February 20th, 2010

cuppa

2010 Australian Specfic Snapshot: Russell Farr

Russell B Farr is the editor and publisher at Ticonderoga Publications. Winning multiple awards, Farr has published anthologies including Fantastic Wonder Stories and The Workers' Paradise and collections by some of Australia's leading writers including Terry Dowling, Sean Williams, Stephen Dedman and Simon Brown. Farr also edits the online magazine Ticonderogaonline.

1. You've recently announced two single author short story collections will appear in your 2010 publishing schedule. What do you look for in single authors to collect? What makes a good single author collection? And why have you chosen these authors? What can we look forward to from each book?

The two collections are by Kaaron Warren and Angela Slatter. Angela's collection is her first, and we're putting together a package of some of her most powerful and original work. The present working title is The Girl With No Hands, and I think fans of her work know what they'll be getting. Those yet to become fans, well they're in for a seriously emotive, original and evocative read, 14 or so stories that will have them stepping off the bus wondering where the hell they are. It may only be 30–40,000 words, but I doubt many readers will get through them all without a break.

Kaaron's collection, most probably called Dead Sea Fruit, is probably a bit more eclectic, equally evocative, and maybe a notch less emotive. It's about 70,000 words, 17 stories. It pulls together a bunch of her recent fiction, as well as a couple of stories from her first collection, as that's really hard to find. What you can look forward to are two very different writers, each producing high calibre work at the top of their game.

Right now, I'm looking for writers who are good to deal with, producing excellent work, and who can promote themselves assertively and successfully. I think all these are important. There has to be a level of respect between me and the writer. I encourage writers to be forward, but not pushy, in promoting their work. Collections aren't the easiest sell, and any connection a writer can make with their audience helps. The excellent work part is fairly self-explanatory.

I don’t think there’s a formula for a good collection. Some work because they are capture a writer comfortable writing in many styles, others show a writer more focussed in exploring a narrow group of themes. There has to be some sort of balance, I’ve read collections full of strong stories, yet each story loses some of the impact it would have had if read in isolation. I have some vague notions in my head of what balance is, but it includes varying things like story length, not having two stories together that have similar-named characters, similar settings. I guess it’s about giving each story the opportunity to stand on its own.

I wanted to work with Kaaron and Angela because I really like what they’re doing, and I’m confident that a lot of other people do too. For me, it’s important that I be passionate about the books I do—if I’m going to be printing 1,000 or more copies and pushing these books into the world, I have to believe in it.

2. Ticonderoga Publications also has some anthologies coming out this year. What are the premises behind Belong and Scary Kisses? What can we expect from these two books?

Belong will be a bit of a monster — it’s been a troubled child from the start and I’m glad to be almost there with it. It’s the first anthology I’ve done that has been open to the world, and it’s about half overseas writers in the mix. The overall theme is migration, what it takes to leave the town/country/planet of your birth to seek a new life elsewhere. As the child of migrants I’m fascinated by what this takes to do. I’ve got a couple of dozen excellent stories, about 110,000 words. There are writers I’d never heard of before I read their amazing stories, as well as some mightily talented aussies including Carol Ryles, Kylie Seluka, Penelope Love, Patty Jansen, George Ivanoff and many others. I’m not sure exactly what I’ve done in unleashing this book, but really hope that a lot of people get as excited by this as I am.

Scary Kisses is an anthology of paranormal romance, edited by my partner Liz Grzyb. It started as a joint venture, but Liz knows more about that genre than me and has great passion and vision, and really doesn’t need any help. I just float around the edges offering the occasional technical advice. I’ve only read a couple of the stories so far, and they seem like a bunch of fun. Liz assures me that Scary Kisses is hot, scary and romantic by turns. There's everything from zombies, ghosts, vampires, monsters, dragons...

If all goes to plan, both books will be available at SwanCon in April.

3. Ticonderoga Publications has been in the local press landscape for over a decade now. How has the local scene changed in that time? What have you learned from your own publishing adventures? What can we expect to see in the near future from TP?

I almost freaked out the other week when I realised this is my 15th year doing this stuff. There were maybe 3 years in this time where I wasn’t actively publishing something, but it still feels like a long time.

The local scene has certainly got bigger in that time, there’s a lot more folks making good money, and a lot more locally produced books. There was a time, up to around 1999, where I could count and name every anthology of Australian SF that had been published. That time has long gone.

There are a lot more indie presses now, I remember when there used to be about 5 of us. I don’t have any hard facts, but I think that while indie presses are publishing more, each title is selling less. It used to be possible to sell 100–200 books at a regional con, but I haven’t had that level of success for a while.

I’m not sure what I’ve learned, certainly the line by Operation Ivy, that “all I know is that I don’t know nothing” comes to mind. I guess I’ve learned that there are no hard and fast rules: what works for one publisher doesn’t work for another. I’ve learned to take nothing for granted. I hope I’ve learned how to make each successive title better in some way. I’ve probably learned that I’m not as good at this stuff that I thought I was, but that I’ve got to keep trying to improve.

In the very near future I’ll be reprinting Kim Wilkins’ debut, multiple award-winning novel The Infernal. It’s a great book, a stunning debut, and has been unavailable for some time. It’ll be a beautiful, if a little pricey, limited hardcover, only 100 copies.

I’m also looking to put in some time developing the shop, www.indiebooksonline.com. I think there’s a lot of potential there, for having the work of a number of indie presses available in one place, where customers can browse and buy. We’ve really improved our turnaround time, most books go out the same day. The next step is ramping up the marketing and building up stock, putting the word out. I think that the industry needs better sales avenues, and hope to be able to contribute to this.

On the book front, I’ve got a few non-genre projects bubbling away, including publishing the complete lyrics by the 1980s-90s indie band Clouds, and also David McComb. The Clouds book should be ready mid-year, and it’s been a real pleasure working with Jodi Phyllis and Trish Young. The David McComb collection, I’m aiming for December at this stage.

Next year is a fairly blank slate at this point, but I’d expect to have another few projects announced by mid-year.

4. Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year? What have you enjoyed reading?

I haven’t really thought about it, to be honest. I guess I’d like to see some new faces make the shortlist. There are a lot of folks doing good stuff right now, and I think that’s great to see. I think it’d be a better achievement to get on the list when the WorldCon is somewhere else. Jonathan Strahan has done this, he works far too hard and he cares, so I think he deserves to be up there. I think there are a bunch of strong contenders, Margo Lanagan, Marianne de Pierres, and Trudi Canavan come to mind, but there are a bunch of others. I think Garth Nix would be cool if he won, he exudes suave and would just be so graceful – and he can afford to throw a big party with the good stuff to celebrate.

5. Will you be at Aussiecon 4 in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to about it?

I certainly hope to be there. Launching books at WorldCon is fun, I had a ball last time I did this and am looking forward to it again.

WorldCon is really just a big party, a great time to catch up with folks. While I’ll be hanging in the dealers room most of the time, these places tend to provide a whole bunch of entertainment at the larger cons. I’m really looking forward to selling lots of books, okay world?



To read all the 2010 Snapshot Interviews hot off the press, check these blogs daily:

http://random-alex.livejournal.com/
http://girliejones.livejournal.com/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/
http://www.mechanicalcat.net/rachel
http://tansyrr.com/
http://editormum.livejournal.com/

Will we beat 83 this time? If you know of someone involved in the Scene with something to plug, then send us an email at 2010snapshot@gmail.com

coffee

2010 Australian Specfic Snapshot: Cat Sparks


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.

To read all the 2010 Snapshot Interviews hot off the press, check these blogs daily:

http://random-alex.livejournal.com/
http://girliejones.livejournal.com/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/
http://www.mechanicalcat.net/rachel
http://tansyrr.com/
http://editormum.livejournal.com/

Will we beat 83 this time? If you know of someone involved in the Scene with something to plug, then send us an email at 2010snapshot@gmail.com