Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Her book,The Opposite of Life, is a vampire novel set in Melbourne. In March 2012, her short story collection, Showtime, became the fifth of the 12 Planets series (released by World Fantasy Award winning Twelfth Planet Press). Walking Shadows, the sequel to The Opposite of Life, is due for release by Clan Destine Press in June 2012.
Narrelle also writes in the business sector. She created the Melbourne Literary iPhone app in association with Sutro Media. Her second app in partnership with Sutro, Melbourne Peculiar, was released in May 2012. You can find out more about the apps at www.iwriter.com.au/apps.
You can read Narrelle’s 2010 Snapshot here.
1. Let’s talk about Showtime! Four stories which dance between a light comic touch and dark, macabre horror. What do you think this collection says about you as a writer?
That I have a slightly disturbing sense of humour?
I’m certainly interested in exploring regular people who remain regular people even in extraordinary circumstances. They may find the best or worst in themselves, but they remain very human. I like to use paranormal ideas to push boundaries and explore relationships. I think flawed, fragile, very human human beings are the most fascinating thing in the universe.
So I guess I hope that people see that I like to explore the potential of being human with a bit of twisted humour but with some kind of truth in it, too.
2. I believe (please correct me if I’m wrong) that your debut novel The Opposite of Life is about to get a new lease of life with a different publisher, and there’s a sequel on the way too. So what Lissa and Gary goodness can we look forward to?
Actually, The Opposite of Life was my fourth published book. Its sequel, Walking Shadows, coming out in June, will be my sixth, and it’s that book that’s with a new publisher, Clan Destine Press.
I don’t want to give any spoilers for TOoL, but there’s a particular event at the end of that which is a bit of a subtle game-changer, so Walking Shadows explores that idea. There are new challenges as well, with a vampire slayer showing up in Melbourne. Gary and Lissa really aren’t superhero types and mostly they try to stay out of harm’s way, but harm keeps going out of its way to find them.
So this book sees them both exploring their own lives, and trying to be more engaged with life and who they want to be, despite the sometimes harrowing difficulties. Their friendship has become deeper, which gives them both more to lose, but more to gain as well. They still have things to learn about each other, potentially damaging secrets, and they have to be more honest with themselves and make some choices.
There’s the usual Lissa snark, Gary being a bit clueless, the old vampires Magdalene and Mundy being scary, and a single minded new vampire being pretty darned creepy. There’s romance, comedy, kidnapping, blood, mayhem, running for their lives and the occasional game of billiards.
3. What are you working on right now?
Now that Walking Shadows, the sequel to The Opposite of Life, is coming out in June, I’m back to work on the third book of that series. I have a bit of cultural research to do on that, actually, and I’m poking at the plot with a stick to see what stirs. I wish I were more devious and cunning, in terms of plotting, but what I lack in twistiness I try to make up for with black humour.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
After years of being deeply, deeply unimpressed with the romance genre, I’ve discovered Anne Gracie, whose work is funny and fresh and delightful.
I remain a huge fan of Mary Borsellino’s work – her last book, The Devil’s Mixtape, has some challenging concepts but her writing is so filled with sharp observation and deep compassion, and her themes and story threads are so complex and beautifully interwoven that she’s always a joy to read. Her vampire series, The Wolf House, has just been re-released by Omnium Gatherum, and I recommend those as well.
Lucy Sussex is always amazing in what she does, and I loved her collection, Matilda Told Such Dreadful Lies. My Lady Tongue remains one of the most vibrant, funny and intellectually sharp SF stories I’ve ever read.
I really enjoyed Alison Croggon’s The Gift, too. I intend to read the rest of the series when I’ve caught up on some of the giant pile of books I’ve bought recently.
5. Two years on from Aussiecon 4, (and the last Snapshot) what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?
We’ve got such a thriving small and independent press scene, doing such interesting, exciting work. That’s been brilliant to see.
I think we’re starting to realise here that we’re not that interested in single-concept genres either. So many writers are turning out to be hard to categorise because they create hybrid genres. Maybe it’s a function of the social history of this country. From the 18th century on, everyone comes from somewhere else, and we have this unsettled relationship with the original inhabitants of this country and with the land. We’re a massive hybrid of cultures, concepts and approaches, and in terms of nationhood, still so very young. Maybe our writers don’t want to be just one thing, but want to play around with all the things we are and can be.
That sounds a bit wanky now I’ve written it down. I’m not a social historian, I haven’t a clue. But it seems true that Australian spec fic writers are collecting ideas and approaches from a dozen places at once and managing to smoosh them together in interesting and creative ways. I hope that bodes well for the country as a whole. Writers are meant to be a culture’s storytellers, aren’t they, so that we know who we were, who we are and who we want to be?