Tag Archives: writers

Five questions for Steven Paulsen

Today, Steven Paulsen answers five questions about his new book:

Steven Paulsen

1. What’s the name of your latest book – and how hard was it to pick a title?

My latest book is a short story collection called Shadows on the Wall. I played around with a bunch of titles but none of them seemed fit right. Then one day I remembered a discarded novelette I wrote many years ago that was called “Shadows on the Wall”, and I realised it was a great title for my collection. There are numerous shadows lurking in these stories. Some are overt, such as in “The Black Diamond of the Elephant God” where the protagonist is pursued by a shadow, and in “In the Light of the Lamp” where an ancient brass oil burner casts shadows on the wall.

But for me the title also spoke to the theme of the book as a whole. When Isobelle Carmody read the collection, she wrote that the stories are “shadows, shifting on the wall, barely seen, slipping into our minds to lie, light and cold over our hearts…” So I think the title works well.

2. If you could choose anyone from any time period, who would you cast as the leads in your latest book?

That’s a tough question because my book is a collection of short stories. But if I were to pick one story, there is a new novelette in the book called “The Black Diamond of the Elephant God”. The man character of this story is a 19th Century English Orientalist and Sanskrit scholar named Giles Freeman. To play him, I would choose Laurence Olivier in his mid-late thirties. He would have no doubt done the character proud.

3. What five words best describe your story?

Dark, weird, heart-wrenching, spooky and humorous.

4. Who is your favourite fictional team/couple?

My favourite fictional duo are Fritz Leiber’s sword-and-sorcery rogues, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Unlike so many wooden sword and sorcery characters, they feel alive, albeit larger than life. Fafhrd is a tall sword-wielding northern barbarian, prone to the occasional song, while the Mouser is a short thief and swordsman, with a little skill in magic. Together, they carouse, brawl and gamble their way through some rollicking, chaotic adventures.

5. What song reflects a theme, character, relationship or scene in your book?

Hmmm… The stories in this collection vary a lot on tone and style, plus they were written over a few decades so it’s difficult to pick just one song that represents the book.

I probably listened to David Bowie a lot when I wrote some of these stories, so it’s reasonable to say his music was an influence. I’ve been listening to his 2013 compilation album, Nothing Has Changed, which was the first album to showcase his entire career.

As for a song that reflects the theme, let’s go with John Lennon’s ‘Watching the Wheels’ from his Double Fantasy album. It’s a tenuous link, but people do say I’m crazy doing what I’m doing, and I like that he said he was doing fine watching Shadows on the Wall.


About Shadows on the Wall

Shadows on the Wall is a short story collection that contains the very best of Paulsen’s dark and weird tales…plus stunning new fiction written expressly for this volume.

  • Glimpse a future where population controls force families into terrible choices.
  • Visit Colonial British India and experience the awakening of an eldritch horror.
  • Walk the steaming jungles of Vietnam alongside the spirits of the forest.
  • Light an ancient oil lamp but beware, the shadows on the wall…

About Steven Paulsen

Steven Paulsen’s bestselling dark fantasy children’s book, The Stray Cat, illustrated by Hugo and Oscar Award winning artist Shaun Tan, has seen publication in several English and foreign language editions. His short stories, which Isobelle Carmody describes as beautifully written and subtle, have appeared in magazines and in anthologies around the world.

His short story collection, Shadows on the Wall (IFWG Publishing Australia, 2018) contains the best of Paulsen’s dark and weird tales plus new fiction written expressly for the book.

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Buy Shadows on the Wall

Recommended Kickstarter: The Creature Court

It’s my week for writing about writers I love. Today it’s Tansy Rayner Roberts and her Creature Court series. Power and Majesty, The Shattered City and Reign of Beasts are a remarkable, richly realised, unpredictable and deeply satisfying dark fantasy trilogy about ancient battles, strange festivals, and shape shifters who can turn into one big beast or dozens of littler ones – with the bonus of really gorgeous frocks.

So imagine my delight to discover that the trilogy is being re-released, along with a brand new story! And imagine the delight doubled when I learned that the fabulously talented Kathleen Jennings would be providing art for the books!

If you’re already on board and can’t wait to support the project, go straight to Kickstarter and show your love.

If you want to know more about the books and the Kickstarter campaign, I asked Tansy Rayner Roberts a few questions.

Why have you decided to re-release the Creature Court series through a Kickstarter?

Kickstarter is still one of the best ways to crowdfund a substantial arts or publishing project if you have costs to be covered up front. After running the successful Mother of Invention campaign for Twelfth Planet Press last year I have confidence in my own ability to handle a more personal campaign. I knew I wanted to bring Creature Court back into print after I got the rights back last year, but doing it through Kickstarter means I can release them all at once, paying for fantastic new art and design.

You’ve mentioned the original three books and a fourth, new book, Cab aret of Monsters. Which books is the Kickstarter supporting?

The Kickstarter is for all four books. I decided to write a prequel novella set in the same world because I knew a lot of people who are close Tansy supporters (especially Australians) already have copies of the Creature Court trilogy on their shelves, and I haven’t revised the text substantially (though I have revised it). This way, there’s something new for people who have been buying my books all along!

You’re re-editing the books for the re-release. What does that entail? Why did you decide to do that?

It’s not so much a decision, to edit before a rerelease… I have been laying out the books myself and I am physically incapable of doing that without making a few changes here and there. Sometimes it’s word choice, or rephrasing. More commonly it’s basic proofing – I was particularly surprised how many errors had got through the final volume of the series as printed!

I haven’t made any huge changes though I did find an alarming inconsistency in the flashback/backstory timeline which took a little behind the scenes industrial engineering before I was happy with it. They’re still essentially the novels I wrote between 2004-2011.

How did Kathleen Jennings get involved with the project?

I asked her! Kathleen and I have known each other for a long time now, and I love her work so much. It’s been exciting seeing an Australian artist take on such big international projects. We have a similar attachment to historical aesthetics, so I knew I wanted her on board if I possibly could – and I’m so grateful she was able to make time in her schedule for me.

We’ve worked through a lot of ideas already, and I’m excited to see how the books turn out. One of Kathleen’s talents is extremely detailed silhouette art which she creates with cut paper. We also have a great cover designer, Cathy Larsen, who will be producing the typography with vintage fonts to get across the 1920’s feel that infuses the novels.

How is her art going to be used in the re-rereleases and the new, fourth book of the series?

Book covers primarily – four book covers in one year is a major commitment (it helps a lot when you can pay the artist, hence the Kickstarter) but it’s really exciting to have all of them designed at the same time, and allows us to have a real coherence across the covers.

The novella cover will be developed over the next month or so and then the trilogy later in the year. I also commissioned some pieces up front so I could show our backers the visual style that we were aiming for – hence the lovely flapper with sword banner on the main Kickstarter page, and the iconic Art Deco pin design which Kathleen produced.

Several of our rewards including postcards will be based on Kathleen’s art… and I’m really hoping we make our stretch goals so I can offer the beautiful enamel pin in a variety of colours.

If you could turn into an animal (or a whole lot of little ones) – what animal would it be?

My first instinct was to wonder what animal is most industrious. I’ll take ten of those! Though cats have a pretty great life. I could happily live out my years as a sleepy bed full of cats.

Get on board the Creature Court Kickstarter

(I’m supporting at the Come to the Cabaret level ‘cos I want all the Jennings art as well as the new book!)

Five Questions for Charlie Raven

Today,  Charlie Raven answers five questions about her new book:

Charlie Raven

1. What’s the name of your latest book – and how did you choose the title?

It’s called The Compact. The title just popped into my mind about halfway through the process of writing it. It came about because one of the themes of the story is the fear of old age. That fear is universal, of course, particularly for anyone who depends on their looks in their work, but back in the 1890s there were hardly any viable careers open to women, so the fear of ageing must have been even more acute.

A ‘compact’ refers first to those pretty little tins of pressed face powder that used to be carried in every woman’s handbag. Another older, perhaps more sinister meaning of ‘compact’ becomes apparent as the story progresses: a contract or covenant. There’s an occult covenant which one of the characters is affected by; and there’s also Alexandra’s contract with Minerva, which persuades her to agree to terrible things.

2. If you could choose anyone from any time period, who would you cast as the leads in your latest book?

Wow! What a great question. Well, let me think.

Sherlock Holmes does make a couple of brief appearances, but in this story, Dr Watson is the main character from that duo. Somehow, my mind wants him to look like David Burke’s portrayal in the 1984 ‘Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ series.

Holmes is more difficult, as I have my own inner Sherlock and no actor has yet portrayed him perfectly.

Minerva, with her melodramatic manner, should be played by a glamorous, smouldering 1940s actress, such as Hedy Lamarr. Alexandra: h’mm, maybe a middle-aged Katherine Hepburn? Emma Thompson, as she looks now, with her capable personality, would be perfect for Harriet.

Lastly, I have no idea who I can possible cast as the 22 year old Aleister Crowley and his lover, Jerome Pollitt. Crowley was nothing like the later pictures you see of him, where he resembles Uncle Fester from the Addams Family – in 1898, he had a full head of hair, strangely piercing eyes and, being a mountaineer, was very fit. Pollitt was a gorgeous amateur female impersonator. I could see them played by a young Johnny Depp and a young version of the very camp British comedian, Julian Clary. That’s hilarious to think of. Will that do?

3. What five words best describe your story?

Subtle. Sinister. Crepuscular. Labyrinthine. Surprising.

4. Who is your favourite fictional team/couple?

In the whole history of literature? That’s difficult, isn’t it? If I said Holmes and Watson, that might be true. But from childhood, I have loved Frodo and Sam, so I think I must loyally name them.

5. What song reflects a theme, character, relationship or scene in your book?

I love David Bowie. He layers unsettling lyrics with multiple meanings on top of singable tunes. One of my characters, Albert Burroughs, is really rather weird. I don’t want to give any of the plot away but he makes me think of this track from Bowie’s 2013 album, The Next Day: ‘You Feel So Lonely You Could Die’

The walls have got you cornered, you’ve got the blues, my friend …

Shivery stuff.

About The Compact

It is 1898, the London of Sherlock Holmes. Harriet Day is increasingly worried about the strange influence of a powerful, unpredictable woman, Minerva Atwell, over her dearest friend, Alexandra Roberts. By chance, Harriet befriends Alexandra’s lodger, the gentle actor, George Arden; and when he is wrongly accused of murder, Harriet turns to a lonely, ailing Dr Watson to investigate.

To Watson’s chagrin, his enquiries are aided and occasionally hampered by a strange young man by the name of Aleister Crowley and his flamboyant lover, Jerome Pollitt.

The Compact is an LGBTQ mystery with a touch of Magick.

About Charlie Raven

I was born, studied and live in England. I have three children – the youngest is 13 – and two grandchildren. My life has taken some odd twists and turns and occasionally led me down the rabbit hole. Fortunately, even the worst choices turned out for the best (filed under: children). I inherited a fascination with weird history, ghost stories and liminal places from my mother (and I’m so glad my children are the same).

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Buy The Compact

Five Questions for Jason Franks

Today, Jason Franks answers five questions about his new book.

For our interview, Franks is wearing a pair of classic-cut Levis that are probably Costco fakes. His black t-shirt is frayed at the collar but the Black Sabbath logo looks crisp as if it had just been printed. He hasn’t shaved in a couple of days and his glasses are smudged. He has terrible posture and a very small head.

(Descriptions supplied by Jason Franks.)

Jason Franks

  1. What’s the name of your latest book – and how did you choose the title?

The book is called FAERIE APOCALYPSE. Originally it was going to be LOVERS, POETS AND MADMEN, which sums up the seed inspiration for the story, but does not give much of a clue as to what the book is about. So I went looking for some other options.

The book is set mostly in the fairy realms and deals with the nature of the place and the people who venture there, so FAERIE seemed like an obvious place to start.

I was reading about Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian—a key influence on my book—and I came across the phrase ‘apocalyptic prose’. That immediately seemed to fit not just the style of my own work, but also the story. So there it was.

Faerie Apocalypse.

  1. If you could choose anyone from any time period, who would you cast as the leads in your latest book?

I have this one already sussed from IFWG and I were working out the cover art. In the end we opted not to show any characters on the cover, but here’s what I came up with. There are five leads, as follows:

  • The Veteran: Contemporary Christian Bale. Long hair, bearded, a bit haggard, a bit spaced-out.
  • The Magus: Contact-era long-haired, crazy-eyed Jake Busey.
  • The Warrior Queen: Carey Lowell circa 1990.
  • Malo: A teenaged Benicio Del Toro.
  • The Engineer: A CGI rendering of a youngish lady, designed not to stand out in a crowd. A bit pixilated and well inside the Uncanny Valley.
  1. What five words best describe your story?

Dense, circuitous, violent, occulted, and reflexive.

  1. What faerie creature would you most like to meet – or be?

Out of all the creatures in the book I’d most like to meet the Queen of the Ore-lands. She wouldn’t have much time for me, but she’s also less likely to try to trick, murder or eat me than any of the other characters.

  1. What song reflects a theme, character or scene in your book?

The book references a number of songs quite explicitly. There’s a couple of Hendrix songs that flag key plot points. One of the monsters is a Blue Oyster Cult song given flesh. But the last part of the story is called Black Wings, after the Tom Waits song, and I think that perfectly sums it all up.

If you want a second helping, try Earth Died Screaming, also from the Bone Machine album:

About Faerie Apocalypse.

Over the centuries the Faerie Realms have drifted away from the mortal world. But for some, the Doors will open. For some, there is a Way to travel there, if they want it badly enough.

If they dream it hard enough.

In this era, only lovers, poets, and madmen can access the Realms of the Land—and for good reason.

A succession of mortals travel to Faerie: a veteran seeking beauty; a magus seeking power; an urchin seeking his wayward father; an engineer seeking meaning. These mortals bring the horrors of our age to the Land, and the Folk who live there respond in kind.

About Jason Franks

Jason Franks is the author of the novel Bloody Waters, the Sixsmiths graphic novels, and the Left Hand Path comic series. His work has been short-listed for Aurealis and Ledger Awards. He lives in Melbourne, Australia, where he is widely known as a person of low character and wicked intent.

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Buy Faerie Apocalypse