Today I’m lucky enough to have Craig Cormick as our interviewee on the blog. Craig is a Canberra local, well he has been since I’ve known him.
So Craig, your new novel is coming out, The Shadow Master. Can you tell us a bit about it?
It is a kick-arse tale of alternative history, love and conflict, madness and magic. It has everything except a car chase. (see link below)
So imagine a city something like Florence. A walled city, to protect it from the plague that is ravaging the countryside. Then imagine two waring houses, the Medicis and the Lorraines – both battling for control of the city. And next imagine each house has in its employ a learned man – Galileo and Leonardo, who are versed in the arcane arts of science, that can control time and space and the very laws of nature. So science works like magic in this world.
Then imagine two lovers – Lorenzo and Lucia, who discover that together they too can change the natural laws of the world. But each belongs to a different waring house that refuse to let them be together.
And amongst all this there is a mysterious stranger – the shadow master. He is a hooded man that carries technologies not known in this world. He seems to understand all the mysteries of the Walled City, and even the long-lost secrets of the ancients, who built the walled city. And he possesses the knowledge as to how Lorenzo can save Lucia – and save all of civilisation while he is at it.
Sword fights and mad clerics and bombs and magical shape-changing people and an army of plague victims and fire and water and a wise-arse mystery figure. Gee – I’d read it.
Craig can you tell us a bit about yourself (where you live, how long you’ve been writing, previous publications etc)
I live in Canberra, Australia. I have always been writing since – well, since I could make up stories. I have published over 100 short stories and 20 books (including fiction, non-fiction, children’s and adult books. (Well, when I say ‘adult books’ – you know what I mean!!)
My writing awards include the ACT Book of the Year Award (1999) for Unwritten Histories (Aboriginal Studies Press, 1998) and a Queensland Premier’s Literary Award (2006) for A Funny Thing Happened at 27,000 Feet… (Mockingbird Press, 2005). I was a former Chair of the ACT Writers Centre and have taught creative writing at both university and community level.
What else is worth sharing?
Well, in 2006 I was lucky enough to be writer in residence at the Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang, and in 2008 I was even more lucky to receive an Antarctic Arts Fellowship to travel to Antarctica, which I recounted in my 2011 book In Bed with Douglas Mawson. Link here.
My day job is as a science communicator and I’m fairly well published in academic journals on the social psychology of public reactions to new technologies. I’ve written two ‘outside-the-box’ reports for government agencies on this, Everything you always wanted to know about GM foods (2005) and Cloning Goes to the Movies (2006), (http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0104-59702006000500011) and have also done a lot of talks and articles on Why Clever People Believe Silly Things . (http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/features/a-scientific-view-non-science-beliefs/)
I have been lucky enough to have travelled to all seven continents for work, and it was at a science communication conference in Florence, while walking around the Galileo museum that I got the idea for the Shadow Master.
I have had a varied and interesting life and hope it is reflected in my work.
Craig what do you find so attractive about the science fiction and fantasy genres? In what ways do you find it fulfilling?
I like to write across many different genres and styles, from fiction to non-fiction and literary fiction to speculative fiction – and to mix them up as well – but I really enjoy the freedom that spec-fiction allows, to set your own boundaries and styles. I was at a conference where people were talking about spec-fiction styles: steam-punk and clock-punk and traditional sci-fi and speculative sci-fi – and I just put my hands on my ears and zoned out. I think getting too lost in styles or genres can get in the way of things.
I just write ‘stuff’ I really enjoy writing.
Though I must say I really, really like the spec-fiction community. Very supportive, a lot of fun to hang with and not so black-turtle-neck-wearingly-earnest and self-obsessed as the more literary community.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently working on the Sequel to the Shadow Master– the Shadow Master meets Godzilla. Oops – I meant the Shadow Master in the Floating City, which is a city something like Venice, that is kept afloat by the magic of four pairs of seers, who are being killed by monsters in the canals. And I am using the original Italian stories that Shakespeare adapted into Othello, the Merchant of Venice and Romeo and Juliet throughout the novel too. It also doesn’t have a car chase.
What is your writing process? (planner, panster, write every day, write sporadically, writers block etc).
Each different book I write seems to have a different path to completion. Some I’ve just sat down and started toying with ideas and seen where they take me, and others I’ve meticulously planned and plotted out. I had a rough idea where I was going with the Shadow Master and let it take me aon a bit of a voyage, but the sequel has been more carefully plotted out.
My plan it to just get the words down first. Novels are written by doing a few pages a day. And when I’ve got them there I can roll up my sleeves and go to work on rewriting them. When things are really ticking the first draft I write is really quite good and needs little work, but of course some days things don’t come easily and the draft later needs a looooooot of work!
What do you prefer drafting the story or revising and reworking?
All of the above. The biggest buzz is when I’m working on a draft and say to myself, ‘Damn that was good!’ As if I’ve surprised myself I could have actually written that.
What part of writing do you find hardest?
Finding time to write amongst all the non-writing things: Job. Wife. Children. Eating. Children. Wife. Cleaning. Sleeping. Did I mention Children and Wife? Etc… Though I was once on an Australia Council grant and had the freedom to write all day every day and I found that after two weeks of bashing at the keyboard I couldn’t sustain the pace. As if I needed a lot of time away from the keyboard for ideas to germinate and work themself up so I could then put them down when I had free time.
What do you plan to work on next?
I’m finishing up a book on the science of the Australian Bushranger Ned Kelly. I’m editing a collection of pieces from all the different scientists who have worked on identifying Ned Kelly’s bones and remains that were recently located at Pentridge Prison in Melbourne. It involves forensic pathology and DNA testing and archaeology and detective work through the records and is absolutely fascinating. Watch this space!