Friday, May 16, 2008

The Stars of Speculative Fiction #12: Tansy Rayner Roberts


Well it's definitely been a productive time for you recently, short stories, novels, and all manner of writerly projects, as well as having a toddler underfoot...

1. What's going on for Tansy at the moment, what you working on and what's coming out?

I'm currently in the final stage of trying to bang out a rough first draft of a YA novel about ghosts, Tasmanian history and gothic literature. Which is an interesting experience because generally speaking, banging out first drafts is not what I do - I have been a very methodical writer in the past, laying down very densely edited prose. But I'm trying this technique with mixed results. Then of course I have to make it actually good. The book, currently under the working title 10 Random Things About Lady Jane Franklin, was supported by an Arts Tasmania grant which basically covered my childcare fees for the year, which is an awesome thing.

I have just finished the edits on Cafe La Femme, my chick lit crime novel, also set in Tasmania, which will be published by Pulp Fiction Press sometime later this year. And my next writing project, once the YA novel is rather less drafty, is to write the sequel to that, French Vanilla, which is due in February. So my life is very novel heavy at the moment!

Short stories are very quiet this year. I had one in the Twelfth Planet Press anthology 2012 which is getting some lovely reviews, and will have another in the New Ceres print anthology, but that's about it. Short stuff is not getting a look in while I have all these bigger projects breathing down my neck.

Likewise I've eased off on most of my editing and publishing projects, pretty much anything other than writing that's connected to small press, to concentrate on the novel thing. For this year, anyway. You never know what may lure me back...

Indeed, it does sound rather novel oriented doesn't it?

2. What's all this with this group of writers ROR (writers on the rise) and how did it come about that you wrote the first novel Seacastle for that?

ROR are a group of writers who gather every 18 months to two years to critique each other's manuscripts. We're all mates but have become much closer I think due to the odd intimacy of sharing your unpublished darlings with other people who love you enough to hack it to bits with ruthless abandon. All in the name of art! Our last meet was in a beach house on the north west coast of Tasmania, but we move around a lot because we're scattered across Australia.

We sold the series of children's books to ABC books as a group, writing one each, which was a glorious experiment that we greatly enjoyed doing. It helped that a few of us got regional writing grants to support the project, as well!

3. How is the book doing, are you getting good reviews for it, is it selling well?

I've had some great response to Seacastle, and am pretty pleased with how it was received.

4. You have a food blog with interviews with writers who have children. When did you start that and why?

You're a little behind the times on that one - I quit the food blog about a year ago. I started it up because I wanted to pay some serious attention to my toddler's food and nutrition, and writing seemed a good way to keep it up. I ended the blog ultimately because I'd done a lot of what I wanted to achieve with it, and 451 were demanding too much time commitment for an almost non-existent financial return. As a professional writer, I couldn't justify it. But I did enjoy the blog while I was writing it, it was an excuse to spend more time on the domestic arts. My interviews were supposed to be just with parents of children and their feeding habits, it wasn't intended to be writer-specific but of course almost everyone I know is a writer!

Me, behind the times, how did that happen? I must speak to my PR department!

5. How did you get involved with ASif! and Alisa Krasnostein – what's your role there at present?

Alisa and I met online when she was first looking for reviewers for Asif, before she got it off the ground, and I love to review books, so I signed up. My role there currently is as the suckiest reviewer EVER because I have just screeched to a halt on review production, but I need to step it up again. I love writing critical pieces about novels and I miss keeping up with what's new in the field.

*coughs* Yes, I know what you mean about productivity there *hopes Alisa isn't reading*

6. I've been reading a lot recently about many in the Australian speculative fiction scene preferring not to review fiction if they don't like it. What's your view on that.

There are several issues with that - one is of course that everyone knows everyone and putting the boot in can be socially problematic. Also it's morally dubious to review a book without finishing it, and I personally rarely have the time to be bothered to finish a book that I dislike. The other issue which I think non reviewers don't think about is that - writing a review is difficult unless you have something to say. The majority of fiction published is not something I hate or love, but that I'm just not interested in. If you don't care about a book or story, it can be hard to think of enough to say about it to justify writing a review in the first place.

If I don't see some value in a work, generally, I don't think it deserves to be reviewed. Unless it's flawed in an interesting enough way to take to pieces. Ben Peek is probably my favourite author to review because there's always something to say - whether he's infuriating me, impressing me or confusing me.

A good point, if you don't like something but can't pinpoint why, a review is not going to help.

7. What's your view of the current state of Australian and Tasmanian spec fic?

Hee, well as far as I know, published Tasmanian spec fic consists largely of the work of me, Dirk Flinthart, Sara Douglass and Sally Odgers. I think we're all lovely, but it's not really enough of a pool to discuss in the wider sense. We need more writers. Move here!

As far as the Australian scene goes - I think our authors are doing better than being noticed at an international level than ever before. Sadly - and I hate it when people say this in interviews, I can't believe I've become one of these people - I have read almost nothing so far this year, of anything in the field at all. Seriously. Meg Cabot and Judy Blume novels and the occasional bit of historical research for five months. I suspect I may be ill. But I need to lift my game on that one too, because I love being the person that people come to for new author recs. I will be her again.

The devil lives there though doesn't he? I'm not going anywhere near Tasmania...

8. Are you a listener to music when you write? If so what? Does music inspire you to write?

I am quite musically dense for the most part. I do occasionally construct elaborate soundtracks for novels in progress, but then I ignore them while actually writing. As a parent of a noisy three year old, mostly I like silence when I write. Silence. So golden.


9. What got you into writing, are there any writers that inspire you?

Writers inspire me constantly. And have done since I started reading at the age of three. I have always been writing, I spent most of my teens writing messy novels. I'm well ahead on my million words of crap. :D Right now, though, with parenting and novel writing melting my brain, I have to say that the thing I appreciate most about a writer these days is clarity. If it's easy to read and doesn't insult my intelligence, I'm so there. The writer I most admire is Diana Wynne Jones, because her plots astound me. Plotting is not my friend, sadly. I can only watch in awe as she creates elaborate plots and then presents them in simple, easy to read and swallow narrative.

10. What do you do when you're not writing?

I chase a three year old around the house, I fail to do housework, I entertain friends and get obsessive about old TV shows, I quilt, I play Harry Potter RP and I spend far too much time talking about anything and everything.

Harry Potter RP? Now I really am behind the times!

Thank you so much for agreeing to come along Tansy, and be grilled, and I hope the novels all take off with resounding success and that you can get back in to your reading.


Alisa said...

I am *always* reading

Tiffany Nightshade said...

I'm with Tansy... (HI, Tansy!) in that this year I've read less than usual. That's probably down to my assessment business taking off rather more. I spend a lot of reading time reading clients' work. I find most of my reading is either SF/fantasy magazines which I keep by the bed for those blurry first minutes and a cup of tea, or by the loo. I also "read" audiobooks when I go for a walk. I gleefully got my claws on The Merlin Conspiracy read by Emilia Fox and David Tennant!!!!! (!!! ad infinitum...) !!!

Sally_Odgers said...

Might do better if I use the correct account!

Sally O