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I’m so happy to be able to bring this interview to you. I met CS Pacat at Supanova. We were on a panel together on our early lives as writers and I was fascinated with her story and I thought you would be too. Hers was a non-traditional story and she has had amazing success. Read on!cat

Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed on my blog today. I think your publication story is fascinating so I wanted to share it with others.

When did you first think about being a writer and what did you do?

As long as I can remember, I wanted to write books. I took creative writing classes, but if I’m being honest, they weren’t especially helpful, particularly when it came to teaching fundamental skills like plotting or character creation. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them for anything other than a place to meet other artists and form a support community, and a way to begin taking yourself seriously as a writer, “I commit to writing”. (A friend once described it brilliantly: In a cooking class, you are taught how to make a soufflé during the lesson. In a creative writing class you’re usually asked to make a soufflé at home without a recipe, then bring it in to class, and then everyone critiques the soufflé. But at no point does anyone ever actually teach you how to make a soufflé.)

What inspired you to write fanfic and when do you start writing original fiction?

I wrote fan fiction throughout my teens and into my early twenties, and I have an enormous respect for fandom as an artistic space. I think what drives the fanfiction writer is a desire to reclaim a text, to explore its themes, in a sense to make it your own. This can be powerful and important, particularly when those reclamations involve queering a heteronormative text, or the insertion of fantasies that until recently have not been given much expression in mainstream works, such as the power fantasies of teen girls. It’s a way of offering alternate narratives and diversifying what can sometimes feel like a narrative monoculture.

I started to write original fiction because I wanted to tell my own stories and to be able to craft the kinds of characters that I love. Captive Prince was my first complete original novel, but I did have a few false starts with original fiction before that, learning the skills that were different to fan fiction.

What made you publish for free on the web and then self-publish?

When I started to write Captive Prince there was nothing that was really like it in the mainstream commercial space. But I knew that online there was a vast community of readers and writers who were reading and creating online in part because they were seeking something that they weren’t finding on commercial bookshelves. It was also an incredibly accessible space with no barrier to entry, and so I started to write Captive Prince, and as I wrote, I posted each chapter to my fiction blog.

Captive Prince ran as a free web serial for several years before I decided to self publish the story. I did it mostly in response to requests from readers for a paperback copy of the books. It was really the support and enthusiasm of the online readership that gave me the confidence to take that step.

What did self-publishing feel like?

Equal parts rewarding and terrifying. There is a very steep learning curve, because as a self-publisher, if you want to produce a high quality book, you essentially have to teach yourself all of the skills, from typesetting to art direction to project management. You have to hire cover artists, editors and proofreaders, while learning how to use InDesign and create layouts for paperbacks, produce ebooks, and so on.

It felt scary to do at the time, but it was also incredibly empowering, because you’re learning everything you need to know about publishing, and it opens up new avenues and gives you control over your own writing.

Did big sales happen all at once or was it gradual? How much of that was due to your previous following from the web?

My online readers were incredibly enthusiastic and supportive, they wanted to buy the self published release, even having already read the free version. As a result of that, Captive Prince shot to the top of Amazon lists within a day or two of being released. It then took a few weeks for the generated word of mouth to spread and create buzz in places like Goodreads, and from there another week or two before the Captive Prince started to garner attention and reviews from mainstream review sites like Dear Author and USA Today. So, in a sense it happened in two “waves”, the first from my online readers, and a second when the book hit the mainstream market. Now that Captive Prince is being published by Penguin, it’s reaching a new audience again.

It must have been amazing to be contacted by an agent wanting to sell your work to a major publisher. Can you tell us a bit about that?

It was incredible, amazing, unbelievable. I was approached by a New York agent basically saying, “I’d like to represent you. I think we can sell your book to a big six publisher in New York.” I didn’t think it was possible but signed with her in the spirit of pure optimism. We ended up with two offers, the most robust of which was from Penguin. Now Captive Prince is being published in multiple countries and translated into multiple languages – it’s been an incredible year.

From your point of view, what are the advantages of self-publishing?

Having been through both processes, self publishing and commercial publishing, I remain a huge advocate for self publishing. I think it offers writers a way to produce a book that wholly represents their best vision of their work. You don’t have to rush or make artistic compromises due to deadlines. You can hire the designers and editors that you most want to work with, devote as much attention to your book as it needs. There are also financial advantages, in that your royalty percentage is much higher. Realistically, a commercial publisher will always be making commercial decisions, which are not always the best decisions for a book artistically.

Conversely, what are the advantages of having a major publisher behind you?

The biggest advantage of a major publisher is legitimacy. Although the perception is changing, there is still a stigma attached to self publishing. A major publisher opens so many doors, and dramatically expands the possibilities for a book, from getting it stocked in major bookstores, to garnering attention from mainstream press.

The other advantage is of course access to world class editorial, and the support of a team. I’ve worked with so many inspiring, talented people at Penguin. Allowing them to support the book frees you as the writer to just spend your time writing, which is a incredible privilege.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

I have two pieces of advice. The first is that to write a book, you have to transform yourself into the person who can write that book. So I’d say figure out what is preventing you from writing, whether it is time, procrastination, or problems with plotting, or coming up with ideas, then dedicate time to solving those problems, making the changes that you need to make.

The second piece of advice is to persevere. Writing a book is difficult and there will be a long period of time where you can’t do it, your writing isn’t working, and the book just isn’t a book yet. Everyone goes through this. And everyone I know who has persevered through this stage has emerged with a manuscript, then gone on to publish it. So hang in there: it will happen.

Blurb
Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the rightful heir to the throne of Akielos. But when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity, and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.

Beautiful, manipulative, and deadly, his new master, Prince Laurent, epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.

For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else…

CS Pacat - book cover - Captive Prince

You can find out more about CS Pacat on her website http://www.cspacat.com

It’s taken me a while to finish this post. It was rather emotional for me writing about the loss of a friend. I hope you forgive me if it makes you feel sad.

A few weeks ago I went to the funeral of a good friend, Sonia Iris Urquijo, who passed away from insidious disease called Scleroderma. I wasn’t there are Sonia towards the end and that makes me feel sad. Distance separated once I moved to Canberra. I’ve been here 20 years. It is only in more recent times that I’ve gone less to Sydney and had less opportunity to see Sonia.

Sonia is someone I shared my 30s with and I had a fabulous time in my 30s. We met through the school through our children and through a mutual friend, Lynn. We headed off on Friday and Saturday nights to sleazy Latin American nightclub/restaurants to dance and check out the sights. We just hit it off. She said she liked my salt-and-pepper.

Sonia and me, Watson's Bay Sydney

Sonia and me, Watson’s Bay Sydney

Note: Sonia didn’t like being photographed.

Sonia was from Uruguay and culturally she was very different to me. She said I had ‘silly English morals’ because I wouldn’t give my phone number out to men who were five years younger than me matter how good looking and persuasive they were. Or when out in the dating game at nightclubs I would tell people straight up how old I was and that I was divorced with three children. I liked to sort the men from the boys with ‘no surprises’ but she was appalled. Sonia never told anyone anything. I was open and she was closed. Opposite but attracted to each other. She did share things with me. I’m so glad she did.

My first time visiting the snow with Sonia and  Clemente

My first time visiting the snow with Sonia and Clemente

Sonia you are a part of me, a part of my life that I will take forever forward. I will treasure always those snippets of your life that you shared with me. How much you missed your mother but because you had a fear of flying you couldn’t return to Uruguay to see her. How you regretted in your young teenage years making her get rid of her boyfriend after your father died and how much you loved your father and missed him.

Sonia and me on a Sydney Ferry (1992)

Sonia and me on a Sydney Ferry (1992)

Note. Sonia liked to hide her face.

You shared with me the story of your courtship and your wedding night. Of your life as a teenager in Uruguay. The journey on the aeroplane with your young son Alejandro and how your husband did his best to distract you in keeping calm. You didn’t know until then that you had a fear of flying. You shared with me also those early years as a migrant in Australia in a hostel, learning the language and the culture and how much you relied on your husband.

You told me of that awful night in a head-on collision on Parramatta Road and how your beautiful face was destroyed. You told me how difficult it was being in a different hospital from your husband but how fortunate it was that the first doctor on the scene was an eye specialist and he sent you to an eye hospital and saved your sight.

I remember wanting to cry when you told me how after the accident you stayed indoors to 12 months and you didn’t tell your mother back in Uruguay what had happened to you, you couldn’t bear to. You told me how your mother figured out that something was wrong and the day you opened up the front door and there she was. She came all the way knowing in her heart you were in trouble. You shared with me how your mother supported you and made you look in the mirror and see that you were still beautiful and that you had a fantastic figure. It was with her help and support you managed to go out again into the world.

I came to know you well after that time and I always loved your vibrancy, your shining eyes and your laugh and the coffee you used to make with International Roast and sugar which you made into a smooth paste and filled the mugs with hot milk. My taste buds have changed but we thought it was delicious.

I remember coming around to your place after school and seeing you put underpants on your head as you cooked dinner for your daughters. Your daughters was so ashamed and we laughed at their horror. I asked you why you had underpants on your head and you told me it was to keep the smell of food from your freshly coiffed hair. Then asked you why you are cooking dinner at 4 PM in the afternoon and you told me that it was the best time to feed your daughters straight after school because they were hungry and they ate. I thought it was rather ingenious and it seemed to work for you.

I remember watching you eat lentils. Your version of lentils made my eyes boggle. You cooked lentils in what I consider the normal Spanish way, but you added a can of kidney beans and then peas then served yourself a large bowl. When I commented that I was glad I wasn’t there to be there in the morning you look at the quizzically. When I explained what I meant about gas and you laughed.

Sonia, you introduced me to ballroom dancing. I was never as good as you, but I remember us practicing at your place, or going to class together. You were the leader then, going out and showing off your hot figure and your Latin moves.

Sonia, Alfred and me at a dinner dance

Sonia, Alfred and me at a dinner dance

Note: Sonia showed her face in photos more often once she started dancing.

I remember too when you were alone after your husband left you. How hard it was to adjust from being dependent on someone else and transitioning to be in control of your life. Those midnight conversations we had. The time you needed a new bed and how hard it was to decide to buy and us laughing about what the worse thing could happen–that you would get a bad sleep. That was the first of many decisions you made about your life then. I was glad I was there for you.

In 1996 you were there for me when I fostered James. I stayed with you and we bathed him and cuddled him. A large chubby baby of 4 months of age. You formed a bond with him. We visited with you many times over the years. Hard to believe he is 19 now.

While we didn’t always keep in touch, we were able to see each other and pick up where we left off. You always welcomed me back into your life when I visited you.

I’m sorry you suffered so much Sonia and that you chose to be silent about it. I’m glad you had Alfred to care for you and that you had your children and grandchildren who you loved. I am glad I came to say goodbye. I cried for the loss of you and the loved ones you leave behind. Thank you for being in my life. Thank you for the part of me that I owe to you.

If you want to know more about Scleroderma, here is a link to the Wikipeia article. The disease attacked her blood vessels and heart and lungs.

Perth, oh Perth, your weather was fabulous. It was an warm oasis for my Canberra ice-tinged life and you beat Sydney’s raining chill the weekend before. For a small city (in comparison to Sydney) the turnout was amazing. So many people. So many great costumes.

I arrived late Thursday night. I left work and headed to the airport. I had trouble checking in but that was because Qantas was offering me a direct flight rather than going through Melbourne. I said yes but forgot to check the seating. So I was in the middle seat, but I just finished listening to a book and watched a movie.

Friday morning, Glenda Larke texted me and I had breakfast with her and Karen Miller in the hotel. I’d been awake since 3.30am. We had a leisurely breakfast and then parted ways. Karen went to her room to write and Glenda took me shopping and sight seeing. First stop was Stefen’s Books in Shafto Lane. Stefen’s was the official book seller for Supanova this year. I was very impressed with the store and his knowledge of genre. He back orders authors’ books so the whole backlist is on the shelves. Here is Trudi Canavan’s shelf space.

Trudi Canavan Books

Trudi Canavan Books

It was a lovely day and then in the afternoon Keri Arthur arrived. We shared room and we sat and chatted to Glenda before she headed off and Keri and I got ready for the opening ceremony. This is where we authors get paraded to the audience. I think the audience is made up of the special whole weekend ticket holders and VIPs. It was a reasonably sized audience and we did our elevator pitch (with video and sound effects of a lift). The ceremony had a great vibe.

I’m not sure I did my pitch well. Lady writes grim dark, post-apocalyptic fantasy with dragons.

Dragon Wine Series

Dragon Wine Series

Then we searched for dinner. I was pretty hyped. This is a shot of me and Keri before I took a drink.

drinks David Henley and Wanda Wiltshire were at dinner with us. Or us with them. Or we went together. A mutual shuffling off to eat, I suppose.

David Henley

David Henley

David Henley and Wanda Wiltshire

David Henley and Wanda Wiltshire

I just realised that I don’t have a photo of CS Pecat. Oh No! She was such a wonderful person to chat to. She was sitting in the Penguin booth and sold out of books. She was so dedicated that she didn’t even get to the green room much.

Day one, Saturday, was quite awash with people. Where the author signing booth was, though, was a bit out of the way. Busy, but not standing on other people’s toes crowded. It meant we got good views of some costumes. These lovely ladies came by. I guessed they were the twins from The Shining. I’m so proud of me.

#Itsatwinthing

#Itsatwinthing

These ladies hand sewed these. They also got a shot in our hotel corridor that it looked like a shot from the movie.

Saturday night we had the VIP party. Great venue. Larger and more spread out than the Sydney venue. You could have a conversation at least. Keri and I were holed in a corner and then later on we discovered the other authors and we joined them. By then I had too much to drink. I’m a cheap drunk but apparently my conversation was interesting! We figured that the VIPs come for the actors and other celebrities, but we did have our own author fan.

At the bar I chatted to some of the guests. Here, I learned that many of the guests played Cards Against Humanity at night. Apparently, some of the actors played in character. So I have to use my imagination to think how Bender sounded playing Cards Against Humanity. They also had the expansion pack. Awesome. I would have loved to have joined them.I love that game. I was a bit shy to do so on the Sunday.

Keri thought my hangover was hilarious. I had a sinus/cold thing happening at the same time so I felt especially crap. I shuffled and groaned like a zombie to the loo in the middle of the night and then again and again. Lucky the authors are good at exchanging vitamins and meds. I had bacon as my hangover remedy. As the day progressed Keri has less to laugh about as I normalised.

baconSurprisingly, Sunday was much busier than Saturday for us in the author booth. Wanda had a fan who couldn’t find her. Wanda was doing people’s fairy names and colours and he wanted to do  his. During dinner the previous night she had given him directions via Twitter. He said ‘I’m blind and dressed as a dragon.’ When he turned up we were so happy to see him and his guide. He was an awesome green dragon.

Green dragon

Green dragon

The twins came back in new costumes (handmade).

#itsatwinthing

#itsatwinthing

Lots of cosplay. Some we got shots of.

queen of the damedAnd the Queen of the Dammed from Anne Rice

Queen of the DammedSad we had to say goodbye. There was an author dinner with the lovely Ineke, Kevin Hearne and family, Kevin J Anderson and Rebecca Moestat and we didn’t get photos! Shame. Apparently there was an official author shot in the Green Room but I missed it.

I did get a shot of Keri and I feeling exhausted.

Keri Arthur and Donna Hanson

Keri Arthur and Donna Hanson

But really we looked like this.

Keri Arthur and Donna Hanson

Keri Arthur and Donna Hanson

Luckily I was still in Perth for Monday so I was able to slowly wind down from all the hype and excitement. It was a hard withdrawal, but I had Keri to help. She is an excellent person, a wonderful roomy and an inspiration in so many ways. I heart her!

Many of the guests went off to Freemantle on Monday. Keri and I went shopping. (shopping with Keri is a dangerous sport).  I bought stuff, but the most excellent thing I bought this leather jacket. ( I will own that I did not intend to buy this jacket. I will also own I had to do some bank gymnastics to effect the purchase but that I don’t regret it. It’s lovely and will last forever). (BTW you can tell I’m in denial.)

Retail Haul

Retail Haul

So that was my Supanova put very simply. It was hard not be dazzled by the other guests, about being a guest myself. But I’m back in to real life now and I will file it away under great experience.

Wow, just wow!

I took to Supanova like a duck to water. I embraced it like it was a once in a life time experience and enjoyed it immensely. I’ll have to split this post though. This one will be about Sydney and the next about Perth.

Firstly, it was fabulous to be in a place with so many geeks. The cosplay was amazing and some of the people spend ages designing and making their costumes. So much creativity there. Others like dressing up. It’s all good!

In Sydney we stayed at the Rocks and it was rainy and cold. Rainy view of Sydney Harbour

This is the view from the window. Me with the umbrella. Yes those are size 8 jeans!

Donna in size 8 jeans, The Rocks

Donna in size 8 jeans, The Rocks

Me, with attitude and umbrella at The Rocks

Me, with attitude and umbrella at The Rocks

Some more pics of The Rocks, which is a very historic part of Sydney.

This original house is now a museum, The Rocks

This original house is now a museum, The Rocks

Convict hewn step, The Rocks

Convict hewn step, The Rocks

The whole being a guest thing was wonderful and new. Matthew went with me and he spent all his time in artist alley and going to seminars. I was between the Green Room and the author signing tables so we only caught up in the afternoons.

I had a fly!

I had a fly!

My Supanova Guest Pass

My Supanova Guest Pass

I met some lovely people who bought Shatterwing and  Skywatcher or who took away post cards for my ebooks. Thank you so much people!

Jack Dann dropped around after launching his book.

Jack Dann, Supanova Sydney, 2015

Jack Dann, Supanova Sydney, 2015

I was partnered with Keri Arthur mostly as she is an old hand and I was a newbie. Keri has lots of dedicated fans.

Keri Arthur, Supanova Sydney 2015

Keri Arthur, Supanova Sydney 2015

Keri Arthur signing, Supanova Sydney 2015

Keri Arthur signing, Supanova Sydney 2015

On day two the weather cleared somewhat. We had a lovely view of the harbour from the hotel. It’s not often I get to do five star! It was nice.

more sydney

I did get to chat to the other guests and got a meet a great bunch of people. The guests had a lovely vibe. I did put my foot in it but calling Kristen Bauer, Pam! during afternoon tea. She was pretty cool about it. I had my squee moments. Some actors we didn’t know by sight so we were checking the Supanova brochure putting names to faces. Without name dropping, I’ll just say that they were all fabulous and welcoming. We teased Graham McTavish about his kilt! For a Dwarf he is very tall, handsome and has good knees btw). (As an aside there were quite a number of tall people among the guests–impressive!) ( I think that counts as a name drop. Sorry!)

At the start of the tour (Sydney and Perth) the other authors were virtual strangers. By the end of the tour, they were bosom buddies who are hard to part from. Sniff!

Starting out I knew Keri Arthur and Karen Miller. I got to know Kevin Hearne, CS Pecat, Wanda Wiltshire and David Henley in Sydney as well as a re acquaintance with Kevin J Anderson and Rebecca Moesta.

Here is a shot I grabbed of Kevin Hearne. He does this author bomb shots and they are cool. So is he and so is his Iron Druids series.

Kevin Hearne, Supanova Sydney 2015

Kevin Hearne, Supanova Sydney 2015

I did a panel with Kevin and Rebecca. It was slightly scary in that Kevin has published 130 books and me…well…not that many yet.

Here are some highlights of the cosplay. There are too many wonderful shots to do them justice.

Red Skull

Red Skull

Female Loki, Sydney Supanova

Female Loki, Sydney Supanova

Boba, Supanova Sydney

Boba, Supanova Sydney

Overall it was a great vibe. I signed books, gaped, talked, drank and ate. We were looked after most admirably by Ineke and the Supanova volunteers and crew. Thank you guys.

Thank you for coming along to the blog today, Thoraiya and congratulations on your wonderful book deal with Tor US. I am so excited for you and as you know I’ve been a fan of your work for more than 10 years! I hope you will visit again when your book is coming out so we can share the blurb and the cover and all that other wonderful stuff that happens when a book gets published.

Thanks for having me, and yes, please!

Thoraiya Dyer

Thoraiya Dyer

Can you tell us a bit about the book (series) that is going to be published?

Sure! Today I found the bit of scrap paper I first wrote the idea on. It reads: “Write an epic fantasy novel about a tropical rainforest where countries are not horizontal, but vertical, and defended by magic.”

Even though I planned TITAN’S FOREST as a standalone initially, CROSSROADS OF CANOPY still fits that basic description. A pantheon of reincarnated gods and some mythically reimagined Australian fauna and flora made its way in there, too. Unar, protagonist of Book #1, is a Gardener – a sort of apprentice priestess – in Canopy, the vast and leafy jungle city where the rich and privileged leave tributes at temples and get fat on sun-ripened fruit. In Canopy, they’re safe from demons that lurk below their deity-maintained barrier, and they generally have no idea where their excrement goes when it falls down into the dark.

But Unar’s sister falls down there, and that kicks off her adventures.

Excellent! I guess I should explore your writing history. How long have you been writing? What did you start on, novels or short stories? What are your bread and butter (that you like the most?)

I started pounding out the requisite million unpublished words in high school! Novels first, even though later, when I was working full time and doing after-hours calls, it took almost 5 years to write just one. Then, when I was pregnant I had lower back pain and couldn’t sit at my computer for very long to type. That’s when I wrote “Night Heron’s Curse”, which was my first published short story. Tehani Wessely bought it for ASIM in 2008. Also in 2008, I attended a workshop with Jim Frenkel at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival, and he advised me to build a reputation with short stories before I wrote another novel. I like both. I don’t think I’ll stop writing short stories.

It’s taken a long time to get this far, hasn’t it? The industry seems to be getting more and more difficult to penetrate. Can you tell us a bit about how you got an agent and then the book deal?

It has taken a long time, and I’m glad I was oblivious, early on, to how much work and persistence it would take, because I might have given up. On our first day of lectures at vet school, which I’d worked my ass off to get into because I wanted to be a zoo vet, I remember hearing the recommendation that zoo vets get a decade of experience with cows, first. It made sense. Giraffes, rhinos, elephants; the closest you’re going to get to them in private practice is cattle.

But I was devastated! I thought there was no way I could survive ten years of getting smooshed against fences by poo-covered cows, all for a tiny chance of gaining one of the three zoo vet jobs in all of Australia that would only be vacated when one of the existing zoo vets died. And those people all seemed young and healthy!

So, I was discouraged. I decided to be a small animal vet and just do whatever bird and wildlife work I could get on the side. That’s why I don’t like it when people ask me how to get published, because “write stuff that isn’t good enough for ten or twenty years” is a horrible, discouraging answer, and I would have hated anyone who told it to me when I was in high school!

I got my agent, Evan Gregory, by querying according to the agency guidelines. I hadn’t met him at a fancy overseas convention or anything glam like that, haha. I was a Locus subscriber. Every time an issue came out, I’d open to the ‘BOOKS SOLD’ section and highlight all the agents that represented work that sounded like mine, and that’s how I’d make my list of who to query. It helped that Evan had an interesting blog, and worked for Ethan Ellenberg, who reps John Scalzi and Karen Miller. Both authors had spoken highly of the agency so I knew they weren’t dodgy.

The book deal came about, I guess, because Evan does go to conventions, and fancy lunches (maybe they aren’t that fancy, maybe they eat discounted sumo salad on park benches?) – ANYWAY, the point is, he had a better idea than me who the editors were that might be a good match for my work. And he was right, wasn’t he? And simultaneous submissions are brilliant compared to my decade of sending printed novel manuscripts in the post to one publisher at a time and then waiting years for each reply.

And I was over the moon after the offer from Diana Pho at Tor. She is just lovely. I’m thrilled to be working with her. Tor was the first publishing imprint for grown-ups I ever really became aware of, plundering the Eye of the World from Mum’s shelf and inhabiting the world of the Wheel of Time in my school holidays.

That is persistence! I’m happy you had such a wonderful outcome after so much hard work. You have written a number of works and have had recognition for many short stories over the years? Did the award wins help you gain notice from publishers? Did you find short story writing honed your novel writing skills or was it unrelated?

I have no idea if the award wins helped me gain notice. The invitations to contribute to anthologies that I occasionally received could have been because of awards, or just because the editors had read my stuff. They sure gave me confidence and hope for the future. And the Aurealis and Ditmar award ceremonies brought me to my first conventions and introduced me to the community. I first met you in person at an Aurealis night, didn’t I? I love the community! Hello, community!

It sure helped to know that my writing, sentence by sentence, was publishable and that people enjoyed reading it. But I think, for me, short-story writing might have been a pleasant detour instead of a necessary phase. If I had to guess at the weaknesses of my early manuscripts, I would say problems with novel-length structure and novel-length character arcs, and I couldn’t learn those from writing short stories. My strength has, I think, always been pretty writing, and yeah, the short story words I wrote might have gotten prettier, and they certainly got more succinct, but I suspect that wasn’t what was keeping my novels from being bought.

I know how you feel! How did you keep up your motivation all these years? Do you have any advice for other writers who are struggling to maintain the faith and keep writing?

Living in denial? I did this thing where, in order to be excited about the book I was writing and make it the best it could possibly be, I had to believe it was The One. No matter how many stats or experts told me my first book might not be The One, and my second book might not be The One, and my third, and my fourth, I had to tell myself they were wrong, and that THIS one was The One. Every year, my New Year’s resolution was to write better, to write The One.

Which automatically meant I couldn’t be the arbiter of which one really was The One, which is why self-publishing could never be for me. I knew I would have to keep throwing novels at the trad publishing wall until one stuck. Kevin J Anderson’s popcorn theory (Google it!) worked for short stories, so I had to believe it would work for novels, too.

It’s not easy. To willingly, deliberately delude yourself that you’re an exception to the rule (where failure is the rule, the statistical likelihood anyway); to rely on long-suffering editors to bring you back down to earth by telling you not yet, not this piece, not this market; to wonder if you’re suffering from that syndrome where the more incompetent you are, the more likely you are to think you are competent, etc.

To read other people’s stories, not knowing if your story is the one where the writer persists and finally breaks through, or if yours is the one about the ex-writer who walks away and becomes a teacher or a truck-driver and lives a happy life with enough money to buy plenty of books.

If you are reading this story, my story, I’m sorry that I can’t tell you what your ending is going to be. I can only tell you that I cried harder at the thought of being forced to give up out of financial necessity than I did over all the rejections pouring in (happy face!).

Did you have to make sacrifices to continue to write (personal , physical or material)?

Yes.

Chiefly material sacrifices. My husband is amazing and my kid is brilliant, my parents do what they can and my friends are the best; I feel personally supported in every way. But 2014 was still horrific. There was kind of a slow creep, a reduction in living standards, starting with me leaving my job as a vet to have the Small One, culminating in some stark financial realities as I decided to try and make this writing thing pay off instead of going back to veterinary practice. It was a shock to my self-image, going from being a person with a successful, professional veterinary career, with a home and an investment property, to a person with none of those things – and I was panicking until two months ago about keeping my little car. Now I have a book advance coming and can breathe a little easier. Of course, I can’t be sure how much of all that was my career change, how much our move to an expensive area, how much was motherhood and how much bad luck. But, hooray, this seems like a luckier year!

If you could give three tips on writing and writing well, what would they be?

Devour other people’s books. Write when you are inspired and also when you are not inspired. Don’t rewrite until you get to the end. (There, now you’ve made me give shit advice already, because that works for me but not everyone).

Look, I can only think of those two things that apply to everyone, and I’m not even sure about that second one. OK, what about read good blogs? Like this one! And the Book View Cafe blog. Maybe Chuck Wendig’s place, and NK Jemisin’s. Ian McHugh’s blog, and Pub Rants, and Man Versus Bear. Cat Valente’s archived posts are still good, even if she doesn’t blog as much these days. And Sean the Bookonaut and Ebon Shores can give that sense of community. Take the advice from them that seems most useful to you. And practice. Keep practicing.

What were the instances in your life that inspired you to keep writing (besides award recognition)?

Travelling to beautiful places. Discovering amazing things. They have always inspired me.

I started writing CROSSROADS OF CANOPY after a trip to Cairns and the rainforests up there in tropical Queensland. All the other rainforests I’d been to wanted to come to the party as well – Nepalese forests, Canadian ones, Tasmanian and Singaporean and New Zealander. I put my version of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in there because of a book on ancient civilisations that my Dad brought back from Lebanon for me.

It was pretty inspiring at Worldcon in Melbourne when random strangers asked me when my first novel was coming out (I still don’t know exactly!). Also, quite surreal.

One recent inspired moment was when my husband and I stood outside the dusty, desolate storage facility we’d hired. All our beautiful furniture was inside, some of it hand-made by him from gorgeous Australian hardwoods; furniture we couldn’t fit in the rented unit where we were going. I saw my veterinary textbooks in boxes next to my favourite fat fantasy novels, and asked him in a very small voice if I should keep the veterinary books out, because maybe the writer-dream was over, and he said, with complete confidence, without hesitation, that I would not be needing them.

Looking back, where did you gain your personal leap forwards with respect to your writing? (such as perseverance, feedback, an editor, insight gained over years?)

The most serious problem with the Self-Delusion Method is that you spend so much time convincing yourself that everyone is wrong about your writing not being awesome that hearing criticism without getting defensive can prove difficult. That’s even before you learn that two people will give completely opposite feedback to each other. And sometimes the feedback is wrong. When you’re new, you’ve got no idea when it is and it isn’t wrong, so you might try and work it out scientifically – that is, to get many people commenting on one piece, so it’s more like a survey. But then different people will have different areas of expertise, so your survey is weighted, and then it’s not really a survey any more, is it?

I regret the times I’ve been ungrateful about feedback. The Self-Delusion Method should probably be stricken from the list of advisable routes to publication. One moment that led to a bit of a leap was when Alisa Krasnostein at Twelfth Planet Press took most of the pirate-talk out of my pirate novella in the name of improving readability and I was convinced she was wrong – SO WRONG! – but I went along with it, grumbling inside. I was so immersed in pirate slang at that point I had lost all perspective on what a normal person would or wouldn’t understand from it. And then about a year after it was published, I sat down and read it again, after I’d lost my sea legs, after I’d lost the pirate cadence from my inner voice, and saw how she had been right – SO RIGHT!

Trusting the most excellent editors that I’ve been fortunate enough to have was probably a bigger step for me than it should have been (happy face!).

Wow. Thank you Thoraiya. All writers have personal journeys to continue writing, but yours is truly inspiring. I have made some material sacrifices but not any where near what you have done. I am so pleased for your success. Seeing you succeed should give other aspiring writers hope that their turn will come. I wish you every success and I’ll see you back here when the book is coming out.

HUGS!

I’ve been given a fantastic opportunity to be one of the guests at Supanova Pop culture expo in Sydney and in Perth. (Many thanks to Alex Adsett and Supanova). If you are interested in pop culture, cosplay, games, comics or in any of the amazing guests you should come along and enjoy yourself. If you see me then come and say hi to me too.

The Sydney Supanova starts on Friday 19 June at Sydney Showground, Olympic Park-an easy trip on the train.

Guess who is the major guest? Nathan Fillion.Remember Firefly?

There are stacks more of course, writers, actors, comic artists etc. I’m also quite keen to meet/see Graham McTavish (The Hobbit movies, Outlander). I am a big fan of Gabaldon’s books. Actually watching the series I believe Diana Gabaldon is quite dark-lots of brutality and attempted rapes etc so I don’t know why people are complaining about the Dragon Wine series being so grim. Gabaldon was being dark more than 20 years ago.

I’m going to Supanova! Be prepared for geek girl freakout by the Dweebette (me!).

Outlander_Cast_Dougal_420x560_v2

Photo borrowed from http://www.threeifbyspace.net/2014/08/outlander-twitter-qa-with-graham-mctavish/

I’ll be hanging with my mates, Karen Miller and Keri Arthur and also meeting KA Bedford in Perth. I haven’t seen Kevin J Anderson and Rebecca Moesta (international author guests) for some time so it will be great to catch up them too as well as meeting all the people I don’t know.

The dates for Perth are the following weekend 26 to 28 June at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.

To celebrate the Supanova appearances, where I’ll be signing books and a limited number of print books will be available for purchase from the bookseller, Momentum Books have put Shatterwing and Skywatcher ebooks on special. So if you already grabbed Shatterwing when it was a freebie, now is the time to grab the second book, Skywatcher, for $2.99. Shatterwing is $1 so you can grab the set for under $4.

Hang on a minute. All my hard work writing this book and you can read it for less than the cost of a cup of coffee! How can this be? There are no steak knives, just grim dark fantasy, with a sci fi setting and dragons.

The special for the Dragon Wine series is currently on the Momentum website and iBooks (today) but it will filter through to other platforms. So it would be great for you to have a read and then come see me and say hello.

Dragonwine

My Supanova appearance will also allow me to put on my retro 50s dresses and petticoats and maybe even a hat or two. I’m so excited.

Me in my dress and shoes

Me in my dress and shoes

I love seeing the cosplayers, who create the most amazing costumes and some stay in character the whole day. All power to them.

I will also be handing out postcards of my other books, which are available as ebooks.

New RayessaSee you there!

Links

Supanova home page

My Supanova guest page

BTW Momentum are having a sale so there are lots of books on special right now. Momentum Books home page.

Momentum Books Shatterwing

Momentum Books Skywatcher

Time just flits by so quickly. I’ve had a nasty bout of RSI this week and lots to do. I’m still in Audible mode as well as reading print and e-books. This not quite review is of Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead. Older SF but still good. When I started on Audible I wanted to use it as a vehicle to read those books that I don’t already own and that I’ve wanted to read but for some reason haven’t. These books were recommended to me by a work colleague.

The Audible files for these two books were good. I haven’t seen the movie btw so I’m basing this on my listening experience.

Ender’s Game for me was an interesting book. I can’t say that I found it easy to identify with Ender’s situation or character. He is a six year old genius sent to military school to be carved into a tool. This doesn’ t mean I didn’t enjoy the book. I enjoyed the idea of the story, of the boy and his experiences. I enjoyed the craftmanship of the story. I enjoyed Card’s depiction of working in micro gravity and how it changes perceptions. We work in a space that has sideways and up but rarely do we conceive of down or no up. I believe the book had a profoundness to it, particularly the ending. If you haven’t read it I recommend you do.

In comparison though, the next book, Speaker for the Dead moved me greatly. Card says in his interview on Audible for Ender’s Game that he wrote Ender’s Game to set up the book he wanted to write, Speaker for the Dead. You wouldn’t necessarily have to read Ender’s Game to understand the next book or get the message, but after being on Ender’s journey it adds to the poignancy of Speaker for the Dead if you do.

What stood out for me with Speaker for the Dead was those elements of realness in there. Card did his Mormon  mission in Brazil and he used that experience to layer Lusitania, with a Portuguese, catholic culture. Despite him not being catholic himself, he used it quite sensitively and knowingly. The economic workings of the colony were very well thought out and solid.

The depiction of the Piggies, the alien race and their alienness was intriguing and fully- fledged. He’d really thought about this. No wonder that both books won Hugos and Nebulas.

The strength of the book for me was the characters. I felt them. They were very three dimensional. Something I admit I wasn’t expecting from an 1980s SF story. I’m not sure why but it was streets ahead of Ender’s Game on this point. I cried in parts of the book. I had to sit in my car and compose myself before going into my office.

The Piggie called Human touched me. I’m getting teary just writing this blog post.

Anyway, if you were thinking of some retro SF then try these books. I’m going to read/listen to the next one, Xenocide soon (after Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy gets its claws out of me).

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