GLENDA Larke spent most of her adult life abroad, living in Malaysia (including Borneo), Austria and Tunisia, but has recently returned to live in W.A. She has worked as an English teacher and as a conservationist, specifically tropical bird conservation, on jobs that have taken her from peat swamps and tropical islands to logging camps and fishing villages. Her 11 published novels include three trilogies (Isles of Glory, Mirage Makers and the Watergivers) and she has had books short-listed seven times for the Aurealis Best Fantasy of the Year. Her latest trilogy, The Forsaken Lands, is a fantasy version of the 18th century European spice trade, involving buccaneers, birds of paradise, witchery and magical daggers. Book one, The Lascar’s Dagger, is now available; the second, The Dagger’s Path, comes out worldwide in January 2015.
1. The Lascar’s Dagger is the first book in The Forsaken Lands series (published March 2014), which has a strong sense of setting and culture throughout the book. What inspires you especially down this path, and how important do you think cultures are to the speculative fiction scene?
When I was 25, I went to live in my husband’s country. Very little about it was familiar — language, climate, customs, family structure, law, religion, food, festivals: those things were all fundamentally different for someone brought up in Australia, especially in that era. We weren’t privileged expatriates; we were locals, paid a local salary; I became part of my husband’s family. For me, it was an exciting adventure, but also a traumatic adjustment; it was a wonderful, broadening experience, yet also a destabilising upheaval. In fact, all those things at one and the same time. I was mostly accepted and welcomed — but not always.
As if that experience was not enough, we later moved to Austria and then Tunisia. Believe me, if there is one thing living on four different continents taught me, it is how fundamental setting and culture are to our lives, to our sense of security, to our personal happiness.
I write stories that I hope are entertaining, but at the same time I like to think that speculative fiction can also encourage readers to think about issues that are important to us as individuals and as a society — without the confrontational aspects of: “Hey, that’s MY culture/race/beliefs you’re talking about there!” We pride ourselves in Australia for being multicultural and tolerant. That’s the theory. We sometimes don’t succeed at being either, and I think we should be aware of why not. Looking at an artificially constructed fictional culture might help, even as the story entertains.
2. Your Isles of Glory series has been re-released with FableCroft Publishing in ebook form, would you be able to tell us a little about this series, and what it’s been like to have it re-released?
It’s given the story a new lease of life — and I’ve found new readers because of it. It never was published as a paperback in the UK, so for readers there the eBooks have given them a chance to get to know Blaze Halfbreed. Happily, the tale seems to have aged well, and the end of Gilfeather (book two) still blows readers away…
3. What lies in store for us with the next two books in The Forsaken Lands series? The Dagger’s Path (book two) is currently due out in January 2015; what has been decided for the third book?
Neither a title nor a publication date has yet been confirmed for Book 3. It is already underway though, and I’m not a writer who believes in keeping my readers waiting for years! I’m hoping it will be in print within a year of Dagger’s Path, which is already in the final stages of publication.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
At the moment I’m reading Bruce McCabe’s Skinjob — so far, a fabulous SF thriller-mystery. In fact, I’ve enjoyed enormously some of the latest Australian SF — The Rook (Daniel O’Malley) and Lexicon (Max Barry), for example. In horror, I thought Lee Battersby’s The Corpse-Rat King was excellent and I must get the sequel.
As for fantasy, the best Australian novel I’ve read this year is Karen Miller’s The Falcon Throne, bar none. This is book 1 of The Tarnished Crown, which promises to be a remarkable 5 part epic. I think it will prove to be on a par with the work of some of the greats of fantasy, such as Robin Hobb and G.R.R. Martin. It comes out in September. Not to be missed. For classic-fantasy readers, there’s Satima Flavell’s The Dagger of Dresnia… Young adult? Dave Freer’s Cuttlefish and The Steam Mole.
5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?
There aren’t too many writers unaffected by what has been happening. Present advances are not what writers were getting fifteen years ago! I was just getting to the stage where I had enough books published to actually earn a decent living — when bookshops began to disappear… I haven’t the faintest idea what will happen next.
My first reaction was to self-publish/go to small presses to publish my backlist, and I’m happy to say having all my early books available again in one form or another, is finding me new readers. For my new work, I will continue with traditional publishing if possible. If not, I will probably go to a small press. (Luckily, Australia has some very fine and dedicated small press editors!) Failing that, I’ll self-publish. I have to write, so I may as well aim to have readers too!