Monthly Archives: March 2008

Birthday and updates

Happy Birthday to one of the sexiest LJ’ers around:

! Have a great day gorgeous!

Well it was a busy weekend as Maddoc and I went over to my good friend

 on Friday for some quality time and a break from the flat and to let Etina come home from the trial and just be, not have to think about either of us.

Maddoc had fun with

‘s two daughters before they all went to bed and we sat down to watch Beowulf.

Beowulf = WTF for me. I really didn’t get the reason for trying to make a film look like a computer game when the computer game industry is spending so much money to make their games look like films… I thought it was badly done and the animation put me off greatly.

We then had a leisurely breakfast before I got the boy home so he could go to the theatre with his mum. He had lots of fun and I got on with some editing.

I watched half of Stardust before realising how late it was and we went to bed.

Sunday morning Maddoc and Etina went off to her parents and left me alone for the whole day. It was needed as all my free time has gone to looking after Maddoc and the flat over recent weeks and I really needed this.

I finished off Stardust, which was a jolly enjoyable film, and, is it me, or is that Pfeiffer woman getting sexier the older she gets?

I then talked shop with

before getting myself some lunch and sitting down for Sweeney Todd. I am a staunch hater of musicals but thoroughly enjoyed this, feeling like Burton is back to his best after the woeful Planet of the Apes and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

A bit of writing came next with me working on a story for that there Ghosts in the Machine anthology. Fried brains here we come!

Then it was more work, as I copy-edited the final 13 chapters of The Even, and now await

‘s responses before getting on to the delicate stylistic edit. I can’t see any reason for this not being ready for Fantasycon!

Had planned to watch The Orphanage too but was too tired to stay up and instead finished Seacastle[1] by Tansy Rayner Roberts (aka

) which, although being a children’s book, was very enjoyable and I think I might be buying a copy as a gift for my niece’s birthday in June.

I also received Crazy Little Things in the post by Adam P. Knave (aka

) and I’m very much looking forward to that. For small press it’s incredibly well put together (not that small press generally isn’t but you know what I am a meaning here).

All in all a good weekend!

_________________________________________________________________________________

[1] I won the first three of The Lost Shimmaron books as a prize to celebrate the 500th review from ASif!


Calling writers as yet unpublished

Competition to find new talent in fiction:

In the Footsteps of Gilgamesh

Tell writers you know who are eager to get their first publication.


The Stars of Speculative Fiction #6: Chris McMahon

Today we welcome along Chris McMahon, world-famous badger baiter and the man responsible for stopping wombats taking over Queensland in 1828. He is the youngest of 11 children (this one is actually true!) and lives with his wife and three children in a small cave in Queensland (owned by Trent Jamieson no less).

When not foraging for mushrooms, Chris bobs a few words on paper and this week I got out my old gas lantern and my canary and went to meet him…

1. Chris, you have some short stories out and a novel too. Which is your preferred area of writing (if you have one) and why?

 

That’s a tough one, only because I think I have changed over the years. At the outset, I really wanted to pursue novels because the worlds I created seemed to build and build and I really needed a novel-sized canvass to take all the characters and ideas I would get. I have also always loved the heroic journey, and novels really suit that form.

 

In the beginning I grappled with short stories because they were well recongised as a good way of getting your name out there, but a few things happened along the way.

 

I never realised writing shorts and getting involved in critiquing groups, like the local Vision group, which was in its infancy at the time, could possibly be so rewarding. I made a lot of friends doing this, thinking writing, chatting and bitching over coffee. I also really started to get a ‘feel’ for shorts, and began to get an instinct for the sort of ideas that fit into this length – well almost. I am still struggling to get the length down. Eyes of Erebus, which was short-listed for the Aurealis Award last year, was a real monster-sized monster story at 19k. I consider getting this published a miracle — thanks Rob Hood!

 

Its also fun to explore ideas in the short format. I think that’s why most of my shorts are SF, whereas most of my novels are either fantasy or science fantasy (with one exception so far — the Tau Ceti Diversion).

 

At one point I got pretty frustrated trying to get shorts out there (ie into a mag) and declared “that’s it, I’m done with shorts, I’m going to concentrate on novels” — a statement that Lea Greenway never stops reminding me of, because about two months after I said this I wrote Murtagh’s Fury, which was one of the winning stories in the inaugural One Book, Many Brisbane’s competition. The $6,000 prize money fixed my roof & bought a new pool filter – so I’m glad I didn’t give up.

 

That’s a pretty long-winded answer. To boil it down, I would say novels remain my first love, but I will always return to the short format, particularly if the right idea comes my way. I would really love to finally comes to grips with flash fiction, which has always seemed to me like some mysterious Zen riddle. I look cross-eyed at something and 1000 words appears.

 

Long winded is the order of the day here at SoSF, I’m happy with that… πŸ˜‰

 

2. As you know I’m rather interested in your six book series, which began with The Calvanni, published by Sid Harta. Can you tell the readers a little bit about how that started and how it’s going?

 

That world has been growing in my mind for quite some time. The initial ideas came when I was in my first year at University. I can remember the very first draft of the first chapter scrawled in green ink at the back of a Chemistry lecture — why green ink I have no idea. This embryonic chapter was dumped a long time ago along with another later ~60k failed draft, at which time I realised, yes I do need a plot!

 

Initially Yos was given birth as a role playing world, which I called BlackRaven (that was 1983). The BlackRaven name was used by TSR a few years later, so I dumped that (I had it first I swear – the only witness was my Dungeon Master friend Neumann Askhar, who incidentally is a Tolkien freak and speaks elvish  πŸ™‚  If you’re out there, Hi Neumann!). I had a lot of fun with the map, imagining all the sorts of stories and adventures that world might have.

 

I worked hard to create a world that was completely unique and distinct from other fantasy worlds. All metal is magical on Yos — forming a glowmetal that acts to transform energy. For this reason this is a fantasy world without swords! All the weaponry is crafted from ceramics, mostly composites, that combine flexibility with the ability to hold an edge. The evolutionary pattern of Yos is also distinct, and is driven by the regular eclipse of the planet’s two suns, which plunges the planet into bitter cold.

 

The whole thing kicked off with the novella, Flight of the Phoenix, which was published in the EPPIE-nominated Fantasy Readers Wanted – Apply Within, Quest anthology.

 

I had spent so much time with this world, that the whole story ended up extending over a whopping arc of at least six books (and that’s not including the follow-on prequel trilogy I’m thinking of …). These were envisaged as the Jakirian Cycle: The Calvanni, Scytheman, Sorcerer, Emperor, Exile, Jakir.

 

The first novel, The Calvanni, was launched in April 2006 at the National SF convention in Brisbane. This was published through Sid Harta, a Melbourne small press, with an initial run of 200 books. The book was well received with readers and these were quickly sold. We extended the print run to 1000 copies. To date around 500 copies have sold, around half through bookstores — a fantastic achievement for a small press publication.

 

The deal with Sid Harta was for 1st Australian publication rights for The Calvanni only. My plan was always to raise my profile, and the profile of the books through the small press publication, then hopefully snag a deal for at least three, or ideally for all six of the books with a more mainstream publisher with better access to distribution. Given the book’s success in small press, I can only imagine how many I could sell with some publicity, marketing and big press distribution behind it.

 

I am actively looking at markets in the US for the series a the moment, but have no firm offers yet.

 

When I published the Calvanni, I took the commitment to readers seriously. People really enjoyed the book, and I found it had a wide appeal — people who would not normally read SF/Fantasy found it an easy read — despite the new concepts (and there are plenty). People keep asking me when the next book is coming out – and I’m working on it!

 

The next book, Scytheman, is written, and I am re-drafting the manuscript at the moment. The second part of the equation is publication — believe me I am working on that as well! Like I said, I took the commitment to readers seriously and I don’t want to let them down. One way or another I intend to get Scytheman out there.

 

I can’t work on Scytheman without the whole world coming alive inside me again, so I am busily filling out the plots for the other books in the Jakirian as well, getting familiar with my devious sub-plots. It’s certainly a lot of fun.

 

Sounds it, I have always been envious of these fantasy epic writers as I just don’t seem to be able to get going with fantasy.

 

3. Have you any idols in the world of literature, any writers that inspire you to write?

 

There are writers I really love, and many others that I really enjoy. I loved David Gemmell, and I own every book he ever wrote except White Knight, Black Swan, which he did under the name of Ross Harding (if anyone can sell me a copy – I’ll buy it:)). I read the SpecFic classics as an early reader, Tolkien, HG Wells, Asimov, Clarke et al, then later Jordan, Brin etc. But picking out authors is, for me, a bit like the desert island condumdrum –‘If you had to go to a desert island, which single album would you take?’ I can never answer this question, just like a can’t pick a favourite colour. I have a wide range of tastes, and what I’m after at any given moment can change a lot.

 

I would have to say that no single writer really inspired me to write. I come from a very non-arty family. My Dad & grandad were both police, and as black and white as they come. My Dad would book another cop speeding and unlike most of the Irish Catholic brethren did not drink – just imagine how popular he was. I do remember music being my best subject in early high school, but the sheer notion of me being able to pursue something like this never even came into my head. The same with writing – it was something other people did.

 

Toward the end of high school my passion for expression sort of went into overload, first through poetry. Then into early Uni, I was getting floods of ideas. The writing just exploded out me, and I grabbed hold of it like a lifeline.

 

4. Last time I asked Stephanie Campisi her opinions of the spec fic scene in general in Australia and I’m curious to hear your views on it too.

 

I think the local spec fic scene is really vital.

 

Certainly the Brisbane scene has been quite active for some time, and has really gone from strength to strength with the national SF convention in Brisbane in April 2006, and the Aurealis Awards hosted here in Bris for the last couple of years. The AAs hasn’t quite reached the red carpet stage yet, but Ron Serdiuk and I were joking we should hire a limo and have everyone walk through it to emerge onto a red carpet for photo opportunities. Maybe we’ll get some real limo arrivals soon!

 

The opportunities for people to get together with other writers and improve their craft are certainly better than ever, with programs like Clarion South coming onto the landscape in recent years, and the Queensland Writers Centre running some fantastic programs.

 

On the flipside, although the opportunities to get material published in short format in Australia seem a little better with new magazines and anthologies making an appearance, it is harder to get a novel manuscript read by a publisher here. When I first started subbing novel manuscripts more than a decade ago, there were at least three publishers in Australia who accepted unsolicited adult manuscript submissions – now I don’t think any of them do (with the exception of Allen& Unwin who accept email subs of the first chapter on Friday – at least they did the last time I checked). At least Orbit represents a new opportunity, but like the others you have to do some fancy networking to get the door open wide enough to fit a manuscript through it.

 

As to the pros and cons of what is being published lately . . . definitely better discussed over a drink at a convention.

 

Sounds like you’re definitely getting a buzz from the local scene in any case.

 

5. Another of my standard questions here regarding tips for budding new writers. Is there anything they should be aware of before they dip their toes in and anything they should most definitely avoid?

 

There is a fantastic article by Australian Author Ian Irvine called “The Truth About Publishing” it’s definitely worth a read. You can get a copy from Ian’s site, http://www.ian-irvine.com/ Read it. Read it!

 

I guess the main thing is to check you are getting into writing for the right reasons. Not to make more money than JK Rowling, or be more famous than Stephen King, but because you are driven to, because you have to write; there is some niggling need down deep in the soul that drives you to express on the page.

 

It takes a long time to perfect your craft, and if you come to it late in life with heap of competing commitments – you need to be patient. Wish for the million dollar advance but HAVE A BACK-UP PLAN.

 

There used to be this image of a lonely writer in the garret, but I have found this to be anything but true, particularly now days. Invariably writers succeed because they have reached out; become part of a writing group to improve their craft; got involved in lectures, seminars and masterclasses; made friends with other writers and drunk too much at corner bars during conventions; learned to promote themselves and network.

 

Its true that to be a writer you need to write — and that means long hours at you computer ‘bums on seats’ as one writer eloquently put it — but you need the other social aspect as well.

 

Successful writers seem to travel in packs. They might be small, but these groups have tremendous power to improve you work through critiquing, and connect you into opportunities.

 

One of the biggest mistakes I made starting out was going it alone too long. I probably spent more than ten years in the isolation tank before I joined a writing group — then everything happened from there. There is a special joy you get from sharing your craft — after all we are pretty weird to start out with, and generally feel isolated in the social groups we start out in (well I did in any case).

 

At least you were in a social group… heh!

 

My early friends included two sociopaths. Took me a couple of decades to sort that one out – had to burn all my ‘Look here comes a victim’ T-shirts as well:) Strangely, they no longer return my calls.

 

6. In terms of the short fiction you write, when sending it away do you look for a particular theme of an anthology, or do you prefer certain editors or do you even care?

 

When I first started sending out stories I didn’t look at too much more than the word length and pay rate. I would focus on the story, craft it up and see what I ended up with, then fit it to a market. I did read as many of the magazines as I could, but couldn’t afford to buy too many.

 

I found as I went along that I had much more success when I wrote a story particularly for a magazine or anthology, following ideas generated on their chosen theme. That was one of the keys to getting Murtagh’s Fury into the One Book Many Brisbanes anthology. Makes sense of course, but I can be so focused on developing my own ideas I refuse to think about things like this.

 

In the end it comes  down to time though. In an ideal world you would fit every single story to a market, read all the stories published by the same editor, and get people to critique it who have been published in that magazine. But its difficult to commit to much time to one story — and to be honest I am a little wary of bending a story too much just for the sake of publication.

 

Inevitably I end up with a few stories that have bounced from the first market, whether I have written it specifically for that one or not. In this case what are you going to do? Throw it away? No you send it out to a ‘maybe’ market and cross your fingers.

 

I remember once I spend months on a story for the Canberra group’s Encounters antho. I beavered away on my masterpiece Memories of Mars and finally contacted them only to find out my 12,000 word wonder was three times longer than anything they would consider. It’s still unpublished, but maybe a nice editor somewhere will publish it soon. Dream, dream, dream …

 

7. I notice a lot of your answers have focused on Australian markets and themes (Brisbane, Canberra, Clarion). Have you made any concerted efforts to make it out into the international scene and is that something that is difficult for Australians to do?

 

I’ve certainly tried to get stories into the major magazines, and tried to get novels placed with US & UK publishers. I have a pretty impressive rejection tally from these.

 

Despite what I said earlier, I think the local Australian publishers are much more approachable than US ones. A few US markets do take unsolicited manuscripts, like Baen and DAW, but generally if you don’t have an agent, the US market is pretty much closed.

 

I guess being local, you have a much greater chance of making a contact at a convention with a local Australian editor who will agree to read you work, despite the unsolicited policy. Most I have found to have been very approachable (and hard working).

 

I don’t know much about the UK market. I had a UK agent in 2003 & 2004 who were quite keen on my Science Fantasy novel Warriors of the Blessed Realms. But the local publishers were wary of the cross-genre nature of the manuscript and when the agent could not place the manuscript quickly they lost interest. After many months of unreturned emails and unsatisfactory communication I broke the contract with them. I have had no further UK experiences since then.

 

I think I started with the vague idea that I would get published in Australia first because it would be ‘easier’ and then expand to overseas markets. But I think its equally tough to be published anywhere. It more a case of finding the right editor at the right time – regardless of where they are.

 

Agreed. I have to concur that the Australian market is much more approachable, even for those outside.

 

8. Time for my favourite question now, that of music. Do you listen when you write or do you prefer the blissful silence? Does any music inspire you to write?

 

That’s an odd one,  because when I started out I always wrote to music. I can remember hammering out some great work to Deep Purple:)

 

Now days though, I really need silence. I think I am concentrating a lot harder now, particularly with new work, to work on all the elements.

 

I still listen to music when I am editing and don’t need so much brainpower. I have a 25 CD deck that plays random (yes – old technology!) and I usually just hit the random button. I am pretty fickle with music, and usually find it hard to pick one single album – unless its new.

 

Right now I have a couple of Pink albums in there, Pete Murray, Garbage, Pink Floyd, Neil Diamond, Queen , Deep Purple, an 80s compilation, some Diesel, Eric Clapton, a Chicago Blues compilation, Deadstar, Spenser Davis Group, Sam & Dave, John Butler Trio and INXS.

 

I wouldn’t say music inspires me to write, but if you do manage to get the right track in, it can really intensify the feeling that is being evoked at that time.

 

Pink and Pink Floyd, now there’s a combination for you!

 

9. So what’s on the writing agenda for Chris then, what should be looking at seeing from you in the next year or two?

 

Last year I wrote a new stand-alone fantasy novel, Tower of the Mountain King, which is set in a neo-celtic early iron age setting. That was a lot of fun. At the moment its sitting on the shelf cooling its heels.

 

At the moment I am keen to re-draft Scytheman and get it ready for publication. At the same time I have ideas for writing a script that combines the Calvanni and Scytheman, mainly because these two were originally written as one book and Scytheman ends on a very strong conclusion.

 

In mid-May I’m going to take a week off work and run through TMK pretty intensively then send it off to some unsuspecting writing friends for review. I’m thinking this should be ready to hit the market early next year, although if I see a good opportunity I will send off the early chapters, which I have spend a lot of time refining.

 

I think that’s enough to keep me busy for this year! If I snag a contract for the Jakirian series I will rocket straight into Sorcerer after Scytheman. Writing a new book in that series would be a real blast —

especially knowing what going to happen. . . hee hee hee. Man I love that world!

 

On the shorts front, I don’t have any upcoming publications, but I do have a few stories that I would like to get out there – I just need to get organised and find the markets. Memories of Mars (12k) is one, another is a heroic action piece called Duros (9k), I have an SF short called Time Pump (6k) and an Urban Fantasy piece called Old Ridge Road (6k).  These will be first cabs off the rank. I would also like to write some new shorts as well, probably SF.

 

If TMK and the Jakirian don’t find the mark soon, I might try a completely new SF novel. I like the idea of doing something near future, with limited technology (ie NOT space opera), probably set no further away than our solar system. I get pretty annoyed with futures where technology works all the time and works without human intervention. I am an Engineer, after all:) Things never work! Things like automation create more technicians to fix the automatic devices. Most published SF has me grinding my teeth.

 

Heh, maybe it’s a case of taking utopia to an extreme!

 

10. Finally, what are you up to when not writing award-winning literature?

 

I love movies, and usually hit the video stores at least once a week and catch a movie once or twice a month. Before kids my wife and I used to see two or more movies a week. I could spend an enjoyable weekend in my ‘cave’ watching flicks.

 

I also have three young children, Aedan, Declan and Brigit (9,7 & 5 yrs), so that keeps me fairly busy as well.

 

I also enjoy exercising. I have done Tae Kwon Do for quite a few years, and the whole family now trains together. I recently started Haidong Gumdo – which is a Korean sword art. I love the Haidong, but as you might imagine, struggle to get to training sessions.

 

At the moment I work full time as a Process Engineer for Cement Australia. The subsidiary group I work for produces a blended fuel for the kilns out of waste material, which displaces coal and reduces greenhouse emissions. I am working on the development of a new process for removing water from the blended fuel, which will save further emissions as the water then does not need to be transported to the kilns along with the good stuff — ie what burns.

 

I also run two other businesses with my wife: Speechnet, a speech pathology practice, and Pop & Top, a new business that does speech-based playgroups for children. Pop & Top has published three childrens book’s (www.popandtop.com.au) that work on specific speech sounds which I co-authored with my wife, who has a PhD in Speech Pathology.

 

I’m exhausted just thinking about all this. Working full time, I try to keep the impact of the businesses down to a minimum.

 

I also enjoy music and since Declan has been learning the piano, have been doing his lessons as well, just for fun. In a perfect world I would be able to also like to return to my classical guitar, which I have had to let slip a bit and singing.

 

I also enjoy walking, connecting with nature, and dreaming.

 

I know what you mean about getting tired writing all that, that is one hell of a schedule!

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer the questions and I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours.

 

Thanks, Mark. I really enjoyed it.  Best of luck with the new antho & hope to catch up in Aus some time.

Next week sees me paying homage to High Priest of the Black Arts (and hamster worrier) Nathan Burrage!


Update on an update

Or is it? Methinks my brain is sore now!

Just to say that several of my posts will be friends-locked now due to media interest regarding Fuat’s murder (I mentioned this earlier in a friends-locked post, making it difficult for non-friends to know what happened when there were no more posts on that subject).

I mentioned the Ghosts in the Machine, anthology a little while ago and had an idea almost immediately (no I didn’t steal yours

, damn good though it was) and sent a query to the editor.

I received a response within about ten minutes (twelve actually but I’m not nit picking) which is rather impressive and got a thumbs up for the idea – now all I have to do is write it…

Well I’m 200 words in… I tell you, some stuff you just have to write for, this being one of them!

Back about your business.


Call for submissions for an interesting themed anthology

Upon browsing my flist, I saw this call for submissions for an anthology of supernatural fiction:

Ghosts in the Machine

I’m a sucker for themed anthologies of this kind and if I can clear up a few of my ongoing projects I will more than likely submit.

Seeing as I have several talented writer bods on my flist, I thought you might like a look too!


All manner of bollocks

As you may have noticed this post is f-locked and the one before it too. This is going to be quite frequent over the next few weeks/months.

There has been a huge media interest in this here blog, I wish for all the right reasons, and certain family members have asked me to go back to my low profile status with news on the murder trial and anything the family is going through.

I linked to Maddoc’s news earlier but now little Maddoc is also f-locked and so if you are friends of mine but not on his list (he’s much more picky!) then I can announce here that Maddoc is going to be a big brother 10th October.

Hoping as the time gets closer we can focus more on this than on murders and trials.

Thanks for you support guys and thanks for being there – means a lot!


Hard to focus

Trying to get admin done and trying to focus is hard today. Hard because Etina is sobbing and throwing up in the bathroom (she testifies in the murder trial tomorrow).

There is a little light on the horizon but Maddoc will be telling you all about that later on…

EDIT: in fact

was quicker than expected and has already put up his news!


Books you really should be buying #3: disLocations

With stories nominated for awards, stories that pack a punch and our very own

and, for many of you at Swancon, Ken MacLeod (both these stories were nominated), can you afford to miss disLocations, a wonder of a themed anthology from NewCon Press.

Go grab a copy, it’s great!

The Stars of Speculative Fiction #5: Stephanie Campisi

Well today’s interview (as I knew most of you would be off munching eggs or swanning about at Swancon over the weekend to bother looking at this then) we have the waif-like Stephanie Campisi (

).

After escaping from Melbourne’s home for the mentally unstable (after refusing to accept that Australia isn’t Russia and vice versa – all some dodgy world government conspiracy plot) she has agreed to come and talk to me about her Russian writing, as people have heard she can do a bit of that from time to time.

1. Being as you’re only 22 you’ve already made a bit of a name for yourself in the spec fic scene, with editors, publishers and reviewers singing your praises. How has all this come about and how much have you been affected by it all?


It’s all a bit strange hearing something like that, as I feel as though I’m quite happily slipping by, largely unnoticed, doing my own thing, carefully reading newspaper headlines for ambiguities, spending a lot of time and money eating out, and every now and then doing a bit of writing or querying a submission that has apparently gone astray.


I was at uni over the past four years, so every time I did sit down to work on something, it was always with this horrible feeling of guilt over not using valuable study time productively (oddly enough, I was most often struck with an overwhelming urge to write [or to clean my house]smack-bang in the middle of exam time).


So I have a lot of on-going projects from that time, things that were crawling along at a pace similar to that of a mobility-impaired snail, things that really needed my full attention to be able to work and to come together in some sort of vaguely cohesive whole. Bit by bit, now, that’s happening.


I don’t really have any sort of Stalin-esque 5 year plan in mind as such when it comes to writing, although I certainly have a general idea of where I’m heading and what I’ll end up doing.


My short fiction is a wonderful arena for me in that I can frolic about in it and make a giant mess and try out all sorts of different things on various levels.


I have been making a concerted effort to read widely, and I can certainly see how this is affecting the sorts of things I’m currently producing (which you’ll probably read in a few years, long after I’ve moved on to something entirely different).


I’m definitely moving away from the spec-fic side of things, although there will probably continue to be elements of it in my work–although to what extent I’m not exactly sure at the moment.


It is a bit odd right now, as every time I send out a submission I’m struck with this feverish little question of whether what I’ve written is actually speculative in the least.


So, yes, the ‘making a name for myself’ and ‘singing of praises’ don’t really come into it so much, as I feel as though I’m totally transitory at the moment–dancing somewhat precariously on the head of a literary pin, if you will.


I’ll probably just keep on doing my thing, whatever that might be, and happily sit back and see what happens.


*nods*


I think you just answered about four of my questions in one there, so you’re effective in that arena… heh!


2. As you mentioned, you frolic about with your short fiction. Have you written anything bigger (novella, novel) and is there any desire to move into this kind of literature or you comfortable as a short fiction writer?


Absolutely, but there is the small matter of my currently unsurpassed laziness and rather poor attention span!

I’m currently working on several longer pieces, actually, which are all gradually edging towards completion (or being thrown in the bin).


I’m working on a steampunkish thing of sorts called Downtown, which is set in my Venice-esque city of Skendgrot, the city that in all its demented, foul glory will make an appearance in my short story The Title of This Story in Senses Five Press’s forthcoming Paper Cities anthology.


I’m hoping to complete the first draft within the next few months, so that one’s coming along rather well. I’m certainly having a lot of fun with it, and am thoroughly enjoying being crass, unrefined, and ridiculously verbose, as well as spending much time writing about doughnuts and Muses.

In addition to Downtown (which will in time hopefully be accompanied by its evil twin sister, Kramtkrov), I have a novella of surreal vignettes on the go, and two YA novels currently sitting on the backburner but that I’m very much looking forward to.I also have a super-duper-secret group project that’s in the planning stages at the moment, but I can’t tell you any more about that, in part because of super-duper-secrecy issues, and in part because I don’t really have much to say about it yet.


I think I’m certainly becoming more comfortable with the longer forms, as I’m growing a little bit as a writer, and am beginning to find my voice (although I admit to continuing to blatantly steal from many, many authors who shall remain nameless!), and to find the sorts of things that really capture me, both as a reader and a writer. I do think, though, that I’ll have this terribly eclectic body of work at some point that will make anyone trying to encapsulate or put together a collection of my work shake their head in bewilderment or approach me with a look of parental concern.


Doughnuts eh? Well it has been said there is not enough written about doughnuts… hasn’t it?


3. Well for someone who’s lazy there seems to be a lot going on there! You’re studying Russian at university and I’m wondering about how that affects your writing and ideas (especially with names like Kramtkrov).


I’m actually done with the Russian–I graduated on Saturday, and didn’t even get to wear a funny hat for my troubles. I’ve just completed an Honours degree with a double major in Linguistics, and yes, Russian, although I would say that it is by far the former that’s had a greater influence on my writing, as it’s allowed me to read reasonably widely (but unfortunately not especially deeply) on a number of topics across the linguistics/anthropology spectrum.


I think the Russian has perhaps influenced me in terms of wordiness and perhaps my tendency to find absurd humour and beauty in particularly bleak situations or circumstances–thankfully I don’t often attend funerals.


I am having a bit of fun with the onomastics side of things, but other than flatly refusing to insert random apostrophes into my characters’ names, I don’t really have any rules or conventions that I follow. There are little bits of Russian here and there (‘Kram-‘ in Kramtkrov coming from the Russian term for ‘cathedral’, ‘-grot’ in Skendgrot being a bastardisation of ‘gorod’, ‘city/town’, and the river Voda coming from the word for ‘water’.


My creativity is clearly impressively stupendous, isn’t it?


If I ever have children, they’ll inevitably be given ridiculous names that will invite teasing and a visit to the office of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in order to have their names legally changed).


(Reading over this last response, you might be right about the Russian, in that I have perhaps taken a bit of inspiration from Leonid Tsypkin, who had a particular hatred for full-stops and a wonderful relationship with the em-dash.)


As long as you don’t have a boy and a girl and call the boy Alexi *looks over at his Carnivale DVD and shudders*


4. So now you’ve finished university, your plans are for a real job I take it or are you going to be foolish enough to write full-time?


I’m a step ahead of you there, actually–I’m working full-time as an editor for an academic press at the moment, and am thoroughly enjoying it. I’m getting rather creative at fitting in my writing around it, and tend to write for a bit in a cafe before work, and on my lunchbreaks, which I spend in Fawkner Park, hunched over my laptop beneath a huge tree.


In time I’d love to be able towrite full-time, obviously (although I might need to cancel my internet if I do so!), but even balancing the writing with part-time work would be great, as I’d at least be forced to leave the house every now and then. That’s something that’s years off, though, and I’m fine with that.


Just as long as I end up raking in the millions at some point.


It’s that talk about internet again… why do people spend so much time on them? *looks all confused*


Well your last answer leads me smoothly into my next question and let’s see how ahead of me you are now Campisi.


5. So, editor eh? Any aspirations to do that in regards to literature, as well as in the academic world?


Oh yes, I’d love to, absolutely, but it’s certainly one of those ‘we’ll see’ options sitting faintly somewhere on the horizon. I was the kid who harassed an editor at Allen and Unwin about possible career paths and recommended courses, so it’s always been something that’s been a goal for me, although I think that pretty much any aspiring writer would say something similar.


Obviously, though, I’m rather new to this whole employment thing, so we’ll see how well I hang in there over the next few years. My generally misanthropic outlook could well lead me to some sort of glorious existence as a hermit.


I guess, ultimately, eventually, sometime before I’m dead, the goal is to move away from full-time work and ladder-climbing and so on, and towards an impoverished writerly existence, so all of that is stuff that needs to be taken into account and balanced.


Unless I start subsisting on No-Doz rather than my current morning double espresso, anyway.


Double espresso… mmm… you do want to be thinking about the excursion to Sweden in May as we have a Gaggia and everyfink!


6. Where do you get your inspiration for writing and who are your favourite authors?


Excursionto Sweden? I think I’m scamming the Swedes enough by pretending to be a member of the Melbourne Uni Scandinavian Club even though I have absolutely right to be there since a) I’ve never had anything to do with Scandinavia and b) I’m no longer a Melbourne Uni student.


Well, in terms of inspiration, it can be anything along the spectrum of ‘ooh, brilliant epiphany!’ or staring at my computer monitor for a few hours until I’m forced to write something so that I don’t feel guilty for wasting so much time and being such a bum.


I do love quirky stories and sentences, and am absolutely without remorse when it comes to shamelessly stealing stories and characters and settings from my friends and family and so on. Pretty much everything that happened in ‘The Ringing Sound of Death on the Water Tank‘, for example, is almost entirely true, but happened over a longer period of time than in the story.I think people are getting used to my ubiquitous ‘hahaha! That’s so going in a story!’, which can be either very flattering for them, or a very effective behaviour-modifying threat.


I have been making a concerted effort to read widely, which has affected my subject matter, definitely, as well as my approach to prose and structure and so on.


I did a brief run through a bunch of Japanese authors last year, and read a bunch of Kawabata, Oe, Mishima, and Soseki, all of whom have very different styles.


I’m working on some contemporary Italian stuff at the moment, and have been reading a bit of Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, and Francesca Duranti, the last having become one of my new favourite authors.


I’ve also been stuck on page 233 of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past for several months now, but have very good intentions when it comes to finishing that book (or at least the first volume).


I picked up a few books by Salley Vickers recently, too, and quite enjoyed those, and have been trying to get back into the Russian with some Nabokov and Leonid Tsypkin.


I don’t really have any firm favourites as such, the sort that I’d cherish above all others and save from a burning house etc etc, but different authors work for me in different ways and give me different ideas as to things to try out or to attempt to incorporate into my own work.


7. What’s your opinion of the Australian Speculative scene these days, is it moving forward are there writers, editors and publishing houses we should be looking out for?


Now you’ve backed me into a corner! To be honest, I haven’t the faintest idea, as I’ve spent so much time reading widely that I somewhat neglected the reading narrowly bit. Oops. I just did a quick scan of my bookshelf to try to redeem myself, but about the only Aussie content that I have (and have actually read) is Christos Tsiolkas’s Dead Europe, some stuff by Ivan Southall, Ben Peek’s 26 Lies/One Truth, Dreaming Down Under, and that hideous thing with the platypus spaceship on the front.


I’ve been reading a bit online here and there, and with my LJ stalkery ways, have some idea as to who’s who (although, you know, it’s all relative), but nothing much really stands out for me. To be honest, from my very limited knowledge of the ‘scene’, it seems as though there’s a lot of pretty dull, staid stuff out there that’s competent but nothing special–I’d be hard-pressed to find a story I actually liked out of those two anthologies, for example. I’m certainly looking forward to someone bashing about at the boundaries a bit, even if they’re not entirely successful in achieving whatever it is they’re setting out to do. I’m not looking for fictional anarchy or some such, though; I’m just curious to see what people can come up with when they’re not hemmed in by what can be rather tedious notions of how to write a ‘proper’ story and so on I’ll be happily proven wrong, though. Feel free to sit me down and put me through a guided reading course.


This is the Campisi I know… *grins*


I don’t think it should be a given that writers writing in the speculative fiction scene should naturally be following it too. I’d be dismayed to hear this answer from a publisher however.


8. So what are your free time activities when you’re not writing?


Just to pick up on the last thread of conversation and to be all ornery and grumpy–I do think I am following it, but not necessarily in the particularly narrow way that seems to be the norm.


I’m certainly reading across a vast spectrum of speculative fiction that spans the most garish, tacky rot to very subtle and strange and beautiful writing that only hints at something slightly unusual.


Reading both in a massively diachronic and synchronic manner sort of necessitates that something is going to get lost or pushed into the background, and at this point there is so much wonderful, brilliant stuff out there that I haven’t read that it would be a shame to shove that aside in order to have read every issue of Andromeda Spaceways, for instance (no slight on that magazine intended–just an example, m’dears), just for the sake of doing so.


So, yes. Free time? What is this free time?


Never fear, I do keep myself busy, although currently much of my spare time is trying to keep the bizarre mess that is my life in order. I’m one of those people who apparently invites chaos–if something strange and weird and terrible is going to happen, it will happen to me. It’s all hilarious (retrospectively, at least) story fodder, though.


When I’m not trying to pick up the pieces of myself, reading is obviously a big thing for me, as are running and walking, as I’m on a bit of a pseudo-fitness kick at the moment and am thoroughly enjoying this business of having abdominal muscles.


I do spend rather a lot of time at various bars and cafes and restaurants and cinemas and theatres and laughing at apostrophe abuse and misuse and when people use the adjectival form of ‘every day’ when they should be using the adverbial one, because, frankly, as anyone who has read this far as probably discovered, I’m a rather boring old person inhabiting the body of someone relatively young.


9. Due to the fact that you are still so young (in appearance) and are quite new to the writing scene, I wonder if you have any advice or words of wisdom for those aspiring writers reading this?


At this stage, not really. I suppose it’s always good to do your own thing and have fun doing it. Writing can be fairly solitary, and if you’re not enjoying it, or you’re doing it for the wrong reasons or for the wrong people, you can end up in a fairly dreary, crappy place. Humour isn’t the devil. Everything is subjective. A lot is two words. Make the most of tax deductions. Eat as many white nectarines as possible before they go out of season. Ignore any old codger who tells you that you don’t have anything to write about because you don’t have any life experience. You mightn’t have their life experience, but it’s not as though you exist in a vacuum. Write what you do know, but even better, what you don’t know.


Should you eat the nectarines whilst writing though?


Oh yes. One should eat nectarines at any available opportunity.


10. The last question I’d like to ask is regarding my own passion when it comes to writing, that of music. Does music inspire you, do you listen while you write or do you look for a dark, dank Russian cupboard to hide yourself in, scribbling away on the walls with your quill?


I can be very hit and miss with music when it comes to writing. It depends on whether I’m trying to block out a particular noise or whether I’m trying to let it in. I tend to listen to a lot of industrial and electronic and synth pop and prog rock when writing, but mix it up a bit with some swing and jazz and 80s pop. Don’t laugh, but I occasionally find metal good, too, as is anything with indiscernible lyrics, as it’s harder to get distracted that way, although I do my best. It does get a bit muffled in my dank Russian cupboard, but it just adds to the mood, I feel.


(Since I know you want specifics, my Downtown soundtrack of late has been Kraftwerk, Front 242, Frontline Assembly, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, and the Sex Pistols.)


Mostly I tend to write in cafes, though, or in parks, or anywhere without the wonderful waylaying force that is the internet, really, and since I am proudly ipod-free, the issue doesn’t come up too frequently.


This of course also facilitates shameless eavesdropping, which is, like my nectarine addiction, definitely a guilty pleasure of mine.


Very good music choices there, I have to say!


Well thank you very much for taking the time to do this and I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all the best for your future projects (especially those that I am involved with)!

On Friday we meet behemoth of speculative fiction (in his local Brisbane local at any rate) Chris McMahon (not related to Stephen King, in case you wondered).


Maundy Thursday (aka no LOLCATZ here)

The strangest thing ever happened today and that is that I started a novella. Maybe not that strange if I consider that I am a writer I suppose but really, when you think about what I’ve been working with recently it should really be the last thing on my mind (well that’s actually LOLCATZ but we’ll leave them alone for the mo).

It’s an amalgamation of stuff and needs to be formulated to make it make some sort of sense. There is something about dreams, there is something about identity, there is definitely something about murder in there but what strikes me about what is going on with the little monkey is that there is no speculative element as yet. Horror is not a big element, there is definitely nothing supernatural in it, no fantasy stuff and nothing remotely sci-fi. More importantly it’s not post apocalyptic in any way.

Not that any of these matter as it is the barest of bones just now but I like that I’m going somewhere writing-wise, even if not too seriously for now.

I had an egg today (no it wasn’t chocolate, it was baby bird) and that was about it for me and Easter. I’m having the days off purely as a case of Etina being off work and making sure we do the whole family outing stuff.

I’m off now for a read… I may be back…