Glenda Larke is an Australian living in Malaysia, author of nine fantasy novels with the tenth coming out this year, published both in Australia, abroad and in translation. She had been shortlisted for the Aurealis Awards five times. When not writing, she works in rainforest conservation, particularly of avifauna.
1. What can you tell us about your new trilogy, the Watergivers?
It’s an epic about an arid world and two young people who find themselves the target of power hungry men because they have the ability to command water. It’s also the story of an armsman and a scholar who are caught up in some nasty politics and a war over rain, only to find themselves enslaved in a place where some very weird things start happening. There are palaces and whorehouses and desert camps and salt mines. There are characters from every walk of life.There are battles and defeats, savagery and nobility, warriors and lovers, painters of magic and stormbringers of rain. There are desert animals and insect weapons. It’s a big canvas, a detailed background – but I aimed to keep the story intimate. I hope the reader can feel the heat and the grit of dust and smell the rain on the wind. But I also hope they can weep and laugh with the characters.
Because it is an arid world, I had to work very hard not to make it sound like Dune; I hope I succeeded. It’s more Australia than Arrakis, but there are bits of Algeria and Iran and bits that are all mine. And in Book One, The Last Stormlord, it’s already a world beginning to fall apart… The reception it has been getting in Oz and overseas has been amazing and I am completely bowled over.You are looking at one very, very happy Oz author at the moment.
2. The Last Stormlord is being considered for the David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy. Is this something you would like to win? In what ways do you think The Last Stormlord reflects the type of fantasy that David Gemmell wrote?
Winning any award is icing on the cake. To have one that commemorates a much-loved author and his writing would be special indeed. I think what people should look for when they vote for the Gemmell Legend Award is a book that has a protagonist (or protagonists) who stands for certain nobility of ideals – courage, loyalty, redeeming oneself – in spite of heavy odds. Victories always carry a cost in a Gemmell book, and villains are complex. That seems to me to be the essence of Gemmell’s work and I think that’s where The Last Stormlord matches up. Other aspects of Gemmell’s work and mine? Perhaps not so much.
3. This is your third fantasy trilogy now for HarperCollins Voyager. What is it you like most about that format for storytelling? Do you think trilogies get a bad rap?
I fell into trilogies by accident – I was told to make the book I submitted into the first of a trilogy. That was the deal.
When people talk about my work, they often mention the worldbuilding. If I had to confine myself to a shorter single work, the world building would be the poorer. I have done it: my first published book was a standalone and the world was unique, but it was also limited, not as detailed. By contrast, when a reader finishes a trilogy, I hope they can close their eyes and see, smell, hear and taste the place, it’s that real. A trilogy also allows a larger story – more characters, looking at those characters over a longer period of time.
Having said that, a trilogy also has built in disadvantages: waiting for books 2 and 3, for example. Authors who don’t finish the darn things on time. (Calliope et al, please help me meet this Book 3 deadline…) Authors who have ten-book trilogies and a problem with maths. And they are dreadfully hard to write – the story arc in the Watergivers reaches through half a million words. Help.
4. Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year?
Well, The Last Stormlord, of course. No wait a moment. That is actually a scary thought, especially when I look back at past Hugo nominees, I can’t imagine that any work of mine deserves to be up there with them. Although that losers’ party sounds wild…
To be serious for a moment: We have an advantage this year because the Worldcon is in our own backyard. I would love to see Australians nominate Australian works, just to draw attention to the slew of wonderful writers we have. So, they might not win and maybe they shouldn’t. That doesn’t matter. What’s important is that the best of them are at least read and therefore walk for a moment on a world stage. I have seen a lot said about our short fiction writers and their works recently, but very little about our novelists. So think about some of the great fantasy and SF novelists we have, read their works for last year, and nominate your favourite(s)!
5. Are you planning to go to Aussiecon in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to?
Would I miss it? Absolutely not! What am I most looking forward to? Mixing with other writers. Meeting readers. Meeting my editors. Meeting bloggers and reviewers. Conversations about books, writing, books, writing, publishing, books, writing. You get the picture. Meeting new people. Talking fantasy and SF and ebooks and trends and stories. Panels and kaffeeklatches and readings and the dealer’s room… See you there. Yes, YOU.