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. Since then he has published a second book, ‘Strange Places’, his first-hand account of a journey through schizophrenia. His website is: http://www.will-elliott.org/
1. Your most recently published book, ‘Strange Places’, is somewhat of a departure from ‘The Pilo Family Circus’ and is your memoir of living with schizophrenia. Why was it important to you to write this book? Have you had a different experience publishing non-fiction compared to fiction?
It seemed when weighing things up that Strange Places would more likely have any kind of genuine importance than a work of fantasy or horror whose main function was entertainment. I may be able to articulate the experience of psychotic mental illness for people going through it, or warn younger people against the kind of drug use which can cause or exacerbate such problems, or give a better understanding of those conditions for people who’d not encountered it. So I got the book out there while I was able to, before I get hit by a bus or a comet or whatever else.
Naturally being the subject of the book, the publicity and so on was different to Pilo’s, and in a way much harder to do. I’d have kept the book’s subject entirely on the illness, but given it was a memoir it had follow certain conventions, to include material from childhood and so on.
2. And now, if you don’t mind indulging me in a bit of a fan girl moment… Last year you appeared on the ABC’s ‘First Tuesday’s Book Club’ with Jennifer Byrne!! How was it?? The show you appeared on was a special – ‘Monsters and Bloodsuckers’. As a special guest, did you have much influence on what books were discussed, or was that decided by the producers?
I actually freaked out when I saw the small studio audience there to watch the taping, despite having already accepted a much larger TV audience would see the show. That aside it was great to meet Leigh Blackmore, Tara Moss & Catherine Jinks, and of course the wonderful host Jennifer Byrne, but I felt like a complete fraud. I’m not an expert on the genre like Leigh. I had nothing original to say about the books we discussed.
Jennifer did seek our input before the show, and Leigh and I were able to get some discussion of Lovecraft included. But there was a hell of a lot of material to cover in a short time, so we really could only touch on everything briefly. Wonderful experience though, good to see what the inside of a TV looks like.
3. You seem to have a couple of books in the pipeline, including the fantasy ‘Pendulum Trilogy, sold to HarperCollins, and a novel, ‘Nightfall’. Can you tell us more about these projects? What other plans to you have for 2010?
I can’t say much about Nightfall at the moment, only that it’s an unusual novel, very different from everything else I’ve done, and I have no idea what people will make of it. But it’s a while away from publication yet (except in Germany, where it will be my next book.) I’m also discussing ideas with a friend for a standalone collaboration, and have one other novel in the rough draft phase which could be reworked. Also a short story collection is a possibility.
But the Pendulum trilogy is my main concern. Its first book will be out in April, called “Pilgrims”. It leans more to fantasy than horror, but is still very dark. I can give you its blurb if you like:
Eric Albright is leading a normal life until a ghostly being wakes him in the dead of night, with a message from another world: You are Shadow.
In Levaal, the world between worlds, the dragon-gods grow restless in their sky prisons, and the Great Spirits struggle to contain them. Vous, the world’s Friend and Lord, simmers in madness as he schemes to join the ranks of gods. He and the Arch Mage have almost won their final victory over the Free Cities. A dark age dawns.
But Eric and his friend Case are now Pilgrims, called to Levaal for a battle more ancient than the petty squabbles of men. And they will learn why some doors should not be opened…
4. Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year? What have you enjoyed reading?
I really want to see David Kowalski get his follow-up book out there. If he doesn’t soon I’m going to start making phone calls. I’ve no idea how close it is to publication but he’s a world class writer and would be in the running. I’ve also enjoyed Jason Nahrung’s work and Lee Battersby’s, two very talented writers. If you want a break from spec fiction check out Karen Hitchcock’s Little White Slips.
5. Will you be at Aussiecon 4 in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to about it?
Certainly shall. It’s my first convnetion so I don’t know what to expect. But I will be autograph hunting without shame.