Tamara of Uncharted Pages interviewed me recently, which was great fun because she’s an enthusiastic reader of the books, and had some detailed questions to ask me. I had an opportunity to delve a bit more into my own processes as far as worldbuilding and behind the scenes systems are concerned – and by the time I was halfway through the interview I was having serious trauma flashbacks about the spreadsheet drama involved in trying to track the backstories, emotional baggage and sexual histories of a dozen or more complicated central characters.
“Seriously. Even spreadsheets can’t fix everything. I had a few fixed points such as certain ages of characters when particular events happened, and everything else orbited wildly around it. Sometimes I felt like I was juggling hamsters! Strange, sex-obsessed hamsters who liked to set fire to things.”
I miss my Creature Court. But I don’t miss the spreadsheets.
My daughter Raeli brought home a mother’s day gift for me today from school, and was determined that I open it on the spot, since I’ll be away for the Aurealis Awards on the morning of Mother’s Day itself.
The gift was a box with a poem and some marvellous little treasures inside, but that’s not the bit that had me tearing up and hugging her to bits.
It was what was drawn (and written) on the box. My girl, she has such a thoughtful attention to detail.
And we’re off!
First, I turned up at Lynne M Thomas’ Confessions of a Curator blog. Lynne is a big comics reader like I am and so I wrote her a piece based on some ideas that have been churning around in my head lately, as to whether I write epic fantasy, and whether you can have epic fantasy that doesn’t travel anywhere… and I decided that Batman and the near-destruction of Gotham City has a lot to teach epic fantasy about how to do exactly this:
“Everything happens in cities. Some of the best sieges, invasions, tragic love stories and disasters have occurred in urban environments, going right back to the Trojan War. The only reason that fantasy writers generally get hung up about all that mountain trekking is because of being imprinted with Tolkien at an early age. And I’m not saying that wading through all the bracken with your questing party of dwarves is an invalid approach…
But CITIES. Where you can have your crazy magical invasions, your prophets of doom, your dark lords and battles and deadly, world-coming-to-an-end high stakes, and still be able to order dumplings at 2 in the morning.”
Then, over at Karen Healey’s place, she asked me to write about Classics Nerdery in honour of the heroine of her novel Guardian of the Dead, and funnily enough that was something I was perfectly capable of rolling out!
I also bounced with merriment at Karen’s intro to the piece, because I love pretty much everything about her blogging voice.
“We all have favourite historical characters, right? You hear about them in some book, or see a great TV show or movie and start getting interested in the real person, and somehow they take hold of your brain, and you start shipping them with other historical characters, and maybe there’s fanfic, and you have Opinions about, for instance, that person who killed them, or divorced them, or whatever.”
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My favourite fictional device is the odd juxtaposition. Putting two unexpected things together can not only help to bust cliches where possible, but also to keep the poor writer entertained as she drills out her daily word count. So in The Creature Court trilogy, my most powerful character has the little brown mouse as her totem creature, my most dangerous character (yes, really, that one) plays a prancing clown in his day job, and I provided my flappers with swords.
The flappers and indeed the swords are not in any way the most important part of my story. But in my head, that image sums up exactly what the books mean to me. The 1920’s elements in the world building are jammed up against Victoriana, Edwardiana, Roman festivals, and there’s even a cameo appearance of steampunk in the final volume. There are shape-changers and court politics, there is the sky opening up and raining death upon cities below, or even swallowing cities whole. There is love and death and smut and horror and hatred and fear and blood and quite a lot of people arguing in public instead of (or um as well as) ripping each other’s clothes off.
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My library (with me in it) was a centrefold in today’s Hobart Mercury, along with a great article by Bec Fitzgibbon on genre, gender and publishing. Is gender equality the next big thing in literature?
This pic courtesy of @beesncheese who achieved something I never have, by capturing a picture of my mother smiling at the camera, rather than diving behind the nearest rosebush to avoid it. All my other pics of her smiling have only been achieved by the judicious application of grandchildren and stealth.
The Creature Court trilogy is now available in the UK & US (& Canada too!) on the Kindle. This is hugely exciting for me, because it’s very hard for people outside Australia to access books that are only published here – bless the handful of you who utilised carrier pigeons, magic carpets and bricks-and-mortar to get hold of hard copies.
Hopefully HarperCollins will make the books available in other e-formats as well, later in the year. In the meantime, if Kindle is your e-reader of choice, go forth and explore the Creature Court!
I’d also appreciate any signal boosting my existing readers feel comfortable with – trying to promote the wider availability of books that have been out for some time is a tricky thing. I’m planning some fun promotional stuff over the next few weeks but in the mean time – if you have read the Creature Court and you liked it a lot, now would be a great time to tell others about it!
Book One – Power and Majesty
Book Two – The Shattered City
Book Three – Reign of Beasts
Sorry overseas people, this one is specifically an Australian giveaway. Meanwhile, apparently Reign of Beasts is available on the Kindle stores in the US and UK, but I still haven’t heard when the first two books will be likewise available. Hopefully I can make an announcement on that soon! I know not everyone has access to Kindle e-books but it’s a start!
UPDATE: Have been given an ETA on 10 days for the whole trilogy to be available internationally in Kindle store. Will report when I hear about other platforms. In the mean time, if you come across Power and Majesty or Shattered City in an international e-book store, please let me know!
I think I actually swooned at this one – Ben Browder to guest star in Doctor Who – in a Wild West episode. SWOONED, I tell you! (now we just need Claudia Black to come in as Benny Summerfield and the world will be a perfect place)
This is one I meant to bring to the table at our recent recording of Galactic Suburbia (should be up tonight) but forgot: craft is at the top of the cultural activities performed by Australians, but our peak funding body for cultural activities has just defunded Craft Australia. (I didn’t even know there was a Craft Australia!) There’s plenty of gender & class privilege to unpack here, as there usually is when the line between craft and art is drawn.
Speaking of stuff I probably should have included in this week’s GS – Nicola Griffith talks about How To Fix Gender Bias in book journalism.
I have written a few posts in places other than here on the internet this week: I talk about fantasy words and names on the Voyager blog, in response to this lovely post by Natalie Costa Bir who talks about the vocab I use in the Creature Court books.
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There’s a trick, well-honed over the last eleven years, to finding a good ROR retreat. Ideally, we need some kind of shared accommodation to fit 5-8 writers, a working kitchen so Mr Flinthart can do his thing, a decent-sized space to all sit in for critiquing sessions, some inspiring scenery and some nice walking areas nearby.
Steeles Island, a mostly-private peninsula out near Carlton Beach (on the eastern shore of the Derwent River), turned out to have all these things in spades. It was a lucky find, as it turned out to have so many benefits we hadn’t even hoped for.
This particular ROR (wRiters on the Road/Rise/Riesling) had a family theme to it. We’d only included family members once before, when little Raeli was too young for me to bear leaving her behind for a whole four days, and so she and my honey came along to a North West Coast Tasmanian ROR, staying nights with us at the Hawley Beach house we rented, and disappearing during the days to visit relatives. This time around, we planned to do something similar only with Jem along – and then Margo and Rowena decided to bring family members too!
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Reign of Beasts is out in Australia and NZ, and the Creature Court trilogy is officially DONE. Here is the post on which to ask me questions, or chat about anything concerning the book. Nothing is too spoilerific! I will try to get back to you as soon as I can.
SERIOUSLY DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED FOR REIGN OF BEASTS & THE CREATURE COURT BOOKS