Margo Lanagan – Interview

Margo Lanagan is the internationally acclaimed multi-award winning Australian author of dark fantasy novels and short stories.  Her latest book, Zeroes is a joint work with Scott Westerfeld and Deborah Biancotti


Tell us about Zeroes. 

ZEROES is a YA trilogy about six teenagers, each of whom has a different socially based superpower. Which means, the bigger the crowd around the character, the greater their power—and the bigger the mess if they stuff up. And they do stuff up, regularly. Each (short) chapter is told from one of the six points of view. Compared to the average solo Margo Lanagan story it’s pretty helter-skelter, and not so dark—although it seems to be gradually darkening as the series goes on. Maybe I’m having more influence than I think!

How did the three of you manage the creation of a single book together? What was the process?

Each of the three authors wrangles two of the characters. We get together for a few days to plot out each book, then scatter to our respective homes (e.g. Scott is spending most of this year in New York) and write up our chapters. Then comes the fitting of those chapters together, which entails a lot of rewriting, but also kicks the ideas into new dimensions of weird and intense.

What initially inspired you to write about these young superheros? Can you focus on a particular moment?

I wasn’t present at the very  beginning—I was a late ring-in. But this is how I’ve heard it went: Scott had had the idea for one of the characters, Scam/Ethan, for a very long time. Ever since he was a teen himself and wishing he was the kind of kid who always knew the right thing to say in any given situation. He’s also got a lot of mates who were involved in writing for film and television, and he’s always been envious that they had a roomful of people to bounce ideas off and share the load.

Deb had just done a workshop at AFTRS (Australian Film Television and Radio School) on writing for TV, and she was pretty interested in the TV Writing Room model too. They got to talking, and wondered if that model could be used to generate a co-authored novel. Scott tossed Scam/Ethan into the mix and they started chewing over the crowd-sourced superpowers idea.

They invited me to join them when they realised that two people did not a Writing Room make. By then they had a few more of the superpowers worked out—but we started out by sitting around in bars dreaming up the rest and wondering how this collaboration might work. A few months in we started writing—a year later we delivered the first book. Now the second is written—due out October in Australia—and we’re putting together Book 3.

Deborah Biancotti, Margo Lanagan and Scott Westerfeld at Comic-con

What else are you currently working on?

I’ve got three short stories on the boil, which are going to be added to a best-of collection coming out from Allen & Unwin next year.

How do you start out with your stories?  In the middle, beginning or end?

I start at the beginning, mostly, but I need to have some idea of where a story’s headed, to keep it moving. Once I reach that end point, sometimes I realise it’s not very climax-y, or, going on what I’ve already written, I can push the action a little bit further and make it more interesting for myself.

Then there are other stories that don’t present themselves so tidily. Some have to be built up all out of order, from little mosaic pieces. Some can only be completed after the first four attempts have cleared some non-functional ideas from my head and I’ve gone desperately searching in the undergrowth for something else that might work. Some have to be fully drafted, put aside for an unpredictable amount of time, and returned to with a different mindset.

What’s your writing process for your solo books? Do you throw a lot away?  Do you write every day?  Are you a planner or do you fly by the seat of the pants? 

I throw a lot away. A lot. With Tender Morsels and Sea Hearts I rewrote heaps after both editorial passes. It felt like a process of excavation, as if each round of questions asked of the novel gave me permission to break up what I’d done and dig deeper to find the real heart, the point of the thing.

I write every day except when I don’t. There are times when it makes sense to write every day. Times like when you’re nailing down a first draft. Or when you’re revising and you know where you’re going. Or when you’re nutting out a complex problem and need to keep going while you’ve got the whole complex structure of the novel uploaded into your brain.

Then there are times when you’re stale and bored with your own voice and it’s best to go out and be in the real world for a while, to exercise and travel and take in other people’s words (and pictures, and music, and actions). Every writer has to work out their own rhythm for themselves. Don’t write every day if it turns writing into a chore.

I’m a very rough planner. For a novel I start with a plan simple enough to keep in my head without writing it down. I throw a bunch of scenes at that until I feel as if something interesting is forming, then I rehearse a bunch of different plans to see how I might bring all the scenes together. And I repeat that pattern, if it could be called anything so coherent, jumping from pantsing (just going for where the energy is) to planning (when things need reining in) until something like a complete story seems to emerge. Then I send it to the editor, and they go “Yay!” in some places and “Wha—?” in others and I plan-and-pants my way through answering their questions.

Your work often seems to be focused on gender relations.  Has this always been an interest and were you able to explore it in your early teen romance writing as well?

Not so much an interest as a site of rage and fascination. And God no, there was no proper exploration of gender relations in the teen romances. Only the merest touch of feminism-lite could be seen there, on the way to the happy-ever-after ending.

Probably the gritty-realist YA books I published in the mid-90s (The Best Thing and Touching Earth Lightly, now available as e-books) were me at my most I-will-now-change-the-world confident, although Touching Earth Lightly has an unfortunate plotline where the sexually active girl dies. Since then I think I’ve wised up as to how entrenched the patriarchy really is in our and other societies.

Still, I have hope. Germaine Greer once said “Women have very little idea of how much men hate them.” Well, now, because we have the internet, it’s being made abundantly clear to us, and to some appalled men, how hated we are. And isn’t it always useful when your enemy identifies himself?

How do you go with social media?  What do you do to increase interest in your work and how much time do you spend on it? Any tips?

I go with social media as far as I enjoy it. That means at the moment that I’m on Twitter and Facebook. I think we can say I don’t maintain my own blog any more.

Leading up to and crescendo-ing slightly after pub date, I repost any buzz that I catch sight of, and write a lot of guest blog posts and do a lot of interviews. I try not to let either account be totally taken over by publicity.

That’s my tip about using social media—don’t be seen to be “using social media”. Stay human out there; grumble and joke about other stuff in between pointing people to guest blogs and cover reveals. Naked authorial neediness is not a pretty sight.

What 3 artworks (books, music, visual arts, films) have most inspired you?

I don’t think I can narrow it down to 3, so I’m just going to blast you with some visual artists: Louise Bourgeois, Linde Ivimey, Goya, Lucy Culliton, and those mad giant landscapes by William Robinson. Oh, and Scott and Deb seem to think my teenage crush on Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy might explain a few things.

Margo Lanagan

Trial of an ex-Metro employee.


Bad luck for Metro and the CFA! Glad they finally caught this guy.

Metro has around 3500 employees and in that number there are sure to be a few bad eggs that make you look suspiciously at the rest of the carton.  Most of my workmates are lovely highly decent people.


My first week at my first station a man rang and asked for X.  I’d never heard of X so I asked my station master who took the call.  After he hung up he told me that X was no longer working for us.  He was in jail having held up 8 service stations!

“Startling” news when you are just fresh out of working in libraries, where assigning the wrong Dewey number is the worst offence you get from other staff.

But I stand by my assertion that my workmates are mostly lovely decent people.  2 in 13 years among 3500 is pretty good odds.

Adam Browne – Interview



If you want to go somewhere you’ve never gone before – try Adam Browne’s writing.  I’ve plunged through the solar system in glorious adventure with Cyrano De Bergerac in Pyrotechnicon, watched a wonderful animation by Adam Duncan based on one of Adam’s short stories called The Adjustable Cosmos (Hapsburg Emperors in the stars) and now I’m all prepared for the launch of his next book The Tame Animals of Saturn on June the 9th.

Adam, tell us about the Tame Animals of Saturn

It was inspired by the writings by and about Jakob Lorber, a 19th Century Austrian mystic who was given to know the animals and plants of the Solar System. It’s richly illustrated.

I hope to revive interest in him, not as a Christian or a theosophist – he was both – but as a beautiful and tireless fabulist.

What was your initial inspiration for the book?

Thirty years ago, in The Book of Imaginary Beings, I read of Lorber’s ‘Leveler’. Borges writes with great dry wit of the immeasurable service the Leveller does man. Its pyramidal legs are made by God to stomp out roadways in preparation for the tarmac-layers and so on. It’s only with difficulty that I acknowledge there might be some people who aren’t immediately captivated by things like this. Lorber has stayed with me ever since. The book was a side-project, but it was one I had to do.

The Leveler by Adam Browne

You love to explore the odd laneways of speculative fiction. How do you find your way into these laneways?

When I was young, science fiction seemed to be about freedom. There seemed to be few rules – just a playground for ideas. I remember being disappointed when a writer or filmmaker borrowed from elsewhere.2001: a space odyssey was a model of originality, but rather than copy its example, filmmakers copied the film itself. It’s still happening now, likely under the guise of homage – but it’s antithetical to the whole sf ethos. Anyway – I dunno – I don’t see my writing as weird anyway, to be honest. I haven’t admitted this before, but I was surprised when people called my stories New Weird or whatever. For me, they were just the stories I wanted to write.

Thomas Edison, en route to Saturn by Adam Browne

What’s your writing process? Do you throw a lot away? Do you write every day? Are you a planner or do you fly by the seat of the pants?

My stories start at the start. There’s some initial idea – with an old one, for instance, called Neverland Blues, it started with the idea that Michael Jackson had fled his problems by turning himself into a spaceship. The story accreted from that. I write from the seat of my pants. And yes, I throw a lot away. Each story has a discards file which is inevitably much bigger than the story itself.

How do you go with social media? What do you do to increase interest in your work and how much time do you spend on it? Any tips?

Yeah social media. It’s such an easy way to advertise your work but maybe not so effective. Still, although there must be better ways to do it, the urge to become skilled in marketing remains a velleity.

Facebook is my guilty obsession. At its best it’s a wunderkammer, and a way for me to vent excess imagination and gags – also an excellent way to resume or maintain friendships … but I suspect the reason I find it so seductive is because it’s all about me. Almost everything I read on it is in some way related to something I’ve already said. That’s the way it’s designed. It’s the equivalent of those kids’ books where your child’s name is inserted into the text. It enables my narcissism.

The bhura flower, native to Saturn by Adam Browne


What artworks (books, music, visual arts, films) have most inspired you?

I’ve been thinking recently about how 80s art-pop was a sort of gateway drug into the arts. Devo, Talking Heads etc etc. I remember being delighted by a performance art piece that made its way onto Countdown – a pingpong game with people’s heads sticking out of the table, players in whimsical dress, a bit of a ceremonial vibe. It wasn’t the piece so much as that such stuff was possible… My father took me to all the great art films of the 70s too.2001, Satyricon, Tarkovski etc etc. There was 2000AD, the British comic antho – thenHeavy Metal magazine – and Raw. There was the French comic book artist Moebius. AndFantastic Planet – then the art of Roland Topor, who designed that film – I’m afraid I’m just listing the usual suspects here – in which case I might as well mention PK Dick, whom I discovered when I was 15, on a trip to the Northern Territory: the first story of his I read was ‘Nanny’. Such a gem. It’s hard to find writers these days who delight me as much as he did. Martin Amis is one, but I have to be careful not to copy his style. Another usual suspect: WS Burroughs – a ‘writer of good bits’, as Amis called him – for me, the good bit, the inspiring bit amid the dross, was the vignette with the Sailor, in the bar, an astronaut, it felt like, purchasing a drug stored in dull grey tubes of lead, cracking it open, his face melting to absorb it…

And now for the tabloid question.  What is your relationship with Bessie Bottomley, Librarian extraordinaire?

I find Bessie Bottomley to be very adept at satisfying my holds.


The Tame Animals of Saturn is a available from




photo by Linda Jullyan






One of my regulars, a lady in her early 60’s, is always telling me about her exercise regime.  Apparently these exercises, relayed to her father by a Chinese doctor, have cured her of leukemia.  Her skin has the yellowish tone of someone who’s very ill.

Her exercise regime is to do two thousand arm swings every day.  They’re exactly like the hundred arms exercise in Pilates only standing up.  I don’t blame her for being obsessed, but sometimes when I see her outside the station swinging her arms, I suddenly think of something I have to do in the office. I‘ve known her to miss trains because she hasn’t reached two thousand yet.

Being so ill must be a lonely business.  So today I’m listening and so are a couple of social workers up from the hospital waiting to catch the train who want to hear all about this life saving exercise.

“Clench your bottom,” cries the lady. “And tuck in your belly.  Clench your bottom and swing your arms.”

Such is the authority in her voice that I see the social workers begin to swing their arms and, I suspect, clench their bottoms.  Oh no!  I’m doing it too.  As the train rolls in, there are the four of us swinging our arms in the autumn sun while the lady yells “clench your bottom.”

I see less of M and C now but this is a good thing. An NGO has found them a place to live.

C is pregnant and I had terrible visions of them being homeless with a newborn. I suspect they did too – though they made tough noises about it. M is delighted with his new backpack and wears it everywhere.  A profound thank you to the people who offered them.


Interview with Michael O’Brien – Vice President of Chaosium Games




I’ve always loved Chaosium games – the rich cultural backdrop of Runequest and the dark gothic horror of Call of Cthulhu. Most of my roleplaying has been done in these two worlds. I was thrilled to discover a friend has become part of a new management team to reinvigorate the Company.

Michael O’Brien, could you tell us about the history and products of Chaosium, Inc?

Chaosium is an iconic company in roleplaying games – it’s one of the oldest publishers still around (founded in 1975), and has had a long track record of publishing interesting, innovative and often ground breaking material in tabletop gaming.

Chaosium’s most famous product lines are Call of Cthulhu, the horror investigation game set in H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, and the fantasy RPG RuneQuest. Both games were and still are pretty revolutionary in their approach. RuneQuest changed the paradigm of fantasy RPGs by having a gritty, realistic combat system where even a mighty warrior could be felled by a lucky bowshot (an outcome that becomes increasingly impossible in level-based games like Dungeons & Dragons). It is also set in Greg Stafford’s richly-imagined campaign world of Glorantha. Call of Cthulhu is of course distinctive because it’s the one RPG where characters who are librarians and the like are the heroes.

We’ve just published the seventh edition of Call of Cthulhu, and are bringing out a new edition of RuneQuest later this year.


One of the things I love about Chaosium games is that they seem to be founded on the idea of Order versus Chaos. Would you say this is true and do you agree that this is a more palatable world view to the modern player than the idea of good versus evil?

The RuneQuest RPG deliberately eschewed the concept that the player characters are “good” and the monsters they encounter are necessarily “evil”.  In his earliest published adventures, Greg Stafford pointed out to Game Masters that if the adventurers turn and flee screaming, to not forget that the monsters get experience rolls too. In other words, the creatures they encounter have their own lives, motivations and connections, and intelligent ones have societies and cultures. This was ground breaking stuff in the early days of RPG, where even “good” characters seemed to just go round a dungeon killing monsters and taking their stuff.

“Chaosium” itself gets its name from the Oakland Coliseum, which wasn’t far from where Greg Stafford was living at a particularly chaotic time in his life. I look after our newsletter “Ab Chaos”, which includes the note (originally written by Greg) that it is “planned to be informal and irregular: we are, after all, not the Orderium”.
How does an Australian come to be Vice–President of Chaosium, an American games company?

Chaosium has always been something of a boutique company, and has come close to financial disaster several times in its long history. I, and several colleagues from Moon Design Publications, came on board at Chaosium mid-last year to help the company out of its latest troubles. This stemmed from two Kickstarters that had been badly mismanaged. A recent article at Geek & Sundry (with the clickbaity title “Cthulhu Company Kickstarted Itself to Death, Then This Happened”) tells the tale of how we turned things around, if anyone wants more detail:

Was Moon Design Publications set up especially for Chaosium?

Moon Design Publications is a company set up by my colleague Rick Meints in the mid-1990s, which began by reissuing RuneQuest material under license. Later Moon Design actually acquired the rights to the game RuneQuest and world of Glorantha from Greg Stafford, and in 2015 won the Diana Jones Award, one of the gaming industry’s highest accolades, for the coffee-table book The Guide to Glorantha.

Moon Design consists of Rick, who lives in Ann Arbor Michigan; Jeff Richard, who is American but lives in Berlin; Neil Robinson, who is originally from Canada, but lives in Seattle; and myself, in Melbourne, Australia (although I lived in the Middle East for many years until recently). We first met at games conventions in the UK.

I gather some of Chaosium’s founding fathers have returned with your team.

Yes, Greg Stafford and Sandy Petersen returned to lead in the company in June last year in an announcement titled “The Great Old Ones have Returned…” They were both shareholders before this, but had not been actively involved for many years.

Greg said he was “puttin’ the band back together” – and four of us in Moon Design later came on board both as part-owners and as the new management of the company. We have known and collaborated with Greg and Sandy on creative projects for many years. (I first met them in the mid-1980’s). Sandy cheerfully greeted this with the statement “I for one welcome our new Lunar overlords”. He and Greg are now members of the company board (Greg is chair) and creative consultants to the company, but day-to-day management is in our hands. Our first priority was sorting out the Call of CthulhuKickstarter.


StaffPick RQ

Tell us about the latest Kickstarter campaign.

It was a lot of work (and money) turning the Call of Cthulhu 7th edition Kickstarter around, but backers have just started receiving their books, three years after the Kickstarter was launched. In contrast, last December we ran another Kickstarter to reissue RuneQuest2nd Edition. Unlike the protracted Call of Cthulhu debacle, we had the rewards printed and ready for shipping in just over three months. We thought this was a very practical and capable way of instilling confidence in our fans that the new management of Chaosium is doing things very differently to the old.

Do you write or hope to write as well as manage?

I am involved in the creative side of the company, as well as being part of the management team. At the moment I’m working on a couple of board games which we’ll be releasing later this year, and have a hand in some projects for Call of Cthulhu and the new edition ofRuneQuest.

Are there any opportunities for writers to become involved? 

Certainly! We are not currently taking submissions at the moment while we review our processes, but this will soon change. We’ll be actively seeking out writers for our fiction line, as well as the game lines we support.


Can you tell us about any future plans for Chaosium Inc.?

I definitely think we’ve turned the corner and the future is looking bright for Chaosium – among other things, this year we are launching the new edition of RuneQuest (and even have original author Steve Perrin back on board with the writing team, along with Ken Rolston), are partnering with Sandy Petersen’s own game company to bring out The Gods War, a sequel of sorts to his Cthulhu Wars, set in Glorantha, and German games mastermind Reiner Knizia is working with us to bring out two new board games. This is in addition to the production schedule for new Call of Cthulhu stuff, Jim Lowder‘s sterling efforts as our consulting editor to restore the fortunes of the Chaosium fiction line, and our recently-launched Organized Play program.

Chaosium website:

Michael O’Brien also hosts a Podcast @

Tales of Mythic Adventure Podcast:

MOB headshot





Interview with Glenda Larke – winner of the Inaugural Sara Douglass Series Award.

This fortnight’s interviewee, Aurealis Award winner Glenda Larke brings her lifetime experiences of living in exotic places to the creation of wonderful fantasy worlds.



Congratulations on winning the inaugural Sara Douglass Series Award for the best Australian speculative fiction series completed between 2011 and 2014 with your Stormlord trilogy – The Last Stormlord, Stormlord Rising and The Stormlords Exile.

Could you tell us something about the Stormlord Trilogy?

The first book, The Last Stormlord, introduces a world where it never rains, at least not naturally. Stormlords — men or women with power over water — use their magical control to bring water to the desert land. Unfortunately, the Stormlords have been dying off and water allowances are being reduced, prompting unrest and rebellion. As the land is torn apart by war, the unscrupulous attempt to control the only two young people who might one day just have enough power to provide solutions. The story continues in Stormlord Rising and concludes in The Stormlord’s Exile. Along the way, there’s love, battles, bravery, betrayal, tragedy, compromise, and ingenious use of water magic…

Can you pin-point an initial inspiration for the books? Reviewer Jason Nahrung suggested your experience of living in arid climates like WA and Tunisia may have influenced your use of the theme of water in these books.

 As a kid, I remember a West Australian summer on our farm when a rat fell into the rainwater tank. That was our only drinking water. We had to drain the tank and rely on the generosity of neighbours while we waited for rain — so I’ve always known how precious water is.

We lived in Tunis in North Africa for two years. When the wind blew from the south, there would be sand heaped against the outer walls of our house — sand from the Sahara. I visited a town in Algeria where, when it rains, they distribute rainwater from the wadi when it flows according to how many people in each household. We were there on the first wet day they had that year; it was in December. Now we live near Perth W.A., where the waterflow into the dams that serve the city has decreased from an average of about 400 gigalitres a year prior to 1975, to last year’s 12 gigalitres.

We take two minute showers now, and don’t plant a lawn.

All that is what inspired me to write the Watergivers trilogy. It wasn’t difficult to think of a scenario. Control of water has already been a weapon of war; the dictator Sadam Hussein quashed criticism and destroyed the culture and livelihoods of the Marsh Arabs in Iraq by draining their marshes. Control of water is already an economic weapon. Who has the right to water in California: the cities or the farmers? Who can use the water of the Rio Grande: USA or Mexico? Israel controls much of Palestine’s access to the water of the Jordan River basin — imagine how well that works out!

I hope readers immerse themselves in the story and care about the characters. I hope they find the can’t put the books down because of the tale of adventure it tells. But I also hope that some readers think about the issues, issues which are already shaping the world we live in. Unfortunately we don’t have magic to fix things. We only have ourselves.

What are you working on now?

 I’ve just finished another trilogy, The Forsaken Lands, based on the idea that if the Spice Islands of Asia had possessed magic when Europe tried to colonise them to control the spice trade, there may have been a different outcome. The first book is called The Lascar’s Dagger. (“Lascar” is a word given to Asian sailors who worked on European ships…) The trilogy has everything from pirates and sea battles to conniving queens, sorcerers — and a very sneaky dagger.

I’m working on a standalone fantasy now, as yet untitled, which might be the first in a series, if it’s successful. (My only other standalone was my very first published book, Havenstar.)

What’s your writing process for books? Do you throw a lot away?  Do you write every day?  Are you a planner or do you fly by the seat of the pants?

 I am a very messy writer. I did try meticulous planning once, but by the time I arrived at Chapter 3, I was way off the plan. I kept on thinking of better directions for the plot to go in!

Before I begin a book, there are three things I must have: an understanding of what makes the main characters tick; the ending (although it may change); and a vague theme — i.e. something that keeps the plot from running away in too many directions. I usually have a strong visual impression of some of the early scenes. But apart from that, I’m an explorer without a map, and yes, sometimes I get lost, I have to backtrack, or throw away the useless diversions. I rewrite a lot. (I always smile when neophyte writers ask, “How many times do you re-write? Two? Three?” The real answer to that is: “However many it takes.” Some parts will be perfect as soon as I write them; other parts might have 30 rewrites.)

As for how often I write: that too depends. Most of my books were written in between a day job and family commitments. I worked on a project basis, so when my day job was tough, writing was laid aside, sometimes for weeks. When job and publishing commitments clashed, things could get interesting. I remember reading the proofs of a novel at night in a pup tent in the rainforest during a tropical rainstorm — by candlelight. I wrote part of one of the Stormlord books chugging along on the deck of a slow fishing boat on the Kinabatangan River.


How do you go with social media? What do you do to increase interest in your work and how much time do you spend on it? Any tips?

Social media devours much more of my time than it should! I have no idea whether it’s terribly helpful with regards to selling books, although I try to keep people informed of what I’m up to. It’s so hard to assess what generates sales, and anyway, nowadays there is so much noise out there on social media that the occasional peep from an individual author just gets lost in the roar.

For me, I think social media is more important as a means of information and help (e.g. from fellow authors) to me. I value my online friendships because I find people can be so supportive and inspiring, even if we’ve never met. This is especially true of the Australian spec fic scene — readers, writers, industry professionals, convention organisers, etc — fabulous folk. Without them, I might have given up years ago.

You worked as a field ornithologist in Malaysia. Did this career have any influence on your writing?

Absolutely. Birds had a big part to play in The Isles of Glory books, and also in The Dagger’s Path. I think those avifaunal story lines succeeded only because I know my wild birds…

As well as that, when I worked in the field on bird conservation, I saw wonderful places — islands, cliffs, swamps, rainforests, mountains, lakes, rivers — scenes that inspired parts of different books.

 What 3 artworks (books, music, visual arts, films) have most inspired you?

It’s always been books, books, books with me (although I love classical music, especially 18th and 19th century symphonies, which I play while writing. I once lived just beside a path called Beethovengang…)

It’s hard to pinpoint special books out of the thousands. Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising was probably one of the first to set on a path to writing fantasy, although I actually decided I was going to be a writer when I was about eight and still into Enid Blyton’s Famous Five!  Oh, and Lord Juster’s present to the King in “The Fall of the Dagger” was  inspired by the Burghley Nef saltcellar of 1527, which you can see in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

If you want to know more about Glenda try:

Twitter: @glendalarke


 The Burghley Nef saltcellar, 1527 from The Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Difficult lives.

Melbourne Street Art by Kranky.  It doesn't have anything to do with the story, but it looks like those dolls are having a difficult time.


Looking back over my blog posts, I’ve noticed the station stories are much darker these days.  In the old days it used to be about getting cakes from men in wheelchairs.

This Thursday when I got to the junction they were running all the trains through Platform 4 until the ambulance came for the man who had passed out right on the edge of Platform 2.  The police arrived and recognized him as someone they’d just booked for assault, which made the ambo’s a bit jumpy.  But when he woke up he went away quietly enough, though with a police escort in the ambulance. The trains switched back to Platform 2

The saga of M and C continues.  C has disappeared again and M has reported her missing to the police.  He used my phone to call her father who denied knowledge of her whereabouts but said he’d look. M worries that she has gone back to her violent ex.  I worry full stop. Who knows what goes on between a couple?

I like them both especially M who is outgoing and personable in a kind of larrikin way. He seems to have a tremendous urge to take care of people which is sad because I see in him a nurse or elderly care person wasted.  I’m not sure how he comes to be living on the street and can’t find out without seeming to pry.  Perhaps it’s the lunchtime bourbon and cokes.  Certainly from the stories he tells me it seems that when he has had choices to make, he’s always made the wrong one.

Still this is a judgement free zone so I give him change for the phone and store his spare iced coffee in my fridge (the kind of thing lots of station staff do) At the moment I’m asking around to see if I can get him a new backpack because the straps on the old one which holds all his worldlies is broken.  I have a strong sense that you should be the change you want to see, as the saying goes, but if I was a truly good person I’d invite him to live in my spare room.  I want to be helpful but at the same time I’m worried – about not crossing boundaries and about whether I’m being a fool to trust M as much as I do.  My bosses would certainly not be pleased if he set up house in my waiting room.

Donna Maree Hanson – Interview

Rae and Essa Space AdventuresDonna Hanson talks about her own writing

I interviewed Jane on my blog and she asked me to answer my own questions for her blog. I thought this was rather funny, a bit of ‘what about a taste of your own medicine.’ Jane answered the questions so candidly that I found it inspiring. Maybe it will loosen my tongue.

Your new novel is coming out. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Technically, I have two novels coming out, albeit short ones. Under Donna Maree Hanson (my own fantabulous name) is Rae and Essa Space Adventures, which is a sequel to Rayessa and the Space  Pirates (Rae and Essa Space Adventures)

People tell me Rayessa and the Space Pirates is a fab title. I’m pleased to hear that because it was the name I came up with in despair, a sort of place holder until someone with more genius than me thought up a better one. Rayessa and the Space Pirates is a bit of fun, a rollicking adventure with SF, crime and a bit of romance. If you haven’t read it, then you really should because Rae and Essa Space Adventures will be a spoiler for you. So I’m going to cheat here. Rae and Essa Space Adventures starts about a year after Rayessa. It’s got a different protagonist and it’s slightly more mature in voice than Rayessa was. It’s more traditional romance in structure, with SF and adventure thrown in. I really like it but that’s quite natural for the author to say. Both are novellas and you can get through them pretty quickly. Links to the publisher’s website are at the bottom of the post. But in case you’re wondering it’s Harlequin’s Escape publishing.

The other novel is by the ‘other’ me. Yes, the pseudonym where I write paranormal romance. I’d like to keep them separate but in my citation for the A. Bertram Chandler Award it’s clearly spelt out so there’s not much point in trying to be coy any more.  Hopefully, I won’t get googled in my day job. This month a prequel to my first published paranormal romance book (Bespelled) is coming out. Called Spiritbound it takes place before the events of the first book. (Spritbound)

I’m not trying to twist your mind, it’s just now the ideas came to me. To summarise, this is a light paranormal romance (steamy) set around Balmain in Sydney and features witches, who are part of the folk, the folk being magical creatures of many descriptions to be explored in other books that are yet to be imagined by me. Spiritbound is the story of Grace and Declan. Grace is an accidental necromancer and powerful witch, who freaks out the coven by raising her dead cat by accident when a child. Because of her ability she is ostracised and can’t get a date. In rocks Declan, newly returned from overseas and the story of her life gets interesting. Grace is lovely and I loved writing her. She may fart rainbows and sunshine but that can’t be helped, she’s just so nice. The other thing I like about this story is the female relationships: Grace and her mother Elvira and with Elena, cousin/adopted sister. It’s so strong and fulfilling. Spiritbound is a short novel.  It is also due out with Harlequin Escape in April.

Spiritbound2-Harlequin1920_1920x3022Donna, tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m from Sydney originally but live in Canberra. Have done for near 20 years. I lived in New Zealand from the age of 17 to 25, where I had three kids and married a Maori. Not in that order but you can shuffle it a bit. I came back to Bondi in Sydney with three young kids, then studied at university, got a degree, a job and then came to Canberra.

I started writing at age 40, when I had time to pause and think about my life. I have had short stories published over the years but my main focus has been on novels. It is only in 2013 that my first longer work got published. By May 2015 I will have had seven novels published, four with Escape, one with Harper Impulse and two with Momentum. Momentum published the work of my heart, Dragon Wine as two books, Shatterwing and Skywatcher. Needless to say after writing for nearly 14 years I have a bit of a backlist and have more books on the boil. Rayessa and Dragon Wine were older works but everything else is newly written since 2012. Gee, I just realised how fast time goes when you’re having fun.

Donna, what do you find so attractive about speculative fiction? In what ways do you find it fulfilling?

I have written across the spectrum of science fiction, fantasy and horror and into paranormal romance. I’ve even dabbled in contemporary romance but struggle to keep out werewolves, vampires, ghosts and aliens. I like spec fic because I like the ‘other’, the things that are different and I like the ‘what if’ questions and now fantastical adventure can make an individual shine. I like how, as a writer, I can take the issues and events in the world and recast them and explore them. Sometimes, I don’ t know why things are the way they are in our world or I think about what can be and then I put them in a constructed setting and explore. Not everything I write is deep and meaningful, some of it is plain fun, but I like the spec fic. canvas so much.

What are you working on at the moment?

Hahahaha! What a question! I feel hyperactive and lazy at the same time. I have been drafting a Regency Romance and enjoying it. I’m sort of playing in the water here, because I’m not sure if it will see the light of day, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. When I was writing straight SF and Fantasy, I wondered if I was a better writer of paranormal romance but never tried my hand at it. Now, I’m doing the same thing with Regency romance. By the way, I do consider Regency Romance to be a type of fantasy. And as well as that, I’m currently revising the next instalment in the Dragon Wine series. I may feel like I have achieved something if I get that ready to go when needed. I have loads of other things on the boil, like Invoked, which is back to me for reworking and revising. (Because it did a belly flop on submission to the editor). Invoked is a sequel to Bespelled, featuring witches but ones that live in and around Lake Macquarie.

What is your writing process? (planner, panster, write every day, write sporadically, writer’s block etc).

Can I say that I am all of the above? Go on laugh, but it’s true. I used to be a panster, write every day and be so focussed that I really wasn’t interested in anything else. I repine about not being that enthusiastic anymore. I was definitely in a hurry to hone my craft in those first years. Trouble was I kept going in sideways directions with publishing, convention running and editing etc. These days I’m likely to plan, even if it’s just a few paragraphs outlining the overall story. This is because I don’t remember things as well as I used to and because I don’t like wasting time by making mistakes. I like to know the story is going to work out in the end. Because I’m planning more, I tend to put way too much plot in my paranormal romances as a result, but I’m learning more about character to balance it out. I think I do character better when I don’t plan.

These days I write sporadically. I am easily put off and distracted. Jane mentioned 8 hour Buffy sessions. I put up my hand. I do that. I do worse. I watch Pride and Prejudice (all of the versions I own) when I want to avoid writing.  It’s not writer’s block exactly. It’s a distracted, diffuse attention span thingy and trying to do too much all at the same time. I counted and I had about 13 manuscripts in various stages of construction. Some just need a revision and to be sent out, others need reworking, others need the first draft to be completed.

I don’t know how I got myself into this, but I had big plans for writing at the end of last year and this year and they’ve done a belly flop. This is mostly due to work being busy and stressful and my mum dying. I write when I make time, usually a writing date where I find it hard to shirk and writers’ retreats where I’m very productive. Having confessed to all that I can say that I’d like to write every day even if it’s just a paragraph and I’m going to strive to do that. I’m taking lessons from Jane.

What do you prefer drafting the story or revising and reworking?

As you can tell from the above, I think I like drafting rather than revising or reworking, but that’s not entirely true. I’ve just painted myself into a corner here. I get a buzz from creating new work and I love the discovery of a new story, new characters. It’s a drug and I’m addicted. The real work for me is the revision and the reworking/editing. That’s where I have to sit down and work through it. I may get lucky and have a discovery or an insight that makes the work better but essentially I’ve discovered the ending and I know how it pans out. If I have issues then I can set my mind to fix them and that gives me a buzz too. I think it’s an attention span thing and maybe I get bored. I can’t say what my problem is…it’s all the pretty shiny things I want to do, like craft and to read… I will find a cure eventually.

What part of writing do you find hardest?

I think I’ve spelled that out above, but I will add…waiting….waiting…It’s waiting for beta readers to give you feedback, it’s waiting for an editor to get back to you and waiting for the cover and for the book to come out. It’s the long wait for submissions to be seen, rejected and resubmitted. It’s waiting, waiting and waiting….arghhhhhh. Waiting can be disheartening, it can make you crazy, that’s why writing-drafting and revising are so good, because you feel like you can control your life while you wait for something.

What do you plan to work on next?

The big ticket item I have to do, that I really want to do, is write the last two books (or one big book) in the Dragon Wine series. The books in the series I’m working on now are essentially written but the finale –I have to write that…and it scares me…because when I had all the cool ideas I didn’t write them down and it was a long time ago. Don’t worry, I know how it ends…I think. I may change my mind. I also have ideas for prequel and sequels but then again I always do…I can’t confine my imagination to a mere trilogy! .

Donna Maree Hanson

Donna Maree Hanson is a Canberra-based writer of fantasy, science fiction, horror,  and under a pseudonym, paranormal romance.  She has been writing creatively since November 2000. She has had about 20 short stories published in various small press and ezines. In 2006, she won a Varuna Long Lines Fellowship for her novel in progress, Dragon Wine and was also shortlisted for the Varuna Manuscript Development Award that year. Donna has also had two of her short stories receive honourable mentions in Datlow’s years best horror. In January 2013, her first longer work,  Rayessa & the Space Pirates, was published with Harlequin’ s digital imprint, Escape (link here.) This novella length work is a young-adult, science-fiction adventure/romance (space opera). A sequel to Rayessa & the Space Pirates will be out with Escape in early 2015. Dragon Wine is to be published by Momentum (Pan Macmillan Australia’s Digital Imprint) in two parts, Shatterwing and Skywatcher, in September and October 2014. In 2015 she  won the A. Bertram Chandler Award for lifetime achievement in science fiction.

You can find Donna’s website at

or of for paranormal romance at

Donna’s on Twitter a lot (“did I mention this addiction?”) @DonnaMHanson or @Dani_Kristoff and on Facebook.

A Moment of Stardom

This picture by chopalop comes from the Reddit, Melbourne subreddit

On Tuesday a huge TV crew were at the junction filming scenes for a new Channel 10 series called The Wrong Girl starring Jessica Marais.  They needed someone qualified to wrangle the escalators so I spent an hour and a half pushing the stop button every time the location man tapped me on the shoulder.

The patience of film people!  They did the same 20 seconds of scene half a dozen times with the stunt double, a couple of times with the actress, and then they did it all again from a different vantage point.  They had to stop, and I had to restart the escalators, every time a train came in.  I never realized how many trains come in on Platform 1 before.

The customers were startled to reach the top of the escalators and find a middle-aged Metro employee hiding cross legged behind the railing, but my knees are shot and it was much easier to risk being trampled than get up and down.  The film crew were lovely. They kept offering me cushions to sit on and bringing me tea.

Of course I forgot to take a picture but luckily someone going past in a train did and you can see Jessica Marais and her stunt double behind the extra in the purple top.

The location man assured me that my big moment was a pivotal scene and wouldn’t wind up on the cutting room floor.  When you see the escalator stop, you won’t see me, but you’ll know I’m there pressing that button!  Watch out Jessica Marais!  I’m on my way and I’ve got stars in my eyes.!!! :)


Interview with Aurealis Award winner Trent Jamieson



Congratulations on winning the 2015 Aurealis Award for both Best Fantasy and Best Horror novel!

That’s amazing.

Thanks! I was completely surprised, and delighted.

It’s about Mark – a Day Boy who works for a Vampire, running chores, protecting his master during the day. It’s his last year as a Day Boy and he must decide how he is going to enter adulthood as man or monster or something not quite either. And, things don’t go smoothly at all. I kind of pitched it as To Kill a Mockingbird meets Dracula – which is a bit cheeky, but kind of the mood that the book went along. My mum didn’t like it because it was too violent – and she’s read all my stuff. I’ve promised her the next book is very different – but you never know with books.

Can you pin-point an initial inspiration for the book?

A very strong image I had of two boys smoking in a crypt flicking cigarettes at a coffin. I knew at once that they worked for vampires, but I wanted to know what they were like, how they had gotten so comfortable, even brazen, in their job. Everything sprang from that.

What are you working on at the moment?

A novel called the Stone Road. I’m just picking through a messy first draft and trying to work out what it’s about – which I think I know, now, but we’ll see. There are many drafts ahead.

You’re clearly a fan of Lovecraft and also devoted to Brisbane where you now live. Brisbane is nothing like the gloomy windy shores of New England. Is Brisbane a gothic place in your mind? What makes it so?Trent-Photo

Funnily enough I’m not that into Lovecraft other than the cosmic horror, though I tend to play around with it a lot less seriously in my work. But I adore Brisbane. It is not a gothic place in my mind at all, in some ways, like most cities, I guess, it’s a blank slate. But that’s just an invitation to artists. Brisbane is a place that drives some great fantasy writing. You’ll be seeing new fantasy and horror novels set in Brisbane by Angela Slatter and Gary Kemble in the next twelve months or so, and that excites me. I think it’s a city worth writing about, and you know, what makes a city great comes down to the community that lives in it, and the stories they tell. The more stories and art we have the richer the place we live in. Brisbane sings with stories, and I’m proud to be a part of that.

What’s your writing process for books? Do you throw a lot away? Do you write every day? Are you a planner or do you fly by the seat of the pants?

I am slow and non-linear. And I slap scenes together and see how they work. I write thin – my early drafts are whisps – and then too thick, and then have to thin again. I don’t plan, but I do a lot of rewriting, structural and line-by-line – I don’t know if you’ve noticed here, but my punctuation is awful! I try and write every day, even if it’s only a few words. I don’t tend to do marathon sessions until I am editing and deadlines come into play. Otherwise it’s just chip, chip, chip and see what you end up with.

How do you go with social media? What do you do to increase interest in your work and how much time do you spend on it? Any tips?

I have gotten worse at this over the years. I’m a bit weary of social media as a platform, or maybe just weary of the sound of my voice. As a place to have fun it’s great, but as a selling tool for me, I’m not so sure. I don’t spend nearly enough time on increasing interest in my work. But I am always open to anything interesting when it comes along, promotion wise. What I do do, I try and have fun with. If you’re going to promote you need to be creative, honest, and have fun. Writing books is the thing that interests me, and reading. Everything else is just waving flags (unless, you’re great at it, and there are some really wonderful self promoters out there) and hoping someone notices.

What 3 artworks (books, music, visual arts, films) have most inspired you?

I am terrible at narrowing things down to favourites. They always change, because I keep reading and listening, and you forget your favourites (well, I do, anyway), and then you encounter the work again and you remember that, yes, you listened to that album non-stop for a year. But there is a constant churn of inspiration. Currently it’s Ursula K. Le Guin’s Tombs of Atuan, N.K. Jemisin’s book The Fifth Season (which I am reading at the moment), and Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian.

All of which are feeding into the new book whether I want them to or not.

Trent can be contacted at teacupthrenody at hotmail dot com

Trent Jamison 2


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