Lots of people think that adding pictures to a book makes it younger, but in reality it just means reaching a different set of readers: those with a more visual bent, many of whom come out of manga and graphic novel traditions. So yes, there is a lot more fan art and cosplay for Leviathanthan any of my other books. It really does change the kinds of questions readers ask. What are the dominant colors in this society? How do people dress for breakfast? Like fan fiction, fan art opens up countless new kettles of fish and makes the world of the book much bigger.
I always feel like I’m writing the wrong things. Like, I’ll get to those things I should be writing after I’m finished writing this less appropriate and yet utterly absorbing thing that’s inside me and I have to get out of the way first.
Wrong things aside, I think no matter where I was from, I would worry about finding that balance between deep personal experience and the universal human experience. If you can nail that, you can get international notice. You can get international critical notice like Margo Lanagan, and/or you can be wildly beloved by hordes of international fans, like Juliet Marillier. Practice makes perfect. I intend to keep practicing!
(had to include that quote. I could deny it because it’s obviously untrue, but I’d rather let the myth persist…)
The major difference can be that the school audiences can be reluctant. They’re not always aware of who you are, or what you do. It keeps you on your toes, having to offer them something engaging almost immediately, and winning their confidence can take some work.
(On GS): We have to keep reading the good stuff! That seems to be what many people like the most. And I don’t just mean new stuff either; I’m loving Ursula le Guin’s back catalogue at the moment, which I hope people will enjoy hearing about. We also need to be sure that we’re aware of our own biases and blinkers, and not be afraid of confronting them, which I think we’ve been willing to do so far.
There seems to be more being published, which is great. There’s definitely more being said about what’s being published, and I’m thinking particularly of podcasts because they’re what I know: you’ve got podcasts on books, on films, on comics… it’s really exciting to see.
Man, I always get in trouble with awards. Don’t shit on peoples shiny pieces, I guess. In general, I don’t have a problem with nominations. At a very base level it means people liked my story and I’d rather have people like my stuff than hate it. Do I think awards are still flawed? Sure. But I guess as I’ve gotten older I’ve seen that all awards are flawed, not just the spec fic ones. The Booker had a thing about one of the judges saying books should be ‘readable’. The pulitizer awarded no prize this year. Me, all I see is the politics and personalities and lines in the spec fic awards, but these days, I suppose I’ve mellowed some. I can see how much it means to people–how important it can be to some, how much it rewards them. It’s not my thing still, but there’s more important things in the world, and if people want to be nice to me in particular, I’d rather have that than the shit I’ve gotten tossed at me over the years. That’s gotten a bit old, that.
Beneath the Red Sun is probably the most infamous work of that GFC peroid for me. It’s the novel I wrote on the prompting of an editor from Tor, which never got read. Then it was waiting on a contract from Angry Robot after a verbal agreement on wanting it before Harper Collins dropped them. It cost me two agents, one of my own doing, the other not. And… it was kind of hard, that time. I won’t lie. It’s the kind of time that can break you in this business and it came close. My friends and the people who weren’t my friends both got deals in this time, got agents, had success, and when you’re down and out, that can kind of be hard. It’s harder still when you’re just eeking by to pay your rent. It takes a lot to be able to front your friends and be happy for them without feeling like you’ve been done dirty by the world, and it took time. I had to work at that. It’s human nature to resent someone their success when you’re doing bad, but it’s not the kind of human nature I like or value, so I worked hard to get over it and kept a low profile while doing so.
But still, I don’t write not to be read. I certainly don’t write to be poor and unpublished and so obscure that my girlfriend is the only person whose read my latest work. I write because I love to write, and because it’s how I want to live, and when the opportunities leave you, you have to step back and ask yourself about the nature of art and commerical viability. Which is what I did, and that challenge, of finding work that rewards both you as an artist, and you as someone who needs to pay his rent, is I think the big conflict and struggle for me. I can’t even honestly say I do it well right now, since I still struggle to pay my rent, and will likely do so for a while until I finish this book and sell it.
The wheels still in spin, as Bob Dylan once wrote, a bit awkwardly. I think the book industry will be another 5 to 10 years shaking itself out. My gut feeling is that electronic and paper formats will survive side-by-side, but the shape of the industry will look very different. At a guess, ‘disposable’ books will tend to come out an electronic format while more expensive, bespoke ‘shelf-worthy’ titles, usually but not always with smaller more expensive print runs will come to define hardcopy publishing.
That’s just a guess, and I have a whole bunch of wild theories about the ecology of publishing that would take a couple of thousand words to explain and might make me look like a complete drop kick a few years down the track when none of it comes true. So I’ll keep them to myself.
But yes, the era of the e-book is upon us. It won’t be a golden age, but then it won’t be a new dark age either. It will just be different. One of the things we need to figure out, and it goes directly to the part of your question about “internationally distributed e-books”, is territoriality. The publishing world has been divided up into these vast walled off territories for well over a century now. The established publishing houses are deeply uncomfortable with tearing those walls down. But down they have to come. The only way to make e-books financially viable for publishing houses is to release them simultaneously in all markets at the same price. Whether you stick any DRM on them is another question. But we’re not even close to answering whether or not publishers will cope in the first instance, yet.
I’m certainly interested in exploring regular people who remain regular people even in extraordinary circumstances. They may find the best or worst in themselves, but they remain very human. I like to use paranormal ideas to push boundaries and explore relationships. I think flawed, fragile, very human human beings are the most fascinating thing in the universe.
I think we’re starting to realise here that we’re not that interested in single-concept genres either. So many writers are turning out to be hard to categorise because they create hybrid genres. Maybe it’s a function of the social history of this country. From the 18th century on, everyone comes from somewhere else, and we have this unsettled relationship with the original inhabitants of this country and with the land. We’re a massive hybrid of cultures, concepts and approaches, and in terms of nationhood, still so very young. Maybe our writers don’t want to be just one thing, but want to play around with all the things we are and can be.
I’ll use a hackneyed analogy here. Like most writers getting my first book to publication was like climbing the proverbial. I believed that when I finally cleared the summit I would have made ‘It’. However, when publication day finally arrived, not only did I just see a lot more mountains on the horizon, but I also realised that the one I’d just climbed was only a hill by comparison. Right now, I’m on the other side, slogging my way down towards the valley in between.
I think the biggest change, certainly for speccy writers, is that the blinkers are now well and truly off around publishing opportunities. Increasingly writers are submitting e-globally instead of waiting for a shot at the traditional hard copy (read credible) route within their home market. This huge rush towards e-publishing and the 0.99c reading hit is perhaps reminiscent of the 1800s penny dreadful, where new markets were created simply by making writing more accessible and affordable. Sure, there’s a lot of material floating around out there and for many it’s like sifting through the Yellow Pages without a directory, but the number of sales being made debunks the theory that reading as an entertainment form is dying.
This naturally impacts on all genres, but the beauty for spec fic writers in Oz is that they now have easy access to specialist online publishers who can sell to anyone, anywhere. Combining clever target marketing and low overheads, many e-publishers are providing quality reads cheaply and rewarding authors with relatively — often absolutely — higher royalties than they would otherwise have earned.
My whole life. Before I joined fandom I had almost no friends or anybody with whom I could share my interests. In fandom I found people who were not just another part of the mundane world, which I find stifling. During a weekend I spent at Lee Harding’s place in late 1967, I met for the first time many of the people who have had the most influence on my life, such as John Bangsund, Lee Harding, George Turner, John Foyster and Rob Gerrand […] My mundane career has never gone anywhere much, and I’ve often been nearly broke. But my career in fandom, which has never made me any money, has led to most of the good things in my life.
That’s twenty-three interviews posted in one day! Don’t know if I can keep up with them all but I’m definitely enjoying them!
(Music: Brian Jonestown Massacre – Panic in Babylon)