February 21st, 2010

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2010 Snapshot Interview: Tracey O'Hara

Tracey O'Hara's first book 'Night's Cold Kiss' was published last year and shortlisted for the Australis Award Horror Novel Category. She is currently working on more books in the 'Dark Brethren' Series. Her website is: http://www.traceyohara.com/ and she blogs at: http://traceyo.livejournal.com/

1. Your first Dark Brethren Novel, ‘Night’s Cold Kiss’, was published last year in Australia by HarperCollins and internationally via the Eos imprint, and was a finalist in the Aurealis Awards Horror category. Congratulations! Can you tell us how you came to write the book and also describe your journey to publication?

Thanks for having me and thank you so much for the congrats. The Aurealis nomination was one of the biggest highlights of my career so far. I’m not one of those writers who has written from childhood, I only started a few years ago. At school I loved science and maths, English was something I had to endure. Having said that, I’ve always read, losing myself in a far off worlds was one of my favourite past times. I’ve been to magical lands in the Magic Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton, the shores of Africa in the pages of Wilber Smith’s books, ridden on the backs of dragons in Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series, and been to towns stalked by a crazy clown or vampires in Steven King’s novels. Stories have always been a big part of my life. So when I decided to write a few years back – I started with history, a colonial Australian family saga, which I will have to actually finish writing one day. But my heart has always been in fantasy and horror. One day I got an image of a girl stalking something in an abandoned warehouse and a dark mysterious male vampire watching her from the shadows in the rafters above. Night’s Cold Kiss was born.

I then started on a journey of discovery. You see I’m grammatically challenged in a BIG way. Remember I said I endured English, well, I wasn’t really good at enduring it unfortunately. I wish I had listened more, though by the time I went through school, they had stopped teaching much grammar in the classroom. So, I had a lot to learn, and not just grammar – but the craft of story telling too. After a few contest wins, I started my hunt for an agent and after several requests, I signed up in 2007 with my current agency. They then went on to sell Night’s Cold Kiss to HarperCollins EOS in a 3 book deal – a imprint responsible for some of my favourite authors such as Anne McCaffrey and Raymond E Fiest. To say I was happy would be an extreme understatement.

2. You present a new interpretation of vampires (the Aeternus) in ‘Night’s Cold Kiss’, where the role of vampiric blood as a drug seems particularly unusual. What inspired you to develop the world of the Aeternus? Why did you decide to introduce other ‘parahuman’ species into the world as well, rather than simply focus on the conflict between vampire and human?

I wanted to write of a world like ours but different, an alternate reality. I wanted to create a world rich and complex, and in my mind’s eye, I saw many different creatures that I wanted to write about. Actually, one of my characters, Oberon, really started that off. He was a bit part character, but he stomped his way into the story with and said “I’m here to stay, deal with it.” And who is going to argue with a seven foot Harley-riding bear shapeshifter.

I have always loved vampire stories. But some things just didn’t make sense. So I made my own version ones that don’t have to kill and aren’t undead – they’re a genetic melding of humans and an alien race. Other thing such as if species was reliant on living fresh blood to exist, why would they kill off their food source also didn’t make science. However, I really like the idea of a vicious throat ripping bloodthirsty killing machines. So I came up with a disease Necrodrenia, which turns into these Aeternus into bloody monsters if they succumb to it. It is like an addiction and the thought of having and emotion based blood-drug sensation just seemed to make sense. Now I’m delving deeper and am actually building on the original world, actually more like discovering it, like an explorer. I still have to more to write about the world from magic wielders, to mer-terrorists to elven drug lords. I love the complexity and the richness that seems yet to be discovered and look forward to exploring it.

3. You’re currently finishing the second Dark Brethren Novel, ‘Death's Sweet Embrace’ and I understand it will be out later this year. Can you tell us about the book? Have you got any other projects planned for 2010?

I’m just starting book three in the series. I’m in that nether world of wanting to be a full time writer and still needing to earn a living to support my family, so my books are a little slower at the moment. Death’s Sweet Embrace will be released early 2011 and focuses on another heroine who is very different to Antoinette, she has different strengths and different weaknesses. I still continue to follow Antoinette's progress and some other characters that appear in book 1. I planned a series that is sort of like a TV series based on a central group of people. Some episodes will focus on different characters at different times. The Dark Brethren series is kind like that, stand-alone stories with over arching plots threaded through them.

4. Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year? What have you enjoyed reading?

I haven’t had much time to read in this last year. Keri Arthur – another great Australian Urban Fantasy author, is one of my faves, but I have a few Aussies on my to read list such as Kaaron Warren’s Slights and the winning Aurealis Horror Novel Red Queen by Honey Brown looks very good. I am looking forward to reading more this year.

5. Will you be at Aussiecon 4 in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to about it?
I’m not yet sure is I will get to Aussiecon 4. It will definitely be an experience I’d hate to miss, however, as I have said, I work full time and that time of the year will be extremely busy as I’m working on a major project to be delivered in September, so it may prove a little difficult. What would I most look forward to is having such an experience here in Australia and all that goes with it. The chance to meet like-minded people and hang out with other Aussie and international authors is just not something that happens every day.


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:

http://random-alex.livejournal.com/
http://girliejones.livejournal.com/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/
http://www.mechanicalcat.net/rachel
http://tansyrr.com/
http://editormum.livejournal.com/

If you're involved in the Scene and have something to plug, then send us an email at snapshot2010@gmail.com and we'll see what we can do!
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2010 Snapshot Interview: Cassandra Golds

Cassandra Golds' first book, 'Michael and the Secret War', was accepted for publication when she was nineteen years old. Since then she has written a number of other books for young adults and children, including 'Clair-de-Lune' and 'The Mostly True Story of Matthew and Trim'. Her most recent book 'The Museum of Mary Child' was shortlisted in the young Adult Division of the Aurealis Awards. She tweets at: http://twitter.com/cassandragolds

1. Your book ‘The Museum of Mary Child’ can be described as both elegant and sinister, and also had the feel of an age-old fairy tale. I loved reading it, but did think it to be written in a very different style to a lot of YA literature around at the moment. Were you striving for a particular feel when you were writing, or does this style just come naturally? Were you writing specifically for the YA market?

Yes, yes and no! I was certainly striving for a particular effect when I was writing -- I'm a tremendous fan of Charles Dickens and 19th century literature generally, and The Museum of Mary Child was written from within the imaginative universe of Bleak House, Little Dorrit and Les Miserables. That style comes naturally partly because I am so immersed in these influences -- as well as the fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen and Oscar Wilde and the books of Elizabeth Goudge. The Russian folktale Vasilisa and the Wise Doll, and the story of Mirabai, the 16th century Indian princess-poet-mystic were also important. I am a writer Under The Influence -- ever since I was a child I have been trying to make new stories out combinations of the things I loved. And I'm a fan at heart -- when I love things I really love them. I should also mention two filmic influences which I tried to combine with the literary ones -- the mystery/thrillers Identity and the rather notorious Angelheart (based on the novel Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg). I love stories with twists, particularly if the twist is connected with the identity of a character.

Having said all that though, it's also true that the heart of the novel was a nightmare I once had. In fact I basically dreamed the ninth chapter -- that is, Heloise's first visit to the museum. So I can truly say that The Museum of Mary Child comes from the place that nightmares come from -- and that is a place too deep for influences.

2. I’ve noticed that the American and Australian covers for ‘Mary’ are quite different. What do you think of these different interpretations? Has the response to the book been different in different countries?

I am a tremendous fan of the artist Sonia Kretshmar, who did the original cover of my book Clair-de-Lune as well as The Museum of Mary Child, and I feel extremely fortunate that Penguin Australia brought us together! I love the Australian cover -- to me it looks a little like Russian folk art, and gives the reader the expectation of a once-upon-a-time story. The US cover seems to be anticipating a YA audience, and emphasises the gothic mystery. The response has been different in the two countries. This may be partly because the US is so big and there are just so many publications and blogs and people writing about children's and YA literature. But my own sense of it is that the US response to the novel seems to have been a good deal more enthusiastic. Some of the US reviews have quite overwhelmed me!

3. I understand you next book is called ‘The Three Loves of Persimmon’. Are you able to tell us a about it? What else have you got planned for 2010?

Yes -- The Three Loves of Persimmon is a romantic comedy/fantasy with two heroines: a young florist whose best friend is a talking ornamental cabbage, and a mouse who lives underneath the railway line on the deepest level of a vast underground railway station. It's due out in September this year and will have a beautiful cover by Sonia Kretshmar. I'm also in the early stages of a contemporary YA novel based on the Arthurian legend of Sir Galahad.

4. Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year?

I really haven't read widely enough to give an educated answer here. I'm not very good on keeping up with contemporary literature -- too immersed in the nineteenth century!

5. Will you be at Aussiecon 4 in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to about it?

I won't be there in the flesh but I will certainly be there in spirit -- and in cyberspace, on Twitter and Facebook!


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:

http://random-alex.livejournal.com/
http://girliejones.livejournal.com/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/
http://www.mechanicalcat.net/rachel
http://tansyrr.com/
http://editormum.livejournal.com/

If you're involved in the Scene and have something to plug, then send us an email at snapshot2010@gmail.com and we'll see what we can do!
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2010 Snapshot Interview: Kathleen Jennings

Kathleen Jennings is a writer and illustrator, and recently awarded the inaugural Kris Hembury Encouragement Award for Emerging Artists at the 2010 Aurealis Awards Ceremony. Her story 'The Splendour Falls' was published in ASIM #41. She blogs at: http://tanaudel.wordpress.com/

1. You were recently awarded the inaugural Kris Hembury Encouragement Award for Emerging Artists at the 2010 Aurealis Awards Ceremony. What does the award mean to you, particularly given you were friends with Kris?

This was an incredibly unexpected honour. Kris was such a constant presence in Vision and punster and instigator and encourager, but above all I remember him for his constant invention, the spinning-off of ideas, the "what if"s and the "why not"s which make our genre(s) not primarily weighty or worthy but *fun*. There are so many important genre issues to deal with (and issues to deal with in genre writing), and the work and calling and craft of writing is strenuous and rigorous - but although I think that was something of which Kris was keenly aware, he always made me forget it, and remember that really, at its core, this whole pursuit is about Story - the crazier, the funnier, the more heart-rending the better.

2. You are both a writer and an illustrator (and a lawyer!!). Do you prefer to be known as one over the other? What successes have you had so far in each field?

And a translator! You can probably guess how all those are ordered in terms of how well they pay for themselves. I like them all, for varying reasons, and I aim to be good at them all, but I don't think it's any secret that writing and illustrating have most of my affection. Of the two... it's hard. They're very closely related – in my mind, they're both about storytelling - and I learn a lot about each from the other. In some ways writing is easier - I just put words on a page, I don't have to work out how to make the lines that make up the letters every single time, changing them when I want a different feel, and I'm much more keenly conscious of my limitations in illustration. On the other hand I can see my progress and failings as an illustrator far more easily - it's both more instantly accessible ("look at this!" as opposed to "read this 90,000 word draft of a short story") and easier to judge objectively. But they can work together, too - I've spent a lot of time on the fringes of the comics world of late, which seems the most obvious area where words and pictures collide (I have a theory that horror has the potential to be more horrific in comics than in either prose or film) but that isn't the area which fascinates me. It's the pictures in books, the illustrated novels, the spot illustrations: the heavily ornamentation of Shaun Tan's Tales from Outer Suburbia which is symbiotic with the text; the marvellously evocative and hilarious medieval imagery of Pauline Baynes' illustrations for Tolkien's Farmer Giles of Ham; Garry Giani's images for Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road which give the book the perfect feel - rigorous and faithful and true to the tradition of adventure novels to which the book harks back and, in the occasional vivacity of his lines, the fingerprints in the smoke clouds, lively and modern; Charles Vess' drawings for the title pages of the stories in Clarke's Ladies of Grace Adieu and Windling & Datlows The Faerie Reel - tiny and perfect; M M Kaye's enormously good-natured illustrations for her The Ordinary Princess. Although, in terms of pages, these form a relatively small part of the text, they become inextricable.

As for successes - well, it's early days. I was thrilled to have a story out in ASIM last year, and to have had the opportunity to do a book cover for Small Beer Press was amazing - I was standing up when I checked my email the day they asked me, and I missed my chair when I tried to sit down and recover from the shock.

3. Recently your blog has hinted at an involvement in a Very Large Project, reaching its ‘final throes’. Can you tell us anything about it yet? In the event that you can’t talk about it, can you talk about the steep learning curve that the project has thrown you? How do you best learn new things? Finally, what else do you have planned for 2010?

Kathleen Jenning's Secret ProjectIt was something I was asked to do 'on spec' - and the minute I find out one way or the other people will hear. But in general terms, I was asked if I'd like to write and illustrate a short comic - and by some people who I really respect and like working with. I spent half of November hyperventilating and keep telling myself "It's alright, they know my work, they know I've never done a comic before, they can reject it," all of which helped a lot. But then I had to deal with the fact I'd never done a comic before - so I had to learn how to do that, and how to write short ones (and 10 pages is *short*). And then I had to work out how to do a black and white comic - colour is just more common and short colour comics are often these stunningly beautiful mood pieces. So I didn't have colour to fall back on, and I wanted a bit of excitement, and I ended up buying an anthology of noir comics to look at different styles, and pulling out my early-20thC boys-own and girls-own annuals and poring over their gorgeous illustrations, and then pulling out books illustrated by Charles Vess and generally going into a state of nervous collapse caused by a full-blown minority complex. But I had a story, and I had a lot of ideas I wanted to draw, and by the time I'd worked out how to draw and scan and shade and do borders I had 10 days left (of full-time work and Aurealis Awards and miserable heat) and had to start shedding anything that would tip me over the edge. It would be cleaner to do it all on the computer, but it would unbalance me. Ditto inking with a brush or dip pen, although I love the style. I had to lose a third of my main characters and give his back story to the other two which entirely changed how I drew them. I had to lose Edna, the clockwork possum who started it all. And then as I was drawing I was rewriting the story as I went to fit my drawing abilities. It was awful. And fun and incredibly educational.

Does that answer the first three questions? I suppose I learn best by not looking before I leap/am pushed. Consequences-based education. I wouldn't recommend it as a way of advancing a legal career, however.

As for plans for the year to come - probably not having 8 hours sleep a night and proceeding in a stately fashion through life. In terms of art, I'm working on another short comic for a friend's project – but this is in colour! and shorter! and written by someone else! And I'm also working on some black and white header illustrations for an anthology (my favourite variety of illustration), and who knows what else. I'd like to get a functioning online portfolio together.

As far as writing, I'd love to have some more stories published, but it is one of life's bitter truths that to publish, one must first submit. I'm editing several short stories (loosely inspired by fairy tales and set in various parts of Australia or something like it) and writing every day, and in November I hope to bring my absolutely a-historical reimagining of... most of the legends I grew up on to a close, and then go through the wreckage and see what can be salvaged.

4. Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year? What have you enjoyed reading?

Novellas. I won't name one - they're all wonderful. I'm really excited about this movement with all the novelas lately. It's a form which doesn't get out much and yet has a great deal of potential. I first realised they weren't just a horrifically extended version of short Literature when I read Der Schimmelreiter at uni (Literature, and also German - and they do like their SF psychological - but only horrific in good ways). And it is a form which suits SF very well - there are certain things (detailed worlds, detailed scientific theories) which can be difficult to fit into a short story when you are expected to fit a story in there as well, but which don't require an epic. I suspect part of the appeal of some YA is its length - every story has its natural life-span and some stories (and readers) just find the proportions of shorter fiction a more comfortable fit. The whole perfect storm of pulp/novella/double-barrelled book/small-press/entertaining-launches going on at the moment makes me happy.

5. Will you be at Aussiecon 4 in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to about it?

Yes, yes, yes. My first WorldCon, my 10th con (and I still haven't been to a room party, but it's becoming a point of pride now). I'm most looking forward to going to lunch with unlikely groups, finding ideas and inspiration, and sitting in dark corners drawing unsuspecting passersby. I'd like to get my hands on a portable scanner and post a hand-drawn account as I go, but this plan may be overridden by more immediately compelling things, like trying to to be composed and articulate if I run into certain people. And remembering names.


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:

http://random-alex.livejournal.com/
http://girliejones.livejournal.com/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/
http://www.mechanicalcat.net/rachel
http://tansyrr.com/
http://editormum.livejournal.com/

If you're involved in the Scene and have something to plug, then send us an email at snapshot2010@gmail.com and we'll see what we can do!
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2010 Snapshot Interview: Helen Merrick

Helen Merrick is an academic who uses science fiction as a way of exploring various cultural and scientific concerns. She is particularly interested in intersections between science fiction and feminist science studies, and her book ‘The Secret Feminist Cabal: A cultural history of science fiction feminisms’, was published by the Aqueduct Press last year.

1. ‘The Secret Feminist Cabal: A cultural history of science fiction feminisms’ has received some great reviews, and been described as ‘SF convention girl-gossip channeled by a university scholar’. Having explored the intersection of feminist theory and science fiction for your PhD, was it a natural step to then investigate fan culture? How do you research a book about a ‘secret history’?

Well, the ‘secret’ history of the actual book is that it is mostly based on my Phd, with a great deal of re-writing, editing and addition of new material. And in fact fandom and the sf community were part of my interest almost from the very beginning. As I go on at length about in the book, I ‘discovered’ feminist sf through reading the feminist science theorist Donna Haraway, who draws on writers such as Joanna Russ, Octavia Butler and Marge Piercy in her theorising. Just after starting my PhD I somehow got wind of Swancon (I think through other fans also at UWA doing their PhDs – there is an astounding number of women in perth fandom with higher degrees!). So the fan stuff and study came together pretty early on. Around this time I was in contact with Justine Larbalestier and Sylvia Kelso as we were all doing PhDs on sf and somehow (with another friend Tess Williams) we all ended up going to WisCon, the US feminist sf convention. As luck would have it, this was the 20th anniversary, so pretty much everyone involved in feminist sf was there. It was astounding. Through Justine’s work, and going to WisCon it became obvious to me how important (and fascinating) the community conversations around women and feminism were. I’d also realised how much feminist sf criticism already existed, so I felt I didn’t want to do yet another lit crit study of sf texts themselves. Instead I got interested in how various critical and fan communities constructed this thing called ‘feminist sf’ and what uses they put it to. Also, I was trained as a historian, not a literary critic, so doing a kind of cultural history came more naturally.

As to how you research a ‘secret history’ – well of course the joke of the title is that all this feminist activity is not secret at all. But often it has been unacknowledged, or forgotten at various times. The phrase ‘secret feminist cabal’ arose from various responses to the James Tiptree Jr award, and has become a kind of in-joke to refer to feminist activity and writing within the genre. The awards “motherboard’ kindly gave me permission to use it for my book, which I was very grateful for!

2. You’ve acted as a Judge for the Aurealis Awards on a number of occasions and you will also be the 2009 judge for the Peter McNamara Lifetime achievement award, What do you enjoy about the process and what keeps you going back for more?

Being sent lots of great Aus sf to read! I spent a couple of years judging the sf short stories, which was a wonderful way of keeping up with the field and newer writers. I tend to gravitate towards novels in my own reading, although I do enjoy short stories – I’m just bad at keeping up with collections and magazines when left to my own devices. However last year I felt pressed for time, so I offered to do the sf novels instead. Despite being busy with work, I read a great deal, so it is always good to have more fuel for the reading machine. It is a very different experience to read for an award – you have to become much more self reflective about what you enjoy and why, what kind of reading experience you are looking for, and how much that matches with other people. In the last few years the awards organisers have been really successful at making sure each panel has 4 or 5 judges, which makes the process much more interesting. At times we judges find it really easy to agree, at other times there are enormous differences in what kinds of stories we value and why. I actually find those experiences affirming, as it means we really are representing a variety of tastes and different kinds of readers.

As for the Peter McNamara award, I am still reeling from being asked to do it, and feel very honoured. I’m the only person to decide, with some consultation with Mariann (McNamara), so a very different kind of ‘judging’ - I’m going to have to do a lot of talking to people in the community, and of course lots more reading.

3. Looking towards Aussiecon 4, you’re putting together the academic programming stream for the con. What’s your vision for the stream – do you have a particular theme in mind? Will you be calling for submissions or do you expect the content to all be invited?

We’re doing it like a normal academic conference so there is a call for papers, which does loosely have a theme – ‘the many uses of sf’ (it should be up on the ausseicon4 website soon). Truth be told, despite conference themes, most academic conferences tend to be pretty broad, as people just bend their current research to try and fit in. I’m wanting the academic track to be as wide-ranging as possible, so we can really showcase the increasing amount of critical work being done on genre in Australia. Certainly there seem to be a growing number of postgraduates out there working in the area, and I hope we can attract as many of them as possible. And of course, you don’t have to be an academic or studying to offer a paper!

4. Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year? What have you enjoyed reading?

Lots! I’ve seen most of the names I have enjoyed listed already, but I would add that looking at the Aurealis shortlists for each category gives a pretty good range of work to choose from that has already been judged to be excellent. I’d also like to see plenty of women, which given the names others have mentioned so far, seems like a good possibility!

5. Aside from the Academic Program, what are you most looking forward to about Aussiecon 4?

Like everyone else, catching up with people, hanging in the bar, and meeting some new people! This will be an interesting comparison with Aussiecon 3 – that con was a real holiday for me, as I was on my own and my 5 year old was being babysat by grandparents. This time I will again have a 5 year old, but she and partner will be with me, so not quite so many late night parties, methinks. I’m also hoping to do an Australian launch of Secret Feminist Cabal there, so along with keeping the academic track running it should be busy.


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:

http://random-alex.livejournal.com/
http://girliejones.livejournal.com/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/
http://www.mechanicalcat.net/rachel
http://tansyrr.com/
http://editormum.livejournal.com/

If you're involved in the Scene and have something to plug, then send us an email at snapshot2010@gmail.com and we'll see what we can do!
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2010 Snapshot Interview: Scott Westerfeld

Scott Westerfeld is the author of five science fiction novels for adults. He has also written many books for young adults, including the 'Midnighters' and 'Uglies' trilogies, a companion novel to the 'Uglies' trilogy, 'Extras', and three stand-alone novels set in contemporary New York. His most recent book, 'Leviathan', was published last year and won the Aurealis Award for YA Novel. He blogs at: http://scottwesterfeld.com/blog/

1. One of the things that I loved most about reading ‘Leviathan’ was the afterward, in which you describe the real history upon which the book is based, including Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie and, of course, Charles Darwin and his theory of natural selection. I can’t imagine that the rich alternate history set out in ‘Leviathan’ came to you fully formed (or did it??) so which tiny scrap of real life first inspired you?

I've always loved Boy's Own Adventure books, and the history of the Great Game as well, and I was reading a lot of nonfiction about Darwin (like Annie's Box) and it all sort of came together. I wanted to do a world in which Darwin had discovered DNA, but far enough in history along that the Victorian biotechnology had advanced to the point of contesting with mechanical tech. So the Great War seemed like the right place to start, with German and Austrian machines versus British, French, and Russian fabricated species.

The real slice of history that made it work was probably Franz Ferdinand morganatic marriage. Imagine being a fifteen-year-old boy who will inherit nothing because your mother's blood isn't royal enough. That's just a great YA plot, and one with no real modern equivalent.

2. The hardcover of Leviathan is also a beautiful object, particularly the 50 internal illustrations produced by Keith Thompson. How important do you think the illustrations have been in creating the world of ‘Leviathan’ - both for you as you were writing the book, as well as for your readers now? Do you think you have more influence on the design/illustration of your books now that you’re an established author?

About 60 pages into the writing, I realized that all the Boy's Own Adventures I was reading for inspiration, the ones published in the early 20th century, were illustrated. So for the book to have the right feel, it simply had to have pictures in that style.

I then looked around for the right artist, found Keith, and told the publisher that I would be working with him, and would pay him. (This helps in terms of control, of course. As does being established with my publisher.) Penguin Australia have been amazing in that they've published the book as a very affordable hardcover, with lots of effects on the jacket. It's gloriously old-fashioned bookmaking.

We started with the idea of 20 or so images, but wound up with 50, just so we could have one in (almost) every chapter. Keith created a historically based style for the images, which is a very accessible take on Punch magazine of the 1910s. I call it Victorian Manga.

3. On your website ‘Leviathan’ is described as a series – does this mean we should expect more than three books?? From its title, ‘Behemoth’, can we interpret that the second book in the series will be even bigger than the first? What else are planning for 2010?

Leviathan will be a trilogy of novels and one book that will be all art, larger format and all color. (The "deck plans," I call it.) And yes, Behemoth is about 10% bigger than book 1, both in terms of art and text, which is nice. It comes out October 2010, and Goliath in October 2011. Not sure about the art book's schedule.

My only other publication in 2010 is a story in Justine Larbalestier's and Holly Black's antho, Zombies v Unicorns, which also has Garth Nix and Margo Lanagan. (Oddly, they're both Team Unicorn and I'm Team Zombie.)


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:

http://random-alex.livejournal.com/
http://girliejones.livejournal.com/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/
http://www.mechanicalcat.net/rachel
http://tansyrr.com/
http://editormum.livejournal.com/

If you're involved in the Scene and have something to plug, then send us an email at snapshot2010@gmail.com and we'll see what we can do!
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2010 Snapshot Interview: Nick Stathopoulos

Nick Stathopoulos has painted some of the best cover art in Australian science fiction, winning eight Ditmars for his work. He has also been nominated for a Hugo Award, while his cover for the anthology Dreaming Down Under was nominated for a British SF Association Award. In 2009 he held a solo exhibition, ‘Toy Porn’, at NG GALLERY in Sydney, an exhibition of hyper-realistic paintings of favourite toys.

1. Late last year you held a solo exhibition, ‘Toy Porn’, an exhibition of hyper-realistic paintings of your favourite toys (including OMG! Astroboy!!). How did it go? Did you choose the subject matter because you thought it would appeal to a larger audiences, or simply because it appealed to you? What toys still make your heart race?

The show went brilliantly. It was opened by David Stratton, who was the subject of one of my successful Archibald finalist portraits. He was hilarious. (He confessed to me later he always wanted to be a stand up comedian! ) It had one of the largest crowds at the opening I've ever seen. I received lots of publicity and the show almost sold out. Strangely the painting of one of my favourite toys -- a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang -- failed to sell. It was the one I spent the most time on and was the most detailed. I want to bring it home but the gallery is holding won't let go of it because they still expect to sell it. I hope they don't. That's a toy that definitely increases my heart rate. I've just had a massive Chitty poster mounted onto linen, and on my recent trip to Europe I visited Neuschwanstein, the castle featured in the movie. In Stuttgart I found the original car that was the basis of the modified movie car at the Mercedes Benz Museum.

As for the subject...well it was a bit of both. The gallery and I took a risk with the subject. It was something that clearly appealed to my obsessions, and we were delighted to see that others shared the appeal. Art Bank bought two of the paintings, so it goes beyond mere fandom, it's seen as fine art.

2. In 2008, Jack Dann’s Australian fantasy anthology ‘Dreaming Again’ was published, highly anticipated after the success of ‘Dreaming Down Under’ in 1998. One of the features of ‘Dreaming Down Under’ were the beautifully detailed covers you painted for both the hardcover and paperback editions, featuring a dilapidated robot head in the midst of lush forest or marine environment. For ‘Dreaming Again’ it appears that the publisher have chosen to go with stock photography over illustration, yet the final product is very reminiscent of your original covers. Do you think it is coincidence that they’re so similar?

Hmmm. OK, this is a long and infuriating story. I anticipated a series back in '98, so I came up with a concept that would go beyond the original collection. The same robot and composition would feature on future books, but the backgrounds would change, dramatically in colour and Australian locale. And that worked when they split the first collection in two for paperback release with the coral reef version. So when I was approached by Harper Collins at Jack's insistence, I had a concept ready to go. This time the robot would be trapped in concrete, with the sails of the Sydney Opera House emerging from sand dunes in the background. On the back cover would be a glittering new city in the distance.

The art director said that as Jack and I had worked together in the past they were happy for us to do so again, so I got to work on a colour rough of the concept. Now, you have to keep in mind that my first cover was very well received all over the world; it was nominated for a number of awards including a British SF award. I think it won a Ditmar here. So it's not like it wasn't a commercial success. But before I had finished my rough, and without even seeing it, the art director emailed and said that they weren't interested in my concept as they had now come up with their own: a camel walking on a beach with a rainforest behind it.

Well, frankly I thought that sucked, and so did Jack. We didn't think it reflected the contents of the book, or the nationality, and it wasn't a particularly appealing image. So I politely suggested we all get together and come up with something that was a more viable commercial concept. At the same time I did a couple of roughs with Harper's concepts so we had something to look at. The next thing I get is an email from the art director saying I clearly had no faith in their concept and they were getting someone else to do the cover. That was it...no replies to my emails...nothing. Totally unprofessional. Of course I was furious.

I've been treated poorly clients in the past, but this made no sense to me or Jack. All I ever wanted to do was create a nifty cover and sell them lots of books. It was a total waste of my time. I remember at the time saying to Jack that if they didn't produce a book with a camel on the cover I was going to be really mad...and guess what? They didn't. What they did do, was a Photoshop pastiche of my original cover with a guy in gold make-up superimposed over a rainforest. It didn't look like SF or Fantasy...it looked totally...well...gay! It was a real shocker. I just shake my head in disgust. I own the copyright to all my work, and when I pointed that out, they did pay me a kill fee, to their credit. I'd love to know how it sold.

After that I said to myself "no more book covers". Hence the shift to fine art and gallery shows. At least I don't have clueless art directors dictating crap to me. I still do the odd cover, but for the love of the genre, and usually small press. I did a lovely cover for Deb Biancotti's "Book of Endings" Twelve Planet Press collection last year, and one for Terry Dowling's "Amberjack" collection coming soon from Subterranean Press. That's looking gorgeous. I like to design the whole cover...all the text, everything.

3. During the last Snapshot in 2007, you were working towards a feature film based on the life of the aboriginal artist, Albert Namatjira. Are you still working on the project or have the vagaries of the film industry brought it undone? What else do you have planned for 2010?

The film was happening then. The team got a grant from the SA Film Commission to go and get all the requisite permissions from the extensive Namatjira family which we got, we did our final location hunt and were about to go into preproduction when the SA Film Commission (they were funding half the budget ) pulled out due to the global financial crisis which was looming at the time. SBS turned it down because they were ceasing feature-film production to concentrate on series programs to bolster their audience, and the ABC -- after extensive deliberation -- turned it down because none of the principal team are indigenous. I'm reluctant to say it might be dead...I've spent years on it. I hope to dust off the project after I finish this year's Archibald portrait, a bust of composer Peter Sculthorpe, and a couple of commissions. Who knows?

Oh...I nearly forgot...In the next couple of months my new TV show hits the TVS screen! I'm hosting a weekly movie show called SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY and will be scheduled once TVS goes digital. The first season of 13 episodes are in the can, and it looks great. All shot on location in my lounge room! I'm also interviewing various personalities including Grahame Bond (Aunty Jack) and Catherine Knapman (producer of Moulin Rouge and Australia).

4. Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year? What have you enjoyed reading?

Shaun Tan for best professional artist....Jonathan Strahan for editor...Sean Williams, novel...Greg Egan, best collection....there are lots of worthy local writers that have an international profile. I'm currently reading a manuscript THE CLOWNS AT MIDNIGHT from Terry Dowling which is a ripper; a real page-turner. It may be the best thing he's ever written. It's horror, which I think he has a real gift for. He's one writer that should have been embraced by the mundane writing community years ago, much to their discredit. This is first class writing. I'm in awe of every word.

5. Will you be at Aussiecon 4 in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to about it?

Of course! It's not often we get a Worldcon on our doorstep. Too bad it's not in Sydney. But If Melbourne is where the all fannish action is at, then Melbourne it is! It's such a cool city. Can't wait to catch up with all my friends from around the world.


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:

http://random-alex.livejournal.com/
http://girliejones.livejournal.com/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/
http://www.mechanicalcat.net/rachel
http://tansyrr.com/
http://editormum.livejournal.com/

If you're involved in the Scene and have something to plug, then send us an email at snapshot2010@gmail.com and we'll see what we can do!
discoballs

2010 Snapshot - Eighty Six Reviews! (actually we're up to 90 now :-)

So we're winding things up here at Snapshot Central. There might be the odd straggling interview coming in over the next few days, but offically we're done. Over the last week we (Kathryn Linge, Random Alex, Girlie Jones, Rachel the Mechanical Cat, TansyRR and EditorMum) have interviewed 86 people from the Australian Spec Fic Scene!  We've been delighted by the results - not just the sheer number (three more than last time!), but also thoughtful and fascinating answers our interviewees have provided.  Thanks to everyone who has participated! 

If you've missed any during the week - check out the complete list of Snapshots here: 

Marianne De Pierres, Richard Harland, Karen Miller, Margo Lanagan, Ben Peek, Narelle Harris, Paul Collins, Damien Broderick, Shane Jiraiya Cummings, Angela Slatter, Dion Hamill, Garth Nix, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Trudi Canavan, Thoraiya Dyer, Keith Stevenson, Juliet Marillier, Gillian Polack, Jason Fischer, Alisa Krasnostein, Tehani Wessely, Amanda Rainey, Justine Larbalestier, Rowena Cory Daniells, Glenda Larke, Adrian (K.A.) Bedford, Kaaron Warren, Nicole Murphy, D.M. Cornish, Deborah Kalin, Jonathan Strahan, Alan Baxter, Gary Kemble, Lezli Robyn, Kate Eltham, Robert Hoge, Will Elliott, Trent Jamieson, Felicity Dowker, Jack Dann, Lee Battersby, Peter M Ball, Nyssa Pascoe, Lucy Sussex, Andrew McKiernan, Amanda Pillar, Deborah Biancotti, Kim Falconer, Gabrielle Wang, Kim Wilkins, Paul Haines, Karen Healey, Stephanie Campisi, Stuart Mayne, Christopher Lynch, Simon Petrie, Alison Goodman, Russell Blackford, Rhonda Roberts, Ben Payne, Christopher Green, Kylie Chan, K.J. Taylor, Robbie Matthews, Kirstyn McDermott, Russell Farr, Simon Haynes, Kate Orman, Cat Sparks, Sean Williams, Penni Russon, Robert Hood, Tracey O’Hara, Cassandra Golds, Dirk Flinthart, Kathleen Jennings, Tessa Kum, Helen Merrick, Jenny Blackford, Martin Livings, Scott Westerfeld, Marty Young, Lisa Hannet, Nick Stathopoulos, Lorraine Cormack, and Jennifer Fallon.



EDIT: With a few late interviews coming in today (Monday), we're now up to 90!! Please check out: Ian McHugh, Edwina Harvey, Matt Chrulew, and Shaun Tan