1. You recently won the Aurealis Award for best fantasy novel for the ‘Black Magician Trilogy’ prequel ‘Magician's Apprentice’ (Congrats!). Yet on your blog you’ve commented that is somewhat ironic given that you found this book the hardest to write so far. What made this one so hard to write and what did you learn during the process?
That’s a long story, unfortunately. To sum up: House had termites. Decided to add a floor as well as fix the damage. Builder got to fixing stage, then lost interest. I wound up doing the work of a site manager since he so rarely turned up to instruct the workers or check the results. Twelve months after the house was supposed to be finished, we sacked him. He then threatened to sue us.
Usually I allow a year to write a book, but The Magician’s Apprentice was a bigger book and with the extra work managing the build I was only writing part time. Then after we sacked the builder we had to take on finishing the extension ourselves, after which I had to work such intense hours that I stopped enjoying writing completely. We were stressed, depressed and surrounded by chaos and distractions – and I really didn’t know what my publisher would do if I failed to deliver the book within a reasonable stretch of the deadline. Fortunately they were very understanding and patient.
2. Your twitter bio describes you as ‘Writer, artist, knitter, weaver’. Do you find that participating in arts other than writing balances your life? Has writing changed for you now that it has become your job?
I’m not sure about ‘balancing’ my life, but I do have a little saying that sums up the effect: “creativity begets creativity”. I’ve always found that the more painting and craft I do, the more creative and enthusiastic I am in writing. It’s as if there’s a creativity muscle, and any kind of exercise is good for it.
Writing is definitely a job for me now. A job I like, however, even if there are days I’d rather be scrubbing the toilet than sitting at the computer trying to get my character to knock on a door in a new and fresh way. With painting and craft, if I’m not having fun I can stop and do something else. That’s the main difference – and the same was true when I was running my illustration and cartography business.
3. Looking to the ‘The Traitor Spy Trilogy’ - ‘The Ambassador’s Mission will be published this year, and you’re writing the second in the series ‘The Rogue’, right now. Do you know exactly how the trilogy ends yet? How much do you plan ahead?
I’ve always been a planner. Even before I had to provide publishers with a synopsis, I didn’t like to start a story until I knew how the main plot arc would go and how the story would end. To me, the ending has to be exciting enough that it acts like a carrot on a stick, tempting me through the hard work of writing to the finish.
4. Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year? What have you enjoyed reading?
I’d like to see them all on the list! Recently I’ve enjoyed books by Kaaron Warren and Sara Creasy (but I don’t think those books are eligible since they’re either only just published or not published yet).
5. Will you be at Aussiecon 4 in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to about it?
Yes, I’ll be at Aussiecon4. How could I miss Worldcon when it’s on in my home town? I’m looking forward to watching the locals strut their stuff on the world stage, and seeing the fans of the rest of the world falling in love with Australia.
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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