Lezli Robyn is an Australian writer who wrote and sold her first couple of stories to Clarkesworld and Jim Baen’s Universe in the closing months of 2008. In the year since then she has made 15 further story sales, selling to markets such as Asimov’s, Analog, Tor’s 50th Anniversary Twilight Zone Anthology, Hadley Rille Books’ Origins anthology (celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Darwin’s “Origins of the Species”), and other science fiction markets as distant as China, Russia, Poland, Italy, Greece, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria – alone or in collaboration with Mike Resnick.
1. You’ve recently burst on to the stage of professional science fiction short stories with a series of collaborative work with veteran writer Mike Resnick. How did this writing partnership come about, and what process do you use?
How did my writing partnership with Mike Resnick come about?
I bought my collaborator off ebay.
I had wanted to buy my first signed Anne McCaffrey book for years (after spending my childhood growing up with her stories) and discovered a limited edition of The Coelura on ebay one day. I only paid for the one book, but it turned out to be the best $50 I have ever spent.
You see, when I sent a “Thank You” email after the safe arrival of my book, the seller told me about the first time he met Anne McCaffrey in 1969 – and I discovered I was talking to Mike Resnick. I informed him that I had never read his books before. Mike replied “Well, we can’t have that!” and promptly sent me a selection of his Hugo winning and nominated stories.
I critiqued them.
He sent me more.
Then all of a sudden we were corresponding regularly, discussing the various elements that make stories work – or not work, if that was the case. After a few months of this he strongly suggested (when I didn’t respond to his not-so-subtle hints) that perhaps I should try writing a story; I might find that my ability to analyze other peoples’ stories could translate into me being able to successfully compose some of my own. We could even do a collaboration together, something he’d done with many a novice writer before.
And so after meeting at the 2008 Worldcon in Denver, we sat down and wrote our first collaboration “Idle Roomer”, which quickly sold to Clarkesworld. This was the first piece of fiction I had ever written, and since then we have written and sold six stories together (including “Soulmates” which was a finalist for the science fiction short story Aurealis Award).
As to our collaborating process, we write one continuous draft, passing the story back and forth between us until the story is finished. Before we write we talk about what we want to achieve by the end of the story, and the specific focus of each of the scenes, but for the most part the details of the scenes are determined by the person writing each specific one. As a result there is always an element of improvisation in our story creating, which is a refreshing challenge for me. When it’s my turn to write, I read the new scene that Mike has added (and he could have stopped mid-dialogue if he felt like it), work out from there what is best for the next scene, and then set about continuing the story in the same “voice”. Then I hand it back to my collaborator, usually without any explanation about what I’ve done, as the scene should speak for itself if I’ve written it correctly.
This system has worked very well for us so far. Neither of us have had to scrap any of our scenes, and we’ve been told that our writing is near impossible to tell apart; the desired result of any collaboration.
2. What is is about science fiction that appeals to you as a genre? Why do you think science fiction is still seen as a field more associated with male writers?
I think that the science fiction genre is still primarily seen as more associated with male writers because when most people hear “science fiction” they automatically think of robots and starships (and other like tropes), which – like computers and cars – are seen as boy’s gadgets. There also appears to be a lot of military science fiction on the market at the moment – a lot of which is written by male writers.
The reason the science fiction genre appeals to me as a writer however, is because it enables me to tell a more poignant story concerning matters of the heart or human conscience by using science fiction devices to help frame it. Take the novelette “Soulmates” (my collaboration with Mike Resnick) as an example: While our lead character – a human – is teaching the robot what it is to truly be considered alive, the robot’s responses and observations lead the human to realise he’s barely existing himself, and their unique relationship helps him rediscover life. So ironically, using a mechanical robot as a main character helped us tell an emotive human story.
3. What’s next for Lezli Robyn? What have you been working on, and what are we likely to see from you over the next year or two?
At the moment I’m in the early stages of creating a unique novel that will cover several genres (mainstream, paranormal and possibly even steampunk), which will be represented by agent Eleanor Woods, and I’m currently writing a bittersweet sf short story for a yet-to-be-revealed American market. I also have two solo story assignments to complete this year for a couple of anthologies, and Mike Resnick and I also have numerous collaboration commitments; a YA fantasy trilogy to outline and start, as well as a novelette to write for Asimov’s, a short story to complete for Irish magazine Albedo One, and at least three other stories commissioned for anthologies.
Mike and I also have a couple of new stories appearing in print this year (with more to be added to the list soon). “Report From The Field” will appear in the Is Anybody Out There? anthology by DAW BOOKS in June, and “The Close Shave” will appear in Kevin J. Anderson’s Blood Lite 2 anthology, making its debut on Halloween.
4. Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year?
2009 marked my first full year of writing fiction while working often working in two stores, so I have to confess I didn’t do much reading, unless it was research. Certainly not enough to be able to give an accurate perception of what truly deserves to be nominated for the Hugo Award – Australian born or not.
Some Aussie names I have heard amazing things about, however, are Angela Slatter, Peter M. Ball, Paul Haines and Jonathan Strahan. (And I was impressed by Peter M. Ball’s Aurealis Award winning story ‘”Clockwork, Patchwork and Ravens”.)
5. Are you planning to go to Aussiecon 4 in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to?
I am definitely going to Aussiecon 4, and I have already bought my membership so I can nominate for the Hugo Awards. I’m most looking forward to being able to meet more Australians within the writing industry – an experience I didn’t have at my previous two Worldcons overseas. I will also love celebrating my birthday with my new sf family (it’s on September the 4th), and if I can score a shortlisting for the Campbell Award, it will be the icing on my birthday cake!
Previously in Snapshot: Marianne De Pierres, Richard Harland, Karen Miller, Margo Lanagan, Ben Peek, Narelle Harris, Paul Collins, Damien Broderick, Shane Jiraiya Cummings, Angela Slatter, Dion Hamill, Garth Nix, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Trudi Canavan, Thoraiya Dyer, Keith Stevenson, Juliet Marillier, Gillian Polack, Jason Fischer, Alisa Krasnostein, Tehani Wessely, Amanda Rainey, Justine Larbalestier, Rowena Cory Daniells, Glenda Larke, Adrian (K.A.) Bedford, Kaaron Warren, Nicole Murphy, D.M. Cornish, Deborah Kalin, Jonathan Strahan, Alan Baxter, Gary Kemble
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