1. Your first novel, “The Infernal’ was first published in 1997, won both the Horror and Fantasy Aurealis Award that year, and will be republished this March by Ticonderoga Publications as a limited edition hardcover. How have you felt revisiting this book over a decade after your first wrote it?
I was pleasantly surprised in some ways. I very much liked the love triangle in the contemporary portion of the plot. I can see that the story has great narrative pull, and some of my sentences are nicely crafted. But generally I felt as though I was looking at photographs of myself as a teenager. I felt awkward. I can see where I was trying too hard. Of course, it's only me who can see that (I hope!) and it was the book that started it all for me, so there's a lot of affection in me for it. I can't wait to see the hardcover. I feel very blessed that Ticonderoga have singled it out.
2. Your most recent books, ‘Duet’ and ‘Gold Dust’, are not speculative fiction at all. What motivated you to move into more mainstream fiction? Do you see similarities (and/or particular differences) in the characters that you write in you speculative and non-speculative novels?
I was burnt out on SF. I'd just written three research-dense sagas. Every idea I came up with sounded like an idea I'd had before. But I still needed to earn a living. So I talked to my agent and we got chatting about books we'd loved in the 80s and remembered all those fabulous women's stories with improbable plots like Lace and Princess Daisy. I thought it might be enjoyable to write a contemporary version of one of those. It was enormous fun, and the first one did very well so I was soon contracted for more. I think I write very similar characters in the Kimberley Freeman books, but the plots are so different and I had to learn to manage pace all over again. I couldn't just throw in a ghost if the narrative dragged. I think I'm a better writer for having done it, and it's also set me free from being restricted to the SF genre. I've since written a historical novel for young adults and I'm very happy ranging about in other genres. But fantasy is my spiritual home.
3. You’ve recently returned from a trip to the UK, which I understand was to research your next fantasy series. How was your trip and what inspiration did you gain whilst away?
The trip was wonderful, once I got my head around how different it is travelling with 2 small children as opposed to travelling alone. My current project is an epic historical fantasy novel based loosely on Anglo-Saxon history and culture. So I did an Anglo-Saxon tour of England. I went to Sutton Hoo and West Stow, visited the site of the battle of Maldon, saw the Staffordshire Hoard in the British Museum, saw the Exeter book, and visited a late 10th century church in the middle of freezing nowhere, which still had Old English writing over the door arches. It was mindblowing. I got hugely inspired. My head is full of misty hills and shadowy forests.
4. Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year? What have you enjoyed reading?
I would be delighted to see ANY Australian writers on the Hugo shortlists. But I'm particularly partial to the work of Sean Williams and Kate Forsyth (especially as they are close enough to me to go drinking with in celebration). I have read a number of unpublished manuscripts from people I'm mentoring this year, and one of them--a sprawling, beautifully written werewolf epic by a writer named F. Michelle Webster--really caught my attention. It's the best thing I've read in ages. In terms of short story writers, I think Angela Slatter is a genius.
5. Will you be at Aussiecon 4 in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to about it?
Hell, yes, I will be there. The thing I am looking forward to most of all is catching up with friends. The Australian SF community is my tribe, and I am always so happy when I'm among them.
This interview was conducted as part of the 2010 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We'll be blogging interviews from Monday 15 February to Sunday 22 February and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at:
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