Satima Flavell is a freelance writer, editor and reviewer. She has had poems and short stories published, and many feature articles and reviews – her work as an arts journalist has appeared in The Australian, The West Australian, Music Maker, Dance Australia and many other journals. She is well-known to the speculative fiction community as Reviews Editor for The Specusphere webzine, and she now writes for the arts website Artshub.com.au. Her first novel, The Dagger of Dresnia, book one of The Talismans, is published by Satalyte Publishing and the second book in the trilogy, The Cloak of Challiver, is in preparation.
Congratulations on the publication of your novel The Dagger of Dresnia by Satalyte Publishing. Tell us about it!
It’s a long story! In 2003, I was on a silent meditation retreat in which we studied the Buddhist system of personality types, which says there are three kinds of people – those in whom greed is the predominant feature; those who display more aversion, and those who are even more deluded than the rest of us. J I got an idea for a story about a man who had a wife and two mistresses, each one of them representing one of these types. Then iat Swancon 2004 I attended a mini-workshop with Lee Battersby, in which I wrote a story about a prince and princess who eloped and married against their parents’ wishes, and I knew they were the parents of the man in the first story. But when I started to write, several of my critique partners said it still wasn’t the beginning, and I needed to go back another generation. And so a trilogy was born. It took me five years to write The Dagger of Dresnia and another five to find a publisher. Did you know that for every thousand manuscripts sent to publishing houses, less than ten are ever published? If I’d known that ten years ago, I might not have started.
You were editor at The Specusphere for several years – an organisation which ran from 2004 to 2013, with a website with many reviews of speculative fiction in all its forms. It also published the anthology Mythic Resonance. Can you tell us about the highlights of working as editor for The Specusphere?
It was a great experience! A lot of it was hard graft – some weeks I was putting in as many hours as in a full-time job – but I learnt a lot about the Australian SF scene and about trends in publishing. I wrote a lot of reviews, which meant I read a lot of books! Working on Mythic Resonance was interesting, too. The hardest part was choosing thirteen stories from the fifty-odd submissions. Mythic Resonance, however, was the death knell of The Specusphere, because although we had help from three contributing editors, the bulk of the work fell to the three of us who were running The Specusphere – Stephen Thompson, Amanda Greenslade and myself. Once the anthology was released, we gradually wound the webzine down, finally closing the site late in 2012. We were all exhausted, I think.
What are you working on at the moment?
Book two of the trilogy, The Cloak of Challiver, which is scheduled for release later this year. After that, I’ll finally get to write the story about the man with three partners! It will be called The Seer of Syland.
What Australian works have you loved recently?
Lots! Glenda Larke’s new trilogy looks like a winner. (The first book is called The Lascar’s Dagger – 2014 must be a year for dagger stories!) Juliet Marillier’s latest YA trilogy, Shadowfell, is brilliant, too. I’m enjoying Marianne de Pierres’s Tara Sharp series, and I’ve just started Alan Baxter’s Bound. In anthologies, I loved Ticonderoga’s More Scary Kisses, and their latest in the series, Kisses by Clockwork, looks just as good. Another anthology well worth dipping into is Great Southern Land, from my publisher, Satalyte. Joanna Fay’s Siaris Quartet (book four is due out soon) is also outstanding, but although she’s an Aussie she’s not well known here because she publishes in the States. And that’s only looking at fantasy. I don’t read a lot of SF and I don’t read horror at all, so I’m probably missing out on some great stuff. There is no shortage of talent in this country.
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?
Given that I’m now in my eighth decade, I may well be dead or demented in five years, but if I’m still around I will probably still be writing stories set in the fairy-tale pseudo-medieval world that I love so much! And while the recent changes in the industry haven’t affected the way I approach my work, it’s obvious that self-publishing and e-books are the coming thing, at least for fiction writers. I think within ten years some of the Big Six will go out of business, and most hard-copy publishers will be focusing on non-fiction, especially things like coffee-table books with lots of lovely pictures. E-books will go deeper and deeper into multimedia, I suspect. But the market for paperbacks will go on for a while yet. There are still a lot of people who don’t like to read from a screen.
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: