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2014 Pushcart Prize nominee. (more)

Interview Series - The Indomitable Ian Irvine

Ian's latest novel
Book 2 of The Gates of Good and Evil.

Ian – Thank you for agreeing to have a chat.
Tell us briefly what your new book, The Fatal Gate is about?

It’s Book 2 in my new epic fantasy trilogy called The Gates of Good and Evil. Book 1, The Summon Stone, was published last year, and began the sequel to my epic fantasy quartet The View from the Mirror which was published almost 20 years ago.
The story begins with Sulien, a nine-year-old girl, having a nightmare in which she sees the greatest warrior race of all, the Merdrun, gathering in the void between the worlds to invade her world of Santhenar. But Sulien has also seen the Merdrun’s one weakness – and they know it. This innocent child must be killed before she can reveal the secret.
Sulien’s parents, Karan and Llian, have to find a way to save her – and get that secret before the invasion begins.
In The Fatal Gate, the invasion has begun but the Merdrun’s gate has gone astray. They’re desperately trying to regain contact with the deadly summon stone that brought them to Santhenar, so they can reopen the portal and begin the slaughter of humanity. And Sulien, who still hasn’t been able to recover the secret, is lost at the far end of the world, and hunted by enemies and allies alike.

How does one prepare to write a series? This series for example.

With a lot of worldbuilding, character creation and story planning – and this series was particularly difficult because it’s the sequel to my most greatly loved fantasy story. I was very conscious that few sequels are as good as the original and I didn’t want to let my readers down. It was also difficult because the original series was written in an elevated, high fantasy style and these days I have a simpler and more direct style.
I worked on the idea of The Gates of Good and Evil for about a year, on and off, before I began detailed planning, then did many drafts of the 60-page outline before I was ready to start writing.
Once the outline is done I like to write the first draft very quickly, typically in 4-8 weeks, then do 3-5 more drafts over the next few months before I send it to my editor for her first look.

Do you have a set method of working? Do you have a usual time, place or word count to reach?
No, though the way I work is dependent on the deadline for delivery of the manuscript. If it’s only a few months away I push myself harder. However I find that when I write the first draft really fast it takes a lot less revision, I guess because I’m in the heads of the characters all the time, and the whole plot is in my mind. Typically I would average around 4,000 words a day doing the first draft, though there will usually be a few days in each book where I’ll write 10,000 words a day or more. Long, hard days, but exhilarating too, seeing the story being created out of nothing.

Why fantasy? Was it something that you followed as a child?
Not really, though in primary school I read whole encyclopaedias full of myths and legends, which I suppose one could see as fantasy for the readers and listeners of ancient times. I barely read any fantasy as a kid, though I read a lot of SF in my teens. I discovered fantasy at uni (The Lord of the Rings, the Earthsea series, Jack Vance particularly the Dying Earth series, Fritz Lieber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser series, Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast and others – this was before the great fantasy boom which began in the mid-70s with Stephen Donaldson, Terry Brooks etc) and fantasy became the literary love of my life.

You’ve had huge success for an Australian writer. In many ways, you were at the beginning of the sci-fi/fantasy boom. There didn’t seem to be any genre writers in the eighties and prior. Yet it still took 14 years to get A Shadow on the Glass published (if I’ve read correctly). How on earth did you remain so driven? Especially as you seem to have written many other books during this period.

There were a few genre writers in the eighties though there was no way for them to be published in Australia by the big publishers unless they wrote for children, as Isobelle Carmody did with her Obernewtyn series. It wasn’t until the early-to-mid 90s that the big publishers in Australia were prepared to invest in Australian speculative fiction writers, and after a few false starts quite a few writers did very well: Sara Douglass, Traci Harding, Kim Wilkins, Kate Forsyth and myself, for example – and all did well internationally as well. From 1995 to 2010 was a true Golden Age for Aussie writers.
It took me 12 years to get published, but I knew it was going to be difficult when I started. I guess I’m a determined person; but also, by the time I’d written the first book of The View from the Mirror I knew storytelling was what I wanted to do with my life. Each rejection was painful for about a day, but I’m an optimist and after that I just started another draft. I only wrote the 4 books of The View from the Mirror in that period, but I did draft after draft, more than 20 of Book 1, A Shadow on the Glass, just learning the craft of storytelling.


After so many books, (31?) how do you remain enthused? Is getting older influencing your mindset in any way?

I’ve written 32 novels, plus an anthology of fantasy short stories, and I’m working on the final book of the current series plus a completely new trilogy – – an alternative history fantasy. Age and experience, and writing different books for different audiences (13 books for children/YA and 3 eco-thrillers about catastrophic climate change) has changed and simplified my style and what I write about, but ultimately I’m still writing big adventure fantasies. That’s what I like to write and what my readers like to read.

Are people really reading less?

I think people are reading less fiction, certainly. Partly because there’s so much other stuff they’re reading, social media, for instance. And partly because there’s so much more of other media available to be consumed, so cheaply – such as Netflix and its ilk offering all you can watch for a tiny monthly fee.
But that’s not the real issue for novelists. Publishing used to be expensive, and distribution required a big organisation to do successfully, and was costly, expensive and inefficient (often, a third of the books printed would be returned unsold). The huge changes since 2007 are (1) anyone can now be a publisher, for little or no cost, and (2) distribution is also easy and cheap.
Additionally, until a decade ago most books went out of print in a couple of years, leaving around 300,000 English language titles available for readers to buy new. But ebooks and print-on-demand books never go out of print; there’s now 10 million+ titles available to buy and the number is increasing at a million or more a year.
So every year it’s going to be harder for new authors to be discovered, and for existing authors to make a living, because each title is selling less and the price is being pushed ever downwards.

Have you ever been approached to write a screenplay or someone tried to option your work?

No. I’ve had a few enquiries about options for my books, but they haven’t come to the contract stage. A few years back I wrote a screenplay from one of my fantasy novels (Vengeance), just to understand what makes a screenplay work, but I haven’t sent it anywhere. It takes years to learn how to write a worthy screenplay.

Is there something, perhaps not even associated with writing, that you feel you would like to achieve?

I have a number of personal goals, however, my creative goals really relate to becoming a better storyteller. I’ve been studying the art of storytelling for 30 years and I’m still staggered at how much I have to learn.

And writing as many more books as I have in me. Quite a few, hopefully.

Thanks for the chat. I hope the series goes well.

Thanks very much, Anthony.

Interview with Poet Dominic Kirwan

'Honest exploration of the human psyche... brash and unapologetic.'


Dominic Kirwan

Artwork by Dominic Kirwan

Dominic Kirwan

Thanks for coming along to chat. I've been a big fan of yours for quite a while now. Let's talk about your new book, Put a Smile on that Face. What can people expect to find?

Irreverent mayhem. Black humour. Social satire. Bleak navel gazing chunks of self deprecating chaos. Twisted tales of love lost and won. Surreal fables of microwave soup and other such mind altering banalities. A couple of serial killer ditties. Oh, and words... lots of words.

Your book. has a unique structure to it. What was the motivation behind it?

'Put a Smile on That Face' is really three smaller books in one. Each part has a certain flow from poem to poem that is very deliberate. The three parts sort of mimic each other structurally but end very differently. There are a lot of different types of poems in the book, at least they are different from me. Following up a humourous piece with a gut wrenchingly honest heart breaker works better than being overly repetitive. Hopefully the reader is surprised by the shifts in tone and doesn't know what's coming up next. At least that's what I was trying to achieve.

Did you always want to be a poet? How did it all come about for you?

I must admit I kind of wince at the title Poet. I've written poetry and short stories since early high school. The writing bug crept up on me more when I studied at University twenty or so years ago. I majored in Literature and Drama. Although if I'm honest (and I see no reason not to be) it came about as a reaction to mental illness.

My ambition was to be an actor and right before I finished my degree I had a complete mental breakdown. In my mind I had lost everything and was devastated when I realised that performing and acting were going to be very unrealistic professions to pursue with a diagnosis of Schizophrenia. So I started to write more and more. Initially it was a few poems every day in order to express the hell I was going through. The poetry was by and large dreadful of course. I was preoccupied with hiding myself and my thoughts in my poetry – which in turn made them very cryptic and quite disorganised. A lot of them were word salads and made little sense to anyone but me. But I stuck at it and kept putting it out there. Eventually Ginninderra Press picked up a manuscript from me which became my first book 'Where Words Go When They Die.'

How much of the person is in the work?

A hell of a lot. I'm brutally honest and I rarely hold back. I'm more interested in authenticity and exploring extremes, even if they are everyday, banal ones. Don't get me wrong, a lot of my poems are complete fictions, but I pour every ounce of myself into them. Still, my books aren't therapy –  I write because I absolutely love it.

Do you find Australia a difficult place for a writer’s work to be noticed?

Yes. But I suspect it's the same in most countries. I'm clueless about self promotion (and I mostly hate it) and I'm not very adept at utilising the internet to get my work out there. But I'm lucky to have a solid publishing company behind me. Most people don't really care about poetry at all, in fact I get the impression the average person loathes it. You can't be in this to make money. It's just not realistic. It's not that I lack ambition – I just think it's a tough thing to sell. It's hard enough to get people to buy your book on Kindle let alone in physical form. I suspect the art of real, beautiful, tangible books is dying if not almost completely dead. It's a great pity. 

How do you write? Do have a process of working?

Sometimes sporadically. Sometimes for intense, elongated periods. Other times I don't write for weeks at a time. One thing I lack is discipline. Although when I'm inspired and on a creative roll, I find it hard to stop. I over edit the hell out of everything I write also which can be a stifling factor.  

What would you like to take on in future? Do you have something planned?

I have a long, long time in the works novel called 'The Holy Babble' to finish. Once again though, major publication for a novel as weird as mine (or even at all) tends to be a bit of a pipe dream. I'm one hundred and thirty thousand words into writing it and I'm still struggling to find the impetus, and an interesting, original way to finish it.
I'm currently working on a manuscript for a book of short stories. I have about twelve or thirteen short fictions ready to go. 

Most importantly I have an almost completed manuscript for my next poetry book titled 'Miracles Become Monsters.' If everything goes according to plan it should come out late next year.  (2018)

Cheers Dominic
Best of luck to you and hope to talk to you again soon.

Ebook available at Amazon here.
Print copy here

Goodreads Page

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Sofie Laguna Interview - Part Two

Sofie Laguna

Part Two – Parenthood, nits and Tom Hardy.

Anthony:      Do you think it's difficult being an artist in Australia?

Sofie:           I can really only speak for myself. I mean, I was an actor for a long time and that was pretty difficult. You’ve got to be resourceful. And I was unemployed. I didn't have the dream acting work that I wanted. That was pretty difficult for a long time. But I should be speaking politically, really, shouldn't I? About what it's like for other people and not just me. I don't know what is it like for other people out there. I like being an artist in Australia. I don't know how politically correct that is to say. I suppose I should be saying things like, we are not recognised the way we should be. All the funding that goes into sport. The way our people don't read enough. I should be saying all those political things. I suppose I'm aware of all of those things. There's not enough money. People aren’t buying enough books. For me personally, I love being an artist in Australia. I consider myself lucky.   (pauses)   I’ve got to start the car. I've got Bluetooth.

Anthony:      Ah, okay. We can wrap it up…

Sofie:           That's ok. I'll be driving along a bit.

Anthony:      So, you've been talking and done all that with the kids? Got the kids into the car at the same time?

Sofie:           No, the kids aren't in the car. I'll Bluetooth. It’s a fantastic thing, which means we can talk as I drive. It's unbelievable.

Anthony:      Have you seen that film Locke with Tom Hardy?

Sofie:           Because of the kids, I don't see any movies anymore.

Anthony:      It's called Locke. The entire film is set in the car while he's talking on Bluetooth.

Sofie:           Is it good?

Anthony:      It's absolutely brilliant. Well, you know how good Tom Hardy is.

Sofie:           Well you see, I'm a bit out of the loop. Before kids I saw every single thing that came out. Every single film, you know. But I'm out. I'm out.

Anthony:      Now it's Jimmy Giggle and the Teletubbies.

Sofie:           Hahaha pretty much.  No it's not. It's Paw Patrol and the Octonauts! Pirates versus Zombies.

Anthony:      Haha Dirtgirlworld.

Sofie:           No, that's all over man!

Anthony:      It's back! It's back. They've done a live action version.

Sofie:           Haha no there's no Dirtgirlworld at our place. I've got two boys you know. Maybe that changes things.

Anthony:      Alright. What else can I ask you? I guess that was the question really. Has having children changed you as a writer and as a person?

Sofie:           Oh God, that's a good question. Has it? My Mum reckons I'm happier now then I've ever been.

Anthony:      Yeah? That's nice.

Sofie:           Since I've been having kids. That's what she reckons.

Anthony:      Mum's know these things.

Sofie:           Haha yeah they do. But I am too busy. And that's uncomfortable. It's too much. It's definitely too much as in... So I quietly wrote my book in my own bubble on the edge of having kids, and that suits me. But then I did this. I didn’t know what this was sort of… all going to mean. It was all this, you know, like the publicity and people reading it and going out into the world. I didn't know what this whole sort of thing was going to mean. This career thing.

Anthony:      So it's become like that now? It wasn't like that before?

Sofie:           Well the Miles Franklin was a wave of publicity that lasted about three or four months. That was a big wave. But this wave has been bigger.

Anthony:      Really?

Sofie:          Yeah, this wave has been bigger. I don't know why. Maybe because I... I actually don't know why. Maybe the nature of the book or because of that prize or maybe a combination.

'That' prize

Anthony:      Combination perhaps. Or now it's easier to say ‘Sofie the Miles Franklin Prize winner…’

Sofie:           Exactly. Meanwhile, of course, I still have to do all the same house work. There's a lot of housework.

Anthony:      Oh it's chaos. But you've got two kids. That's so much worse than what I had.

Sofie:           There's shitloads.

Anthony:      Haha

Sofie:           You know they’re kids, so they get sick all the time and viruses and all that.

Anthony:      Nits.

Sofie:           Oh nits! I’ve had nits!

Anthony:      So have I! Haha

Sofie:           I had such bad nits. I thought I’ve got to go to the chemist. But I didn’t know it was nits. I thought I had a scalp condition.

Anthony:      Haha!

Sofie:           Haha It felt like my head was on fire!

Anthony:      It brings you back to earth doesn’t it? From Miles Franklin winner to nits. Haha

Sofie:           Haha yeah

Anthony:      You’ve got to put the stuff in the hair.

Sofie:           That stuff doesn't work. You’ve got to use conditioner.

Anthony:      Oh really?

Sofie:           Yeah. You've just got to put loads in every night for ten days. Literally half a cup of conditioner and comb it through and that's the only way.

Anthony:      Oh God. Did you put the plastic cap on the head?

Sofie:           haha The whole family had to do it. For ten days.

Anthony:      I know. It's shocking isn't it?

Sofie:           Did you have them as well?

Anthony:      Before I became a father, I was a step parent to three. So all five of us had it at the same time. And it would be the same thing.

Sofie:           Oh ok. So are you still that step parent of three?

Anthony:      Well they're grown up now, so I don't have to worry about nits. I just have to worry about pregnancies.

Sofie:           Hahaha

Anthony:      But I'm not with their mother anymore. I’m a single parent now.

Sofie:           Seven year old.

Anthony:      Yes. The seven year old. Same mother to the step kids. So she's got four kids and I've got one.

Sofie:           Right got it. So it's not as complicated as it first sounded.

Anthony:      Well I never wanted kids. So I suddenly ended up with three overnight. It was add hot water and stir. So, it was interesting.

Sofie:           Unbelievable.

Anthony:      Interesting, yeah.

Sofie:           I can imagine.  What the hell have we done?

Anthony:      I know. And it's too late. You can't go back.

Sofie:           Haha. You know this guy said to me the other day…  look, don't worry about it, because I was saying look, I’ve got to cook every night. He said it only last another twenty years, don't worry about it. haha

Anthony:      Oh shit.

Sofie:           I better get off the phone. I'm going on the road here.

Anthony:      Alright. I don't want you to have an accident or anything. Just quickly to finish up. Have you got something coming up next or going to have a break or…?

Sofie:           I’ve got a trip up to Sydney but I can't see myself having much of a break, just because that's not my personal style so much. As soon as I've got the energy and space, I'm sure something will happen.

Anthony:      Another adult novel?

Sofie:           Who knows? I'm not even sure about that. I just know that I am better when I am writing. I think, you know, I'm a bit physical. Maybe it’s a good way for me to manage myself when I am writing.

Anthony:      Okay then Sofie. Thank you very kindly for the chat. I really enjoyed it.

Sofie:           It was my pleasure.

Anthony:      Take care and drive safe. Check out that Tom Hardy film. Locke.

Sofie:           Haha right. I’ll try. Bye now Anthony.

Buy The Choke here

ebook Here.

Part One of the Interview here.

Other Interviews Here.