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2012 Snapshot Interview: Carol Ryles

A graduate of Clarion West 2008, Carol Ryles has over a dozen stories published in small press anthologies, and in 2006 received an Honourable Mention in the Australian Aurealis Award for Fantasy and was also shortlisted for an Australian Shadows Award for Horror. She has recently finished her first novel as part of her PhD in Creative Writing, focussing on steampunk. More about Carol can be found at http://carolryles.com/wordpress/ and http://egoboo-wa.blogspot.com.au/

1. You have contributed short fiction to Australian small press anthologies and magazines for over a decade. What keeps you submitting to small press anthologies, and have you considered expanding to international markets??)

My first published story was to an American market, Jackhammer, an ezine back in 2000. Not long before that, I hadn’t known that Australian small press markets existed. Growing up in pre-internet days, I had previously relied on poorly stocked libraries and mainstream bookshops. Then I discovered Eidolon and from there, Australian science fiction. I couldn’t believe that so many home-grown works had been out there all along. I started reading Australian speculative fiction from the fabulous Murdoch University Speculative Fiction collection – old Eidolons and Aurealis and discovered novelists such as Sara Douglas, Juliet Marillier, Damien Broderick, Greg Egan, George Turner, Terry Dowling, Tess Williams. Then, as new small press magazines and anthologies started up, I wanted to be part of them.

But to answer your question: have I considered expanding to international markets?

Yes. Like most writers, I’ve tested their waters (and still do) and have received encouraging feedback and requests for more work. Only time will tell where my next story will end up, but truthfully, most of my published stories have been written specifically for the Australian markets they appeared in.

2. You are an editorial consultant and steering committee member for Trove, a UWA-based online creative arts journal that aims to provide university students the opportunity to gain editing experience and publish online. Does you work with Trove complement your own writing, and how do non-genre writers differ to specfic writers?

I’ve always considered myself a writer first and editor second, so when I was asked to help mentor the Trove student editing committee, I was faced with a lot of reading about the nuts and bolts of writing and how to edit poetry and scripts as well as short fiction. It was the kind of reading I’d always put off, telling myself I’d do it when I needed to. But when it was time to revise the third draft of my PhD novel, I suddenly found myself more able to recognize structural problems – things that had stumped me in earlier drafts. My work at Trove felt like an extension of all my Clarion West training – putting my critiquing skills into practice while at the same time teaching others. Where Clarion helped me find my way out of the dark, Trove led me through the shadows.

As to your second question – from what I’ve seen so far, I’d say that writers from both genres appear to have a good sense of what is expected, and on average both are willing to experiment within their own genre. The difference in writing quality seems mostly to depend on what stage of writing they are at and where their individual strengths lie. Although we receive more mainstream than speculative fiction submissions, I was pleased to see that the Trove Editor’s Choice Award was given to a piece of fantasy/horror that appeared in Volume 1 Issue 1. This decision was made solely by the student editing committee.

3. You are currently completing a PhD in Creative Writing, and are also part of Egoboo WA, a writers group that focuses on novels. Does this indicate you are trying to shift from short fiction to longer works? What are your aims for the future?

When I started writing regularly, about twelve years ago, I wanted to be a novel writer, but knew that short stories were a good starting point for learning the craft. But most of my stories ended up not only being awful, but also too long to publish, especially as a new writer, so I submitted very few of them. Consequently, I have always put the novel writing off, saying I wasn’t ready yet. Then I started my PhD and that was the end of my procrastinating. Now three very different drafts later, I have at last a finished novel. Although it works as a stand alone, it’s also Book One of a trilogy. When the PhD is submitted in October – I plan to keep writing novels, aiming to complete one per year. As for short stories, they’re my time out. They’re what I do when I need to take a break from the novel after I’ve painted myself into a corner. They allow me distance myself before I figure out what to do next. The interesting thing I’ve discovered about swapping between writing short stories and novels is that when I learn something new in one medium I can often use it to fix the other.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Mmmm there have been too many Australian works to love recently. I have a huge pile to get through; but of the ones I’ve read, I was very impressed with Richard Harland’s Liberator – a fabulous steampunk adventure tale where steam, machines and rebellions are literally larger than life. Lisa Hannett’s Bluegrass Symphony brimmed with talent. As did the thought provoking dystopian stories in Sue Isle’s Nightsiders. Jo Anderton’s Debris is also a great read. I haven’t had time for non-genre fiction as, when I’m not polishing the novel, I’m finishing the exegesis. So later this year, I have a lot of catching up to do.

5. Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think have been the biggest changes to the Australian SpecFic scene?

Now that’s a tough one because I’ve been a bit of a hermit since Aussiecon 4, trying to finish this PhD. I’ve noticed a proliferation of good quality short story collections on the small press market, and it’s great to see both Ticonderoga, Twelfth Planet and Jonathan Strahan regularly publishing new works. I haven’t exactly been keeping track of what’s on offer lately, but the major publishers seem to be putting out less science fiction novels than they used to, which is saddening.


This post is part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1 June to 7 June and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. Snapshot 2012 is being conducted by Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Ian Mond, Jason Nahrung, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright. To read the interviews hot off the press, check our blogs daily from June 1 to June 7, 2012.