Interview: Gillian Polack on Langue[dot]doc

Dr Gillian Polack joins me to talk about her new book, launching at Conflux 2014.

Congratulations on the launch of your new novel, Langue[dot]doc. Please tell us about it and your experiences of the places in the novel on your recent trip.

It wasn’t my recent trip that fed into this novel (I suddenly feel very adventurous and travelled) but the one in 2011. The University of Western Australia and Arts ACT helped me get there and I did a bunch of things, starting with a masterclass in SF criticism and ending with a week in the Languedoc, which is where my novel is set. I was bitten by something nasty in York and by the time I reached Montpellier I had to make an emergency hospital visit, so my whole time there was coloured by sunshine, icecream, and quite powerful antibiotics. I don’t know what influence this had on the story, but my research in France was done in a pleasant summer medicated daze. I spent my evenings watching the French-dubbed version of Fringe and Clone Wars, which possibly added to the surreal atmosphere.

Most of the story is set in and near a place called Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert, which is spectacularly beautiful.

I didn’t know it was beautiful when I planned my novel, however. I chose the town because it has a lot of surviving Medieval buildings (so it was easy to construct in my mind), and because William was an interesting bloke and his bones were there and I wanted an excuse to say ‘hi’ to him. Let me give you a picture of Saint-Guilhem and of his bones, so that you, too can say ‘hi’.

The memory of the man features very heavily in the novel, but the story isn’t about him at all. It’s about a bunch of scientists (mostly Aussie) who are going to 1305 to change the world through their research. These people do not travel back to the Middle Ages and suddenly become perfect: they carry all kinds of problems back with them. The heroine is, of course, a historian. Her name is Artemisia and she’s an expert in Clemence of Barking. Clemence of Barking has nothing to do with the Languedoc in 1305. So why is Artemisia the in-house historian? And just how many things can go wrong when a bunch of very clever people travel back in time? I think I’m going to move onto the next question, very quickly…

 You can find a copy here.

A street in St Guilhem-le-Desert.

A street in St-Guilhem-le-Desert.

What were the other highlights of your trip?

This recent trip had an impossible number of highlights. I met two Drs Who (Tennant and Davison) and I presented a Hugo. I saw the Northern Lights and ate fresh-picked blackberries at a deserted Anglo-Saxon village. I fell in love with Croatian fandom and Finnish fandom and Irish fandom (and I was already in love with British fandom). I was taught to make basic Dothraki jewellery by someone who worked on such things for Game of Thrones. I ate many splendid meals and listened to many splendid people say interesting things.

I was travelling as the GUFF delegate for Australasia (as you know, for you supported me – I wasn’t expecting to win, so my amazing experience felt like a gift, which it was), and there will be a trip report. I thought I’d already finished my report, but I keep thinking of things that I ought to add. I’ll let you know when it’s released.

Being the GUFF person opened many doors: I met (online) Singaporean writers and publishers and (in real life) so many translators and writers and con organisers and academics and generally fascinating people. I don’t think I had a single day without new experiences or wonderful things happening. It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

William's bones in the abbey of Gellone.

William’s bones in the abbey of Gellone.

It’s great to hear that Baggage (Eneit Press) is being relaunched as well! What is it about and how did it come to be relaunched?

Several people pushed to have it republished and spent a lot of time asking various publishers if they’d give it a go.
Wildside/Borgo said, finally “We’re willing to take it on.”
I said “It’s this strange Australian book, but the stories are spectacular.”
“We can do strange,” they said.
I miss Rob Reginald, who made these decisions: he died last year. We were swapping stories of seasonal change and then, suddenly, he was gone. I didn’t know Rob long and I never got to meet him face to face, but he supported Baggage and got it back into print and was so generous with it (allowed us to keep its Austraian character in its entirety, for one thing): he was a good bloke. He was also very easy to work with.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on my regular academic stuff (mainly a monograph on how writers use history) and I’m starting a new novel. Right now it’s only at research stage, but it’s going to be set in the late seventeenth century and it’s going to be about Women Who Travel. It may take a while to be finished, for I have other novels being published soonish, and they will need their time. Satalyte didn’t just take on my time travel novel, you see – they signed up several books of mine.

The church at S-Guiilhem-le Desert. There used to be two, but this is the surviving one and is now a tourist office.

The church at St-Guilhem-le-Desert. There used to be two, but this is the surviving one and is now a tourist office.

What have you enjoyed reading, lately?

Seventeenth century books and pamphlets. I really enjoyed Memoirs of a Secret Service Agent (1699), but it’s one of about 50 books I’ve already read from the last decades of the  seventeenth century, and quite a few of them are rather cool.

I’m also reading for the Aurealis Awards, but I can’t talk about that, which means most of my favourite modern books are under a cone of silence. Ask me again in four months time!


Enjoy your launches, Gillian!

Tiny Owl Hoots for Galactic Chat

Just a quick note to let you know my Galactic Chat interview with Sue Wright from Tiny Owl Workshop goes live in the evening of Friday 3rd October. I loved doing this interview. Sue is a lovely woman doing wonderful things for Australian writers and artists. Check out Tiny Owl’s stuff!

Women’s education helps avert child marriage

Helen Stubbs:

Touching stories about the benefits of education from some women who received education and some who didn’t.

Originally posted on World Education Blog:

This week, a Girl Summit is being held in London, aimed at rallying efforts to end female genital mutilation and child marriage within a generation. This blog looks at the vital role that education plays in helping reduce child marriages and the child pregnancies that often occur as a result.

Around 2.9 million girls are married by the age of 15 in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, equivalent to one in eight girls in each region, according to estimates in the 2013/4 EFA Global Monitoring Report. These shocking statistics mean millions of girls are robbed of their childhood and denied an education.

Our Report also showed, without a doubt, that ensuring that girls stay in school is one of the most effective ways to prevent child marriage.


Click to enlarge

Education empowers women to overcome discrimination. Girls and young women who are educated have greater awareness of…

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Snapshot 2014: Claire McKenna

Claire McKenna is a writer and Clarion South Writers Workshop graduate who lives in the infamous Melbourne suburb of Frankston along with a big boy and a little boy. She started writing short stories over 20 years ago and is now too entrenched in the habit to give it up, content with serial offending in awards such as the Scarlet Stiletto, Writers of the Future, Aurealis, Ditmar. Katherine Suzannah Pritchard and those old stalwarts, various SF convention fiction awards. Her latest works have been published in Cosmos, the CSFG anthology and Peggy Bright Books.

McKenna Author shot bw copy

Your story ‘Yard’ was recently published in Use Only As Directed by Peggy Bright Books. Can you tell us a bit about ‘Yard’, and other short stories that you are writing currently?

Well, YARD came from a few true events, we moved from a nice house a few years ago to a crappy cottage, and within a week the nice back yard went feral. Later on one of the neighbours would tell us that there’s a natural spring under the street, and the groundwater is affected by the tides from the nearby beach. So as a result of that, everything is green, even in the middle of summer. We demolished the house and razed the topsoil. Our lawn grew back, I swear. No idea how. It’s monstrous. I kind of wondered if it would be possible to hide a body in it, as you do.

As for other short stories, one day I’ll get the urge and I’ll finish the dozen or so half-completed or nearly-finished shorts on my Dropbox. I’m concentrating on breaking into the novel market at the moment, but I’ll have stuff on standby if people contact me for content on their anthologies at last minute! I think my recent writing career consists entirely of last minute requests. Not that I mind, I like the added push.

Can you tell us about some of your earlier work, such as ‘What the Tide Brings’ and ‘Dark and Secret Places’? Which of your published works are you most fond of, and why?

‘Tide’, is my favourite definitely. It got me my Aurealis nomination back in the dim recesses of history. I love anything with ocean motifs in it. The story is also part of a larger worldbuilt universe that I’ll explore one day.

‘Dark and Secret Places’ was written to novel length ten years ago. I got as far as an R&R with a prospective agent before I realised I was not happy with the changes she wanted me to make, and if I published it, the story would be effectively set in stone. I guess I was still developing things in my head in terms of worldbuilding and plot-hole filling, and in the decade it’s moved away from an X-Filesy investigative procedural story and into something much deeper (and wonderful).

You talk about your Pie In Sky Project on your blog. Tell us a bit about this work in progress. How far in are you, what goes on in it, and when might it be ready for consumption?

I had two major ones, code-named Experimental Novel and Pie In The Sky. Both are completed and are in submission hell. (This interview has fallen right in the purgatory period.) At the time of writing this I’m actively shopping them around, and in terms of how far I’ve gotten? I’m in the checkout aisle with both of them and I have my Rewards Card out, if you know what I mean. There may be news soon. Everyone who reads this is probably on my Facebook, so I have more updates there. (One of the reasons I took so long is due to my hoping for something concrete to report!)

What Australian works have you loved recently?

Oh, Andrew McCrae’s TRUCKSONG through Twelfth Planet Press is brilliant. I love cyberpunk, one day it will come back and we will all rejoice and drag out our manuscripts featuring cyborgs and ennui! I heard Andy is thinking of turning it into a graphic novel, which would be awesome. It’s got some great images, of especially the wild brumby trucks in the desert. I was honoured to be able to film the Trucksong launch at Continuum recently, and then to put all the pieces of footage together without the aid of sound synching. It made me miss my old filmmaking days.

Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

I had to make a big decision – well several big decisions – over the last few years. What do I want? I could get my books ‘published’ tomorrow if I went the self-pub route. It seems such an easy step to take, though in reality it’s so hard in execution, especially to do it well. And sometimes I see other people do it and let’s face it, they’ve at least got something to sell to earn them the tag of writer, and a cool cover to put on their website and ACTUAL PRODUCT, while I sometimes feel I’m languishing. But I’ve committed to trade publishing and the support of other writers in the community has been brilliant.

I sometimes think they’re a bit like the tricycle kid from the Incredibles movie, the one who sits outside the retired Mr. Incredible’s house waiting for him to do something amazing. So I guess that’s where I’d love to be in five years!


This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and collating the links at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:




Snapshot 2014: Elizabeth Fitzgerald

Elizabeth Fitzgerald has been a freelance editor since 2004 and is the owner of Earl Grey Editing. She has worked on a wide variety of publications–most notably Winds of Change, an anthology of speculative fiction short stories by CSFG Publishing. From 2010 until 2013, she was a committee member of  the CSFG, serving as Secretary in 2011 and 2012.  She has a weakness for books, loose-leaf tea and silly dogs.

You can find her at or on Twitter @elizabeth_fitz

 20140526 Honeysuckle 1 HDR


In your freelance editing work what guides you to help authors bring out the best in their story? How do you achieve a balance in time and energy for working on your own writing and editing for others?

I was very fortunate to become part of two wonderful writing communities early in my writing life—one of them being the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild. Beta reading and critiquing circles were a significant part of these groups and editing was such a short step from there. Because of this, editing retains strong connections with building community for me. This association got reinforced by being able to watch editor Gillian Polack at work behind the scenes of Masques (CSFG Publishing) and Baggage (Eneit Press). She taught me that, more than anything else, editing is about having a dialogue with authors. If there’s anything I love as much as a good story, it’s a good conversation about stories (and a good cup of tea). Editing allows me to have all of those things!

Managing time for my own work as well as editing for others is quite a challenge. Most of the time, I deal with it by concentrating on editing during normal office hours (since it is my day job) and then working on my writing in the evenings. However, freelancing doesn’t always work out so neatly. There are occasions when I am juggling a couple of jobs at the same time or need to work outside of normal office hours. Anthologies very much fit in here. During these times, I find it tends to be less about balance than about cycles. I’ll drop everything to work on the editing. Once the project/s are complete, there’s usually a lull time in which I can recover my sanity and then focus exclusively on my own work for a little while.

You edited the anthology Winds of Change published by CSFG in 2011. (I was lucky enough to be one of the authors and working with you was wonderful!) Can you tell us about the process and the highlights?

You are too kind—especially considering the number of times I sent you back for rewrites!

As I mentioned earlier, I worked behind the scenes with Gillian Polack and Scott Hopkins on the CSFG’s anthology Masques. Very shortly after publication, the CSFG decided to get the ball rolling on its next anthology and put a call out to members for editors. After some unsubtle nudging from other members, I volunteered and was accepted.

Working on CSFG anthologies is intended to be a learning experience for members and I certainly found that to be true. Although I had learned a lot from working on Masques and Baggage, there were aspects of the process I got to experience for the first time with Winds of Change. An example of this was selecting the theme of the anthology from a large number put forward by CSFG members. I also read all the slush myself and coming across Maxine McArthur’s story ‘The Soul of the Machine’ for the very first time was definitely a highlight. It was the first of the stories that I knew without a doubt I wanted for the anthology. Getting to meet new or new-to-me authors was another highlight.

The process wasn’t without its challenges, however. Our submission deadline got pushed back after a cyclone hit Queensland. The CSFG has some strong ties to the writing communities there and we wanted to make sure they had a chance to recover and get their stories to us, even if it meant a tighter timeframe for the editing. My grandmother also passed away and I found myself writing both her eulogy and the introduction for the anthology at the same time.

Winds of Change was launched at Conflux 7 the day before my 29th birthday and it was a pretty memorable birthday present.

Your story ‘Phoenix Down’, published in Next by CSFG in 2013, weaves textural, thermal, and seasonal contrasts into the narrative. In your current work, does the natural environmental inspire you and affect how you work?

If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably gathered from the photos that I have a bit of an interest in nature. Place is a preoccupation of mine and one of the awesome things about having lived in the same place for my entire life is that I’ve had a chance to study this bioregion fairly intimately. At first this study was pretty casual, as it is for most people—just a noting that the flowers are out now or which species of birds have returned to the area. Then it grew more intense and I began to study natural history more thoroughly.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, my writing has mirrored this transition. The natural environment started off as unsophisticated background. As I learned more about my own bioregion, I found my world-building becoming more nuanced and I started to use the environment in my stories to create those contrasts you mentioned in relation to ‘Phoenix Down’.

These days the natural environment is playing an even more active role in my writing. I’m currently working on a short story called Heartwood which uses an animistic setting. Oceans, rocks and other environmental features possess their own spirits and power which human mages are able to draw upon and exploit. The story focuses on the relationship between a young mage and a tree.

I also have a 10 000 word story gathering dust while I figure out what to do with it. Called Siren Songs, it was my first foray into fantasy that uses a distinctly Australian-inspired landscape and is about an undead siren plaguing a town on the edge of a salt lake. I had thought it would be a stand-alone piece but it seems to want to morph into something longer—something about travel, place and belonging. I just haven’t yet figured out the specifics.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

I recently spent one glorious day devouring Juliet Marillier’s YA fantasy Raven Flight. It is the second in the Shadowfell trilogy and I have been itching to get my hands on the final book, The Caller, which has just been released. The series features one of the more deftly handled romances I’ve seen in YA recently, showing how a protagonist can be in love while still retaining her intelligence and independence.

Speaking of intelligent and independent female characters, I am way behind the times and still catching up on Glenda Larke’s Mirage Makers trilogy. In addition to the characters, the world-building in this series appeals to me. All too often, I feel like writers build their worlds by throwing together a collection of geological features almost at random, without any clear idea of how these features interact. However, the map in the Mirage Makers trilogy made sense from a geological perspective and was a great demonstration of the careful consideration given to the creation of this trilogy.

Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

The recent industry changes have meant that my editing clients are somewhat more likely to be heading towards self-publishing rather than towards more traditional methods. However, the change hasn’t been as dramatic as you might expect and ultimately doesn’t influence the way I work.

The biggest change has been in my reading. While I still tend to favour paperbacks, I have started reading more novella-length e-books. This is partly thanks to recommendations from friends who have been steering me towards fantasy romance and introduced me to the work of UK author Amy Rae Durreson. I hope that in five years from now my reading horizons will be continuing to expand into genres that are new to me.

As for my writing, I have a duology I’m working on that I hope to have finished in the next five years. It is an epic fantasy/alternate history that owes somewhat to George R.R. Martin and is taking me well outside my comfort zone.


This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and collating the links at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:



Snapshot 2014: Tom Dullemond


Tom Dullemond stumbled out of university with a double degree in Medieval/Renaissance studies and Software Engineering. One of these degrees got him a job and he has been writing and working in IT ever since. Tom writes primarily short fiction across all genres, including literary fiction and the occasional poem. He co-authored ‘The Machine Who Was Also a Boy’, the first in a series of philosophical fantasy adventures for middle-grade students, and writes regular flash Science Fiction for CSIRO’s The Helix high school science magazine. 

You’ve been working on some exciting projects for Brisbane Writer’s Festival 2014! Tell us about them.

The Brisbane City Council has been working more closely with the Brisbane Writers Festival this year, and I’ve been involved in a few projects that cross over. I applied for and was accepted to be one of the three writers contributing to this year’s StreetReads ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ series, run by Emily Craven on behalf of the BCC. StreetReads is a location-based adventure that takes the reader through Brisbane and parts of the Cultural Precinct, and each of the contributing writers has to map out their own 15-site stories. That project ended up being a solid 10,000 words across eight different branching stories and one of the more challenging things I’ve attempted with a deadline. I’m very excited to see how the final products come out, though; each story has commissioned art, soundtrack and voiceovers, so a lot of work has gone into it from all contributors. I did a kind of matrix-y digital Brisbane adventure, and my co-authors Gary Kemble and Jody MacGregor wrote a story about giant mutant cockroaches invading the city, and a pirate captain trying to pull together a haphazard crew, respectively.

I’m also doing a short workshop for young writers about how to write SF, for the Love YA festival at the Square Library, and I’ve acquired four Lucha Libre Mexican wrestling masks to run a competitive improv fast fiction competition on the Sunday of the BWF. It’s called ‘Lucha Libro’, modelled on a Peruvian idea but amped up a little bit because I have a short attention span. I expect it to be ridiculous live literary wrestling.

You co-authored a children’s chapter book titled ‘The Machine Who Was Also A Boy,’ published by eMergent Press in 2013. What were some of the highlights of the experience?

Writing a longer form children’s book with my old friend Mike McRae was really fun. I touched on some of the pros and cons of co-writing in an article I wrote for the QWC [not sure if there's an online link to that], but one of the highlights of finding someone you can co-write with is that you can smooth over the regular bumps and pauses of getting a narrative down. If you’re really stuck, you can throw over to your partner in crime, and when the manuscript comes back you’ll more than likely have something to help you on your way. Also, if you’re just not feeling it, you can go back over your collaborator’s work and do some editing and rewriting without having to push forward.

It was also great going to Conflux in 2013 and doing the book launch. One of the highlights was definitely talking to kids about philosophy, about ethics, about how we struggle to find answers to questions that depend so much on context. It was really cool connecting with an audience like that.


What do you have coming out soon, and what writing projects are you working on at the moment?

I’m very proud to have a story in Tiny Owl Workshop’s Unfettered project, and also have a short in the forthcoming Suspended in Dusk horror anthology (painstakingly edited by Simon Dewar) and a story in Fablecroft’s Insert Title Here antho. I continue to put out short flash SF fiction for CSIRO’s high school science magazine Helix, and am getting a few requests to pen writing articles here and there. It’s actually been quite a ridiculously successful year for me this year.

In terms of projects I’m working on, I’m stuck on the final chapter of the second Pandora’s Paradoxes book, which is mostly because for children’s fiction I think it’s a copout to have a huge battle and defeat the bad guys with violence. Kids already know you can win with violence, I kind of owe it to the readers to show them that you can win without it.

I’m also trying an adventure novella for Dark Region Press’s cool I am the Abyss anthology, as well as planning on submitting to a range of Australian anthologies coming up, including Hear me Roar by Ticonderoga Publications and Tiny Owl’s Lane of Unusual Traders.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

I’m way behind on Australian novels, focussing mostly on shorter fiction. I only just started reading Trent Jamieson’s Death Works trilogy, that’s how far behind I am! I have a copy of Alan Baxter’s Bound to read, and Ambassador by Patty Jansen, and I want to read Andrew Macrae’s Trucksong. In the short-to-long range, though, I loved Kim Wilkins’ collection The Year of Ancient Ghosts, as well as Jo Anderton’s ‘The Bone-Chime song’ which I read in the Light Touch Paper – Stand Clear anthology. I do a lot of beta-reading for fellow writers, and some slushreading for Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.

In terms of work I’ve been really excited about, though: pretty much everything Tiny Owl Workshop is putting out. They pay tremendous rates, they produce quality artwork, and they’re throwing out ideas ranging from shared-world fiction (The Lane of Unusual Traders) through to Christmas cracker flash fiction (Krampus Crackers), plus they’re local. I’m a huge fan of collaborative literary art, so I try to stay on top of all their projects.

I’m also a fan of the amazing illustration work from Brisbane artists Terry Whidborne and Kathleen Jennings. The Australian literary scene is super exciting for me, and even more exciting is how many of the exciting parts of it are hanging around my home town

Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

Because I don’t write novels, the publishing industry changes don’t really affect me. I have no expectation of funding a fulltime career with writing, because it’s just not feasible with short fiction. If anything, crowdfunding sites like KickStarter make it easier for anthologies of short fiction to be published, and electronic submissions have made it easier to get your work in front of editors. I think the key to getting financial value out of your writing career is to treat it like a business, with proper business tools. I hope to be able to contribute to that space soon when we finally launch, a project that’s been brewing for years.

In five years I expect to still be writing and reading short speculative work, although if the last year or so is an indication I might be pivoting a little more towards writing for children, or at least talking about writing for children, and possibly pulling some themed anthologies together for publication. My daughter will be almost 18 in five years, so the dark gods only know what my life will be like then.

I definitely want to do more cross-medium work; I really enjoyed the choose-your-own-adventure format, although it is really hard to plan. I want to get more into writing for role playing games. I want to do more collaborative art projects, or technology enhanced work.


This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and collating the links at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:


Snapshot 2014: Abigail Nathan

Abigail Nathan has been a freelance editor for over ten years, specialising in genre fiction, including speculative fiction; YA; romance and erotica. She edits for various Australian publishing houses, including HarperCollins, Random House, Hachette, Penguin and Harlequin, as well as publishers in the US and UK. She also works regularly with emerging and self-publishing writers, mentoring and helping them to develop their work.

Abigail runs Bothersome Words Editing & Writing Services and blogs at and on twitter at @BothersomeWords. She is also the website coordinator for the Society of Editors (NSW) Inc. and occasionally presents workshops for editors on freelancing, social media and marketing.



You’ve worked in a wide range of roles and edited lots of genre fiction! Do you continue to learn about editing and narrative?

Always! I learn something from every manuscript I work on and from every writer I work for or with. When you edit, essentially you’re analysing the writing. I have learned more about writing, and the rules and processes thereof, by reading and working on manuscripts than from studying editing itself.

For me, editing properly requires getting inside the writer’s mindset – it’s the only way you can (try) to slip into their voice and style when you’re making changes to and suggestions about their work (assuming you want your efforts to appear seamless and invisible), and in the process of doing that – picking up their style and habits and tics – you work out why a particular thing does or doesn’t work. For an editor, it’s a great way to learn how and why certain writing and editing rules exist and how you can either enforce, ignore, or work around them while staying true to the writer’s voice and intent.

I learn as much from new writers who are still developing their skills as I do from writers who have really mastered the craft.

People are always telling writers they need to read a lot and broadly if they want to get better at what they do. The same is true of editors: you need to read a lot, and figure out what does or doesn’t work in a piece if you want to be able to edit well.

I spend a lot of time reading and discussing language and writing with other editors and writers, too. And I still regularly take courses on writing and editing. No one knows everything and there are always those “oh, that’s so obvious” things to learn that somehow passed you by.

What are some of the best (and worst — if you want to go there) aspects of the editor-writer relationship?

Best: being allowed to work on someone’s beloved story or manuscript. Actually collaborating and sharing ideas and solutions and getting involved with a world they have created. Any time you feel you might have helped or made a difference (in a good way). I love stories and I get to play inside them for a living. Having an author trust you with the keys to their innermost thoughts and imaginings is pretty special.

Worst: I work with a lot of new writers, many of whom know nothing about the industry. It is always ALWAYS tough to be the one to burst their bubble by explaining that this first manuscript is not going to mean they can quit their day job at the end of the year, or possibly ever. And giving feedback is always harrowing. Despite our reputation, most editors are not harsh critics out to ruin dreams, but often we do have to tell people they might need to do some writing classes and rework from scratch the manuscript they sent in…rather than sending it to a publisher as is.

OK, that looks really unbalanced! I *love* my job, to be clear. And I really love working with writers at all stages of their career. I just don’t like to have to give enthusiastic people news they don’t want to hear. Crushing someone’s dreams isn’t fun.

Congratulations on receiving a grant from the Australia Council to attend UK conferences for skills development. Can you tell us about your conference plans and presentations, and any specific research areas you are interested in?

Thanks! Currently I am set to present a workshop on editing for writers at NineWorlds Geekfest, and I’m on a panel about editing at LonCon3. I’ll also be attending the International Edinburgh Book Festival and FantasyCon in York. In between whiles, I’ll be doing a bit of a bookish tour around the south of England, visiting various writers’ spots and homes so I can get a feel for the sort of places that inspire/d them.

It’s all part of a research project into writers and their processes. As I said above, I learn best, and work best as an editor, if I can understand how a writer thinks. Learning what inspires and helps different writers in their own approach to writing and creating not only helps me to provide edits and feedback in terms they are familiar with, but it helps me to advise and mentor writers who still want to develop certain skills. I am going to be listening to and talking to a lot of novelists and publishers and industry professionals, but I am also really keen to learn more about the writing habits and techniques of writers outside books. I’m hoping to talk to fanfic writers, scriptwriters, and comics and game writers about how they each approach and develop their projects. They all have slightly different considerations and the final products have slightly different aims and requirements to a novel manuscript, but a lot of tips and tricks will cross over. I am hoping to develop a kind of arsenal of different exercises, techniques and suggestions I can use to help both editors and writers develop their skills.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

Oh gosh, how long have you got? I am really behind and in danger of serious injury from my to-be-read avalanche pile…

I have been privileged to work on Karen Miller’s upcoming The Falcon Throne, which is going to be amazing. I am still (shamefully late) working through Trudi Canavan’s latest series. I’ve brought a massive stack of Australian ebooks overseas with me, so ask again in a couple of weeks!

Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

I’m not sure they’ve change how I work, precisely, but I am required to do different things these days. I get a lot more work from private clients – either those who wish to self-publish and want a lot more help and advice, and need more detailed edits with fuller explanations. Mentoring and support has become a bigger part of my job. I also find that work requirements from trade publishers have shifted a bit and certainly for digital imprints the workflow is slightly different and a lot faster. There is a lot more combining of editorial stages.

If I could predict the future, I’d make millions! I think publishers will start experimenting even more with digital publishing and this might mean a bit more variety. Already publishers are doing some great things and are more willing to take chances on things that might be considered too risky for print. For example, I just worked on a choose-your-own-adventure style series for adults/YA and digital is really perfect for that. Novellas and even much-longer-than-usually-accepted work are also more possible and accepted in digital since there are fewer cost and binding concerns, so I suspect we’ll see more of that. And at some point someone will work out how to make add-ons and apps work in some really obvious and usable way for novels (especially fantasy and scifi) and I think that will become accepted and expected in a way they aren’t quite yet. There are things available already, but largely these have not been embraced by readers. Yet. However, the next generation of readers is being brought up on ebooks and reading onscreen/online and they will have far different expectations/understanding/preferences than those of us still recovering from an all-paper world.

All this will mean editors might be expected or required to edit slightly different supplementary material. And I think freelancers like me will be expected to understand and use templates and management systems in a way that isn’t quite universal yet.

When I first started out I was doing a lot of things on paper, but it’s nearly all on-screen now and it’s not unheard of for editors to be expected to know how to code and format as well.

Having said all that, five years is a lifetime in publishing these days, so I’m not sure I can guess!


This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and collating the links at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:




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