discoballs

2014 Snapshot Interview: Andrew Macrae

SnaphotLogo2014Andrew Macrae is a writer, editor and musician. He works full-time running his own freelance copywriting and editing business called Magic Typewriter. He plays in a three-piece instrumental rock band called The Television Sky and his novel, Trucksong, was published last year by Twelfth Planet Press. He is very handsome.

1. Last year, your self-described ‘unpublishable’ PhD novel, ‘Trucksong’ was published by Twelfth Planet Press, after revision of the original devolved post apocalyptic language. Did the revision (and publication) change how you felt about your novel or your PhD? In what way did the critical/research component of your PhD inform your understanding of how language changes, and how did you apply this to produce your original devolved language?

I was delighted that Twelfth Planet picked it up. In many ways I felt they were the ideal home for it. They were prepared to take a risk on an unknown writer with a project that sat kind of awkwardly between literary fiction and cheesy genre schlock. I mean, not every publisher would jump at the idea of a book about flashy cyborg trucks that like to do battle on post-apocalyptic highways, and which also has a linguistic/philosophic impulse to examine the search for meaning in a world of incomplete information.

The process of revising the book for publication was instructive, in that I realised I didn’t need to cling to the experimental nature of the PhD version – which was written in a much more distorted form of dialect. I was initially a little resistant to the idea of changing it, but once I got started on the work, it was an incredible relief to see that just by standardising the spelling, I could make the book a lot more accessible and open, and it didn’t alter the character’s voice at all.

In the end the critical component of the PhD project focused more on the idea of recursive history, which crops up in a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction. A famous example of this is Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, which tells the story of a post-holocaust world that has put a taboo on science, and which gradually re-discovers it, only to destroy itself again at the end.

The use of language as an index for social and cultural change faded into the background, and I became more interested in the idea of creating a post-apocalyptic narrative that was open, rather than shackled to the deterministic concept of eternal return.

But mostly it was an excuse to write about garish and vain cyborg trucks that like to do battle on desert highways.

2. At the same time that ‘Trucksong’ the book was published, you released a soundtrack (which is fabulously atmospheric writing music, for those reading at home!). Have any other writing projects inspired you write music? (Or have music projects inspired you to write words?) At what point in production of the novel did the soundtrack come into fruition?

I’ve always been interested in music and sound. I don’t necessarily have an informed approach to it – it’s more intuitive or naive I guess – but I’ve played in bands my whole life and it’s a big part of who I am. I thought it would be a cool idea to produce some music to go along with the novel, so I set myself the challenge. As it turns out, it’s really hard to write, record and produce an album all by yourself. Who knew?

As far as inspiration goes, it was more about meeting a goal I set myself. I mapped out some basic emotional textures I wanted to evoke for different scenes in the book, and I went about doing my best to capture them. It’s the first time I’ve thought about coming up with music to accompany a piece of writing, but TRUCKSONG is also the first piece of writing I’ve produced that felt fully formed.

The soundtrack took about a year to do, on and off, with greater intensity towards the end as the publication date loomed.

I doubt I’ll do it again, but it was a fun challenge.

3. You have talked in other interviews about the importance of multiple streams as a free lancer, for both inspiration and stability. How do you see your fiction writing balancing with your editing business and music in the future? What particular streams are you currently pursuing?

Well there’s no real balance. I don’t have any separation of work and creativity. My time is all in one big bucket and I work on what is most urgent. Which is no doubt a terrible way of working, because paid work inevitably takes precedence over self-indulgent art projects.

But I’m at a stage in life where getting paid is more important than not getting paid, and I have carved out a little niche for myself that allows me to get paid doing something I enjoy, so I’m going with it.

I’m working on another book, but it’s a big project and years of work. I’m a slow writer and I’m comfortable with that. The great thing about being middle aged is finding out what matters to you and what doesn’t, and frankly flogging myself to death to produce creative work on top of running a small business does not appeal so much. Maybe it’s a waste of potential, but then again, maybe things just take as long as they take.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Ticonderoga are doing some great work at the moment. I bought a bunch of their books recently, including Janeen Webb’s brilliant collection Death at the Blue Elephant.

Ben Peek’s Dead American collection is really good, and I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of my hardback copy of The Godless.

I re-read Rjurik Davidson’s The Unwrapped Sky when it arrived in the post from Tor this year.

Stephen Ormsby is publishing some interesting stuff at Satalyte Publishing. Adam Browne’s ‘Other Stories’ and Other Stories is a corker.

Look out for Keith Stevenson’s science fiction novel Horizon out through Voyager Impulse on 1 December 2014.

Kirstyn McDermott’s Perfections is a great read.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

Not really, I mean I’m aware of the great seething overthrow of traditional models of publishing and distribution, but for me that’s all separate from the creative process. In five years I expect to be reading generative fiction produced by intelligent algorithms that mine pinterest and tumblr feeds for idea patterns.



This post is part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. Snapshot 2012 is being conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely, and Sean Wright. To read the interviews hot off the press, check our blogs daily from 28 July to 10 August, 2014.
discoballs

2014 Snapshot Interview: Talie Helene

SnaphotLogo2014Talie Helene is a musician and writer, from Melbourne. She writes poetry, fiction, and songs. Talie is horror editor for the anthology The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror (Ticonderoga Publications); she was news editor for the Australian Horror Writers’ Association for four years (2006-2010). She is a member of the SuperNova writers’ group. Talie has a background in music journalism – especially extreme genres – and has performed with many artists including The Tenth Stage, Wendy Rule, Sean Bowley, Saba Persian Orchestra, Maroondah Symphony, and Eden. You can find out about her latest news and projects at www.taliehelene.com.

1. You have been editing the horror component of Ticonderoga Publications’ ‘Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror’ for 4 years now, with the 2012 edition joint winner of the Aurealis Award for Best Anthology (Congratulations!) What draws you back to this project each year and when can we expect the 2013 volume to be out?

Thank you. That Aurealis Award was a surprise and a delight.

The next book will hopefully be finished in a few weeks; nursing a damaged paw for our workload of hundreds of personalized emails has been a bit of a drag.

This anthology was never something I imagined myself doing. I set myself a volunteer project of learning the scope of the Australian horror publishing scene when I was AHWA News Editor, and that knowledge turned into a commodity as an unexpected outcome. What draws me back to the project? Well, it is too cool a job to not do it. I am still learning about literature from doing it, so I am genuinely interested in the process.

2. One of the features of the ‘Year's Best’ is the overview of fantasy and horror that you and Liz Grzyb write, as well as a list of recommended titles. Why do you think these are important to include with the stories, and have you noticed any trends in Horror over the 4 years since you have been editing the series?

An overview essay and a list of recommended titles are conventions of a 'Year's Best' anthology. It isn't something we originated, but I think it adds value to the series by making it a true reference library, and it creates continuity between volumes. The list of recommended titles is important because there are many more fine works published each year than the ones we collect, and to not acknowledge that would be arrogance. It also makes something meaningful of all the work we do trying to read everything, and read it closely and with critical appraisal.

I haven't been consciously dividing my research into streams of data for analysis of sub-genre popularity, trope trends, or gender participation - I certainly have the data, but a scholarly analysis hasn't been my objective. Really to do something interesting, it would be better to just keep collecting the information, because that luxury of time is something that a PhD candidate doesn't have. Without cracking open the archives of the last four years, zombies were hugely popular when we started the series, and they are far less fashionable now.

3. In a recent interview you mentioned that you are developing an idea for an anthology of original fiction for Ticonderoga, to be co-edited with Jodi Cleghorn. Can you tell us more about that anthology? Are you looking forward to the opportunity to edit previously unpublished work, compared to the reprints collected in the ‘Year's Best’?

That interview was before my gnarly skateboard accident! Jodi and Russell and I haven't hashed out enough about that anthology for me to satisfy your curiosity. I cannot tell you much beyond it being set in the world of gigs and performance. I'm so tunnel vision on the Year's Best this month, I honestly haven’t given that book much thought, but it will be cool to edit the project. Everyone has his or her area of specialised knowledge. When fiction authors get "your thing" wrong in their fiction, it really grates. (Of course, no one beyond the specialised field really cares - we all have "our thing" that we are obsessed with, that we think everyone else should be equally obsessed with!) So it will be cool to make this one book, where I can make sure there are no wrong notes in that context.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

I saw double bassist Nick Tsiavos and friends perform 'Maps For Losing Oneself' at the Melbourne Recital Centre. The brilliant energy of newly composed works - the ink was "still wet" - and the tremendous humour, Nick joking, "If you see us with furrowed brow, it's probable we're wondering 'Where are we?'" Motifs were based on the traditional Greek mourning laments that widows sing to the dead. There was gorgeous layering of textures and limited material being passed between instruments - bowed percussion, bowed vibraphone, saxophone, some really lovely use of legato arpeggios on the double bass, unfolding as a slowly evolving minimalist texture. Both the soprano and double bassist had lovely vibrato and intonation. I have ten pages of incredibly music-nerdy notes, the minutia of which I will spare you - but 'Maps For Losing Oneself' was just awesome!

I'm also enjoying a CD called 'The Unlovable' by Melbourne band Falloe, a melancholy country band based around songwriter Wade F. Piva. Unfortunately Falloe released the CD and immediately went on indefinite hiatus; if they had not, you might know who they are, because this album deserves to be gigged around the world. I caught the launch at The Workers' Club, the only gig they are doing in support of it, and I was lucky enough to hear various songs in the production process. They have some throwaway drinking songs, but the darker back-woodsy songs, set around the rural town of Ayr (about 85 km south of Townsville in Queensland) - there is some really cool storytelling going on with this band. The opening and closing songs on the CD are magnificent. The Ballad of Pierre & Annabelle is a tender, oddly whimsical murder ballad. The closing song The Wedding Dress - the producer Adam Calaitzis was aiming to make it sound like Nick Cave at Abbey Road, and it is seriously bone-shaking. I won't spoil the twist, but The Wedding Dress is such a headfuck, it is as much of a horror story as any work of prose I've read this year.

If you were hoping I'd recommend books... between being jury chair for the Short Fiction Jury for the Bram Stoker Awards, judging the AHWA Short Story & Flash Competition, and reading for Year's Best - there is nothing I can tell you without plagiarising myself elsewhere!

I’ve been enjoying Beraldo Coffee quite a lot.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

Which recent changes? Honestly, I am so underground; a lot of industry shuffles don't sink low enough to touch me. (Not that I haven't applied for shiny editorial jobs and internships, but having "horror" on one's CV in publishing, is a bit like submitting a porn show reel when applying to be a serious actor.) If you mean self-publishing - I trained in audio engineering just as the digital recording revolution went domestic. That revolution taught us gatekeepers make art better, accessing experts makes art better, and being rejected makes art better. There are always exceptions to the rule, incredibly talented people who can smash out great art by pulling together an expansive skill-set, but for those people the patience to skill-up is their talent. It is pretty rare. If you mean digital publishing and piracy - this surprises no one with a toe in music industry. I was expecting piracy to hurt publishing. It sucks, but digital content is too vulnerable. Welcome to the music industry, where every day is “Talk Like A Pirate Day”. If you mean that other thing… what was that other thing?

In five years, I will still be reading horror (like The Hotel California, you can never leave), but I've never been exclusive to a genre with my tastes. Having genre expertise is smart arts business, but to be too insular is unhelpful in growing one's writing. As for writing... I will still be writing songs. I would probably still be writing poetry and non-fiction. I would hopefully not only have a novel in print, but have a couple in print. And saying more about that... would be like not using the phrase "The Scottish Play" in rehearsal in the theatre.



This post is part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. Snapshot 2012 is being conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely, and Sean Wright. To read the interviews hot off the press, check our blogs daily from 28 July to 10 August, 2014.
discoballs

2014 Snapshot Interview: Alex Adsett

SnaphotLogo2014Alex Adsett is a publishing consultant and literary agent who offers commercial advice to authors and publishers, with a focus on print, digital, film and self-publishing contracts. As an agent, she represents a select list of genre fiction authors, and is always looking for exciting new manuscripts of science fiction, fantasy, crime, mystery, and romance. She can often be found on twitter @alexadsett or via her website www.alexadsett.com.au.

1. Alex Adsett Publishing Services began providing commercial publishing advice to authors and publishers in 2008, and has been offering literary agent services since 2012. What was your motivation in transitioning to a more traditional literary agency and what are you looking for in a client?

When I sent up my consultancy business, it was to give authors who didn’t have an agent a way to have their contract looked at by a publishing insider, to explain what is and isn’t standard and to try to make sure the author was not taken advantage of. As a lifelong reader of genre fiction, I always said that when the right manuscript came along, I’d make the jump into being a more traditional agent as well. Well, the right manuscript came along, and then the second and then the third, and they haven’t stopped coming. Once word got out I was taking manuscripts, they flooded in. It was humbling to have all these authors put their faith in me, but overwhelming as well. The manuscripts that stood out have been the ones I took on to talk to publishers about.

I still offer my consultancy services, but now represent 14 wonderful authors across a range of SF/F, crime and romance. In an author, I’m looking for first and foremost, a manuscript that I fall in love with. I want to be so excited by the story that I’ll shout about it to anyone who will listen. It helps if the author isn’t too crazy, and has an understanding about the realities of the publishing industry, but it’s my job to take care of and educate them, so apart from a great manuscript, nothing else is essential.

2. I think most authors would see gaining agent representation as an important step in their pathway to publication, but I understand that it is your opinion that agent representation is not as necessary in Australia as it is in the US and UK. What do you think has caused this difference in the Australian market and do you think there are circumstances where an agent representation is essential?

I do firmly believe an author does not need an agent, and that it should be a choice as to whether or not they have one, particularly in Australia. Perhaps it is because our industry is smaller, or perhaps our publishers have always been more open to meeting and finding new authors directly, but more than 60% of what is published in Australia is not represented by an agent. In the US/UK, almost all of the commercially published titles come through an agent, and it is almost impossible to get a deal without one. (The rise of self-publishing is changing this, but agents in US/UK are still very much the norm).

I see an agent as doing three key things (as well as lots of other bits and pieces), essentially they get the author the publishing deal in the first place, they negotiate the contract and they manage the author’s career. If the author has secured themselves the publishing deal, and then gets me (or the Australian Society of Authors or a lawyer) to look over the contract, and is half way savvy about managing their own career, then I’d question whether or not they need an agent at all. However, if an author just wants to get on with the business of writing, then an agent is essential to managing the business side of things.

It is pretty much as hard to get an agent as it is to get a publishing deal, so I would recommend an author work with whoever comes along first.

3. If you could only give one piece of advice to an aspiring writer, what would it be? Is it different to the advice that you would have given 5 years ago?

The big difference between now and five years ago, is that there is no right or wrong way to do something anymore. I might shake my head at some author choices, only to be proven wrong by their success or critical acclaim. There is still an enormous amount of luck involved in publishing, but to make that luck happen you also need a lot of dedication, hard work and stubborn refusal to give up.

It is hard to give advice in such a quickly changing climate, but I would advise any aspiring author to write every day and learn the craft of writing. Don’t be afraid to take chances, but do your research first and don’t go into anything blind. Don’t give up! Even if you end up with fifteen manuscripts in the bottom drawer, the sixteenth might be the breakthrough book that makes you an “overnight” success.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Am I allowed to mention my own titles? I’m very excited about them – Chasing The Ace by Nicholas J Johnson and Bound by Alan Baxter. Bound is a super dark urban fantasy published by Voyager Australia and is the first in a trilogy. Otherwise, I’ve loved the latest book in Kylie Chan’s epic Eastern/Western fantasy, as well as rockstar romance Lick by Kylie Scott. The book I’m currently obsessed with is The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn, a YA apocalypse novel that is so good it has made me rethink my end-of-the-world plans, and start to hoard canned goods (again). I’m also desperately waiting for the final book in Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn series.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

The biggest recent change is the rise in self-publishing and success of hybrid authors. I see myself doing more work with indie authors who want to bridge that gap between successful self-publishing and traditional publishing. I also love working with the digital-first publishers in Australia; Momentum, Escape, Impulse and Destiny, and they are the ones doing really exciting things with genre works. I hope that the big commercial publishers will continue to invest in local Australian publishing, because we have such a thriving group of talented writers here, but I’m also talking with UK and US publishers to get Aussie authors noticed on the world stage. It’s an exciting time to be in publishing. There are no certainties, but that also means there are fewer doors blocking the way.



This post is part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. Snapshot 2012 is being conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely, and Sean Wright. To read the interviews hot off the press, check our blogs daily from 28 July to 10 August, 2014.

Tags: snapshot2014,
discoballs

2014 Snapshot Interview: Rochelle Fernandez

SnaphotLogo2014Rochelle Fernandez worked as an editor across books, magazines and websites for ten years before becoming the Associate Publisher for Voyager, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers Australia. She tweets at @roch_town and can be found on voyageronline.com.au.

1. You have just completed your first year as commissioning editor at Harper Voyager Australia. What preconceptions did you have about the position when you first took the position, and have you made any significant changes to how Harper Voyager publishes or promotes new titles?

I was a bit intimidated by the idea of the whole speculative fiction community when I first took the role, because I know how important Voyager was to the readers of speculative fiction in Australia and how high their expectations were, and I had some pretty big shoes to fill!

The biggest change to how Voyager publishes now is the launch of our digital-first imprint, Impulse. We are publishing many more authors in ebook-first or ebook-only as a means of developing a readership and trying out stories that might not necessarily find a print-book market. This has also led to much more experimentation both by author and genre and we are actually publishing a lot more authors than we have previously because we don’t have the constraints of printing.

2. Your first print acquisition for Harper Voyager, ‘Bound’, book one of the Alex Caine series by Alan Baxter was launched earlier this month. What was it about this book that attracted you, and does it reflect your vision for Harper Voyager going forward?

I had heard Alan speak and was familiar with his self-published stories, so when his agent (Alex Adsett) sent through Bound for consideration I was really excited. The pace was the first thing that attracted me: it is pure page-turning fun. It had a great hook (A cage-fighter with special powers trying to get rid of a book that has attached itself to him) and it was just so imaginative.

My vision for HarperVoyager going forward is that we will continue to publish the best science fiction and fantasy in Australia. The best epic fantasy, the best urban fantasy, the best paranormal romance, the best science fiction — they’re all so different, but I want them all to be as page-turning as Bound, in their own way.

3. I note you have made yourself available for author pitches at a number of genre conventions recently. Has this been a fruitful way to discover new authors? What advice do you have for authors who still want to be ‘traditionally’ published?

Pitches have definitely been a fruitful way to discover authors — many of my Impulse (digital first) acquisitions have been from pitches. It’s really important that authors feel comfortable talking about their story and what’s unique and fantastic about their story in the first instance. And pitching also identifies authors who have thought about their readers and where they sit in the market which is crucial to publishers. I want our authors to have a relationship with their readers and know who their book is for. I also look for authors who are prepared to engage actively with their readers via social media and through events.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Bound, of course! And the new Jo Spurrier — North Star Guide Me Home – a brilliant conclusion to the Children of the Black Sun trilogy. I also enjoyed Max Barry’s Lexicon although being a word-nerd I would have liked more exploration of the persuasion words!

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

I’m very focused on ebooks – moreso than I was five years ago. I analyse what’s working in e, look at the charts, what the prices are, what ratings and reviews a book is getting. I’m also more conscious about an author’s digital footprint – nowadays authors, especially speculative fiction authors, need to have direct relationships to their readers – they need to be active online and collaborating with us to promote themselves. In five years I think we (Voyager) will still be publishing original, authentic Australian science fiction and fantasy in print and on whatever platforms readers are reading.



This post is part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. Snapshot 2012 is being conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely, and Sean Wright. To read the interviews hot off the press, check our blogs daily from 28 July to 10 August, 2014.
discoballs

2014 Snapshot Interview: Geoff Brown

SnaphotLogo2014Geoff Brown is the owner and driving force behind Cohesion Press, a new small publisher based in regional Victoria. Geoff is a published author of shorts, memoir, and non-fiction pieces, and is currently studying for a BA in Professional Writing and Publishing. He teaches editing at TAFE level.

1. You are Editor-in-Chief at Cohesion Press, which has been operating for about one year now. How has your first year gone, and what have you learnt so far? Have you made any changes to how you operate since you began?

Our first year has been a whirlwind of learning.

We opened around August 2013 with the idea of offering the very best royalties we could for our writers and, at the same time, putting out the very best books we could. We looked at returning 80% of gross income from ebooks and 50% of gross income from print books to the authors. After six to eight months of trading, we found that left us very little for promotion and other costs, and costs in publishing can be quite high, even when a large part of the work is done in-house.

We only have the very best cover art, always closely-negotiated with the author, and great artists charge accordingly.

I do the layout and typesetting myself for the internal books, so the only cost there is time. I outsource some of the editing, and perform some myself. I have found the greatest cost to be marketing and promotion. I have also found that you can put out the best books in the world, and if no-one hears of them, no-one will read them.

Our first year has had both highs and lows. Great books we've published have had little exposure, even though we know they are worthy of being widely read. We first published a collection by Kaaron Warren, a highly-awarded Australian writer, and followed up with a wonderful crime-noir novella by Deborah Sheldon. We then published our first breakout release; Valkeryn 2 by Greig Beck, an internationally-published author of adventure/thriller/sci-fi/horror crossovers. Greig had been published, up to that point, by Pan MacMillan and Momentum Books. He decided to try self-publishing Valkeryn 2, to test the hybrid-author waters, but then realised just how time-heavy the self-publishing route could be. Our operating model convinced him to allow us to release the book, and it was our best-selling title.

Our sales now are steady, and improving each month.

The biggest lesson was regarding the cost and importance of marketing.

To that effect, we have dropped our royalty rates for recent contracts to allow us the funds to market effectively, although they are still very generous when compared with the rest of the industry. That way, both the author and ourselves make more money.

2. You are also a writer and have published a number of short stories, as well as your memoir ‘Hammered’ through Legumeman Books. What attracted you to publishing with Legumeman? How does your writing fit with your editing and publishing businesses?

I knew the fine folks from Legumeman before I finished my memoir. I liked them, and liked their professionalism and artistry in publishing books. I let them read Hammered, and they loved it. From there, it was an easy decision to let them publish me. It's paid off, with good sales and great reviews from around the world.

Now that I run an editing/author services company, and even more since I started Cohesion Press, I have found less and less time for my own writing. I have stopped working on shorts unless I find a specific market that really appeals to me, and am working on a novel at the moment. I try to fit in at least an hour a day to write, with a few extra hours one day a week just for a writing sprint. There is never enough time to do everything, as I also teach part-time at TAFE level, and am studying equivalent to full-time through Open University to achieve a BA in Professional Writing and Publishing.

There just aren't enough hours in the days.

3. Cohesion Press released its first major anthology in July, ‘SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror’. What was the inspiration for this anthology and how is it going? Cohesion Press ran a pre-order using Indiegogo for the anthology. Why did you choose to go with a crowdfunding site for the pre-order, rather than more traditional methods?

SNAFU was the first thing I knew I wanted to publish. Military horror is only just coming into its own on the market, and I think it will continue to grow as it taps into a powerful fan-base. I read Jonathan Maberry and Weston Ochse regularly (both contributors to SNAFU, by the way), and knew I wanted to publish something similar. I spent the last year planning, soliciting authors, opening for submissions, and reading over 6.6 million words in submissions for the anthology. It was always my intention that it would be our flagship annual release through Cohesion. I went with Indiegogo because I thought it would allow for more exposure for the presale. Crowdfunding sites were all the rage through 2012 and 2013. The presale didn't go anywhere near as well as I hoped, even though I was offering signed limited-edition versions of the book. That said, sales since release in early July have more than equalled what I hoped for the book, and I will definitely be putting together a SNAFU 2.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

My all-time favourite Australian work would have to be The Pilo Family Circus by Will Elliott. More recently, I have enjoyed 809 Jacob Street by Marty Young, and Topsiders By Scott Tyson, even though there were a few technical issues with the work. I love the work of Kaaron Warren, with Slights and Through Splintered Walls my firm favourites. I also adored Wolf Creek: Origins by Aaron Sterns. It is the perfect example, in my opinion, of a first-person personal narrative that truly looks into the mind of a killer.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

I have been following the changes in publishing now for a number of years, and thought that the way things are at the moment, with Kindle Direct Publishing, Print-on-Demand tech, and further distribution services like Smashwords, it is the perfect time to move into the field with minimal costs. We started out with about five grand in the bank, and it has been enough to fund the release of seven books, including SNAFU, on which I have spent around six grand. That shows that we're doing something right. I think the publishing field now will continue to focus on these same channels for the next decade, at least.

As to the future of Cohesion Press, I feel that fast-paced popular genre fiction is where we will put most of our focus. I plan to release a new SNAFU anthology annually for at least the next few years. We are also working with Marty Young, the founding president of the Australian Horror Writers Association, on a new anthology entitled Blurring the Line, which focuses on blending reality with fiction. We hope that will sell as well as SNAFU is, and will then go on to become an annual release as well. In five years, we hope to be focused on releasing at least these two anthology series, as well as a range of novels and books that fall into spec-fic, crime, thriller, and certain genres of memoir.



This post is part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. Snapshot 2012 is being conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely, and Sean Wright. To read the interviews hot off the press, check our blogs daily from 28 July to 10 August, 2014.
discoballs

2014 Snapshot Interview: Nicole Murphy

SnaphotLogo2014Nicole Murphy is a writer and teacher whose first short story publication was in 2001 and her first novel publication in 2010. She's now had more than two dozen short stories published, six novels and a collection of paranormal erotica. Her latest publication is the first book of her science fiction romance trilogy the Jorda Series, called Loving the Prince. The following two books will be out in December 2014 and May 2015. She's currently the convenor of the Aurealis Awards and retiring president of Conflux Incorporated. Her website is http://nicolermurphy.com and she tweets at @nicole_r_murphy.

1. Since the last Snapshot you have had a number of releases under the name Elizabeth Dunk through Escape Publishing, including ‘Arranged to Love’ and your new short story collection ‘Release’. Plus! Escape will also be publishing your new science fiction trilogy (as Nicole Murphy) over the next 12 months. Congratulations! Can you tell us about your new releases, and how you came to connect with Escape? Has working under a pseudonym benefited you?

Thank you! 2014 has turned out to be one hell of a year – lotsa deadlines, which is a teensy weensy bit stressful but then, I wouldn’t do everything that I do if I weren’t at least slightly addicted to stress!

As Elizabeth Dunk, I’ve had three books released – two contemporary romances (‘Arranged to Love’ and ‘The Lies We Tell’) and the most recent, a collection of paranormal erotica ‘Release’. I started writing both the contemporary romance and the erotica as a way to challenge myself and grow as a writer. They each require a very different way of looking at story and character than the trilogy I published with HarperCollins did. Plus, there was the fear that with the trilogy not doing so well, I’d never sell a book under the Nicole Murphy name again and I’d need a new plan! Thankfully, that turned out not to be the case.

I connected with Escape at the Romance Writer’s of Australia conference on the Gold Coast in 2012. I’d got close to having ‘Arranged to Love’ published with another publisher, but it was knocked back at acquisitions. So I was trying to work out what to do next. Escape (which is an imprint of Harlequin, better known to the general public in Australia as the publishers of Mills & Boon) was launched at that conference. Apart from the fact it had the backing of the largest romance publisher in the world, it was run by Kate Cuthbert, who was a very well regarded romance blogger and had an international reputation for sniffing out a good yarn. So I thought ‘what the hay, I’ll give it a go’ and I sent the story to Kate. Thankfully she loved it, and she’s enjoyed everything I’ve sent her ever since (although she makes me work hard for it – I’ve had to do some major re-writes before she’ll say yes).

The new Nicole Murphy trilogy that’s coming out is really exciting and important to me. I first conceived the idea and the world for these books 30 years ago. I’ve never been able to shake it, and then when Kate suggested that I write some science fiction romance (it’s selling like hot cakes at the moment), it just so happened I’d started working the first book again and was thinking I’d finally nailed the story. So it was meant to be, it seems, that this was the time for that book to be published. Now it’s only the knee-quaking wait to see if people like it!

Using a psuedonym was a decision not for me as a writer but for the readers. Some people read very strictly according to genres and if they were urban fantasy readers and having liked the first trilogy, picked up ‘Arranged to Love’ thinking it would be the same, they’d be really pissed off. Having said that, there are some people who will read an author no matter what genre they publish it, so I’ve never hidden the fact I’m both Nicole and Elizabeth.

It can get a bit challenging sometimes – I did for example try to have both Nicole and Elizabeth as separate twitter accounts, but I gave that up as just too hard. I barely have enough interesting things to say on one twitter account! And when I go to the RWA conference this year, I may well have to remember to answer to ‘Elizabeth’ as well as ‘Nicole’.

2. You are the convenor of the Aurealis Awards, which relocated from Sydney to Canberra last year. It has been announced that, from 2014, certain categories will attract an entry fee and there has been some controversy surrounding this. Can you give us an understanding of how the Awards Management team came to the decision to introduce fees? What do you think will be the positives (and negatives) of the fee introduction on the Awards?

Sure, happy to talk about it. For the past few years, it’s become increasingly difficult to run the awards from a financial viewpoint. While they’re not overly expensive to run, they’re not cheap either and the only reason organisers haven’t been paying out of their pocket for them has been sponsorship or grants.

These, however, are getting increasingly hard to get. For example, the number of publishers prepared to support the awards has dived as their budgets get tightened. Even basic advertising is becoming nigh on impossible to get. We’re not giving up on gaining sponsorships and grants, because the fees introduced won’t cover the costs of running the awards, but a new revenue stream that would be consistent was required. We could have jacked up the cost of attending the ceremony to help cover the other costs but that would probably result in less people attending, so less money coming in.
We discussed a few ideas. Some people online have mentioned crowdsourcing. We thought that could be an answer, but wouldn’t necessarily contribute to an ongoing revenue stream, which is what we think the awards needs. Also we wondered what rewards we could offer that would engage the community and so far, no one has suggested anything to help with that problem. In the end, we decided the fees were the way to go. We were under no illusions the decision to impose entry fees would be popular, and we know that they’ve been considered in the past but people decided not to go ahead for fear of the backlash.

We decided to just keep it to the book categories for two reasons. Firstly, we were aware that this is going to be an impost on small publishers, and extending it to the short fiction categories would make that impost greater, since it is mostly small publishers that publish short fiction. Secondly, the number of entries in the short fiction categories is many times larger than that in the book categories. Potentially it would make us more money to charge fees there too, but then the work involved in organising that, and auditing it, would make it not worth while.

As far as negatives are concerned – well, there was going to be two. First was the backlash (and we’ve survived that). The second is that potential impact on the number of entries we receive. That’s going to be difficult to judge, because who’s to say a drop in entries isn’t because there were less novels published in that year? But we’re certainly going to be reviewing it at the end of the period, looking at the impact and investigating what happened and why and seeing if perhaps it’s not the best way to ensure the financial viability of the awards and considering other options.

3. Since the 2010 Snapshot it feels (and correct me if I’m wrong!) that you have moved from writing speculative fiction with a hint of romance, to romance with a hint of speculative fiction. How do you think the romance and speculative fiction industries compare, and how important is it that writers straddle genres these days?

Wow – that’s a question and a half :) It’s true that I’m more willing to embrace the romance loving part of me and put that into my stories, but I’m also still doing work that’s mostly if not purely speculative (generally in the short story area). I plan to one day have another go at writing an epic fantasy or full on space opera – it’s where I started, and still a great love of my life.

The two industries have a lot in common – they both know what it’s like to be dissed on by other genres; they both have rabid and voracious readers (and there’s actually quite a lot of crossover – I know a lot of romance readers that love fantasy, and vice versa); they’re both willing to embrace new technology (although it must be said spec ficers – the romance readers and publishers are LEAPS ahead with electronic and online publishing which considering we’re the geeks is a little shame-making). The big difference for me is the way the up and coming writers are supported and encouraged. The Romance Writers of Australia is an amazing group, with activities and opportunities for a whole range of writers. Competitions with in-depth feedback (I know because I judge a few), workshops (both online and at the annual convention, which is all about writing romance), critique schemes, writing groups across the country. It’s no wonder romance is a growing genre – RWA (and counterparts around the world) provide a hothouse atmosphere for writers to grow and flourish in a much faster fashion than speculative fiction manages. There’s been talk of establishing similar in Australia time and again, but the problem is it requires a team (at least half a dozen) of enthusiastic people prepared to sacrifice and make it happen and those who are interested just don’t have the time to do that. So maybe it will never happen for us.

I’m not sure it’s right for all authors to straddle genres. Some can – I’m not convinced yet that I’m one of them, but I’m working on it. For those who can straddle genres, the payoff is that you’ve got two opportunities to gain readers and earn money and if you want a career, those are the two things you want to have happen. But some authors don’t have the knowledge or the skills or the desire to write more than the genre they are specialising in, and that’s fine. If you can’t do something well, you shouldn’t do it at all.i

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

I hope everyone’s been out and bought ‘The Lascar’s Dagger’ by Glenda Larke because it is an absolutely awesome book. Adventure and intrigue and politics and love and all the great things that make a read worthwhile, all done by a fabulously talented writer. The opening scene of that book is one of my favourite scenes of all time and the closest I’ve ever come to seeing an action movie written down.

If any of you are interested in having a go at romance-heavy speculative fiction, I can recommend ‘The Sorceror’s Spell’ by Dani Kristoff (aka Donna Maree Hanson) which is out August 1 from HarperImpulse. Okay so I’m biased, because Donna is one of my best friends, but still this is an interesting read, with lots of great sex and for the most part is set in and around Canberra, so win!

But if you can’t bear that, luckily Donna’s got two new books out in September/October that are fabulously gritty epic fantasy (under her real name, Donna Maree Hanson). She’s been working on this story for years, and it’s a really unique situation with fabulous characters. It’s dark – not horror dark, but holy shit people do awful fucking things to each other dark – and beautifully written.

There’s been some other books I’ve enjoyed – Beckoning Blood by Daniel Lorne, Bound by Alan Baxter – but I’m afraid my reading is dreadfully behind at the moment. Sometimes you have to choose – will I read, or will I write – and I always choose writing.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

I’ve been really focussed on shorter works, and simpler works, to get them written quickly and out the door. Electronic publishing has a much shorter turnaround than traditional publishing (sometimes it can be just weeks from submission to publication) so almost as soon as one book gets accepted, you need to have the next one ready to submit. I’m also working on a bit of a theory – the more books you have out there, the easier it is for your name to be found and thus the chances of being discovered and growing your readership greater.

But I’m really aware that that sort of schedule doesn’t really allow for a story to sit and develop and manifest itself, which is kinda more what I need for the epic fantasies to take shape and I really want to writer a good – no, a great – epic fantasy.

In five years, I hope my career is established (dare I say, I’m even making my living from writing?) – established enough that I can take more time with my stories. Be more inventive, challenge myself, develop more intricated and even interweaving plot lines. But still, I’ll still be doing the fast paced, fun, light and entertaining romances as well, because the world could do with more fun and light.



This post is part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. Snapshot 2012 is being conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely, and Sean Wright. To read the interviews hot off the press, check our blogs daily from 28 July to 10 August, 2014.
discoballs

2014 Snapshot Interview: Martin Livings

SnaphotLogo2014Perth-based writer Martin Livings has had over eighty short stories published in a variety of magazines and anthologies both locally and internationally. His short story collection, Living With the Dead, was published by Dark Prints Press in 2012, and an original story from it, “Birthday Suit”, won the Australian Shadows Award for Best Short Fiction for that year. Carnies was his first novel, first published by Hachette Livre in 2006 and nominated for both the Aurealis and Ditmar awards, and has recently been reprinted by Cohesion Press.

1. Your novel ‘Carnies’ has recently been republished in both ebook and print forms by Cohesion Press (congratulations!), with new scenes and a tweaked ending. What was your inspiration to approach Cohesion (or did Cohesion approach you?), and did you always want to tweak the story?

I knew Geoff Brown from Cohesion Press during his tenure as president of the Australian Horror Writers' Association (AHWA), so when he announced he was starting his own publishing house, and was looking for reprints to relaunch upon the world, I took that as an opportunity to resurrect my little book. CARNIES did pretty well when published by Hachette, but I don't feel it ever got the publicity I would have liked it to, despite its big publisher. It got distributed EVERYWHERE, but not really noticed by anyone. Geoff showed a genuine enthusiasm for it, which made me enthusiastic all over again. And the rest is history.

And yes, I've wanted to tweak the story for years now, mainly based on some very insightful reviews of the book that made me take a long hard second look at it. I was always unhappy with some of my secondary characters, especially the female ones. It was a first novel, which sounds suspiciously like "I was young and needed the money" as excuses go, but I really wanted to do better by the two main female characters, especially poor Jasmine who was a cool young woman who I thoughtlessly relegated to a minor villain crazy woman kind of role (and then forgot her altogether!) when she deserved so much better. The changes weren't enormous, mostly more tonal than anything, and also giving both Jasmine and Rachel significant things to do rather than just be an object of Paul's pathetic lust or a demented harpy. I'm really happy with the changes I've made, and I hope readers will be too, it's a slightly more mature book for it. Slightly.

2. You have been coordinating the AHWA Short Story and Flash Fiction Competition for a couple of years now. What do you enjoy about the position? For the 2013 Awards you provided a very interesting breakdowns of the entries. What was your motivation to provide the breakdown?

Running the AHWA Short Story and Flash Fiction Competition came as a surprise to me, I only signed on originally to run the AHWA day to day competitions, DVDs and books and movie tickets and the like. It was only afterwards that I was told I'd have to devote seven or eight months of my year to the short story and flash competitions as well! But what I've enjoyed about it, apart from the obvious fun of giving out awards to worthy winners, has been streamlining the whole process, trying to find ways of making it easier to enter correctly. This year I implemented a web form so that I'd always get the information I needed, automatically entered into a spreadsheet, and a template entry file so that the formatting would be consistent. That's made my life much easier over the last six months. What I DON'T enjoy, I have to say, is how many entrants still manage to willfully get it wrong, even with all the instructions and templates and guidelines in place. It's dismaying to see just how many writers simply don't read or pay attention to submission guidelines. But I'm way too soft, I just reformat them myself and make sure the entries still get read.

As for the breakdowns, I initially just did that for myself, for my own interest. Then I thought, hey, why not make them public? There's nothing confidential in them, and hopefully nothing too controversial, it's just interesting to see what kinds of people are entering these competitions.

3. At the last Snapshot you were working on a series of zombie action spy thrillers, in the style of James Bond. How are they going, and what other projects do you have on the boil?

Ah, yes, YOU ONLY DIE TWICE, or SLEEPER AWAKE, or whatever I end up calling it... it's still on the back burner, ready to be moved to the front at a moment's notice. I'm going through a bit of a fallow period at the moment, even in terms of reading, let alone writing. The main issue is that I've written the first half of the first book, only to realise I wrote it completely wrong and have to start again. So it's a question of summoning up the strength to go back and work through that initial draft, rewriting it entirely as I go. I'm not looking forward to it, but I'm determined to make it happen.

As for other work, there's not a lot. I have a story in an upcoming anthology from Permuted Press in the US, which I believe is actually my first ever published zombie story, but apart from that, it's quiet times for the time being. Hopefully all that will change, if I can just get my act together...

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Weirdly, the Australian work I've loved most recently was one of my Hachette stablemates from 2006, PRISMATIC by Edwina Grey. I finally got around to reading it, after putting it off time and time again, I think maybe because it pipped CARNIES at the post for the Aurealis Award that year and I was subconsciously hoping it wasn't actually better than my book! But I read it at last this year, and it was a knockout piece of work, I'm so impressed with it. Again, this is a book that deserved much better than it got (though it DID get that AA!), and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

I don't feel that as a writer I've really changed the way I work over the last twenty years or so. It's great to have some eBooks out now, though, that was a barrier I always wanted to break through, and to have CARNIES on Amazon is a dream come true, though the recent issues there have soured that a smidgeon. Personally, I think I'll just keep writing what I write, and if someone wants to publish it, that'll be lovely, and if not, well, that's fine too. And I think I'll be reading more and more eBooks; I love physical books... the feel, the smell... but the convenience of having so many books on such a small device just can't be ignored!



This post is part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. Snapshot 2012 is being conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely, and Sean Wright. To read the interviews hot off the press, check our blogs daily from 28 July to 10 August, 2014.
discoballs

2014 Snapshot Interview: Chuck McKenzie

SnaphotLogo2014Chuck McKenzie was born in 1970, and still spends most of his time there. A former author, editor and reviewer, he now runs a specialty SF, Fantasy & Horror bookshop in darkest Chelsea, Victoria.

1. You opened up ‘Notions Unlimited’ just over 2 years ago, when many other independent bookstores were closing. What was your motivation in opening the store, and what has been the most challenging aspect of operating a bricks and mortar bookshop in the current publishing climate?

In a word, finance. It was always a calculated risk to open the shop at a time when traditional publishing and bookselling was going through a major downturn, and - to be honest - even with a dedicated core of regular customers, it's still very hard to make ends meet, which means that we constantly trade under a cloud of uncertainty regarding the future.

2. Notions Unlimited could be considered be a ‘value added’ bookshop, with many regular events such as trivia nights, roleplaying and gaming sessions, writing groups and even Klingon language lessons (!!). How essential do you think these ‘extras’ are to the viability of the store?

Absolutely vital. We don't charge for most of these events, but those that we do charge an entry fee for - such as trivia nights and paranormal information evenings - go a long way towards keeping us afloat. Such events also attract people who wouldn't otherwise bother to visit us in person, which often leads to them becoming regular customers, so these events are also important in growing our customer base.

3. Notions Unlimited stocks and supports many Australian small press publishers and authors. Is this something that you do as a service to the Australian spec fic community, or do you think stocking small press publications provides a point of differentiation that is valuable compared to larger chain stores?

Both. I do have a number of customers who come to me specifically because they know I stock small press publications. I also feel a great deal of affection and loyalty for the Australian small press community, both because it nurtured and supported me as a writer when I was 'breaking out', and also because some of the very best Australian writing (in my humble opinion) comes from the small presses due to them being willing to take chances on niche-interest and/or slipstream titles. At the moment, I actually think that Australian small presses are outperforming many bigger publishers in terms of comparative output and quality of publications. In my opinion. :)

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

I'm over the moon to see Martin Livings' CARNIES back in print through Cohesion Press - it's a modern classic that more people should read. I've also loved DYING EMBERS (M R Cosby) and GREAT SOUTHERN LAND (ed. Stephen Ormsby / Carol Bond), both from Satalyte Publishing, and AMBASSADORS (Patty Jansen) from Ticonderoga Publications. I've also got a few interesting-looking books from IFWG Publishing currently calling to me from my 'To Read' pile.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

Not particularly - I might be a bit more careful about what I keep on the shelves, since finances are tighter, but that's about it. I imagine that in five years' time - assuming that current trends are maintained - there will be a great deal more small press material available, and also that many small press authors will be making the jump to larger publishers, due to those authors' proven track records sales-wise.


This post is part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. Snapshot 2012 is being conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely, and Sean Wright. To read the interviews hot off the press, check our blogs daily from 28 July to 10 August, 2014.
discoballs

2014 Snapshot Interview: Kylie Chan

SnaphotLogo2014When Kylie Chan returned to Australia after ten years in Hong Kong, she studied martial arts, Buddhist and Taoist philosophy, and brought these together in her Chinese mythology-based fantasy series published by Voyager-HarperCollins worldwide.

1. Demon Child, book 2 of the Celestial Battle trilogy, and book 8 in the ongoing story of Emma Donohue and John Chen has just been published in Australia, and you are working on the 9th and final (?) book now. How do you feel about getting so close to finishing the third trilogy and did your characters end up where you thought they would when you started?

Yes, the ninth book will be the final book of the series. Now that I'm reaching the end, there's no sense of sadness - I think because this story has been sitting there all along, from start to finish, and it was just a matter of putting the words on the page. It's more a feeling of accomplishment to have made it! The characters absolutely ended up where I knew they would, when I'm building a plot I start at the end and work backwards. This ending has been coming since I started the whole nine-book series.

2. You have a couple of short pieces set in the same world as ‘The Dark Heavens’ that you have published digitally. What was your motivation for writing and releasing these, and do you have plans to write more (short or long works) in the world?

The novellas were experimental pieces, to see how the digital self-publishing (and print-on-demand) process works. I decided to do this after spending a very informative weekend at Supanova hanging out with Colin Taber and Hugh Howey, who have both had success digitally self-publishing their works. Each was a story that just popped into my head and I wrote in-between doing everything else, and at the time I considered them something of a throw-away. (Both Apple and Smashwords have contacted me telling me I need to arrange better covers and asking me to do pre-orders for future ones!) I give them away at conventions on pre-printed business cards as a promotional tool. After each Supanova where I give hundreds of them away, there's a definite spike in interest on my Amazon rankings for my first novel.

I may write a spinoff series for one of the main characters in the current series, but at the moment I'm just concentrating on having book nine finished. As to other shorts - as they come to me I have no choice but to write them down. Like most writers I have a folder full of stuff that's borderline suitable for publication with just a few more tweaks and a better ending.

3. I understand you are currently completing a Masters in Creative Writing with Dr Kim Wilkins at UQ, investigating the impact of digital self-publishing on the traditional publishing industry. How fascinating! How did you decide on this topic, and how will you be undertaking your research?

My background in IT has a lot to do with the research. I'd been an IT consultant for many years, both in Australia and Hong Kong (it was my career until I threw it all in to be a writer). Kim's been incredibly supportive and encouraging. I have a unique perspective, being both an IT expert and a successful author. This combined with my existing university-level study in IT, as well as my strong research background, has made me the ideal person to investigate exactly what's happening in this new frontier of the publishing industry. I'll mostly be asking people - particularly authors - how the new publishing paradigm has affected the way they work, and their plans for the future. Right now is an incredibly exciting time to be an author.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Alan Baxter's BOUND. I'm launching this at Avid Reader in Brisbane. This story has all the elements of a great seller. Trent Jamieson keeps teasing us all on facebook with talk of expanding his DeathWorks universe. KJ Taylor keeps saying that she's writing more stuff. And this is just the recent things I've been loving!

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

I thought the digital/Amazon self-publishing thing would have more impact on me as a writer than it has. Five years from now I'll probably be doing the same thing as I am now, but perhaps more of it. I'll try to write shorter, more self-contained works, but everything else - I have no idea. If you'd asked me this question five years ago I would have been completely wrong in any prediction I made. The industry is in a very interesting place right now and I can't wait to see what direction it takes.



This post is part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. Snapshot 2012 is being conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely, and Sean Wright. To read the interviews hot off the press, check our blogs daily from 28 July to 10 August, 2014.
discoballs

2014 Snapshot Interview: Paul Mannering

SnaphotLogo2014Paul Mannering is an award winning writer living in Wellington, New Zealand Paul has published dozens of short stories and radio plays in a range of genres across many different international markets. His Australian zombie series, Tankbread, is published by Permuted Press. The first book in the Drakeforth series of sci-fi comedy novels, 'Engines of Empathy', is available now through Paper Road PressYou can follow Paul on Twitter @paul_mannering or follow his blog at www.manneringbooks.com

1. ‘Tankbread 2: Immortal’ was recently published by Permuted Press. Congratulations and how is it being received? You are noted for writing novels with female protagonists, and ‘Immortal’ is no exception. How do you go about writing a ‘complex’ female character and why is it important to you?

Thanks. Immortal has been very well received. Positive reviews abound and it has been selling well across various markets around the world.

I like to write characters that are not the norm for action oriented fiction. I find that characters who do not come from a background of military special forces or secret agency training – make for far more interesting and relatable people in the terms of the story. My favourite characters are the ones who make mistakes and who are not perfect examples of humanity. Readers can relate to these imperfect castings and it helps engage them in the story.

Else, the protagonist in Immortal, is a cloned human (colloquially called “Tankbread”). She has a great mind and learns quickly. However, she is living in a post-apocalyptic Australia where danger comes in many forms.

I don’t focus on writing characters as female, more (as George RR Martin says) as people. The complexity comes from delving into their personalities, their agendas, and establishing a relationship with them as a writer. The character’s voice evolves and this becomes the guide for their actions and dialogue.

2. Your original novel ‘Tankbread’ was originally self-published, but later republished by Permuted Press. Can you tell us how Permuted come to pick up ‘Tankbread’? Is self publishing something you are still interested in pursuing for other projects?

Within a year of self-publishing Tankbread, Jacob Kier, the then owner of Permuted Press contacted me based on the success of Tankbread. I signed a contract with him for Tankbread and the sequel, which I was still writing at the time.

Shortly after that (a matter of months) Permuted Press was sold to new owners. They invested in Tankbread and it’s sequels (they now have three books and are clamouring for more in the series).

I continue to self-publish. My current trend is publishing short stories on the Kindle. I sell these for 99 cents and cycle through the current titles I have available doing free promotions. It’s a simple way to introduce readers to my writing and give them a taste of what they can expect.hopes to bring those works and their authors to a wider readership.


3. I believe you have a couple of other projects with Permuted, including the third Tankbread novel, and another novel as well. What else do you have in the pipeline?

Tankbread 3: Deadland is due for release in August, 2014. I’m really excited about this one. It continues the traditions of the Tankbread series, and introduces a new protagonist (a 16 year old girl called Gin). Else is still a key element of the story and this one ties up some loose ends while expanding the story Universe in preparation for a fourth (untitled) book in the series.

I am currently working on a new apocalyptic series for Permuted Press. This one centers around a group of outlaw bikers who are caught up in a devestating outbreak of a strange disease that turns the infected into raging cannibals. I’ve had the pleasure of working on it with a US Army veteran who has been invaluable in providing technical data on the military aspects of the story.

On a completely different spec-fic tangent, in May my sci-fi comedy novel, Engines of Empathy was published by Paper Road Press. This story also features a female protagonist, Charlotte Pudding. Charlotte is a recently orphaned woman who works as a computer psychologist in a world where machines run on positive emotions and Quantum Mechanics is the basis of the primary religion. Engines has delighted reviewers so far and is a mad-cap adventure with elements of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett and Jasper Fforde (all who are big influences of mine).

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

There are so many fantastic Australian spec-fic works out there at the moment. I was part of the judging panel of the Australian Horror Writer’s annual short-story and flash fiction competition. We had the delight of reading over a hundred amazing horror shorts with a huge range of themes and styles.

Alan Baxter’s Bound is the book I am currently reading. It is the story of Alex Caine, a prize-fighter in the mixed-martial arts fight circuit. He has a latent magical ability to sense other’s intentions. He is drawn into a wild world of magic and danger along with the reader and it’s great story; a terrific mix of martial arts, urban fantasy and magic.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

It seems that the publishing industry is going through another upheaval as various big names in the industry try to push back on each other. It’s amazing to watch these behemoths struggle to change direction and find their footing in the new world of publishing.

The biggest influence of the changes on how I work is that I now have confidence that I can be published. I have so many options for any creative projects – I can even crowdfund the exercise (or just make potato salad).

If anything the increasing ease with which people can create and share is making for a world where we are seeing stories that otherwise would have never been known. The Big 5 publishers are not the only deciders of what is a good story – the readers are the true judges and they vote with their wallets.

In five years from now – I will be almost finished my current work in progress pile (about 7 novels plus sequels). I am keen to expand into different genres, including a trilogy of murder mysteries that started out as a NANOWRIMO project a few years ago.

I expect I will still be publishing short stories, either free or cheap-as-chips on sites like Amazon. As long as they keep the doors to publishing open for independent and self-published authors – I will keep supporting them.

I’m looking forward to reading new fiction. Fiction inspired by the works coming out now and the changing world around us. Spec-fic will move on to new tropes and old ideas will be explored in new ways with perspectives shaped by changes in society and the cultures that the writers are immersed in. I know we will never see the written word fade as an art form. We will always have stories to tell and people wanting to hear them.



This post is part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. Snapshot 2012 is being conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely, and Sean Wright. To read the interviews hot off the press, check our blogs daily from 28 July to 10 August, 2014.