Thursday, 23 November 2017

Coffee Chat with award winning author Cat Sparks (Part 1)

It's my absolute pleasure to invite Cat Sparks to my virtual café. She is a well known and well respected figure in the Australian publishing scene, having edited for magazines, written many award winning short stories, and now she has finally ventured into writing her first novel.

Cat provided me with so much information around climate fiction that I decided to make this coffee chat in two parts, because climate fiction is very interesting. A topic dear to my heart, and I hope it's dear to all your hearts, too.

DL: Firstly, since this is a coffee chat, how do you have your coffee? And what is your favourite time of the day to partake?

CAT: Like so many writers, I take my coffee very seriously. I only have one cup per day, so it needs to be a good one and it needs to happen in the morning not long after I haul myself out of bed. It takes three beverages to get me going, the first being a cup of green tea and the third a mug of Yorkshire extra strong tea with milk. The coffee goes in the middle, a cappuccino with two or three shots.

DL: You've been immersed in the publishing industry for many years, from editing magazines to publishing anthologies. You've also received many awards for editing and for your short stories. In fact you've had over 60 short stories published. Yet it's taken from your first short story in 2001 to 2017 for your debut novel, "Lotus Blue"
to be published. Was a novel always on the to do list? And is there any particular reason why it's taken this long?

CAT: I wish I could offer you some really interesting explanation as to why it took me so long to produce a novel good enough to sell. Like perhaps I’d been off exploring Antarctic wastelands or embedded deep on secret spy missions. Sadly, the truth is really boring. I'm a slow writer and life keeps getting in the way. And I guess I’m a bit of a perfectionist – I binned at least 300,000 words in the process of creating "Lotus Blue."

In 2012, I was awarded an Australia Council grant to write the novel that eventually became "Lotus Blue", a manuscript I'd already been working on for several years. So I quit my graphic design job and got stuck into writing. Thinking I’d be finished by the end of that year, I signed up to do a PhD directly following on. What I didn’t know then was that my mother had cancer. She passed away in October, 2012. My father was unable to care for himself, so my life became adjusted accordingly. Dad passed away in 2016 and I'm still struggling to get that degree over the line. I won't be starting another novel till February 2018 at least. Fingers crossed I can complete a half-decent draft across 12 months this time.

DL: You're currently gaining a PhD in climate fiction. Is there any difference between climate fiction and science fiction, apocalyptic, or dystopian fiction? If so, what is the notable difference?

CAT: Lack of global response to the imminent threat of climate change is sometimes blamed on a failure of societal imagination, but science fiction has been imagining various forms of environmental catastrophe since its Pre-Golden Age.

There’s a lot of scholarly argument about when science fiction can truly be said to have originated. I tend to agree with those who consider it a by-product of the Industrial Revolution, a time of great changes to the physical, economic and political landscape as science and technology began to impact greatly on society. Climate change itself is also a by-product of the Industrial Revolution, so the two really do go hand in hand.

To date, most climate fiction can also be classed as science fiction – but certainly not all of it. For this reason, I believe Cli Fi to be evolving into a separate and distinct genre, rather than existing as a subset of SF.
The ecocatastrophic alarmism of the 50s, 60s and 70s focused on the fear of overpopulation and pollution. Anxiety about pollution and global warming spiked when nuclear fears subsided after the Cold War. Both science fiction and climate fiction take on the task of envisioning physical and cultural landscapes facing uncertainty through processes of transformation and adaptation.

Post-apocalypse fiction requires a great cataclysmic event – either named or unnamed – to have taken place. Climate fiction does not. For example, the initiating incident in Barbara Kingsolver’s "Flight Behaviour" is a group of butterflies settling in a non-traditional location.

The term ‘dystopian’ is often used as an umbrella term encompassing apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic narratives, but I think of it as relating more specifically to oppressive social and political regimes. Think 1984 or The Hunger Games.

 DL: How was SupaNova 2017 for you? Was it a surprise? Everything you thought it would be? Completely different to what you're used to? Tell us everything!
CAT: SupaNova 2017 was a strange and fascinating experience, very different from the kinds of speculative fiction events I'm used to: conventions, conferences and festivals of a few hundred people -- although I have been to World Fantasy and Worldcons overseas, which are pretty big. SupaNova was a huge commercial extravaganza and I had to learn how to get into the groove. I’m not generally comfortable with pimping my own authorial self. I’m more the ‘sitting around in the bar talking to people’ kind of writer, but I soon realised that I needed to be as proactive as possible. Luckily, a well-seasoned friend, urban fantasy author Alan Baxter, was on hand to show me the ropes and by the close of SupaNova, Perth I had managed to sell every copy of Lotus Blue. Oh, and I got to meet Christopher Lloyd (total fangirl moment).

Photos from Supanova 2017 can be viewed here

DL: Please thank Cat Sparks for dropping by for a coffee chat.   

Remember to drop by next week for Part Two  where I ask Cat what she thinks is the biggest threat for the world right now, and she provides insight for authors who wish to write climate fiction.

More about Cat Sparks


Follow Cat Sparks 

More about Lotus Blue 

Seventeen-year-old Star and her sister Nene are orphans, part of a thirteen-wagon caravan of nomadic traders living hard lives travelling the Sand Road. Their route cuts through a particularly dangerous and unforgiving section of the Dead Red Heart, a war-ravaged desert landscape plagued by rogue semi-sentient machinery and other monsters from a bygone age.

But when the caravan witnesses a relic-Angel satellite unexpectedly crash to Earth, a chain of events begins that sends Star on a journey far away from the life she once knew. Shanghaied upon the sandship Dogwatch, she is forced to cross the Obsidian Sea by Quarrel, an ancient Templar supersoldier. Eventually shipwrecked, Star will have no choice but to place her trust in both thieves and priestesses while coming to terms with the grim reality of her past—and the horror of her unfolding destiny—as the terrible secret her sister had been desperate to protect her from begins to unravel.

Meanwhile, something old and powerful has woken in the desert. A Lotus Blue, deadliest of all the ancient war machines. A warrior with plans of its own, far more significant than a fallen Angel. Plans that do not include the survival of humanity.

 Buy Lotus Blue on Amazon

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Coffee chat with Georgia Clark - an Aussie author living in New York

It's my absolute pleasure to welcome Georgia Clark to my virtual café. She is an Australian author who made the bold move to New York a few years ago and is doing fabulous. She's the published author of two young adult novels "She's With The Band" and "Parched", one women's fiction novel "The Regulars", with another novel "The Bucket List" coming out in 2018. She's also a screenwriter, online writing tutor, and host and co-creator of a literary salon for women.

DL: Firstly, since this is a coffee chat, how do you have your coffee (or not as has been the case)? And what is your favourite time of the day to partake?

GEORGIA: First thing. As soon as the eyes are open. My coffee is my lifeblood--sometimes it’s how I get myself out of bed in the first place; a bribe. I make a big French Press and take it with a little half-and-half. I always start my morning tucked back into bed with a cup of coffee.

DL:  We only get to watch Trainwreck Trump via the news, Twitter, and Facebook. He's a big change from President Obama and big change is often met with resistance and mourning. In this case I personally believe its justifiably so that people are resisting this change. For your friends back here in Australia, what is like for a regular person in America at the moment? And is there a sense the chaos will settle down or get worse?

GEORGIA: To be perfectly frank, it’s a nightmarish time to be living in America. It’s crazy and surreal and upsetting, every day. I’m lucky to be in New York, which is full of liberal people who are appalled by what’s happening, and who are speaking and acting out against the Trump administration. But staying connected to the news is scary and exhausting and sad. The day Trump was elected… I’ll never forget. It was the knowledge that we were entering a dystopia that wouldn’t end for four years. And it’s not settling down, no way. It’s just as bad as I thought it would be.

DL: You run a literary salon event called Generation Women, which is a wonderful concept. It's one woman each across a few generations telling stories. There is a real threat of losing that special mother/daughter handover of knowledge through a variety of reasons - Google, children moving away, children too busy to listen, parents taking on grandparent duties instead of motherly duties. Do these monthly literary salons help you bridge the distance between you (who lives in United States) and your mother (who lives in Australia)? And tell us about the literary salons and where you'd like to see them in a few years time.

GEORGIA: My mum came to the second salon we held, and the theme was in her honor, “What I Learned About My Mother”. I wrote a piece about her and was able to read it to her as she sat in the front row. It was a really special night. She enjoys hearing about the night so it does help us stay connected, yes.

At Generation Women, six women of note read an original piece on a theme. Of those women, one is in her 20s, her 30s, her 40s, her 50s, her 60s and 70s+. The aim is to celebrate and amplify women’s voices and creativity, especially older women, who are not honored in society in the way they should be. The result is a unique, intimate female literary salon that brings together women of all ages. In the future, I hope we just keep growing and connecting with audiences, perhaps beyond the Lower East Side, our current home.
Tickets to our New York shows are available via our website, and I’m putting on a one-off show in Sydney on Monday December 11th at Giant Dwarf.

October 27th line-up. L-R: Sudi Green, Lauren Adams, Debbie Weil, June Duffy, Meg Wolitzer, Manoush Zomorodi.

DL: Creating diversity in fiction is tricky. You wrote an interesting blog piece (link here) about how we mention races of characters other than white. But we don't go around saying 'my Asian friend, Laura,' or 'my black friend, Lana.' Similarly, we don't say 'my gay friend, Mark,' or 'my handicapped friend, Julie', unless it is specific to the conversation. Have you found any new ways since the blog post to introduce diversity into a novel that doesn't feel forced or tokenistic?

GEORGIA: I ran this question past my clever friend Meg, who was the editor who acquired The Regulars. She said, “I guess it comes down to Lacey [my main character] and how she sees things, right. The fact that this is from her voice is what I think triggered it for me the most-- in the end, I do think that a lot of people think about identity in the way she narrates (that's why we never talk about "my white friend Jess" or "this straight girl I met at a party"-- because if we have to mention identity, it's already because we're thinking about someone as the other). So maybe it's first figuring out WHY Lacey would be noticing black and Asian people to this extent, and WHY that becomes part of her internal narration.” So the trick is to make the observation idiosyncratic and specific to the character. If in doubt, I just cut, and trust my readers know every character isn’t always white by default.

DL: As if you're not busy enough, you also offer a training course for writers. Where do you get your energy and drive from? And what is the one thing you've had to sacrifice to maintain this drive?

GEORGIA: I’m not sure? A crippling fear of failure?? I like being busy and I kinda have to be as a full-time creative. Gotta hustle! I’m not sure what I’ve sacrificed…. I always do some work over the weekends, but that's pretty normal in New York! I tend to do everything I want to do, and I enjoy the things I put my energy into, so they don’t usually feel like a burden.

The Pro-Active Author is an 8-part self-study book marketing course that shows you step-by-step how to proactively and effectively launch your next book, so it’s designed specifically for authors. This course is 8.5 hours of content, made up of 38 lessons and 12 worksheets. So you can go from feeling confused and overwhelmed, to in control and confident in just one weekend!

DL: And lastly, are you a biscuit or cake kind of person? And what is your favourite biscuit/cake?

GEORGIA: Cake! I went out for dinner with my girlfriend last night to our fave local spot here in Brooklyn called Diner, and had this flourless chocolate cake that was simply out of this world. Rich, dense and fudgy: delicious!

photo by Daniel L Johnson
Georgia Clark is the author of The Regulars. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and sign up for her newsletter via her website.
What would you sacrifice to be Pretty?

Best friends Evie, Krista, and Willow are just trying to make it through their mid-twenties in New York. With average looks and typical quarter-life crises, they’re trying to make it up the corporate ladder, make sense of online dating, and make rent.

Until they come across Pretty, a magic tincture that makes them, well...gorgeous. Like, supermodel gorgeous. And it’s certainly not their fault if the sudden gift of beauty causes unexpected doors to open for them.

But there’s a dark side to Pretty, too, and as the gloss fades for these modern-day Cinderellas.