All I really want to do is write stories people will enjoy reading. As it happens most artists I admire aren’t easily pinned down in one genre or classification, and it’s true I never wanted to fall into producing formulaic books. I’d say the fantasy trilogy didn’t completely succeed, as difficult as that is to admit, so I don’t know if it’s territory I’ll re-visit (that is to say, the more conventional fantasy.) I’ll probably go back to doing quirky standalone novels, such as Nightfall which will be out in July 2012 in Australia. You could call that horror or fantasy, but it has individuality, which is a quality I appreciate in books.
When I wrote the first trilogy, I had all the time in the world to rewrite, edit and polish. It wasn’t until I’d finished the first three that Harper-Collins offered me the contract. The first trilogy did very well – and with the success, my (wonderful) publishers were eager to have more books. This meant that they were impatiently waiting for the second series and I had a (oh no!) deadline. This was a new experience, for the first time I had people waiting for my books and I absolutely had to have the words on the page.
Personally I went into a bad place about the time I was writing the first book of the second trilogy – Earth to Hell. I was effectively a single mum working two jobs and finding time to be creatively excellent – or even just good enough – was very difficult. The book took nearly two years for me to produce, with the publishers continually asking (extremely nicely) when it would be done. At the same time, the first trilogy had picked up more and more readers, fans started emailing me wanting the next book, and I had more pressure.
The pleasures are manifold. Precisely because I have so little experience of the sea, it has remained a great unknown for me where imagination can roam as it likes, which no doubt is why I’ve always particularly loved seafaring stories — especially the more fantastic tales of whirlpools and sea monsters and baffling disappearances.
But strangely it’s some of the smaller awards I’ve won or been shortlisted for that have stuck in my mind the most, because I’ve been aware that they exist only because a tight group of organisers, judges and fans care enough to make them exist. There’s something rather humbling about that.
Ah yes, my one shining fanboy moment — “Machine Time” in Short Trips: Defining Patterns. I loved writing that story and I’ve been desperate to write more Doctor Who. As it happens, apart from reviewing lots of Doctor Who DVDs on my blog, I’ve recently had the chance to write essays about Doctor Who for a couple of upcoming books. That was great… But I so want to write some more Doctor Who fiction.
As a former bookseller, I think I’m glad to be former. The front line operators, bookshops, are doing it horribly, horribly tough just now. There are so many pressures from so many different directions. I do miss the customer interaction and talking books and stuff, but the nuts and bolts business side of things? Beyond stressful. Because we are in such a state of flux. Leaving aside the economic pressures on the retail sectors of just about every English-speaking country, which is the main spec fic marketplace, there’s such an upheaval on the production side of things. Ebooks are still finding their place, and they have a major impact on bookstores. I get that there’s a place for them, but I can’t even begin to contemplate a world without proper books, and places where readers can go to browse shelves and make exciting discoveries.
I love the internet, I really do, but I worry that we’re being driven to live more and more inside a cyberworld that denies us our tactile senses and the joy that comes from physical interaction with our surroundings. I want bookshops to survive and thrive. I have to believe they will, when some of the GFC crap settles, eventually. The one thing I do know for sure is that there will always be stories, because humans are hardwired for storytelling. And that means there will always be storytellers. Beyond that? Honestly, I have enough on my plate trying to figure out the challenges of being a storyteller. I have to believe that if I do my job right, if I tell the best story I can, each and every time, then the story will find a home. At the end of the day, the delivery system is never more important than the story.