Foz Meadows is a bipedal mammal with delusions of immortality. Author of Solace & Grief and The Key of Starveldt (Ford Street Publishing) Foz currently lives in St Andrews, Scotland, with not enough books and her very own philosopher. You can find her at her blog, on Tumblr and on Twitter as @fozmeadows
1. Your recent release, The Key of Starveldt, is the second book in your young adult series ‘The Rare.’ What new challenges did you come across with writing a ‘book 2’?
The main issue I had to deal with in Key was my own enthusiasm: I was so excited to introduce a particular character that I literally raced to their scene without any real plans as to what would happen next, with the result that the first two drafts were mired in narrative dead ends and superfluous detail. The ability to return to existing characters was also very distracting: I had multiple, often contradictory ideas about how I wanted this person or that to develop or what aspects of their backstory would be relevant, so it was quite difficult to pare back their stories to a place where they fit with the existing plot, and didn’t just distract from what was happening.
2. Solace and Grief, the first book in the series, has been described as a vampire novel which will appeal to people who don’t like the vampire trend. What do you think makes your series stand out among all the teen vampire novels?
Two things: it’s not a romance, and it isn’t set at any sort of school, which seem to be the defining characteristics of the bulk of YA vampire novels. To be clear, I still love a number of stories that fall into both or either category, but when I sat down to write Solace, I wanted it to be less about everyday teenage life than about weirdness and adventure.
Perhaps more pertinently, my own experiences as a teenager make me somewhat less than neutural on the subject of both school and the ever-present love triangle. I find it incredibly difficult, if not outright impossible, to write about high school as a background event rather than politically, as an institution to be challenged or subverted, because of the amount of effort I expended as a student arguing against curricula, grading, subject structure, the allocation of resources, conformity and scare tactics. Similarly, and while I have no objection to other people enjoying them, I have a pathological skepticism of romanticised love triangles, because as a teenager, I was in a love triangle – and believe me, the experience was anything but romantic. The combination of unrequited love angst and profound frustration at the institutional mechanics of education left me severely depressed, routinely insomniac (my last year of school, I survived on an average of four to six hours sleep a night, six days a week), flirting with self harm and regularly contemplating suicide. Somehow, I managed to get through it, but it’s not an experience I’d wish on anyone – and as a consequence, I don’t think I’m capable of writing about school, or love triangles, or especially the two in combination, in any sort of neutural or romantic way.
In that sense, Solace and Grief was as much a book for my teenage self as anything else: a story with a female protagonist who doesn’t go to school, who isn’t in love, and who instead discovers she has awesome powers that make her uniquely capable to try and protect the people she cares about most – her friends, who are right there with her every step of the way.
Extremely! I feel a bit sorry for Key in that respect. Because we couldn’t afford to fly back to Aus when it was released, it didn’t even get a launch, and I couldn’t promote it by doing signings or author events like I did with Solace.
Social media, though, is hugely important in raising awareness not only of your books, but of you as an author – with one caveat. The single biggest mistake I see people making with their online presence is to participate only or mostly as a marketer, rather than as an individual. To quote Nick Harkaway, the internet is not a broadcast medium. The internet is about conversation, about connections, and if the only thing you do with your blog or Twitter or Facebook as an author is to churn out occasional reminders about upcoming or existing publications and where people can buy them, then you’re doing it wrong.
Partly, I think, this is a generational thing: a lot of writers, particularly those in their thirties and twenties, but including many who are older, have grown up with or natively adapted to the internet, and so have an online presence that predates their being published. I blogged as a teenager because that was what you did, and later joined Facebook and Twitter because my friends were already using both and wanted me to come join the fun. Any promotional benefit I now glean from such sites is ultimately secondary to my personal usage of them. Sure, my name and profession are up there, but the vast amount of what I blog, Facebook, tweet and tumble has nothing to do with my writing and everything to do with things I find interesting and want to share or discuss with others. If I like an author’s online presence – if I see them blogging about issues that interest me, discussing tropes on Twitter or generally being awesome – then I’m about 300% more likely to buy their books than if all I ever saw them do was mention that they were an author.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
Alas, living in the UK, my access to a lot of Australian works is restricted – I’ve been wanting to read Cassandra Golds’s The Three Loves of Persimmon and Cath Crowley’s Graffiti Moon for ages now. Still, I highly recommend Karen Healey’s The Shattering, (which I reviewed here) and Garth Nix’s A Confusion of Princes.
5. In the last couple of years (since we last did an Australian Spec Fic Snapshot) you’ve become a published author with Ford St Publishing. How has it changed your life?
Mainly, it’s a confidence boost: a reminder that as I’ve done this authoring thing two times now, I can certainly do it a third, and a fourth, and a fifth. I still have just as much doubt and uncertainty about my writing as I always did – maybe more! – but whereas I used to worry that I’d ever be good enough to get published, now I have confirmation. I’ve also been lucky enough to meet, and in some cases even befriend, a number of authors whose work I immensely respect. When I was younger, I didn’t quite realise how important being part of a community of writers could be – I just wanted to tell stories, though there were certainly some authors I’d have given my left arm to meet. Now I get to do both while keeping all my limbs intact, and really, what more do you want?
This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to Continuum 8 in Melbourne, we will be blogging interviews for Snapshot 2012 conducted by Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Ian Mond, Jason Nahrung, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright. To read the interviews hot off the press, check these blogs daily from June 1 to June 7, 2012.