Jo Anderton lives in Sydney with her husband and too many pets. By day she is a mild-mannered marketing coordinator for an Australian book distributor. By night, weekends and lunchtimes she writes science fiction, fantasy and horror. Her short fiction has most recently appeared in Midnight Echo #6and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. Her debut novel, Debris (Book one the Veiled Worlds series) was published by Angry Robot Books in 2011. It was a finalist for the 2011 Aurealis award for Best Fantasy Novel. Book two Suited will be published in 2012. Visit her online at http://joanneanderton.com and on Twitter @joanneanderton
1. We’ve seen your debut novel Debris garnering rave reviews and number of awards nominations. Your next book, Suited, is coming out in late June (also from Angry Robot) – could you tell us a little about the new book, and about the inspiration for the world these books are set in?
I don’t want to be too spoilerific here, but Suited basically picks up where Debrisleft off. It follows the main character, Tanyana, as she deals with the fallout of the choices she made at the end of the first book. Did she choose the right allies? Was it really such a good idea to make enemies out of some of the most powerful people in Varsnia? As her debris collecting team and, in fact, the entire city of Movoc-under-Keeper faces an even bigger threat, Tanyana has to juggle some rather unexpected complications — from an underground revolutionary army to something deeply personal. And all the while, she’s fighting the suit drilled into her bones for control of her own body, and mind.
The inspiration for these worlds came from all sorts of places. Firstly, I wanted to write about a fantasy world where magic was everyday, even to the point where it had become industrialised. That’s where pions come in. Pions are subatomic particles that bind all matter together — most people can see and manipulate these particles. The more people who work together — in systems called circles — the more powerful a manipulation can be performed. So you end up with factories full of binders working in complicated circles who can run great and beautiful cities, from heating, lighting, to sewerage — you name it! There are a lot of video game influences in this world too. Have a look at the pseudo-technologies of, say, the Final Fantasy games: for example, the sparkling beauty of the Lifestream from FFVII channelled into energy and ultimately weaponry. Pions are like that.
In Debris, Tanyana starts off as a powerful binder, but loses her powers in a terrible accident. She’s left scarred, and able to see debris instead — the dirty by-product of all that pion manipulation. She has a suit installed into her body, bands of silver drilled into her wrists, ankles, waist and neck that can mould into any shape. This suit is pure anime. Not only doesit have a creepy self-awareness that is at once protective, and threatening,but the way it can stretch into weapons or giant shields … as I said, pure anime.
And last, but definitely not least, these books were inspired by real life. I know that sounds kinda strange, but when Tanyana loses her powers she loses her job — not only her income, but a big part of her identity too. My husband went through a lot of that when the business he was working for suddenly went under, and this was definitely an inspiration for Tanyana’s experience. I also liked the idea of a fantasy hero who has to pay her rent!
2. You started out writing short stories. Was differences do youf ind in the creative processes for the short and long forms? Which do you enjoy more?
It’s funny that you’d say that, because I’ve always seen myself as a novel writer first and a short story writer second. Don’t get me wrong, I love short stories! It’s just that novels are what I startedwriting … it just took a bit longer to get them published.
To me, novels and short stories are like different forms of exercise. Novels are long-distance anaerobic exercise. They’re a slow burn, I’ve got to take my time with them, pace myself, and I’m dying by the end but damn it, I’m going to finish. Short stories are like weights, or a circuit, quick and intense. No less exhausting or exhilarating. Just different. And my writerly brain needs a good combination of the two to keep healthy!
3. I know you have more to say in Tanyana’s world (Debris/Suited) – do you think there will be more novels to follow, or do you have new projects taking priority?
Ah, well, there is actually a third book. It would be very nice to see it in print too…
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
I’m very much in love with Marianne De Pierre’s Night Creatures trilogy, having finished reading book two (Angel Arias) not that long ago. I love Naif/Retra’s strength, the way she’s grown through the two books, as well as the world, which seems initially simple but has so many layers and complexities going on underneath the surface. They’re also produced so beautifully, (and that’s important to me too — books are a wonderful object to collect and to hold) from the stunning artwork to the very feel of the covers. I cannot wait for the third book!
I recently did some proofreading for FableCroft Publishing and read a lot of the new anthology Epilogue. I think Epilogue is going to make a big splash, it’s an amazing idea — stories set after an apocalypse where there is actually some hope for the future — and from what I read it includes some fantastic stories (disclosure — I have a story in this anthology but trust me, that’s not why I’m loving it!).
There are many books calling me from my bookcase right now, Australian works I have heard so many wonderful things about and just can’t wait to sink my teeth into, such as Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan, and Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth.
5. Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think aresome of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?
Oh dear, I am not the right person to answer this question. From my perspective, the biggest change in the Australian Spec Fic scene is that I’m slowly starting to get to know most of the people in it!
Publishing in general is tough at the moment, and we’re feeling it just like everyone else. There have been some major changes over the past two years (the loss of Borders and A&R, for example) and we’re still dealing with the effects. But what really strikes me about the Australian Spec Fic scene is the way small press have stepped up to the challenge, not only nurturing new talent and providing a space for more niche publications, but creating strong product in the process! Added to this is the sheer energy of fans and reviewers, keeping discussion, debate and enthusiasm for our books and stories alive. Go us!