1. The first book of your ‘Journey to Wudang’ trilogy, ‘Earth to Hell’, has just come out. How has the response been so far? The ‘Journey to Wudang’ trilogy follows on from your first series, the ‘Dark Heavens’ trilogy, but is set eight years later. What were your motivations in setting it at a later time? Had you always envisaged a second trilogy following the first?
The response has been wonderful. After book three of the ‘Dark Heavens’ series, ‘Blue Dragon’, I received a constant stream of emails asking me when the next one would be out. I did a tour of the southern states just before Christmas to coincide with the release of ‘Earth to Hell’, and it was exciting to see queues of people at book shops waiting to have their copies signed. ‘Earth to Hell’ hit the top of a few best seller lists, and now I’m receiving the emails again – asking when the next one, ‘Hell to Heaven’, will be released.
I set ‘Earth to Hell’ eight years later to bring it in line with the return of Xuan Wu – he left in ‘Blue Dragon’ and it took this long for him to commence his journey back to his family. I know how much everybody wants him back again, so I’m making sure that the wait isn’t too long.
Not only have I always envisaged a second trilogy, I have a broad outline for a third trilogy as well. The second trilogy is about putting everything back together after the destruction of the first – and the third trilogy will be the final showdown where all is revealed and the scope becomes much broader – and hopefully more sinister.
2. One of the features of the Dark Heavens trilogy in particular is that the martial arts fighting heroine of the book, Emma Donohue, is also actively portrayed as ‘mother’/guardian to Simone. Given that most heroines in fantasy novels are often portrayed as quite solitary figures – and rarely with any dependants - was it a conscious decision on your part to incorporate ‘motherhood’ into Emma’s character? How important do you think it is that fictional characters act as a reflection of society?
It’s strange to think that in a story so full of outrageously abnormal characters and situations, I try to put as much reality and everyday into it as I can. This isn’t so much the characters reflecting society as giving the reader points where they can connect to them and bring them into sharper focus. Without Simone, the threat isn’t as real – John Chen’s a god and can’t really be killed – so she brings an element of real peril into the mix. It wasn’t really a conscious decision to incorporate ‘motherhood’ into Emma’s character, but she’s down-to-earth and practical, and having children is a part of real life – and that’s what I wanted to reflect in the stories.
3. You have another book scheduled out this year, a prequel to the trilogies, ‘Small Shen’, which I understand will be a graphic novel produced in collaboration with manga artist Queenie Chan. This sounds like a really interesting idea - have you found developing this book to be a different process compared to writing the trilogies? How has it been working in collaboration with an artist?
‘Small Shen’ started as a short story, and it didn’t take me long to realize that I can’t write shorts. It quickly grew into a novella and Harper loved the concept of it starting a few hundred years ago and finishing as a prequel. I met Queenie at Gen Con a couple of years ago, and she asked me if I had anything that would translate into a graphic novel format. The rest happened by itself, with Harper/Voyager bringing us together to work on this project. Queenie’s had some mind-bogglingly brilliant ideas for what she wants to do with it, and it’s less like collaboration and more like sitting together having fun and occasionally discussing the direction we’re taking with it. She’s brilliant, professional, and delightful to work with and I’m looking forward to taking it further with her as we ramp up the project later this year.
4. Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year? What have you enjoyed reading?
Oh, goodness, don’t ask me for an unbiased opinion here because I count so many of Australia’s stunningly talented spec writers among my friends. If I had my way, every local author would win an award simply for being so amazing. They are absolutely the most fun people you could ever share a meal with. So I nominate everybody.
5. Will you be at Aussiecon 4 in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to about it?
Yes I will – when I fill in this form on my desk and send it in, that is. I’m very much hoping that my (insert monotone) robotic masters from Angry Robot books will be there, they’re the cybernetic organisms that are publishing me overseas. It’ll be a great chance to catch up with the aforementioned dinner partners, find out what’s happening in the industry, and see some people I haven’t shared a meal and noisy conversation with in a while.
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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