Thanks to Kathryn Linge for posting this interview with me here, as part of the Snapshot 2012 series, which focuses on published Australian speculative fiction writers.
Snapshot 2012: Interview with Joanna Fay
Joanna Fay is a writer of fantasy novels, short stories and poetry. Her first novel Daughter of Hope: The Siaris Quartet Book One, launches on Friday June 8th as an e-book through Musa Publishing. Joanna lives in the Perth hills, Western Australia, with her teenage son and a menagerie of small pets of the furred or feathered persuasion. You can find Joanna at: http://joannafay.me/, http://egoboo-wa.blogspot.com/, facebook, and twitter.
1. Congratulation on the imminent publication of ‘Daughter of Hope’, the first novel of the ‘The Siaris Quartet’! Can you tell us about the book, and also about your story-world, Siaris?
I’ll start with Siaris, which goes back to about eight years old, when I remember dreaming of winged people living in a vast, hollow world sustained by magic. At around twelve, I started drawing them, the land they lived in, and a lot of maps. During teens I wrote stories about these people, and they developed as distinct characters with their own languages. By late 20s, I’d written more than 3000 pages of what could best be summed up as a ‘dramatized hundred thousand year history’ that probably meant I’d read Tolkien’s Silmarillion too many times!
After destroying most of that huge, unwieldy mass of words, I found the last few hundred pages many years later in a packing case six years ago and, for the first time, wondered if it might be readable to anyone other than me. It was quite a vulnerable feeling, putting what was purely personal writing ‘out there’ into a writing group (the Speculative Fiction Group at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre in Perth) so I ‘started small’ with a short story – a moment in the development of a daughter of the lead villain in the Siaris storyworld. From that traumatic fragment of young Revetia’s life, a longer story spooled out in a rush and resulted in a novella which I sent off to Dario Ciriello in the USA, who had a call out for speculative fiction novellas. It didn’t suit his anthology, but he gave me a wealth of feedback and encouraged me to take the story up to novel length. ‘Daughter of Hope’ really sits as a prequel in front of an already existing, complex story that my critiquing buddies at WA Egoboo unanimously let me know needed to be a trilogy. So ‘The Siaris Quartet’ wasn’t planned as such in any way, and its evolution has surprised me immensely, as has the amount of work needed to trim, tighten and focus my writing craft! Lucky I came in so naïve, or it might have scared me off.
2. You write poetry as well as prose fiction. Does poetry provide you with an avenue for expression that prose cannot? Do you find yourself addressing the same themes in each form?
Yes and yes. Poetry is condensed, crystallized phrases that carry a lot more ‘space’ than prose, both in form and function. My process with poems is to let a spark of an idea percolate, sometimes for months, and then catch it in a stream of consciousness moment when it’s ‘ready’ (and I learned the hard way not to answer the phone in the middle of that stream). They tend to land on the page as a fully-fledged ‘unit’ which I don’t edit much. This process is, for me, also true of flash fiction and short stories of up to a few thousand words. Of the five (soon to be six) short stories I’ve had published, three of them were written two or three days before submission deadlines. The pressure has worked in their favour, but the same method can’t be applied to epic fantasy novels! The crafting, tweaking and restructuring has been entirely different, complicated by attempting to rework material that was more than twenty years old. By the time I got half way through the third novel, I had the confidence to throw the original work away and write fresh, which is so much easier.
As for themes, the cross-over is always there. The acute observations of ‘nature poems’ find their way into the detailing of Siaris. I have written poetry with overt mythic content; it is also there in Siaris, in more subtle forms. A reader might not say ‘Oh, that’s a reworking of the Isis and Osiris myth’, for instance, but the traces are there. I find it hard not to think in mythic terms of reference and in generating ‘my own’ world, am well aware of the recycling of archetypes and archetypal stories embedded in the collective consciousness.
3. Daughter of Hope’ will be published by a relatively new US Publisher, Musa Publishing. What attracted you to submit to Musa, and are you planning to focus promotion in Australia or internationally?
I have the lovely Tehani Wessely to thank for that. I submitted a short story to her for an anthology last year; it didn’t suit her, but she’d just heard about new US e-publisher Musa and thought they might be a match for me. Pretty hot psychic powers! I sent off a query before they had actually opened their e-doors for sales, and within a month found ‘Daughter of Hope’ contracted, to be released this Friday, June 8th. Musa have just offered a contract for the second book, ‘Traitor’s Game’, to be released on February 8th, 2013. They have been great to work with so far.
‘Focussed promotion’ is still a concept I’m getting my reclusive, technophobic head around. I’ve landed in a good support team at Musa and now find myself with a blog, a Facebook page and Twitter. Goodreads, Manic Readers and an Amazon author page are next. I’m extremely glad not be trying to write a sequel/s while getting to grips with the marketing aspects of being a writer, given my lowly starting point.
My outlook, however, has always been international as well as local. Of six short stories, three have been published in Australia and three in the US, which symbolizes my perspective pretty well. My instincts with the Siaris novels are that there are particular non-English speaking markets they could fly in, so my next focus is to connect with a good agent who handles foreign language rights and get them into some specific countries.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
While in this highly focussed writing mode with the novels these last few years, I’m afraid I’ve hardly been reading. Intense focus works best for me, but I have amassed quite a TBR list of both Australian and, more recently, fellow Musan authors. I’ve read more short stories than anything else recently, since they are time-friendly. Favourite Australian collections would include ‘Belong’ and ‘Dead Red Heart’ from Ticonderoga, and ‘Winds of Change’ from CSFG.
5. Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think have been the biggest changes to the Australian SpecFic scene?
I’ve only been identifying as a SpecFic writer for three years. I’ve only been involved on the fringes of ‘the scene’ and don’t have a long view of its evolution. But the big change that has swept all genres and the publishing industry as a whole is, of course, the rise and rise of e-books. I know writers who are self-publishing, others publishing with traditional publishing houses, others going with indie press from micro to mid levels. The ground under all this is a moving carpet, and adaptability is called for. Interesting times indeed!
This post is part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1 June to 7 June and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. Snapshot 2012 is being conducted by Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Ian Mond, Jason Nahrung, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright. To read the interviews hot off the press, check our blogs daily from June 1 to June 7, 2012.