Interview by Katharine Stubbs.
Joanne Anderton is an award-winning author of speculative fiction stories for adults, young adults, and anyone who likes their worlds a little different. She sprinkles a pinch of science fiction to spice up her fantasy, and thinks horror adds flavour to just about everything. Her science fiction/fantasy novels have been published by Angry Robot Books and Fablecroft Publishing. Her short story collection, The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, was published by Fablecroft Publishing. It won the Aurealis Award for best collection, and the Australian Shadows Award for best collected work. You can find her online at joanneanderton.com
I’ve heard whispers that you’re currently working on something that will take us by surprise – what can you tell us about it?
My forthcoming work is a bit different from the norm! It’s an illustrated book for kids, and it’s not even genre. It’s called The Flying Optometrist, and is being published by the National Library of Australia next year. I’m so excited about this one! It will be illustrated by the amazing Karen Erasmus (you can check out her facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/KarenErasmusIllustration/) and I feel incredibly lucky, because her artwork is gorgeous.
The Flying Optometrist is inspired by my dad who, in his “retirement”, flies to remote outback areas in the little red plane that he built (yep) to help provide eye health care to people who otherwise wouldn’t receive it. He’s not the only optometrist to do so, thanks to the visiting optometrist scheme, but he’s the only one with the little red plane! Rural healthcare is a real passion for him. I went out with him on one of his trips to Wanaaring to research the book, and I can see why. I’d be lost without access to glasses, and I can just go down the road and find any number of optometrists vying for my business. But if you live in a remote location you don’t have that luxury! There are people all around the world, and in this country, who are blind simply because they don’t have access to glasses.
You can see some of that passion has rubbed off on me. I’ve learned a lot researching for this book, and I still think an optometrist who arrives in his little red plane to test your vision is cool. I’m super excited about this project!
‘Bullets’, your short story from In Sunshine Bright and Darkness Deep, won the 2015 Aurealis Award for best horror short story. Where did this story come from, and what can you tell us about it? (Some say it’s quite dark?)
Yep, it’s just that little bit dark… Surely you’re not surprised? I think of Bullets as a kind of a dark, Australian fairytale. It was an idea I had rattling around in my head for a while, and writing for In Sunshine Bright and Darkness Deep finally helped me give it form. I was so surprised and thrilled when in won the Aurealis Award!
The idea came from an article I read about the aftermath of a bushfire, and the farmers who had to search the decimated landscape putting down their stock or wildlife who have been horribly injured in fire. In the article, one of these farmers talked about running out of bullets. I thought that was such a powerful and horrible image, and one tied closely to the Australian experience and our relationship with the landscape. Tie that in with a bit of shape shifting, some dark magic, loneliness and isolation, and you have Bullets.
What’s something you’re working on currently, and what do you have coming out in the future? The last time we spoke, you were telling us something about another series involving dragons, the Aussie outback, and the royal flying doctor’s service?
For forthcoming see question 1 🙂
Things are still a bit slow going for me. If anyone has any tips about writing books while working full time, I’d love to hear them! This year on the writing front my goal is to establish a new routine – a realistic one – so I can write consistently and not suffer from writers guilt and/or exhaustion. Wish me luck with that 🙂
But yes, the RFDS with dragons is still on my list of books to work on! Close to the top of the list, even.
What Australian work have you loved recently?
I really enjoyed Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti. I just finished reading How to be a Writer (who smashes deadline, crushes editors and lives in a solid gold hovercraft) by John Birmingham, which was great fun! Currently on my bedside table is Vigil, by Angela Slatter and Summer of Monsters by Tony Thompson. I CANNOT WAIT for Thoraiya Dyer’s Crossroads of Canopy. And I’ve had a bit of a sneak peak at Cat Spark’s forthcoming Lotus Blue (it is so awesome!)
Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?
Haha this is an impossible question, because I know so many amazing writers and I want to sit next to all of them on the plane. Really, right now that’s what I’d like the most. Except, maybe not on a plane. Could we be having drinks instead?