Maureen interviews Australian horror writer, Matthew R Davis
Tag: Australian author
My December author interview is with paranormal Aussie writer L. L. Hunter
So this is a bit exciting … I decided a while back to interview authors to showcase their latest work and so I could learn more about what’s happening in speculative fiction, celebrating with some amazing writers. So, every month I’ll be (hopefully) putting out a new interview. My first interview (again, so exciting!) is with Australian author C. E. Page. She’s just put out her debut novel, Deathborn, and kindly answered questions for readers.
Here’s the blurb for Deathborn:
Corruption is a disease with no cure that ends with a rapid descent into madness and violence. And until now it only targeted mages.
When an infected warden shows up challenging everything Margot thought she knew, she is thrown into the chase to find the impossible cure. But to understand this new revelation she needs someone who knows possession … She needs Nea, and lucky for Margot, her warden friend Garret has been tasked with tracking the rogue necromancer down.
Garret is used to dealing with deadly mages so this should be like any other job: find the mage and deliver her to the king. But from the moment he finds Nea he is dragged into a deadly game of dark secrets and brutal machinations. Now he must make a choice: deliver Nea as promised and place a weapon in the hands of a mad man or deny his king and change the lives of wardens and mages forever.
Now you know about the novel, without further ado, let the interview begin!
Deathborn is an epic fantasy, a genre a lot of readers love. What other fantasy books would you say Deathborn is comparable to? Are there authors or books you’ve been inspired by in writing your own trilogy?
Oh I always find this question a hard one, I am not sure why because I know other writers can easily rattle off a whole list of books that theirs compare to but my mind always goes completely blank. I guess it is similar in feel and theme to a more adult version of Maria V Snyder’s Healer Series or perhaps The Aware by Glenda Larke or maybe (if you tilt your head just right) Medalon by Jennifer Fallon.
Inspiration is much easier not just for this trilogy but for my writing in general; Juliet Marillier and Kate Forsyth, particularly her The Witches of Eileanan series, have both been big influences. But also authors like Jennifer Fallon, Garth Nix and Robin Hobb.
You like playing video games. Have any of the games you’ve played or even the way games work inspired your own story-telling? How?
Most certainly. Games can teach us a lot about story mechanics in the same way a good movie or tv series can; and likewise they are inspiring for many of the same reasons. The biggest inspiration I get from videos games comes in the form of character. I love characters that make you feel, whether you love them or hate them, as long as they make you feel something. Games like Red Dead Redemption, Horizon Zero Dawn and The Witcher Series present inspiring characters and not only in the form of their respective protagonists and antagonists, but the side characters are often well sculpted as well. In this regard video games are not only inspiring in that they make you want to craft characters that make people feel something, but they can also teach you a lot about character development. I often have long, nearly one sided, conversations with my partner dissecting the motives and development of some of my favourite (and not so favourite) game characters and those discussions certainly fire up my inspiration.
Where did you get the inspiration for Deathborn from? Did you do certain kinds of research to create the world and magic?
I’m a discovery writer so I don’t usually go in with a plan. In the case of Deathborn, I sat down to blank page one day and two hours later I had what is now the start of chapter five. I had no idea where the story came from, what truly inspired it, or where it was going but I know it was influenced by my love of magic systems and rich fantasy worlds and I had just finished reading The Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier. Juliet’s books always leave me inspired and chomping at the bit to get my own words down on paper. I didn’t do too much research for the actual worldbuilding and magic system, that just formed organically over time. I did however research writing fight scenes, for which Alan Baxter’s Write the Fight Right was a great little resource. And I also researched herbal medicine and lore, though a lot of the herbs used in the book are purely fictional they are based on herbs found in our world.
In the story, corruption is an important motif (both literally and metaphorically) – what made you want to write about this?
I wish I could say that the corruption motif was intentional from the beginning. It actually evolved over time and is most likely my subconscious processing of the current state of our world. That seething corruption that can cripple empires has always existed; it permeates history and yet we, as a society, do not seem to learn from the mistakes of our ancestors. Once I was aware that the motif was there though I grabbed hold of it and teased it out to the surface. I wanted to highlight that a lot of times the corruption is there before you realise it; it is not always a switch that is flipped and suddenly it is there screaming in your face. It can build over time, sinister and scheming, waiting to make itself known only after it is too ingrained to be easily dealt with.
Whilst I didn’t intend the corruption to be a motif, I did intend to play with the ideas of grey morality. In that everything is not always black and white, that our choices in any given moment can have consequences that we cannot fathom and that our intentions, no matter how noble, can betray us. The road to hell and all that. Both Nea and Garret (protagonist’s in Deathborn) have done morally questionable things in their past with the intention of helping the greater good, but that intention does not excuse them from the ramifications.
What other hobbies do you have outside of writing and how do they inform your writing practice/ideas?
I read of course and not just fantasy, I read a bit of everything, except horror. I also play a lot of video games and I quilt. I put so much of my creative brain into writing that quilting, whilst still a creative endeavour, allows my analytical brain to come out and play. It involves at lot of planning out colour combinations, different block layouts, and how that will all go together to make a quilt. I guess it is kind of like writing a book, you start with the bare bones then flesh it out and put it all together again and then you have a story. That might be how plotters work from the start, I wouldn’t now, the actual plotting for me comes after I already have the second or third draft.
Can you give some spoiler free clues as to where the series will go next?
We will get to see more of the physical world in the next book as events will take us to the neighbouring continent of Osmar. And we will get to explore the Between as well as learn more about lost forms of magic and the seeds that sprouted some of the legends of the world. We will also get a new point of view character and meet an actual god or two.
I haven’t announced it anywhere else yet but I can tell you the title for book two is Brightling.
There are three POV characters in Deathborn. Can you tell readers about these three characters and why you love them? Is one of them more like you than others? Why?
We’ll start with Margot, she was the hardest to write and still is, I always have to do more rewrites of her chapters than anyone else’s. She is compassionate and kind and not as sure of herself as she lets on but I like how that softness of character is tempered by the sometimes stern and no-nonsense attitude needed for her duties as a healer. She is very good at reading a room and knowing exactly what is needed and I admire that about her.
Nea on the other hand is mercurial of mood and has a habit of being reckless with her own safety in the effort to protect others. Her lip chewing, fidgeting and love of peppermint tea are all traits she got from me. She was the first character of the story to come to me and in fact the entire first draft was written in her point of view only. I didn’t add the Garret and Margot chapters until the second draft when the whole story got a massive overhaul. I like her bravery and selflessness, but I do agree with Garret that she could be a little less reckless at times.
Garret is my favourite to write, he’s hard at times too because there is so much going on beneath the surface with him. He’s steady, calculating and prefers to have a plan and Nea drives him mad half the time by ruining those careful plans. Like Margot, he wasn’t going to get a point of view originally. I actually wasn’t sure he was going to survive but I’m glad he did.
It is hard to say who is the most like me as they all inherited some of my traits. However Nea has the most of my mannerisms and general likes and dislikes.
There’s a focus on healing arts, tea and beautiful gardens in parts of the novel. Are these things that are important to you? Tell us more about that.
If you ask me the coffee vs tea question. I will always answer tea, herbal or black, sometimes with lemon and honey or milk but never with sugar. I like to think that everyone in the book has their own signature tea: Nea’s is peppermint and chamomile maybe with tiny bit of vanilla or liquorice for sweetness. Margot’s is something sweet and fruity like apple and berries, and Garret’s is spiced apple perhaps with a little chamomile thrown in for good measure.
The gardens are most likely a reflection of my love for nature. I grew up on one hundred aches of bushland and currently live on a modest acreage in rural suburbia. Gardens and the natural world have always been a big part of my life; I don’t do well in urban settings with little or no greenspaces and this is often reflected in my writing. The fact that Nea goes to the closest garden when she needs to calm herself and gather her thoughts is a good example of this.
As for the healing arts? They fascinate me; both science-based medicine and more wholistic or spiritual modalities that others might consider airy fairy. I think it all has a place and often healing is not just about the physical body, which is where mind mages and necromancers come in the world of Deathborn.
What’s your writing process? What was the hardest part of writing Deathborn? What was the easiest?
As I said before I’m a discovery writer. I don’t plot and plan my stories. I sit down and the words just come out and the story takes form organically. I don’t give any thought to story mechanics or structure until I am rewriting and even then only briefly. It usually starts with a character and from there I explore them and their place in their world. I am not aware of the actual plot or how everything fits together until I have been “living” the story for a while. But that is how storytelling has always been for me. It’s an almost intuitive practice, I’m more of a conduit for the words rather than a careful methodical planner who follows a formula. It is messy and organic and definitely not perfect, but I can’t do it any other way.
The hardest part of writing Deathborn was teasing out the actual story. Because of the organically evolving nature of my drafting process a lot of the early draft was very ambiguous. I knew Nea was different to other mages and that Evard wanted her for more than what had happened in the lead up to her disappearance. But I didn’t know exactly why until about mid-way through the first draft. Once that piece clicked into place, however, everything else pulled together and I could follow the threads linking it all.
The easiest was Garret, once I decided he needed a point of view. Getting inside his head might have been hard but his chapters always flowed so easily and they still do. He is just such a pleasure to write, though the new point of view in book two might be giving him a run for his money.
Could you share your favourite passage from Deathborn for readers?
I would love to unfortunately my favourites scenes are all a bit spoiler heavy. Here’s one I like though:
Sometime in the middle of the night, Nea was woken by someone calling her name. She rose slowly and listened but there was nothing stirring in the darkness. Sliding from the bed, she pulled Emma’s shawl around her shoulders and moved to the door. She leant out into the hallway and listened again. Nothing.
There was a gentle pool of light coming from under Garret’s door but no sounds, and certainly no one in sight. With a shiver, Nea turned to go back to bed but heard it again: a sing-song whisper and the subtle tug of magic at the back of her mind.
She tiptoed down the hall, following the thin string of channelled source, the rush of her own blood in her ears drowning out everything else like she had her head underwater.
When she reached the hall that led to the south wing, she stopped. She drew a slow breath as she watched the shadows, waiting. Then she heard it: the tiniest whispered “Nea … ” and a soft whimper like that of a child. She lifted her foot to step forward, but something closed around her arm and dragged her backwards.
“What are you doing?” Garret put himself between her and the dark hallway. His hair was standing on end, like he’d been running his fingers through it, and his shirt was rumpled, as though he had pulled it on in a hurry.
“I couldn’t sleep.” She tried to edge around him, but he put his arm out to block her path.
“Emil assured me he had warned you about the south wing.” He glanced over his shoulder at the pooling darkness.
“He did, bu—”
“But what? You thought you’d go poking around in there regardless?” He took a step, closing the space between them and forcing Nea backwards.
Nea lifted her hands in defeat. “I heard something, saw something. What’s down there?”
A muscle in Garret’s neck twitched as his jaw tensed. “Nothing of consequence.”
“Neeee-aa.” A sing-song voice drifted from the darkness and Garret turned, pulling Nea behind him and out of sight.
“You’re no fun, Garret. Let the little mage come and play. She smells ever so sweet.”
“Back to your room, Nea.” He took another step backwards, pushing Nea farther away from the wing.
As they moved, she caught sight of the waifish shape of a girl pacing the end of the hallway. Where her bare toes met the wooden floor, a line of rune marks shone in the moonlight. The magic signature was one she knew all too well; it was her father’s. She lifted her gaze and met the ice-blue eyes of the girl. Amelia. A darting pink tongue chased a wicked smile over pallid lips before they drew back to show sharp, impossibly white teeth. The neckline of her nightgown was askew, revealing one very pale shoulder and a small flower-shaped purple birthmark marring the flesh just below the corner of her collarbone. She lifted her hand and curled one finger in Nea’s direction, causing the lank ribbons of her black hair to move over that exposed shoulder like snakes.
Nea felt the hooks of magic digging into her mind and some deep part of her called out in caution. But it was too late. The sticky fingers of Amelia’s keen were past her defences. She twisted around Garret, ducking under his arm and lashing out with her magic when he made another grab for her. He froze as she pressed down against his soul, pinning him in place.
Amelia’s wicked smile widened, the sleeves of her filthy nightgown fluttering as she beckoned Nea forward in earnest.
Thanks so much for the interview today!
You can buy Deathborn from all the usual places by following this universal book link: https://books2read.com/deathborn
C. E. Page has been dreaming up stories of faraway places and strange magics for as long as she can remember. She lives on the east coast of Australia with her partner, Evan, two balls of pure energy in the shape of young boys, and a honey badger masquerading as a dog.
An avid reader and gamer, she loves devouring a good story in whatever form it takes.
You can find her on: Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50368106-deathborn Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cepageauthor and at her Website: http://www.cepageauthor.com
Towards White Zena Shapter Publisher: IFWG Publishing First Published: 2017 RRP: $29.95 Disclaimer: Zena and I attend the same write in group once a month-ish. However, the publisher gave me a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. Interesting fact about me:…
Title: The Rarest Thing Author: Deborah O’Brien Publication Date: November 2016 Publisher: Lomandra Press RRP – Limited Gift Edition Paperback: $29.99 RRP – Ebook: $14.99 Purchasing Info: ‘The Rarest Thing’ (signed gift edition paperback or ebook) is available direct from Lomandra Press: www.lomandrapress.com.au (It will…
Many people know Sophie as the writer of a number of popular of books across many different genres and age ranges. Some may know of the work she does to support emerging writers through writers centre programs and roles with national writers bodies such as the ASA. However, many are unfamiliar with her latest business adventure – one of the directors and brains behind two new small presses – so I asked Sophie to answer some questions for the blog to fill us all in!
1. Tell us a bit about Christmas Press and its imprint Eagle books.
Christmas Press is a small children’s publisher, a partnership business between four creators: myself; illustrator and designer David Allan; author and illustrator Fiona McDonald; and writer and editor Beattie Alvarez. We started in 2013 and to date(March 2015) have published 4 books – three picture books featuring retellings of traditional tales – fairy tales, folk tales, myths and legends by well-known authors(to date, Ursula Dubosarsky, Kate Forsyth, and myself, with more to come this year) and lavishly illustrated by emerging illustrators – in this case, David and Fiona (though more illustrators will come on board next year). We have also published a Christmas anthology, Once Upon A Christmas, with poems, stories and illustrations by lots of different authors and illustrators.
Christmas Press itself will continue to concentrate on those sorts of books but we have just started a new fiction imprint for young people, Eagle Books, which will concentrate specifically on adventure fiction. And very excitingly our launch title is the first new English translation in over a hundred years of the great Jules Verne classic, Mikhail Strogoff, which will be translated by Stephanie Smee, whose previous translations of the great classics by the Countess de Segur have been bestsellers.
2. What made you interested in setting up a small press?
We felt there was a gap in the market–and that there WAS a market for retellings of traditional stories, the kinds of books we weren’t seeing around but that we’d all grown up on, loved, and been inspired by. And then as Christmas Press developed, we felt there was also an opening for the kinds of very adventure-focussed fiction that Eagle Books will focus on.
3. What is your long-term vision for each imprint?
Christmas Press will very much concentrate on those twin elements: beautiful picture book retellings of traditional stories, and one Christmas-themed title a year. We may also consider other possibilities in the future, such as standalone picture books or reprints of out of print books. But that’s for later. With Eagle Books, we’ll be concentrating on adventure fiction: whether set in historical, contemporary or fantasy backgrounds, and with a mix of classic and modern authors. We feel it’s important for a small press to not try to do too much and go haring off in all directions. So our lists are very focussed.
4. What is your top learning from starting your own small business?
Do your homework regarding sales possibilities, pitching to distributors etc: very important you get that right!
5. What opportunities are there for people to:
a) get involved?
Have a look at our books, check out our websites and Facebook pages and let us know what you think!
b) support your press?
Right now, it would be great if people might have a look at our crowdfunding campaign for Mikhail Strognoff and consider contributing to and/or publicising this fantastic project.
Thanks Sophie for some great insight into your latest projects! Please do consider backing Sophie’s project here. You can like the facebook page for Eagle Books here and for Christmas Press here. You can find the Eagle Press website here and the Christmas Press website here. I will be interviewing others involved with this project in coming weeks so stay tuned…
Born in Indonesia of French parents, and brought up in Australia and France, Sophie Masson is the award-winning and internationally-published author of over 60 books for children, young adults and adults, published in Australia and many other countries. Among these are her bestselling historical novel for children, The Hunt for Ned Kelly (Scholastic Australia), which won the Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature in the 2011 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. She has also written four popular YA romantic thrillers under the name of Isabelle Merlin. Under the name of Jenna Austen, she has also published two romantic comedies for tweens and early teens.
2014 was a big year for Sophie, with several novels for young people published: The Crystal Heart(Random House Australia), 1914((Scholastic Australia) and Emilio(Allen and Unwin). Her latest adult novel, Trinity: The Koldun Code, first in the Trinity thriller series set in Russia, was published by Momentum Books in 2014, and her non-fiction adult title, The Adaptable Author: Coping with Change in the Digital Age , featuring interviews with over 40 authors, agents and publishers on the state of authorship and the publishing industry today, was published by Keesing Press in the same year. Forthcoming in 2015 are Hunter’s Moon (Random House Australia, June 2015) and Trinity: The False Prince (Momentum, October 2015).
Sophie is also one of the founding partners in a new children’s publishing house, Christmas Press. Sophie has served on the Literature Board of the Australia Council and the Book Industry Collaborative Council. She is still on the Board of the Australian Society of Authors, where she is an Executive Member, on the Board of the New England Writers’ Centre, where she is Chair, and she is President of the New England and North West sub-branch of the Children’s Book Council of NSW. In 2014 she was on a Peer Panel for the Australia Council, in the Literature division, assessing publishing grant applications.
Bad Power, Deborah Biancotti Twelfth Planet Press October 2011 RRP: $18 Australian I first heard of Deborah Biancotti two years ago at a Conflux Convention. I encountered her in a crime panel when I decided to break up my steady diet of epic fantasy, doctor…
Perfections, Kirstyn McDermott Twelfth Planet Press, 2014 RRP: $22.95 Sometime around when I first started getting involved with the Australian spec fic scene, I told myself I needed to get my head above my comfortable reading parapet and venture to new parts of the imagination.…
Prickle Moon, Juliet Marillier, Ticonderoga Press, 2013.
RRP: $25 Australian.
I never used to enjoy reading short stories- I’m not quite sure if it was a maturity thing. These days, pressed for time like I often am, I can’t get enough of them. I love being able to dive in anywhere in a collection knowing that I’ll get something different every time. I love the surprise of each short story; some good, some less interesting, some world changing. Prickle Moon by Juliet Marillier is a book I’ve been excited about reading for awhile now. Juliet wrote what I consider to be one of the greatest debut historical fantasy novels out, Daughter of the Forest, and I’ve loved her writing style since the teenage years. However, somehow I missed that she wrote shorter fiction too. Luckily for me and for others in the same boat, Ticonderoga Press have put together a collection of sixteen short stories; some written specifically for the Prickle Moon collection and some published previously in magazines to show us a bit of a different side to Juliet and her work.
I found myself dividing the collection into three thematic parts. The first section dealt with the celtic and fairy tale worlds that those familar with Juliet’s work will know she often inhabits in her novels. Indeed, ‘Otherling’ felt like it could have been set in the same world as her The Light Isles Nordic series and ‘Twixt Firelight and Water’ is a novella that fills in a gap about Ciaran in the Sevenwaters trilogy. The second section moves into the romance genre with some of the stories originally published in Woman’s Day. Finally, the last section moves into urban fantasy with tales of modern ghosts, the fey living in today and magic leading up to and beyond death. This approach means that we get to see a wide array of writing and genre style from Ms Marillier. However, it also means that story mileage will vary. On the whole, and this is down to personal preference, I enjoyed the first section more than the second two as the folklore and fairy story genre are two of my favourites. However, I did enjoy most of the stories on some level.
Now to my favourites. The first story in the collection, ‘Prickle Moon,’ took me quite awhile to get in to, mainly because of the narrative voice but once I got used to it, it was one of my top picks; pitching wisdom and nature against power and dominance. ‘Let down your hair’ revists Rapunzel but adds a new slant on an old tale by adding in a boiling pot of stories and ‘In Coedd Celyddon’ sees Juliet reimagine King Arthur’s childhood. I’m a sucker for Arthurian legend so I also really enjoyed this particular story first published in The Road to Camelot edited by Sophie Masson (who also provides the introduction to this collection). Out of the straight romance stories, I enjoyed ‘Far Horizons’ best mainly because I love tales of journey and travel and because my Mum is a divorced baby boomer who left for Istanbul last Wednesday. ‘Tough Love 3001’ seems to have been a bit divisive judging by other reviewers reactions to the tale but as an emerging writer, I found this story humerous and entertaining, gently lampooning many of the genre fiction stereotypes that abound about the place whilst also highlighting the hubris mixed in with the talent of many young writers (as someone who has been guilty at various points of what the characters spout in this story, I found this element particularly amusing and recognisable). Finally, ‘By Bone Light’ really caught my attention, retelling the folk tale of Baba Yaga in a modern day setting and dealing at the same time with child abuse. In fact, this last tale was probably the best in the whole collection.
People who enjoy Juliet’s novels are sure to love this collection. Though the collection isn’t perfect, I also think that its audience is a great deal wider than the usual speculative fiction releases thanks to Juliet’s wonderful writing ability and her experimentation with different genres within the collection. There are stories within Prickle Moon’s pages for anyone who picks up a copy. So dear reader, what are you waiting for?
Prickle Moon: 3/5 inky stars
Prickle Moon can be purchased from Ticonderoga Press
A short while after the NSW Writers Centre Speculative Fiction Festival I thought about interviewing a steampunk author to go with my posts on steampunk. Of course, I soon thought of steampunk author Richard Harland. I really enjoy his novels and had met him once…