David McDonald is a professional geek from Melbourne, Australia, who works for an international welfare organisation. When not on a computer or reading a book, he divides his time between helping run a local cricket club and working on his upcoming novel.
He is a member of the Australian Horror Writers Association, and of the Melbourne based writers group, SuperNOVA.
1. You’ve only fairly recently burst onto the Spec Fic scene in Australia, with some short story publications, an Atheling-nominated conversational review series, and a strong blog presence – could you tell us a bit about how your involvement in the community came to be?
Well, “sidled up to” might be more apt than “burst onto”, but yes, it has been a very exciting 18 months for me! There are two pivotal events that made all the difference.
The first was joining SuperNOVA (the Melbourne based writers group). From to being a complete novice who knew absolutely no one in Aussie Spec Fic, I found myself keeping company with some of Aussie Spec Fic’s biggest names. It was, and still is, a very steep learning curve but being able to see how writers at that level go about things makes a huge difference. It also provided a point of connection with other writers in Melbourne.
The second was Swancon36. It was the first convention I went to for what I could get out of it as a writer, rather than as a fan, and not only was it an exceptionally well run event with a great program, but the social side of it was incredible. I am not particularly comfortable with breaking into new social circles, especially ones were everyone has known each other for years or even decades, but I couldn’t have felt more welcome. I usually don’t like to single out people, because I know I will always miss someone, but I was especially grateful to Amanda Rainey and Laura Goodin who made a point of introducing me around and making sure I knew where the social stuff was happening – and what rooms were hosting parties!
So, I left Swancon with a heap of new friends and an addiction to conventions. Since then I have been to Continuum and Conflux (I have been very fortunate with the quality of Cons I have been to – not a dud Con yet!), and each time I have felt welcomed by old friends and made even more new ones, which is a lovely feeling.
Most of the exciting things that have happened to me are a direct result of the friends I have made through those events. For example, the Atheling nomination would not have happened without you and Tansy!
2. You’ve been running a series of blog posts called “Wednesday Writers”, featuring writers (and other professionals) talking about the writing process. Why do you think it is important to support and promote Australian writers in this sort of way?
Well, there is a selfish aspect to it in that the people doing guest posts are people I like and whose opinions I respect. So, Wednesday Writers gives me a chance to get them to talk about things that they have a passion for – and that I want to learn more about!
But, the main idea behind it was that since I have been on the scene people have been incredibly generous about sharing their knowledge with me – there’s no sense of a hoarding of knowledge as if there is only so much to go around. That’s inspired me to try and do my part to help “pass it forward” so that others can experience the same benefits I have. When I look at the guest posts I think there has been some advice there that writers of any level could really take something from, and that is exciting.
Hopefully, I am creating a resource that will help other writers in the same way I have been helped, and give another platform to people who have something extremely worthwhile to share.
It’s also about helping build that sense of community where, rather than existing in isolation, we share in the ups and downs of the journey together
3. What are you currently working on and what goals do you have for the next few years in writing and spec fic?
Well, like a lot of people I have a first draft of a novel sitting on my desk, but right now I am focussing on short stories. I love the form, and as I am trying to develop my writing it gives me a lot more room for experimentation – after all it is easier to discard five thousand words than a hundred thousand! I always have a few stories on the go.
In terms of goals, I have a list of Aussie markets that I want to crack. Not only are there some very exciting things happening in Australia that I want to be part of, but most of my sales have been to US markets that don’t necessarily have a lot of circulation here. I think we all want our friends and peers to read our work, and I’d like to be known for my writing as much as for my blogging. So, as you can imagine I was very excited to make my first Aussie sale!
And, of course, there is that desire to start making sales to the pro markets. That’s one of the benchmarks I have set myself and hopefully if I keep working hard and submitting it will eventually happen.
But, none of those things are any more than ways of helping to measure your progress; I just want to be the best writer I can. That’s all I can control.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
I am a big fan of anthologies because you can sample a story or two at time and discover new writers, and there some excellent Aussie anthos out there which I have been enjoying – Anywhere But Earth from Coeur de Lion, Sprawl from 12th Planet and After the Rain from Fablecroft among the best of them. They are a good mix of established writers and up and coming talent, and they provide a bit of a snapshot of the Aussie scene.
In terms of longer works, I loved Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Creature Court series, which I think is as good as anything out there on the international stage, and I am in the middle of reading Madigan Mine by Kirstyn McDermott, which is amazing.
I’ve also been rereading Paul Haines’ The Last Days of Kali Yuga, which is one of the most brilliant, and disturbing, collections you could imagine.
5. Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?
That’s a little hard for me to answer because I wasn’t even aware of the Aussie scene at that time! I went to Aussiecon as a fan, and pretty much spent all my time hanging around with the Brotherhood Without Banners (the George R.R. Martin fan group). I had only just sold my first short story and didn’t know any other Australian writers.
So, I can really only answer on a very personal level and say that for me it has gone from being something I was barely aware of to a community I am delighted to be part of.