Travel, writing, marking essays, launching Midnight and Moonshine, editing, applying for jobs… Any and all of these things explain my general lack of updatery lately. That’s no excuse, you say? True. True. So I shall endeavour to fill you all in on the events of the past month in a short series of Mega-Catchup Posts — beginning with this one.
Basically, the World Fantasy Convention was awesome. It was the first one I’d attended — thanks, in large part, to a Professional Development grant I’d received from Arts SA (thank you, Arts SA!!) — and I still can’t believe what an amazing time I had in Toronto. For some reason, I imagined that I’d arrive at the con, not knowing too many people (a few, luckily!) and that all of the other, more established authors would have their other, more established circles of friends and that I’d wind up like a wallflower at the school dance, watching all the cool kids have fun while I scoped out the nearest exit. Well, that was SO NOT THE CASE.
Everyone was incredibly friendly, warm, and amazingly welcoming — honestly, this post is going to be filled with nothing but gush — and I was so happy to hang out with the lot of them for four days. Hurricane Sandy might have put a damper on the weather, but luckily the hotel bar had heat aplenty: fiery conversations, drinks, and the friction of elbows rubbing.
In other news, Nicole Murphy is running a fantastic series of interviews on her website, in which she has asked a slew of authors about their writing habits and processes. There have already been such a wonderful responses, from the likes of Sean Williams, Angela Slatter, Joanne Anderton, Kate Forsyth, Justina Robson — and so many more! You can find the complete list to-date here.
There are two posts per writer: one focusing on habits, the other on processes. This week, it’s my turn to give my two cents — and my first post, in which I reveal what an anal-retent I am, is now live. Thanks, Nicole!
So You Want to Write for A Franchise, Or Thanks for My New Kitchen, Mr Lucas: In the Lair with Karen Miller and Sean Williams
As readers of this column know, we regularly and without thought of consequences, kidnap our guests by means of a malfunctioning vortex manipulator. The problem with doing this to people who write Star Wars novels is that they tend to have their own working lightsabres. So we simply chose to politely ask Karen Miller and Sean Williams to chat with us.
We gave them cups of hot chocolate, made sure their lightsabres were safely put in the hallway cupboard, and talked to them about the fractal nature of the Star Wars universe, killing off imaginary races that aren’t pulling their weight, why writing Star Wars is like writing non-fiction, and the fun of a good communal geek-out. Warning: the phrase ‘Star Wars’ occurs more times in this interview than the term ‘camera phone’ occurred in A Scandal in Belgravia – we know and we’re sorry.
An important point to note: they write more than Star Wars. They’re both much published and awarded authors in their own rights, with Karen’s Rogue Agent, Innocent Mage, and Riven Kingdom series, and Sean’s Books of the Change, Books of the Cataclysm, Astropolis, TroubleTwisters (with Garth Nix), The Fixers and The Broken Land series all being best sellers (note: this list is not exhaustive, merely exhausting for those of us who manage maybe 1000 words per day).
Dr Angela: So, the obvious first question: how did you end up writing for the Star Wars franchise?
Karen: Sheer brazen effrontery. I’ve been a Star Wars fan since I was 16, when I sat in the George St cinemas and saw Star Wars (the actual first, original version in which Han Shot First). Fell in love with the story then and there, and I’ve been in love with it ever since. I knew there were Star Wars novels, and I knew that until I was professionally published I didn’t have a hope in hell of writing one … but as soon as I was a published novelist, back in 2005, I contacted the Del Rey editor responsible for the Star Wars fiction line and said, ‘Hey, I’m a huge fan, if ever you’re in the market for a new author I’d love to be considered.’ And eventually, that’s what happened … not the least because Karen Traviss put in a good word for me, bless her!
Sean: Now I feel old! I was 10 in 1977 and the first movie blew me away. I read a ton of the tie–ins back then, and they were among several critical influences that encouraged me to write my own space opera later in life. When Shane Dix and I sold our Evergence series (explicitly intended as a mash-up between Star Wars and Blake’s 7) our agent began nagging Del Rey to give us a gig working in the franchise. It took a while, but he got there. I’ll never forget the surreal wonder of that 4am phone call telling me we’d scored a trilogy in the New Jedi Order series. That’s how Force Heretic was born.
Dr Lisa: Part of the joy of writing fiction is building new worlds and inventing new characters – people and places we’re curious about and want to explore further. Bearing that in mind, what’s it like to run with existing worlds and existing characters? How do you manage to write in a world as beloved as Star Wars without trampling all over the things fans love most? (more…)
2011 sucked. Then it was awesome. Then it sucked again. Then it got better than ever… And so on. This was the rollercoaster year to beat all others, and it often felt like I was the poster child for the proverbial Chinese curse of “living in interesting times…”
At this time last year, I was staring down the barrel of writing the final three chapters of my PhD thesis. I had January to do it, so I became a hermit and wrote and wrote and wrote. After six years, endless hours of agony, a good dollop of joy, and the hardest work I’d ever done, I finished the draft. HUGE YAY! And then I discovered a Danish scholar’s brand new body of work on a topic that was unnervingly close to mine — so my head exploded. Rewriting ensued, as did tears, frustration, more tears — aka HUGE LOW. But as we know it all worked out, so I’ll move on.
At the same time, I was finishing my first collection of short stories, Bluegrass Symphony. Edits, writing, rewriting all happened while I was freaking out about my thesis… and while my lovely sister and her boyfriend were visiting from Canada (HUUUUGE YAY!!!) It all got done — with time to spare! — and suddenly I found myself with a complete thesis AND a complete book! (YAY!)
Thus armed, I applied for my dream academic job (in English and Creative Writing) — but didn’t get an interview (BOO!). But then discovered that nobody had gotten an interview, and so they would readvertise in a few months (YAY!) and so I still had a chance.
Along with my dear Brain, Angela Slatter, I signed a contract for a second collection of stories, Midnight and Moonshine — which we’re co-authoring (HUUUUGE YAY! We had so much fun collaborating on ‘The February Dragon’!)
I was nominated for three Ditmar awards (YAY! and I had a ball at Swancon) and Angela and I won the Aurealis Award for ‘Best Fantasy Story 2010′ for ‘The February Dragon’ (HUGE YAY!)
Had a massive teaching workload this year — four topics, over 200 students, marking marking marking until I thought my eyes would bleed. Even so, teaching was a bit YAY (because I had some wonderful students!) and a lot BOO (see: marking, eyes bleeding).
The dream academic job was readvertised (YAY!) I applied and had an incredibly strong application (YAY!) but failed to get an interview because of a technicality (not going into details, sorry). Saying ‘HUGE BOO’ here would actually diminish how much this experience affected me. This all happened in June right after I submitted my thesis for examination. So after that great high (thesis finished!!) the whole Job Debacle of 2011 was without a doubt the nadir of my year.
What do they say about reaching rock bottom? The only way is up? Well, that’s pretty much what happened in the second half of 2011. Bluegrass Symphony was published to great reviews and was launched by the ever-fantastic Sean Williams (YAAAAAAAAAAAAY!). My PhD thesis passed with two As, so I didn’t have to change a word (although I did change an accent on one of my Icelandic translations) YAAAAAAAAAAAY!
Then another job-related BOO: I quit my non-teaching job after working there happily for 4 years. Again, not going into detail here, but needless to say, it sucked.
But then another HUGE YAAAAAAAAAAY: writing time! And I got the Arts SA grant I applied for, so that writing time continues on, uninterrupted, well into 2012!
Up, down, up, down, up, down… Here’s hoping 2012 is a bit more even-keeled!
To sum up, in terms of dayjobbery, this year has blown. In terms of writing, however, this has been the most awesome year yet:
Bluegrass Symphony (Ticonderoga Publications, 2011)
Down the Hollow
Them Little Shinin’ Things
Fur and Feathers
From the Teeth of Strange Children
The Wager and the Hourglass
The Short Go: A Future in Eight Seconds
To Snuff a Flame
Depot to Depot
Commonplace Sacrifices (first published in On Spec 2009/2010)
Forever, Miss Tapekwa County
‘Gutted’, Shimmer, Issue 13, April 2011
‘White and Red in the Black’, Dead Red Heart, ed. Russell B. Farr (Ticonderoga Publications) 2011
NEW STORIES SOLD
Midnight and Moonshine, co-authored with Angela Slatter (Ticonderoga Publications, collection of original stories) Forthcoming November 2012
‘Smoke Billows, Soot Falls’ (Chapbook), ed. Simon Marshall-Jones (Spectral Press) Forthcoming
‘Snowglobes’, Chilling Tales 2: In Words, Alas, Drown I, ed. Michael Kelly (EDGE Publishing) Forthcoming
‘A Girl of Feather and Music’, Postscripts (PS Publishing, UK) Forthcoming
‘Rapacis X. Loco Signa’, Bestiary, ed. Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, Forthcoming
‘Tiny Drops’, Midnight Echo, Issue 4, 2010 — REPRINTED IN ChiZine, May 2011
‘Soil From My Fingers’, Tesseracts 14, ed. Brett Alexander Savory & John Robert Colombo (ChiZine Press), 2010 — REPRINTED IN The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2010, ed. Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (Ticonderoga Publications, 2011)
‘The February Dragon’, co-written with Angela Slatter, Scary Kisses, ed. Liz Grzyb (Ticonderoga Publications), 2010 — REPRINTED IN The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2010, ed. Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (Ticonderoga Publications, 2011)
I started the Tuesday Therapy series here, which I’m enjoying immensely;
Brain and I have concocted the Lair of the Evil Drs Brain, which kicks off in January with an interview we recently did with China Miéville;
Bring on 2012.
Happy New Year, all!
Sometimes I feel soooooooo lucky, and last night was definitely one of those times.
It’s actually hard to describe how awesome everthing was at the Bluegrass Symphony launch. Jude at the SA Writers Centre was incredibly lovely, and helped to make sure the atrium was ready for the event to kick off at 7pm — and what a space! We are so fortunate to have such a gorgeous Writers Centre here in Adelaide, with such a great venue for book launches. Thanks to Dr Chad, Brain and Badger, the wine flowed all evening, the sushi platters were never empty, and the festivities were photographed for posterity — if it hadn’t been for these three, I would’ve been a giant ball of stress all night. Instead, I was a butterfly, flitting from group to group, chatting, laughing, and feeling so special. (Thank you so much, Angela, Chad, and David!!)
Russ came all the way from Perth to sell books (thanks again, Russ!!) and the wonderful crowd kept him busy all evening — by the end of the night he’d sold all the hardcovers he’d shlepped to Adelaide, plus most of the paperbacks he’d mailed ahead of time. SO COOL! And between sales, Russ acted as MC. He got the proceedings under way by giving a lovely speech before introducing the incredible Sean Williams, who launched the book. And when I say launched the book, what I really mean is gave the most unbelievably thoughtful, generous, flattering, mind-blowingly perfect speech ever in the history of book launches. Ever. From now on, any time I feel like my writing is crap, I’m going to relive all the perfect moments from Sean’s speech… And I keep saying perfect because, frankly, it was. Sean captured the essence of Bluegrass Symphony so beautifully in his descriptions, and this was nowhere clearer than when he compared the ‘vibe’ of the stories in my collection to Johnny Cash’s song, ‘The Long Black Veil’ (the lyrics of which he read out, like a poem, and I had goosebumps the whole time!):
Ten years ago on a cold dark night,
someone was killed ‘neath the town hall lights.
There were few at the scene, but they all agreed,
that the man who ran looked a lot like me.
Chorus ~ She walks these hills, in a long black veil.
She visits my grave, when the night winds wail.
Nobody knows, nobody sees, nobody knows, but me
The Judge said son, what is your alibi,
if you were somewhere else, then you won’t have to die.
I spoke not a word, though it meant my life,
for i’d been in the arms of my best friends wife.
Now the scaffold is high, and eternity’s near.
She stood in the crowd, and shed not a tear.
But some times at night, when the cold wind moans
In a long black veil, she cries over my bones
Chorus ~ She walks these hills, in a long black veil.
When the cold winds blow, and the night winds wail.
No body knows, no body sees.
No body knows, but me.
Oooooooh, reading the lyrics again just now gives me shivers! Thanks so much, Sean! (and Johnny!)
So, I was gobsmacked after hearing Sean speak — so much so that I pretty much lost the ability to string coherent thoughts together — which meant that my list of ‘Thank yous’ was somewhat abbreviated… Really, I wanted to thank everyone, and I did thank them all (you all) in a rambling sort of way… but by the time I got up to the lectern, I was just so overwhelmed and happy that I managed about half a dozen official thank yous before I went into general ‘gush’ mode. Even so, I somehow managed to maintain my composure long enough to read the opening of ‘The Short Go: A Future in Eight Seconds’ (which you can listen to here) and then basically spent the rest of the evening, smiling, hugging dear friends, having great wine, and signing books.
I think I can safely say that last night wins the prize for Most Awesome First Book Launch EVER.
Without further ado, photographic evidence of the awesomeness that was:
Hip-hip-hooray!! Three boxes filled with copies of Bluegrass Symphony showed up on my doorstep this morning, in plenty of time for the launch on August 19th!
And for those of you in Adelaide who may want to stop by and say hello at the launch, the details are as follows:
VENUE: SA WRITERS CENTRE
187 RUNDLE STREET
TIME: 7 pm FRIDAY, 19 AUGUST 2011
BLUEGRASS SYMPHONY WILL BE LAUNCHED BY NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR, SEAN WILLIAMS.
“Lisa L Hannett’s collection plays like a country music album composed in the darker places of imagination, the little corners that you don’t want to look in as you tap-tap your foot to the catchy beat. Coolly beautiful, then coldly brutal, this is one of the most unnerving debuts in years.”
— ROBERT SHEARMAN
“BLUEGRASS SYMPHONY introduces a rare and original voice whose stories linger, dark and luscious and bold as tarnished brass, long after you have finishing reading them.”
— KIRSTYN MCDERMOTT
And, of course, if you can’t make it on the night you can certainly order a copy (hardcover or trade paperback!) at www.indiebooksonline.com
Now’s your chance to order Ticonderoga Publications titles you might’ve missed out on in paperback — such as Angela Slatter’s The Girl With No Hands & Other Stories, Kaaron Warren’s Dead Sea Fruit, Sean Williams’ Magic Dirt and a heap of other great titles — for a bargain price. (Please note: this sale is for the paperback editions only.)
Even more exciting: you can now pre-order the trade paperback edition of Bluegrass Symphony at a discounted price!! You can also pre-order Ticonderoga’s massive Vampire anthology, Dead Red Heart; as well as Justina Robson’s Heliotrope; and the next installment in the publishing house’s paranormal romance anthology series, More Scary Kisses.
Don’t let me dissuade you from pre-ordering the limited edition hardcovers for these new books. They are gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous signed collectors’ items — only 100 copies of each, so get in quick!
Sure, you could instantly clickity-click on the links I’ve just provided to see the lists in full – but before you do why don’t we give three cheers to Stoker contenders: Kirstyn McDermott (Superior Achievement in a First Novel for Madigan Mine), Shane Jiraiya Cummings (S.A. in Long Fiction for ‘Requiem for the Burning God’), Dave Conyers (S.A. in editing the Cthulu’s Dark Cults anthology), Amanda Pillar and Pete Kempshall (S.A. for editing the Scenes from the Second Storey anthology). And for the awesome authors and editors recommended by Locus – it’s so exciting to see so many familiar names on the list, but particularly the Sprawl anthology edited by Alisa Krasnostein; stories by Peter M. Ball and Cat Sparks from said anthology; and not one, but TWO mentions for stories written by the dear other half of our Brain, Angela Slatter.
(And of course it’s always awesome to see Margo Lanagan, Garth Nix, Jonathan Strahan, and Sean Williams on these lists — hell, I’m stoked with pretty much every choice the panel of readers has made!)
I can’t believe I forgot to mention this – but guess who gets to review Sean Williams’ new book, The Changeling, for the Australian Book Review?
Stay tuned for publication dates. Methinks it’ll be in the June/July issue since my deadline is May 1. We’ll see.
I’m going to have to do my best to forget that I’m predisposed to like this book (or perhaps Sean would say that I should do my best to remember that I’m predisposed to like this book) when I write my review! Professionalism before fandom… At any rate, it’s a ’Yay!’ on the review metre, simply because FINALLY I’m reviewing a book that I may or may not be predisposed to like.*
*This is not to say that I haven’t enjoyed reading and reviewing all of the other books I’ve reviewed so far. Well, OK, I didn’t particularly enjoy Tense Little Lives and I despised that horrid etiquette guide, but still. So far the ratio is definitely 10:1 enjoy:hate.