Interview by David McDonald.
Amanda J Spedding is an editor, proofreader and award-winning author and comic writer whose stories have been published in local and international markets earning honourable mentions and recommended reads. She won the 2015 Australian Shadows Award (written work in a graphic novel) for her comic, ‘The Road to Golgotha‘, and the 2011 Australian Shadows Award (short fiction) for her steampunk-horror, ‘Shovel-Man Joe‘.
Amanda is the owner and editor-in-chief of Phoenix Editing and Proofreading, and also works with Cohesion Press as co-editor of their SNAFU series where the first of the anthologies – SNAFU: an Anthology of Military Horror – was a finalist in the Australian Shadows Awards (edited collection), and earned a Bram Stoker recommended read.
Between bouts of editing, she is writing (and rewriting) her first novel – an apocalyptic grimdark fantasy. And short stories, oh how she loves her short stories.
Amanda lives in Sydney with her sarcastically-gifted husband and two very cool kids.
You’re the co-editor of the very successful SNAFU series from Cohesion Press. Could you tell us about how you got involved, and the concept behind the series?
The SNAFU series is the brainchild of Geoff Brown, owner of Cohesion Press. When Cohesion was first on the scene, Geoff decided to focus on what he loved to read: military horror. The scope for storytelling ideas (and monsters) is tremendous, so it’s been a matter of narrowing the focus for each edition of the series to create a cohesive and concentrated group of stories. For example, the latest in the series is SNAFU: Unnatural Selection, which deals with nasties of the gargantuan size – there are some truly terrifying tales in this edition. We’ve had a sci-fi edition earlier this year (SNAFU: Future Warfare), and later this year is an invite-only edition (SNAFU: Black Ops).
When the call went out for the first of the anthologies, Geoff received over 1200 submissions, which is pretty incredible. We’d worked together on the AHWA committee for a number of years, and we’d both been studying similar editing courses, so Geoff asked me if I’d like to be involved and I jumped at the chance. Military horror? Hell, yes! Military and monsters and mayhem, oh my!
As of the last SNAFU edition, I’ve taken on the primary-editor role for the series – it’s great to have Geoff value my work so highly, and a true joy to work with amazing writers.
Your short stories have received a lot of recognition, both here in Australia and internally—including honourable mentions from Ellen Datlow. What is it that attracts you to the form?
Short stories are a blast to write. It’s taking a snapshot in time for a character or characters and producing a full and compelling story within a limited word count. I like the challenge of it; of creating well-rounded, believable characters and throwing them into what will no doubt be the worst time of their lives.
The beauty of the short form is the ability (if you have the time), to write many different characters and storylines that delve into as many dark places as you can fathom. There’s a more ‘instant’ gratification with a short than there is with novel-length.
Do you have any plans to try your hand at a novel? Or are their other projects on the horizon for us to look forward to?
I’ve written the first draft of my novel – an apocalyptic fantasy based on the world in one of my short stories – one that made it onto Ellen Datlow’s honourable mentions’ list. I’ve always wanted to explore that world in more detail, as the short takes place wholly within a train carriage and we’re only told snippets of what’s happening with the world outside.
I’m also wanting to write another graphic novel that follows on from The Road, which won the Australian Shadows Award for Written Work in a Graphic Novel/Comic. The main character, ‘Riley’ has really come into her god-like own; she has things to do, a mother to revisit, and a road to Hell to pave. That would be some fun storytelling, and I really love this medium.
What Australian work have you loved recently?
Ooh, tough question. As I’m flat-out with work at the moment, and am currently reading a series from a US author, my answers are going to be those I’ve either just worked on, or am currently working on. So…
I’ve just finished reading (and editing) Greig Beck’s ‘Fathomless’ (Cohesion Press), and that story freaked me the hell out. The tension and pure horror of the monster creature had me get up and walk away from it until my nerves settled. It’s superb.
And while not technically Australian, but as we tend to claim Kiwis all the time, Lee Murray’s ‘Into the Mist’ (another Cohesion Press tale) is one of the finest books around – the blend of Maori culture with a terrifying creature from long ago is brilliantly told.
I’m also finishing up working on the last book of a fantasy trilogy by author-publisher Devin Madson – the Vengeance trilogy. Her storytelling and imagery of a pseudo-Japanese world is just joyful to read, and the characters stay with you long after you’ve put the books down.
Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?
Again with the tough questions! And just one? I think living, I’d have to go with Stephen King – he was a huge influence on my reading when I was a teen, and I’d love to pick the man’s brain on all things writing. Or Dr Seuss, yeah, he’d be fun.
As for dead… I’d have to go with poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge – there’s a poem he needs to finish! And the man was tripped out most of the time; he’d be a blast on a long plane trip… although the idea of plane travel would be entirely foreign to him, so I’d expect that would be helluva interesting.