Kate Gordon is a Tasmanian YA author and a very VERY new mum. Check out her blog at www.kategordon.com.au/
1. Vulpi, sequel to Thyla, your paranormal-YA-with-weretigers-and-devils has just been released, and I hear that you have switched protagonists for this one. Why is this Cat’s story and not Tessa’s?
Much as I loved writing Tessa, there were so many characters in Thyla whose heads I wanted to delve into. I wanted to give every character their own story and, in fact, when I was writing Thyla, I did create back-stories for each of the characters. Cat fascinated me right from the beginning and I wanted to explore her more. I also thought it would be interesting to see the world of the Thylas from the point of view of several different “people”. The next two books will each have a different protagonist. I have read a couple of series that do this really well – Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series being one example. I think it’s an interesting twist on the way series are usually approached. I understand some people will miss Tessa as a narrator, but hopefully there’s enough of her in Vulpi to satisfy them!
2. Thyla (2011) wasn’t your first novel, but it did launch you as a paranormal/fantasy YA author. Are you pleased with how Thyla was received? How is writing magical stories different from writing about ordinary teenagers?
I’m very pleased with how Thyla was received! I’ve been really lucky. Of course, I was completely frantic before it was released – paranoid that everyone would hate it. I think every author feels like this before a new book comes out, even the old hands! There have been a couple of negative reviews – mainly from people who didn’t realise Thyla was a paranormal book and who dislike the genre – and some great, constructive criticisms (which, as a beginning author, I really value), but on the whole I’ve been just thrilled with the response.
Writing “magical stories” differs much less than you’d think from writing straight YA (at least, this has been my experience). My novels are very character-driven and my characters have all the same concerns, flaws, foibles and “issues” as “non-magical” teenagers (even if they’re actually two hundred year old immortals!). Creating believable characters is even more important in fantasy and paranormal, because you’re asking the audience to suspend so much disbelief already that it’s imperative that, in the areas where characters, locations or plotlines should be real and relatable, they really, really are. Also, in all my books, I always fall back on the old chestnut of “write what you know”. My writing is chock full of me, my friends, the places I know and love. I love it when my friends and family read my books and recognise themselves, experiences we’ve had together, or little in jokes we share. I think it makes the writing more real to have these little details. So I write what I know in both my paranormal and straight YA. The only difference in the paranormal is I write what I know … and then add shapeshifters!
3. You’ve got two books still to go in this series! How far along are you with writing them and (crucially) how do you think your writing routine is going to change now you have a brand new baby in your life?
I’ve written both of the other books in the Thyla series, to different stages! The next book, Sarco, is with the publisher, and Diemen, the final in the series, is just at first draft stage. I have until September to edit it in order to get it to a stage I’m happy with, in order to fulfil the requirements of my Arts Tasmania grant. When I found out I was pregnant, I went into writing overdrive, knowing that when I had Tessa (yes, she does have the same name as Thyla’s protagonist!), she’d immediately become my number one priority and focus. And that holds true. Now she’s here, she’s definitely number one! That said, I have been doing a bit of writing every day since I was well enough to, following the birth (she’s been out ten days as I write this). I do it only for about half an hour a day, and it’s my “me” time. Tessa is in the nursery at the moment as she’s a bit premature, and will be here for the next few weeks. Who knows how things will change once she’s home! It will be a huge learning curve (but an amazing one). It’s good to know I still do have the drive to write, though, and I don’t think that will go away. I do have a deadline in a month or so, and it’s that I’m working on now, but I had the manuscript to a pretty good state before Tessa’s unexpectedly early arrival. And I have another exciting project with a great writer friend of mine but, as a mother herself, she’s happy to let that just simmer while I adjust to my new role. Writing will always be a huge part of my life – and, of course, it’s my career – but I figure most people take a few months’ maternity leave, don’t they? So if I’m a bit less productive for the next little while, I’m sure people will understand! After that, I’ll write while she sleeps. It’s still such a huge part of who I am. I’ll never fully give it up. And you never know, Tessie might well just be the biggest inspiration I’ve ever had!
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
What Australian works haven’t I loved lately? Honestly, I think this is just about the best time in the history of Australian YA spec fiction. The number of amazing writers out there doing fantasy, paranormal and science fiction is just unbelievable! I just adored Penni Russon’s award-winning Only, Ever, Always. So beautifully, poetically written and yet utterly readable and absorbing. Definitely a one-sitting-er! Ben Chandler’s fab steampunky fantasy novel, Quillblade was also completely addictive and so unique. He’s got a wonderfully twisty turny brain, that one! Nansi Kunze’s hip teen sci fi, Dangerously Placed reignited my interest in science fiction and Marianne de Pierres’ Burn Bright and Angel Arias just astonished me with their dark, gothic and completely one-of-a-kind approach to the paranormal genre. Oh, and Leanne Hall’s This is Shyness and its sequel, Queen of the Night deserved every skerrick of hype they were given. There are too many other great titles that I’m forgetting, too! Every time I go to a bookshop I am completely spoiled for choice!
5. The last question is supposed to be about how the spec fic scene has changed since the last Snapshot (and Aussiecon 4) two years ago, but you weren’t even a published author then! You were a bookseller, though, before your first novel Three Things About Daisy Blue was released in late 2010. How do you think publishing and the book industry has changed in that time?
I wasn’t a published author when the last Snapshot was taken, but I had worked in bookshops and libraries for many years and I’ve been witness to a great many changes during that time. I’ve watched realistic YA have its heyday, “witch and wizard” books have their heyday in the aftermath of Harry Potter, and fantasy take off on the dragon back of Eragon. I worked in a boys’ school when the Cherub and Stormbreaker spy series became huge. And I was in a bookshop again when Twilight sunk its teeth into the neck of the publishing industry and brought vampires back from the dead. The publishing industry is always after a new trend. Paranormal seems to be slightly on the decline, dystopias are huge now, and there are signs that realistic YA is having a resurgence, spearheaded by the superlative John Green. Of course, it isn’t just wars of the genres that are happening in the publishing industry. Ebooks versus paper; traditional publishing versus self-publishing; bookshops versus virtual stores – it’s an exciting time to be in the book world, but also a scary one. What’s going to happen next? The industry is in a state of flux and huge transformation and traditional houses, authors and readers alike are fighting to come to grips with it all. In the end, I think, the power of the story will always win out. People will always want to read; it just depends how they do it. We’ll work it out, as an industry, and before we know it these years of change and uncertainty will be a distant memory. And, before long, the only thing we’ll be worried about – again – is whether mermaids or fairies are the next big thing!
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.