So you’ve just had the final book in your Creature Court trilogy published by HarperCollins. How did that feel and what’s been the reaction to it?
It was a huge relief to get the book out there and have the trilogy be complete – and while I was expecting pangs of loss as well, they haven’t arrived yet, possibly because it’s so long since I completed the third book and left the characters behind. I’ve been delighted by the response to the books – a bunch of award nominations certainly help a nervous author feel like they’re doing the right thing! And very happy that many of my loyal readers seems to think that it ties up well with the third book. Would be terrible to stumble at the last post…
I understand you’re currently working on a novel-length treatment for Nancy Napoleon, the character first introduced in the novella “Siren Beat” as the supernatural protector of Hobart. Aufleur of the Creature Court books were set in a heavily fictionalised Rome, but you took a fairly faithful approach to Hobart in the novella. What is it like giving your home town the fictional treatment? Does it liberate or restrict you?
Faithful apart from the kraken in the Derwent, the Fates running a pub in Salamanca Place and the sexy sea pony, you mean? One of the things I love most about urban fantasy is the way that it conveys a strong sense of a realistic location – it’s one of the best aspects of the crime genre that it has taken on as its own – and I definitely wanted to Just Add Magic to Hobart for this particular series. I actually find it quite intimidating to write work set in Tasmania rather than in imaginary worlds, which is part of the reason I avoided it so long. There’s a freedom to it but it can be stressful too – at one point I destroyed a very specific area of the city, part of which is where friends of mine live, and I actually felt incredibly guilty about that, as if it might have some kind of sympathetic magic effect on the real population.
Another danger is that I know the area so well but don’t necessarily know what parts I’m taking for granted rather than describing properly, which is where good beta readers and editors come in!
The Creature Court is set in a secondary fantasy world, Nancy Napoleon in a recognisable Australia. Your short stories have bounced between near future ‘real world’ settings and fantastical ones. What sort of settings do you see yourself working in for the future? And is there one genre that is most likely to keep you, or do you anticipate genre-crossing and -blurring?
The lovely thing about science fiction and fantasy is that I don’t have to choose, not at all. If one piece of work is especially successful then I have no qualms about doing more of that sort of thing, but otherwise I prefer to keep my work as diverse as possible, to keep me entertained. Lots of genre crossing and -blurring, as much as possible! BRING IT.
Right now, for instance, in an only slightly chaotic tangle of novel and short story projects, I am writing steampunk Victoriana gothic with faeries and robots, contemporary ghostbusting comedy, genderbending science fiction, smutty superheroes, and a boarding school time travel romp (or tragedy; haven’t decided yet). The four shorts I’ve written so far this year (I am RICH in short stories) are post-apocalyptic surrealism about Wuthering Heights, magical realism with talking kangaroos, horror-fantasy with imps, and a war veteran romance set against the backdrop of a famous children’s fantasy novel. I really don’t like to be tied down…
Which Australians’ work have you been loving recently?
So much great short fiction! I have a soft spot for Narrelle M Harris’ Twelfth Planet collection Showtime, though not remotely unbiased because I helped edit some of the stories. I really enjoyed Ishtar, featuring stories about the goddess by Kaaron Warren, Deb Biancotti and Cat Sparks – some of the best work than any of them have ever done, plus the theme itself makes me so very happy. It’s a great book to read for big bad mean goddess action. In the comics world I am excited to see Nicola Scott back drawing for DC Comics, and the title in question Earth 2 is looking pretty fantastic so far. When it comes to art, I want to hug every single thing that Kathleen Jennings draws, and I was particularly impressed with her work on the Fablecroft book To Spin a Darker Stair.
It’s two years since Australia hosted the WorldCon. What do you think are the biggest changes to the Australian speculative fiction scene in that time?
Are we absolutely sure that it’s only been two years? I feel like I blinked and missed them. The rise of podcasts is something I have greatly enjoyed, but that was already well underway when the Worldcon happened. I think the interest in e-books from readers is probably one of the biggest changes, but we’re still yet to see how that pans out for Australian publishing. And of course, we’ve been losing bookshops hand over fist across the country. Sad, and a sign of a new paradigm heading our way. If only we knew exactly what it looked like…