2020 Snapshot: Kathleen Jennings

Kathleen Jennings is an illustrator and writer in Brisbane, Australia. Her clients include: Simon & Schuster; Little, Brown; Candlewick Press; Tor.com; Small Beer Press; Subterranean Press; Tartarus; Ticonderoga Publications; Fablecroft Press; and Twelfth Planet Press.

She is a Hugo Award finalist and has been shortlisted three times for the World Fantasy Award and has received the E. G. Harvey Award for Australian SF Art and several Ditmar Awards for professional and fan art. Many of her illustrations and incidental drawings appear on her blog tanaudel.wordpress.com and she tweets @tanaudel

  1. Tell us about your recent publications/projects?


My most recent publication is just about to come out! My debut short novel (or novella, it’s being labelled as both) Flyaway comes out at the end of July from Tor.com in the USA and Picador in Australia. It’s Australian Gothic but has also been described as everything from horror fantasy to fabulist realism, and it has fairy tales in its bones so I suppose that’s to be expected. I illustrated it as well, with silhouettes, so it’s doubly exciting. It’s also quite funny, because a lot of people are startled to find out I write as well as illustrating, although in Australia I had short stories published before the art pulled ahead.

I also just had a short story — “The Present Only Toucheth Thee” — published by Strange Horizons, and an older short story, “Undine Love” (originally published in 2011 by ASIM) was just reprinted by Tor.com. So I’m definitely still writing! And there’s a little book of views from trains coming later this year…


But obviously I am still better known for illustrations, and I always have dozens of projects on the go. These are some recent ones. Late last year, Margo Lanagan and I made Stray Bats, a chapbook of vignettes — her words, my writing — with Small Beer Press. I’ve completed the illustrations for Angela Slatter’s The Tallow-Wife, a collection of stories in the world of Sourdough and The Bitterwood Bible. That should come out from Tartarus late this year. I’m also working on illustrations for Juliet Marillier’s fairy tale collection, Mother Thorn — the cover for that has been revealed, and it’s also scheduled to come out from Serenity Press later this year. I’m working on others that haven’t been announced yet, of course, and my own projects, like the fairy tale calendar pages I release every month, and short illustrated stories and printable stationery for supporters on Patreon.

  1. What has been the best publishing experience of your career so far?

I work with so many wonderful publishers! May I say, “all the projects mentioned above”?

One experience has been judging the World Fantasy Awards last year. It was an incredible opportunity to not only get a survey across a genre, but also to discover the peculiar… not taste, but almost accent that publishers have, the conversations they are in with themselves and each other, how they position their books and authors, whether they promote them at all, and how, and what spec fic is, and how books can be written for spec fic readers specifically without technically belonging to the genre. I wasn’t expecting all that — it was quite endearing and surprising.

Another great experience has been realising that when you know people well enough and they’re busy enough, you can sometimes distract them by suggesting a fun side-project. This applies to publishers and authors as much as illustrators, and it’s just so much fun to be able to go, “let’s make a thing together” and then have it eventually exist in the world.  Although I’m still working on making this work in the time available in the year — this year in particular (good grief).

  1. Which recent Australian/NZ work would you recommend to international fans interested in expanding their Antipodean spec fic knowledge? 

Oh, goodness… hmm. Well, clearly the books and authors mentioned above. A lot of my reading at the moment is manuscripts to illustrate or older works for research. But here are a few:

The Giant and the Sea by Trent Jamieson and Rovina Cai. A picture-book fable of rising oceans by a Brisbane author of gothic urban fantasies and a flowingly lyrical Melbourne illustrator.

Tales from the Inner City by Shaun Tan. Such a cold, elevated glitter this book has, compared to the ground-level dusty heat of Tales from Outer Suburbia. Strange and gorgeous stories of animals in cities and mysteries in the sky. Although Tan is well recognised and respected internationally, I think he’s still seen as an artist more than a writer, but he is a writer, and these are stories.

Taboo by Kim Scott. This is one of those books that’s more spec-fic-adjacent. It isn’t spec fic per se, but if you like harrowing literary fabulism or grim and gorgeous Australian Gothic that sort of unfolds the fabric of the world around you as you read it, and deals head-on with the context around a lot of Australian spec-fic, then this is one to check out.



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