A beauty – Rich and Rare

RIch and Rare cover Med ResThere really is something for everyone in Ford Street Publishing’s latest collection of Australian stories, poetry and artwork for teens – Rich and Rare. With pieces from almost 50 fab authors and illustrators, including Shaun Tan, Judith Rossell, Susanne Gervay, Gary Crew, Justin D’Ath and Michael Gerard Bauer (to mention a few), the anthology delivers tantalizing morsels to suit every reading taste. There’s an alien invasion, a Dickensian-style thriller, a warrior adventure in old Japan, a bushranger tale, intrigue in the cane fields of northern Queensland and much, much more.

Editor Paul Collins joins me ahead of next month’s book launch to take us inside Rich and Rare and to reflect on his own prolific and successful career as a writer, editor and publisher. Paul is best known for his fantasy and science fiction titles which include The Jelindel ChroniclesThe Quentaris Chronicles ─ co-edited with Michael Pryor, and The Warlock’s Child, done in collaboration with Sean McMullen. He also runs Ford Street Publishing and the Creative Net Speakers’ Agency.

JF: Congratulations, on Rich and Rare, Paul. What a line-up of Australian talent! What can readers expect from this collection?

PC: I’d like to think a sumptuous literary feast. No one will go away hungry, as the collection is a literary banquet with something for everyone.

JF: How does it compare to others anthologies you’ve edited?

PC: Anthologies aren’t as easy to put together as they might seem. An editor starts off with a list of potential contributors. I’ve been lucky in as much that most of my list this time around contributed illustrations, stories or poems. Across the three anthologies I’ve edited lately, I think everyone I’ve approached is represented. But not one of the collections has everyone. So too people reading Rich and Rare will be happy to see some contributors lacking in the other anthologies, but on the reverse mystified that others are missing. This collection is more illustrative and has longer and more varied works. This will please some, and perhaps disappoint others. So in answer to your question, it’s very subjective. A creator’s latest work is always their “best” work.

JF: What are the challenges of editing such a large collection of stories, poems and artwork?

PAUL-COLLINS-PC: Most contributors aren’t precious about their stories being edited. Those who are can be difficult. Working with up to fifty creatives can be challenging – remembering of course I’m working with many others at the same time. And because an editor says a story should follow this or that path, doesn’t necessarily mean the editor is right. It can be subjective. Stories especially vary in quality, and it’s the editor’s job to get some rough stones and polish them to gem standard. Hopefully, and with the help of several others here at Ford Street, I’ve managed to do this.

JF: You’re a writer, editor and publisher – how do you fit it all in? 

PC: I think I’ve edited around a dozen anthologies. This doesn’t include 45 collections Meredith Costain and I edited for Pearson (Spinouts and Thrillogies). I’ve published around 100 + books over the years, and written around 150. Running Creative Net Speakers’ Agency and the seminars/festivals does keep me busy!

JF: What are you currently working on? 

PC: Right now I have three plays and two short story collections (the latter in collaboration with Meredith Costain) coming out from other publishers. This year I published around 16 books. I have my first 2016 title, Dance, Bilby, Dance, by Tricia Oktober, ready to go to the printer.

JF: How did you get started as a writer and what led you to publishing?

PC: I self-published my first novel at the age of nineteen. Realising it wasn’t good enough, I figured I’d move into publishing other people’s work. I published Australia’s first heroic/epic fantasy novels in the early 80s. I also published science fiction books. Losing distribution I returned to writing. My first book was published by HarperCollins in 1995.

JF: You’re best known for your fantasy and science fiction writing – what appeals about those genres?

PC: They’re as far away from contemporary as you can get. I think we live the lives of those people we read in contemporary novels, so why read about them? I can’t imagine why people watch TV shows like East Enders and Coronation Street, or the spate of reality TV shows. Big Brother for example must have been one of the most boring shows anyone could watch. And that’s what I feel about contemporary fiction.

JF: Does your personal passion affect your publishing decisions?

PC: No. I have published contemporary fiction, for example. I don’t just stick to fantasy and science fiction. If I think something has quality and there’s a market for it, I have to make a commercial decision.

JF: What do you wish you’d known when you started?

PC: The massive database I’ve built up over the years, contacts with book clubs and others who buy bulk books. Basically, knowledge that you need to be successful. Alas, unless someone sits down and gives you a list, you need to find all this stuff out yourself. And that takes years.

JF: What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

PC: Persistence is the key. The Wizard’s Torment was my first book – that’s the one that sold to HarperCollins. I had written it in the early 80s. It took me around twelve years to get it published. I wrote another book at the same time called The Earthborn. That was rejected by just about every publisher in Australia. An agent sent it to TOR in the US and sold sold the trilogy over there. I mentally thanked every Australian publisher that had rejected it. Just never give up.

JF: Thanks Paul, and good luck with Rich and Rare!

PC: Thanks, Julie.

Paul Collins has edited many anthologies including Trust Me!, Metaworlds and Australia’s first fantasy anthology, Dream Weavers. He also edited The MUP Encyclopaedia of Australian SF&F. Paul has been short-listed for many awards and has won the Inaugural Peter McNamara and the A Bertram Chandler awards, both of which were for lifetime achievement in science fiction, and the Aurealis and William Atheling awards. His book, Slaves of Quentaris, features in 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Die (UK, 2009).

Paul Collins website.

Ford Street Publishing website. 

Julie Fison writes for children and young adults. Her books include the Hazard River adventure series for young readers, Choose Your Own Ever After, a pick-a-path series that lets the reader decide how the story goes, and Counterfeit Love for young adults. Her latest short story – Sugar is Sweet is in Rich and Rare.  

 

Gary Crew chats about The Cuckoo

Gary CrewMulti-award winning author Gary Crew delivers a dark, but compelling Australian fairy tale in his latest illustrated book, The Cuckoo (Ford Street Publishing). The story follows the journey of Martin, a boy on the cusp of becoming a teenager, living in the Blue Mountains. Deserted by his mother, bullied by his brothers and neglected by his father, he seeks solace in the bush. The story is a warning against arrogance and is cleverly complemented by the intricate and surreal drawings of Naomi Turvey.

Gary Crew joins me to talk about The Cuckoo and his other recent works. 

JF: Gary Crew, congratulations on the The Cuckoo. The book is ultimately a tale of forgiveness and hope, but there is a great deal of cruelty in the story. Can you explain the background to the book?

GC: Having taught Murray Bale’s novel ‘Eucalyptus’ at university, I was interested in writing an Australian Fairy Tale that would appeal to boys. The extract from Perrault’s ‘Hop o’ my Thumb’ which introduces The Cuckoo proved the perfect starting point for a Fairy Tale based on sibling rivalry and sacrifice.

The CuckooThe Cuckoo is an illustrated book, aimed at middle school readers. What does an illustrated book offer children heading into the teenage years?

GC: Visual literacy is a vital element associated with negotiating the modern world, irrespective of the reader’s age, so that’s one reason; secondly, the image allows the basic print narrative to be extended into a multiplicity of personal interpretations and readings according to the reader’s unlimited imagination.

JF: Would you classify The Cuckoo as a Post Modern picture book? 

GC: Yes, I think I would because it is a bit ‘off the wall’.

JF: There is a heavy focus on nature in your illustrated books – Finding Home, In the Beech Forest and The Cuckoo. Do you think your own environment – the Sunshine Coast hinterland, has played a part in that? In the Beech Forest

GC: For the last 20 years, I have lived on property in the beautiful Blackall Ranges which form the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. My tiny cottage is on top of a mountain; my view is sky and forest. I can’t help but be overawed by nature’s wonders.

JF: You are Associate Professor, Creative Writing at the University of the Sunshine Coast. How does your teaching background affect the way you write?

GC: This is a great question: the guaranteed income from my university teaching allows me the freedom to innovate and experiment with my writing and publications. I can ‘push the envelope’ and affect genres. I love trying new ideas in both print and illustrative forms.

JF: Do you feel the need to educate when you write as a result of your profession?

GC: No, I don’t feel the need to educate (I don’t really like the word: it means ‘to lead…’ I’m not keen on leading!), but I do like to share my enthusiasm for the uplift that writing creatively can give.

The Architecture of SongJF: After writing many books for young adults, you wrote two books for adults – The Children’s Writer and The Architecture of Song. Did this change you as a writer?

GC: As I read mostly adult literary works, the time had come for me to ‘have a go’ at writing for an older audience myself. I found a great sense of freedom in doing that.

JF: You have returned to illustrated books. What appeals to you about this genre?

GC: I read the world visually and I love the collaboration with illustrators that the genre allows me.

JF: What’s next for you – more illustrated stories, or something different?

GC: I have contracts for an historical YA novel, ‘Voicing the Dead’ with Ford St and an illustrated book with a seriously innovative ‘steam punk’ artist (Paul O’Sullivan) for ‘The Visions of Ichabod X’ (Harbour publishing). Both are for publication in 2015.

JF: Thanks for visiting, Gary and good luck with The Cuckoo.  

Julie Fison writes for children and young adults. Her books include the Hazard River adventure series for young readers, Choose Your Own Ever After, a pick-a-path series that lets the reader decide how the story goes, and Counterfeit Love for young adults.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gary Crew’s Beech Forest

In the Beech Forest is a new picture book for older readers, written by Gary Crew and illustrated by newcomer Den Scheer. It is a fascinating and haunting read, with moody illustrations that are not married to the text.

Master story teller Gary Crew has hit the nail on the head yet again, with a dark and brooding tale about a young boy taking a walk through a beech forest.

“He was an ordinary boy, nothing special, and he went into the forest alone. He had no particular purpose other than to look, as adventurers do, or to slay imaginary monsters, as children do, so he held his head high, and gripped his toy sword, in case.”

With these words Crew draws the reader into the forest along with the boy. With an imagination fuelled by the video games that he likes playing, he wanders through the forest to discover its heart. He goes on a journey through his own mind as much as through the physical forest — a journey that will undoubtedly alter him.

Den Scheer’s illustrations are moody and dark, with their black and white execution adding to the atmosphere. The first illustration is a literal interpretation of the text on the first page. But from there on, they take on a life of their own, plunging us into… the boy’s imagination? Or perhaps the secret, primal goings on of the forest? And slowly, with each illustration the boy ages and his clothes change — indication that the journey through the forest is perhaps a metaphor for the journey of life.

This is the sort of book that you can read again and again… each time gaining some new insight. I think it would be an excellent book for classroom study.

The ‘packaging’ of the book is interesting. It has a striking black hard cover with embossed gold lettering and one back and white illustration panel glued to the centre. It is tactile and beautiful and beckons one to pick it up and look inside. But this is hidden behind a rather dull paper dust jacket. The same illustration is lost in the overwhelming sepia/brown background. A real shame, as I fear that the dust jacket may result in less people picking up the book to discover its wonderful contents.

In the Beech Forest is an enticing book. Highly recommended for ages 10+!

Catch ya later,  George

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Anthology preview

There’s a new anthology on the way. It contains contributions from over 50 Australian authors and illustrators (including me). It’s not due for release until June this year. But I’m so excited about it, that I’m gonna give you a little heads up!

Back in 2008, Ford Street Publishing released a HUGE anthology of stories, poems and illustrations for kids and teens. Edited by Paul Collins and featuring Gary Crew, Andy Griffiths and Hazel Edwards among its 50+ contributors, Trust Me! has been one of Ford Street’s biggest sellers. In fact, it has proved to be so popular that Collins and Ford Street have produced a sequel — Trust Me Too.

Again, we are being provided with a smorgasbord of Australian literary and illustrative talent. Take a look at the promo poster, which features photos of all the contributors…

I can’t wait to get my contributor’s copy so I can read all the stories from the other authors. So much talent in the one book!

Particularly exciting for me is that this anthology gave me the opportunity to write a new Gamers short story. The whole Gamers thing began with a short story, titled “Game Plan”, which appeared in Trust Me!. I then adapted that story into the novel, Gamers’ Quest… which then begat a sequel, Gamers’ Challenge. And now in Trust Me Too, I’ve got “Gamers’ Inferno”.

While set in the same universe as the Gamers books (a computer game world with multiple environments), “Gamers’ Inferno” is a completely independent story. You don’t need to have read the books to understand (and hopefully enjoy) the story. But if you have read the books, there are little nods and references to pick up on.

“Gamers’ Inferno” introduces a new set of characters and features a game environment not previously seen in the novels. I’ve got to say, that I had a lot of fun writing this story. It’s set in a vaguely Italian Renaissance inspired city under the control of the mysterious Inquisition, ruling through fear and the threat of the Inferno. A young orphan named Raph, finds himself on the run from the Inquisition’s militia. After getting advice from the mysterious Dama Sebastiana Annunciata, hidden away from the militia in the bowels of the city, Raph finally comes face-to-face with the Lords of the Inquisition — Lord Brimstone, Lord Blaze and Lord Dante. Will he find himself thrown into the Inferno? You’ll have to wait until June to find out. 😉

Catch ya later,  George

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The first sentence

A writer needs to get the attention of his/her readers as soon as possible — to make them want to read further, to make them not put the book back onto the bookshop shelf in favour of another book. There are many ways to do this and it can take anywhere from a single word to an entire chapter. But what I want to write about today is that all-important first sentence.

A book’s first sentence can be long or short, descriptive or elusive, intriguing or demanding, full of purple prose or stated matter-of-factly — but its purpose is to begin the story and hook the reader. Some writers do this better than others.

Today, I simply want to share with you some of my favourite opening sentences — some with comments, other without. These are not necessarily my favourite books, these are just sentences that I found had grabbed my attention and made me remember them. I am presenting them in splendid isolation from the remainder of the text to which they belong. Have a read and see if you can guess from which books I have extracted them — I’ve listed the books at the end of the post.

1. I’m going to start with my all-time favourite — a truly memorable and intriguing sentence that sets up reader expectations. It’s a very recognisable sentence and also a rather long one — far longer than is fashionable to write in this day and age.

“No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”

2. Another absolute classic:

“The sky above the port was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

3. A little gruesome, but memorable.

“Physicist Leonardo Vetra smelled burning flesh, and he knew it was his own.”

4. “I heard a story once about a little kid who came home from school and found his mother dead on the kitchen floor.”

5. “I keep thinking that I have a tunnel in my chest.”

6. What I love about this sentence is the way ‘dæmon’ is written with such everyday matter-of-factsness.

“Lyra and her dæmon moved through the darkening Hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.”

7. “I know a place where there is no smog and no parking problem and no population explosion . . . no Cold War and no H-bombs and no television commercials . . . no Summit Conferences, no Foreign Aid, no hidden taxes—no income tax.”

8. “When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, it’s never good news.”

9. Okay, okay — this is one sentence plus one extra word. But that one extra word makes all the difference.

“It wasn’t even five o’clock and Milo had already murdered Mrs Appleby. Twice.”

10. “Aubrey Fitzwilliam hated being dead.”

11. “Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”

12. “All children, except one, grow up.”

13. “Later, while I was facing the Potter Moth, or fleeing for my life from the First Ones, or helping man a cannon aboard Jack Havock’s brig Sophronia, I would often think back to the way my life used to be, and to that last afternoon at Larklight, before all our misfortunes began.”

14. “Through the ruin of a city stalked the ruin of a man.”

15. “Something eerie came over European civilization in the early twentieth century and led to a madness which was called ‘the Great War’.”

So there you have it — some of my favourite opening sentences. They probably say more about me than the books they come from. There are probably other ones out there that I may like better… but either I haven’t read them yet, or I read them so long ago that I can’t remember them, or I was simply unable to get my hands onto a copy of the relevant book to check the quote.

But what about all you people out there in the blogosphere? What are your favs? Leave and comment and share an opening sentence.

And tune in next time for some random quotes.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Here are the books:

1. The War of the Worlds by HG Wells, 1898.

2. Neuromancer, William Gibson, 1984.

3. Angels and Demons, Dan Brown, 2000.

4. The Inner Circle, Gary Crew, 1986.

5. After the First Death, Robert Cormier, 1979.

6. Northern Lights, Philip Pullman, 1995.

7. Glory Road, Robert Heinlein, 1963.

8. Stormbreaker, Anthony Horowitz, 2000.

9. The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler, Paul Collins, 2009.

10. Blaze of Glory, Michael Pryor, 2006.

11. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Dauglas Adams, 1979.

12. Peter Pan, JM Barrie, 1911.

13. Larklight, Philip Reeve, 2006.

14. Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth, Terrance Dicks, 1977.

15. The First A.I.F.: A Study of its Recruitment 1914-1918, LL Robson, 1970.