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Maori Mythology

Following on from yesterdays post, I wanted to share with you some of my favourite myths from Maori culture. I’ve been doing some reading, and trying to find a way to mash everything into one post, but I just can’t seem to do it.

So, instead I am going to post some of the images I have come across, and let them speak for themselves. I’ll preface that by saying that one of the things that has always really appealed to me about the myths and legends of the Maori is how deeply connected they are with the world around us. As a child who was very prone to floating away with the fairies, the earthly basis of these stories helped to keep me grounded and gave me a sense of wonder about the world around me.

Maori Mythology

I remember driving to Auckland and passing through gorges and hilly terrain, and my mother telling me that these sheer drops and blunt cliff faces were shaped by the sons of Papatuanuku and Ranginui when they tried to carve their way free from the small space between their parents.

Maori Mythology, New Zealand

And I remember staring at the Kaitake ranges near our house, looking for the shape of the woman who had laid down to rest and never got up (I was trying to find a myth about this and couldn’t, so perhaps its just a story my mother made up 😉 )

And perhaps it was this grounding of the otherworld firmly in the real world that helped feed my fantasies and drew me inevitably, endlessly towards speculative fiction.

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Internal cultural conflict – my musings

In the last few weeks I have been thinking a lot of about culture – what it is, what it means to me, and how I can incorporate it better in my writing. And it all started with Playcentre.

I grew up as a Playcentre kid, and so it was natural for me to return with my own children, though it took me awhile to remember it was an option. We’ve been going for three terms now and it’s made a huge impact on me, and my kids (even helped in making our decision to home school Ivy). Recently I’ve been going to some workshops as I work my way towards achieving Course Two, and a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending one called ‘Celebrating Culture’ It was a two night course, and really threw me for quite a loop.

Why? Because I haven’t spent a great deal of time thinking about culture in general, let alone my own. I’m very accepting of people from all walks of lives and while I find different ways of living interesting, I’ve been more inclined to look for the similarities than the differences.

This negatively impacts on my writing. I paint my stories in broad strokes and while this is okay, it means that many of them never really come to life, unless they are in a fairly modern setting. I’ve struggled with this for a while now, and in particular with finding that balance between too much culture (I’m sure you all know those books that spend so much time detailing the world that you start thinking ‘okay, okay, now when are we going to get back to the story!?’) and not enough.

Out of laziness, I have avoided working on it, but I can’t put it off any longer. I want my stories to jump off the page at you, I want to draw you in with my words and have you experience the story as if it were real.

Throughout the course I was fascinated as we talked about what we thought culture was, and what our personal cultures were. Through discussion I realized that actually, I’m not very ‘typical’ in some areas, and that many of the rules I was raised with (and have since passed on to my own children) are quite culture bound. Maori culture bound, that is. And I had been unable to see that.

You see, I AM part Maori. Ngai Tahu. And I’ve been to several hui down south, Bruce Bay, to be precise. I even have memories of practising for a powhiri, welcoming Prince Philip to the area (back then there was no marae, but a hall where the hui was held), searching for fool’s gold in the river, smoking eels over a rubbish drum, and flax weaving too. These are good memories.

I also remember arriving down there and having this feeling that I had come home, even though I’d never been there before and I was probably only 9 the first time. It is the home of my ancestors and somehow, even at that young age, and without anyone telling me what to expect, I felt that very deeply.

And yet, for much of my life I’ve been denying all of this. Because I grew up in a culture where being Maori wasn’t a good thing, and being a half-caste was worse. And I am actually kind of pale, and I don’t look like a Maori (and I’m only 1/8th so really, not much of a Maori in the eyes of many). It’s an awkward position – on the one hand, I don’t look Maori so what right have I got to explore that, and on the other I am Maori but feel like I should keep quiet about that because its not something to be proud of. (Thank goodness the times have changed somewhat, huh?)

The older I get, and the more I learn and explore who and what I am (in all senses), the more I realize just how trapped I have been by my desire to fit in, and my fear of standing up for what I believe in. It’s only now, as an adult, with a family of my own, that I can cast off the boxes I’ve allowed to build up around me, and it’s only now that I can understand my mother’s journey to exploring her culture and Maori heritage back when I was a teen and wanted nothing to do with any of it—now, that I find myself on a similar path.

Which leads me here, to where I realize WHY culture has been such a struggle for me, not just in life but in my writing. Because if it’s not okay to be interested by my own, if in fact if it’s discouraged by society in general, why would I have interest in other peoples cultures?

Recently I have been doing a lot of thinking about my culture (all aspects of it—each of us has a culture of our own, after all), and finally I’ve come to see just how important it is to acknowledge, and embrace. It hasn’t been until now, when I am beginning to bridge that internal gap, that I have been able to see how I can integrate culture into my writing, without fear, and bring my stories to life. And maybe, just maybe, writing it out will help kick this internal conflict to the curb once and for all.

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The Next Big Thing

Well, the lovely Leigh tagged me in this, so I thought I better post it up! I was going to write about Sun-Touched, which is the novel I’m going to be preparing for submission in the near future, but then changed my mind and thought I would share a little about ‘Burn‘ with you. It’s ready for it’s final pass before it’s out the door – SUPER excited to submit something. This ties in nicely with SpecFicNZ blogging week in that I get to tell you a little more about what I’ve been working on recently 🙂 I do love this story.

What is the working title of your book?

The novella has been dubbed ‘Burn’ and I’m so bad at titles that I probably won’t change it 😉

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I initially got the idea a few years ago for a short story challenge that my writers group were doing. I never got around to finishing the piece, but I did write a few hundred words of the intro. That scene still takes place in the story, with some of the original words in place even (though it’s not longer the intro!). It wasn’t until this year that I actually re-envisioned the idea and wrote it.

What genre does your book fall under?

This is a fantasy story.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

This is one of the questions I hate the most when it comes to these kinds of things! I’ve never successfully cast actors in the roles of my novels, and I think that’s because in my writing I like to leave character appearance broad enough that readers can create their own images of what the character looks like. One that they can connect with. That said, for this story I did actually look for some inspiring photos, and I’ll share those with you here. The first is the woman that brings Carmel (my main character) to mind for me (though of course, in like, fantasy clothing lol).

And this next one is an image Leigh posted on my facebook timeline. She found it and immediately thought of my novella. This IS Serafina (okay, it’s actually Pele, I had totally forgotten about that fire goddess!), and every time I look at it, I shake my head in wonder.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Arg one-sentence synopsis!!! Bane of my existence… Alright, I will try…

When Carmel’s son dies, his last wish is to be burned in the fires of the Goddess Serafina. Can Carmel escape the city and make it to the mountain? And if she does, will the Nivaen goddess accept her half-caste son, or will her journey have been in vain?

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I wrote this for a particular anthology, so fingers crossed that works out. If it doesn’t, I’ll certainly look at finding another publisher for it, and if that doesn’t work out, I could see myself self-publishing.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About a month! A couple of my writing buddies set aside a month to knock out the first draft, and we cheered each other along.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Again, this is one of those questions I struggle with. I really don’t know…

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Well, it was a combination effort between Anna and Meryl. Anna posted the anthology guidelines to our group, and Merrilee was all ‘SHINY! I can do that, you should totally do it too.’ At which point I realized I did have something that I could develop for it, and then we wrangled Anna into playing as well. (Yes, PLAY!). It’s been great to all work towards something longer than short stories, for the same market, and I’d be thrilled to see any of them appear in it.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The main characters are a woman in her late middle ages, her dead son, and her baby grandson. A few others crop up along the way, but those were my staples. It was an interesting experience writing with this limited cast. Basically, it’s a story about a woman returning to her roots on the premise of burning her son according to her native culture, but alongside that it’s about her rediscovering who she is, and what her purpose is, after spending more than half of her life in captivity.

Thanks for reading! Cross your fingers for me 🙂

Oh, right. I’m meant to tag some other writers. I almost forgot! The following are some of my core writing crew (the ones that haven’t already been tagged yet, anyway), and I know that they are either in the process of getting something ready for publication, or just about finished with their first drafts (hint hint, Tama. You done yet?? 😉 ).

Take it away, Anna, Meryl, and Tama

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Anna Caro – Writer, Editor (pure awesome).

I’ve known Anna for a few years now, have been staff with her at both Kiwiwriters and SpecFicNZ. We’ve edited an anthology together, and I have the pleasure of being in a writers group with her (online). So I can definitely testify to her awesomeness. Fate (a.k.a Dan over at SpecFicNZ) threw us together in the Matrix of Doom this year, and so I got to interview her, which is something new for us! Strangely, all this prior knowledge didn’t make it any easier for me to come up with questions. Thanks for taking the time to answer them, Anna!

Having read many of your stories, I know that you are not afraid to write about things that others might shy away from. Personally, I love that your characters are unique, and face many challenges beyond what your regular writer might pit against their creations. What are the topics that you most enjoy exploring in your fiction?

I love writing about characters who are outsiders in some way. I don’t mean the type who wander round lonely clifftops in the rain making maudlin pronouncements, but those who have a myriad of points of tension and exclusion and friction with the world in which they live, who are all the wrong shape, physically and metaphorically, for the space they’ve been allotted. Who are fighting against the society they live in, but have to adapt themselves in so many ways to survive in it, and for whom even the usual paths of rebellion may not be an option.

Recently much of my writing has been concerned with disability and bodies in some way. Blueprints, which was included in the anthology Fat Girl in a Strange Land, is set in a time when everyone who can is leaving Earth for a more hospitable planet. The story is about those who can’t. Millie, to be published in the forthcoming Outlaw Bodies anthology, is about a woman whose parents and doctors made decisions about her body when she was a child, and the repercussions of those. My almost-finished novella-in-progress plays with the oft quoted idea of autistic people being or feeling like we’re from another planet, and is about an autistic woman who has chosen to live on (literally) another planet.

What other areas are you looking at delving into in your future writing?

I’m currently planning a novella set in a near-future world of environmental decline, when scarcity is just beginning to bite in places it never has before. I suspect that may be harder to write than post-apocalyptic fiction. It also touches on child refugee issues and power and abuse – but I think I’m most apprehensive about the fact it’s primarily a romance. That’s not my usual style!

More broadly, I’m hoping to write more poetry and I’m quite determined that next year will see the production of a novel.

You’ve published quite a few short stories now, as well as a co-editing two short story anthologies—in what ways has this combination approach benefitted (or hindered) your writing? If you had to choose only one to do for the rest of your life, which would be the ultimate winner?

Developing writing as a craft has given me a lot of insight into what makes a good story, and so has editing. More specifically, submitting stories has given me an overview of the processes editors use (for Regeneration, which is currently open to submissions, we’re using an online submissions manager, which is making things a lot easier, and which I learned about through submitting to publications which already use it) and editing has reinforced something I knew in theory but only half believed: that rejected stories are not (necessarily) bad stories. And both have helped me make a lot of connections, contacts and friends, who have been of great help in ways I didn’t necessarily predict.

On the negative side, it’s a time suck. I keep meaning to take an editing-free year and it keeps not happening. This year I’ve been just one member of an editorial board working on an issue of an already established publication so it hasn’t been so bad, but the anthologies have effectively taken out at least a couple of months of writing time each.

If I had to choose between writing and editing, writing would win, no contest. There’s no way to answer this without clichés, so I’ll just shamelessly indulge in them: editing is something I enjoy doing, writing is something I need to do. Editing enhances my life; writing is integral to it. I’m planning to keep doing both for the foreseeable future though.

When trying to decide on the theme for an anthology, what are the key elements you are looking for in that theme?

For both the anthologies of New Zealand speculative fiction (A Foreign Country and the forthcoming Regeneration) we wanted something that was specific enough to give a shape to the anthology – and generate some ideas for writers – but not so specific it inhibited our goal of showcasing a range of speculative fiction from around the country. The theme of ‘regeneration’ also marks the anthology as a sequel, is, I think, very relevant in NZ at the moment given the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes and we’re hoping may result in a few stories with more positive endings.

For Tales for Canterbury, something similar applied, but given the very limited time frame we were working with, only a few authors were able to write something specifically for the theme. So we wanted something that most writers could fit something into. Because the focus was even more broad (including multiple genres) we divided it into sections to make it more structured. We played with a few variations before settling on Survival, Hope and Future, which I hope acknowledged the reality but also reflected a path forward.

I also have some very tentative ideas for future anthologies which are more thematically specific, and those are based on both my own interests and where there’s a gap in what’s already available that I’d like to see filled.

Finally, if you could impart one piece of advice to other writers, what would it be?

When I was at school one of my teachers had a poster of what I think was a Sufi proverb : “Trust in God, but tie your camel”. I may not be religious, but the idea it’s important to both follow high ideals, but pay attention to the practical side, has always appealed to me. You can follow your dreams and believe this is what you were meant to do, but don’t let that stop you proofreading and paying the power bill. Paying attention to the boring side, making sure other parts of your life are in order, being open to criticism and the interests of your readers do not somehow sully or devalue your writing – quite the opposite.

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A Night to Remember – Part Two

As promised, here is part two of Simon Petrie’s story ‘A Night To Remember’. Part One of this story can be found here.

You will meet certain death, the voice message had declared. In, as these things went, a decidedly ominous fashion.
Was it too much of an exercise in blind optimism, Gordon Mamon wondered, to hope it was simply a wrong number?
He made his way through the plastiglass dome of the Skyward ascent concourse. (Only Skyward would think to fashion its shopfront, in essence, as a gigantic greenhouse. Or more to the point, only Skyward would do such a thing on an equatorial ‘island’ with 105% humidity, and then skimp on the air-conditioning … A good proportion of the milling prospective passengers within the concourse looked lost, which might in some cases have been the truth, but it was more likely that they were suffering from the initial stages of heat exhaustion.) Gordon fanned himself with his handheld, and swore as he noted that the escalator was out again. The stairs held no appeal in this heat.
Colum O’Cable’s hexagonal second-floor office had windows on four sides, which somehow contrived to look out on the beaches, the parks, and the high-end shopping precincts with which Skyward Island was studded, and not on the elevator shafts which were its raison d’etre. It was a nice office, big, solidly constructed—and remarkably well air-conditioned—yet Gordon never felt comfortable in it. A lot of that unease could be down to Colum, of course.
“So what’s the deal?” Gordon asked.
“Like I said, simple freight run. One of the tower units.” (Most of the elevator cars were six-storey, and capable of carrying a dozen guests and several staff on the three-day ascent to the Skytop Plaza; but there were a few twenty-storey units, popular for academic conferences, executive retreats, short-run reality-3V shows, and media conventions, and also used for bulky freight deliveries.)
“Carrying?”
“Ah, you’ll like this. Waxworks.”
“Waxworks?”
“Yeah. The Iyzowt Museum’s going off-planet. Claudia herself, too.”
“Off-planet? Where? Why?”
“Moon, I think. Though we’re only tasked with the job of getting all to Skytop, of course.”
“Why the tower block?”
“It’s a big collection. Over three hundred pieces, I think.”
“Still, three-hundred-odd waxworks … you’d be able to fit all that on a six-floor module, I’d have thought.”
“Old lady Iyzowt wanted the space of a tall unit. Said it was important the waxworks not feel cramped, or forced into anachronistic tableaux.”
“Meaning?”
“Damned if I know. Nix on the idea of putting Ghengis in with Emily Pankhurst, or something like that.”
“She sounds a bit eccentric.”
“Did wonders for the cause of women’s suffrage, by all accounts.”
Iyzowt.”
“Oh, Claudia Iyzowt’s more than just eccentric. She’s like a winter’s day on Orkney.”
“Meaning what?” Gordon asked.
“Short, grey, and miserable,” replied Col. “You’ll have a great time.”
“Me and who else?”
“Nobody else on board. Apart from Claudia, and the waxworks, of course.”
“But—but surely, there has to be more than one staff member on board. Regulations. I mean, what if something goes wrong?”
“What can go wrong?” asked Col. “The waxworks aren’t going to cause you any problems. And Iyzowt keeps to herself. You’ll probably hardly see her, the entire ascent. It’ll almost be like taking a vacation, and getting paid for it.”
I get paid for going on vacation as it is, Gordon thought bitterly. It’s called leave. It’s what I’m currently on, supposedly, right this minute. Though he knew from bitter experience—one-hundred-and-eighty-nine-jilted-keynote-speakers-bitter—just how futile, how counterproductive, such an assertion could be, in disputes with Col. Aloud, he asked, “Don’t suppose I have a choice, do I?”
“According to the nanoprint on your employment contract?” Col replied. “In words of one syllable: not really, no.”
Gordon opened his mouth, thought better of it, closed it. Said instead. “Right. I’ll do it. Under protest, mind.”
“Wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Col, smiling, and Gordon suddenly remembered why he’d chosen that ‘baaa-dum’ alert tone for his handheld.
“I need to make a call first, though,” said Gordon. “It shouldn’t take any more than five minutes.”
Col waved him goodbye. Audience dismissed.

*
Outside Col’s office, the heat had if anything increased as the sun’s rays slid slowly down. The twinned elevator shafts, rising seemingly to infinity behind him across the concourse, left a pair of blinding-edged, metres-wide dark stripes that stretched unending across the tiled floor and beyond. Walking through the shadows, Gordon pulled his handheld out of his pocket and thumbed an icon.
It was strange, he thought. You could spend years working with a person, be in their company so frequently you got to feel almost like they were part of the furniture, and one day somehow see them in an entirely different light …
“Gordon?” Belle Hopp’s voice sounded anxious and slightly impatient, though that might just have been projection on Gordon’s part.
“Sorry, Belle. Change of plan. Col called.” And Gordon was sorry. He’d been looking forward to this for weeks, for all that it was probably a mistake: office relationships, and all that. (Not that all relationships didn’t have their ups and downs, but …) Then a potential silver lining occurred to him. “I don’t suppose he called you too?”
“No. No, he didn’t,” said Belle. “I paid Sue, a couple of months back, to fudge my contact details on file. Best day’s salary I ever spent.”
“Sounds like I need to try that, too. Belle, I really am sorry.”
“Not your fault, Gord …” But there was no denying that Belle sounded disappointed, perhaps a little put out. “And … take care, huh?”
“Will do, Belle. Another time?”
“We’ll see. I hope so.”
An alert sounded. “Whoops, better go. I’ve got another call.”
But the caller had already gone by the time Gordon switched icons, leaving only a voice message: “Detective? You will meet certain death.”
Detective.
So, thought Gordon, suddenly uneasy on as many levels as a Skyward freight tower. Probably not a wrong number, then. Pity.

Part three of ‘A Night to Remember’ is scheduled to appear on Wednesday, on Dan Rabarts’ site. A cumulative listing of the sites hosting the story is maintained here.

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SpecFicNZ Blogging Week Begins!

It totally crept up on me this year! Since I stepped down from the Secretary role, I’ve not been quite so in the ‘behind the scenes’ loop as previous years, which meant that this wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. However I saw someone post about it just a few days ago and it set my mind to thinking – what could I post about this year?

I have a few thoughts, but for the most part I’ll just be winging it. I’ll have an interview with my friend Anna later in the week, and tomorrow I’ll get to post the second part to Simon Petrie’s story ‘A Night to Remember’. He is writing it THIS week! How cool is that? You can read part one here.

Any thoughts? Any particular topic spanning New Zealand and Speculative Fiction that you’d like to see me blog about? If you have any suggestions (or questions!), throw them at me and I will see what I can come up with. Personally, I am looking forward to exploring some thoughts I’ve been having about my culture and upbringing and how those things have helped shape me as a story teller.

I’ll sign off for now, though I encourage you to check out the SpecFicNZ website at some point as I am sure there will be some links going live in the near future to other posts from Day 1 of blogging week. You can read more about it’s history, and past posts, here.

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And then it was mid-September!

I have been so slack here. Every time I think about sitting down to blog someone needs me. Or I have study I should be doing, or writing that needs to happen. It’s been pretty difficult to get some clear space both physically and mentally in the last few weeks. That said, I think we’re almost there. Almost. This week has been pretty rotten, but I feel like we’re moving past that now and I am hopeful that this fresh week will bring some good things.

I finished off the latest round of Burn revisions last night, and will dive back into my final round in a few days time, and I have my final essay looming for my Uni paper. It seems odd to think that in just a month I will be finished with Uni for the year. I’ve already picked next years papers (and ordered the text book!) despite the fact that enrollments aren’t open yet. I get such a kick out of being organized.

And tomorrow is the start of SpecFicNZ Blogging Week!!! For the first year ever, I am entirely unorganized! Normally I am ahead of the game and have posts lined up, but with my lack of blogging lately I have nothing in store. So this year I will be writing on the fly. Wonder what I’ll come up with?

Here’s hoping that it will kick start my blogging brain and you might see more regular posts from me afterwards 😉 Please know, I am still reading your blogs, just not writing many posts of my own.

Right, better get organized for the day. Hope you’re all having a good weekend!

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Musings

It’s the end of New Zealand Speculative Fiction Blogging Week, and I missed yesterdays post – I’d been going to tell you about some stuff and then today I was going to post the final version of the short story I started two years ago during the very first Blogging Week.

Yeah, not gonna happen – sorry about that. My touch pad and buttons on the laptop started failing a couple of days ago, and doing anything on the computer has been incredibly frustrating. So I avoided it. As much as possible. Which means that the house is looking very tidy (hooray for those spring cleaning vibes!), but I haven’t managed a lot of anything writing related for the last wee while and the short story is very much not in a ‘final’ state.

That’s life sometimes, isn’t it.

So while I have not been writing, I have been thinking, mostly about how one goes about bringing a Kiwi voice to their writing. I’m thinking about this because my current work in progress, Saving Tomorrow, is set in a future Wellington. I’m thinking about it because I’m still breaking down the walls I have when it comes to using New Zealand as a setting.

It’s what I know, it’s what I love, but there is very much a barrier there. I think, because most of the fiction I grew up on was from elsewhere. The TV shows, the movies, the cartoons. So much of everything we had access to growing up was from other shores, and it makes me ponder – which parts of my writers voice are New Zealand?

In some respects, I think this is a redundant question. Part of being a NZer is that we are a cross between a colony and a native race. We’ve got this blend of what was already here and what was introduced – that’s still very true for today, as it was for years gone by. So naturally, we draw from a whole range of things and our language, our way of communicating with the world is influenced by everything we are exposed to.

The thing I need to remind myself is that NZ is rich with possibilities and that if I have no particular setting in mind, then it’s a positive and not a negative to make the most of my country of origin. I frequently um and ah about where to set something, and I just need to plug ‘New Zealand’ in as my default. My writing will be stronger for it – and hell, there are less of us, so in some ways its more original than your typical medieval fantasy, or other overdone settings 😉

I hope you’ve enjoyed this weeks, and checked out some of the other posts written for it.

Tomorrow I’ll be raving about how getting a dishwasher has revolutionized my life…

And, I’ll leave you with another pic from the beach. Isn’t the blue of the sky amazing?

seagulls in flight, after eating our sandwich crusts

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Mary Victoria, an interview

As I mentioned yesterday, I first got to know Mary through Tales for Canterbury. A little known fact is that she actually wrote TWO stories! After submitting the first, she started working on a second – ultimately that one was a better fit for the anthology, and was the one that appeared (Daughter of the Khan).

From an editor’s point of view, I was impressed with Mary. She worked hard at getting her stories in, and then went on to tweak it until it was just right. She’s the kind of person who works until she is sure it’s the best she can possibly get it, and I really admire that quality in writers.

From a personal point of view, I discovered not only a dedicated author, but also a lovely person. She always responded to emails quickly, she was super friendly and just so great to work with.

For me, the only thing more exciting than finding a new author whose work you love, is finding an author who you also admire as a person. I definitely found that in Mary. She kindly answered a few questions for me this week, so I’ll shut up now and get on with that 😉

The world in Tymon’s Flight is quite amazing. So completely different from anything I’ve ever read before. Where did you get the idea for an entire world based on a gigantic tree?

As the story goes, my husband woke up one morning saying he’d dreamed of floating cities in the sky. I said, ‘Well, that’s an interesting basis for a fantasy world.’ But the more I thought about those floating cities, the more I saw roots and branches growing between them, connecting them. And eventually I realised the whole thing was set in one big tree – so big that it resembled a continent or mountain range, rather than a single plant.

I’m going to be reading the second novel in the series shortly. I’m curious, did you know it would result in a series when you first had the idea? Or is that something that occurred to you while writing Tymon’s Flight?

The books were always going to be a series, a trilogy. Really this is a single story spread over three books. Each volume has an arc and a natural stopping point, but you have to read all three to get the full picture. What starts off as a fairly straightforward adventure/coming of age story turns into something quite different by the end! So yes – I always had that overall theory. I just didn’t know how exactly I was going to get there, which is part of the joy of writing in the first place – discovering the story the characters wish to tell.

The third book, Oracle’s Fire, is coming out in the near future. What’s next for you? Will we see more novels set in this world, or are you working on something else?

I’m already working on a new project. Yes, it’s set in a different universe entirely. And nothing will induce me to tell you more at this point! 🙂

As this week is all about New Zealand, and Spec-Fic – what would you say are of the positives and negatives of being a writer in New Zealand?

Positives include a rich local culture and landscape on which to draw for inspiration, and a pretty darned fabulous community of fellow writers. Seriously: I have had nothing but support and real practical help from other NZ authors (maybe we’re nice to each other because everyone knows where the other guy lives, heh heh.)

Negatives are simply to do with being far away from other English-speaking countries: it’s hard to launch a book tour outside NZ. 😉

What is one piece of advice for newer writers in NZ that you would offer up?

Don’t give up. People will tell you nonsense like: ‘the book is dead’, ‘you can’t make a living as an author unless you write urban fantasy/self help books/celebrity memoirs’, and so on. Stick to your guns. Write what you love. Write what you love even if you’re eating Spam and crackers and working two day jobs. Find an agent if you can. Publish, then write some more. Don’t stop. It’s worth it.

Fantastic advice! Thank you so much for sharing with us, Mary. I’ll look forward to reading the rest of this trilogy, and whatever else you put out in the future 🙂

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Traveling Through Time

Yesterday I took state highway 45 (surf highway!) out of town, around the coast, to where I grew up. The car became a time machine and I rocketed past the landmarks of my history.

It’s always like this, every time I traverse that path I’m reminded of the details of my childhood, my teenage years, the foundations of who I am.

This occasion was sadder than normal – I was attending the funeral of one of my best friends father. I’ve known her, known him, since high school. He’s not old enough to have passed, but that’s life sometimes.

I was reminded of all the things I loved about growing up a ‘coastie’. The arctic blast of wind, straight off the mountain after a fresh dump of snow. The windswept trees, pushed into abnormal shapes, some stripped bare, pointing their naked branches at the striking blue sky in accusation. The beautiful shape of the ranges, the roll of the hills, the clusters of rock strewn across the paddocks as though giants had been playing marbles.

Mt Taranaki from Surf Highway

I drove past the two blue silos before Oakura. In my teens I told myself the story about the farmer and his wife, who lured travelers off the highway. They’d murder them and keep them stacked in those silos, no-one the wiser.

And then there was the barn whose round roof poked over the top of a hill. In my childhood I was convinced it was the easter bunnies hot air balloon. Who knows why it was there every day. Or why they flied in hot air balloons. It was one of my truths, and it took many years to accept that actually, it was just the roof of a barn…

Back Beach

Everything around here inspires me, and I love to time travel and remember the things that shaped me into the creative person I am today. This is a beautiful country, and I draw so much from it. The raw beauty I find in my natural environment is something that I try to bring to my writing. That clarity, that sense of reality, even though the worlds and characters I create are fictional.

Please head over to the SpecFicNZ page. There are other posts to have a look at, and if you leave a comment you go in the draw to win a book!