Today I’m thrilled to share an interview with Australian Speculative Fiction author Joanne Anderton, whose genre-bending Veiled Worlds Trilogy was recently completed with the release of Guardian.
You can read more about her at her blog, follow her on twitter right here and sample the first novel, Debris, in the trilogy here. Big thanks to Jo for agreeing to chat with me and hope everyone enjoys the read!
AC: Setting is such a vital aspect of speculative fiction – and all good fiction really – and I wondered if you could tell me a little of the inspiration for the setting of your Veiled Worlds Trilogy?
JA: Strange and vivid worlds are what I love most about reading fantasy and science fiction. Getting lost in them is what I love most about writing fantasy and science fiction!
The setting for the Veiled Worlds came about because I wanted to write a story about industrialised magic. I've always wondered why the worlds in the big fat fantasy trilogies I devoured as a teenager were usually rural, agricultural and feudal. Why would a culture get stuck there just because it has access to magic? Why wouldn't technology keep changing and developing -- and why couldn't magic become part of that technology?
That's where the idea of pions and debris came from, and they are the driving force behind the setting. Tanyana's world is industrialised, and powered by pion manipulation instead of coal. It's urban, militarised, and it struggles with pollution too -- except instead of smoke or sludge, they get debris.
Of course, if you've read Guardian you know Tanyana's world is a little more complicated than that, and nothing about it is quite as it seems. But I won't get stuck into that, because spoilers :)
AC: It sounds awesome, I’m really keen to get in to it (Debris arrived in the mail last week) and wanted to ask, what sort of research did you undertake for the setting?
JA: Thank you! Hope you enjoy it!
Most of The Veiled Worlds is set in a kinda-steampunky, industrial-age, Russian-inspired setting. Sadly, I did not travel to Russia. But I did do a lot of reading on Russian history, architecture, climate… you get the idea.
The other major setting is… a spoiler :)
AC: How important – or dangerous – do you think tropes are for the speculative fiction writer?
JA: I think it's important to know them, and why they've persisted -- what is it about them that speaks to us, and why do they work? That's part of being a reader and a writer, reading widely within and outside of your own genre. Avoid tropes if you want, but don't do so at the expense of story. Ultimately, story is the most important thing anyway (in my opinion at least).
AC: I agree, the story as a whole is more important to me as a reader than a single trope – and some tropes are quite endearing. Actually, that prompts me to ask, do you have a favourite trope, and if so, why do you think it remains favoured?
JA: Hmm, not sure if this counts as a trope or not, but I love stories set on fantasy worlds that are actually built on the ruins of advanced civilisations. It's even better if their magic system uses that technology in some way, and 'gods' were really these super-advanced people who disappeared… or did they? Part of the plot should involve uncovering what happened to these people, and it's going to be tragic.
AC: I noticed you’re a fan of the brilliant Devin Townsend – what other music do you find inspirational when it comes to writing? (And what do you think of his Infinity album?)
JA: Ha, that's got to be trick question right? Because obviously the answer is Infinity is brilliant! I love them all, but my current favourite Devy album is Epicloud and that's because I have a deep, deep obsession with "Save Our Now". I may have gone a little insane when he played that live!
Music definitely plays an important part in my writing. I always listen to music as I work. Music does this whole 'transport me to another place' thing, where the rest of the real world just falls away. It really helps me focus on story-world instead.
Mostly I listen to metal (heaviness depends on the scene I'm writing), j-pop and soundtracks. I love a good anime or video game soundtrack. I know the Persona 4 soundtrack back to front and inside out I've listened to it that many times.
AC: I still haven’t got to Epicloud – added to my list – that’s his fifteenth, sometimes I forget how prolific he is! And speaking of j-pop, what did you think of Babymetal? Novelty or awesome?
JA: Ok, I'll wait here while you go get Epicloud. Seriously, GO.
Ha, Babymetal's hilarious. I think it's a little of both! Novelty AND awesome!
AC: You switched publishers between Suited and Unbound, what were the most positive aspects to come from the switch?
JA: It was just wonderful to have the opportunity to get Guardian out there and complete the trilogy. I was very lucky to be able to work with Tehani Wessley at Fablecroft, who is such a talented editor and a very supportive publisher.
AC: It must have been stressful for a while there, did you write other projects during the gap or stay with Guardian? (Assuming, of course, you’re not the style of writer who finishes a whole trilogy before submitting the first book?).
JA: There are always other writing projects. I did have a lot of short stories to keep me busy -- my (award-winning) short story collection The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories was released in this period. I also spent a lot of time watching the Giant Bomb Persona 4 play through, and that helped!
Stay tuned for a review of Debris in the near future!
Hey - I've been a bit behind the 8-ball in terms of posting lately, but I do have an interview with Jo Anderton lined up and in the meantime, I wanted to share a link on 'beginnings' and City of Masks: I was recently lucky enough to write a guest post for Helen Lowe's blog on the topic and it's up right now - have a look over here!
Just a quick update on The Lost Mask.
Progress is good but to remain on target for the late December release, I have to return the current round of revisions to the publisher by the first week of November!
So it's race time - I've got to keep to approximately 5 chapters a day from now on, so wish me luck.
In other news, I'm really happy to announce that I've got a guest post coming up at Helen Lowe's blog on Thursday, where she was kind enough to let me ramble on about City of Masks and beginnings. Stay tuned :)
So damn happy with this cover!
Appropriated from the Facebook meme, 'Ten Books that Stayed with You' – I wanted to share some of the books that stuck around after I read them.
I’ll try include some ‘additional data’ with my thoughts below, data which will border on useless trivia, but I’m going ahead with it anyway. Not sure either how accurate my memory is for some of the reading dates, but I should be pretty close!
In no order whatsoever:
Hogfather – Terry Pratchett (1997)
For me, one of his funniest. It’s a ‘fish out of water story’ with Death filling in for Santa Claus – what else needs to be said, how amazing is that premise? I always laugh when I read it and the change of font for Death’s voice is a perfect touch.
Read: About five times
Reread: Very much so
First Read: Teen years
In Cold Blood - Truman Capote (1966)
Riveting. Again, questions of ‘why’ often pack more punch than ‘who’ or ‘whether.’ I knew who committed the crimes before reading, of course, but discovering something of ‘why’ was much more compelling. Morbid too, perhaps – but also fascinating to see Capote’s fixation as a writer.
Reread: Not sure I need to, impact lingers
First Read: 2010ish
On the Road - Jack Kerouac (1957)
Vivid prose – sometimes the sentences are like climbing mountains, but there’s always a good view from the top. I think this is a book which, despite the sexism, is well worth the read. It captures the road, it still seems to drive people to travel and is just as valuable for its historical aspects.
Reread: Planning to
First Read: 1999
Tintin in Tibet – Herge (1958-59)
Perhaps the most emotional volume in Herge's Tintin series, this one is the one I want Spielberg & Jackson to make into a film. What a risk it would be – but if it works, it would be damn amazing. Powerful, direct storytelling.
Reread: Will do
First Read: 1995
The Hobbit – Tolkien (1937)
Classic in every sense of the word. The storytelling is very sharp, focused and SO much is packed into this slender book, it’s thrilling. The mystery, the betrayal, those spiders! riddles, Gollum – all good.
Reread: Hope to this year
First Read: 1991 (read to me in Primary School)
Tyrannus Nix? - Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1969)
A long, scathing poem bursting with social, political and personal imagery, word play and attacks. The kind of stuff I sometimes wish I could write, but am all too aware that I’ve no chance of achieving.
Read: A few times
First Read: 1997
I Want to Go Home - Gordon Korman (1981)
Another book that still makes me laugh when I read it. The kind of long-term camp arrangement, with counsellors etc is not something I’ve ever experienced as a kid – they’re not as predominant in Australia as in North America – but I could relate to the characters and the plot was a heap of fun. (Not a fan of the reissue cover.)
Read: 20+ I’d say
Reread: Over Christmas I reckon
First Read: 1993
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - Haruki Murakami (1994-1995)
Complex, surreal, pop-culture references, history, mystery, metaphysics and oddities abound – I can’t even come comes to summing it up. If you’re already a fan of Murakami then you don’t need me to, I guess. I think about this book often and it’s fair to claim that it’s influenced my novel, The Fairy Wren, in that I loved writing about a character searching for someone.
Reread: 2015 – I’ve been meaning to for ages
First Read: 2007
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – PKD (1968)
Amazing. From the Mood Organ to the premise itself to the powerful ending and the questions it raises about personhood, this is required reading for a Speculative Fiction fan. I remember first reading it for a class at Uni and coming to a tutorial and asking my teacher about Rachael’s motivation, as in ‘what’s in it for her?’ which, despite how silly that seems now, I seem to remember it starting a good class discussion at least!
Reread: Will do
First Read: 2006
Space Demons - Gillian Rubinstein (1985)
Another favourite from childhood – I still read this and it’s the perfect balance of character and story – the very idea of being sucked into a video game is pretty damn cool. Loved the follow-up Skymaze too and eventually came to realise that, the character conflicts became my favourite parts the older I got.
First Read: 1991
Bonus: The Black Cauldron – Lloyd Alexander (1965)
Bonus: The Red King – Victor Kelleher (1989)
Love to hear what you thought of any of these if you've read 'em, or what your own list would look like!
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Ashley Capes is an Australian writer of fiction, poetry and very occasional non-fiction.
Imperial Towers (Never Book 5) - draft 1
Moss Dragon - draft 1
Reed Lavender (working title) - draft 1
Unnamed Spec Fic - draft 1
Whisper of Leaves (sequel) - Outline