Yesterday, on the blog, I interviewed Angela Slatter, co-author of the brilliant 'Midnight & Moonshine', a dazzling retelling of old Norse myths, as part of a week-long celebration of the SPECULATIVE FICTION FESTIVAL, held this Saturday - 16 March 2013 - at the NSW Writers Centre in Rozelle, Sydney.
Today I am interviewing Lisa L. Hannett, her co-author:
What is your latest book about?
I’m currently working on Lament for the Afterlife, a mosaic novel that follows the story of Peytr Borysson, a young soldier whose family – and life – are in the process of disintegrating under the stress of war. This isn’t a post-apocalyptic story; instead, it’s an apocalyptic one. All of the action takes place during a world war against a crafty and often invisible enemy, which shows no signs of abating. Magic and mutations are the cause and effect of the conflict, so they are main factors in each character’s story; but mostly, this is a book about human faith and uncertainty in the face of major global upheaval. It’s about regular people like Peytr being thrust into horrible situations and surviving the best they can – even when it seems like their best can never be good enough.
How did you get the first idea for it?
This book sprang from a short story, ‘The Good Window’, which first appeared in Fantasy magazine (online) – and this story itself had a few catalysts. The first was a typo, which created a new word that launched my imagination into a hundred different directions (I get lots of ideas from typos, actually!). The second was a particularly hot day in Adelaide during Writers Week, when, walking from the festival to the Adelaide University Library to soak up some of their air-conditioning, I passed a bunch of business people in suits and ties lying on the grass, taking snoozes on their lunch breaks out in the park. Because my mind usually has a macabre bent, I looked at all these dozing people and wondered what it would be like if, actually, they were all dead… and what would a little kid think in that situation? Another was a particularly steep descent I once experienced flying into Tasmania… And yet another inspiration came when I was thinking about how people commemorate special events: what things they do to mark and remember significant occasions. All of these influences came out in ‘The Good Window’, but I’ve expanded on them in the larger narrative of the novel.
What do you love most about writing speculative fiction?
I love bending reality: making worlds that are often like our own, but off in weird and magical and horrible ways – and then exploring how ordinary people cope with these extraordinary circumstances. Many fantasy narratives focus on people who are way cooler, way more magical and way more talented than the rest of us – and while I absolutely love reading those stories, I often find myself writing about regular schmucks who aren’t always equipped to face tough magical worlds, situations or challenges. Often, it’s getting them through these challenges that makes writing speculative fiction so exciting!
What lies ahead of you in the next year?
Finishing Lament for the Afterlife is first on the cards. Then I’m going to focus on redrafting my fantasy novel, The Familiar (which is about witches and shapeshifting lunatics) while also working on a few short stories I’ve had percolating for a while, and are just about ready to be poured onto the page. In the meantime, I’ve started my new role as Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at Flinders University – but I’ll also be running short story workshops at the SA Writers Centre again this year. And of course, there are the conventions and festivals! The NSWWC Speculative Fiction Festival in March, Conflux in Canberra this April and the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton (UK) at the end of the year – all of which I’m really excited about!
What are the best 5 books you've read in the past year?
It is totally impossible to narrow it down to only five! So I’ve cheated a bit... This year I’ve been reading all over the place, so half of these aren’t new books, but they are all incredible: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, The Diviners by Margaret Laurence, Among Others by Jo Walton, Still She Wished for Company by Margaret Irwin, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, Osama by Lavie Tidhar, and Galore by Michael Crummey (which was a re-read, but so amazing it is still – and always – worth mentioning!)
Want to know more? You can read a long interview by me with both Angela and Lisa in the latest issue of Aurealis Magazine or come along and hear them speak at the festival this weekend. Hope to see you there!