Cat Sparks is an Australian speculative fiction writer and graphic designer. From 2002-2008 she and Robert Hood ran Agog! Press, which produced ten anthologies of award winning, new and mostly Australian speculative fiction. Sparks has recently announced the upcoming publication of The Bride Price, a collection of her short stories.
1. Congratulations on your recent Aurealis Award for "Seventeen" in Masques. You've won several Aurealis Awards now for short stories. How do you see the award fits into the Australian specfic scene? How does it help you as a writer? What does winning one feel like and what do you take away with you from the experience?
This was my fifth Aurealis award all up and it brought with it a great sense of calm. I often hear it said that awards are bullshit. They don’t mean anything and nobody cares. For the third consecutive year a jury of five industry professionals across three separate categories have deemed my stories worthy of first prize. To me, that definitely means I’m functioning proficiently as a storyteller. It’s not a one off, an accident or luck. I’ve learnt that I have all the writing tools I need – the tricky part is applying them appropriately to the projects at hand.
Those awards have helped me to justify my life choices over the past twenty years. Writers give up a lot for their craft and much of the sacrifices are invisible to the outside world. Unless we make a lot of money, people don’t tend to understand the things we do. Literate people often presume professional writing is something anyone could have a crack at. Something they could easily do themselves if only they could find the time. Whereas no one seriously thinks they could dance Swan Lake or sing an opera without years of dedication and practice. You don’t find out the (often) harsh truth about writing unless you give it a go yourself.
2. You've just announced that you will have a short story collection out in time for Aussiecon 4. Can you give us a sneak peek of what we can expect from the book? What kind of vision do you have for the collection and what will you be hoping to get from the experience and project?
The collection, entitled The Bride Price, will contain reprints of my award winning stories and others, plus some new material. Orb Publications’ Sarah Endacott is in the driving seat, a fact that fills me with confidence as she’s a skillful editor who takes great pride in her work. Sarah’s style is like invisible mending. A few years back she edited my Ditmar award winning story ‘A lady of Adestan’ which ended up in MirrorDanse’s Years Best Australian Fantasy and Science Fiction, 2007. The changes she made to my work were so subtle, yet they enhanced the story’s quality remarkably. Sarah’s tough. She won’t be letting me get away with self indulgence and The Bride Price will be much stronger for it.
My intention is to lay off short stories from now on in order to focus on longer works so for me this collection is the perfect way to round off the past decade’s efforts. I guess I’m hoping for a sense of closure. I love writing shorts but unfortunately short fiction does not offer a long-term career path.
3. Where do yourself moving from here, as a writer? What goals do you aspire towards? And what drives you to achieve them?
I want to write novels – character based action adventure stories with social justice themes, to be precise. I’m driven by my love of reading. As a serious fan of story telling, imitation really is the highest form of flattery. I want to be a maker rather than just a passive consumer. I want to value add to my culture and to the genre that I love.
I’ve just secured representation by Evan Goldfried of Jill Grinberg Literary Management, New York and soon I’ll be announcing some good news regarding the publication my Karsaka duology ‘Effigy’ and ‘Sammarynda’. This year I started a new novel, ‘Arctica’ based on one of my Aurealis Award nominated short stories – I hope to see that book finished before Christmas.
4. Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year? What have you enjoyed reading?
By far the most impressive story I read last year from anyone, regardless of nationality, was ‘Wives’ by Paul Haines. It’s one of those stories that functions like a smack across the face. ‘Wives’ stays with you whether you want it to or not. Haines’ voice is unique. Nobody else writes like he does, or even comes close.
I also really enjoyed Greg Egan’s collection ‘Oceanic’, Eclipse 3 edited by Jonathan Strahan, Deb Biancotti’s ‘A Book of Endings’. Kaaron Warren is another writer with an utterly unique voice. Her horror novel ‘Slights’ is most definitely worthy of a Hugo nomination.
I’d love to see Rob Hood get a best fan writer nomination for his terrific Undead Backbrain blog: http://roberthood.net/blog/
It’s a one stop shop for all things giant monster, B-movie and horror cinema-related.
5. Will you be at Aussiecon 4 in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to about it?
Of course I’ll be there! I don’t see how anyone who takes themselves seriously as an Australian spec fic writer can afford to miss it. So much of the business action in this genre takes place in the USA. Once in a decade the party comes to us. A tentative trip to Aussiecon 3 was what kick started me on my serious writing journey. I’d been writing for several years previous to that, but Worldcon put the business side of things squarely on the map, ignited dreams and aspirations, put me face to face with hundreds of people just like me. I joined the community and never looked back. Community is what it’s all about for me. Hanging with fellow writers is a big part of the writing experience. The best part.
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