CHARLOTTE NASH is an Australian writer with degrees in engineering and medicine, and an eclectic past in technical industry. Her short stories range from near-future cyberpunk to contemporary fantasy, and have been published in Every Day Fiction, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine,Electric Spec, Dimension6, Dreaming of Djinn (Ticonderoga) and Use Only as Directed (Peggy Bright Books). She is also the best-selling author of rural medical romance novels (Hachette) and teaches creative writing at The University of Queensland. She confesses a special love for motorbikes, heavy machinery and mock cream donuts, and isn’t sure which is more dangerous. Find out more at charlottenash.net.
1. You have two rural medical romance novels out with Hachette (and a third on the way) – did that kind of take you by surprise?
Hehe … you’d think so, wouldn’t you? But no. They’re all my stories. I’ve always read and written across the board as far as genre goes. I’m happy switching between reading Neal Stephenson and Jilly Cooper, and writing cyberpunk and contemporary romance. Good stories are good stories …
My spec fic writing is actually what got me my introduction to my publisher – it just happens they bought my contemporary fiction. Besides, I managed to sneak more than passing references to Firefly, Jurassic Park, engineers and Starship Troopers into my romances – like I said, they’re my stories! Genre switching is definitely a branding problem for book-selling, one I’m going to have to look at managing, but it’s not an identity problem for me as a writer.
2. In your comments accompanying your story ‘The Message’ in Dimension6, you talk about the lure of subversion mirrored against your varied background of experience. Is speculative fiction the natural home of subversion? Is that what brought you here?
The nature of spec fic almost demands stories about subversive ideas and actions – making points about the shortcomings of the status quo, the dangers of particular systems, or the hopes of a different way. (I also hope that’s true of all fiction – it was important to me to subvert some ideas in my romance novels too). But it’s not the reason I’m here – not consciously, anyway. I write spec fic because I loved Michael Crichton as a teenager, and then I found Huxley and Orwell; later came Neal Stephenson who blew my mind. Then Ted Chiang and so many others. I’m here because I was inspired by those who came before, and I stay because I love it.
3. Your novella The Ship’s Doctor balances space travel, action and a little romance. Is that a sign of things to come, or are you off to subvert an entirely new genre?
I tend to write spec fic in two camps – the space opera style things like The Ship’s Doctor, then the on-earth stuff, which tends towards punk but is sometimes fantasy. The Ship’s Doctor was actually the first thing I ever had published (I self-published a new edition when I got the rights back as an experiment), and I’ve had reasonable success with other short fiction since then. I have continued to write spec fic in short form, even while I’ve been writing commercial fiction novels. And I’ll keep doing that.
My latest thing is what I’d call agricultural cyberpunk. I’m writing a novel that blends speculation about the future of food and two characters whose relationship I find very interesting. It’s currently half-written, and I desperately want to get it done, although I have no idea what I’ll do with it. ‘Blue ICE’ (a novellette, my most recent publication) (in ASIM #59: JN) is actually a prequel story for the novel.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
Most of them are actually unpublished! (I do a huge amount of manuscript reading for students, and some of them blow me away.) But in published works, I recently (finally) read Sara Douglass’s The Hall of Lost Footsteps. An amazing collection, and her essay in the back about her experience with dying is essential reading. Besides that, Kim Wilkins’ The Year of Ancient Ghosts – incredible.
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?
I don’t know that it’s changed the way I work. It has made me consider, however, the appropriate channels for the things I’m writing – whether to self-publish my speculative fiction, for instance.
The one thing related to changes in publishing that’s influenced me hugely (and not positively) is increased emphasis on social media. It’s the most destructive thing for my creative ventures. I’ve had to manage my use of social media actively and savagely to prevent it damaging my work. As a result, I don’t engage much with Facebook, Twitter or any of those platforms – and I think that’s the right choice for me. I’m happy to trade whatever I lose in sales (and that’s questionable) by not always being available in order to preserve my output and mental well-being!
In five years, I hope to be: still writing spec fic short stories, have two spec fic novels out, as well as a contemporary novel each year. I hope I will have improved in my craft. The industry is fickle, though. I’m conscious my hopes may not meet with reality. But I’ll still be reading widely.