Karen Healey is an Aurealis-award winning author of young adult fiction who likes World of Warcraft, teen romantic comedies, and nail polish. She currently lives in her hometown, New Zealand’s steampunk capital, and supplements the glamorous life of a writer with the glamorous life of a retail worker. She enjoys both jobs far more than she’s probably supposed to. Her first book is Guardian of the Dead, her second is The Shattering, and her third, When We Wake, will be released in January 2013.
Sadly for us, you have recently moved back to NZ, making it harder to keep up the classic Aussie tradition of claming all wondrous things Kiwi as our own. So did you start to feel at home here, or did it just make you more convinced that you guys actually invented Pavlova? (This is a roundabout way of asking about the genesis of your gorgeous online story, Queen of the Kitchen)
Hee, I don’t really care which country invented pavlova, but the protagonist of that story feels very strongly about it. She is in fact opinionated on most cooking and eating related topics. The story came about because that was the year my first book, Guardian of the Dead, was published, and my blog readers had been terrific in their support and encouragement. So I wanted to give them a Christmas gift. I didn’t know what it would be about, just that it would probably take place on or around Christmas, and I was noodling away when I thought, “The fairies came for me on Christmas morning, which was very inconvenient.”
So, bam! The protag is about to be taken by the fairies, is unhappy about it, and expresses her unhappiness in a practical way – it’s not “upsetting” or “terrifying”, but “inconvenient”. So she’s practical. What do people do on Christmas morning? Well, in my family, the religious among us go to Mass, and the non-religious start preparing Christmas dinner. So in this family, everyone else is off at Mass, and the protagonist is busy in the kitchen and goddammit. Fairies. And it went from there.
Both the Guardian of the Dead and The Shattering have been very well received – what have been your favourite reader responses to these books?
Definitely asexual teenagers who write thanking me for portraying an asexual character in Guardian of the Dead. But that also makes me really sad, because Kevin is not a main character, and may not even be a terribly good portrayal of an asexual person, and yet I get these emails saying “This is the only time I’ve ever read about someone like me in young adult fiction,” and that shouldn’t be true! There should be dozens, hundreds of acknowledged asexual characters in our cultural products, on account of asexuals exist.
You are now working on the book When We Wake – can you tell us about it?
Actually, I have long ago stopped work on When We Wake – it’s coming out in January 2013 in Australia and March 2013 for North America, and the American publishing schedule wants things set a lot earlier, so I did the final edits earlier this year.
When We Wake is the story of Tegan Oglietti, a Melbourne girl who’s killed on the happiest day of her life in 2027 – and wakes up again in 2128, the first successful human cryogenic revival. But Project Revival is a politically fraught army initiative, and secrets surround her resurrection, and Tegan wants answers. But will she risk everything she has left to find them? Also she made an idiot out of her self in front of the one person that might be able to understand her. Also her hair is taking forever to grow back. Also Melbourne is so much hotter now, it’s gross.
What Australian works have you loved recently?
Tansy Rayner Roberts Love and Romanpunk is a recent re-read – I really love this collection of themed short stories, with their monstrous reimagining of Roman history. I just finished Garth Nix’s A Confusion of Princes, which is a wonderfully Nixian space opera: full of interesting ideas and strange scenarios. And I’m halfway through Alison Goodman’s Eon, which I thought I’d read but actually hadn’t – I’m really loving it, particularly the deft characterisation and the very human and confused protagonist.
Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?
I’ve only ever been on the fringes of the Australian Spec Fic scene, so I honestly don’t know! Personally, I loved Aussiecon 4 as a terrific way to catch up with some international and out-of-Melbourne friends, and make some new ones. Professionally, what I thought was a disastrous panel turned into an opportunity to be keynote speaker at a Monash University symposium. So, for me, any changes were positive, and I’d hope they were for the Aussie spec-writing community too!