Jason Nahrung grew up on a Queensland cattle property and now lives in Ballarat with his wife, the writer Kirstyn McDermott. He works as an editor and journalist to support his travel addiction. His fiction is invariably darkly themed, perhaps reflecting his passion for classic B-grade horror films and ’80s goth rock. The co-author of the novel The Darkness Within (Hachette Australia), his most recent long fiction title is the Gothic tale Salvage (Twelfth Planet Press), with his outback vampire duology Blood and Dust and The Big Smoke coming soon through Clan Destine Press. He lurks online at www.jasonnahrung.com.
Your novel Blood and Dust and the sequel The Big Smoke are soon to be released in paper form for the first time by Clan Destine Press (and ebook as well). Can you tell us a bit about the series and when we can expect to see them around?
|(2012 digital-only release)|
Publishing is a funny old game, isn’t it? Blood and Dust came out originally in 2012 as a digital-only release, but we got the rights back and now Clan Destine is putting both it and the sequel out in both paperback and digital formats. I’m incredibly happy about that, because the original idea for the story first saw light of day more than 15 years ago – a vampire story that wouldn’t die!
In Blood and Dust, Kevin, a mechanic in an outback town, has a major spanner thrown in the works when a vampire gang comes to town. In The Big Smoke, he has to travel to Brisbane to finish off some outstanding business. Central to the story is the idea that these vampires need blood not just to keep going physically, but emotionally as well – they feed on memories. Opposing Kevin is a rather nasty city vampire by the name of Mira, and her worn-out sidekick, Reece, a former cop who investigated one case too many, back in the day. I manage to tear up most of Queensland over the course of the two books.
Lots of landscape, lots of action, lots of angst.
As for the books’ release date, well, Blood and Dust is largely sorted, but The Big Smoke still has edits to come, so we haven’t set a date yet.
You’ve written a mix of short stories and longer stories (novels, novellas). Is there a length you prefer to work with or does it depend on the story you’re telling? What are some of the pros and cons?
It totally depends on the story, although I’ve noticed my stories tending towards the 5,000-word-plus mark in the past few years. The joys of the short story are that you can get in, hit the yarn, and get out pretty quickly (though not always, some just don’t behave at all!); they have a relatively speedy turnaround from completion to rejection (or acceptance!) compared to novel submissions that can take months and months; and you can play with voice and form without it costing you too much time if it all goes awry. For example, I’ve just written two shorts, less than 3,000 words each, based on the same core idea but starring different characters. Fascinating to see how the story changes!
It’s quite a morale boost to get a story accepted – kind of keeps you going while you’re beating your head against a longer work.
Novels give a hell of a lot of satisfaction, and kudos, when they hit the shelf, but it’s a long process. You’ve got a lot of terrain to play with, so you can have a lot of texture with all those subplots and minor characters muddying the pool with their own wants and needs. Juggling it all is a headache, but a fun headache, and I do find the marathon nature of it tiring at times, especially if you want to go back and change something that then causes ripples through the rest of the story. And then, of course, you’ve got what can be inordinately long wait times to hear back from (legacy) publishers, and then the lengthy production process as well, before the book hits the shelves.
The ideal compromise is the novella. I enjoyed writing Salvage so much – enough length to introduce some complexity and indulge in some scene setting and character development, but not long enough to make edits onerous.
Will there be more books about Kevin the Vampire or is The Big Smoke the end of his story?
I’m not planning any more stories about Kevin, although there’s room for them. I’ve spun a short story out of the novels’ world (‘The Preservation Society’, published this year in Dimension6), and at the end of The Big Smoke, there’s a nod to my first book, The Darkness Within. There’s a sequel to that at the back of the hard drive, somewhere – I’m actually thinking it might make a novella …
What Australian works have you loved recently?
Firstly, it was awesome to see Kirstyn’s Perfections released in paperback, and such a beautiful paperback, too. I love that story: the perfectly timed reveals, the lingering conclusion.
It terms of new reading, Marianne de Pierres’ Peacemaker was a most enjoyable ride this year, Chris Bongers did a great job with (non-spec fic) Intruder, and I got a lot out of Tony Birch’s (non-spec fic) The Promise collection. And I finally caught up with The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, by Amberlin Kwaymullina – wonderful
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 think the way I work has changed, although I have become even more aware that the chances of making any kind of living out of the stuff I write is rather remote. What is heartening is that with print on demand making publishing cheaper, and digital also making it easier to get work out, there are more markets for what I write, even if there’s also a lot more noise for readers to negotiate if they are to find that work once it’s published. I try to focus on writing the best yarn I can and let the chips fall where they may.
In five years, I expect I’ll still be working in the dark end of fiction. I’ve got a suite of short stories floating around at the moment, all set in a near-future flooded Brisbane, that might have risen to the surface by then – less fantastical than my usual work – and a couple of novels kicking around on the hard drive in all sorts of disarray that I’d like to get into some kind of order within five years.
As for reading, I’m trying to keep my reading base as broad as possible while supporting my fellow Aussies as much as I can; I’m expecting yet further genre blurring and genre pushing from them. I’m hoping they can keep setting their stories in Australia, with Australian characters, in Australian English – I don’t want to see our literary culture, or indeed our broader culture, succumbing to cultural and economic imperialism. Words – language – are important to cultural identity; that’s worth defending, not so much against evolution, but against supplantation.