Best-selling author of the ‘Laws of Magic’ series, Michael Pryor was born in Swan Hill, Victoria, and currently lives in Melbourne. He has worked as a drainer’s labourer, a truck driver, a bathroom accessories salesperson, an Internet consultant, a software developer, a textbook publisher, in a scrap metal yard and as a secondary school teacher.
Michael has published more than thirty popular and critically acclaimed novels, more than fifty short stories, and has over one million words in print. His work has been longlisted for an Inky award, shortlisted for the WAYBR award and six times shortlisted for the Aurealis Award. Seven of his books have been awarded Children’s Book Council of Australia Notable Book status.
For more, see his website www.michaelpryor.com.au
My first encounter with you was attending a book launch where you were the MC. It’s clear that you have a real talent behind the mike, but are there any particular challenges in speaking to a group of students in a school environment as opposed to a group of writers? Do you find there is a receptiveness amongst young people to hearing about books, and speculative fiction books in particular?
I have many speaking engagements in schools, and they’re always a challenge. Delightfully so, in most cases, otherwise occasionally. The major difference can be that the school audiences can be reluctant. They’re not always aware of who you are, or what you do. It keeps you on your toes, having to offer them something engaging almost immediately, and winning their confidence can take some work. Usually, though, students warm up. Most are genuinely interested in what goes on behind the scenes of anything creative. I see it as the equivalent of DVD extras – ‘The Making of …’ sort of thing. Add to that the fact that more young people today are seeing writing as an actual career choice, thanks to celebrity authors like JK Rowling. It’s the Masterchef effect at work. Over the last half dozen years, catering and hospitality courses have had an explosion of interest, thanks to celebrity chefs. I think we’re starting to see the same at work with authors. Spec Fic is still a favourite among young readers, but this does tail off a little as they get older. Then it’s replaced by a growing stream of geek pride – the avid readers who love books and aren’t afraid to show it.
“The Quentaris Chronicles” must have been an incredible experience, with involvement from some amazing Australian talent. Looking back, what were some of the highlights and challenges involved? Is it something we are likely to see more of?
The shared world thing hadn’t been done in Australia before the Quentaris Chronicles. I’d been sitting around for some time waiting for someone else to do it and to ask me to come on board, but nothing was happening so I started talking with Paul Collins and that was the beginning of a wonderful project. The highlights were simply getting to work with so many fine authors. Authors almost always work in a solitary mode, and being able to discuss concepts, help shape outlines and then offer suggestions on manuscripts was a real privilege. All the authors we worked with were gracious, reliable and thoroughly professional. Challenges? The amount of work involved … Trying to keep up my own writing, while supervising other writers, and having a day job meant that I was phenomenally busy, and ended up quite exhausted most of the time. Is it something we’re likely to see more of? I doubt it. Despite it being a creative wonderland, such a project requires a real leap of faith from a publisher, In these straitened publishing times, I think it unlikely.
You’ve talked about some of the challenges in moving away from a steampunk setting into more of a science fiction world with “10 Futures”. Do you think you will return to steampunk anytime soon, or does the immediate future hold more science fiction?
I’m currently writing the second book of the steampunk ‘Extraordinaires’ series, so my love of historical fantasy adventure isn’t going away for some time. I’d be happy to have a foot in both camps, so to speak, and to work with more serious SF as well as indulging in the style and humour of the Edwardian romps I love.
What Australian works have you loved recently?
I love David Cornish’s work, and I look forward to each new delivery in the Monster Blood Tattoo series. Shaun Tan, of course, and Gabrielle Wang’s ‘Little Paradise’ was a little gem.
Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?
The health of it. The growth in the YA field. The inroads Spec Fic is making into the mainstream, both in consciousness and sheer numbers of works being bought and read.