Interview by Tehani Wessely.
Thoraiya Dyer is an Aurealis and Ditmar Award-winning, Sydney-based science fiction writer and lapsed veterinarian. Her work has appeared in Clarkesworld, Apex, Cosmos, Analog and pretty much all the Fablecroft anthologies. Four of her original stories are collected in the petite yet beautiful, Asymmetry, available from Twelfth Planet Press. Her first novel, Crossroads of Canopy, a big fat fantasy set in a magical rainforest, is forthcoming from Tor in January 2017. You can listen to a short story set in the same world, “The Chimney-Borer and the Tanner,” at Podcastle.org and/or follow her @ThoraiyaDyer on Twitter. Her website is thoraiyadyer.com.
I am dying to read your forthcoming Titan’s Forest trilogy (Crossroads of Canopy is due early in 2017) and was super excited to see it be picked up by a well known international publisher. What can readers expect from the book, and how has the experience been different from working with Australian smaller presses?
Readers of epic fantasy can expect the familiar, seen from a new angle. By familiar, I mean magic, mayhem, gods, warriors, treachery and tapirs. By a new angle, I mean peeping through leaves and branches, haha. Crossroads of Canopy is set in a titanic, towering rainforest.
Australian small presses have prepared me well for the big time, I’m happy to say. As far as scrupulous attention to detail goes, I’ve done the same number of editing passes with Tor for Crossroads of Canopy as I did with “The Company Articles of Edward Teach” (2010, Twelfth Planet Press, ed. Alisa Krasnostein), from broad-strokes storyline decisions down to meticulous consistency checks. Ten times the words does make for ten times the time investment on either end, I guess, and the cover art from Marc Simonetti still seems an extravagant treat.
The promotional part may be different? Crossroads of Canopy is still 6 months away from publication. The print run and distribution will be bigger and the advance was really nice – more than nice, it was absolutely necessary for me personally to be able to continue writing – but manuscript preparation at world-class small Aussie presses like Twelfth Planet is as professional as you’ll get anywhere. Just so everyone knows!
Conversely, if some people have found big publishers to be impersonal and unresponsive, my experience so far has been the opposite of that. Clearly I’ve hit the editing jackpot on both sides of the Pacific.
Structure has probably been the biggest challenge for me. In a short story, you can get away with ending on a punch line, with a twist, on a poignant moment, or just end in suspense! There is no cheating at novel length with structure. It took many novels for me to learn that trying to be drastically original with novel structure leads to confused or disappointed audiences. If I was to go back in time and advise my younger self, I’d tell her to save all the originality she could scrape together for her settings, characters and imagery, and leave the experimental structures to geniuses and also Ben Peek.
What are you working on right now and what can we expect to see from you in addition to the Titan’s Forest books in the next couple of years (like that’s not enough!)?
In the next couple of years, in addition to Titan’s Forest, you’ll see the hard science fiction stories I’m indulging in to give my logical left brain a holiday from fantasy.
“Induction,” which is about artificial volcanoes in the Caribbean, should appear in Bridging Infinity (ed. Jonathan Strahan), an anthology of super-engineering projects, in November. Meanwhile, I’ve got a GM jellyfish story and a Phobos story that I’m fiddling with in between novel drafts. Bless you, Europe, for putting all your scientific research papers online!
What Australian work have you loved recently?
Fire Boy by Sami Shah. Ocean (adults) & Mrs Whitlam (children) by Bruce Pascoe. The Fall of the Dagger by Glenda Larke. Cherry Crow Children by Deb Kalin.
Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?
Sappho. I don’t speak Ancient Greek, which is fine, since I prefer reading and sleeping on long plane trips, but can you imagine how super-excited she’d be about flying?
I’d let her have the window seat.