2014 Snapshot Archive: Helen Stubbs

First published at Ben Payne’s blog.

Because she’s a professional, unlike me, Helen sent me her own bio. Otherwise I was just gonna say she is a talented upstart writer with a gazillion gallons of talent, a wise and thoughtful critic and an insightful interviewer with the greatest hair in the Australian speculative scene. But since she sent me her own bio I won’t say any of that. Instead I’ll let Helen describe herself:

Helen Stubbs writes stories that are dark with pointy edges and some have been published in anthologies and magazines, including Subtropical Suspense, Next, Midnight Echo, andWinds of Change. She’s an interviewer for Galactic Chat and tweets @superleni. She’s also interviewing for Snapshot 2014 over at her blog.


Earlier this year, you had your first experience working on editing an anthology. What new perspective did you gain working on the other side of the fence, and would you do it again?

I learned just how hard editors work! I had always appreciated editors, having been lucky to work with wonderful editors who’ve shared my visions for my stories and helped me to bring out the best in them. (Possibly part of that congruence was due to them choosing my story in the first place, so they liked where it was headed.)

Before I took on the Prana project, Jodi Cleghorn told me to imagine how much work I thought it would be and multiply that by a hundred. Maybe she should have said a thousand? But I did get to divide it between two, because Elizabeth Fitzgerald was my co-editor and she was great.

Having worked as both a writer and editor, it really confounds me that writers abuse editors. I think editors are awesome and writers should appreciate the effort they invest in a writer’s work. This is especially so for editors putting out independent anthologies and magazines, because they are creating a market for work.

There seemed to be a correlation between how experienced a writer was and how great it was to work with them. Though some of the newbie authors were awesome, too. I don’t think it’s that hard to be good to work with … it’s just a matter of being open to discussing suggestions, being polite, and being willing to go the extra mile to work your story up to the best it can be.

The anthology didn’t have a happy ending for me, but there were many positives. I loved working with Jodi and Elizabeth and almost all of the authors, and I learned a lot from the experience. I would love to work with Jodi and Elizabeth, again. So yes, I will do it again. Maybe, even, soon?

SUBTROPICAL-SUSPENSE - front cover - medium

You recently had a story published in Subtropical Suspense, from new publisher Black Beacon Books. Tell us a little about that story and where it came from.

Yes! “Blood on the Ice” was recently published in Subtropical Suspense, a collection of suspenseful stories set in Brisbane, edited by Cameron Trost. I’m happy to say my story had a positive mention in Frank Emerson’s review.

This story was a fun and easy to write, because it’s about ice skating, which I totally got into this summer and autumn! I’ve slacked off a bit lately because it’s too cold to go skating. I’ve been getting into yoga, so perhaps you can expect a yoga story soon – though yoga doesn’t quite have the same element of danger, does it.

So… “Blood on the Ice.” I love contrasting textures, and the idea of hot red (or black as it may appear) blood bubbling over hard, smooth, white ice really captured my imagination! As did the teen enthusiasm and romance I saw on the ice-rink. I’ve described the story as a young adult lesbian thriller – with ice skating.

Black Beacon Books are opening submissions again soon for another anthology, so check ‘em out.

You’re a relatively new writer on the scene, and you’re also part of the Ditmar-winning team at Galactic Chat, interviewing local and international writers on a regular basis. What’s your perception of the Australian Spec Fic scene at the moment? What observations have you made over the last few years?

My interview schedule should be a little more regular, actually!

My path into the scene has been interesting. I started attending Vision Writers’ crit group in 2010, then got to know more people down south through conventions, story publications and social media, and then I met my current circle of Brisbane spec fic writer-friends though conventions and social media. It’s been a fun journey for me and I love having a bunch of friends to share writing, projects, plans, drinks and life drama with.

I’m really impressed with our community. There are heaps of talented, hard-working people creating stories, events, opportunities and projects. It’s great getting to work with the Galactic Chat team and as an interviewer for the Snapshot.

On the work-side of the scene, it’s great to see more independent publishers like Satalyte, and innovative projects like what Tiny Owl Workshop is up to.

Speculative fiction in Australia seems to be growing and striving for continual improvement in terms of telling and listening to more diverse stories, and respecting cultures and individuals.

Enough about you already! Tell me what other writers you’ve enjoyed reading lately. Are there any names that you particularly engage with?

Your “Jupiter Vampires!” was particularly good, Ben. I’m loving a lot of work I’m reading by my writing buddies Rebecca Fraser, Stacey Larner and Jodi Cleghorn.

In terms of published work, I’ve loved Kisses by Clockwork by Ticonderoga, The Rook by Daniel O’Malley, Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan, Caution: Contains Small Parts by Kirstyn McDermott, and all the short fiction I read in Cosmos including The Dark Mechanics of the Game, by Rob Hood. I’ve also loved short stories by Elizabeth Fitzgerald and Tracey O’Hara.

There are some great stories in Subtropical Suspense, too. I really enjoyed Linda Brucesmith’s and Sohie Yorkston’s stories.

The publishing world is changing quite quickly, not least in terms of the emerging technology of ebooks. What is your view of the publishing industry at the moment and where do you see it headed?

My publishing experience as a writer and an editor has mostly been within independent press. Small Aussie publishers seem to be increasing and expanding, and providing more diverse opportunities for writers, which is wonderful.

Lots of people are talking about Tiny Owl Workshop, as they are doing some really interesting projects, combining artwork and story with a flexible approach to delivery. (I’m stoked to have a story coming out in their anthology Unfettered in November.)

I guess the best thing about current publishing times is that there’s a sense of potential and possibility, that we can use technology to create innovative projects like Christy Dena’sAuthentic In All Caps.

Also, through social media, we can reach partners and our audience more directly. Though from a consumer point of view the barrage of self promotion can be deafening, so those intended to hear it might filter it out.

It’s also interesting to see well known writers moving into self publishing so they can have more control over their work and receive a better income.

Thinking about where the publishing industry is headed… to get a fair picture of the challenges you need to look at all the reading and audio-visual material competing for consumer attention. It’s a saturated market – so much supply, while consumers are limited by time and money.

For writers or publishers to compete in such a market they need differentiated products and niche marketing, and they need to stick at it and build their brand.

I’m pretty advertising resistant. A cover or blurb might grab me, but I already have a TBR pile to get through. The most influential factor in making me buy and start to read a book is that someone whose taste I usually agree with (and usually a friend rather than a reviewer) recommends it. Though reviewers are also very important when there’s such a saturation of supply.

I think all these challenges make community even more important. We owe it to ourselves to spread the word about great work by lesser-known writers and publishers.

Exciting times!


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