Interview by Marisol Dunham.
Craig Cormick is an award-winning Canberra author and science communicator. He has published over 25 books of fiction, non-fiction, kid’s books and YA books across several genres, and over 100 stories in anthologies, collections and literary journals. His writing awards include a Queensland Premier’s Literary Award and the ACT Book of the Year Award. He has been a writer in residence at the University of Science in Malaysia and an Antarctic Arts Fellow travelling to Antarctica. He is a former chair of the ACT Writers Centre, has PhD in Creative Writing and is a graduate of the Yale Writers’ Conference. He has also been a guest author at Convergence in the USA, promoting his Shadow Master series with Angry Robot books. His seven-year-old son is convinced, however, that all this counts for nothing if you haven’t written a Tin Tin book.
More info on Craig and his books at www.craigcormick.com
Tell us about your current book coming out – it’s a speculative fiction children’s book, which is very exciting!
My new book is called Valdur the Viking and the Ghostly Goths. It’s a story about a young ghost Viking who is on a quest to find his ghost dad who was kidnapped by the ghost Goths. The journey takes him up the Arctic, along the way fighting off sea monsters a ghost Roman Galley and ghost merchants. At its heart it is about a young boy trying to reunite with his dad and having to step up into his dad’s shoes to do it.
I love the fact that kids’ book don’t have such established genre norms as adult books, and so you have a lot of freedom to just go where you want to go and be as absurdist as you want.
This is my fourth children’s book and I have my fingers crossed there will be more stories about Valdur and the crazy ghosts he gets to encounter on the seven seas.
This has been a good year for you, award-wise. I know you received the Tasmanian Writing Award for your story, “No Man is an Island”, but you also received something for your non-fiction work, right?
Yes, I’ve had a very rewarding past 12 months. I won the Tasmanian Writing Award for a rather sombre short story (No Man is an Island), the ACT Writing and Publishing Award for a satirical book imagining Adolf Hitler as a nasty old Nazi in hiding, living down the South Coast of NSW during the Falkland’s War (Uncle Adolf) and I won a Victorian Community History Award for a book I edited on the scientific research that has been conducted around Ned Kelly (Ned Kelly Under the Microscope).
I write across lots of different genres, but I explain it by saying that I’m genre confused and it is all just writing to me.
It is always great to receive awards as an endorsement of your work, but I always try and remember that there is still a lot of dumb luck and judge’s preferences involved, and then not to get too full of expectations that your best work should win something.
You have your hands in a lot of pies, bookwise. I recently saw you working those hands to the nub (10,000 words in one day!). Can we get a hint about what’s coming in the future?
I’m working on two things. Right now I’m typing my fingers down to nubs writing a YA novel that is based around five girls from an elite school being kidnapped in a bus by a masked man who seems to be an eco-terrorist. He puts bomb collars on their necks and hessian bags on their heads, and then plays elimination games with them to see who he is going to release.
It is a really exciting book to be writing as the five girls have just taken it over, and it feels like I’m just writing dictation, trying to keep up with them. Yes I wrote 10,000 words one day – because it is like the five girls just can’t their stories out through me quick enough.
I’m also working on a historical novel for adults that imagines that Captain Cook wrecked the Endeavour on the Great Barrier Reef and he and the crew that survive have to struggle ashore and try and find a way to survive in this unknown land. It turns the whole colonial experience around on its head, with the Europeans finding the indigenous practices and technologies are superior to what they are left with.
What Australian work have you loved recently?
I am a sucker for anything Antarctic, after having spent a summer on Australia’s Antarctic bases as an Arts Fellow, and am currently reading Ice Letters by Susan Errington, and Out Of the Ice, by Ann Turner. Both are extremely good in different ways. I also LOVED Marlee Jane Ward’s Welcome to Orphancorp, Peggy Frew’s Hope Farm and everything I can find from Thoraiya Dyer. (Clearly not doing very much to support dead white guys there!)
C. Boyle. His work is fantastic and fantastical, and he also loves to mess around with history and re-invent historical narratives in a way that they feel more real than a factual account might ever be.