Illustrator Extraordinaire – Interview with Anil Tortop

With her superlative illustrative talents and ultra-impressive list of publications, it’s impossible not to be in awe of the skill, imagination, dedication and charisma of Anil Tortop. The Turkish-born artist, designer and animation-expert is here today to discuss her books, processes and latest ventures. 🙂

You’ve had huge success as an illustrator of many amazing books, some including Digby’s Moon Mission, Digby and the Yodelayhee…Who? (Renee Price), My Perfect Pup (Sue Walker), Where’s Dad Hiding? (Ed Allen), I Want to Be a Rock Star (Mary Anastasiou), and more recently The Leaky Story (Devon Sillett), The Great Zoo Hullabaloo (Mark Carthew) and junior fiction series 6 Minute Stories for Six Year Olds and 7 Minute Stories for Seven Year Olds (Meredith Costain and Paul Collins). And these have all been published in the last two years! How do you manage your hectic illustrating schedule? Do you complete one project at a time or work simultaneously on a few?

😀 I wanted to start with a big smile. It’s been hectic indeed!
I work simultaneously on a few projects. In fact, when I have only one project I can’t focus on it well. Two is still not enough. My favourite is 3-4 projects at a time. Otherwise I just feel lazy and find myself doing nothing until the deadline gets closer. But not all these projects are books. I usually have something with a short deadline aside. Books take much more time and sometimes having a break and working on another project feels refreshing.

I have a home-made calendar; each month is an A4 paper with a magnet at the back and it covers the whole left side of my fridge. I put all my deadlines there and see everything in a glance. Having it in the kitchen, my panic starts at breakfast. Other than that, I don’t have a particular method to manage. I just work when I should, which is most of the time. I have been trying to be a well-organised person with dedicated working hours but it never works for more than two days. I still have hope!

Have there been any particular stories that you felt a stronger connection with or any that challenged you in unexpected ways?

Mmm… Hard question. I’m trying to give an answer to myself but I guess I don’t feel that kind of things for stories. That doesn’t mean I don’t like them but couldn’t label any of them with “stronger connection” either. But I do feel connected with the characters in the stories. Recently my favourite is the octopus in The Leaky Story and her connection with the father. It reminds me of my dad, although I don’t know why.

Challenge… Yes! One of the most challenging stories was in a picture book I illustrated last year. Because there was no story when I was asked to illustrate it! Of course, the editor had a clear idea of how they wanted it and made lots of suggestions. But in the end, the words came after the illustrations. I had huge room to create a visual story. I panicked a lot! I wanted to make it really good. Then I panicked even more! But eventually, it was fun.

If you could walk a day in the life of one of your illustrated characters which would you choose and why?

I guess that would be Digby. Because he’s so clever and talented and knows how to have fun. And I like his pyjamas. 😊

Since launching your current books, what has the audience response been like? Any stand-out moments?

The reviews have been really nice. Facebook also shows me a lot of “likes” and nice comments, if that means anything at all. But I have never come across a “real audience”. I mean, children. I really wonder what they think and would love to hear that directly from them.

The latest release, The Leaky Story has been reviewed a lot lately. I was even interviewed live on ABC Brisbane. I think the moment I probably won’t forget for a while is that. It took only 3 minutes but I was way out of my comfort zone. Phew!

You often record your progress through fascinating time lapse videos. Can you explain a little about your preferred media and method to your illustrating genius.

Except for the initial warm-up sketches and storyboards, I almost always work digitally. I use Photoshop. My favourite Photoshop brush that I use for outlines is “Pencil”. It feels a little bit like a pencil. I recently upgraded from Wacom Intous to Cintiq (drawing tablets).

My process differs from one project to another but it’s usually like that: I make several storyboards first. It takes some time to get satisfied. Then I do the roughs. Then the clean drawings and finally colouring. And I do all these for all of the illustrations in a book simultaneously. I mean, I don’t start and finish one illustration and go to the next. I start and finish all the illustrations at the same time.
You can watch all my videos on my Vimeo channel.

You have a remarkable working relationship with your husband, Ozan, at Tadaa Book. Please tell us about your roles and how you collaborate on a daily basis. What does Tadaa Book offer its clients?

Tadaa Book basically offers illustration and design services, especially to self-publishers. Then if our authors need, we help them with printing and publishing and creating marketing materials too.

Ozan and I started working together back in Turkey. He was the art director of a traditional publishing house and I was the in-house illustrator. After coming to Australia we worked with a lot of self-publishers, collaborating again. Then we wanted to take it a step forward and founded Tadaa.

Ozan is my personal art director at home. But on a daily basis, he does much more than that. Although our roles are a bit mixed up from time to time, I usually illustrate only. He does the rest. He deals with new authors and other illustrators from different parts of the world, does the art direction of projects, keeps our website and social media accounts updated, goes to the post office to send Storyboard Notebooks, learns new things, deals with my computer problems, etc.

What is the best part of what you do?

Smelling a freshly (offset) printed book. I love that! I love to see the happiness of the authors too. It’s really rewarding.

Have you done anything lately that was out of your comfort zone? What was it and how did it go?

It was definitely the radio interview that I mentioned! It wasn’t terrible I guess but I can’t say it went well either. I at least give 10 points to myself for the bravery. Questions were unexpected and it was too quick. I’m glad I didn’t freeze. I actually kind of did but Emma Griffiths handled it really well. Afterwards, listening to myself was even harder than the 3 minutes I spent there! I won’t listen again.

We would love to learn more about what you’re currently working on! Do you have any sneak peeks or details that you can share?

A new book is coming out on 1st of May! The Great Zoo Hullaballoo by Mark Carthew (New Frontier Publishing). You can watch the trailer here: https://vimeo.com/211773518

Currently, I’m working on two picture books. One is Meeka by Suzanne Barton (Tadaa Book), the second one is Scaredy Cat by Heather Gallagher (New Frontier Publishing). I probably will share some sneak peeks soon on social media, but not now, unfortunately.

Meanwhile at Tadaa, we are working on the Book Week publication of Ipswich District Teacher-Librarian Network. Here are the cover and details: http://idtl.net.au/book-week.php

And two other picture books are contracted for the rest of the year.
Besides the books, I’m regularly illustrating for a Turkish children’s magazine, doing illustrations and animations for a web-based science platform for children in the US, and designing characters for a couple animated TV shows in Turkey.
Will be a hectic year again!

Wow! You sure are a busy lady! Thank you so much, Anil, for participating in this interview! 🙂

Thank you for having me here!

Stay tuned for some special reviews of Anil’s latest picture books!

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

Especially for Boys

I know that some people prefer not to have gender labels about books. Regardless, the three following books will be enjoyed by boys, and will no doubt also appeal to a wide readership.

The Grand Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler by Lisa Shanahan (Allen & Unwin)

Lisa Shanahan wrote one of my all-time favourite YA novels, My Big Birkett (published 2006). I have loved talking about it over the years: laughing out loud at the animals that ‘mate for life’ and rattling off the many meals that Raven De Head could make with mince; admiring the correlation with Shakespeare’s The Tempest and adoring the two main characters, Gemma and Raven. It was shortlisted for the CBCA.

Lisa Shanahan has also written picture books, which include Bear and Chook, Bear and Chook by the Sea and Daddy’s Having a Horse (all illustrated by Emma Quay); Big Pet Day (illustrated by Gus Gordon); and Sleep Tight, My Honey (illustrated by Wayne Harris). Many of these have received awards.

Her new novel, The Grand Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler, is best for mid primary-age readers – it’s rare to find a high quality Australian stand-alone novel for this age-group. It is set during a quintessential Australian beach camping holiday. Henry is ‘Mr Worst Case Scenario’. He worries about the adventures and feats (particularly by bike) that most book characters would embrace. The author is perceptive and empathetic in how she addresses Henry’s concerns. The writing and characterisation is impeccable for the intended age group.

Harry Kruize, Born to Lose by Paul Collins (Ford St Publishing)

Another Australian author is Paul Collins, who established Ford St Publishing and has specialised in writing speculative fiction. He has also edited two well-received anthologies, including Rich and Rare.

My favourite of his books was The Dog King, which has been inexplicably out of print for years until now. The author has taken the wonderful essence of The Dog King, added to it, and re-formed it as Harry Kruize, Born to Lose. The core story is about 13-year-old Harry, nicknamed ‘Hobbit’ because of his height, who is bullied by THE BRICK (there are lots of capitals and bolded strategic words in this new version). The beauty and wonder of the tale is the relationship between Harry and the old tramp, Jack Ellis, who moves into the shed behind Harry’s mother’s boarding house. He tells Harry tales about dogs. Some of them seem familiar … The denouement is as breathtaking as when I first read it.

The Light That Gets Lost by Natasha Carthew (Bloomsbury)

The Light That Gets Lost is an accessible, well-written novel for older readers from the UK. 15-year-old Trey deliberately gets himself incarcerated so that he can avenge his family. ‘Camp’ life is tough and he is focused on finding his parents’ killer, who he believes is one of the adults working at Camp Kernow. Sinister secrets are uncovered as Trey draws close to his target.

Stocking Stuffer Suggestions # 6 – Dim’s Christmas picks

Hold on to your paper hats. Here are some last minute cracking Christmas reads to cram into your kidlets’ stockings, a mere handful of my top picks this year. In no particular order:12 10 front cover

Fantasy

 PS Who Stole Santa’s Mail? doesn’t set out to change the world but it does reinforce the magic of believing in all things Christmassy (insert cheeky wink). This action saturated little tale has all the ingredients of a tantalising Christmas mystery, if I do say so myself with sleigh loads of magical mayhem, weird smells, disappearing mail and an evil elf thrown in for good measure. Terrific fun for primary schoolers, by me!

Morris Publishing Australia October 2012

A Boy Called Christmas A Boy Called Christmas by the ineffable Matt Haig with illustrations by Chris Mould however may just save the world or at least the spirit of Christmas. Miika is a mouse who believes in cheese despite the fact he has never seen it. Isn’t that something? He is just one of the several seriously delectable characters in this enchanting Christmas-flavoured book. A Boy Called Christmas combines everything you thought you knA Boy Called Christmas illosew about Santa, mixes it with all the hopes you’ve ever had about Christmas and pats it altogether with facts you’d never dreamed about before. If there is one book you read to your children (or pets or grandparents or self) this holiday season, make sure it’s this one. Touted as an ‘evergreen, immortal Christmas classic’ A Boy Called Christmas will fill your heart with more warmth and wonderment than a jug of eggnog. Perhaps enjoy both together, at the same time. You can’t go wrong. I love everything about this book; the joy, the spirit, the illustrations right down to the sparkly snowy bits on the cover. Higher than highly recommended.

Allen & Unwin November 2015

Classic

The Nights before Christmas The Nights Before Christmas – 24 Classic Stories to Share is a pictorial advent-styled collection of short stories, poems, classic tales, and carols by the likes of The Brothers Grimm, Mark Twain, Hans Christian Anderson and more while, Tony Ross is responsible for page after page of vivid festive illustrations. Overflowing with merriment, sentiment, and fairies, there are plenty of fairies; this compilation is the penultimate way to countdown to Christmas sans sugar! I shared it with my nine-year-old last year and now we are giving it a second airing. She will not abide missing a day’s story or skipping ahead. The lure of what awaits for the next night is half the attraction. A bit like waiting for the man in red himself. Very very special.

Koala Books Scholastic Australia November 2014

The Hush Treasure BookAnother unreal collection and Christmas keepsake is The Hush Treasure Book. Readers can meander in and out of the stories, poems, and pictures of some of Australia’s most well-known and best-loved authors and illustrators whilst listening to the melodic tones of the accompanying CD. The picture book format of this assorted box of literary treasures renders it a collector’s must-have while making it utterly wonderful to share with your children. You can read Joy Lawn’s illuminating review of Hush, here. She made it through Judith Rossell’s incredible Maze Page contained within as did my ten-year-old. Not surprisingly, I did not. I am not a fan of mazes, but I am in love with this book.

Allen & Unwin October 2015

Anthology

Rich and RareI touched on this anthology edited by Paul Collins a couple of months ago; you can revisit it, here. Rich and Rare deserves head of the table status as one of the most comprehensive collections of Australian short stories, poetry and artwork in recent times, and we do produce some cracking good ones. A sensational synergy of individuality so deftly and ably woven together into one fluid volume that it is pure pleasure to read. The likelihood of finding at least one or two of your favourite kids’ authors amongst this collection is above high, such is the calibre of Collins’ round up of talent. Deliciously diverse, thrilling, and thought-provoking Rich and Rare is capable of satisfying the fussiest of readers from 10 to 100 and as Collins suggests, ‘should be in every home.’

Ford Street Publishing October 2015

Australiana

Emo the EmuIt doesn’t really matter where the exact origins of the term ‘emo’ originated, what matters is this spanking new picture book by Tony Wilson and Lucia Masciullo. Both creators have captured the essence of emo in this picture book adventure, Emo the Emu. Emo is one moody, despondent little emu dude so full of mope that he is unable to enjoy his inner emu and Old Humpty Doo where he resides with his extended flightless family. Wilson’s lilting rhyming verse personifies the creatures of our Aussie landscapes precisely while focusingEmo illos spread on Emo’s utter gloom. Masciullo’s watercolour illustrations are ridiculously true to country and fun. Her rendition of lanky-fringed, angst-ridden Emo is hilariously spot-on (worthy of eliciting dozens of teenage eye-rolls). Thankfully, cool Kanga Katie lightens the mood and saves Emo from himself. This will make an awesome gift-with-a-difference for overseas family and friends or for those with a hankering to see more of our great land. A beaut exploration of friendship, emotions, travel, and the great Aussie outdoors. Put it on your list!

Scholastic Press November 2015

Australians Let Us B B Q!Need an extra dollop of Oz? Look no further than Australians, Let Us Barbecue! Yes, Colin Buchanan and Greg Champion along with the iconic illustrations of, Glen Singleton have merged every bit of Aussie swank and summer backyard tradition into the tune of our Australian National Anthem, (one I am betting Aussie kids will instantly learn the words to!) I am throwing both thongs in the air for this one. Slap the accompanying CD on for a rousing recital and sing-along to the very recognisable soundtrack. It’s not just all about burnt black snags on the barbie. The lads take us across rugged mountain ranges, across scorching desert plains, around the Rock, through the Whitsundays and back again. I am almost on that sailboat and in that Kombi thanks to Singleton’s dynamite depictions. An exemplary example of an Aussie summertime that must be experienced by everyone. Quintessentially, unashamedly Aussie.

Scholastic Australia November 2015

Oh there are stacks more, but investigate these first, then have a look through the Boomerang Kids Reading Guide 2015 / 2016 for more great gift ideas. You will not be disappointed.

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas shopping list

 

Queues, dodgy carols, aching legs, confusion over what size feet my nephew has. Not for me, this Christmas. This year I’m avoiding the festive-season shopping chaos and buying everyone a book and a pig (or maybe an orangutan). Here’s what my Christmas list looks like.

For my Teen Son: Legacy by Tim Cahill

LegacyBlurb: The story of one of the most admired Australian sportsmen,  international football star Tim Cahill. With his trademark honesty and directness, Tim reflects on what it takes to make it to the top – the sacrifices, the physical cost, the mental stamina, the uncompromising self-belief and self-determination, the ruthlessness, but also the decency, the integrity, and the generosity. An autobiography that is more than a record of the goals and the games, Tim Cahill’s story is a universal reminder of the importance of making your moment count.

For my other Teen Son: Rich and Rare, edited by Paul Collins

Rich & RareBlurb: A collection of stories and artwork from Australia’s best loved writers and illustrators.  With pieces by Shaun Tan, Leigh Hobbs, James Roy, Justin D’Ath, Kirsty Murray, Simon Higgins, Gary Crew, Scot Gardner, there’s something for everyone.

For my Hubbie: A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James

A brief history of seven killingsBlurb: A Brief History of Seven Killings chronicles the lives of a host of unforgettable characters – slum kids, one-night stands, drug lords, girlfriends, gunmen, journalists, and even the CIA. Gripping and inventive, ambitious and mesmerising, A Brief History of Seven Killings is one of the most remarkable and extraordinary novels of the twenty-first century.

For my Dad: Napoleon’s Last Island by Tom Keneally

Napoleon's Last IslandBlurb: Betsy Balcombe as a young woman lived with her family on St Helena. They befriended, served and were ruined by their relationship with Napoleon. To redeem the family’s fortunes William Balcombe, Betsy’s father, betrays Napoleon and accepts a job as the colonial treasurer of NSW, but William never recovers from the ups and downs of association with Napoleon. Tom Keneally, with his gift for bringing historical stories to life, shares this remarkable friendship and the beginning of an Australian dynasty.

For my Mum: The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

The Secret ChordBlurb: A unique and vivid novel that retells the story of King David’s extraordinary rise to power and fall from grace. With stunning originality, acclaimed author Geraldine Brooks offers us a compelling portrait of a morally complex hero from this strange age – part legend, part history. Full of drama and richly drawn detail, The Secret Chord is a vivid story of faith, family, desire and power that brings David magnificently alive.

For my God-daughter: The Red Queen, by Isobelle Carmody

The Red QueenBlurb: The time has come at last for Elspeth Gordie to leave the Land on her quest to find and stop the computermachine Sentinel from unleashing the deadly Balance of Terror arsenal. But before she can embark on her quest, she must find a lost key; and although she has long prepared for this day, nothing is as she imagined. This is the final, dramatic volume in series of books that undoubtedly shines as one of the most fantastic, and fantastical, tapestries ever woven.

For my Nephew: Two Wolves, by Tristan Banks

Two WolvesBlurb: One afternoon, police officers show up at Ben Silver’s front door. Minutes after they leave, his parents arrive home. Ben and his little sister Olive are bundled into the car and told they’re going on a holiday. But are they? It doesn’t take long for Ben to realise that his parents are in trouble. Ben’s always dreamt of becoming a detective – his dad even calls him ‘Cop’. Now Ben gathers evidence and tries to uncover what his parents have done. The problem is, if he figures it out, what does he do? Tell someone? Or keep the secret and live life on the run?

For my Niece: The Call of the Wild – Choose Your Own Ever After, by Julie Fison (a very good read, even if I do say so myself)

The Call of the Wild - Choose Your Own Ever AfterBlurb: Phoebe Wright and her besties, Annabel and Kimmi have been invited to the coolest party of the year! But when Phoebe realises it’s on the same night as her Wild Club’s movie-night fundraiser, she’s totally torn about what to do. In this pick-a-path story, the reader gets to decide how the story goes.

Save the OrangutansFor everyone: Pigs and Goats by World Vision or Orangutans by Save the Orangutan.

Merry Christmas!

Julie xx

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of Story – Festivals and anthologies in review

Rich and RareEditor, publisher, author, and all round busy guy, Paul Collins describes his latest anthology as ‘a sumptuous literary feast’ in which ‘no one will go away hungry, as the collection is a literary banquet with something for everyone.’ If that doesn’t whet your appetite for the collection of Australian stories, poetry and artwork that is, Rich and Rare, then spend a few moments ingesting Julie Fison’s interview with him as they dissect the intricacies of this collection.

His description, I feel also encapsulates the essence of our Australian literary landscape, so admirably showcased a couple of weeks ago at the 19th Story Arts Festival of Children’s Literature iPaul Collinsn Ipswich. This biennial Queensland festival is for adults and young adults be they teachers, librarians, or emerging writers and illustrators aiming to heighten awareness in the creative arts of writing and illustration and help build and maintain increased audiences for children’s literature. The school kids involved really loved it too.

I found the Story Arts Festival nothing short of inspirational and one of the most relaxed, enriching and informative conferences I have experienced. Like the anthology, Rich and Rare, it treated participating creators to a vast and delicious array of art, insight, and entertainment. Many of the contributors to this anthology participated at this year’s Story Arts. Many more are past presenting veterans of the festival. Here is but a sampler of some of the tantalising talent served up; the guest list is stupendously long and illustrious with the likes of Shaun Tan, Gary Crew, Justin D’Ath, Tania McCartney, Gabrielle Wang, and Tracey Hawkins to drop just a few.

I'm a Dirty Dinosaur Janeen Brian award winning multi-genre children’s author whose Rich and Rare story, The Art of Illusion inspires wonder and magic in young minds. With illustrators, Ann James, Matt Ottley, Terry Denton and fellow authors, Mark Greenwood and Tony Palmer, she revealed the fun and frustrations behind creations such as her phenomenally successful I’m a Dinosaur picture book series, whilst striving to increase literacy in children through entertaining literary content.

 Oliver Phommavanh is another such entertainer dishing up platefuls sensitive story lines liberally garnished with loads of laughs. What kid can resist temptations like those? Following his riotous expose of being an Aussie kid with Thai parents in suburban Australia with Thai-riffic! and Thai-no-mite, Phommavanh continues to slap out the humour with Stuff Happens: Ethan and Con-nerd. His short Rich and Rare tale, My Brother’s Keeper displays Phommavanh’s trademark observational wit in a devastatingly touching, contemporary way.

Veiled Secrets Archimede Fussillo is another first-generation Australian this time sporting an Italian heritage. His impressive range of mid-grade readers and YA novels further enriches the diverse reading fodder of Australian’s youth. He appeared at the festival with Josie Montano to launch their co-authored collaborative novel, Veiled Secrets, published by US Solstice. He penned the poignant and heart-tugging, The Bravest Person I Know for Rich and Rare.

Just a Dog Michael Gerard Bauer is a Queensland author equally at home with humour. His series include the Ishmael trilogy, Eric Vale and Derek ‘Danger’ Dale stories running from the sublime to the snort-out-loud-ridiculous. Eric Vale Epic Fail was adapted into a stage play by THAT Production Company this year and played for the first time to Festival audiences with rousing success. His standout works include Just a Dog and The Running Man, which was CBCA Book of the Year in 2004. Both are stories of achingly plaintive prose embedded with incredible heart and soul. He returns to hilarity in Rich and Rare with the short story, The Knitting Needle Ninja.

Hunter's Moon Sophie Masson’s repertoire of fantasy, mystery, thriller, and even graphic novels stretches further than a giant’s smorgasbord. She is master of coping with change following a fluctuating home base as a child (her parents alternated between France and Australia to live) and now the necessity of author adaption in the digital age, the subject she addressed at Story Arts. Her dark and treacherous reimagined Snow White novel, Hunter’s Moon appeared earlier this year. She compares the Rich and Rare anthology to an intricately fashioned patchwork quilt, ‘a strikingly unusual and complex yet satisfying and simple thing’.

Amply satisfying it is too, and like the Story Arts festival, ably fulfils its objective to capture and preserve the attention of a wider reading audience. Anthologies may not be widely popular to publish but when they showcase talent such as that embodied in Rich and Rare and are able to sustain readers with stories of such exquisite delectableness, they really are too good to pass up. Stack your plate high and celebrate the art of story.

Rich & rare InviteSoutherners are invited to meet many of the contributors at Ford Street Publishing’s exciting launch of Rich and Rare next Friday, 23rd October, Abbotsford, Victoria.

Ford Street Publishing October 2015

 

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.  

 

Getting serious about Series # 2 – The Warlock’s Child – Guest post with Sean McMullen

Book 1 - BURNING SEA - front coverBy now, the last of those cleverly crafted Book Week costumes are washed and tucked away. Authors and illustrators all over Australia are reaching for mugs of hot lemon and honey tea to soothe raw throats, and children are undoubtedly curling up with pen and paper or else reading a brand new story, inspired by their last week of close encounters of a literary kind. It’s why we as (children’s) authors write, to be read and to in doing so open vistas, create possibilities and share adventures.

Fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk author, Sean McMullen subscribes to this notion with the same fervor he injects into his trillions of fantastical tales. Together with well-known fantasy author, Paul Collins, he has penned yet another epic fantasy series, The Warlock’s Child. I have yet to complete the adventure with Dantar and Velza but if the hackle-raising cover by Marc McBride (he is the illustrator of the Deltora Quest series) is anything to go by, then I cannot wait to jump on that ship with them!

Sean was kind enough to share his thoughts on how reading fantasy can seriously hone a child’s reading skills.

FANTASTIC READING

Sean McMullen

What is the The Warlock's Child Bk 2most powerful tool that can be used to boost literacy in kids? In my opinion, it is persuading them to read voluntarily, and fantasy has a lot going for it when it comes to alluring, rather than forcing, students to open books.

While studying medieval literature for my PhD I discovered the origins of fantasy’s powerful combination of adventure, action and excitement, romance and magic. Around 1140 the old-style chanson de geste was being shouldered aside by the newly invented roman courtoise. The chansons were dominated by men fighting, but the romans had a good balance between male and female characters, and included romance. There were still quests and battles to maintain the excitement, but warriors generally did their great deeds for their ladies, rather than some boring king.

The roman courtoise was a sensation, and soon you were not cool if you did not read. In many tournaments, real knights dressed up and fought knights from books, and real kings and queens presided as King Arthur and Queen Guenevere. Medieval kings and queens pretending to be medieval kings and queens? It happened.

Warlock #1 launch photo
Marc McBride, Paul Collins, Sean McMullen

What worked for medieval readers still applies today’s schools, but accessibility is now the issue. When Paul Collins and I were planning The Warlock’s Child series we were careful to keep it reader friendly. Instead of hundred thousand-word doorstopper, the story is spread over six less daunting books. The first five end on cliff-hangers, encouraging kids to keep reading. The perspective is shared between two teens, Dantar and his sister Velza, avoiding gender bias.

Book One, The Burning Sea, opens with a dragon attacking a ship, and in the first five thousand words we also witness a court martial for cowardice, learn that there are spies on the ship, and discover the importance of fire prevention at sea – the hard way. In short, it’s fast and exciBooks 1-6 - THE WARLOCK'S CHILD - all coversting.

Thus readers are encouraged to begin the series and to keep reading, yet it is fantasy, which is often criticized for being escapist. Is this bad? When asked this question on a teen literacy panel my daughter – then twelve – replied, “If the real world follows you into all your reading, then you might as well not bother reading.” Fantasy can provide much needed respite from the real world, and when kids return to this world their reading skills are always sharper.

The Warlock’s Child is out now with new titles being released throughout 2015 by Ford Street Publishing imprint Hybrid Publishers.

 

 

 

The Warlock’s Child giveaway

 

wc03A couple of days ago I blogged about The Warlock’s Child, a great new kids’ fantasy series from authors Paul Collins and Sean McMullen (read post). Now I’m giving you the chance to win a copy of one of the books. Interested? Read on…

The Iron Claw is book 3 in The Warlock’s Child series. It hits bookshop shelves next month. But you’ve a chance to get your hands on a copy RIGHT NOW!

How? Simply send an email with WARLOCK’S CHILD in the subject line to givanoff@optusnet.com.au

The giveaway closes at 5pm (Melb time) on Monday 18 May 2015, after which I will draw the winner.

You must be an Australian resident with an Australian postal address to enter, and you can only enter once.

The winner will be contacted by email, as well as being listed in the comments section of this post. No correspondence on the matter will be entered into. Got that? Good! Now… go and enter.

And while you’re waiting to win a copy of Book 3, why not buy a copy of book 1, The Burning Sea, and book 2, Dragonfall Mountain.

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Catch ya later,  George

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The Warlock’s Child

wc01The Warlock’s Child is a new series of six children’s fantasy books co-authored by Paul Collins and Sean McMullen. Each of these authors has a sterling reputation in children’s and genre literature. But the two of them together… well… was there any doubt that these books would be anything short of brilliant?

I went along to the launch of the series in April, and picked up the first three books (two before they were officially released… one of the perks of going along to a launch). I started reading the first on the following day. By the end of the week I had finished all three. And now I am counting the days until the release of the next (July).

In Book 1, The Burning Sea, we meet Dantar and his sister Velza, both children of the Dravinian Battle Warlock. They are on board a ship, part of a Dravinian fleet on its way to invade the Kingdom of Savaria. Things don’t go to plan.

In Book 2, Dragonfall Mountain, Dantar and Velza find themselves stranded in Savaria. A dragon dies and the Battle Warlock’s loyalties and motivations are called into question.

In Book 3, The Iron Claw, the plot thickens. Motivations and affiliations are muddied and we’re left hanging… until the next instalment.

Oh, did I mention there are dragons? Great, BIG, dangerous dragons… with magic! So cool!

Collins and McMullen give readers a set of likeable leads — characters that have already grown over the course of the first three books. While the story at first appears simple, complexities soon become layered over the top of each other. Action and humour abound. And did I mention the dragons? An all round, excellent read.

The Warlock’s Child actually reads like one long novel that’s been broken up into parts, albeit rather skilfully. Each book ends at just the right moment… concluding the relevant part of the story while leaving questions unanswered and setting things up for the next part. For me, this is a little bit frustrating in that I want the rest of the story NOW! But I can see the benefits. Shorter, less-threatening books are likely to pull in the reluctant readers. Plus, having six books coming out one a month is a great way to build excitement and anticipation. A bit like a television series, really.

And, of course, six books means we get six eye-catching covers from artist Marc McBride. He’s the guy who created all those amazing covers for Emily Rodda’s Deltora Quest series. And dragons are his speciality. Did I mention these books have really cool dragons?

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Can you tell that I’m rather enamoured by these books? No? Okay, one more comment then… they’re a fab read! Go out and buy them. [Yes, yes I know… that was two more comments.]

The Warlock’s Child release schedule…

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter

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Favourite SF books — Paul Collins

Yesterday I wrote about favourite science fiction books. Authors Michael Pryor and Simon Haynes got to put their two cents worth in. (see “Favourite SF books – Pryor & Haynes“) Today I am joined by author Paul Collins, who will be telling us about his favourite science fiction book.

Paul is no stranger to science fiction. He’s written lots of it, including the Earthborn Wars trilogy and his latest series, The Maximus Black Files. The first in the series, Mole Hunt, was published last year and got a slew of rave reviews. This year saw the publication of book two, Dyson’s Drop, which has also proven to be a runaway success. Fans are now eagerly awaiting the third in the series, Il Kedra, which will be out next year.

But what is Paul’s favourite science fiction book?

Asked to talk about my favourite book I’d have an argument with myself. Artemis Fowl or Tom Natsworthy? So the winner turns out to be Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines.

Most of the cities in England are hungrily trundling across the landscape, eating up smaller cities and towns for old tech and spare parts. The citizens of these fallen cities are either killed or enslaved.

Lowly third class apprentice Tom Natsworthy is unceremoniously thrown off London town – down a waste chute, no less – after having the misfortune to meet would-be assassin Hester Shaw. Together they must find their way back to London, each of course for different reasons. Much like Arthur Dent hitchhiking aboard a spacecraft, Tom and Hester climb aboard Tunbridge Wheels, only to find it’s a pirate town run by one Chrysler Peavey, whose daughter is called Cortina, of course!

There’s a strong cast of protagonists. Among my favourites are the hideously disfigured Hester Shaw and an Oriental aviatrix called Miss Anna Fang, both of whom remind me of another favourite character from years gone by, Modesty Blaise. The latter faced many villains as Reeve’s characters do. Foremost of these are the Stalkers, seven feet tall with metal armour; once human but now transformed into the living dead (think Terminator). Reeve delights in sudden gusts of humour at the least expected moments. Introducing his Stalkers he says in part: “Its round glass eye gave it a startled look, as if it had never got over the horrible surprise of what had happened to it”. In another scene, a Stalker called Shrike meets his comeuppance: “Is it . . . dead?” asks Tom Natsworthy, to which Hester replies: “A town just ran over him. I shouldn’t think he’s very well . . .”

A secret energy weapon called MEDUSA (from the Sixty Minute War) has been discovered by archaeologist Thaddeus Valentine (Hester’s mother, actually, but Valentine killed her to obtain it), and now London is roaring across the Hunting Ground to take on the static enclaves of the Anti-Traction League in Shan Guo (not everyone it seems wants to uproot their homes and live the life of gypsies).

Reeve does commit a cardinal sin so far as this reader is concerned. He kills the dog, or the equivalent of one. I always think that’s a cheap trick to gain reader sympathy, used most notably in fantasy novels.

Originality, humour, action, adventure, greed, clashing civilisations, betrayal, murder, pirates ─ it’s got it all. (Not to be restricted to teenagers!)

It might be a town-eat-town world, but I’m glad Reeve kept it rolling to a quartet. Three more to go for me!

Mortal Engines has been on my must-read-someday pile for ages. After reading Paul’s comments I may have to move it to the top of the pile. 🙂

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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2-in-1

2-in-1 books! Remember them? They were a gimmicky way of presenting two stories in the one book, with two front covers. You pick up the book and start reading. You finished the story, close the book and flip it over — and voilà — a new front cover and a new story. Brilliant! I loved books like this as a kid.

My first experience with a 2-in1 book was way back in primary school, somewhere in the dark, distant 1970s. The two stories were The Humans of Ziax II and The Drought on Ziax II, both by John Morressy. Short, simple science fiction stories, accompanied by black and white illustrations, they were perfect for a reluctant reader trying to reform his ways. The cover illustrations weren’t very good and it’s interesting to note that the two covers used two different fonts. (My wife is a graphic designer, so I’ve learned to care deeply about the misuse of fonts.) But as a kid, I didn’t care. I enjoyed the stories, and I loved the idea of a 2-in-1 book with two front covers that you flipped over. In fact, I remember flipping the book, over and over again, looking at each of the covers repeatedly, simply because I loved the idea of it. (Yeah, I didn’t get out much.)

Other 2-in-1 books crossed my path over the years, but most of them have faded into obscurity. Let’s face it — it’s a gimmicky idea and sometimes publishers were so intent on the gimmick that they weren’t all that concerned with the stories.

But then in the 1990s I came across a series of 2-in-1 books called Shivers. Edited by Paul Collins and published by HarperCollins, they were a set of kids’ horror books. Each book had two unrelated stories by two different authors. The linking features were the genre and the striking covers by Marc McBride… and each cover featured a red splash with the words “Two twisted tales to turn you upside down!” They were a lot better than the average 2-in-1 book, as they featured stories by the likes of Christine Harris, Meredith Costain, Patricia Bernard, Dianne Bates and Margaret Clark.

I had not seen a new 2-in1 since Shivers, until…

I was recently browsing through all the Doctor Who books listed on Boomerang Books (just something I do every now and then because I’m a nerdy fanboy), when I came across (insert drum roll) a new range of 2-in-1 Doctor Who books. Of course I HAD to order one.

There were three to choose from. I chose System Wipe / The Good, the Bad and the Alien. Why? Because the tag line for System Wipe reads: “The virtual world of Parallife is in very real danger…” A Doctor Who story set in a virtual world? I had to read it. You see, I’ve written two books set within a virtual world (Gamers’ Quest and Gamers’ Challenge) and I had often thought to myself that the concept would work well within the parameters of a Doctor Who story.

System Wipe is written by Oli Smith, who also happens to write computer games. It’s a really entertaining read with a few thought-provoking ideas thrown in. The Doctor gets trapped in the virtual world of Parallife, where game characters have become self-aware after the mysterious disappearance of all the human players. Meanwhile, Amy and Rory have to deal with robots intent on demolishing and then rebuilding the surface of the Earth, in a real world devoid of human life. My only complaint with this story is that I don’t think it’s long enough. With a little more length, there is so much more that could have been explored. It is, nonetheless, a zippy little read, well worth the investment of an afternoon.

The companion story, The Good, the Bad and the Alien by Colin Brake, sees the Doctor and his companions arrive in the American Wild West. Here they have to deal with bank robbers, aliens and a missing super weapon. It’s fast-paced and reasonably entertaining, but also a little pedestrian. I would perhaps have enjoyed it more, had I read it before System Wipe.

So there you have it — the 2-in-1 book is apparently alive and well. And it seems quite suited to the Doctor Who universe. I think I’ll probably pick up the other books in this series.

So… has anyone out there read any 2-in-1 books? Leave a comment and tell us about them.

Catch ya later,  George

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More Pixels with Henry Gibbens

Last time around I introduced you to Henry Gibbens, CG artist extraordinaire — the man responsible for the Mole Hunt and Gamers’ Quest book trailers — and we had a bit of a chat about how he got started in 3D animation. He’s back again today, to tell us about his book trailer work…

Your first book trailer was for my teen novel, Gamers’ Quest. Given that you made this trailer for me, I know that you had a great deal of creative input into it. I was happy for you to go off and create what you thought would work visually. How did you go about approaching this trailer?

First things first… I read the book. I wanted to get a feel for the ‘tone’ of the book, as well as try and get a feel for the visual landmarks in the story. I then roughed out some storyboards of how I felt those visuals could be put together which I then got you to approve. Once approved, I set about modelling and animating the various scenes using a combination of pre-made elements and custom made models. The trailer was a combination of 3D animation as well as animated 2D elements, which come under the banner of motion graphics.

Your most recent book trailer is for Mole Hunt by Paul Collins. What was the creative relationship like on this project? Did Paul provide you with a brief, or did you read the book and then suggest ways to approach the trailer?

The original idea for Mole Hunt was for me to animate some traditional artwork produced by another artist as a motion graphics piece. Things got a little more complicated when the artwork fell through.

3D character work has always been a no go area for me – I’m at my most comfortable modelling and animating objects, not people. However, there are a couple of pieces of software that allow you to mix and match characters and clothing to produce quite acceptable 3D people. I had been playing around with the software to get a feel for what it could do and suggested that it might be a way to produce the character art for the Mole Hunt trailer.

Paul had a basic overview of what he wanted to see in the trailer as well as a pile of Googled references for how he wanted the characters to look. There was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing with the Poser characters until we arrived at something he was happy with. Again, a read through of the novel was a pre-requisite to get a handle on the tone of the book as well as a feel for the visual touchstones. Compared to Gamers’ Quest, this ended up being far more of a motion graphics approach, but that suited the requirements of the brief.

What’s your next project? (As if I didn’t know. :-))

Another book trailer for something called Gamers’ Challenge – I think you might be familiar with it? Just completed my read through of the novel and drawing up a list of potential visuals.

Having now completed two book trailers, and with another one in the works, is this an area you want to continue working in?

Yes! For me, they present a project where I can work on the whole thing, rather than producing just one element of a bigger picture. A lot of CG work is piecemeal — you get to produce a model which someone else will texture and someone else again will animate, before being turned over to a compositor who will put the whole thing together. You end up being a cog in a bigger machine. Book trailers allow me to work on a project as a whole, which I personally find more satisfying. There is also the challenge of trying to visualise what somebody else has created in their head. The written words on the page only represent part of what the author has in their mind and it is fun to try a tease out their ideas in a visual medium.

There is a degree of debate as to whether book trailers are a viable marketing tool, but as you yourself have said, their value cannot be measured in YouTube hits alone. A good book trailer can at least promote conversation about the book in question and add to an author’s armoury when promoting their books.

George’s bit at the end

A huge thank you to Henry for telling us about his CG work. If you’d like to know more about what he does, check out his website. I will, of course, be forcing you all to watch the Gamers’ Challenge trailer on Literary Clutter as soon as it’s been completed. 🙂

Catch ya later,  George

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Pushing Pixels with Henry Gibbens

Henry Gibbens is a veterinary surgeon based in Melbourne. In his spare time, he swaps his stethoscope for a computer and moonlights as a CG artist. After working on a number of film and television projects, both amateur and professional, he has now entered the ever-expanding domain of book trailers. His first book trailer was for my teen novel, Gamers’ Quest. Now he has produced a trailer for Mole Hunt, the new YA science fiction novel from Paul Collins.

Today, Henry joins us to have a little chat about his CG work…

Hello Henry. Welcome to Literary Clutter.

Thank you for having me.

Can you tell us a little about how you developed your interest and skills in computer generated imagery?

I’d always been interested in computers since the late 70’s, but it was not until the late 80’s that home computers were mature enough to start producing even basic computer graphics. Check out this link to see what was considered ground-breaking on a consumer computer at that point.

I started with a program called Imagine on an Amiga 500 in the early 90’s, moving on to Lightwave on the PC in the late 90’s. Spurred on by the use of computer graphics in shows such as Babylon 5 and seaQuest DSV, I endeavoured to teach myself as much as I could about modelling and animating in 3D. I had never been that proficient with traditional artistic tools, but 3D software seemed to work for me.

I eventually ended up doing animated opening videos for a number of science fiction conventions in Melbourne in the late 90’s, through which I became heavily involved in the Star Wars fan film scene in the late 90’s and early 00’s. Once I had gained enough confidence, I started working on a freelance basis. Initially I partnered with Cameron Smith — a long-time collaborator on fan projects — to start a small company we called ‘Fingers To The Bone’. When he eventually left to join Weta Digital in New Zealand, I started working for myself.

What was your first professional project and how did it come about?

That would have been the Alpha Chrome project for VIA technologies. Friends of mine worked for VIA, a chip manufacturer based in Taiwan. They were launching a new set of graphics chips under the banner of Alpha Chrome. They wanted some fancy chrome robots for use in video and print material to advertise the launch – ‘Fingers To The Bone’ was there to help. Think I still have a scan of the cheque buried somewhere as memento of our first paid gig.

You’ve worked on a number of film and television projects. Can you tell us a bit about what you did for Jimeoin’s feature film, The Extra?

My role in The Extra was to make Melbourne look bigger! The producers decided that in a number of shots, Melbourne’s skyline was not expansive enough. They wanted it expanded digitally. The fun part was that the shots they wanted expanded involved a moving camera, which would entail 3D camera match moving. As I had already taught myself camera match moving while working on the Star Wars fan film Broken Allegiance, I ended up working on these shots. Once I had a digital camera that mirrored the movement of the film camera, I created an expanded digital skyline through a combination of photographic elements and digital skyscrapers, which when filmed with the digital camera could be composited back in to the shots.

What’s the oddest piece of CG work you’ve had to do?

Oddest paying piece that I have worked on was providing CG elements for an ad for an adult services firm. Before anyone gets the wrong idea, nothing salacious was involved. The company needed elements to illustrate worldwide communication via satellite and the web in an attempt to show that they could meet their clients ‘needs’ internationally.

Oddest non-paying piece I did was to model and animate a singing triffid for a friend’s karaoke party. No way was I going to sing in front of an audience, so I got the triffid to do it for me!

CG work is a sideline for you, as your main profession is as a veterinary surgeon. How do you juggle the two?

Very carefully! I’m not the sort of person who can come home from work, sit down and switch off. My brain tends to be a little overactive and always wants to be occupied. I find graphics work a good counterpoint to my veterinary work – it gives my right brain some healthy exercise while my left brain gets to put its feet up for a while. It can get a bit stressful when there is a CG project with a looming deadline and the clinic is running me flat out, but I manage to keep all the balls in the air — most of the time.

George’s bit at the end

So now we all know how Henry started working with pixels. But that’s not the end of this story. Tune in next time to find out about his more recent work with book trailers. In the meantime, check out his demo reel…

Catch ya later,  George

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Interview with Paul Collins – Author of Mole Hunt

Today we’re speaking with Paul Collins, author of Mole Hunt, Book #1 in The Maximus Black Files series.

Writers have various methods as to how they put pen to paper – or fingers to the keyboard. Some write by longhand and transcribe to computer; some write chapter-by-chapter synopses and then write their novels; others start at A and work their way through to Z without really knowing where their story will end; while some writers think of the ending first and work their way toward it.

 

We at Boomerang Books wondered how Paul Collins wrote his latest science fiction thriller, Mole Hunt. Especially since it’s just book one of a trilogy called The Maximus Black Files.

Why did you write a trilogy?

There are several reasons. One is that the general plot of the series would be too long for one book. All up there must be over 200,000 words in the trilogy, and for the target audience of 14 year-olds plus, I think that’d be too hefty a tome. Also, authors need books coming out at least once a year, or at a stretch, one every two years. I can’t see me finishing a 200,000 plus novel for another couple of years. So it’s good to get one book out there to give me a breather before starting the next one. So it’s also for practical and financial reasons.

Do you wait for a flash of inspiration before starting a book?

Generally, yes. Of course, ideas for contemporary stories are all around us. But not so for science fiction. I initially thought that I’d like to write about a character who’s an anti-hero. I mean, I’m fed up with nice guys winning all the time. Because the possibilities are limitless in outer space, I figured SF would give me broader horizons in which my character would develop. I also like dystopian fiction, that bleak landscape that can be gritty and fun.

We read a review of Mole Hunt in Bookseller + Publisher. To quote, they thought it was “Bitingly clever and imaginative, it’s like a cross between The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Total Recall and Dexter”.  How correct was the reviewer in matching other works to yours. Is there an influence to your writing, especially Mole Hunt?

Certainly. I used to read Marvel Comics when I was a kid. I loved The Hulk, Captain America and Daredevil. Many others, too. So much of my writing is often described as “filmic” and action-packed. So I think readers will see this in The Maximus Black Files. Too, I love Eoin Colfer’s Artemus Fowl books. I think of Max as Artemis’s evil twin. Other favourite books of mine are Philip Reeves’s Mortal Engine series and Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. Going back over many years I used to love Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser books and Robert E Howard’s work, like the Conan the Barbarian series. I haven’t read the Dragon Tattoo book, but I do love Dexter and I’ve seen Total Recall. Mind you, I’d like to think that what I’ve written is wholly original. Jumble up all the above reading material and you might see a resemblance in Maximus.

How did you get started writing science fiction?

I used to publish a science fiction magazine called Void. At that time it was Australia’s only SF magazine. I met some wonderful Australian authors like Wynne Whiteford, Frank Bryning, Jack Wodhams and Sean McMullen. They all mentored me. I still brainstorm ideas with Sean.

What’s the worst thing about working from home?

I can’t think of too many things I don’t like. It must be lonely for some authors, I think, but my partner, Meredith Costain, also works at home writing. And we have two fantastic dogs, a heeler and a kelpie, that are always there to distract me if I show any signs of getting bored or lonely.

And the best?

There are so many things I love about being a full-time writer. I don’t have to travel to work; the computer is always here for when I want to work; I save money on petrol, food, etc; I can work my own hours; I have no one looking over my shoulder. Stacks of pluses!

Do you experience writer’s block – if so, how do you get around it?

I don’t really have get writer’s block. If I did, I’d simply start another story. You usually find a solution somewhere down the track to any problem. And if you can’t, you can always brainstorm with someone. Two minds are always better than one. Sometimes I might be discussing a problem with a friend, and just by talking about it the solution with present itself.

What are you working on at the moment?

Dyson’s Drop, which is book #2 in The Maximus Black Files. I already have the first draft. So now it’s time to fix all those niggling problems that I’m discovering.

Last but not least, how do you write? Rough drafts first, sentence-by-sentence and not moving on till everything is perfect? How did you approach writing Mole Hunt?

Stephen King says he writes one word at a time! But on a more serious note, I vary my approach. Sometimes I start off not knowing where my characters are going to wind up – this was the case with The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler. Other times, I need a draft. Because the Maximus trilogy is so long and complex, I really needed to know where that was headed. So I actually have a first draft for book #3, too.

Thank you Paul for joining us at Boomerang Books. We hope Mole Hunt really flies for you.

Hunting Moles with Paul Collins

I’ve just finished reading a rather exciting, action-packed book. A good old-fashioned science fiction epic with spaceships, aliens, amazing technology and an anti-hero with plans of universal domination. The book is Mole Hunt. The author is Paul Collins. The publisher is Ford Street Publishing, which also happens to be run by the aforementioned Mr Collins. And he’s here with us today to tell us about his book and why he decided to publish it through Ford Street. Take it away Paul …

The Maximus Black Blog Post
By Paul Collins

Writing novels can be tortuous. Authors can spend a year plus writing something and there’s absolutely no guarantee that it will ever be published. So imagine working for someone for a year — maybe as a carpenter, plumber, whatever — and getting told after a year that your work isn’t up to standard and sorry, we’re not paying you.

More authors than not go through this scenario. I went through it with Mole Hunt. It was submitted to most of Australia’s major publishers and some via an agent in the UK and the US. Many replied saying how good it was, but …

Penguin UK praised it to the hilt saying if they didn’t already have Artemis Fowl, the young James Bond, etc, they’d be keen. Another prominent Australian publisher told me Mole Hunt reminded her of what she used to love in science fiction … but it wasn’t for her imprint, which was more contemporary literature. But of course, rejection is rejection.

Cutting a long story short, I decided it would be a Ford Street title. After all, I’ve been through the above scenario before. Dragonlinks was rejected by every publisher in Australia back in 1998/99 — a year or two before the big fantasy craze in Australia (ahead of my time as usual!). The publisher at Penguin left so I resubmitted it without telling her replacement that Penguin had already rejected it. It was finally accepted. That was 2001. It was published in 2002 and is still selling now. (A tip for aspiring writers — persistence is the key word!)

After so many rejections a very small part of me wondered if I was maybe on to a loser with Mole Hunt. After all, Maximus Black is, as the name suggests, all bad. Was I ahead of the pack with an anti-hero as I had been with fantasy novels a decade before the major Australian publishers discovered the genre? (As an aside, dystopian fiction is huge right now – but I wrote Mole Hunt three years ago – hmmm, I see a thread here!)

But then I read Scorpia Rising by Anthony Horowitz. Crikey, his baddies make Maximus look like a boy scout. Max only kills a few people in the first couple of chapters. Anthony’s baddies kill — I dunno, I lost count. But the body-bag ratio is high.

Still, I reckon the kill-rate and action overall matches Scorpio Rising. Bookseller + Publisher says it’s “bitingly clever” and a cross between The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Dexter and Total Recall. Buzz Words says its pace would give Matthew Reilly a nosebleed and Kids’ Book Capers says they couldn’t put the book down.

Maybe I’m on a winner after all!

But I’ll let you be the judge of that. Here’s a run down of the plot:

Special Agent Maximus Black excels at everything he attempts. The problem is, most of what he attempts is highly illegal. Recruited by the Regis Imperium Mentatis (RIM) when he was just fifteen, he is the youngest cadet ever to become a RIM agent. Of course, being a certified sociopath helps. He rises quickly through the ranks, doing whatever it takes to gain promotion. This includes murdering the doctor who has certified him, as well as a RIM colonel who Black deems to be more useful dead than alive. Now seventeen, he is a valuable member of a highly secret task force whose assignment is to unearth a traitorous mole. Unfortunately for RIM he is the mole, a delightful irony that never ceases to amuse him.

In the two years he has been with RIM he has only met his match once. Anneke Longshadow, another RIM agent, who nearly succeeded in exposing him. But nearly wasn’t enough. Now she is dead and he is very much alive to pursue his criminal activities.

Right now, Black has a new problem — one that will challenge him to the max. He has a lot of work to do and little time to do it but as with every facet of his life, he plans each step with meticulous precision.

Maximus needs to find three sets of lost coordinates to rediscover the power of the dreadnoughts – a powerful armada of unbeatable power, long since put into mothballs by the sentinels whose job it is to keep peace and harmony in the ever expanding universe.

Sadly for Black, complications arise. It seems Anneke Longshadow isn’t dead after all. Every bit his match, Anneke eludes the traps Black sets for her. Born on Normansk, a planet with 1.9 gravity, Anneke is more than capable of defending herself against Black’s hired help, the insectoid Envoy, and his professional mercenary and hitman, Kilroy.

Power-hungry, Black usurps the throne of Quesada, a powerful crime syndicate. His ultimate aim is to replace the Galaxy gate-keepers, RIM, with his own organisation. Matching him step by step, Anneke collects as her allies all those who Maximus has deposed in his march to becoming ruler of the universe.

If this sounds like your type of book, I know it’s available on this site.

George’s bit at the end

It is, indeed, an exciting read!

And if you’d like to come along to the launch of Mole Hunt, here are the details …

Friday 10 June 2011
8:30pm – 9:30pm
Melbourne’s Swanston Hotel, Grand Mercure (Ether Conference Centre), 195 Swanston Street, Melbourne.

Paul Collins will be presented with the A Bertram Chandler Award. This will be followed by the launch of Mole Hunt. Hugo-shortlisted author Sean McMullen will launch the book. Please RSVP before 7 June to: fordstr@internode.on.net

The launch is being held on the opening night of Continuum 7, Melbourne’s Speculative Fiction and Pop Culture Convention (check out my previous blog post). All of Friday night’s activities are FREE… so come along. For more info about Continuum 7, check out their website. Hope you see you there!

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter.

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MOLE HUNT

I’ll admit that Mole Hunt, Paul Collin’s action packed new sci fi adventure isn’t the sort of book I normally read.

It’s set in a world I have no experience of, with rules and customs quite foreign to the way I live. Needless to say, I couldn’t put Mole Hunt down.

Maximus Black and his ruthless intentions had me hooked from the first page. I can’t say I liked Max as a person, but he is a very compelling character and I really wanted to know whether he would succeed with his mission.

Maximus is the classic action hero in terms of his intelligence and abilities, but he’s more of a Dexter than a James Bond. In fact, he’s a devious pyschopath, but that ‘living on the edge, take big risks quality’ is what keeps the reader riveted.

Max is RIM spy agency’s star cadet, but he’s also a mole, using the organisation for his own devious purposes. In the Mole Hunt world, unless you’re dead, you can pretty much be repaired so people take big risks and there’s a lot at stake.

Paul Collins gives the reader just enough information to hint that life has not always been kind to Maximus. This suggests a vulnerability that redeems Max to some extent for the reader, but also foreshadows that this could lead to his downfall.

Max has his own agenda – to get his hands on a cache of Old Empire weapons, giving him control of the galaxy and allowing him to extract revenge for the murder of his parents when he was six.

He pits his wits against Anneke Longshadow, one of RIM’s  best agents and someone who also harbours a difficult past. But Anneke’s on the good guy’s side and when her Uncle is murdered, the hunt for The Mole becomes personal.

World building is one of the things that Collins does best and in spite of the unfamiliar names and customs, I found myself totally immersed in the world of Mole Hunt.

Every detail has been meticulously thought out and intertwined with the action to draw the reader into the world of the story. The technological information is authentic and it’s almost as though the setting is another living, breathing character.

The action is non-stop and the dilemma for the reader is who to barrack for – the ruthless but damaged Maximus Black or the equally scarred but righteous Anneke Longshadow. Both character’s points of view are presented to us and like the protagonists, we have choices to make.

I’m looking forward to seeing the tussle between these Max and Anneke in the next book in the Maximus Black trilogy, Dyson’s Drop.

Mole Hunt has strong themes of good and evil, loyalty and identity. It gives the reader plenty to think about including how circumstances and background contribute to who we are, but it’s the choices we make that shape our lives.

This book is recommended for readers 12+, but would also be enjoyed by adults who love the sci-fi genre.

Mole Hunt is published by Ford Street and is due for release in June 2011. Teacher’s notes are available from the Ford Street website

 

 

 

 

 

The Aussiecon Author Videos, part 2

We’re back for another round of videos. Last week I posted four author videos, which I shot at Aussiecon 4 in September 2010. I asked each author to introduce themselves and then to tell me about the book (or books) which has had the greatest influence on them. Here are another four… the final four. There should have been more. I had intended for there to be more. There were lots of authors around at Aussiecon, and I wanted to video as many of them as I could. But… um… I forgot! 🙁 All my wonderful intentions went down the gurgler because I was having too much fun. Oh well, this will have to do you for now. So, without further ado…

Trudi Canavan is the author of numerous fantasy novels, including the Black Magician trilogy (The Magicians’ Guild, The Novice and The High Lord). Her latest book, The Ambassador’s Mission, is the first in the Traitor Spy trilogy. Book two, The Rogue, is due out in May this year. Check out her website and follow her on Twitter. And take a peek at my review of The Magicians’ Guild.

Paul Collins is the author of over 100 books, including The Jelindal Chronicles (Dragonlinks, Dragonfang, Dragonsight and Wardragon). He is also co-creator, along with Michael Pryor, of The Quentaris Chronicles. Check out his website and the official Quentaris Chronicles website.

Sue Bursztynski is the author of numerous books for children and young adults. She is best known for her non-fiction, including Crime Time, but her latest book is the YA werewolf novel, Wolfborn (I’ve previously reviewed Wolfborn and interviewed Sue on Literary Clutter). Check out her blog.

Reece Hauxby is the fifteen-year-old author of Justin Gale Deals With Death. It’s his debut novel and is intended as the first in a series. Check out Cytique Publishing for more info.

Well, that’s it folks. No more videos. But fear not (or do fear, as the case may be) for now that I’ve got a taste for putting videos up on Literary Clutter, I’m likely to do it again. There’s a local spec fic / pop culture convention happening here in Melbourne in June this year (Continuum 7), so I shall try to get my butt into gear and corner a few more authors at that event.

Tune in next time for a guest post from Lili Wilkinson as she discusses the covers of her books, Pink and Scatterheart.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter

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A Celebration of Books at the Ford Street Literary Festival

Last week I attended the Ford Street Literary Festival at Scotch College in Hawthorn and I really wanted to blog about this inspiring example of kids having fun with books and their creators.

(Pictured below are Jo Thompson, Meredith Costain and David Miller who got down to the bare bones of writing and illustrating at the Ford Street Literary Festival.)

What better way for an author to spend a day than in the company of other authors and illustrators and 175 enthusiastic kids and their dedicated teachers?

Graham Davey (champion of children’s literature in Australia) was the MC for the day and he kept the kids entertained and the day moving along smoothly.

Students from schools across Victoria from Years 5 to 10 gathered to talk books and writing with Paul Collins, Meredith Costain, Justin D’Ath, Hazel Edwards, George Ivanoff, , Phil Kettle, Doug MacLeod, Felicity Marshall, Foz Meadows, JE Fison, Liz Flaherty, Sean McMullen, David Miller, Michael Salmon, Jo Thompson and me.

It was fantastic to see kids enthralled by books and coming to an event like this prepared with enthusiastic and informed questions for authors and illustrators.

A book quiz challenged the kids to work together and share their book knowledge to win a box full of books for their school – and all competitors attacked the task with enthusiasm.

Then Michael Salmon (pictured right with Phil Kettle) did an illustration demonstration that kept the kids mesmerised until it was time for JE Fison’s launch of her exciting new Hazard River Series.

It was great for me to catch up with fellow Boomerang Books Blogger, George Ivanoff from Literary Clutter – and of course the entire group of inspiring Children’s  authors and illustrators.

After the quiz and author chats with students, we all moved to the auditorium to watch Michael Salmon work his magic.

Then there was the sales and signings where students could buy their favourite Ford Street titles.

The Ford Street Literary Festival was a reminder that there are so many great ways to celebrate books and what they can bring to a child’s life.

Some book covers

You can’t judge a book by its cover. A very true statement. Many good books have crap covers and many crap books have good covers. But people do often judge books by their covers… or, at least, they make their reading choices based on covers. Unfair? Yes! But a fact of marketing. A book’s cover can affect sales. Today, I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite book covers.

Clive Baker’s The Thief of Always, a children’s horror novel, has gone through quite a number of different covers over the years. Here are a few examples:

But it is this cover, that I like the best. It’s eerie, it’s intriguing and it captures the feel of the novel.

The Jelindel Chronicles, a series of YA fantasy novels by Paul Collins, have all had good covers, but for me the stand out cover was the final one. Cathy Larsen created this beautifully stylish cover for Wardragon.

Author Neil Gaiman has had a long association with artist David McKean, who has illustrated and designed the covers of many of Gaiman’s comics. McKean illustrated and designed this cover for Gaiman’s collection, Angels & Visitations.

Covers are often designed using stock photographs and illustrations, rather than being specially commissioned illustrations. One of my favourites in this vein, is this cover for Iain Lawrence’s children’s novel, Lord of the Nutcracker Men.

Interestingly, there was another version of this cover, where the photo of the toy soldier is larger and more prominent. I prefer the version with the smaller soldier. There was also another, more cluttered cover, which lacks the impact of the simpler cover.

I also really like this one for Caiseal Mór’s YA fantasy, The Harp at Midnight.

Let’s return to the specially illustrated cover. Here’s the cover for Andy Mulligan’s YA novel, Trash, illustrated by Richard Collingridge. I love the way the title is actually formed out of trash. Have a look at Collingridge’s website to see more of his fantastic artwork.

Christopher Pike has written lots of YA horror novels, and Paul Davies has illustrated many of them. This is my favourite, for the novel Master of Murder, which also happens to be my favourite of the novels (mind you, I’ve only ever read three of Pike’s novels).

Finally, I’d like to mention Kerri Valkova’s Ditmar award-winning cover for Richard Harland’s weird humorous horror novel, The Black Crusade. Yes, okay, I’m slightly biased as I happen to be married to Kerri… but I still think this is an awesome cover. I love its graphic, cartoony quality. I live in hope that one day Kerri will get to illustrate one of my book covers.

Do you have a favourite book cover? Leave a comment and tell us about it.

And tune in next time for series book covers.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter.

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Random stuff

I keep a list of blog topics in the back on my notebook, which I add to every time an appropriate idea crosses my mind. But not every thought that crosses my mind is worth a blog post in its own right, and so today I present… some random stuff.

I like reviewing books. I also like reviewing DVDs. As well as the books I review on this blog, I also do reviews for Australian Spec Fic in Focus and MC Reviews. MC Reviews is a particularly interesting review site in that it includes more than just books. There are reviews of DVDs, CDs, films, exhibitions, theatre, opera and other events. My most recent reviews on this site include the YA novel Trash by Andy Mulligan and the DVD of Doctor Who: The Dominators. And if you’re really interested, you can check out a list of all my reviews on this site… here. ‘Cause I know you’re all dying to read more of my opinions. 😉

I like going to book launches. They are an important way of announcing a new release. They generate publicity, sell some copies and give people the chance to meet, talk to and get an autograph from the authors/illustrators. Sometimes there’s even free food/drink. Although The Glasshouse, by Paul Collins and Jo Thompson, was released last month, its official Victorian launch is yet to take place. So if you’d like to come along and join the festivities for this fab new picture book, you can. It will be held at 11.30am on Saturday 30 October at Prahran Market. More info about the launch is available from the Ford Street Publishing website. And you can read my thoughts about the book, here.

I’ve known fantasy author Trudi Canavan for years. She’s a lovely person and a good friend. But, believe it or not, I’ve never read any of her books… until now, that is. I’m about three quarters of the way through The Magician’s Guild, the first book in her Black Magician trilogy, and I’m very happy to say that I’m loving it. I hang my head in shame for taking so long to get around to it. Given how much I am enjoying this book, I will, no doubt, blog about it more substantially in the near future. And I’ll definitely get around to the remainder of the books in the series with a little more speed.

Another author that I have been meaning to read for ages but haven’t yet, is Lili Wilkinson. Her book, Scatterheart, is next on my list. Her mother, Carole Wilkinson, is one of my favourite authors and a long-time friend, so it seems logical that I should give Lili’s books a try. I’ve been following Lili on Twitter for some time, and her tweets are usually interesting, as is her blog. And this semester we have been teaching colleagues at the University of Melbourne in the third year subject “Encounters With Writing”. So it seems like a good time to finally get to one of her books!

After having completed a number of school readers, I’m now finally working in earnest on my new novel. I’m six chapters in to what will undoubtedly be a barely readable first draft. My early drafts are always somewhat iffy… but that’s why re-writing is so important. It will be a number of drafts before I have something that’s okay to send to my publisher… and then, of course, there will be more re-writing. But that’s all part of the process, and I’m actually looking forward to each step.

I’ll finish up with a couple of links. Firstly, an article by Paul Collins — “PODs, E-books, Nuts and Bolts”. It’s an interesting take on the whole electronic publishing trend and the difficulties faced by small press publishers wanting to branch out into the electronic world. Secondly, a blog post from Narrelle M Harris — “Lessons in language: Tactfully changing tack”. It’s a great little rant about the incorrect use of language. So if ‘changing tact’ bothers you, you’ll get a chuckle out of this post.

Given that my post today has been about random things, I thought I’d finish up by asking if anyone out there has any random comments to make? Anything to do with books, writing or publishing? Your favourite colour? The airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

And tune in next time as author Sean McMullen tells us a little about economic SF.

Catch ya later,  George

PS.  Follow me on Twitter… if you already follow me, how about following Lili Wilkinson or Narrelle M Harris?

What’s new at Ford St

Ford Street Publishing is a small Australian publisher specialising in books for kids and teens. Set up by author Paul Collins, it is an imprint of Hybrid Publishers. In just three years they have published over 20 books from established authors such as Hazel Edwards and Gary Crew through to newcomers like Foz Meadows and Chrissie Michaels. Hell… they’ve even published me! I’ve blogged about some of their books before (particularly my own), but I thought it was time I did so again. So let’s check out their latest titles and see what the future holds.

The latest release is a gorgeous picture book called The Glasshouse, written by Paul Collins and illustrated by Jo Thompson. Thompson’s haunting style of illustration works well with this story of obsessive perfection and paranoia. A girl named Clara lives in a glasshouse and grows perfect pumpkins… but her pursuit of perfection becomes an obsession, as her fear of the outside world turns to paranoia. But everything changes with the arrival of a young boy. This book has been getting some pretty great reviews so far — check out the reviews at Buzz Words Books and Kids Book Review.

Paul Collins and Jo Thompson signing copies of The Glasshouse.

Next month sees the release of the first two books in the Hazard River series by JE Fison. With colourful, eye-catching covers from Marc McBride, these adventure books are bound to be a hit with kids of about 8 and up. Jack Wilde and his gang of resourceful friends, on holiday with their families at Hazard River, are faced with a series of dangerous and humorous adventures. In Shark Frenzy! dead sharks with missing fins are being washed up on the river’s shores. In Snake Surprise! they find an abandoned houseboat with a snake and a message for HELP. Fast-paced and fun, these books also have a strong environmental angle. As with The Glasshouse, the great reviews have already started — check out the Bug in a Book reviews for Shark Frenzy! and Snake Surprise!.

And in March next year the next two books in the series will be released — Bat Attack! and Tiger Terror!. For more info about the Hazard River books, check out the official website.

There’s loads more books coming from Ford Street in the near future, including Into the Beech Forest by Gary Crew and Den Scheer; The Key to Starveldt (sequel to Solace and Grief) by Foz Meadows and Ships in the Field by Susanne Gervay and Anna Pignataro. For more info about Ford Street Publishing, check out their website.

And tune in next time as I have a little rant about Ralph Lauren’s foray into kids’ books.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter

Celapene Press

Small press publishers are an extremely important part of this country’s literary landscape. Over time, I hope to profile a few of them here on Literary Clutter. Today, Kathryn Duncan from Celapene Press has dropped by to tell us a little about her publishing venture.

Celapene Press: creating books and supporting the community
By Kathryn Duncan

When I was in Primary school I fell in love with the idea of creating books. My Grade 2 teacher would type up our stories, we would draw the pictures, cut out cardboard to use as covers and design them and then join it all together with staples and sticky tape — it was the 70s, so technology was not on our side. It was fun and I remember trying to start my own book-making group with my friends. I still have all the books I made in school.

After having children, I rediscovered my love of picture books and thought I’d give it a try. I went to a one day writing class and the day after enrolled in the Diploma of Arts (Professional Writing and Editing) at Box Hill TAFE, also doing my children’s writing subject at Holmesglen. During the course, I discovered that I was much better at editing than writing and focused on the editing and production side of publishing. It was around this time that I also completed a self-publishing course at The Victorian Writers Centre. A week or so later I had set up Celapene Press, determined now that I could do this.

The first book I published was Page Seventeen, an anthology of stories and poems. This was a joint effort with Tiggy Johnson, and it was a huge learning curve, but I am still proud of that first effort. In 2007, I decided to publish a collection of stories and poems with a twist, Short and Twisted. The 2010 issue, the fourth, has just been released.

In 2009, I was approached by several authors wondering whether I would be interested in publishing their work. The first was Machino Supremo, a collection of children’s poems about machines. This was released in late 2009 and is a black and white illustrated collection of poems by Janeen Brian and Mark Carthew, illustrated by John Veekan.

The second book is The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler by Paul Collins. Paul sent me the manuscript under a pseudonym. I loved it after the first line and within days contacted Paul and told him I would love to publish it. It was released in November 2009, and the first print run had sold out before it was released. This was a huge achievement for a small press. It has also been short-listed for the Speech Pathology Australia Awards.

I would love to publish more Australian junior fiction and see this as the area I would like to focus on in the future. Finding the right book is the hardest part. Being a small press publisher, you need to be selective in what you choose because you invest so much of yourself into the process. There are so many great stories out there waiting for the right opportunity, but when you are small, it’s not that easy to say yes. I do not actively look for submissions, but I receive a lot.

A major importance for Celapene Press is supporting the community and I would like to be in a position to donate a percentage of all sales to two charities that I am involved with. Amongst other support services, Teddy Love Club Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support donates teddy bears to bereaved parents in memory of a baby who has died, and is a group I became involved with in early 2009 after the death of my baby daughter. They commented that they wanted to publish a book of bereaved parents stories and I offered to do it for them. You are not alone: Stories from Australian families who have suffered the loss of their baby was released in April 2010. Emotionally, this was a very hard book to publish. I read the stories many times and each one broke my heart. Pregnancy loss and neonatal death are almost taboo subjects still, but they affect so many people and it still upsets me that we don’t talk about it. The feedback from this book has been wonderful and parents comment how much it has helped them realise that they are not alone in the grief that they feel after losing a child.

Celapene Press also supports the Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. Not long after our daughter died I established the Charlotte Duncan Award. The winners for 2010 were announced in June and all profits from the Award are donated to the Children’s Hospital. In the past two years, the Award has donated over $900 to the hospital.

Where to from here? I am still looking for the next book to publish and would like to publish 3-4 books a year. As with Toby Chrysler, I will know the next book when I read it and look forward to it arriving on my desk, or in my emails.

George’s bit at the end

My thanks to Kathryn for stopping by. To find out more about Celapene Press, check out their website.

I’ve read Machino Supremo and The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler — both are excellent books. You can read my review of The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler on the MC Reviews website.

And tune in next time for Part 1 of an interview with British author and scriptwriter Paul Cornell.

Catch ya later,  George

Random literary quotes

Last time it was first sentences. This time, I’m quoting memorable bits from anywhere within a book or short story. These are just the quotes that have come to mind while putting together this post. Given the vagaries of my memory, there are bound to be other bits I should have quoted… but hey… with my memory the way it is, consider yourselves lucky to be getting this!

As with my last post, I’m listing the sources at the end of the post so you can all play guess that quote.

1.

As Yone had predicted, it was deserted — tourism was a thing of the past, along with parliaments and television chat shows, universities and churches, human disorder and human freedom.

2.

The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.

3.

He looked at her as though seeing her for the first time, and kissed her as if they were not yet married.

4.

Teddy and Vern slowly became just two more faces in the halls or in 3.30 detention. We nodded and said hi. That was all. It happens. Friends come in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant, did you ever notice that?

5.

In the space it took to read the few dozen words, Danny learned two crucial things, vital to learn at any age but so powerful to have at fourteen: that you always had to grant unlimited possibility, and that happy endings were as fleeting as you let them be.

6.

She was a lovely lady, with a romantic mind and such a sweet mocking mouth. Her romantic mind was like the tiny boxes, one within the other, that come from the puzzling East, however many you discover there is always one more; and her sweet mocking mouth had one kiss on it that Wendy could never get, though there it was, perfectly conspicuous in the right-hand corner.

7.

All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others

8.

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

9.

I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture — a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees — very gradually — I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

10.

I’ve been on quite a trip, though I don’t have much to show for it — a book of Rolling Stones’ lyrics, some coins with Arabic writing on them, a headscarf with crocheted fans around the edge. I’ve learned how to say “bread” and “water” in eight different languages and I can swear in Dutch.

11.

Fa’red was not the sort of wizard who muttered arcane spells over foul-smelling cauldrons in dark cellars. Although he was a very inventive man, his ideas far exceeded his ability to carry them out personally. As such, he had learned to delegate work.

12.

‘You asked me once,’ said O’Brien, ‘what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.’

13.

“And as their lips met, everything changed.”

Got a favourite quote? Leave a comment and share.

And tune in next time to find out about Celapene Press.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Here are the books:

1. When the Tripods Came, John Christopher, 1988.

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

3. “Add a Dash of Pity”, Peter Ustinov, from Add a Dash of Pity and Other Short Stories, 1958.

4. “The Body”, Stephen King, from Different Seasons, 1982.

5. “The Saltimbanques”, Terry Dowling, from Blackwater Days, 2000.

6. Peter Pan, JM Barrie, 1911.

7. Animal Farm, George Orwell, 1945.

8. Animal Farm, George Orwell, 1945.

9. “The Tell-Tale Heart”, Edgar Allan Poe, 1843.

10. Sugar Sugar, Carole Wilkinson, 2010.

11. Drangonfang, Paul Collins, 2004.

12. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell, 1949.

13. Gamers’ Quest, George Ivanoff, 2009. — Yeah, yeah! I know! Shameless plug. 🙂

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.

More short stories

I love short stories so much, that one post just wasn’t enough. So here I am, with my second post about them.

Blackwater DaysLast time I mentioned Neil Gaiman and Peter Ustinov as two of my favourite story writers. Let me now add Aussie author Terry Dowling to that list. He writes science fiction and dark fantasy with an absolutely unique style and approach. I have had to read some of his stories a second or even third time before finally having things click into place. Don’t let this put you off. Each and every story of his that I have read has been well worth the effort. Many of his stories are connected, dealing with the same characters and settings. He is probably best know for his Tom Tyson stories, amazingly vivid tales sets in a future Australian landscape, collected in four volumes — Rynosseros, Blue Tyson, Twilight Beach and Rynemonn. But my favourite of his stories are those collected in Blackwater Days, all set in an around the Blackwater Psychiatric Hospital, which begin with the following line:

“When shadows move in Casna Park and the wind is in the trees, I can’t help but see it as the most terrifying place in the world.”

To find out more about Terry Dowling, check out his website.

Although my latest book is a novel, I began my writing career with short stories. My very first book, published way back in 1999 (and now sadly out of print) was a collection of YA stories about life in high school, Life, Death and Detention. Even my current novel, Gamers’ Quest, is connected to short stories. It is based on “Game Plan”, a short story published in Trust Me!, a YA anthology edited by Paul Collins. After the novel was complete, I went on to write a further two stories about some of the characters, for the book’s website.

Last year, I had a story called “Photographic Memory” appear in the first issue of [untitled]. Early this year I had the great pleasure of launching the second issue. Now, as [untitled] prepares for its third issue, publisher Blaise van Hecke has dropped by to tell us a little about this mag.

I’d thought about starting up a writers’ magazine but soon put the idea away as being something too hard for one person. But when Les Zigomanis came to me at the end of 2008 and made the suggestion, I was more than willing to give it a go.

[untitled] was born as a forum for storytelling and a way for new and emerging writers to have a voice. This is our mission statement:

[untitled] has no pretentious literary aspirations. Nor is it on a crusade to ennoble some ethereal literary collective, or enrich the community – literary or otherwise. It doesn’t really want to change the world – sorry, but it doesn’t. Because for as unique and enlightened and even sublime as that endeavour would seem, it’s all been done before, it’s all been tried before.

It just wants to be about stories.

It wants you to forget every manner in which you’ve been conditioned, and remember what it’s like to read, to enjoy, and to escape.

The physical form of [untitled] is what has set it apart from other writers’ magazines that are on the market. Firstly, it isn’t actually a magazine because it’s pocket-sized and it has no articles or non-fiction. Call it a journal if you will.

I like to call it a pocketbook.

[untitled] is run purely on the goodwill of talented editors, led by Les Zigomanis, who give up their valuable time to read submissions and give diligent editing advice to new writers, all for no remuneration. We hope this changes as our reputation grows. With two issues out in the marketplace, we’ve come a long way in a short time. Our goals are to be able to pay the editing team and of course the writers for their stories.

In the meantime, the printing of the publication is funded by our business, Busybird Publishing & Design. Kev (my husband) and I do the entire layout and design. It’s very much been a matter of ‘pay the printer and cross our fingers that we make the money back’.

All that hard work is very gratifying when we get continued respect and comments on the publication (both its physical form and the quality of the stories). This is what Kalinda Ashton, recent recipient of the SMH Best Young Novelist 2010 and author of The Danger Game, has to say about it:

“[untitled] is a desperately-needed place and space for short stories at a time in Australia when most publications are eschewing that form. Courageous, curious and an admirable project”.

Now that we’ve had a taste for the publishing racket, we’ve got other ideas for future projects. Currently, we’re writing up a proposal for a book called ‘Journey’ which will be a collection of stories from men and women who’ve had experience with breast cancer. We’ll be calling for submissions soon and we’re aiming to have this out in October 2011.

Thanks Blaze. For more info about [untitled] and for submission guidelines check out the website.

And so, dear readers, this brings us to the end of the short story posts. All that’s left for me to do is ask you who your favourite short story writers are? Leave a comment and share your opinions.

And tune in next time to find out what I’ve been reading lately.

Catch ya later,  George

More book trailers — are they worth the effort?

Last time around I introduced you to a few of my favourite book trailers. I’ve got some more for you to look at this time. Plus, I also pose the question: Are book trailers worth the effort?

But first, let’s take a look at the awesome trailer for Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan:

It’s a complex, beautifully animated trailer. But simple animation can also work. Take, for example, the trailer for Wardragon by Paul Collins. It’s not in the same league as the Leviathan trailer, but… Some simple animation, a bit of text and some stirring music combine to make an effective trailer.

This trailer has been online for about nine months, but it’s only had about 180 viewings. This begs the questions: is the time and effort (and possibly money) that is invested in making a trailer, really worth it, if only a couple of hundred people will watch it? This is the question I put to Paul Collins, who is the publisher at Ford Street Publishing as well as an author. Here’s his response:

“I think this latest publishing phenomenon is too young to predict how useful it is. Providing publishers/authors/illustrators can get their trailers done reasonably cheaply, or they can produce them themselves, I see trailers as yet another cheap means of promotion, much like blogging/reviews, etc. Truly inspirational trailers must cost thousands, but the viral impact is tremendous. So if a book trailer can fire up the viewers to send it on, then it can’t fail to promote the book. But looking on Ford Street’s YouTube channel, I see our most viewed trailer, My Private Pectus, has only had 536 views, and the second most viewed trailer sits at 436. How many of the viewers bought the book/s? Hard to quantify!”

Check out the trailers at the Ford Street YouTube Channel.

While the Ford Street trailers are counting their viewings in the hundreds, Leviathan is clocking up multiple thousands, as is the trailer for Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (see previous post). It seems to be a case of big name authors and large publishing houses (who have more money to spend on producing trailers and promoting them) are getting the huge audiences (and huge sales), while lesser known authors and smaller publishers are struggling to get their trailers seen by more than a few hundred people.

Last year I had a book trailer created for my teen novel, Gamers’ Quest. It’s a computer animated video, put together by H Gibbens of Finger to the Bone. It’s had a little over 450 viewings. It’s not possible to know how many of these viewings have resulted in a sale. But for me it is more than just a video to be uploaded to YouTube. I use it during school talks and I also have it playing on a screen beside me when I do book signings. It has proved to be a great way to grab an audience’s attention and so has been an invaluable marketing tool for me.

I think that books trailers are now evolving beyond their initial intention. Just like the music video has become so much more than just a way to advertise a new single, the book trailer is also evolving beyond a simple marketing tool. It is becoming an art-form of it’s own. Just take a look at what the New Zealand Book Council have put together for Maurice Gee’s Going West:

Art? Or mere advertising? What do you think? And what are some of your favourite book trailers? Post a link in the comments section.

And tune in next time for even more amazing trailers.

Catch ya later,  George

A SLIGHTLY SKEWED INTERVIEW

Paul Collins, author of The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler started writing at “age fourteen or thereabouts” and has penned around 130 books.
Paul is visiting Kids’ Book Capers this week to talk about both his writing and publishing journeys. He agreed to answer some “slightly skewed” questions.

Were you a bookworm as a kid?

“Believe it or not I’d only ever read comics – there was never a book in our house. Well . . . one did surface every now and then, a green-spined Penguin mystery. Whenever I stumbled across it I’d idly wonder how it got there.”

So, how did you become a writer?

Obviously not through a passion for reading lol. Paradoxically, I was always reasonably good at spelling and “English Expression” as it was called. My father loved telling stories and jokes. And I was always into comics, notably Ironman, Captain America and Spiderman.


You mostly write fantasy and the occasional science fiction. What inspired you to write
this book?

I loved the idea of writing about a character who muddled his proverbs. I came across malapropisms, which I must confess I was unaware of. On researching the term, I discovered alas I wasn’t going to be the first author to have such a character in a book. How to do it “differently” was the key.

Can you tell us some favourite malapropisms?

Their neighbours are very effluent; the town was flooded and had to be evaporated; decapitated coffee (which a friend reckons is a flat white lol).

What’s The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler about?

A kid who has Asperger’s, although that’s not mentioned in the book. Toby runs blindly from pillar to post in a series of improbable situations. There’s mystery, humour, action, and a host of weird characters. Part of it’s based on my childhood – that is, a mother who left the family. I was nine at the time. One reviewer wondered how a mother could leave her child, but hey, it happens!

What age group is it for?

8+ – this age question is subjective. I know 10 year-olds who have read Lord of the Rings.

How have kids responded to it?

A young Gold Creek reviewer said: “My favourite character is Toby because he is so unpredictable. As an easy reading paperback I recommend this book to kids aged 10+.  I just loved the whole book”.

Tell us about Toby?

There’s no deceit about him. If he makes a promise, he sticks to it – a guy you’d trust because he’s incapable of lying.  Toby is a mix of lightning-quick memory and naïve inability to work out what people mean … he is totally oblivious to body language and expression.  I desperately wanted him to sort things out and be happy.

To find out more about Toby’s story, see the book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lclytl3DB-4


What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

There was no deadline. I wrote in between publishing other authors’ books. And like I said before, I wanted to work with a character using malapropisms, so that was fun. Other minor characters just happened along and I feel they worked out pretty well, too.

What was the hardest thing about writing it?

It has a deceivingly simple plot. But when you dissect it, there are a lot of interwoven intricacies. Even I got confused for a while! There was also a fair bit cut by the editor. I trusted that she made the right decisions. I think that’s the hard bit – writing what you think are good scenes, only to be told by an editor that they have to go.

Thanks for sharing Toby’s fascinating journey with us Paul. Paul will be back on Wednesday wearing his publisher’s hat. Hope you can join us then.

Links:

Teachers notes are available at www.celapenepress.com.au

ReadPlus: http://www.readplus.com.au/blog_detail.php?id=961

GetAheadKids: http://tinyurl.com/yauynvr

The Reading Stack: http://thereadingstack.blogspot.com/

Gold Creek:

Toby:

The Book Chook: http://www.thebookchook.com/2010/03/book-review-slightly-skewed-life-of.html

Hello world!

I have been um-ing and ah-ing about blogging for some time now. You know, the usual sort of self-doubting questions most writers indulge in every now and then. Should I do it? Will I have enough things to blog about? Will I have enough time to do it? Will anyone out there actually read it? The part of me that wanted to blog was beginning to win out when this Boomerang Blog opportunity presented itself. I took it as a sign from … um … someone. And so here I am, inflicting my thoughts upon the unsuspecting denizens of cyberspace.

I have a cluttered mind and a cluttered bookshelf, so there’s a high probability of randomness on this blog. But I’ll start off by stating some of my literary likes so that you’ll have at least some idea of what may show up in my posts.

I love picture books. I have two young daughters, so I read a LOT of picture books. And guess what? Picture books aren’t just for kids.

I love science fiction and fantasy and horror (although not the blood and guts, splattery type horror). I quite like vampire fiction… but I feel the need to say that Twilight is not my cup of tea. Edward who?

I write books for kids and teens. I read lots of books aimed at kids and teens. Man, there’s some amazing stuff out there aimed at this market. So I’ll probably write about these sorts of books a fair bit. And I’ll probably write about the process of writing as well.

My favourite Aussie authors include Richard Harland, Carole Wilkinson and Terry Dowling. My favourite o/s authors include Neil Gaiman, Poppy Z Brite and John Christopher. I’ll most likely write about these people and their books at some point.

And now for a list (I like lists). My favourite books from 2009:

Oh, one more thing… I’m a Doctor Who fan. Yes, I know — it’s a tv show, but there are Doctor Who books as well, so you can be guaranteed of at least one Doctor Who post at some stage. So just deal with it!

Right! I think that’s enough for my first post. Tune in next time, when I’ll tell you all about my clutter.

Catch ya later,  George

EXCLUSIVE: Paul Collins… Slightly Skewed

I started The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler about three years ago. However, about that time I thought I’d like to start publishing other authors’ books so I had two careers happening at once. The trouble is, I’d created a monster with Ford Street Publishing. Although publishing seven to eight books a year doesn’t sound too hectic, it’s easy to forget the major publishers have staff to edit, do accounts, market/publicity, proofread, design, liaise with authors and illustrators, write contracts, etc, etc. With a small press, it’s usually just one person that does all that.

Moi in other words.

So I wrote Toby in dribs and drabs whenever I had a chance. I knew I wanted a character, Fluke, to have a certain character trait. That is to say, words in sentences that change the meaning of the sentence.

I didn’t know what a malapropism was until I started researching for Fluke’s character. They’re sentences that have a substitution of a word that doesn’t really make sense but have a comic effect. So a “decaffeinated coffee” becomes a “decapitated coffee”; “for all intent and purposes” becomes “for all intensive purposes”; “charity begins at home” becomes “clarity begins at home”. The trick is to make sure the verbal gaffes all relate to the actual story. Some of my favourite malapropisms are: “the town was flooded and everyone had to be evaporated”; “dysentery in the ranks”; and of course, “Kath and Kim’s friends who are very effluent”.

The characters’ names come from anecdotal stories. Toby is nicknamed Milo, because he’s not Quik. Fluke was named after his mother tried conceiving on the IVF program, gave up, then conceived. Hence, Fluke.

Once I’d finished The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler I wondered which publisher I could send it to. After all, most know me as a science fiction writer – I don’t know why this is because I’ve written many more fantasy novels than science fiction novels, but there you are! So taking a leaf from Doris Lessing’s book (she also sent two manuscripts to publishers under a pseudonym), I sent the manuscript to all the major publishers under another name. Like Doris Lessing, it was rejected. One publisher did say I could send more of my work because I “showed promise”. But one editor loved it and recommended another publisher because his company was being subsumed by another publisher. So I took up his suggestion and waited . . . and waited. And despite having a great recommendation from this eminent editor, my manuscript waited in a slush pile for four months. I enquired about it, but received no reply. I waited another month before withdrawing the manuscript. The editor then said it was nearing the top of the pile to be read. Now this is a very subjective statement. The slush pile could be a mile high, and three quarters way near the top is months away from being read, but is still “nearing the top”, right?

I withdrew the story. I was then faced with a dire predicament. Where could I send my new book? I was judging a writing competition called the Charlotte Duncan Award at the time. Celapene Press was the publisher. So under the pseudonym I sent Toby to Kathryn Duncan, the publisher at Celapene. It was accepted within the week and within four months it was published. So, there you – this reads more like the slightly skewed life of the author, hey?!

Paul Collins