2020 Snapshot: A J Ponder

A.J. Ponder has a head full of monsters, and recklessly spills them out onto the written page. Beware dragons, dreadbeasts, taniwha, and small children—all are equally dangerous, and capable of treading on your heart—or tearing it, still beating, from your chest.

Notable stories include: BlindSight, a Rapunzel-themed dystopian horror published in At the Edge; Dying for the Record, runner up for Arc and Tomorrow Projects’ competition, The Future Always Wins; Ahi Kā (Prose and interwoven sonnet, Truth Lies in Fire and Dies in Flame), co-winner of NZSA NorthWrite 2013 Collaboration Contest; and the Sir Julius Vogel Award winning short story, Frankie and the Netball Clone. You can find A.J. at ponderbooks.com.

  1. Tell us about your recent publications/projects?

At the moment, my focus seems to be on fairy tales.

“The Secret Story” is a prequel for my Sylvalla Chronicles series. But unlike the original trilogy it’s not spoofing the various forms of high fantasy, so much as exploring fairy tales and witches. The idea that fairy tales have long been the province of passing on secret information is not new, but I had a lot of fun twisting that trope into a high-fantasy world where magic is possible and Cinderella’s are not as unusual as you might think.

Previously, in my fantasy world and that there had been very few witches, or even female magic users. And I wanted to change that and put their secrecy into context. I mean, you’d keep your witchcraft secret too, if your life depended on it.

The other fairy tale I’m working on is a joint project for Enchanted Kingdoms, a fairy tale fantasy box set where the proceeds are going to Puzzle Peace United, a children’s autism charity.

But that’s not all. I’m also working on an idea that was supposed to be a thriller, and part of my “Blood of the Demonspawn” series. But I decided going down that road was getting a little too dark, so I’m planning to add far more fantasy elements and make it a little more fun.

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

My best SF experience was when I first discovered the science fiction and fantasy convention scene in New Zealand. I was rapidly included into a local writers’ group and taken under the wing of Peter Friend, who’d sold to Asimov’s, The New Zealand School Journal and a number of other top-level professional magazines. Very quickly, we became a team submitting our short stories to school journals with an outstanding success rate. It was a lot of fun. And the beginning of my middle-grade science heroine, Frankie!

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

If you want to expand your current Antipodean Speculative Fiction knowledge, there are a lot of great authors to try out. I suggest you start with people like Lee Murray & Dan Rabarts. Their series Hounds of the Underworld is awesome, as is their individual work. If you love dragons, you should check out Eileen Mueller’s Dragon’s Realm. If talky toasters are your thing, Paul Mannering’s quirky Engines of Empathy. Juliet Marillier is the master of historical folkloric fantasy. And Debbie Cowens’ mashups “Mansfield with Monsters” might not pass the recently published hurdle, but it does encompass that whole NZ Mansfield thing in a way where it finally made sense—a bit like the only way I could read Pride and Prejudice was with the zombies.



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