Interviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts
Will Elliott’s debut horror novel The Pilo Family Circus (2006) was the inaugural winner of the ABC Fiction Award. Pilo co-won the Aurealis Award for Best Horror Novel, won the Golden Aurealis and the Ditmar for Best Novel, and was recently released in the United Kingdom.
Q1 – The Pilo Family Circus got a hugely positive response from Australian readers (and awards judges) in 2006, and formed something of a centrepiece to a major year of horror in Australian publishing. How has your life changed since the release of Pilo? How is the UK release shaping up?
I have been overwhelmed by the response, especially as I consider the book the work of someone still learning his trade. I’m thrilled the Circus has been welcomed by the speculative fiction people in Australia and overseas – it’s like having a team to play for. The UK release has been very good indeed – already there are about 5 times as many books in print over there as there are back home. Life has changed for the better, naturally; the long slow grind to nowhere of life unpublished was becoming tiresome, to put it mildly.
Q2 – Pilo wasn’t actively marketed as a work of speculative fiction, though it was certainly embraced by the readers of SF, fantasy and horror! Do you see yourself as a mainstream writer, or a speculative fiction writer, and what are you writing right now?
It may sound arrogant or even deluded to dismiss labels of that kind, but I don’t really know what I see myself as – whatever idea or story grabs me, in reading or writing, is what I’m into. I write short stories for instance which are mainstream and have been published in mainstream, literary venues, with no use of speculative fiction devices. But a big proportion of what I read is spec fiction – writers like Gene Wolfe have at least as much literary value as any great name you care to mention. Individuality is what I enjoy most in fiction, but that doesn’t preclude familiar formulas done very well, such as the science fiction of Niven and Pournelle. When writing, the imaginative freedom offered by speculative fiction and its devices is what appeals to me, especially for novel-length works. But yes, the ABC competition, (which was the original breakthrough), was a mainstream venture. It’s very cool to see that the first novel published by ABC Books was a speculative fiction title.
Q3 – Where do you hope you will be, professionally, in five year’s time?
I hope to be an author who produces regularly and keeps improving, without settling into a predictable formula. The business side of things should take care of itself if these goals can remain my focus. I also assume there’ll be no nasty accidents which render me unable to type … but then maybe I worry too much.
Q4 – Do you read much Australian fiction? What’s the best thing you’ve read this year? To be honest, not until lately, after meeting a few Australian authors … I have always wanted to write the kinds of books that come from the US and UK. But I have missed out on a few good local authors, I’m discovering. The best thing I’ve read this year from overseas would be Gene Wolfe’s Book of the Long Sun, something I cannot recommend highly enough. From Australia, Edwina Grey’s Prismatic is well worth a read, as is Jason Nahrung’s The Darkness Within (this book surprised me, as it’s not normally a sub-genre I go for.) From mainstream fiction, Malcolm Knox’s A Private Man is very good, ditto Grace by Robert Drewe.
Q5 – and finally (we leave the most important questions until last!) if you had the chance to get it on with the fictional character you fancy most, who would it be?
Galadriel, hands down!