Anna Smith-Spark Interview

court of broken knives

Anna Smith-Spark Interview

My guest this week is Anna Smith-Spark! She is the author of the Court of Broken Knives. She has previously been published in the Fortean Times and the poetry website greatworks.org.

We talk about gender in fantasy, writing, characters and world building. Also there are some jokes about Tony Blair.

[LISTEN HERE]

anna-smith-spark-author-photo-1I first met Anna on a panel at FantasyCon2015. I believe it was gender and sexuality representation Sci-Fi and Fantasy. I remember a point being made that we hope to one day not have these panels because the issue will have become accepted as representation begets representation.

But we still do get them – I did one at BristolCon this year. We talk about what Anna thinks of the progress that’s been made since and how we may have taken backwards steps recently.

We also delve into the Court of Broken Knives as Anna gives us insights into how she wrote it and where her characters came from.

You can find Anna online here:

courtofbrokenknives.org

https://www.facebook.com/anna.smithspark

 

 

V. E. Schwab Interview

V. E. Schwab Interview

For this week’s episode of the Writers of Fantasy Podcast, I got to talk to Victoria Schwab, aka V.E. Schwab. She is an American fantasy author best known for her 2013 novel Vicious, the Shades of Magic series, and her children’s and young adult fiction.

We had a really good, long talk about world building, characters, writing, and gender issues in science fiction and fantasy. Listen here, and there are some key quotes! Check it out!

[Listen here]

On The Near Witch and How a Writer changes

I started out when I was quite young, and I wrote my first book when I was nineteen. The Near Witch was the second book I’d ever written, and I was twenty-one! And I’m now thirty! There’s some growth that happens, I’ve not got thirteen books published, and obviously you grow and change as a person.

I get asked often ‘do you go back and look at your previous work and think of things you would do differently?’ The honest truth is that I kind of look at each and every one of my books as a time capsule of who I was and what I was capable of doing. So, I never want to change any of them, as The Near Witch is a capsule of who I was in college and what I was studying and what excited me.

Whereas The Shades of Magic series and The Monsters of Verity series are just as much time capsules of who I was and what I was going through while doing a Masters Degree on depictions of monstrosity. And I was travelling a lot. So, they’re precious to me in different ways.

Monsters and Villains

Certainly with something like Vicious, which is about villains, and villainy. About the arbitrary labels that we apply to heroes and villains. It’s a book about personal vendettas, and who is a hero and who is a villain. Is it determined by where they fall on opposite sides of this argument? In that book, specifically, I wanted to play with the idea [of villains].

I sat down and thought ‘wouldn’t it be a fun challenge to write a book without heroes?’ Could I write a book without heroes and make the reader strongly root for one of the villains? It was a craft exercise in learning it’s not what our characters do, it’s not what we do as people, but why we do it. Motivation Vs action.

Sometimes I do sit down and think. There’s always a seed. I gather ingredients for a story until I have enough to make a meal. But I think there’s always that one ingredient that’s the core, bonding thing.

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I’ll be on Manchester North FM

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Yes, this Saturday (14th January 2017) I will be on Manchester North FM! I’ll be interviewed for Hannah’s Bookshelf, a lovely show about, well, books.

We will be talking about The Sea-Stone Sword, The Sky Slayer, and probably The Miliverse as well. There’s also a section about what books I’d save during the apocalypse, so I’ve been agonising over that for the past couple of weeks. Let’s hope I don’t ruin society for post-apocalyptic humanity.

Having listened to other episodes of the show there’s no knowing how much ground we will cover. Writing, education, my dyslexia, cats, the interview series, who knows?

The show will be on Manchester North FM

Saturday 14 January, 2-4pm

On 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield)

David Anthony Durham Interview

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Our Writers of Fantasy Interview series continues with David Anthony Durham, best known for the Acacia trilogy and his new book The Risen. We talked about building fantasy cultures, characters, and wider themes of representation and more!

acacia-uk-cover-736216Your books develop and explore numerous political machinations (Acacia especially); what was the development process for building and developing them? What did you enjoy most about the political intrigue? 

I think the same thing sort of answers both parts of your question.

What I enjoyed most about the political intrigue was the process of slowly uncovering the secrets that are at the heart of what makes the Acacian world tick. In the first book I introduce the notion that the Acacian empire trades with a distant power that they know little about. They offer slaves; they get drugs to help them sedate their people in return. That’s about as much as the reader knows about things in the first book. Thing is, that was also about as much as I knew as well.

All the power players of the novel have secrets, things they keep hidden from others to give themselves advantages. They tried pretty hard to keep them hidden from me, too! I mostly had to figure things out by writing the story forward, following the characters, and every now and then going, “Oh… so that’s what these guys are up to…” And a little later, “And that’s what these other guys are up to…” And, “Wait… so these guys over here are actually doing this because of…” And so on.

That was fun. It kept things interesting and, hopefully, unpredictable.

With a number of cultures represented in your books what was the most interesting part of making new cultures and countries for your worlds?

I enjoyed being able to take bits and pieces of cultures from our world, pluck them out of their entrenched context, and splice them together with things that wouldn’t be possible in historical fiction.

The culture of the island power of Vumu, for example, is a real mixture of influences. Racially, I picture the people as looking like Sri Lankans. But the culture that took shape in my mind wasn’t particularly Sri Lankan. The mythology is more influenced by The Epic of Gilgamesh, which came from an entire different part of the world. I loved the racy bombast of the story, the epic conflicts and deceptions and the strange turns of events.

The people of Vumu take my variations on those types of stories and bring them to life with a visual religious display and ceremonies that seem to me to be sort of Polynesian. And I took the historical tidbit that there were once eagles in New Zealand that were large enough to snatch people into the air. I gifted that particular problem on Vumu. It became a physical danger on the islands, and it wove into their mythology and religion as well. The result, I hope, is fun and interesting and not quite like anything on earth.

[READ MORE]

Kelly Robson Interview – Writers of Fantasy

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This week’s interview in our Writers of Fantasy series is with Kelly Robson, author of Waters of Versailles, which won the Prix Aurora Award and was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award and the Nebula Award.

We had a really great conversation about the ins and outs of writing, the life of a writer, and how the industry is changing its attitudes. Take a listen, or check out the key quotes below if you can’t listen right now.

[Listen here]

A M Dellamonica Interview

This week in our Writers of Fantasy series is our 91c2t4kdfrlinterview with A. M. Dellamonica, author of Child of a Hidden Sea, A Daughter of No Nation, and over thirty short stories.

She writes science fiction, fantasy, and alternate history.

We talked about how she has changed in her craft over the years, what it takes to build characters and worlds, her theatre background, and the importance of representation and diversity.

KEY QUOTES;

“It was an inspiration story in the sense that the concept kind of hit like a bolt of lightning. That’s always really pleasant. I think that’s something that happens more when you’re new because you haven’t built up the infrastructure in your mind for simply generating good stories weather inspiration strikes or not.”

“When I came to write The Hidden Sea Tales, I wanted to write about someone who was markedly different from me. So I looked at the people in my life who from my more button down point of view are – sort of – over sharing all the time. So I started there.”

ON DIVERSITY AND REPRESENTATION:

“There’s been a long, ongoing effort by a lot of writers to broaden the palette. Those of us who are gay in some variation have always included those characters, but I think we also tended to make more compromises to make more characters that a more general audience would grasp onto.

So the gay characters might be tucked in at the side or the people of colour would be secondary. They wouldn’t necessarily be as integral to the story. And that’s a sad thing, but it just seems to be slowly becoming the case that you can pick characters from the full range of options available and it doesn’t necessarily tank your chances of selling a novel.”

“I’m still honestly surprised when I see things that reflect my life on TV.”

ON CREATING HIDDEN SEA TALES

“I just started making this enormously long list of everything that I think is cool or fun and delightful.”

“I included court proceedings, because I’m a huge nerd. (Like all science fiction writers).”

[Listen here]

JOEL CORNAH – THE SKY SLAYER | Small but Mighty SFF World

I was featured on SFF World’s ‘Small but Mighty’ series about my new book, The Sky Slayer! Check it out HERE. And here’s a little excerpt to take up some space on this blog posts and maybe get you to click on to their website and give them a sense that yes, some people do read my books.

SMALL BUT MIGHTY – JOEL CORNAH’S ‘THE SKY SLAYER

joel-cornah-author-003This week’s Small but Mighty attention turns to Kristell Ink whose publications are finding their way to award shortlists.  The Sky Slayer is Joel Cornah’s fourth publication to be released by Kristell Ink  and is the sequel to The Sea-Stone Sword.

Welcome to SFFWorld Joel! Can you tell us a little about The Sky Slayer without quoting the publisher’s blurb?

Where The Sea-Stone Sword was influenced by Jason and the Argonauts, The Sky Slayer has much more of a Blake’s 7 feel. The cast of seven fugitives fleeing an empire on a ship unlike any other, a hero who is more curse than cure, and a dry, sardonic second-in-command who has all the best lines. But I wanted to tackle some drastically different themes than Terry Nation’s classic series, and eventually subvert expectations in the process.

There is a boy who could have been a hero. To some, he is a hero. He killed the great and malicious Air King. But Rob Sardan was cursed with nightmares that will haunt him forever. He can break the curse by finding a Sky Slayer’s pendant. The only problem is he’s been locked in a prison of ice and crystal at the South Pole. A prison run by pengs (sort of human-penguin hybrids).

The story revolves around Rob and his gang of rebels as they escape to the high seas. There is Alya, the strategist with a sharp tongue and boundless wits, Gorm the chef with her deep wisdom and superior strength, Vann the thief with his ridiculous puns, and Ilma the doctor with her world-weary but shrewd observations.

They flee across the grinding ice and head to the Tomb of the Dead God, perused by the chaotic pirate Skagra, who seeks the ending of the world.

It’s action, adventure, philosophy, and puns all rolled into one amazing story!

Tell us a little about Rob Sardan, your protagonist?

Rob Sardan has all the makings of your average brooding anti-hero with a dark past. Pain, loss, and isolation – not to mention a supernatural curse – plague him and in so many fantasy novels we would see such a figure become bitter, full of pessimism and bleak of humour. I didn’t want that. I wanted Rob to defy the universe, to defy fate, and the gods themselves by being… optimistic.

His mother was a hero, a famous pirate who did incredible and terrible things. He wants to make his own legacy, to forge his own legend in the world.

[Read More]