Karen J Carlisle Blog Tour. A Fey Tale



Aunt Enid’s back, but something’s changed…

A deal with fairies… to solve a mystery… and prevent a war.

Enid Turner is invited to a picnic in honour of the creator of the world’s most famous detective, currently on a lecture tour in Adelaide, where they are caught in a web of treachery and betrayal from the Otherworlds.

It’s up to Aunt Enid and the Protectors, with a little help from the self-appointed Fairy Hunter, to solve the mystery, return the kidnapped heir and save the humans from Otherworldly retribution. It’s now a race to save the Earth from becoming a battleground for a magical war.


Get A Fey Tale at 50% RRP

(via Smashwords – )

Use VOUCHER CODE: YH63W (Exp: Jan 13, 2022)



  1. Your new novel is coming out Can you tell us a bit about it and about Auntie Enid

In book one, Aunt Enid : Protector Extrordinaire we meet (Great) Aunt Enid. A feisty seventy-something who loves to cook, crochet, is a regular at bingo and spends hours in her garden fussing over the colour of her hydrangeas. And is also a Protector, sworn to protect Earth from cryptids, creatures and dangers that spill into Adelaide from the Otherworlds.

So how are things different from book one?

A Fey Tale is a prequel. The story is set in Adelaide, September 1920 – one hundred years before Aunt Enid: Protector Extraordinaire. Enid is younger. She wants a normal life, to fall in love, have a family, to enjoy her birthday. But there are two problems:

1: she can’t let her beau, Owen, know she’s a Protector, and

2: the portals to the Otherworlds have been breached. A troll bounty hunter roams the streets, a Fae is on the loose.

There are answers to hints dropped in book one, and ‘origin’ stories of a few characters. And, yes, Enid’s bees are still buzzing around, and Red, the garden gnome, makes a cameo.


  1. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m an indie author and illustrator of speculative fiction – steampunk, Victorian mystery and fantasy.

When I was young I wanted to be a writer, an artist, a cinematographer, an astronaut, an astrophysicist, and Doctor Who’s next companion. I’m a massive (Classic and New) Doctor Who fan, and have all but one of the sonic screwdrivers. I’ve played D&D since 1978, did historical re-enactment for over two decades, and have been an active member in the steampunk community for over thirteen years. I’m a massive murder-mystery fan. I love Sherlock Holmes, Ngaio Marsh and Agatha Christie mysteries.

I live in Adelaide, and miss my ancient Devon Rex cat. In another life I was an optometrist, but always wanted to create.

I’ve had articles published in Australian Realms Roleplaying Magazine, had a short story featured in a 2016 Adelaide Fringe exhibition. I love writing Holmesian fiction, and have had stories published in both ‘Where’s Holmes?’ and ‘Where’s Holmes II’ anthologies. My darker side can be seen in ‘Doctor Jack’ and both ‘Deadsteam’ anthologies.

I occasionally write song lyrics and am fortunate to have Richard Ryall of Littmus Steampunk Band as my co-conspirator.

Most of all, I have a predilection for purple, steampunk, love dark chocolate, rarely refuse a cup of tea, and hate South Australian summers.


  1. What is your writing process? do you write everyday? Do you throw a lot away? Are you a planner or a panster?

I try to write every day. It doesn’t always happen. When I can’t write, I draw, sew, crochet, design (often book-related) or research, which usually results in more story ideas and copious notes I hope I can decipher on a better day.

Often I’ll binge-write for a few days, then take a few days to recover spoons (as in Spoon Theory). If I can do 1000 words a day, I’m happy. 1500 words, and I’m ecstatic (and exhausted).

I used to be a pantser, which is problematic when writing even a simple mystery. With each book, I’ve planned a little more, but I’m still a pantser at heart.

An idea for a scene or character can be sparked by almost anything. When I have at least three scenes, beginning and end (or the characters demand to be heard), I slap sticky notes with the existing plot points on the cupboard, start at one and start writing to the next. I’ll add sticky notes with clues, and new threads to pick up on in later chapters.

I find handwriting helps the creative process. The scientist in me says it’s because it activates more areas of the brain (the artist in me just loves buying gorgeous notebooks).


  1. How do you go with social media?

Ah, social media. I’m a visual person, so Instagram and YouTube works for me. I have an author page on Facebook and am on twitter. I also post research and inspiration pics on Pinterest.

As a result, I don’t write blog posts as often as I should. When I discovered how to ‘re-post’ from IG and my website to other social media, it was a godsend!

I’m slowly coming to grips with technology. More recently I’ve done more livestreams via YouTube and FB. (It also forces me to tackle public speaking. Eep!) I just have to work out how to not have a panic attack each time.


  1. Any tips on how to use it to increase book sales?

If only! I’m still trying to crack that one. I have a non-existent budget, so welcome tips. I find being genuine is crucial. I hope to provide a good story (with good editing), treat readers how I’d want to be treated.

The hardest part is ‘getting seen’. I’m not great in crowds, so I’ve found this year’s uptick in online events has been a bonus for me. I also do book blog tours, like this one.

Some indie authors only do Amazon/Kindle. Personally, I subscribe to the ‘not all eggs in one basket’ theory of publishing. I publish both paperback and eBooks, to many online stores, with eBooks available in many formats, so they’re more readily available.

With social media, it’s important to give readers an insight to the ‘real me’, not just sell books all the time. If you follow me, you’ll know I love chocolate, tea, gardening (though don’t get to do it as often as I’d like), and love books.

I have a monthly newsletter, to let readers know about upcoming books, events etc.

I also do BOOK BLOG SPECIAL LAUNCH PRICE, like this: (and hope readers will leave a review, and recommend to friends. 😉 )

Get A Fey Tale at 50% RRP

(via Smashwords – )

Use VOUCHER CODE: YH63W (Exp: Jan 13, 2022)


  1. What are 3 art works (books, music visual arts films etc) that have most inspired you?

When in writing-mode, I often binge watch movies and TV shows like Poirot, Miss Marple, Miss Fisher, and TV shows or movies set in 19th C, I can access at the time, like Murdoch Mysteries, Sherlock Holmes (I have various versions on DVD), The Nevers… Anything set in places or eras I’m currently writing, to get into a mood and hear the noises (thankfully smell-a-vision doesn’t exist).

For writing in general: Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes (mysteries), and Gail Carriger (‘Comedy of Etiquette’ steampunk) have been big influences.

Different stories have different inspirations. Songs feature high on the inspiration list, as do documentaries. Songs create a mood, which kickstarts the process. For ‘Doctor Jack’, I was watching Ripper documentaries and the song ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ by The Who came on the radio – the villain always considers themselves the hero of their own story. Ancient Egypt documentaries and art inspired ‘Eye of the Beholder’.

Aunt Enid was inspired by childhood memories of our old Wolseley car, my own Great Aunt Enid cooking lemon butter (and her hydrangeas), and my beloved grandmother – so cars, cooking, and gardening. They count as art forms, don’t they?










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Interview with actor and playwright Nick Backstrom

On Thursday night I went the see to see Train Man and the Rail Way – a quick-witted, hilarious look at the joys of customer service, trains and KNOBBIS by co-worker, Nick Backstrom .  Not only did it speak to me and the rest of the railway folks in the audience but the rest of the audience were chortling too.  Check it out if you can, it’s on at the Meat Market as part of the Melbourne Fringe, tonight (Saturday) at 8.00 and tomorrow night at 7.00 only $20.00 a ticket. A fun way to spend an evening.  (and there’s a bar and a Mac and Cheese Truck!)



I managed to have a quick chat with Backstrom.

Please tell us about Train Man and the Rail Way.  

The play is a comic lecture on how to be a better customer – based on my experiences doing customer service on the metropolitan railways.

 Does any particular incident stick out as an inspiration for the play?

The plays based on an accumulation of events, which fit a broad pattern. It’s when you give people correct information and they don’t believe you – that’s the most annoying.

What do you do for the railways?  Did you work there long?

I worked as a station officer for 6 years.  We sold tickets, topped up MYKI cards and provided information.


Tell us a little about yourself.  Born and bred where?  When did you decide to become an actor?  A playwright? Which do you like best?

I’m from Brisbane.  The decision to become an actor grew slowly while doing plays at school and uni and amateur shows.  I went back to uni to study drama at 26.  I enjoy both acting and playwriting. They each have different appeals.

What other things have you performed in?  Written?

I’ve appeared in over forty stage productions since graduating from USQ. I’ve done French farce in Western Queensland and ancient Greek drama in Cyprus. I was last on stage in JYM’s production of Merrily We Roll Along, but I’ve also appeared in Romeo and Juliet, and Henry IV 1, and Shakespeare’s Best Bits for the Australian Shakespeare company. Other highlights include The Importance of Being Earnest (Citizen Theatre) Playing Rock Hudson (Left Bauer) Sight unseen (Exhibit A- Theatre) and Yarrabah the musical (Opera Australia). I’ve played the Emperor in Amadeus, Benedick in Much Ado about Nothing, Bottom in A Midsummer night’s dream, Stephano in The Tempest (4MBS Classical Productions), Petruchio in The Taming of the shrew, Edmund in The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe, Hale in The Crucible, Antonio in Twelfth Night and the lead role in Charlie’s Aunt (Harvest Rain), roles in QTC’s A Streetcar named Desire and The Cherry Orchard.  I’ve also done film (Any questions for Ben) and television (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries).
As a playwright, I’ve written and appeared in Who You Are, (La Mama),  On the riverbank, and Coffee in the park. My play A room with no view was performed in the 2010 UK Brighton Fringe Festival.

Do you write regularly or just when the spirit moves you?

I try to write regularly but it doesn’t always work out.

What’s your favourite afternoon snack from the Railway Station Kiosk?

White chocolate and raspberry muffins.



Pamela Freeman

castintgsI first discovered Pamela Freeman through her wonderful fantasy trilogy for adults The Castings, but she writes for children as well and over many genres. She’s even written a children’s biography of St Mary Mackillop.  Currently she’s using the name Pamela Hart to write adult historical novels set around WWI

Tell us about The War Bride.

The War Bride is an historical novel set in 1920 in Sydney.  It tells the story of Margaret Dalton and the life she makes for herself after being told that her husband was in fact married when he ‘went through a form of marriage’ with her – but it’s all a mistake, and they are really married. I write these books under the name Pamela Hart (my married name, which I’ve never used before).

What initially inspired you to write the book?

When I was doing the research for my last historical, The Soldier’s Wife, I came across a story about an English war bride, Margaret, who had married her ANZAC husband in England during the war, then came out on a war bride ship in January 1919, only to find that her husband had lied to her about his address and was probably already married. As soon as I read that I knew I had the beginning of my next book.

Then I read about a war bride ship which was so disgusting (mould, cockroaches, rats) that the women refused to travel on it and General Monash transferred them all to another ship.  And I thought, what if I put those two ideas together, so that the husband meets the wrong ship and thinks his wife didn’t come from England, while she is told he was already married, but he wasn’t…

They go on to make separate lives, but of course they later find out the truth…and then it gets complicated!

What else are you working on?

I’m currently writing a book set in 1917, in Italy.  It’s about a woman war correspondent who is reporting on the naval blockade of the Adriatic sea, working around a lot of prejudice against women reporters.  She makes a partnership with an Italian-American photographer who wants to be a war photographer…

War Bride


How do you start out with your stories? In the middle, beginning or end?

I’m with the Red King: I start at the beginning, go on until the end, and then stop.  Of course, in editing, that might all get changed around.

What’s your writing process?

I think a lot about the characters and story before I begin.  I try to figure out what the book is really about – not the plot, but the meaning.  Why it’s worth writing.  And that guides me as I create the plot.

Do you throw a lot away?

Heaps!  It varies from book to book.  The most I’ve thrown away completely is 45,000 words.  But I rewrote one book completely five times, with a different narrative position each time (3rd person young, 1st person old, etc), until I found the right one.

Basically, you have to be prepared to be ruthless.  No change is off limits.  After your first draft is completed, you must be willing to do whatever it takes to the manuscript to make it better.

But if I throw scenes away, I always put them in a ‘bits’ file – for one thing, it’s easier emotionally, and quite often, I find where that scene really belongs is later in the book, and I can go and retrieve it.

Do you write every day?

I wish! No, but most days.  I have a number of family commitments which make it hard to write every day, and I’m not of the ‘you MUST write every day’ school.  If a book’s not ready to be written, there’s no point in forcing it.  On the other hand, procrastination is the enemy of every writer, so you have to know the difference between the book ‘cooking’ in your mind and you just being scared of sitting down and starting it.

Are you a planner or do you fly by the seat of the pants?

Depends on the book.  I’ve done both, and both work – as long as you’re prepared to edit and edit and edit.

I see you are also Creative Writing Director at the Australian Writers Centre. What sort of things do you do?

I teach writing there, and I design the ‘vanilla’ writing classes: we have a pathway going from absolute beginners to a six-month novel writing course.  All of them are also taught online, which is terrific.  I’ve had students from all over the world.

The Centre also offers ‘flavours’:  courses in specialist writing, like children’s, picture books, thrillers, women’s fiction, and so on.  I teach history and speculative fiction writing. I’m very proud of our courses – we have some of the best presenters around!

It must keep you busy. How do you go with social media?

Well, as you know, I’m a Facebook girl.  I started my page on the instructions of Orbit Books’ marketing manager in New York when my fantasy trilogy (the Castings trilogy) was published there, and I really enjoy it.  I’ve also started a page for Pamela Hart.

When I became Pamela Hart for the historicals, my publicity team suggested I try Twitter (@pamelahartbooks).  It can be fun, too, but it feels more like work to me.

What do you do to increase interest in your work and how much time do you spend on it? 

I am lucky in that my friends on Facebook are terrific about spreading the word – so I let them know when something is published, etc.

Of course, I have a website which I keep updated with news – which can take a lot of time, as I maintain three:, and (for my children’s series).

I rely a lot on my publicity team, and I do public appearances (eg at libraries, or writers’ festivals), and for my children’s books I do school visits.  I’m beginning to feel I need to do more, though!

As for time, it varies a lot – near a book’s launch date I’ll be devoting days to it; six months’ later I’m just maintaining FB and Twitter.

Any social media tips?

A good, clean website so people can find your books and, importantly, find out what else you have written.  So if you have a series, it’s crucial that you make it easy for people to find the list of the books in order, so they can immediately get the next one for their e-reader.

I’m not convinced that social media sells books.  What I do think it does is let your existing readers know when a new book is out, so that the early sales spike and give booksellers and your publisher confidence in your book.

What 3 artworks (books, music, visual arts, films) have most inspired you?

Argggghhhhh why do you ask me hard questions????!

Ok. It’s all books, I’m afraid.  I couldn’t possibly pick three bits of music or art or films (although Casablanca might slip in there).

When I was tiny, my father used to read to me from the poetry book he had at school, the Roma Poetry Book.  Apparently, even as a three-year-old I would demand to be read to ‘from the book with all the pretty words’.  So that’s number one.

Then, I think, it’s Twelfth Night, which I discovered on my own when I was 10 or 11, and read before I was told it was too hard for me.  I remember rolling on the floor laughing at Malvolio and his yellow stockings.  I went on to become a Shakespeare tragic (still am).

And probably, as third, I would have to pick Lord of the Rings, read when I was 13 (oh, the books that you read when you’re in your early teens!). I’d been reading science fiction, mythology, folk tales etc all my life, but LOTR put me on the full-on fantasy path.

And right now, I’m writing fantasy (for kids), history (for adults), and the occasional poem… so I guess those three books are still influencing me!




What is CLI-Fi?



This week I asked Cat Sparks about to define (Climate Change fiction) in an interview in SFFWorld.

Cat Sparks TBP-cover-art

Interview with Cli-Fi author Cat Sparks

Cat Sparks is a multi-award-winning author, editor and artist whose former employment has included: media monitor, political and archaeological photographer, graphic designer, Fiction Editor of Cosmos Magazine and Manager of Agog! Press. In 2012 an Australia Council emerging writers grant enabled her to participate in Margaret Atwood’s The Time Machine Doorway workshop in the U.S. She’s in the final throes of a PhD in climate change fiction. Her short story collection The Bride Price was published in 2013. Her debut novel, Lotus Blue, will be published by Talos Press in February.

Cat Sparks


Margo Lanagan – Interview

Margo Lanagan is the internationally acclaimed multi-award winning Australian author of dark fantasy novels and short stories.  Her latest book, Zeroes is a joint work with Scott Westerfeld and Deborah Biancotti


Tell us about Zeroes. 

ZEROES is a YA trilogy about six teenagers, each of whom has a different socially based superpower. Which means, the bigger the crowd around the character, the greater their power—and the bigger the mess if they stuff up. And they do stuff up, regularly. Each (short) chapter is told from one of the six points of view. Compared to the average solo Margo Lanagan story it’s pretty helter-skelter, and not so dark—although it seems to be gradually darkening as the series goes on. Maybe I’m having more influence than I think!

How did the three of you manage the creation of a single book together? What was the process?

Each of the three authors wrangles two of the characters. We get together for a few days to plot out each book, then scatter to our respective homes (e.g. Scott is spending most of this year in New York) and write up our chapters. Then comes the fitting of those chapters together, which entails a lot of rewriting, but also kicks the ideas into new dimensions of weird and intense.

What initially inspired you to write about these young superheros? Can you focus on a particular moment?

I wasn’t present at the very  beginning—I was a late ring-in. But this is how I’ve heard it went: Scott had had the idea for one of the characters, Scam/Ethan, for a very long time. Ever since he was a teen himself and wishing he was the kind of kid who always knew the right thing to say in any given situation. He’s also got a lot of mates who were involved in writing for film and television, and he’s always been envious that they had a roomful of people to bounce ideas off and share the load.

Deb had just done a workshop at AFTRS (Australian Film Television and Radio School) on writing for TV, and she was pretty interested in the TV Writing Room model too. They got to talking, and wondered if that model could be used to generate a co-authored novel. Scott tossed Scam/Ethan into the mix and they started chewing over the crowd-sourced superpowers idea.

They invited me to join them when they realised that two people did not a Writing Room make. By then they had a few more of the superpowers worked out—but we started out by sitting around in bars dreaming up the rest and wondering how this collaboration might work. A few months in we started writing—a year later we delivered the first book. Now the second is written—due out October in Australia—and we’re putting together Book 3.

Deborah Biancotti, Margo Lanagan and Scott Westerfeld at Comic-con
Deborah Biancotti, Margo Lanagan and Scott Westerfeld at Comic-con

What else are you currently working on?

I’ve got three short stories on the boil, which are going to be added to a best-of collection coming out from Allen & Unwin next year.

How do you start out with your stories?  In the middle, beginning or end?

I start at the beginning, mostly, but I need to have some idea of where a story’s headed, to keep it moving. Once I reach that end point, sometimes I realise it’s not very climax-y, or, going on what I’ve already written, I can push the action a little bit further and make it more interesting for myself.

Then there are other stories that don’t present themselves so tidily. Some have to be built up all out of order, from little mosaic pieces. Some can only be completed after the first four attempts have cleared some non-functional ideas from my head and I’ve gone desperately searching in the undergrowth for something else that might work. Some have to be fully drafted, put aside for an unpredictable amount of time, and returned to with a different mindset.

What’s your writing process for your solo books? Do you throw a lot away?  Do you write every day?  Are you a planner or do you fly by the seat of the pants? 

I throw a lot away. A lot. With Tender Morsels and Sea Hearts I rewrote heaps after both editorial passes. It felt like a process of excavation, as if each round of questions asked of the novel gave me permission to break up what I’d done and dig deeper to find the real heart, the point of the thing.

I write every day except when I don’t. There are times when it makes sense to write every day. Times like when you’re nailing down a first draft. Or when you’re revising and you know where you’re going. Or when you’re nutting out a complex problem and need to keep going while you’ve got the whole complex structure of the novel uploaded into your brain.

Then there are times when you’re stale and bored with your own voice and it’s best to go out and be in the real world for a while, to exercise and travel and take in other people’s words (and pictures, and music, and actions). Every writer has to work out their own rhythm for themselves. Don’t write every day if it turns writing into a chore.

I’m a very rough planner. For a novel I start with a plan simple enough to keep in my head without writing it down. I throw a bunch of scenes at that until I feel as if something interesting is forming, then I rehearse a bunch of different plans to see how I might bring all the scenes together. And I repeat that pattern, if it could be called anything so coherent, jumping from pantsing (just going for where the energy is) to planning (when things need reining in) until something like a complete story seems to emerge. Then I send it to the editor, and they go “Yay!” in some places and “Wha—?” in others and I plan-and-pants my way through answering their questions.

Your work often seems to be focused on gender relations.  Has this always been an interest and were you able to explore it in your early teen romance writing as well?

Not so much an interest as a site of rage and fascination. And God no, there was no proper exploration of gender relations in the teen romances. Only the merest touch of feminism-lite could be seen there, on the way to the happy-ever-after ending.

Probably the gritty-realist YA books I published in the mid-90s (The Best Thing and Touching Earth Lightly, now available as e-books) were me at my most I-will-now-change-the-world confident, although Touching Earth Lightly has an unfortunate plotline where the sexually active girl dies. Since then I think I’ve wised up as to how entrenched the patriarchy really is in our and other societies.

Still, I have hope. Germaine Greer once said “Women have very little idea of how much men hate them.” Well, now, because we have the internet, it’s being made abundantly clear to us, and to some appalled men, how hated we are. And isn’t it always useful when your enemy identifies himself?

How do you go with social media?  What do you do to increase interest in your work and how much time do you spend on it? Any tips?

I go with social media as far as I enjoy it. That means at the moment that I’m on Twitter and Facebook. I think we can say I don’t maintain my own blog any more.

Leading up to and crescendo-ing slightly after pub date, I repost any buzz that I catch sight of, and write a lot of guest blog posts and do a lot of interviews. I try not to let either account be totally taken over by publicity.

That’s my tip about using social media—don’t be seen to be “using social media”. Stay human out there; grumble and joke about other stuff in between pointing people to guest blogs and cover reveals. Naked authorial neediness is not a pretty sight.

What 3 artworks (books, music, visual arts, films) have most inspired you?

I don’t think I can narrow it down to 3, so I’m just going to blast you with some visual artists: Louise Bourgeois, Linde Ivimey, Goya, Lucy Culliton, and those mad giant landscapes by William Robinson. Oh, and Scott and Deb seem to think my teenage crush on Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy might explain a few things.

Margo Lanagan
Margo Lanagan

Adam Browne – Interview



If you want to go somewhere you’ve never gone before – try Adam Browne’s writing.  I’ve plunged through the solar system in glorious adventure with Cyrano De Bergerac in Pyrotechnicon, watched a wonderful animation by Adam Duncan based on one of Adam’s short stories called The Adjustable Cosmos (Hapsburg Emperors in the stars) and now I’m all prepared for the launch of his next book The Tame Animals of Saturn on June the 9th.

Adam, tell us about the Tame Animals of Saturn

It was inspired by the writings by and about Jakob Lorber, a 19th Century Austrian mystic who was given to know the animals and plants of the Solar System. It’s richly illustrated.

I hope to revive interest in him, not as a Christian or a theosophist – he was both – but as a beautiful and tireless fabulist.

What was your initial inspiration for the book?

Thirty years ago, in The Book of Imaginary Beings, I read of Lorber’s ‘Leveler’. Borges writes with great dry wit of the immeasurable service the Leveller does man. Its pyramidal legs are made by God to stomp out roadways in preparation for the tarmac-layers and so on. It’s only with difficulty that I acknowledge there might be some people who aren’t immediately captivated by things like this. Lorber has stayed with me ever since. The book was a side-project, but it was one I had to do.

The Leveler by Adam Browne
The Leveler by Adam Browne

You love to explore the odd laneways of speculative fiction. How do you find your way into these laneways?

When I was young, science fiction seemed to be about freedom. There seemed to be few rules – just a playground for ideas. I remember being disappointed when a writer or filmmaker borrowed from elsewhere.2001: a space odyssey was a model of originality, but rather than copy its example, filmmakers copied the film itself. It’s still happening now, likely under the guise of homage – but it’s antithetical to the whole sf ethos. Anyway – I dunno – I don’t see my writing as weird anyway, to be honest. I haven’t admitted this before, but I was surprised when people called my stories New Weird or whatever. For me, they were just the stories I wanted to write.

Thomas Edison, en route to Saturn by Adam Browne
Thomas Edison, en route to Saturn by Adam Browne

What’s your writing process? Do you throw a lot away? Do you write every day? Are you a planner or do you fly by the seat of the pants?

My stories start at the start. There’s some initial idea – with an old one, for instance, called Neverland Blues, it started with the idea that Michael Jackson had fled his problems by turning himself into a spaceship. The story accreted from that. I write from the seat of my pants. And yes, I throw a lot away. Each story has a discards file which is inevitably much bigger than the story itself.

How do you go with social media? What do you do to increase interest in your work and how much time do you spend on it? Any tips?

Yeah social media. It’s such an easy way to advertise your work but maybe not so effective. Still, although there must be better ways to do it, the urge to become skilled in marketing remains a velleity.

Facebook is my guilty obsession. At its best it’s a wunderkammer, and a way for me to vent excess imagination and gags – also an excellent way to resume or maintain friendships … but I suspect the reason I find it so seductive is because it’s all about me. Almost everything I read on it is in some way related to something I’ve already said. That’s the way it’s designed. It’s the equivalent of those kids’ books where your child’s name is inserted into the text. It enables my narcissism.

The bhura flower, native to Saturn by Adam Browne
The bhura flower, native to Saturn by Adam Browne


What artworks (books, music, visual arts, films) have most inspired you?

I’ve been thinking recently about how 80s art-pop was a sort of gateway drug into the arts. Devo, Talking Heads etc etc. I remember being delighted by a performance art piece that made its way onto Countdown – a pingpong game with people’s heads sticking out of the table, players in whimsical dress, a bit of a ceremonial vibe. It wasn’t the piece so much as that such stuff was possible… My father took me to all the great art films of the 70s too. 2001, Satyricon, Tarkovski etc etc. There was 2000AD, the British comic antho – then Heavy Metal magazine – and Raw. There was the French comic book artist Moebius. And Fantastic Planet – then the art of Roland Topor, who designed that film – I’m afraid I’m just listing the usual suspects here – in which case I might as well mention PK Dick, whom I discovered when I was 15, on a trip to the Northern Territory: the first story of his I read was ‘Nanny’. Such a gem. It’s hard to find writers these days who delight me as much as he did. Martin Amis is one, but I have to be careful not to copy his style. Another usual suspect: WS Burroughs – a ‘writer of good bits’, as Amis called him – for me, the good bit, the inspiring bit amid the dross, was the vignette with the Sailor, in the bar, an astronaut, it felt like, purchasing a drug stored in dull grey tubes of lead, cracking it open, his face melting to absorb it…

And now for the tabloid question.  What is your relationship with Bessie Bottomley, Librarian extraordinaire?

I find Bessie Bottomley to be very adept at satisfying my holds.


The Tame Animals of Saturn is a available from




photo by Linda Jullyan
photo by Linda Jullyan





Interview with Michael O’Brien – Vice President of Chaosium Games




I’ve always loved Chaosium games – the rich cultural backdrop of Runequest and the dark gothic horror of Call of Cthulhu. Most of my roleplaying has been done in these two worlds. I was thrilled to discover a friend has become part of a new management team to reinvigorate the Company.

Michael O’Brien, could you tell us about the history and products of Chaosium, Inc?

Chaosium is an iconic company in roleplaying games – it’s one of the oldest publishers still around (founded in 1975), and has had a long track record of publishing interesting, innovative and often ground breaking material in tabletop gaming.

Chaosium’s most famous product lines are Call of Cthulhu, the horror investigation game set in H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, and the fantasy RPG RuneQuest. Both games were and still are pretty revolutionary in their approach. RuneQuest changed the paradigm of fantasy RPGs by having a gritty, realistic combat system where even a mighty warrior could be felled by a lucky bowshot (an outcome that becomes increasingly impossible in level-based games like Dungeons & Dragons). It is also set in Greg Stafford’s richly-imagined campaign world of Glorantha. Call of Cthulhu is of course distinctive because it’s the one RPG where characters who are librarians and the like are the heroes.

We’ve just published the seventh edition of Call of Cthulhu, and are bringing out a new edition of RuneQuest later this year.


One of the things I love about Chaosium games is that they seem to be founded on the idea of Order versus Chaos. Would you say this is true and do you agree that this is a more palatable world view to the modern player than the idea of good versus evil?

The RuneQuest RPG deliberately eschewed the concept that the player characters are “good” and the monsters they encounter are necessarily “evil”.  In his earliest published adventures, Greg Stafford pointed out to Game Masters that if the adventurers turn and flee screaming, to not forget that the monsters get experience rolls too. In other words, the creatures they encounter have their own lives, motivations and connections, and intelligent ones have societies and cultures. This was ground breaking stuff in the early days of RPG, where even “good” characters seemed to just go round a dungeon killing monsters and taking their stuff.

“Chaosium” itself gets its name from the Oakland Coliseum, which wasn’t far from where Greg Stafford was living at a particularly chaotic time in his life. I look after our newsletter “Ab Chaos”, which includes the note (originally written by Greg) that it is “planned to be informal and irregular: we are, after all, not the Orderium”.
How does an Australian come to be Vice–President of Chaosium, an American games company?

Chaosium has always been something of a boutique company, and has come close to financial disaster several times in its long history. I, and several colleagues from Moon Design Publications, came on board at Chaosium mid-last year to help the company out of its latest troubles. This stemmed from two Kickstarters that had been badly mismanaged. A recent article at Geek & Sundry (with the clickbaity title “Cthulhu Company Kickstarted Itself to Death, Then This Happened”) tells the tale of how we turned things around, if anyone wants more detail:

Was Moon Design Publications set up especially for Chaosium?

Moon Design Publications is a company set up by my colleague Rick Meints in the mid-1990s, which began by reissuing RuneQuest material under license. Later Moon Design actually acquired the rights to the game RuneQuest and world of Glorantha from Greg Stafford, and in 2015 won the Diana Jones Award, one of the gaming industry’s highest accolades, for the coffee-table book The Guide to Glorantha.

Moon Design consists of Rick, who lives in Ann Arbor Michigan; Jeff Richard, who is American but lives in Berlin; Neil Robinson, who is originally from Canada, but lives in Seattle; and myself, in Melbourne, Australia (although I lived in the Middle East for many years until recently). We first met at games conventions in the UK.

I gather some of Chaosium’s founding fathers have returned with your team.

Yes, Greg Stafford and Sandy Petersen returned to lead in the company in June last year in an announcement titled “The Great Old Ones have Returned…” They were both shareholders before this, but had not been actively involved for many years.

Greg said he was “puttin’ the band back together” – and four of us in Moon Design later came on board both as part-owners and as the new management of the company. We have known and collaborated with Greg and Sandy on creative projects for many years. (I first met them in the mid-1980’s). Sandy cheerfully greeted this with the statement “I for one welcome our new Lunar overlords”. He and Greg are now members of the company board (Greg is chair) and creative consultants to the company, but day-to-day management is in our hands. Our first priority was sorting out the Call of Cthulhu Kickstarter.


StaffPick RQ

Tell us about the latest Kickstarter campaign.

It was a lot of work (and money) turning the Call of Cthulhu 7th edition Kickstarter around, but backers have just started receiving their books, three years after the Kickstarter was launched. In contrast, last December we ran another Kickstarter to reissue RuneQuest 2nd Edition. Unlike the protracted Call of Cthulhu debacle, we had the rewards printed and ready for shipping in just over three months. We thought this was a very practical and capable way of instilling confidence in our fans that the new management of Chaosium is doing things very differently to the old.

Do you write or hope to write as well as manage?

I am involved in the creative side of the company, as well as being part of the management team. At the moment I’m working on a couple of board games which we’ll be releasing later this year, and have a hand in some projects for Call of Cthulhu and the new edition of RuneQuest.

Are there any opportunities for writers to become involved? 

Certainly! We are not currently taking submissions at the moment while we review our processes, but this will soon change. We’ll be actively seeking out writers for our fiction line, as well as the game lines we support.


Can you tell us about any future plans for Chaosium Inc.?

I definitely think we’ve turned the corner and the future is looking bright for Chaosium – among other things, this year we are launching the new edition of RuneQuest (and even have original author Steve Perrin back on board with the writing team, along with Ken Rolston), are partnering with Sandy Petersen’s own game company to bring out The Gods War, a sequel of sorts to his Cthulhu Wars, set in Glorantha, and German games mastermind Reiner Knizia is working with us to bring out two new board games. This is in addition to the production schedule for new Call of Cthulhu stuff, Jim Lowder‘s sterling efforts as our consulting editor to restore the fortunes of the Chaosium fiction line, and our recently-launched Organized Play program.

Chaosium website:

Michael O’Brien also hosts a Podcast @

Tales of Mythic Adventure Podcast:

MOB headshot





Interview with Glenda Larke – winner of the Inaugural Sara Douglass Series Award.

This fortnight’s interviewee, Aurealis Award winner Glenda Larke brings her lifetime experiences of living in exotic places to the creation of wonderful fantasy worlds.



Congratulations on winning the inaugural Sara Douglass Series Award for the best Australian speculative fiction series completed between 2011 and 2014 with your Stormlord trilogy – The Last Stormlord, Stormlord Rising and The Stormlords Exile.

Could you tell us something about the Stormlord Trilogy?

The first book, The Last Stormlord, introduces a world where it never rains, at least not naturally. Stormlords — men or women with power over water — use their magical control to bring water to the desert land. Unfortunately, the Stormlords have been dying off and water allowances are being reduced, prompting unrest and rebellion. As the land is torn apart by war, the unscrupulous attempt to control the only two young people who might one day just have enough power to provide solutions. The story continues in Stormlord Rising and concludes in The Stormlord’s Exile. Along the way, there’s love, battles, bravery, betrayal, tragedy, compromise, and ingenious use of water magic…

Can you pin-point an initial inspiration for the books? Reviewer Jason Nahrung suggested your experience of living in arid climates like WA and Tunisia may have influenced your use of the theme of water in these books.

 As a kid, I remember a West Australian summer on our farm when a rat fell into the rainwater tank. That was our only drinking water. We had to drain the tank and rely on the generosity of neighbours while we waited for rain — so I’ve always known how precious water is.

We lived in Tunis in North Africa for two years. When the wind blew from the south, there would be sand heaped against the outer walls of our house — sand from the Sahara. I visited a town in Algeria where, when it rains, they distribute rainwater from the wadi when it flows according to how many people in each household. We were there on the first wet day they had that year; it was in December. Now we live near Perth W.A., where the waterflow into the dams that serve the city has decreased from an average of about 400 gigalitres a year prior to 1975, to last year’s 12 gigalitres.

We take two minute showers now, and don’t plant a lawn.

All that is what inspired me to write the Watergivers trilogy. It wasn’t difficult to think of a scenario. Control of water has already been a weapon of war; the dictator Sadam Hussein quashed criticism and destroyed the culture and livelihoods of the Marsh Arabs in Iraq by draining their marshes. Control of water is already an economic weapon. Who has the right to water in California: the cities or the farmers? Who can use the water of the Rio Grande: USA or Mexico? Israel controls much of Palestine’s access to the water of the Jordan River basin — imagine how well that works out!

I hope readers immerse themselves in the story and care about the characters. I hope they find the can’t put the books down because of the tale of adventure it tells. But I also hope that some readers think about the issues, issues which are already shaping the world we live in. Unfortunately we don’t have magic to fix things. We only have ourselves.

What are you working on now?

 I’ve just finished another trilogy, The Forsaken Lands, based on the idea that if the Spice Islands of Asia had possessed magic when Europe tried to colonise them to control the spice trade, there may have been a different outcome. The first book is called The Lascar’s Dagger. (“Lascar” is a word given to Asian sailors who worked on European ships…) The trilogy has everything from pirates and sea battles to conniving queens, sorcerers — and a very sneaky dagger.

I’m working on a standalone fantasy now, as yet untitled, which might be the first in a series, if it’s successful. (My only other standalone was my very first published book, Havenstar.)

What’s your writing process for books? Do you throw a lot away?  Do you write every day?  Are you a planner or do you fly by the seat of the pants?

 I am a very messy writer. I did try meticulous planning once, but by the time I arrived at Chapter 3, I was way off the plan. I kept on thinking of better directions for the plot to go in!

Before I begin a book, there are three things I must have: an understanding of what makes the main characters tick; the ending (although it may change); and a vague theme — i.e. something that keeps the plot from running away in too many directions. I usually have a strong visual impression of some of the early scenes. But apart from that, I’m an explorer without a map, and yes, sometimes I get lost, I have to backtrack, or throw away the useless diversions. I rewrite a lot. (I always smile when neophyte writers ask, “How many times do you re-write? Two? Three?” The real answer to that is: “However many it takes.” Some parts will be perfect as soon as I write them; other parts might have 30 rewrites.)

As for how often I write: that too depends. Most of my books were written in between a day job and family commitments. I worked on a project basis, so when my day job was tough, writing was laid aside, sometimes for weeks. When job and publishing commitments clashed, things could get interesting. I remember reading the proofs of a novel at night in a pup tent in the rainforest during a tropical rainstorm — by candlelight. I wrote part of one of the Stormlord books chugging along on the deck of a slow fishing boat on the Kinabatangan River.

Glenda Larke with friend

How do you go with social media? What do you do to increase interest in your work and how much time do you spend on it? Any tips?

Social media devours much more of my time than it should! I have no idea whether it’s terribly helpful with regards to selling books, although I try to keep people informed of what I’m up to. It’s so hard to assess what generates sales, and anyway, nowadays there is so much noise out there on social media that the occasional peep from an individual author just gets lost in the roar.

For me, I think social media is more important as a means of information and help (e.g. from fellow authors) to me. I value my online friendships because I find people can be so supportive and inspiring, even if we’ve never met. This is especially true of the Australian spec fic scene — readers, writers, industry professionals, convention organisers, etc — fabulous folk. Without them, I might have given up years ago.

You worked as a field ornithologist in Malaysia. Did this career have any influence on your writing?

Absolutely. Birds had a big part to play in The Isles of Glory books, and also in The Dagger’s Path. I think those avifaunal story lines succeeded only because I know my wild birds…

As well as that, when I worked in the field on bird conservation, I saw wonderful places — islands, cliffs, swamps, rainforests, mountains, lakes, rivers — scenes that inspired parts of different books.

 What 3 artworks (books, music, visual arts, films) have most inspired you?

It’s always been books, books, books with me (although I love classical music, especially 18th and 19th century symphonies, which I play while writing. I once lived just beside a path called Beethovengang…)

It’s hard to pinpoint special books out of the thousands. Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising was probably one of the first to set on a path to writing fantasy, although I actually decided I was going to be a writer when I was about eight and still into Enid Blyton’s Famous Five!  Oh, and Lord Juster’s present to the King in “The Fall of the Dagger” was  inspired by the Burghley Nef saltcellar of 1527, which you can see in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

If you want to know more about Glenda try:

Twitter: @glendalarke


 The Burghley Nef saltcellar, 1527 from The Victoria & Albert Museum, London
The Burghley Nef saltcellar, 1527 from The Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Interview with Aurealis Award winner Trent Jamieson



Congratulations on winning the 2015 Aurealis Award for both Best Fantasy and Best Horror novel!

That’s amazing.

Thanks! I was completely surprised, and delighted.

It’s about Mark – a Day Boy who works for a Vampire, running chores, protecting his master during the day. It’s his last year as a Day Boy and he must decide how he is going to enter adulthood as man or monster or something not quite either. And, things don’t go smoothly at all. I kind of pitched it as To Kill a Mockingbird meets Dracula – which is a bit cheeky, but kind of the mood that the book went along. My mum didn’t like it because it was too violent – and she’s read all my stuff. I’ve promised her the next book is very different – but you never know with books.

Can you pin-point an initial inspiration for the book?

A very strong image I had of two boys smoking in a crypt flicking cigarettes at a coffin. I knew at once that they worked for vampires, but I wanted to know what they were like, how they had gotten so comfortable, even brazen, in their job. Everything sprang from that.

What are you working on at the moment?

A novel called the Stone Road. I’m just picking through a messy first draft and trying to work out what it’s about – which I think I know, now, but we’ll see. There are many drafts ahead.

You’re clearly a fan of Lovecraft and also devoted to Brisbane where you now live. Brisbane is nothing like the gloomy windy shores of New England. Is Brisbane a gothic place in your mind? What makes it so?Trent-Photo

Funnily enough I’m not that into Lovecraft other than the cosmic horror, though I tend to play around with it a lot less seriously in my work. But I adore Brisbane. It is not a gothic place in my mind at all, in some ways, like most cities, I guess, it’s a blank slate. But that’s just an invitation to artists. Brisbane is a place that drives some great fantasy writing. You’ll be seeing new fantasy and horror novels set in Brisbane by Angela Slatter and Gary Kemble in the next twelve months or so, and that excites me. I think it’s a city worth writing about, and you know, what makes a city great comes down to the community that lives in it, and the stories they tell. The more stories and art we have the richer the place we live in. Brisbane sings with stories, and I’m proud to be a part of that.

What’s your writing process for books? Do you throw a lot away? Do you write every day? Are you a planner or do you fly by the seat of the pants?

I am slow and non-linear. And I slap scenes together and see how they work. I write thin – my early drafts are whisps – and then too thick, and then have to thin again. I don’t plan, but I do a lot of rewriting, structural and line-by-line – I don’t know if you’ve noticed here, but my punctuation is awful! I try and write every day, even if it’s only a few words. I don’t tend to do marathon sessions until I am editing and deadlines come into play. Otherwise it’s just chip, chip, chip and see what you end up with.

How do you go with social media? What do you do to increase interest in your work and how much time do you spend on it? Any tips?

I have gotten worse at this over the years. I’m a bit weary of social media as a platform, or maybe just weary of the sound of my voice. As a place to have fun it’s great, but as a selling tool for me, I’m not so sure. I don’t spend nearly enough time on increasing interest in my work. But I am always open to anything interesting when it comes along, promotion wise. What I do do, I try and have fun with. If you’re going to promote you need to be creative, honest, and have fun. Writing books is the thing that interests me, and reading. Everything else is just waving flags (unless, you’re great at it, and there are some really wonderful self promoters out there) and hoping someone notices.

What 3 artworks (books, music, visual arts, films) have most inspired you?

I am terrible at narrowing things down to favourites. They always change, because I keep reading and listening, and you forget your favourites (well, I do, anyway), and then you encounter the work again and you remember that, yes, you listened to that album non-stop for a year. But there is a constant churn of inspiration. Currently it’s Ursula K. Le Guin’s Tombs of Atuan, N.K. Jemisin’s book The Fifth Season (which I am reading at the moment), and Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian.

All of which are feeding into the new book whether I want them to or not.

Trent can be contacted at teacupthrenody at hotmail dot com

Trent Jamison 2


Sophie Masson – Interview

Prolific French-Australian author Sophie Masson has charmed both children and adults with her richly beautiful fantasy stories.  Her most recent book is Trinty Book 2 – The False Prince.



Tell us about your Trinity series.

The Trinity series is a duology which is set in modern Russia, against a background of hard-nosed corporate skulduggery, dark historical echoes and supernatural and magical elements that thread themselves in and out of the story. It’s a fairly unique series, I think, in that what I’m attempting to do is paint a kind of metaphorical portrait of the extraordinary nature of Russia and its culture while telling a gripping, genre-bending story with vivid characters and unexpected elements. Trinity–Book 1, The Koldun Code; and Book 2, The False Prince, are centred around the viewpoints of main characters Helen Clement, a young Londoner who by background is part French-part-American; Maxim Serebrov, an experienced, disillusioned Moscow homicide detective, and in the second book, another couple of characters who are very ambiguous but very interesting too(don’t want to say exactly who they are for fear of spoilers!).

What initially inspired you to write the Trinity books?

Russia–and a fascination I’ve had with that country and its culture since I was a child–and the two visits I’ve made there, in recent times, really increased that and also gave me the rich texture for Trinity as well as opening me up to some unexpected discoveries–such as the fact that magic and the supernatural are very present not only in traditional pre-Revolutionary culture, but very much today as well. You can read more about that aspect of it here:

What are you working on now?

I;m working on a novel called The Ghost Squad, a speculative fiction YA novel. It’s part of my PHD work–I’m currently enrolled as a PHD student in Creative Practice at the University of New England, and part of the project is writing that novel, plus an associated exegesis which is looking at YA speculative fiction with the theme of the afterlife! It’s really fantastic and I’m much enjoying both the reading and the writing. As well, I have several picture-book texts I’m working on(two have already been accepted) as well as a book of light fantasy short stories for younger readers.

You’re also very involved in Eagle Books translation of Jules Verne’s Mikhail Strogoff which is due out in April 2016.  How did that happen? Will Eagle bring out more Jules Verne translations? 


I’m one of the co-directors and founding partners of Eagle Books, which is a new imprint of small publisher Christmas Press, which we founded in 2013. Eagle Books will specialise in wonderful adventure novels for readers 11 and up, that can also be pleasurably read by adults. Our launch title is the wonderful limited edition of Jules Verne’s Mikhail Strogoff, in a fantastic new translation by Stephanie Smee, and illustrated by David Allan. That book is very important to me–in its original French(titled Michel Strogoff), I read it at age 11, and it was the book that made me fall in love with Russia and that has really marked me both as a writer and reader. But the English translations of it(from 19th century) were stodgy and dated and did not fairly represent the original book. Stephanie is a friend–I had first met her when she translated some fantastic classic French children’s fiction by the Countess de Segur, bestselling translations published by Simon and Schuster–and it was just so wonderful that she agreed that Eagle Books should publish her wonderful translation of my favourite childhood book! It really is a dream come true. I edited the book as well as writing the foreword–a real privilege to be helping to bring back to English speaking readers a book that in France is considered to be Verne’s masterpiece and very influential there.

We might bring out more Verne translations–we’ll see! There are many that he wrote that are not well known in English speaking countries–but Mikhail Strogoff, which some critics have called the ‘best adventure novel ever written’, is clearly the most exciting!

Many of your books are have background in folk and fairy tale.  What do you like about using fairy tales as a source material?

Fairy tales are wonderful because they are both so deep and so wide–so capacious of meaning but also light on detail so that you really have a wonderful framework to work on from the start. They have a great richness  about them and yet a great simolicity which I find very appealing.

You write for both adults and children.  Which group do your prefer writing for?

I like writing for both–depends on the story! That said, I feel freer in a sense when I write for children and young adults–there are not so many categories and restrictions in terms of genre–nobody minds if you blend them, whereas in adult fiction, it seems sometimes that people don’t like it if you do that!

What’s your writing process for books? Do you throw a lot away?  Do you write every day?  Are you a planner or do you fly by the seat of the pants?

I write at least a chapter or two a day–go over the previous day’s work before I start the next–so that the book is built up in such a way that I’ve already revised by the time I get to the end of the first draft. I do write most days, and I always write more than I need and am happy to cut, then. I’m not a planner as such but I do know where I want my story to end up, and I do know the first few chapters pretty well before I start. And because of the way I work, I do a kind of reverse planning process which means that things slot in very nicely as I’m going.

How do you go with social media?  What do you do to increase interest in your work and how much time do you spend on it? Any tips?

My main social media activity is with my blog, where I don’t just post about my own work but in fact mostly do lots of interviews and feature guest posts. It’s got quite a few readers, which is great! I also use Facebook a lot and Twitter is linked to that and that seems to work well. Tips? Well, I think, with a blog, it’s a good idea to have a variety of things you post about, don’t make it wholly focussed on your own work(for your own sake as well as readers!) And with FB/Twitter etc, my experience suggests it’s best to link FB to Twitter rather than the other way around.

What 3 artworks (books, music, visual arts, films) have most inspired you?

Jules Verne’s Mikhail Strogoff; the Tintin books–as works of art as well as stories–I adore Herge’s work and other French ‘bandes dessinees’ which I was brought up on, that ligne claire style especially; and The Godfather (film) as well as Shakespeare in Love. If I can squeeze in another artwork, I love an unusual little Renaissance portrait of a little boy(attached), son of the artist Francesco Caroto(1480–1555) –the little boy is showing off his own stick-figure artwork in a most endearing and delighted way. Really makes the centuries fall away…caroto painting

In terms of music, I am very eclectic and like all kinds of genres, from folk to jazz to rock to medieval and baroque; but I guess, sticking to the Russian theme, that The Song of the Volga Boatmen(as sung by the Red Army Choir!) has resonated for me down the years since I first heard it as a kid–my dad being very fond of the music of the Red Army Choir. When I heard it sung in Russia itself, in a lovely little room in a small kremlin(citadel) by the side of the Volga in the ancient town of Uglich(where much of the first Trinity book is set) I just burst into tears, it was so magnificent and so resonant with my own past as well as that of the place I was in…



Sophie Masson