QUEENSLANDER Paul Garrety says he started to take writing seriously about nine years ago, when he began writing his debut novel The Seventh Wave. It and its sequel, The Emerald Tablets, were published by HarperCollins Voyager last year. He’s also written a number of short stories and picked up ‘an occasional’ prize both here and overseas.
He says, ‘When The Seventh Wave and its sequel The Emerald Tabletswere released last year, instead of trying to establish a personal profile, I made the mistake of using the book name as the website URL (www.theseventhwave.com.au). This might work if you happen to be promoting a movie, or have a few more zeroes in your publishing advance than I did to support a sophisticated viral and mainstream marketing campaign, but it’s not a route I’d choose again.’
You scored a deal with HarperCollins Voyager for a two-book series in which you mix magic and technology. How many headaches did that genre-blending cause you? What about joys?
I really don’t think there is any difference between magic and technology. What once would have been magic even a hundred years ago, now is commoditised. Magic as we all know comes at a price and now comes to us in window-faced envelopes.
I suspect genre blending can be a challenge for some dedicated spec fic readers though; those who like to keep their peas and potatoes separate — I acknowledge that. However, I was incredibly humbled by many (yes, there were many) emails that I received from readers who weren’t fans of spec fic, had even gone out of their way to avoid it in the past, yet when they happened to stumble across my books they went to the trouble of letting me know how much they enjoyed them. I think that’s a kind of magic, too.
You’ve also had success with crime short stories. What’s your favourite genre to write and why?
As a species we love to categorise, don’t we? Give us a lifestyle threat or a fatal disease we know absolutely nothing about and the first thing we’ll do is give it a nickname, or, preferably, an acronym. The reason, I guess, is to make it appear that we are in control. I’ll fess up now. I’m not in control. I’m a ‘pantser writer’ so even though I like order with my chaos, when I sit down to write there is no plan around what, if anything, will appear on the screen. Of course I have a vague idea, perhaps even a clever acronym, but always-always-always it will come out differently with gravy slopped all over those carefully positioned peas and taties. Hopefully, though, it will taste better as a result.
What are you working on now, and is it easier or harder now that you’ve got two novels under your belt?
I’ll use a hackneyed analogy here. Like most writers getting my first book to publication was like climbing the proverbial. I believed that when I finally cleared the summit I would have made ‘It’. However, when publication day finally arrived, not only did I just see a lot more mountains on the horizon, but I also realised that the one I’d just climbed was only a hill by comparison. Right now, I’m on the other side, slogging my way down towards the valley in between.
The novel I’m half way through is another ‘bitzer’: crime/urban fantasy/sci-time. Biting at its heels though is an idea for the next book that wants to jump the queue. I haven’t worked out yet whether it’s a bling thing –- bright/new/shiny diversion — or whether there’s a stronger yarn underneath waiting to be revealed. I hope it’s the latter.
What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction in the past two years?
I think the biggest change, certainly for speccy writers, is that the blinkers are now well and truly off around publishing opportunities. Increasingly writers are submitting e-globally instead of waiting for a shot at the traditional hard copy (read credible) route within their home market. This huge rush towards e-publishing and the 0.99c reading hit is perhaps reminiscent of the 1800s penny dreadful, where new markets were created simply by making writing more accessible and affordable. Sure, there’s a lot of material floating around out there and for many it’s like sifting through the Yellow Pages without a directory, but the number of sales being made debunks the theory that reading as an entertainment form is dying.
This naturally impacts on all genres, but the beauty for spec fic writers in Oz is that they now have easy access to specialist online publishers who can sell to anyone, anywhere. Combining clever target marketing and low overheads, many e-publishers are providing quality reads cheaply and rewarding authors with relatively — often absolutely — higher royalties than they would otherwise have earned.
In tandem with this is the increased pressure for spec fic writers to produce work faster, establish a back list, and at the same time grow their profiles across multiple awareness platforms. There is a definite quickening in the pace. Where it is heading? Well that’s another story.