2010 Snapshot Archive: Deborah Kalin

First published at Rachel Holkner’s blog.

Deborah Kalin was once addressed by a recruitment agency as “Cheng Soon” no matter how often she corrected them. A resident of Melbourne, she shares a birthday with Pablo Picasso, was born in the year of the Fire Dragon, collects books beyond her ability to read them all, and once worked at an aluminium smelter where a sparrowhawk routinely ripped pigeons to pieces on a lamp post just outside the cafeteria. She mostly ate not the meat at this cafeteria.

1) Shadow Bound, the second book in The Binding is due to be released this year. How have you found the process different from the first book, Shadow Queen? Did you find it easier or harder having people waiting at the other side of your deadlines?

I found writing SB much more difficult to write, for a variety of reasons. Partly it was a consequence of my habit of writing without an outline — which means basically I write myself and my characters into impossible corners. (Of course I had an idea as to what happened, but no battle plan survives first contact.) Having the first book published and its storyline effectively set in stone meant anything I’d written into that first half of the story couldn’t be changed when I found myself in an impossible corner in the second book, so finding elegant solutions got … tricksome. The other part of what made SB difficult to write was, as you say, having people waiting at the other side of the deadline. I’d worked to deadlines before, so that wasn’t a problem, but I was just so conscious that Allen & Unwin had taken a leap of faith and actually paid me money for this story that I convinced myself I could never possibly deliver something worthy. And of course there was also the normal anguish and plot-hate that comes along mid-book, which in the end saved me. If the dreaded middle of a book has taught me anything, it’s that my thought processes and perspective about my manuscript’s quality are never to be trusted. So I simply ploughed on, writing the best I knew how, and revised it the best I knew how, and somehow, it all ended up not only finished, but cohesive.

2) I know you’ve been knee deep in edits recently. Can you tell us a bit about how you manage a writing/life balance?

Lately, not so well! It is difficult to find the time to write: I have a full-time job, and my commute to work is neither short nor simple enough that I can get any writing done on the trip, and of course the weekends end up chock-full of the housework and the (scant!) social life I couldn’t fit in to the weekdays. My normal routine is to start the dayjob quite early, around 7am (the commute isn’t as painful pre-peak-hour traffic), and then after I’ve clocked off I’ll hang back and write at work, or walk to the local library and write there. I find I work more efficiently that way — there’s no internet, or tv, or housework, or mail, or phone messages demanding my attention. It does make for long days, and a lot of lugging the laptop around, but it makes for less procrastinating. In fact, the less time I have available to write, the better I am at churning out words! I also have a regular writing date — every Saturday I meet up with a couple of my writer friends at the library and we write until we’ve hit our target. Then we reward ourselves with cake or hot chocolate or a movie. I love the Saturday catch-up, because it makes the writing social but it also makes the writing just part of the routine.

3) What would you like to be working on five years from now? Do you see yourself continuing to write long fiction, or are there some shorter works you’d like to get your teeth into?

I’ll always write novels — there’s so many of them jostling for space in my head that I genuinely have ideas for at least the next 7 books lined up, waiting for their turn to be written. That being said, I love the discipline of short fiction, and I like the platform it gives me to explore ideas. I’m currently working on a short story just for a break (between finishing the edits for Shadow Bound and going back to the rough draft of the current novel, which is, in the way of most novel drafts, being recalcitrant). It’s set in the same world as a previous short of mine, “The Wages of Salt”, and I think I’ll probably come back to that world repeatedly, because one story wasn’t enough to explore it. So the short answer is: both! Novels usually take precedence, because they take longer to write but actually stand a chance of making me some money, but short stories will always have a place. (How else will I ever get through all my ideas?)

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

Shadow Queen, of course! 🙂

Okay, more seriously, this is the part I dread, where I rattle off a list and end up forgetting favourites anyway, and it just never ends well! So with the caveat that I -know- I’ll forget so very many somethings, I’m a big fan of Sean Williams, Margo Lanagan, Deb Biancotti, Cat Sparks, Paul Haines, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Justine Larbalestier… Really, I’m a big fan of Aussie writing!

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

Definitely! (Unless fate intervenes and I have to be out of town. Which fate had better not do.) And everything!


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