2014 Snapshot Interview: Marty Young

SnaphotLogo2014Marty Young (www.martyyoung.com) is an Australian Shadows Award-winning and Bram Stoker-nominated writer and editor, and sometimes ghost hunter. His debut novel, 809 Jacob Street, was released by Black Beacon Books on October 31, 2013, and won the Australian Shadows Award for best horror novel. Marty was the founding president of the Australian Horror Writers Association from 2005 to 2010, and was also one of the creative minds behind Midnight Echo magazine.

1. At the time of the 2012 Snapshot, your novel ‘809 Jacob Street’ was in its fifth draft and under revision. Two years later and it has been published by Black Beacon Books, and was recently named Best Novel in the 2013 Australian Shadows Awards. Congratulations! Can you tell us about the novel and describe the journey to publication? How did you connect with Black Beacon Books?

Thank you, and yes, it's been a long journey for that novel. 809 Jacob Street was the first novel I wrote, and I initially wrote it as a pantser - that is, by the seat of my pants. I had a rough idea of the story and just wrote, letting the characters dictate when we'd reach the conclusion. If I remember right, the initial draft was 300,000+ words. Subsequent drafts tore out huge chunks of that, and beta readers and mentors told me what else was redundant and needed to go. The final version (no idea what number version that was) came in at only around 45,000 words! It's clear to me now that I am definitely a plotter, not a pantser.

I've always been a supporter of the Aussie scene, as my work with the AHWA shows, so I wanted to submit 809 Jacob Street to Australian markets as well as overseas ones. I saw that Cameron Trost had set up a new publishing house called Black Beacon Books, and I thought, why not? I've known Cam through the AHWA for several years and trusted he would do a good job. On the day I received an acceptance from him, I also received one from an overseas small-press publisher, too, but after some research and speaking to other authors, I chose to go with Black Beacon Books. Cam was brilliant, making it clear that as my book would be his first book as a publisher, I would need to do a lot of marketing myself etc, but he also gave me a lot of freedom with the designing of the cover, and the internal pictures and layout. I'm very happy with the final product, and think that it's great that the first book he has published as a publisher has won an award.

2. You’ve designated 2014 as your year of ‘Righting the Imbalance’, and you plan to focus this year on reading novels by female horror writers. Halfway through the year, how is that going, and have you got any recommendations? Why was it important for you to pursue the project?

My year of 'Righting the Imbalance' is going really well. This idea came about after I had forgotten to send Gillian Polack a piece for her Women's History Month in Australia earlier this year. We got to chatting, and after I explained to her that I would be spending this year only reading horror novels by female writers, she asked me to write an article covering the adventure. It's been an eye-opening trip so far; I have discovered many brilliant female horror writers I had never read before - the likes of Sarah Pinborough, Mary Sangiovanni, Alexander Sokoloff... I certainly don't consider myself sexist, but I was quite stunned at how dominant male writers were on my bookshelves when I stopped to consider it. I do admit to a certain naivety though; I thought Kim Newman was a female until last year! Keep an eye out for the article in early 2015.

3. It’s recently been announced that you will be editing a new anthology for Cohesion press, titled ‘Blurring the Lines’ and open for submissions between August and October this year. Do you see editing as an important facet of your writing career? How did the project come about?

Blurring the Line was an idea I brought to Cohesion Press a little while ago, and Geoff Brown liked it enough to discuss further. Fortunately, I was able to convince him to run with it, so now I open to subs on August the 1st (Editor's note:  that's today!). I have a number of high profile authors lined up to provide stories, which I'm really excited about (I'll release their names a bit later on - one of them is going to be twisting things quite a bit, too!), but I also wanted to have an equal number of slots open to everyone else, as that's something that annoys me about some anthologies that come out, with one, maybe two slots open to general submissions and all other spots going to stable authors. It's hard enough breaking into this industry without things like this. Anyway, there's also going to be an art tale, plus a large component of non-fiction in Blurring the Line, although not what people will expect when I say that. I'll release more info a little further down the line, but it is going to be great fun putting together.

I enjoy editing and definitely want to continue taking on editing gigs throughout my career. You learn a lot from this side of the desk, a lot of valuable lessons about writing. I have done two editing projects thus far (the award winning Macabre, and Midnight Echo Issue 8), and reading hundreds of subs gives you great insight into how much time you have to convince the editor your story is worth reading. But even putting aside the importance of good writing, a great story, believable characters, etc, you also see how tough it is, because it could be due to space or themes already covered that causes your story to be rejected, even if that story is wonderful. Perhaps editing toughens you up as a writer, while also showing you that rejections really aren't personal.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Unfortunately, because I'm reading novels written by females only this year, I really haven't read a lot of Aussie books of late. I do have a big pile to get through once this year is over, though (Rob Hood, Alan Baxter, Cat Sparks, Joanne Anderton, Andrew McKiernan...), and there are a number of Australian novels by female writers for me yet to read and include in the article I'm working on.

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?

Yes, most definitely. The publishing world is in utter chaos, and we're in the middle of it all. It's quite exciting, really. In five years from now, I have no idea what the publishing world will look like, and I doubt many people do; things are changing too quickly. However, it's clear that self-publishing is here to stay and will become an even bigger aspect of the industry. And I'm all for that; in fact, I can see myself self-publishing in the very near future (although I suspect I will continue to take the hybrid path), probably putting out 2-3 titles a year, because that's the other thing, isn't it? Readers expect more books from you all of the time. Releasing one novel a year, or even two, isn't sating their appetite anymore. All that does is loses you momentum.

Gone are the days of big marketing teams and budgets to bring your book to the world's attention. A writer is expected to do the majority of marketing and promotions themselves now, and I suspect that aspect will only continue. I also think more and more mid-list writers will turn to self-publishing (or small-presses), as nurturing careers doesn't seem like something the big publishers can do anymore. And I can see more new writers going that way too, after one book; the window they're given to make a mark is growing smaller all of the time, and if they don't do so, they're quickly forgotten. In that situation, getting a second book out is going to be even more difficult through those channels, if not impossible.

The traditional model of publishing doesn't appear sustainable; it's outdated, archaic, and authors have other options now open to them, options that provide them with full control and greater returns. Writing is a business, so to me it just makes sense to control as much of it as possible yourself. Hire folks to design covers, do the layout, etc. All good, as far as I'm concerned. The (writing-centric) stigma that used to be attached to self-publishing is definitely eroding - and fast, if it hasn't already gone completely. And actually, I remember asking a lot of friends who read but didn't write what they thought about buying self-published books, and the majority of them said they didn't often know what book was self-published and what wasn't. A top quality self-published book is indistinguishable from a traditionally published book. Distribution channels are also opening to self-published titles - yes, it is all more work, but I'm growing less convinced that's enough to hold onto these days, after some of the experiences I've been hearing of from other traditionally published writers.

As much as I love paper books, I also travel to the jungles of PNG for 4 weeks at a time, so ebooks are just practical for me when I'm reading 6 or so novels a trip. Ebooks will continue to grow in dominance, too. How can they not? We are a digital society, and we will only become more entrenched in the digital. All you have to do is think about the film industry, or the music industry. Publishing is going through what they went through before. Bookshops will continue to struggle in the new world, unfortunately, much like music and DVD shops do today, and that is a real shame. I suspect I will be reading mostly ebooks in the future, but still buying signed printed editions of the books I love.

And Amazon isn't going anywhere.

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.

2014 Snapshot Interview: Patty Jansen

SnaphotLogo2014Patty Jansen is the author of the Icefire Trilogy (which has been a bestseller on Kobo and #1 fantasy in the iBookstore Australia), the Return of the Aghyrians series (final book out in July) and the Ambassador series. Visit her website http://pattyjansen.com/ to see her books and visit her blog (mostly about photography, writing and art)

1. You are predominantly known for your hard SF writing, but I note that your most recent releases, Books 1 and 2 of the ‘For Queen and Country’ series (Innocence Lost and Willow Witch) are classed as history-inspired fantasy. What has inspired this shift in genre and are you reaching a new audience with these releases?

I have never written only hard SF. It was hard SF that I was able to sell to magazines, but I describe myself as a writer of “space opera, hard SF and weird fantasy”. It is in fact my fantasy series, the Icefire Trilogy, that has, over the past few years, vastly out-earned any advance I would have been able to get as debut novelist.

It is true that with my latest series I’m reaching for a slightly different audience: that of voracious readers. People who read only ebooks, and read a book a day. They tend to prefer shorter works. Each installment in the series will be about 45-60,000 words. But the story structure and style is similar to my other works.

2. Your novel ‘Ambassador’ was published by Ticonderoga Publications last year. However in that sale, you retained the electronic rights and published the ebook yourself as the first in new series. Why was this important to you and what are your plans for the series?

It was important to me to retain the ebook rights precisely because I had the second book already half-written and wanted to bring it out quickly. Russ concentrates on making beautiful print books. Ebooks are not very high on his priority list, so keeping the ebook rights was the best thing for me.

The Ambassador series will have at least one more book, but I’m also toying with ideas for a novella that takes place in between book 1 and 2, and I will not rule out any future projects, because the possibilities are endless. In fact the Ambassador series takes place in the same world as some of my other fiction. The Far Horizon is about the same character as a child. The Shattered World Within is a novella that goes into detail about the society structure of one of the alien races.

3. Since 2011, you have published over 20 books in a variety of different worlds and genres, and you seem very confident in your self publishing niche. Is this the way forward for you, or are you still pursuing more ‘traditional’ publishing deals as well?

With every day that passes, every time I hear how “much” (ahem) advance a traditionally-published author in Australia gets, every time I see my friends being dumped, short-shifted or screwed by a publishing deal, I’m more confident that I will never sell the ebook rights of any of my books to any publisher unless they can convince me that it will be beneficial to me. To be honest I don’t believe large, traditional publishers can make such an offer under their current modus operandum without a rights grab. If one of my books suddenly becomes runaway success, and they offer me a contract, I don’t need them anymore and will certainly earn more by keeping the rights. Ridiculous clauses such as non-compete clauses and right of first refusal would be a no-go for me. I really cannot believe the crap contracts people sign. For 15% of the cover price? Really cannot. And the more I talk to people in the industry, the more I’m convinced that at some point in the near future, one or two (or three) of the main publishers will see a major restructuring. I do not want my books tied up as collateral damage in a big company’s restructuring or filing for bankruptcy. Been there, done that. Never again, thank you very much.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

I’ve read books by Aurealis-nominated authors Graham Storrs (his self-published work and that from Momentum) and Andrea Host (all self-published), also Dionne Lister.

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 major change since last snapshot is I have totally bombed out on short story writing. When my brain is set on novels, it can’t do short stories. I quite enjoy writing hard SF stories, but it becomes a matter of income. I can spend two months writing eight short stories or I can spend the same amount of time writing a novel. I can maybe sell two of those stories for a few hundred dollars and the rest for a hundred (just a guesstimate). After the rights run out, I can bundle the stories and sell online as a collection… except short story collections don’t sell worth squat.

So I can invest the same amount of time writing a novel. Especially if the novel is book 2 or 3 in a series, it’s a huge investment. I can not only sell it for—say—a few hundred dollars the first month, but I can do the same thing the next month, and the month after, and… OK by the third month I’ll have written the next book in the series, and the income jumps yet again.

It’s really a no-brainer.

Five years from now? That’s a looooong time in publishing, especially if you sell mainly ebooks. The landscape changes all the time. I let my decisions for what to write next be guided partially by what works right now, and write more of that, but I also want to develop different income streams. Since I have no interest in game writing or writing media tie-in fiction, writing in a different subgenre is a type of diversification.

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.

2014 Snapshot Interview: Gerry Huntman

SnaphotLogo2014Gerry Huntman is a speculative fiction writer and publisher based in Melbourne, Australia, living with his wife and young daughter. He mostly writes dark fiction and has published over 50 stories spanning many genres and sub-genres. Latest publications include Night Terrors III anthology, Lovecraft eZine, Aurealis Magazine, and Our World of Horror anthology. His all-ages fantasy novel, Guardian of the Sky Realms, will be published in 2014. His author blog is at http://gerryhuntman.livejournal.com and he tweets at @gerryhuntman.

1. You are the Managing Director of IFWG Publishing, which started in 2010, and IFWG Publishing Australia, which started in 2013. Can you tell us a bit about the company, and the rationale behind starting up a specific Australian imprint? Both IFWG Publishing and IFWG Publishing Australia is currently open for manuscript submissions – what are you looking for?

IFWG Publishing was originally formed in 2010, by four people: Esme Carpenter (York, England), Warren Goodwin (New Jersey, USA), Randy Knowlton (Missouri, USA), and myself, based in Melbourne. We created the company with the express purpose to provide another market opportunity for upcoming authors, particularly in the speculative fiction super-genre. Esme and Warren are largely 'silent' partners, although provide extremely useful help in a few fields, particularly submission reading. Randy was the Managing Director, and I, because of my editing background (member Editors Victoria), became Chief Editor. Because the US reading population was the largest, we decided to focus on that group, and all our publications, with few exceptions, were published with US readership in mind (for example US English, oriented toward the Chicago Style Manual).

Last year, two things happened at the same time, but coalesced to me. Firstly, I decided to create an Australian Imprint of IFWG, for the simple reason that a substantial percentage of our authors were Australian or UK based, and I felt that their target audiences should be their fellow nationals. The logic was that it is better to 'conquer' one's home turf before the world, or foreign lands. The second event was a personal one, where Randy had some life issues that eclipsed his commitments to IFWG, and the baton was handed over to me. On top of all of that, I have a special love for my ezine, SQ Mag, which is published by IFWG Publishing Australia, but is independently managed under the very capable hands of Editor in Chief, Sophie Yorkston (who is also a Melbourne person, but is currently spending time in Canada).

I made the decision to move the entire IFWG operation (both imprints and SQ Mag) to Melbourne, and operate them in most ways separately. Australian, UK and NZ products are published through IFWG Publishing Australia, and the rest through our US mother company. The latter has some very good fiction by mainly US and Canadian writers, but also from Nigeria and South Africa. SQ Mag is delighting me with its quality and market penetration, featuring writers such as Cat Sparks, Kaaron Warren, Gary McMahon, Jay Lake, Daniel Russell, Alan Baxter, Ken Liu, Angela Slatter, and Laird Barron. And every story we have published (approaching 100 over 15 editions thus far) is original. The Australian imprint of IFWG Publishing also has a special place in my heart - and is producing outstanding fiction in its first year of operation.

Both title publishing imprints are definitely open for submissions, but not for very long. We have a strong selection of titles already solicited, and we are looking for 1 or 2 unsolicited editions for each. We already have a strong field for our children's/young teen range, but if a story is strong in the 12+ age group, we will consider them. We are a speculative fiction publisher, first and foremost, and we will look at almost anything, but they have to be fresh, interesting and very well written. We are a small publishing company, and yet we strive for excellence. Quality horror is in shortage in our catalogue, and we would pay special attention to submissions in that style of speculative fiction. Note, however, we are an 'adult' publication (for our adult range) - which means we are willing to accept language, sex and violence - but these elements must be tools to support the story and characterisation, not the other way round.

2. Your short fiction publication rate is very impressive, and spans horror, science fiction and fantasy. I note that many of your stories are placed in newer markets that are probably unfamiliar to the Australian speculative fiction community. Do you have specific networks that you use to place your short stories, and what is your overall aim in targeting these particular markets?

My writing started decades ago, but the serious effort to publish only started back around 2009/2010. My early short stories were published in markets that were appropriate for the level of expertise I had as a writer - particularly the technical elements. Since then I have 'climbed the ladder' and am now publishing in professional markets, and I can pick and choose more than I used to. So, while I was not fussy in my early career, now, if I am not solicited, I write a story, and then I think long and hard about which market best suits it - not only because I will have a comfortable place to bed down my tale, but it also improves the chances of the market accepting it, and avoiding iteration on my part. I use Ralan.com and Duotrope.com extensively to assist me with identifying markets, worldwide. Just as a side point, my steampunk and Lovecraftian horror stories have a much greater reading population in the US, and I tend to send those stories there - the market is simply bigger, and better paying. Australia is a great place to publish short fiction, but the market isn't, in my view, keeping up with demand - particularly in some fields, such as horror, and certainly not great from a payment point of view (important, if one is making a living, or part-living, from writing).

3. You recently announced that your young teen fantasy novel, 'Guardian of the Sky Realms', originally published in 2010 by IFWG Publishing, will be republished by Cohesion Press. What motivated you to re-release this book and do you have any other novels in the pipeline?

I published Guardian of the Sky Realms, a young teen fantasy novel, through IFWG Publishing because it was easy to do, but soon afterwards I regretted the decision. The main regret was the possible perception that I didn't go through a quality control process and simply used my influence to get it published. This was not the case (I actually had the story blind submitted), but that doesn't matter at all. Perceptions are what count. The other regret was that I had it published in US English, even though the main protagonists and much of the setting was Australian. I had promised myself after that move, never again to publish any of my stories through IFWG Publishing, to avoid the issues mentioned above.

Over the last year I developed a good working relationship with Cohesion Press, based in Bendigo. Like so many things in small communities, Geoff Brown, the Managing Director, heard about my story, read it with another submissions reader, and loved it. This was a godsend for me, as it enabled me to correct what I believe was a mistake, and it also gave me an opportunity to publish it exactly how I originally wanted it to be published - an Australian novel for Australians of all ages. It gave me an opportunity to revise the novel, under the expert eyes of Cohesion's editors and proofreaders, which was nothing short of fantastic. Finally, it now has a cover design by a leading artist from the UK, who, among other credits, is currently creating the covers of some Stephen King novels. From my point of view, Guardian of the Sky Realms has finally found its rightful place in the market.

I am currently in discussion with an Australian publisher to publish a collection of all of my science fiction short fiction (running from flash all the way to novella). I am looking at something like 19 stories - a good sized product. News will be announced, hopefully, soon. Additionally, I have a series of heroic fantasy novels developing, and another Australian publisher is receptive to looking closely at the first instalment - which may possibly be split into two novels, given its size. Several other novels are bubbling away in my head for next year, more in the horror and science fiction fields.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

I love Australian genre fiction, and due to my strong affiliations with horror/dark fiction writers in the Antipodes, much of my reading has been in that space. As a long fiction judge over the last two years for the Australian Shadows Awards, I have got to read a large percentage of current dark fiction (novellas and novels), both from large and small presses. I have, over recent years, become a huge fan of Kaaron Warren, and have read her latest collections - The Gate Theory and Through Splintered Walls, both masterpieces of subtle, disturbing fiction. Other writers, who I have read over recent times, include Robert Hood, Kirstyn McDermott, Jason Nahrung, Angela Slatter, Michael B Fletcher, Alan Baxter, and many more. All of their work delight me. Outside of the dark fiction space, I enjoy Sean Williams, Margo Lanagan, Lee Battersby, Ian Irvine, and many more again.

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 recent changes, and the continuing changes in the industry, have profound effects. As a publisher, I need to make sure that I can cater for all publishing channels - if I stuck just to print, I would be out of business, but at the same time I have to cater for the substantial readership who love the physical book. I read in both forms (ebooks and print), and no doubt will continue to. As a writer, I find no difficulty if I am commissioned to write for ebooks only, or even ezines online-only. The important thing is that I am recognised as a teller of tales, and people get exposed to my efforts in the art.

The most impactful dimension of the changes in the industry is the way in which self publishing has created a tsunami effect in fiction hitting the western world. Hundreds of thousands of titles come out each year, and whether they are good, bad or so-so in quality, it doesn't matter - it dilutes the efforts of everyone who plays in the sandbox. We all make less money, we all must work harder to become different. Many of these obstacles are unfair - but they are also part of the reality of where we currently are.

I suspect in five years from now I will be writing more, and hopefully better, fiction, and IFWG Publishing (the two imprints and SQ Mag), will be a respected member of the Australian (and world) genre publishing community. I suspect ebooks will be more prolific, but I also believe print will still retain a place, albeit in a different form.

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.

2014 Snapshot Interview: Alan Baxter

SnaphotLogo2014Alan Baxter writes dark fantasy, sci-fi and horror, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. His novel, 'Bound', was recently published by Harper Voyager. Read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website – www.alanbaxteronline.com – and feel free to tell him what you think. About anything.  Find him  on Twitter at @AlanBaxter - https://twitter.com/AlanBaxter.

1. Congratulations on the recent publication of ‘Bound’, out through Harper Voyager. How has the book been received, and what was its path to publication?

Thanks! It’s only been out a couple of weeks as I’m answering this, but so far the response has been excellent. Early reviews are largely very good, iTunes and Galaxy Bookshop have it as their book of the month and stuff like that. If it carries on like this I’ll be very happy.

Its path to publication was one of agents, editorial desks, acquisitions meetings and so on – the usual traditional route that took a long time and lots of nail-biting when I knew it was going to acquisitions. It had had a couple of very positive rejections before that, but a major rewrite ended up at Harper Voyager and they liked it.

2. The protagonist, Alex Caine, appears to parallel to your own life to some extent, including his knowledge of martial arts and a house in country NSW. How often to you use your own life experience in your writing and how did you go about making Alex a distinct character?

I draw from everyone and everything I know to one extent or another. In this case, I set out to write a martial artist in these books and Alex is certainly trained in a similar way to myself and has a martial philosophy like mine. Beyond that, he's a very different person to me. I think there are autobiographical aspects, to a smaller or larger degree, in all the characters a writer creates. Beyond that, they become a gestalt of everyone else the writer has known, read about and so on. Making Alex was a long process, as the character has been knocking around in my head for ages.

His house was something I wanted to include because I love living where I do and wanted a bit of that in (hopefully) popular print!

3. Should we expect to see more of Alex Caine after the trilogy? What else are you working on now?

I hope so! There are definite threads left for me to work with and I’ve got several ideas for further books. I hope the first three are successful so I can keep writing more in the series.

In the meantime, I’m working on a completely unrelated standalone novel. It’s a horror, noir, organised crime mashup kinda thing. It’s fun, but has been regularly interrupted for Alex Caine edits. I’ll have a first draft finished well before the end of the year though. It’s currently somewhere around 50,000 words. Otherwise, I love to write and sell short stories, so I’m always working on those. And new novel ideas are always stacking up impatiently in my hindbrain.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Oh, there’s been loads of great Aussie specfic. Kylie Chan is going from strength to strength with everything she writes. I really enjoyed Andrew Macrea’s “Trucksong” – so different and so Australian. Andrew J McKiernan’s debut collection, “Last Year, When We Were Young”, is outstanding. I finally read the new edition of Kirstyn McDermott’s “Perfections” and that blew me away. I got to write the forward for a new collection of military horror, called “SNAFU”, edited by Geoff Brown and that’s a stellar set of yarns. Jason Franks’ novel of rock’n’roll and deals with the devil, “Bloody Waters”, was also superb. My book of the year last year was Max Barry’s “Lexicon”. I could go on and on. So many talented Aussies!

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?

No, I still work the same really. Regardless of delivery system, there’s always a demand for great stories and that’s what I try to produce. I think we’ll see a lot more ebook reading, but nothing will change that much in five years. The face of publishing is changing and small press and self-publishers are enjoying a renaissance of sorts, but big publishing is doing fine too. It’s a behemoth that takes a long time to move, but it’s adjusting to the new world along with everyone else. There will always be change, but there will also always be books. Five years from now, I’ll be producing the same kind of stuff, and hopefully I’ll be better at it! I have some ideas for diversifying my work, but genre fiction is where I live and I love it here.

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.

2014 Snapshot Interview: Margo Lanagan

SnaphotLogo2014Margo Lanagan lives in Sydney. She is working on a number of writing projects, including a horror novel about selkies, which also featured in her latest novel Sea Hearts (published in the US and the UK as The Brides of Rollrock Island). She tweets as @margolanagan

1. Your most recent collection to be published in Australia, ‘Cracklescape’, is a four story boutique collection from Twelfth Planet Press. Did you find the process of writing a shorter collection different to writing the longer collections you are known for?

Yes, I did. My other collections have each had ten stories in them, and White Time, Black Juice and Red Spikes were all original stories - my aim with those collections was to cram the greatest variety of stories into them as possible. I tried to include at least one identifiably YA story in each of those, one science fiction story, one animal-POV story, etc. etc. Yellowcake, the latest ten-story collection, is all reprints except for one original, but again, I was trying for maximum range.

With Cracklescape I wanted something to unify all four stories, and I decided that that thing would be Australian settings. For a while they were all going to be in different historical periods, too, but I ended up with one set in 1982 ('Significant Dust') and the others pretty much modern-day. All four stories were written in quick succession - that was the Year of the Short Story for me. I was a machine.

And there was no sitting on the fence - these were for an adult audience. Although, I guess the only one that some YAs might think was a bit much was ‘Bajazzle'. The others might just be a bit subtle and slow, and bore them.

Anyway, only four stories - efficient! But I don’t think they’re any more unified in theme than the other collections. Jane Yolen suggests in her lovely foreword that they’re all about ghosts of one kind or another, but I think she’s being kind. I think it’s a bit of a grab bag of Margo’s 2012 subconscious preoccupations: empty-nest syndrome, encroaching middle age, adolescent self-flagellation, escape, women’s problematic fertility, all those jolly things and more.

2. Your short story ‘Flower and Weed’ is an ‘out-take’ from your novel Seahearts’, and has been published in audio on the Terra Incognito podcast and in e-form by Fablecroft. I loved the extra insight that ‘Flower and Weed’ gives into Trudle’s life and the men of Rollrock Island. Why did you cut the excerpt (chapter?) from the novel, and how did it come to be published in its own right?

I cut it because my agent showed ‘Sea-Hearts’ the novella to my US publishers, and they said, with great relief, 'This is going to be SO much easier to sell as YA than Tender Morsels was.’ I’d started writing these quite adult scenes with a view to making a novel out of the novella, and ‘Flower and Weed’ was one of them, but when I heard that, I thought I’d take pity on my poor publishers and write it a different way. And then Keith Stevenson asked me if I had a story that would suit the podcast at around the time Sea Hearts the novel was coming out, and it worked well as a tie-in, so I tweaked the scene a bit to make it more short-story-like, and out it went into the world.

3. I understand you’re currently finishing your next novel. Can you tell us about it, and do you have specific plans for it when it is finished?

Here's what I said on Facebook, as part of a 5 Things About Your Work In Progress meme that was going around recently:

  1. If it's published, it'll be my 20th published novel — my 10th under my own name.

  2. It's about selkies again. I know, groan. Just STAY in the SEA in your OWN SKINS, why can't you?

  3. It's a horror novel. I've decided to stop pretending it's any other kind of novel "with horror elements".

  4. I'm into my fourth total revisioning of this story. I started in the middle of last year. Only the sense that I may have found the right way to tell this is keeping me from torching the whole damn thing and going to work in a pie shop instead.

  5. This was supposed to be a quick bookHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA!

Plans for it? If I can do more than thrust into my agent’s hands and fall in a heap I’ll be surprised. But after a little rest I imagine I’ll try to switch on the promotional side of my brain. Reanimate my blog, neglected since last December - that kind of thing.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

I had a lot of fun reading Alan Baxter’s Bound, the first volume of his Alex Caine trilogy, which I’m launching this week in Sydney. It’s a teeth-gnashing, shadow-chasing, magesign-riddled sexy beast of a thing! Another great new book coming out in September from Allen & Unwin is Danielle Wood’s Mothers Grimm, which is a novel about modern motherhood that also reinvents some fairytales - dark and funny and vivid and intelligent and very, very true.

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?

Publishing industry changes haven’t really changed the way I work, no. The writing side of things and the industry side of things, they’re very separate in my mind. Writing is about excavating your psyche to different degrees; the industry is all about other people and market forces and various other considerations that are pretty inimical to getting a decent story down on paper or screen. It’s best not to consider the industry when you’re hard at work on a story.

Five years from now? God, I’m not used to thinking more than a year ahead. I would hope I’d be writing stories that made my scalp crawl and my heart speed up, they were so unsettling on their way out. I would hope I’d be publishing fiction that surprised, horrified and delighted people, and stuck with them. And my reading? I’ll probably be reading all over the place the way I am now. I can only get through about 50 books a year, in a constant scramble to get to know classics and read a few more leading-edge things. I can’t see that changing. Life is getting shorter at about the same rate as my To Be Read pile is growing.

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.

2014 Snapshot Begins Tomorrow!

The Australian Speculative Fiction Snapshot has taken place four times in the past 10 years. In 2005, Ben Peek spent a frantic week interviewing 43 people in the Australian spec fic scene, and since then, it's grown every time, now taking a team of interviewers working together to accomplish!
In the lead up to Worldcon in London, we will be blogging interviews for Snapshot 2014, 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. Last time we covered nearly 160 members of the Australian speculative fiction community with the Snapshot – can we top that this year?
To read the interviews hot off the press, check these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it's all done:

Agathon #15: Peril at End House (1932)

Tansy and I started out with a challenge to read every book written by Agatha Christie, in order of publication – we’re blogging as we go along. We spoil all the things!

peril at end houseKATHRYN:
So this is a weird little story. It seems quite slight, but also over the top on melodrama as well. And I don’t want to be a prude, but the amount of illegal substances that come crawling out of the woodworks by the end is *quite* impressive. The young people in this book are a different crowd to the comparatively wholesome Bundles, Tommies and Tuppences that we have met (and loved) in other stories. Perhaps it has something to do with Cornwall… (kidding)

The story opens with Poirot and Hastings going off on holiday. Which of course begs the question: WHERE IS HASTINGS’ WIFE? Is she still somewhere in darkest South America? How is it that Hastings has sufficient leisure time to just go off for a week to Cornwall, rather than get whatever he needs done and get back to her? Look, I realise that Hasting really only exists to act as a foil for Poirot, but it would be polite to at least mention her. The other major theme in the opening paragraphs is Poirot’s ‘OMG I am *so* totally retired I can blow off the Home Secretary’ (I may be paraphrasing here), which again is probably there to contrast with Poirot later a) being unable to keep away from a mystery and/or b) being able to choose his own mysteries to solve thankyouverymuch. But it’s just a bit clunky.

It is interesting, though, that he also mentions ‘The Mystery of the Blue Train’ in the first pages - this is the first mention I’ve seen of a previous mystery (that I remember), and possibly just there because Poirot’s last mystery was 5 books and 4 years before this one.

Anyway, on paper the mystery is serviceable enough. There’s misdirection, conflicting plots and some impersonation. However, I don’t think there’s anything particularly new, and I didn’t really feel much for the victim of the piece, Madamoiselle Nick Buckley. So when (SPOILER ALERT) it is revealed that Nick is actually the killer, I didn’t really care. Maybe it was because I had guessed/remembered the twist fairly early in the book. Maybe it was because the young people were too languid and insincere. Maybe it was because everyone is on drugs. (Seriously, they are all on drugs).

So many drugs! It feels like the cast have wandered in from an Evelyn Waugh novel, though sadly they left most of the gay subtext behind.

I also noticed that Hastings is back at Poirot’s side, with no explanation about what’s going on in his domestic life, or whatever. Did Poirot secretly build a Hastings robot to replace his old sounding board?

Also it’s kind of funny that the mystery as revealed is: Poirot, quite a bad judge of character in the presence of a pretty face. Usually that’s Hastings’ role!
The plot is very personal, and it’s all tightly written - so many things said in the first few chapters are vital to the resolution, and it’s interesting how easily I fell into the trap of liking and suspecting the characters that Poirot or Hastings told us to. (Like you, K, I never especially warmed to Nick, but I did completely believe her, perhaps because the ‘damsel’ trope is so ingrained.

All in all, clever but not especially memorable - I know Agatha’s novels are often short, but this one felt like it only had enough meat for a short story, not a novel.

I’m always a little taken aback by the haste to enable suicide in mysteries of this era, because the whole death penalty thing doesn’t come naturally to me as a concept - I remember being quite shocked when Lord Peter Wimsey invited a murderer to leap to his death, as calmly as offering him a sandwich.

The unexpected comedy forgers who are unravelled at the end were actually my favourites. I want to read a book of their adventures!

Coming up:
1932: The Thirteen Problems, Miss Marple Shorts
1933: Lord Edgware Dies (also Thirteen at Dinner ), Hercule Poirot, Arthur Hastings, Chief Inspector Japp
1933: The Hound of Death
1934: Murder on the Orient Express (also Murder in the Calais Coach)
1934: The Listerdale Mystery
1934: Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (also The Boomerang Clue)
1934: Parker Pyne Investigates

Agathon #14: The Sittaford Mystery (1931)

Tansy and I started out with a challenge to read every book written by Agatha Christie, in order of publication – we’re blogging as we go along. We spoil all the things!

Yes, it’s been a while, but we’re still going! The Sittaford Mystery is also sometimes called Murder at Hazelmoor.

First I need to say that I didn’t actually note the giant spoiler on the front cover, until I was photographing it for the blog...
The Sittaford Mystery
This feels like a fairly ‘typical’ Christie murder mystery, although it has the distinction of including neither Miss Marple nor Poirot. Instead the detective in charge of the case is an Inspector Narracott, who is described as competent and intelligent, but doesn’t have much in the way of defining features otherwise. Indeed for the first ten chapters of the book I was wondering if Christie had written a mystery in which the detective had no personality at all. Come chapter eleven, however, it becomes apparent that Inspector Narracott is not the star of the book at all. Enter Emily Trefusis, determined to clear her fiance, Jim Pearson, who has been wrongly accused of the murder..

Normally I would be thrilled with a plucky young lady intent on solving a mystery (think Tuppence or Bundle) but I did not warm to Emily. Yes she is a capable young lady, but one of her primary methods is to fool men into thinking that she is less capable than she is, so they help her. Maybe if I was reading this in 1931, this would appeal, but here in 2013 the idea makes me weary. Can’t she just be capable and awesome without hiding it? Emily also seems to be very brittle, which I guess might be the case if your fiance has been accused of murder. She doesn’t seem to have much of a sense of humor and it is really not clear why she wants to marry Jim Pearson in the first place, as he seems to be completely incompetent and not even in an adorable way. (It is explained away by Emily declaring she needs someone to giude and look after. Again, this doesn’t appeal to me as a 21st century woman. Too much work!!)

I’m not sure any of the characters in this book rang true, nor were any that likeable. Instead we get a series of cardboard cutouts - old retired army men, grumpy invalids, flighty young women, and anonymous policemen. And while there are clues scattered through the book, and tied up neatly in the end, it felt a bit like an anticlimax. There didn’t seem to be much at stake, and I didn’t really care who had done it.

Even the ‘red herring’ sub plot, which involves an escapee from nearby prison on Dartmoor, is fairly abruptly resolved - to the extent that once the escapee is (spoiler alert) recaptured, his daughter’s response can be pretty much boiled down to ‘Oh well, he’s got pneumonia now. It’s probably just as well if he dies...’

I noted in ‘A Murder at the Vicarage’ that Christie used a first person narrator to good effect to mask the identity of the murderer until Miss Marple chose to reveal him. So just for the record, ‘Sittaford’ used 3rd person/omniscient narration, and the reader follows more than one character. Once Emily works out who did it, we get a few vague descriptions of what she has found, including a declaration of ‘I know who did it now, but not why’, and then that scene fades to black until the final reveal. This kind of felt like cheating…

My apologies for the long delay on this one, I read it back when I had pneumonia last year, really enjoyed it and then never got around to writing it up!

I liked Emily a bit more than you did, K. I found her quite likeable in that Bundle-Tuppence sort of way. I also very much enjoyed the way that her detective work revolved around the exchange of confidences - she feels a lot like a junior Miss Marple. I also liked the journalist she dragged around with her, Charles, and enjoyed their banter.

It was a bit odd that the murder mystery seemed to be less central than the ongoing theme that everyone could see there was something romantic going on between Emily and Charles, and that despite working to save Jim from prison, she was *obviously* going to ditch him for our hapless young reporter. The idea of course is that Emily is herself in denial about this - and the rather odd sort of punchline is in fact that she was right all along about her feelings for Jim and not actually fancying Charles, thank you very much, and she planned to marry the man she was actually engaged with.

While I agree with you that Jim was totally uninteresting, I did find it amusing that Christie was playing with (and debunking) the trope and that Emily did not in fact change her mind purely because Charles was in love with her. Almost like she (Christie) thinks that unrequited love isn’t remotely romantic and doesn’t deserve to be rewarded…

(I have an unfortunate glitch in my programming that responds far too sympathetically to unrequited love stories, and have been trying to debug myself for years to no avail, so I must admit at this point that I was shipping Emily and Charles like mad, damn it).

I think this book might be the point where Christie has realised she’s a bit too sharp and cynical for the genre she’s writing in - it’s set up almost as a parody of her own previous works, with all the details about the murder and the trick to it and so on. But maybe that’s just because she is using so many elements that are used in more iconic books or indeed dozens and dozens of her imitators? This is the first Christie set in a snowbound manor, yes?

It was all terribly clever with the trick to it, but there was something that felt a bit off about it - like a short story worth of plot held together with banter and flirting. Still, I did find it very readable even with a lung that didn’t work, so there’s that.

Coming up:
1932: Peril at End House, Hercule Poirot, Arthur Hastings, Chief Inspector Japp
1932: The Thirteen Problems, Miss Marple Shorts
1933: Lord Edgware Dies (also Thirteen at Dinner ), Hercule Poirot, Arthur Hastings, Chief Inspector Japp

Agathon #13: The Murder at the Vicarage (1930)

Tansy and I started out with a challenge to read every book written by Agatha Christie, in order of publication – we’re blogging as we go along. We spoil all the things!

The Murder at the VicarageKATHRYN:
So, first, I just need to get it off my chest that one of my first shocks in this book is that Lettice Protheroe’s name is Lettice, and not Lettuce. I have read and seen this book several times before and to me she is always *Lettuce*. Having read the book before also meant that the murderer was not a surprise, nor were any of the other mysteries that were uncovered during the story. And this meant I could really focus on how Miss Marple is portrayed in her first full length book*. Miss Marple is certainly not the star of ‘The Murder at the Vicarage’, which is narrated, perhaps appropriately, by the Vicar (Mr Clements). She is introduced of one of several gossipy old ladies at a morning tea held by the Vicar’s wife, the inappropriate Griselda, and both the Vicar and Griselda have relatively low opinions of these ‘old cats’, as they are referred to often. Actually I suspect that Christie might have been writing this book so that Miss Marple herself was a surprise - it only becomes apparent that Miss Marple’s ‘gossip’ has rather more substance than Mrs Price Ridley’s or Miss Hartnell’s as the story develops. I wonder if anyone realised how iconic she would become.

The narration by the Vicar is quite reminiscent to that of Hastings narration for Poirot - or even of Dr. James Sheppard (the murderer) in ‘The Murder of Roger Ackeroyd’, and it seems to be a common technique for Christie to use in her proper ‘whodunnits’ (as compared to the slightly whacky spy stuff we have also seen to-date). I guess it’s a good technique because the narrator can be led on a few wild goose chases and suitably surprised when the murderer is revealed. The narrator can also be unreliable - quite spectacularly so in the case of Dr Sheppard - and even I think a little bit in the case of the Vicar, who I think doesn’t like to admit just how much he loves his inappropriate wife.

Miss Marple doesn’t have a constant companion, so I will be looking with interest to see how the narration is undertaken in future Marple books (because for the life of me I cannot remember!!) I was surprised that Miss Marple’s nephew, the writer Raymond West, was present in this, her first book. I had imagined he was an addition of later stories, and he was a good deal more fashionable and callow than I remember him, though again perhaps that again is coloured by the Vicar’s narration (and potential jealousy of the attraction of Griselda to Raymond!)

And just a word on the murderer(s). Is it my imagination, but have a number of Christie’s murderers to-date been rather charming men who turn out to be far more ruthless than first seems? Perhaps I should start a tally. I also wonder how scandalous it was that Lawrence Redding and Mrs Protheroe were having an extramarital affair in 1930. It’s not so shocking now, but there are a number of hints that several ladies could have been gallivanting around with Lawrence, which surely was a bit risque?

All in all, I really enjoyed this reread of ‘The Murder at the Vicarage’. It’s full of excellent misdirection, character studies and village gossip, which is really what I think of when I think of a Christie whodunnit.

*Apparently Miss Marple’s first appearance was in a short story ‘The Tuesday Night Club’, written in 1926. However the collection it was published in - ‘The Thirteen Problems’ - was not published until 1932, so we have a few books to go until we get to it...

I really enjoyed this! I hadn’t read it before so I was quite surprised at how unappealing Miss Marple was early on - she seemed really gossipy and horrible and gradually became more and more likeable as the story went on. By the end she felt more like the Miss Marple I know from later books - gentler and more knowing and subtle. Possibly this is a case of the character simply growing as the author wrote her, but I like to think it’s because, as you say, the vicar’s perspective also shifts throughout the novel.

The story felt so similar to Roger Ackroyd, largely because of the way the narrator was set up, that I was almost convinced that our lovely vicar had in fact done the murder himself, except that I was fairly sure if she had pulled that trick again I would have heard about it. The Len-Griselda relationship was fascinating, and itself something of a mystery to be unravelled. I was very happy that there was nothing at all to be suspicious about either of them, as Griselda in particular was such a funny character. How terribly modern of her to commit to being an appalling housewife, and to cleave to her bad maid in order to keep her!

Len reluctantly convincing Mary to stay was one of my favourite scenes in the book, but it was full of all kinds of domestic gems.

The plot of this one is fascinating too - it’s another tricky one, though not as famous I guess as ‘they all did it’ or ‘the narrator did it’ to be talked about more? But I like that once again Christie is providing meta commentary on the genre of the murder mystery, in this case noting that realistically, the most obvious suspect is usually the murderer. And of course this has the whole ‘if a murderer was clever they would act suspiciously because acting innocent is a dead giveaway’ trick to it, which is nicely done.

Raymond was quite appalling! I’ve never seen him on screen before, only remember Miss Marple talking about him, so I was quite amused by what a vulgar intellectual snob he seemed to be. Again, though, the vicar’s perspective colours everything.

All in all, this is a lovely launch for Miss Marple and I like how much we get to see her working out how exactly a little old lady should go about being a detective, from first principles. Can you believe it was another twelve years before she appeared in another novel? Thank goodness for short stories!

Coming up:
1931: The Sittaford Mystery (also Murder at Hazelmoor ), Emily Trefusis, Inspector Narracott
1932: Peril at End House, Hercule Poirot, Arthur Hastings, Chief Inspector Japp
1932: The Thirteen Problems, Miss Marple Shorts
1933: Lord Edgware Dies (also Thirteen at Dinner ), Hercule Poirot, Arthur Hastings, Chief Inspector Japp

Agathon #12 - The Mysterious Mr Quin [1930]

Tansy and I started out with a challenge to read every book written by Agatha Christie, in order of publication – we’re blogging as we go along. We spoil all the things!

What a bizarre collection of stories!

I’m not sure if these are terribly meta or actually paranormal – it seems to me that in these tales Christie is actually pointing out the inherent ridiculousness of the coincidences and highly mannered events of her own novels by making the coincidence factor so terribly high that it borders on magic.

Satterthwaite and his odd friendship with Mr Quinn is a hard relationship to pin down – it feels almost seductive in some stories (totally slashtastic) and in others something more innocent and playful, reminiscent of when the Doctor breaks in a new companion in Doctor Who.

Many elements in the stories feel deeply like Christie – the characters and backgrounds – but the stories themselves are so tangled up with gothic romance, ghostly prediction and a kind of magical realism that they feel also totally unlike her other work.

I’m bewildered. What does the last story even MEAN? Did Mr Quin murder the Russian dancer himself? Is he Death? If he’s Death, why does he spend so much time trying to prevent tragedies and suicides, especially those involving young lovers?

Some of the stories are quite playful and fun – the one with the opal and the Chinese box made me laugh out loud. “He’s been in prison a year!” and they remind me at times of the Isaac Asimov Black Widowers short stories in their construction. I wonder at what the effect of them would be on their own, as originally published, rather than in this whole collection.

Still bewildering, I imagine.

Also, have they made THIS one into a Poirot or Miss Marple TV movie? Because I would really love to see how the hell they could manage it.

The Mysterious Mr QuinSo, like, I think this is my favorite Christie short story collection to-date. Which is not to say that I loved it and want to marry it, but it did irritate me much less than I remember previous collections (note: I am am opting to AVOID rereading earlier entries to check the veracity of my memory!!)

I totally agree that this collection had a very different, almost mystical, tone compared to Christie’s other works to date (second note: from Christie’s foreword in my copy, she refers to Quin as ‘not quite human’,and that she wrote ghost stories before she wrote crime, which suggests that the paranormal notes were intentional, and Christie did indeed write SPECULATIVE FICTION). However, I think it’s for this reason that I was happy to accept a level of melodrama and coincidence that I would have found unbelievable in a Poirot or Tommy and Tuppence story (or Miss Marple, but we haven’t technically got to her yet).

I remain bemused by Mr Quin – he seemed to be just a useful plot point in more than one story. However, I did rather love Mr Satterthwaite, and his characterisation as a gossip who knows EVERYBODY (worth knowing, of course), but who also feels he lives outside of everything as an observer. It seemed to me that his character developed over the course of the collection (intentionally or not), and perhaps it was this development that made the collection more interesting for me, compared to the others where the main players have been previously developed in novels, and therefore remain fairly static.

In the forward to my copy, Christie also suggests that the collection also describes the story of the original Harlequin, but Wikipedia tells me there are many interpretations of Harlequin so I can’t work out which one she actually means… (Third note: I did check IMDB, though, and it does not appear that this particular work has been adapted for the small or large screen!)

The Murder at the Vicarage (1930)
The Sittaford Mystery (also Murder at Hazelmoor) (1931)