2020 Snapshot: Abigail Nathan

Abigail Nathan has run Bothersome Words Editing & Writing Services since 2004. She provides mentoring, proofreading, structural and copy editing, and specialises in fiction (including genre — fantasy, science fiction, horror, crime, suspense, romance etc) for adults, young adults and middle grade. Abigail has worked with major Australian and UK trade publishers including HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Hachette and Gollancz; as well as small presses in the USA.

Her work with publishers includes editing authors such as Karen Miller, Traci Harding and Alastair Reynolds, and she also works with self-publishing writers such as Mitchell Hogan and Maria Lewis. Abigail occasionally presents editing and self-publishing workshops online and in person.

She is a member of the Freelance Editors’ Network and a mentor for Writing NSW and Queensland Writers’ Centre.

She can be found on Twitter @BothersomeWords and blogging at http://www.bothersomewords.com/blog.

1. Tell us about your recent publications/projects?

Well, this is always a tricky one to answer since they are not MY publications and I’m never sure whether it’s OK for me to name names when I’ve been the copyeditor!

I’ve recently worked on a few fantastic new sci-fi novels that are coming out through Gollancz – some interesting, visceral new takes on possible human futures (mostly less dark than our present!) and very cinematic in scope and feel. One of them includes SPACE PIRATES, so you can’t go wrong there, obviously. I’ve also been lucky enough to work on some excellent local fantasy novels – a mix of self- and traditionally-published in Australia. All include amazing worldbuilding and have that exciting, epic feel that I love from some of the “classic” Aus/NZ works of the 1990s-2000s.

My biggest personal projects this year included joining a couple of the state writers’ centres as a mentor, which has been an extremely rewarding experience. I enjoy working directly with authors and helping them to bring their imagination to life on the page and mentoring is a bit more involved than simply handing back a marked-up manuscript! To this end, I also put together an online workshop for RWA at the beginning of the year. The RWA workshop was just a taster, though – I am planning to have my own online writing/editing workshop ready for signups by the end of this year. It will be a weeks-long, interactive course, aimed at experienced writers who are working on their own manuscripts.

In the meantime, I have also begun a blurb-writing service, which takes me back to my old copywriting days and is a lot of fun. For me. I believe writers find it LESS fun to write their own blurbs!

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

LonCon and DublinCon were both incredible experiences. I was lucky enough to receive government grant support to head overseas for these events and they really helped to broaden my view not only of the literature and works that are out there, but of the different voices, concerns and social elements across the world. Sometimes I think we are in such a tight bubble over here in AUs/NZ that, despite news etc, we can miss so much of what is happening worldwide. Conventions are places where people are really open to talk about so many issues and part of that is because we are all telling, listening to, absorbing or working with stories and I think that gives a bit of an access point for those ideas and it helps me to find new voices to listen to. I used my experiences there to develop my editing processes and I am still learning from all those findings.

It is probably more fair to say that the first convention I ever attended – Conflux in Canberra many years ago – was the best and most important. Through that event I met so many friends and colleagues and learned a lot about the industry as well as the community. Prior to the experience I didn’t even know what a convention WAS and certainly would never have met half the folks I now consider good friends. I don’t think I have ever come away from a SFF community event and not felt like I had learned more and gained more friends. I don’t have many immediately local connections from the industry (and we’re all socially isolating anyway!) but I never feel less than welcomed and among friends and the like-minded when I go to a convention.

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

This is where I have to confess with great shame that I am, as ever, woefully behind in my reading, so some of these are novels I worked on – which doesn’t change that they are brilliant!

Of course, I need to mention folks such as Garth Nix, Trudi Canavan and Sean Williams. But I’d remiss not to note authors such as Maria Lewis, whose colourful, comic-book-style novels have such a powerful sense of place and vibrant characters. Shout-out to It Came From The Deep for its unexpected Queensland locations. Angela Slatter is another author to glom onto. I have been snaffling every little morsel of her next work that she has revealed on Facebook over the past year or so, and if we weren’t locked down would possibly threaten kidnap to get my hands on the completed version. In the meantime, readers should binge her Verity Fassbinder series for a comic and creepy take on Brisbane’s fae side – or pick up literally ANY of her short stories. For sci-fi, I’d also recommend Stormblood by Jeremy Szal. It’s a little bit Bladerunner, little bit Fifth Element, and feels a lot like it was written by someone who knows and loves particular computer games. If you like your sci fi with a pinch of humour, a punch of action, a slice of heart and a sliver of spookiness, this is for you.

There are a BILLION more things on my shelves just waiting for me to read… I just need a year off to catch up!

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