An illustrator by training and a deeply unrepentant word-nerd, D.M. Cornish is old enough to have seen the very first Star Wars (the now unhappily titled ‘Episode 4’). From such flights of delight and fancy he has developed an almost habitual outlet for his passion of word conjuring through the invention of secondary worlds. A fortuitous encounter with a children’s publisher, Omnibus, gave him an opportunity to develop these ideas further. A thousand words at a time, this has lead to the writing (and illustrating) of the Monster-Blood Tattoo series – Foundling, Lamplighter and Factotum (to be released, this year September 2010). Rumor persists that he possesses a life outside of this, but it is a vague and shadowy thing.
1. The third book in your Half-Continent series (begun with Monster Blood Tattoo and Lamplighter) is due out this year. Is it going to end as a trilogy, or will there be more stories about Rossamünd?
Well, as far as I can reckon it, Rossamünd’s story ends here. For the enitre three books we only see things from his perspective, which whilst a great (and largely unconscious) method to keep things simple as I learn how to write books, leaves me really itching to get on and write about the Half-Continent from other people’s perspective and from other locations. So, what there will be, Lord willing, is stories about other Half-Continent folk doing what it is they do. A good example/start to this is a novella length story I have written, The Corsers’ Hinge, that will be appearing in the anthology Australia’s Legends of Fantasy, published by Harper Collins, and coming out JUNE THIS YEAR (I really want folks to know about it, clearly…)
2. The Half-Continent stories have been a long-term project for you, and you’ve both written and illustrated the stories. What has that been like, as a process? And what’s it like when you see websites like Monster Blood Cult spring up around your creation?
I think it is more accurate to say the Half-Continent itself has been a long-term project, and that Rossamünd’s tale is not so much the Half-Continent story as a Half-Continent story, one of many. I make this disitinction because it so far has been a two part process.
Firstly there has been the steady, accretive invention of the Half-Continent as a place, done without stories but rather a conjuring, gathering and refining of ‘facts’ and details of how the world works, who is in it, why they are, why they use certain words, why certain words we use cannot exist in the Half-Continent, what they wear, oh, and monsters, lots of monsters. This process has happened quite naturally since uni days (early 1990s), almost like a tick or an addiction: I read something, see something, misspell something, mis-read something and POP! some part of me goes Oooh, that would be great as this in the Half-Continent!
The second part has been the arrival six years ago of the challenge to actually do more than start some short stories about the Half-Continent, and actually complete and entire tale set there. Phew! As I have been saying to myself all during the penning of the third MBT book, Factotum, you eat an elephant one bite at a time. This process has been a journey, mirrored in some bizarre way by Rossamünd’s own journey; his heading out into the Half-Continent was my heading out into the Half-Continent – it is one thing to spend all my time making stuff up from afar, entirely another to actually, as my publisher Dyan Blacklock (who gave me the opportunity in the first place) said, “put someone down in the Half-Continent and show what happens to them”…
As for websites and fan fic and costumes and fan art, I find it flattering and astonishing and, if I dare to admit it, kind of healing to have other folks join with me on this crazy Half-Continent adventure. As much as it is all very personal, to write books is to make something for others to enjoy, and when they do, and then I get to know about it by website of email or some other method, it is like finding a friend in a scary world.
3. Do you have plans for the Half-Continent, beyond the stories of Rossamünd? Do you have plans to write about different places?
I sure do (as per: answers to questions 1 & 2, and as in response to part one of this question)! As for different places, having spent 17 odd years growing the Half-Continent, I feel like I have bearly begun to explore it in story, so my desire is to continue to do so; I am not sure I have much to say beyond the H-c (as I call it) anyway. That being said, I do have the barest bones of a more sci-fi setting (actually, probably science fantasy), and certainly made starts of short stories (and even a screen play) set in the real world, so who knows. I am still finding my feet in this whole writing thing…
4. With Aussiecon4 coming up this September, there’s been buzz about getting Australians on the Hugos shortlist of 2010. Which Australians would you like to see on there?
Richard Harland, Worldshaker
(Is it bad of me to admit that I do not read a whole lot of speculative fiction, Australian or otherwise…?)
5. Will you be attending Aussiecon4? If you are, what are you most looking forward to?
I surely plan to (which reminds me, I still have to send my registration form in…!) and I am looking forward most to meeting other like-minded folks who like travelling to other worlds as much as I do (and to see again some of the fine folks I discovered at Conjecture here in Adelaide last year). I have never been to a World Con before, so I am thinking the whole darn thing will be pretty astonishing.