gets your obsession with reading romance and you will not see a single eye roll.

Where have these conferences been? Can you give me some highlights of the guests you have had?

We have had the most amazing guests!

The first convention in 2009 was held in Melbourne. Keynote speakers were Stephanie Laurens, Sherrilyn Kenyon, MaryJanice Davidson, Dianna Love, Susan Grant and Liz Maverick. (All these speakers very generously paid their own expenses, so we could afford to have six keynotes!) There were also another 40 authors at the convention.

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Sherrilyn Kenyon (L) and Dianna Love (R) with reader Lami, ARRC09

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Back row: MaryJanice Davidson, Liz Maverick and Susan Grant; Front row: readers Pamela, Carrie and Sarah, ARRC09

The next convention was ARRC2011, held in Bondi. Our keynotes were Anna Campbell, Nalini Singh and Cindy Gerard. There were another 40 authors in attendance as well.

In 2013 we hosted the convention in Brisbane, and keynotes were Anne Gracie, Kristan Higgins and Rachel Vincent. Our author numbers had jumped to 60 by then.

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Nalini Singh, Anne Gracie, reader Willy and Keri Arthur, ARRC2011

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Kristan Higgins, Rachel Vincent and Anne Gracie, ARRC2013

Last year we hosted ARRC2015 in Canberra. Our keynotes were Helene Young, Sylvia Day, Victoria Dahl and Kelley Armstrong. There were an additional 90 authors at the event, our biggest yet.

How do you decide who to invite as keynotes?

We ask our members who they would love to meet and then we compile a list and make our way down it. For every convention we are in contact with probably a dozen authors before we lock in our keynotes. All the authors we speak to are excited at the thought of coming to Australia to meet their readers, but unfortunately for some it just isn’t possible at that particular time. Authors are busy people! The list of authors who have regretfully declined our invitation is just as start-studded as the authors who have been at our conventions!

ARRA also gives out readers awards. When did these start? Are they well received?

The first awards were held at ARRC09. We hadn’t planned them at first, but when we saw the enthusiastic reaction to the convention we decided to establish the awards. Authors and readers alike love them. We hold them each year. In convention years the awards dinner is part of the convention. In the off-convention years we hold the awards dinner as a standalone event in Sydney.

2009-award-winners

Inaugural award winners: Anna Campbell, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Melanie Milburne and Stephanie Laurens, ARRC09

Can you tell me a bit about the conference coming up in Melbourne? I understand you have a guest coming via Skype!

Next year ARRC2017 will be back in Melbourne, and our keynotes will be Kylie Scott, Courtney Milan and Kristen Callihan. And of course there will be some 80 romance authors from around Australia.

Yes, we are thrilled to say Thea Harrison will be joining us for a Q&A. She had accepted our invitation to be a keynote speaker, but then realised that her health would preclude the very long trip to Australia. That’s when we decided to try a Skype session for the first time. If it goes well that will really open up the possibilities for the next convention.

If anyone is interested in more information on the convention, they can find it here. There’s a link to buy tickets as well.

What is included in the conference fee?

The conference fee includes entry to all the sessions over the weekend. Delegates can choose from a number of panel sessions throughout the weekend (see the program here). It includes morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea on both Saturday and Sunday. There will also be a special screening of the documentary Love Between the Covers, speed dating sessions, the chance for a special morning tea with an author host, an epic signing event, and of course our keynote speakers. Another highlight will be out gold tickets, which 21 lucky readers will find in their goodies bag when they register; these tickets entitle them to a private lunch with one of the keynotes.

In addition to that, there are a number of optional social events over the weekend that are ticketed separately. Readers can meet authors ahead of the convention at a High Tea on the Friday, or join us for the wind-down lunch cruise on the Monday. On Friday night there are welcome cocktails, followed by a trivia night, complete with popcorn and ice cream. On Saturday night they can join us at the fabulous awards dinner.

Are readers able to meet authors at the convention as well as hang with other romance readers?

Yes! Throughout the weekend readers have the chance to meet and chat with all the authors. Whether mingling at the cocktail reception or enjoying the awards dinner, you could well be sharing the evening with your favourite authors. During the day you can sit in on the panel sessions, chat with authors and readers during tea breaks, chat one-on-one with authors at the speed dating sessions, and then catch up with them at the signing as well. The whole weekend is about authors and readers hanging out and chatting!

Do you have any tips for romance readers and writers on how to meet?

Don’t be shy! Everyone there loves romance fiction just as much as you do, and they can’t wait to talk to someone about their favourite authors and books. (In fact, some of the authors are just as shy as some readers, and they are all absolutely lovely! So don’t be intimidated.) All it takes is “What are you reading at the moment?” to get a conversation started.arrc2017-banner_700

 

You can find ARRA here: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Thank you Debbie! Your answers were great. I had no idea all that was going on in the background. I’ll be there in February, but now I’m thinking after conference cruise? Why not?

 

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Organising this blog tour took a lot of work but it  has been fun and interesting to boot. Many thanks to my generous hosts and for the ideas, questions and interesting topics to discuss.

The blog tour starts tomorrow 16 December, 2015.

Why am I doing a blog tour?

My dark fantasy novel, Dragon Wine Book 1: Shatterwing, is free on promotion during December and into January. Doing a blog tour is supposed to help me get the word out and I thought I’d also have a give away of the print version for people who leave comments. Leaving a comment on this post lets you enter the giveaway too.

Also, Dragon Wine Book 2: Skywatcher is available for purchase.

Dragonwine

Dragon Wine Series

Here is a link to the Momentum Books website where you can get your free copy. It has links to all the retailers there too.

Here.

This is a schedule of the blog tour and the topics/interviews etc. I’ll be popping back to leave the links as they come up.

Amanda Bridgeman 16 December
Alan Baxter 17 December
Matthew Summers 18 December
Alis Franklin 19 December
Matthew Farrer 20 December
CSFG interview with Ian McHugh 21 December
Liz Munro 22 December
Glenda Larke 23 December
David McDonald 24 December
Christmas post by me 25 December
Keith Stevenson 26 December
Chris Andrews 27 December
Joanne Anderton 28 December
Patty Jansen 29 December
Leife Shallcross. 30 December
Dawn Meredith 31 December
New year post by me 1 January
Magie Mundy 2 January
Kim Cleary 3 January
Allan Walsh 4 January

Also, Scott Robinson has included an article by me on writing in his newsletter.

Because I wasn’t able to undo the cut and paste on that list, I don’t have room to put the topics so I’m going to give you a few hints and you’ll have to look for the ones that interest you. Some maybe obvious! Like The Dweeb and the Dweebette interview. I also have articles on writing romance in speculative fiction, research habits, an in depth interview about Dragon Wine (totally cool), I have interviews about what I gave up to write, my darkest hour, world building, about my choices in writing versus a well-paying career and my dark past. I also did an article on what makes dark fantasy dark, five things I’d tell the younger writer me, work life balance and how reading helps your writing. Phew! Now wonder I haven’t been near my manuscript since 30 November!

I hope you will check out some of the posts. If you don’t have a copy of Shatterwing and you like dark, nasty fantasy then please help yourself to a free copy. If you liked Shatterwing then please spread the word!  Leave a comment if you want to be in the draw for a print version of the book.

And there is more the story.

And now my not so official photo!

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Me in my not author shot

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Gillian Polack is the author of many things fiction and non-fiction. She’s also a medieval historian, food history guru and a science fiction PHD, her second! I’m probably not doing her justice.

Anyway, I have Gillian here on my blog today to talk about her fab new book (Co-authored with Katrin Kania): The Middle Ages Unlocked- A guide to life in medieval England, 1050-1300.

Gillian and KatrinThis book is a fab resource for writers who want to write about medieval societies and for lovers of history.

How did you come up with the concept for the book?

I didn’t come up with the concept: my friends did. A group of people on a now-defunct email list said “We so need a book that tells us about the Middle Ages in an easy-to-read way that’s properly researched and can be used by writers.”  The friends were from the UK and US and Canada and Australia. Some of them were writers. Some of them were tired of writers not quite understanding things. They got me involved…

How did you two authors find each other?

In a pub! Seriously, we were introduced to each other by Shana Worthen at the big Medieval Congress in Leeds in 2011. It was an international conference, but it was one for Medievalists, and it always has at least one pub. For the record, I was drinking a rather nice English cider. Shana knew about the Beast and I asked her if she wanted to see it. I whipped out my trusty netbook and Katrin read over her shoulder and somehow ended up being drawn into being co-author! Since then, I have taken to carrying all my work with me, everywhere, just in case I meet someone who needs to share it.

Did it take a long time to develop the scope of the book?

It took years and years. Because writers and the general public said “We need this book” I had a good general concept about what kind of topic would be covered and that the approach needed to be easy to read but go into as much depth as was possible in a general work. We (the various people involved at different stages) played with several approaches and a wide range of subjects. Tamara Mazzei still has a timeline she developed for an earlier iteration, for instance, and I still have a list of plants and their uses. A couple of writer friends tested beta versions for their fiction and I could tell how effective different elements were by how they wrote and what further questions they need to ask. By the time Katrin came on board the topics were mostly settled but it covered both France and England. It focussed on England quite late, because it was a better fit for British publishers, but we refined approaches to the bitter end. The Middle Ages Unlocked wasn’t easy, but it was most definitely worth the effort, as I’ve already seen it being read and used by those same people who asked for it, all those years ago.

How long did it take from the concept to completion?

About fifteen years, all up. I’m still surprised when I see it in bookshops, because it’s had the longest development and most work of any of my books. Given how prone I am to research, this is worrying.

At 384 pages it looks to be quite an undertaking! Did you have to  leave stuff out?

We left out more than we put in.  Several times the amount that went in, in fact. The perfect version (from my point of view) would have been enormous. We followed our publisher’s guidelines, however, for those guidelines were there with much good reason behind them, and we wrote the best possible work that was actually publishable.

How did you go about finding a publisher?

We approached publishers that we had contacts with and that were a really good fit for our project. One of them suggested Amberley, for they felt that Amberley was an even better fit than they were: if ever I meet that editor I will buy her a drink, for she was both generous and correct.

I  notice a lot of writers gave you cover quotes. Do you see the book as a resource for writers only? Did all that bad fantasy drive you to spend years of your life developing this book?

It was first designed for writers, but it’s grown to be a volume that’s for the general public. And bad fantasy had nothing to do with it! I’ve taught history to writers for two decades and so it was quite natural for writers to say to me “Why don’t you pull together a book that presents this to a wider audience?” This means the demand came from writers who wanted more, not writers who were lazy about their world-building. I find this very reassuring.

Initial S: The Lord Appearing to David in the Water; Bute Master (Franco-Flemish, active about 1260 - 1290); Northeastern (illuminated)  France Paris (written)  France; illumination about 1270 - 1280; written about 135 - 1375; Tempera colors, gold, and iron gall ink on parchment; Leaf: 17 x 11.9 cm (6 11/16 x 4 11/16 in.); Ms. 46, fol. 92

Initial S: The Lord Appearing to David in the Water; Bute Master (Franco-Flemish, active about 1260 – 1290); Northeastern (illuminated) France Paris (written) France; illumination about 1270 – 1280; written about 135 – 1375; Tempera colors, gold, and iron gall ink on parchment; Leaf: 17 x 11.9 cm (6 11/16 x 4 11/16 in.); Ms. 46, fol. 92

What was the favourite thing you did in this book?

I was really happy to pull together what was known about dance. I’d been meaning to do this for myself and the book gave me an excuse.

What was the hardest section for you? (I noticed at the Q&A you said there were areas where you had a lot of research and some was more general)

The hardest section as the one that dealt with all the bad things in society. It could have had a lot more detail, but neither Katrin nor I could deal with any more detail about people being hurt!
I guess there are things we will never know about the past.  How does that you make you feel as a historian?

Perfectly normal. Historians are always aware we can’t know everything: it’s part of the job description.  History is an interpretative discipline, not one where absolute knowledge is possible.

Do you have other historical projects in the pipe line or is it fiction for you from now on?

I’m nearly finished a book specifically about how writers use history in their fiction. it will be published next year. And I’m starting work on a novel set in the seventeenth century. I’ve already sifted through hundreds of primary sources (over 800) to sort out how I will  deal with various aspects, but the real work on it will hopefully take place next year. I’m also doing work on other peoples’ writing: there’s an article by me in the next issue of Foundation, for example.

Where can people buy the book?

In Australia, ask your local bookshop to get it in: since it’s only just been released here, most shops don’t know about it yet. Online, almost every shop stocks it. In the UK, try Blackwell’s or ask your local bookshop to get The Middle Ages Unlocked in. In the US, either online shops or wait until October, for it won’t be released in the US until then. If you can’t wait, online shops in the UK will sell it to you.

Easiest way is to buy from Book Depository Link here.

Gillian book cover
Thank you for visiting the blog today, Gillian. Mazel Tov!

Thank you for having me!

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I’m so happy to be able to bring this interview to you. I met CS Pacat at Supanova. We were on a panel together on our early lives as writers and I was fascinated with her story and I thought you would be too. Hers was a non-traditional story and she has had amazing success. Read on!cat

Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed on my blog today. I think your publication story is fascinating so I wanted to share it with others.

When did you first think about being a writer and what did you do?

As long as I can remember, I wanted to write books. I took creative writing classes, but if I’m being honest, they weren’t especially helpful, particularly when it came to teaching fundamental skills like plotting or character creation. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them for anything other than a place to meet other artists and form a support community, and a way to begin taking yourself seriously as a writer, “I commit to writing”. (A friend once described it brilliantly: In a cooking class, you are taught how to make a soufflé during the lesson. In a creative writing class you’re usually asked to make a soufflé at home without a recipe, then bring it in to class, and then everyone critiques the soufflé. But at no point does anyone ever actually teach you how to make a soufflé.)

What inspired you to write fanfic and when do you start writing original fiction?

I wrote fan fiction throughout my teens and into my early twenties, and I have an enormous respect for fandom as an artistic space. I think what drives the fanfiction writer is a desire to reclaim a text, to explore its themes, in a sense to make it your own. This can be powerful and important, particularly when those reclamations involve queering a heteronormative text, or the insertion of fantasies that until recently have not been given much expression in mainstream works, such as the power fantasies of teen girls. It’s a way of offering alternate narratives and diversifying what can sometimes feel like a narrative monoculture.

I started to write original fiction because I wanted to tell my own stories and to be able to craft the kinds of characters that I love. Captive Prince was my first complete original novel, but I did have a few false starts with original fiction before that, learning the skills that were different to fan fiction.

What made you publish for free on the web and then self-publish?

When I started to write Captive Prince there was nothing that was really like it in the mainstream commercial space. But I knew that online there was a vast community of readers and writers who were reading and creating online in part because they were seeking something that they weren’t finding on commercial bookshelves. It was also an incredibly accessible space with no barrier to entry, and so I started to write Captive Prince, and as I wrote, I posted each chapter to my fiction blog.

Captive Prince ran as a free web serial for several years before I decided to self publish the story. I did it mostly in response to requests from readers for a paperback copy of the books. It was really the support and enthusiasm of the online readership that gave me the confidence to take that step.

What did self-publishing feel like?

Equal parts rewarding and terrifying. There is a very steep learning curve, because as a self-publisher, if you want to produce a high quality book, you essentially have to teach yourself all of the skills, from typesetting to art direction to project management. You have to hire cover artists, editors and proofreaders, while learning how to use InDesign and create layouts for paperbacks, produce ebooks, and so on.

It felt scary to do at the time, but it was also incredibly empowering, because you’re learning everything you need to know about publishing, and it opens up new avenues and gives you control over your own writing.

Did big sales happen all at once or was it gradual? How much of that was due to your previous following from the web?

My online readers were incredibly enthusiastic and supportive, they wanted to buy the self published release, even having already read the free version. As a result of that, Captive Prince shot to the top of Amazon lists within a day or two of being released. It then took a few weeks for the generated word of mouth to spread and create buzz in places like Goodreads, and from there another week or two before the Captive Prince started to garner attention and reviews from mainstream review sites like Dear Author and USA Today. So, in a sense it happened in two “waves”, the first from my online readers, and a second when the book hit the mainstream market. Now that Captive Prince is being published by Penguin, it’s reaching a new audience again.

It must have been amazing to be contacted by an agent wanting to sell your work to a major publisher. Can you tell us a bit about that?

It was incredible, amazing, unbelievable. I was approached by a New York agent basically saying, “I’d like to represent you. I think we can sell your book to a big six publisher in New York.” I didn’t think it was possible but signed with her in the spirit of pure optimism. We ended up with two offers, the most robust of which was from Penguin. Now Captive Prince is being published in multiple countries and translated into multiple languages – it’s been an incredible year.

From your point of view, what are the advantages of self-publishing?

Having been through both processes, self publishing and commercial publishing, I remain a huge advocate for self publishing. I think it offers writers a way to produce a book that wholly represents their best vision of their work. You don’t have to rush or make artistic compromises due to deadlines. You can hire the designers and editors that you most want to work with, devote as much attention to your book as it needs. There are also financial advantages, in that your royalty percentage is much higher. Realistically, a commercial publisher will always be making commercial decisions, which are not always the best decisions for a book artistically.

Conversely, what are the advantages of having a major publisher behind you?

The biggest advantage of a major publisher is legitimacy. Although the perception is changing, there is still a stigma attached to self publishing. A major publisher opens so many doors, and dramatically expands the possibilities for a book, from getting it stocked in major bookstores, to garnering attention from mainstream press.

The other advantage is of course access to world class editorial, and the support of a team. I’ve worked with so many inspiring, talented people at Penguin. Allowing them to support the book frees you as the writer to just spend your time writing, which is a incredible privilege.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

I have two pieces of advice. The first is that to write a book, you have to transform yourself into the person who can write that book. So I’d say figure out what is preventing you from writing, whether it is time, procrastination, or problems with plotting, or coming up with ideas, then dedicate time to solving those problems, making the changes that you need to make.

The second piece of advice is to persevere. Writing a book is difficult and there will be a long period of time where you can’t do it, your writing isn’t working, and the book just isn’t a book yet. Everyone goes through this. And everyone I know who has persevered through this stage has emerged with a manuscript, then gone on to publish it. So hang in there: it will happen.

Blurb
Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the rightful heir to the throne of Akielos. But when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity, and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.

Beautiful, manipulative, and deadly, his new master, Prince Laurent, epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.

For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else…

CS Pacat - book cover - Captive Prince

You can find out more about CS Pacat on her website http://www.cspacat.com

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It is my pleasure to have Jane here today. When I first met Jane I was an aspiring writer with more zeal than talent or craft. Jane made an impression on me as an author who was happy to share her experience and was very gracious and friendly. Jane is a prior winner of the Aurealis Award for fantasy novel and remember thinking when we me met, wow, just wow. I managed to talk her into coming to Conflux in Canberra… maybe more than once.

Jane Routely

Jane Routley

Jane has provided some wonderful and insightful answers to the interview questions. Some of her habits I can totally relate to.

Your new novel is coming out. Can you tell us a bit about it?

In The Three Sisters, a woman warrior and a mage, who refuses to grow up, traverse an oppressed land in order find a kidnapped sister. Elena, the missing sister, has the curse of Fatal Beauty which means those who see her desire to own her. Unbeknowst to the sisters hidden powers are manipulating their destinies.

The Three Sisters was published some time ago by Harper Collins U.S. under a pseudonym. Clan Destine Press have been kind enough to bring it out as an ebook under my own name so that it can be read in Australia.

There is an unpublished sequel called The Melded Child which I very much hope Clan Destine will bring out in the next year or so.

Jane tell us a bit about yourself (where you live, how long you’ve been writing, previous publications etc)

I’m from Melbourne although I spent seven years in the 90’s living in Frankfurt and Copenhagen. I was a trailing spouse when I lived in Europe so I started writing then. I’d always wanted to be a writer so I figured it was time stop making excuses and knuckle down. I’ve published 4 novels and a number of short stories. Two of the Dion Chronicles won Aurealis Awards for the best fantasy novel in the year they came out.

Print edition from Ticonderoga Publications through Indie Books Online and

Ebook edition.

I had a big slump in the early naughties. Changes in the publishing world made it very difficult for a while and I completely lost my confidence. I never stopped writing but I’m back to finishing things for publication again.

Jane what do you find so attractive about the fantasy genre? In what ways do you find it fulfilling?

I’ve always loved history but I find historical fiction a bit limiting. You’re stuck with an already set out world and if your characters are well known to history you know how they’re going to end up. I’m interesting in travelling in new worlds. At the moment I’m interested in exploring a world in which wealth is passed down through the female line, which is does happen in our world too, but not on a state level. I thought it hadn’t been explored enough in fantasy. I’ve also always loved fairy tales – the sense of wonder that comes from magic. You can do that in fantasy. I do like the way people like Kate Forsyth are combining history and fantasy in books like Bitter Greens.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on “Shadow in the Empire of Light” at the moment. “Shadow” is about an orphan without magical gifts in a powerful family of mages stuck in the country managing the family estates with only an eccentric aunt and a telepathic cat for company. It’s about her breaking out to find her own way in the world.

What is your writing process? (planner, panster, write every day, write sporadically, writers block etc).

As a writer I’m more of a panster than a planner. I know what I’m interested in writing about and I usually have some idea of where I want to go, but I never have much idea of how I’m going to get there. Every book I start I try to be more of a planner. It must save so much time and angst. I always get to a point where the book goes dead and I’ve learned that that’s because I’m trying to make the characters do something that doesn’t work. Gee it’s miserable when it happens. I wish I didn’t have to go through it. On the other hand I get bored easily, so perhaps it’s best if I don’t know how things are going to go.

As a panster, I know I write stories and books to see what’s going to happen if… What if a woman was irresistibly beautiful as Elena is in The Three Sisters. What is it like to colonized? This is a big theme in Australia History. So I set up these conditions, invent these characters and just keep asking what if… until I get closer and closer to the story that feels right for me. It’s a bit like being an archaeologist or painting an oil painting.

I try to write most days for at least an hour, two preferably. I work part time so it makes that easier. I don’t wait for inspiration. I just sit down at the computer and stay there until my time is up. If I can’t write I sit there and feel bored. Sometimes I get stuck but even then I sit down. I’ve never had writers block really badly though I have had some really miserable times sitting at my desk. If I can’t think of anything to write I write in my diary (usually a sadly neglected file)

Elizabeth Jolley once said that one way to avoid getting stuck was to leave the previous day’s work slightly unfinished so that you’ve got something to go on with when you sit down next. I find that always works for me.

What part of writing do you find hardest?

Despite the fact that I’ve set up my life to be a writer, I still find sitting down to do it the hardest thing of all. Almost anything is easier than writing. There are still those little voices in my head saying that I’m wasting my time and that nobody wants to read this stuff. I’m very achievement orientated and signs of achievement come very slowly when you’re a writer.

There’s much more instant gratification to be had from doing the garden or having morning coffee with friends or watching eight hours of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And much more fun chatting on social media. That why I make myself sit down for a couple of hours on a computer that’s not on-line (yes such things do exist.) Otherwise I probably wouldn’t write at all and I’d get very down and grumpy and not know why. I regularly need to remind myself that if it makes you happy, it’s worth doing even if nobody else thinks it’s worthwhile. But I write to be read which is why I finish things.

What do you prefer, drafting the story or revising and reworking?

I find the drafting really really hard work and as I said earlier I sometimes get stuck. Plotting is the hardest part of a story. I really enjoy the reworking and the revising because you have the certainty of knowing where you’re going and you have the pleasure of adding texture to the world that can really make it sparkle. I actually go through each novel three times at least. Once to do a very detailed first draft and the second time to add the flesh to the bones and the third time to polish the prose.

What do you plan to work on next?

I’d like to do a sequel to Shadow in the Empire of Light though ideally I should try and find it a home before I start. I’m also half way through a man on man time travel romance which I started years ago and have been working on on and off for years. I’d love to finish that.

The Three Sisters book cover

The Three Sisters book cover

Here is the blurb!

“A captivating read” Sara Douglass

Three sisters, estranged from the Society they are destined to save. Elena, more beautiful than any man can resist, is kidnapped, her destiny controlled by the men who desire her. Yani, warrior woman, brave, strong, able to pass as a man, who will do anything to find Elena. Marigoth, powerful female mage, determined never to grow up, equally committed to finding their missing sister. In a country oppressed and cruelly ruled, the fate of many people lies in the unsuspecting hands of these three women.

Published by Clan Destine Press link here.   Ebook format. Available also in kindle or mobi

Price AUS $6.79

ISBN  9780992492595

Thank you so much Jane for elaborating on your writing processes.

You can find Jane online at www.janeroutley.com.au and

https://www.facebook.com/jane.routley.5

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/333390.Jane_Routley

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I am very pleased to welcome, Amanda Pillar, who is here to tell us about her first novel. Amanda was one of the editors on Damnation and Dames anthology by Ticonderoga Publications. She has edited a number of anthologies in recent years. Who knew she was secretly a writer!

Pillar_Amanda

Your new first novel is coming out, Graced. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Graced is an urban fantasy/paranormal story that follows the journey of four diverse characters: Elle, Dante, Clay and Anton. It features vampires, weres, humans and a new race called the Graced. The Graced have psychic abilities that are denoted by their eye colours: Green (telepathy), Gray (telekinesis) and Blue (empathy). Eye colours, in fact, are the key to determining what race someone belongs to in the Graced universe, as brown=humans, purple=vampires and yellow=werewolves. Although, Graceds are meant to be a secret race.

Amanda tell us a bit about yourself (where you live, how long you’ve been writing, previous publications etc)

Well, I live in the wonderful town of Melbourne with my husband and two cats (yes, I am a crazy cat lady). I’ve been writing since the ripe old age of 13, although it took a long time for me to produce anything worthy of publication. Recently, I’ve had two short stories published, as well as Graced. One story is in the wonderful Cranky Ladies of History (‘Hatshepsut’) anthology edited by Tehani Wessely and Tansy Rayner Roberts and follows the rise to power of the female king, Hatshepsut. The other was in the stunning Kisses by Clockwork (‘A Clockwork Heart’) anthology edited by Liz Grzyb, and is a steampunk romance. I am also currently editing Bloodlines, a horror anthology.

Amanda what do you find so attractive about the urban fantasy genre? In what ways do you find it fulfilling?

I think the fun with urban fantasy is that it can be contemporary, alternative reality, or set in an entirely new world. It allows writers and readers to look at the world through a new lens, to understand things on a level that may not be achievable with non-supernatural elements. It can make you think.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently working on Bloodlines, my next horror anthology. I also have hopes there will be another book set in the Graced universe, so you’ll get to see the characters again, but no publishing plans as yet.

What is your writing process? (planner, panster, write every day, write sporadically, writers block etc).

I’m a bit of both. When I begin to write, I know the start, the middle and the end. I work out the in-between parts as I go. I would love to write every day, but unfortunately my day job and life just tends to get in the way. So I tend to write in bursts when the time allows.

What do you prefer drafting the story or revising and reworking?

I much prefer revising and reworking to the first draft.

What part of writing do you find hardest?

The hardest part of writing for me is the first draft. It almost feels like a purging at times. But I can’t do the fun part until the draft is written, and so I knuckle down and get to it!

What do you plan to work on next?

I am hoping to work on another book for the Graced universe! Otherwise, I have some short story and novel ideas in the works!

9781760082307_Graced_cover3You can find Amanda on her webpage

Graced is available from major ebook retailers and the Momentum Website.

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I’m very lucky to have Keith Stevenson visiting the blog today to talk about writing and his science fiction novel, Horizon.

keith_stevenson_colour_hi_res

Can you tell us a bit about your new novel?

Horizon is a science fiction thriller, where personal and political differences between a small group of space explorers play out in the cramped confines of a starship far from Earth, with repercussions for the future survival of the rest of humanity. I wanted to write something that set believable characters, with their own fears, weaknesses and biases, in an extraordinary situation while addressing the key issue of our time: climate change, how we respond – or fail to respond – to it and what that means for our future. It also has quite a bit of cool science about travelling through space and exploring new planets, but at its heart it’s an adventure story.

Keith can tell us a bit about yourself?

Well I’m originally from Scotland, but settled in Australia in 1989 and now live in Wollongong. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in some really cool projects, firstly as submissions manager and later editor of Aurealis Magazine, and organising convenor of the Aurealis Awards when they were still in their relative infancy; then founding my own publishing company coeur de lion with fellow author Andrew Macrae, publishing a lot of excellent Australian spec fic authors (and picking up more than a few awards); running the Terra Incognita speculative fiction podcast which featured the best Australian speculative fiction read by the authors who created it; and most recently launching Dimension6 the free and DRM-free electronic spec fic magazine.

All through that time, and even before, I’ve always been writing. I actually started writing horror stories for a class magazine in primary school. I’m a really slow writer, so I’ve only had a handful of short stories published in Aurealis Magazine, Agog! Fantastic Fiction, and ASIM. And Horizon took a lot of time to come together.

Tell us a bit about why you are write SF?

I love he hopefulness of science fiction, even when it’s SF where bad stuff happens, because at the very least it posits a future where humanity still survives. When I was a kid I read in a junior encyclopaedia that the sun would eventually swell up and destroy the Earth, killing everyone on the planet. That really upset me, regardless of the fact that fate was billions of years in the future. It was pretty soon after I discovered science fiction and realised that was our escape plan – the future imagined by SF writers is a future that has to come about in order to save us all.

Later as I read more and more, I understood that SF was also an ideal way to dissect and interrogate the present, magnifying trends or playing out ‘what ifs’ to demonstrate the underlying truth of the world around us. And it’s a genre that lends itself easily to amazing, adventurous stories. It’s an incredibly powerful and underrated genre. There should be more of it.

I understand that you have been working on this novel [for a long time?]. What kept you going back to this story?

First novels are pretty daunting. I was lucky because Horizon was my ‘project novel’ while I was studying Professional Writing Course, so my approach was very structured. I had to write a proposal for my tutor, exploring the ideas and forms I wanted to portray, and a detailed chapter by chapter synopsis, and then turn in 3,000 words every fortnight for group critting. By the end of it, I had 60,000 words of fairly robust text, which was a big leg up to getting the thing finished. Of course it still took a long time to finish, but I had developed the characters so much that I wanted to see how it all panned out for them, and how believable I could make the whole story. It’s the same with the space opera I’m writing, which I talk a little more about below. Those books have taken me years, but I have to go back to finish the story because I owe it to my protagonist. I’ve made a promise that I won’t leave him high and dry. But I’m also just enjoying writing a massive adventure.

Can you tell us a bit about what’s coming next (is there a sequel)?

Horizon was always envisaged as a standalone. There’s room for a prequel based on the events on Earth as well as a sequel, but I like the story as it is. The crew learn what’s happened on Earth while they’ve been in hibernation and the book ends with a very neat jumping off point that leaves the reader to imagine what might happen next. My focus was on the character interplay as part of the present action and how they deal with the dangers and threats that face them.

What are you working on at the moment?

Aha, well this is another long term project.  The Lenticular Series trilogy is a huge galaxy-spanning space opera with lots of alien species, space battles etc., which will hopefully see the light of day in a couple of years. It has at its core a really strong character study of a person (alien actually) who loses everything, achieves some sort of redemption but almost destroys himself in the process. That’s really given me a solid backbone to build lots of action and intrigue around and I’m really enjoying writing on such a big canvas.

What is your writing process? (planner, panster, write every day, write sporadically, writers block etc).

I map out key plot beats, where I know characters will end up at point A, B, C on the storyline and then I tend to just write towards that beat. I prefer to write longhand for the first draft, because it really slows me down to think about the action as it’s unfolding. It also lets me follow impulses (and maybe stray off the main throughline to explore and develop related ideas). That’s allowed me to build in whole side plots I hadn’t considered in the planning stage. I pretty much go at that day in day out until I’ve written through to the end point – which may not be the end point I envisaged at the start. After that it’s into the rewrite phase, interrogating what I’ve written and trying to coalesce it and also look for missed opportunities, things that are not working, or aren’t fresh enough and so on. At some point I’ll sub the ms to Serapeum, which is a group of Australian writers who meet every year or so and is solely focused on novel development. If I please those guys, I know I’m on the right track. Then it’s more rewrites until I think it’s ready – to be put through the wringer by an editor, that is!

I’ve never encountered writer’s block. I tend to stop writing in the middle of a scene, so I know where to pick things up the next day. Richard Harland does something similar and he’s never been afflicted with it either.

What do you prefer drafting the story or revising and reworking?

I really like the discovery of first drafts. It’s almost dreamlike the way lines of dialogue float onto the page. But I also love the invention of revising, when you’ve just read something you wrote a while back and it suddenly falls into place with something else, creating possibilities you hadn’t considered before.

What part of writing do you find hardest?

Making it right. Work can always be improved and at some point you have to trust someone else – an editor – to help you do that. A fresh set of eyes really makes a difference and I am very much in awe of what a really good trade editor can do across a whole spectrum of things from making ideas gel better to really making the language sing. Authors are often too close to their work to do that for themselves.

What do you plan to work on next?

Well I need to redraft book 2 of The Lenticular and then start on drafting book 3. That will keep my busy for a long while, I suspect. After that I have an urban thriller I worked on as a screenplay with Paul Haines many years back. I’d love to dust that off and see if it can be turned into a novel.

Thank you, Keith. Those are some very insightful and indepth answers. Here is the book cover image and the blurb.

Horizon book cover

Horizon book cover

Thirty-four light years from Earth, the explorer ship Magellan is nearing its objective – the Iota Persei system. But when ship commander Cait Dyson wakes from deepsleep, she finds her co-pilot dead and the ship’s AI unresponsive. Cait works with the rest of her multinational crew to regain control of the ship, until they learn that Earth is facing total environmental collapse and their mission must change if humanity is to survive.

As tensions rise and personal and political agendas play out in the ship’s cramped confines, the crew finally reach the planet Horizon, where everything they know will be challenged.

____________________________________________

“Refreshingly plausible, politically savvy, and full of surprises, Horizon takes you on a harrowing thrill-ride through the depths of space and the darkness of the human heart.” – Sean Williams, New York Times bestselling author of the Astropolis and Twinmaker series

“Crackling science fiction with gorgeous trans-human and cybernetic trimmings. Keith Stevenson’s debut novel soars.” – Marianne De Pierres, award-winning author of the Parrish Plessis, Sentients of Orion and Peacemaker series
You can say hi to Keith on Twitter and Facebook and on his blog.

https://www.facebook.com/keithstevensonwriter

@stevenson_Keith

http://www.keithstevenson.com/

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