2016 Snapshot: TB McKenzie

Interview by David McDonald.

newHead-shotThe gateway drug was Narnia, but pretty soon T.B McKenzie had moved on to stronger stuff. Lloyd Alexander, Ursula Le-Guin and Terry Pratchett solidified the addiction, and then along came the category one names like Jack Vance, Asimov and Iain M. Banks.

After that, there was no hope, and the only way to control the habit was for T.B to pick up a pen and start manufacturing. The Dragon and the Crow is his first attempt, and the product will be refined in the sequel, The Scepter and the Sword. His turf is Melbourne, his cover is teaching at a high school, and he lives in constant fear that his family will discover his illicit after hour life that is fast spiraling out of control.

As well as your writing, you’re also a teacher. Do the two worlds intersect at all, and do you take things from one sphere to use in the other?
I make my year 9 English students write feedback on my drafts as their main assignments. Extra points are awarded for those that find plot holes or suggest structural edits.
Dragon and the Crow cover_POD_04 (1)You don’t just write about it – for a number of years you’ve been studying the sword. Could you tell us a bit about what this involves? Does this filter through into your writing?
I teach a modernised form of HEMA (this is an oxymoron) to 15 and 16 year olds, and their cries of anguish lead to many interesting onomatopeias in my work. I think any martial art teaches you just how frantic real combat is. Forget sun glinting from blades as the villain monologues in the bind revealing interesting back story. Swords are fast and fluid and brawn isn’t half as important as brain. But even the best trained fencer can be undone by chance, and I hope that element of chaos comes across in my action scenes, with or without swords.
What projects are you currently working on, and what can we expect to see from you this year?
I have the second book in my Magickless series, The Scepter and the Sword, ready to go. Having just left my previous publisher, I currently have no home for it, and am planning to self publish before the end of the year. I’ve also just finished a draft of something a little stranger. Having joked for years about my work needing more lesbian Vampires in space, I have found the old saying of Kurt Vonnegut to be true: ‘… be careful what you pretend….’
Sceptre and the Sword cover_POD_05What Australian work have you loved recently?
Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia by David Hunt was brilliant. I alternate between reading fiction and fact, and while Girt had plenty of the later, it showed again that sometimes it is stranger than the former.
Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?
Easy. Neal Stephenson. Aside from loving the man’s big ideas, he is a HEMA (Historical European Martial Art) fencer, and so as long as we can clear a space in first class, (and the metal detectors didn’t spot the longswords in our carry on) I think we’d have an interesting flight.

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