Interview by Greg Chapman.
Zena Shapter writes from a castle in a flying city hidden by a thundercloud, creating what-if worlds and adventures. She is the winner of eleven national writing competitions, including a Ditmar Award and the Australian Horror Writers’ Association Award for Short Fiction. Her work has appeared in numerous online and print venues including Midnight Echo, Award-Winning Australian Writing (twice), Antipodean SF and Sci Phi Journal. Reviewer for Tangent Online Lillian Csernica has referred to her as a writer who “deserves your attention”. Upcoming publications include a dark fantasy story “Made” in the Let Us In anthology by Time Alone Press; a science fiction story “Like The Web Of A Swamp Spider” in the anthology A Fearsome Engine by NBWG; a science fiction middle grade novel Into Tordon (under the pseudonym Z.F. Kingbolt) by MidnightSun Publishing; and her debut novel Towards White published by… details to come! Zena is also the founder and leader of the Northern Beaches Writers’ Group, a writing mentor and tutor, short story judge, editor and book creator. Read her on zenashapter.com
What are you working on right now? Anything exciting?
I absolutely adore my current writing project, which is polishing my novel, the Battle for Idyn. It’s exciting because it’s pure indulgence. I started writing it in 2013 then was advised to put it aside to write Stormcarrier of Olan. However, I simply cannot leave this story alone! I’m so glad it’s nearing completion. Here’s its current blurb (which keeps changing!)
Battle for Idyn sees Kill Bill’s Beatrix Kiddo as a bird-like warrior fighting the battle of Red Cliff with Starship Trooper deceptions.
When Levellers murdered Trea’s father, they started a war and insulted her family’s honour. But while her brother is permitted to train as a warrior and travel to the frontline on the dusty planet of Idyn, the war marshals think Trea would better serve their cause as a poster girl. They’re wrong. Trea will do whatever it takes to see her revenge through, even if it means failing to see a truth set to resonate across the galaxies.
I’m also working on some exciting things for publication later this year. My dark fantasy story “Made” is entering the editorial stage for the Let Us In anthology, to be published by US-based Time Alone Press. My science fiction story “Like The Web Of A Swamp Spider” is in proofing for the anthology A Fearsome Engine, published by my Northern Beaches Writers’ Group to examine man’s relationship with technology. Eight of the group’s members also got together with me a couple of years ago to co-write a middle grade fiction called Into Tordon, which is coming out this year with MidnightSun Publishing. That will go into Aussie schools through Scholastic in November. We’re at the layout and launch organisation stage for that at the moment. Woo hoo!
You’ve got a whole bunch of novels listed as “available soon” on your website. What can you tell me about them? When will they be made flesh? Did you write them all back-to-back?
One of them, Towards White, will be flesh next year! I can’t wait! The details are still to be announced, as I’m choosing between offers at the moment (lucky me!) but the (working!) blurb is:
They know what’s going to happen to you… after you die!
When Becky’s brother goes missing in Iceland, she doesn’t care that their scientists have discovered what happens to the electrical energy in our brains after we die – she just wants her brother back…
I visited Iceland in 2001 and started writing about it immediately. This novel has been a long time coming! There have been a few hiccups along the way, but this story will see print very soon!
The Battle for Idyn novel I’ve mentioned above. My Stormcarrier of Olan is a fantasy novel ready for submission. It’s set in a world of mystical wind gods, sky priests, flying oroks, military secrets and tampered mythology. My main character Hana is a mother-of-two who sets out to save the life of her captured husband (subverting the usual trope). Along the way she’s attacked, imprisoned, hunted, deceived, betrayed and forced to realise there’s more to being strong-willed than taking care of herself. It’s early days for Stormcarrier, so I’ve no idea when that will be flesh.
In the meantime I’ll be rewriting my two other novels, Quiet Blue and Blacker Hell, as they need new protagonists! As you can see, no matter what order I write my stories in, I’m happy to rework and rewrite them until they’re perfect.
You seem to dabble within the many sub-genres of speculative fiction, but which area inspires you the most and why?
What inspires me most is the journey of transformation. I believe that stories are about change, and we read to know how to better cope with change in our own lives. The protagonists in my stories often face challenges with higher stakes than we might face as readers (because: adventure!), but the concept of challenge itself as a vehicle for growth fascinates me. Like the lobster…
Of course the protagonists in my stories are not lobsters (although I once wrote a story about a chiton). Still, it is the idea of growing under pressure that leads the way I write. This might sound a little Hardian, but I think we only truly know who we are when life doesn’t go to plan and we have to adapt to survive. This perspective usually comes first in my writing, the story’s setting comes second and that setting determines my story’s genre.
What Australian work have you loved recently?
I can’t wait to read Thoraiya Dyer’s upcoming fantasy Crossroads of Canopy, due to come out this January. Not long now, Thoraiya! I’m also excited to read Kaaron Warren’s upcoming dark novel The Grief Hole. I really enjoyed the superhero romp Zeroes by Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti and Scott Westerfeld. It was a lot of fun and did exactly what it promised to do. I also loved Pip Harry’s YA novel Head of the River, for its realism in both plot and prose. Of course I love anything written by my Northern Beaches Writers’ Group! Our latest middle grade novel, Rider & the Hummingbird, is out there right now, raising money for The Kids’ Cancer Project. Readers can support this fantastic cause and help fund much-needed research into childhood cancer by buying a copy!
Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip? Why?
If I were interpreting ‘author’ broadly as ‘writer’ it would be Luc Besson, the screenwriter. I’m a huge fan of film and movies and he wrote one of my favourite movies of all time, “The Fifth Element”. I’d love to talk stories with him! Otherwise it would be Stephen King – not only is he a brilliant storyteller, but I love his stories and I reckon he’d be a good laugh too.