Archive for September, 2013
I’d like to introduce you to the erudite and dapper Mr Michael Pryor – if you don’t already know him and his works. I’ve been enjoying his latest series The Extraordinaires this year. It was my pleasure to meet Michael at Melbourne’s recent Continuum convention where I found him to be a true gentleman and a very interesting man to listen to.
So. I’ve fired five questions and a statement at Michael. What follows are his responses…
With over 30 novels to your name, what would be the secret(s) to your longevity as an author?
MP: Longevity? I think it’s a matter of working steadily (every day, if possible), being alert for new ideas (I think everyone has ideas – I just grab them and write a story using them) and always aiming to write better and better.
Of your novels, what is your favourite and why?
MP: My usual response here is, ‘My latest – because it’s the freshest in my mind.’ That would make it The Subterranean Stratagem, which expands on and deepens the world of The Extinction Gambit, the first book of The Extraordinaires series. Having said that, I do have a deep and abiding penchant for Blaze of Glory, the first book of The Laws of Magic, because in it I was trying to do a number of things I’d never tried before (comedy/fantasy, Steampunk and a romance) and by the end of it I think I managed to do it.
Who would be YOUR current favourite 3 or 4 authors?
MP: Tim Powers. A supreme storyteller whose researching is first class and whose nose for the oddities of history is top class. Neale Stephenson. Erudite, esoteric and funny. Lois McMaster Bujold. She can do character like few others – deft, subtle and with the appearance of effortlessness. Dan Simmons. I’ll read anything he writes. Even his lesser works are great. Oh, and can I slip in Terry Pratchett? Because Terry Pratchett?
Where did the inspiration for The Extraordinaires come from?
MP: I’ve always been fascinated by magic, by sleight of hand. As a kid I read a lot about the history of magic and I loved the world of the Victorian/Edwardian stage with all the big names up in lights. The showmanship of Thurston, Hermann and Maseklyne was enchanting. The Edwardian era appealed to me as a rich and textured time, the beginning of the modern world in its advances in science and technology, where society was moving out of the Victorian strictures, as evidenced by the beginnings of the Suffragist movement and the rise of labour associations. I love the chance to play against the old-fashioned manners and morals, where courtesy and politeness were important. With the addition of a little magic and mystery, it was the perfect world for my particular brand of Fantasy. Thus, The Extraordinaires.
The Extraordinaires begins in London in 1908. This is, in some ways, the height of the Edwardian period. London hosts both the Olympic Games and the great Franco-British Exhibition and is still the centre of a vast and prosperous empire. Naturally, this is an irresistible backdrop to imagine a world that lies underneath such a well-organised and forthright society, a shadowy world that contains both the malign and the magnificent, a world that can be found behind unexpected doorways, beneath the streets and in those parts of the city that are unfrequented by upright citizens. This Demimonde – the half-world – intersects with the criminal underworld and the world of the theatre, where our young hero, Kingsley Ward, is hoping to make a success. The problem is, though, that he was raised by wolves and this upbringing unfortunately surfaces in times of stress. Howling and biting people during your stage debut is never a good way to start a theatrical career …
Advice to up-and-coming writers?
MP: I echo Stephen King. Read a lot and write a lot. Also – finish something! So many people have the beginnings of a dozen stories lying about. Finish one, and finish it properly, so it’s as good as it can be. Then start the next one and finish it, too.
Statement: Australian speculative fiction is enjoying its healthiest season yet.
MP: We certainly have many, many people writing it, that’s for sure. Gone are the days when I could count on the fingers of one hand those who were writing in this field. Now, if only it could get the recognition and respect it deserves from outside genre circles.
Michael’s work can be found in all good bookstores, with samples available on his website: http://www.michaelpryor.com.au/
This post is the first in a new series where I invite an author whose work I’ve enjoyed to respond to five questions & one statement. It’s meant to be short, sharp and interesting. So, I’ll get on with it!
Our first guest is horror and fantasy writer Keith C Blackmore. This year I “discovered” his Mountain Man (MM) series of zombie novels, a series I’m loving (I’m currently immersed in the second book). Keith is an indie author and a stand-up guy. Let’s see how he handles my questions…
PETE: Where did the inspiration for the Mountain Man series come from?
KEITH: Always wanted to do a zombie story (as well as some other classic monsters) so I sat and thought about what I liked about the genre and didn’t like, and kept those notes handy. I had read Stephen Knight’s book “The Gathering Dead” which was my first exposure to military vs. zombies, and while it was a great read, I knew I couldn’t do something like that. So I created Gus, who is essentially Robinson Crusoe at heart, but with a little more emotional baggage. I didn’t want to do an “outbreak” book. That really didn’t interest me, but I did like the concept of this average guy surviving with no special training, using only common sense and taking no chances (at least in the beginning, anyway). MM was always a character piece right from the start, with the zombies as the backdrop, but with attempts to make it scary, or at least suspenseful.
PETE: It’s a wonderful character piece: Gus is a very likeable (if flawed) character! So, what are you most proud of in your various novels?
KEITH: Difficult question to answer as I can’t say I’m really proud of the books. I am extremely happy that people buy, read and enjoy them. And I guess I do feel vindicated that my work is selling after 20 plus years of trying to get a publishing contract. I’m glad people like the characters. At one time I felt that my characterization skills were lacking, so I really tried to work on them, making mental notes of such great writers as David Gemmell and Stephen King. And MM got a movie option agreement/contract just a few months ago and even though I know it’s a long shot of it even becoming a flick (something like 5%, if that?), it’s a professional pat on the back that I’m doing something right.
PETE: Absolutely! Hope they make the fillum. Next: whose advice do you listen to on choosing the books you read? (Goodreads, friends, professional reviewers, Amazon reviewers…?)
KEITH: On choosing the books that I read? I usually do my shopping on Amazon nowadays (it’s so convenient) but if I’m around a used book shop I’ll go in there too. I read the product blurb and the first few pages to see if the writing style clicks with me. The storyline has to be really, really interesting for me to purchase without sampling. I don’t usually follow any advice (or if I do, it’s from friends). I read a lot of different genres, and make a study session of the ones that really impress me.
PETE: What has been the hardest or most wearisome part of getting your writing off the ground?
KEITH: The hardest part? Definitely the editing . After going over a book two or three or more times, just looking at the cover makes me want to barf. It’s like eating your favourite food for a solid week. The writing of the first draft is usually great, and going back for that second draft a few months later is also great, but after that, it gets really tedious.
PETE: What’s next for you?
KEITH: I write in Horror and Heroic Fantasy. 2013 was set to focus on developing a new fantasy series called “131 Days.” I like the grim worlds of say George Martin and Joe Abercrombie, and my work mirrors theirs, so I’ll be writing a couple of fantasy books as well as others. I actually just finished up on the first draft of book 3 of “131 Days,” and I have a sequel to the “White Sands, Red Steel” book. “131 Days” is more of a character study while White Sands is more action oriented. There’s a werewolf book in my head that I’ll start on September 7th, and there’s the fourth book of MM. Always had an idea for MM4, but I couldn’t go back to zombies after MM3 as I needed to take a break from them. Been taking notes all the while, and I think I’m ready to go back to that world. For a bit anyway.
So production-wise, the schedule looks like this: (all are first drafts and second drafts will happen in between projects)
Book 3, 131 Days (done)
He-Dog 2 (White Sands sequel–already partially done, needs second draft)
And that should take me up to the middle of 2014, I think. Only hope they sell and that people like them! One of the things being a full time writer is the unknown of it all. I’m still building my reader base, and I’m very well aware that one “bad” book could cripple whatever progress I’ve made thus far. And if the writing career falters, well, (shrugs) I’m not sure what I’ll do, which is all good motivation to produce quality reads.
PETE: Here’s your statement (respond as you wish): Self-publishing beats traditional publishing in this day and age.
KEITH: In my experience it certainly does :). But then it’s a different road for each writer. If a person can’t afford to take on the costs associated with self-publishing (cover, editing, etc) then the traditional route is probably preferable.