Nearly two decades after the massacre of approximately 8,000 people in Srebrenica, some of the families who had their loved ones taken from them are still being prevented by the Serbs from visiting one of the mass murder sites. To add insult to injury, Serbian forces had the audacity to attack the mothers of victims. It is evident that those responsible for this genocide are still trying to cover up the extent if their crimes. Click below for the full story:
Could not believe it when I read this article recently! This is simply another underhanded attack to identify Bosniaks and single them out for future discrimination and further ethnic cleansing. Sounds like someone has been studying Hitler’s anti-semitic policies. Disgusting!
Read the story here -
Today I chat with award winning speculative fiction writer Angela Slatter who has recently launched her new book, a joint production with Lisa L Hannett, called Midnight and Moonshine.
1. When we first met you were wanting to write chiclt ‘with a brain’ as you called it yet here you are an award winning fantasy writer. What triggered you to write fantasy?
I think when I started out I was really just looking for a place to start and to hone my craft. I’ve written all my life in one form or another and at the time chic-lit seemed to be a good place to start. All writers eventually find their own voice, but when you’re starting out (as in, 2004 was the year I decided to be serious about my writing and to try and make a career of it), chic-lit seemed to offer me the place to start working in a sense that it felt like clay I could work with and mould to my will! It felt like a genre I could work on and that I felt I could add something different to. When I wanted to apply for the MA program, my supervisor at the time suggested I try a chic-lit fairy tale … in the end, the fairy tale part appealed to me a hell of a lot more, not the least because I loved the dark under tones. I realised I didn’t want to write light and fluffy and clever! I wanted to write dark and disturbing and clever. So, here I am, almost nine years down the track, with a very firm voice and some genre real estate that’s very much my territory.
2. What inspired the theme for Midnight and Moonshine?
My best friend, Lisa Hannett, and I wrote a story called “Prohibition Blues” for an anthology that didn’t eventuate (but which we subsequently sold to another anthology, Damnation and Dames). We loved it and wanted to explore more about the places and people that went before our characters in PB. So we started chatting and scribbling down ideas, and we eventually realised that our 1920s Charleston-dancing, shoe-obsessed, moonshine-brewing heroines had their beginnings in a runaway from Ragnarok. When we knew it was a Norse themed collection, we plotted from there.
3. How long did it take to write?
I think we pitched the concept to Ticonderoga Publications at the end of 2010, then gradually worked on stories through 2011 (but as we were both finishing PhDs, progress was slow). Then we got to January of 2012 and knew we had a publication date of November 2012, so much of the collection was completed between January and June!
4. The stories are interconnected but what’s your favourite part of the book?
Oooh, I really love the stories “Red Wedding”, “Kveldúlfr”, “Of The Demon and the Drum”, and “Seven Sleepers” – but then I love all the stories for their characters. That’s one of the things I’m really proud of with this collection, the diverse and rich and fascinating range of characters we’ve managed to create.
5. You wrote the book with Lisa L Hannett, what was it like collaborating with another writer? What demarcation lines were established?
This seems to be the big question every interviewer asks! “Did you end up tearing each other’s hair out?” No. We love each other’s writing as individuals, trust each other implicitly to do the right thing by the story and to respect each other’s work, and we also value each other as really perceptive editors as well as writers. We trust each other to edit and proofread, to create and to cut! If there was something one of us felt very strongly about keeping in, then we’d work out how best to do that and how to smooth over any issues the other might have had – this also helped because we both knew that in a later story one of us might want to keep something else in. So like a good marriage, it’s about give and take and compromise. Prior to writing with Lisa, it should be said, I didn’t think I would ever collaborate with anyone. But after we wrote our first story together, “The February Dragon”, which won an Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Short Story, we knew we could work together like a well-oiled machine. We each bring our strengths to the process that makes the work stronger.
6. Is it important to have the same vision and style? How did you consolidate this?
We totally had the same vision. We’d spent so much time with the plotting of the overarching story arc that we knew where it was going – what point we wanted to finish at; within the individual stories there was a lot of leeway as to the action and characters, but we always had the same goal in mind as to how each component had to feed into the whole. By the time we’ve finished a first draft, the voice has settled into what we think of as the ‘third voice’ – that’s the perfect melding of our two writerly tones. It gets consolidated and polished during the redrafting and editing phases – we do around ten drafts on each story, so there’s ample opportunity to make sure the voice is “homogeneous”, for lack of a better term.
7. What does writing mean to you?
It makes me happy.
8. You’ve been successful in putting your writing out and getting it published. Did you have a particular approach?
I just made sure I researched my markets carefully and polished my work very carefully so I was making sure I had the best chance of acceptance.
9. What self marketing tips can you give other aspiring writers?
Write first, then promote yourself. I worked at the Queensland Writers Centre for three years and heard so many new writers carrying on about how they’d got their blog up and running, how they were promoting themselves and making sure people knew their names – but when I’d ask them about their publication list, they’d look a bit confused. They were so busy with self-promotion that they’d forgotten to write any short stories or novels, and they’d be quite put out that no agents or publishers were approaching them. It doesn’t work that way!
10. You’ve recently become a full time writer. How did you achieve that?
Sheer luck and a very supportive partner. As a speculative fiction writer I’ve pretty much established that I’m not in the running for any kind of a grant from OzCo, so my partner David offered me a ‘year of not working in order to finish a novel’. I finished my PhD off last year, my last work contract finished at the end of January and I declined offers to renew it and I have been writing ever since. Like most writers I have several income streams – I write fiction and non-fiction, I edit, act as a mentor, and I teach creative writing. Hopefully, I’ll be in a better position next year to spend more time on the writing alone.
11. What’s your next project?
I’m currently finishing up an urban fantasy (book one of a triology), called Hallowmass, and plotting for the sequels, Vigil and Corpselight. I’m also halfway through a new collection of short stories, The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, which is a prequel to my 2010 collection Sourdough and Other Stories. After that, there are two books in an alternative history Crusader universe, Well of Souls and Gate of the Dead.
That should keep me busy for a while.
You can find out more about Angela’s beautiful stories and books on her website www.angelaslatter.com or purchase Midnight and Moonshine from http://www.indiebooksonline.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=122
The gods are dead, but will not be forgotten.
When Mymnir flees the devastation of Ragnarok, she hopes to escape all that bound her to Ásgarðr — a heedless pantheon, a domineering brother, and her neglectful father-master, Óðinn. But the white raven, a being of memory and magic, should know that the past is not so easily left behind. No matter how far she flies, she cannot evade her family…
In planting seeds of the old world in the new, Mymnir becomes queen of a land with as many problems as the one she fled. Her long-lived Fae children ignite and fan feuds that span generations; lives are lost and loves won because of their tampering. Told in thirteen parts, Midnight and Moonshine follows the Beaufort and Laveaux families, part-human, part-Fae, as they battle, thrive and survive in Mymnir’s kingdom.
Midnight and Moonshine is a collection of interconnected tales with links between them as light and strong as spider-silk. From fire giants to whispering halls, disappearing children to evening-wolves, fairy hills to bewitched cypress trees, and talking heads to moonshiners of a special sort, Midnight and Moonshine takes readers on a journey from ninth century Vinland to America’s Deep South in the present day. Hannett and Slatter have created a mosaic novel of moments, story-tiles as strange as witchwood and withywindles.
Midnight and Moonshine is a rich tapestry of dark fantasy, fairy tale and speculation.
I mentioned the other day that I was experiencing ‘writer’s block’. For months now I have been procrastinating instead of actually writing which is very frustrating and disappointing. I keep telling myself that I work long days in the Corporate sector sitting in front of a computer writing and reviewing reports, planning strategies and communication plans, so naturally the last thing I want to do is drive the 1 hour plus distance home arriving typically after 7pm, get dinner on for the family, do the household chores and then sit back down in front of a computer again at about 9.30pm to don my creative cap and start writing again! Right? Well hang on a minute, that is exactly how I wrote my first book, so what’s different now? Here are my list of excuses – please feel free to chastise me.
1. I’m bloody tired!
Response: You were tired when you wrote your first book, so suck it up Princess.
2. I’m brain dead by 9.30pm.
Response: Have a coke and a mars bar – sugar does wonders for the brain.
3. I can’t possibly write when there’s so much housework to be done.
Response: You will always find something to clean because you are a clean freak so ignore the mess and write. Something’s got to give.
4. I’m struggling switching from my work brain to my creative brain.
Response: Put some effort into planning which will help with the creative process (but I’m not a planner…shut up and do it).
5. Every time I sit in front of a computer it feels like work.
Response: Write the old-fashioned way, or sit in bed with the laptop.
6. I need to spend time with my kids.
Response: Your kids are grown up and don’t think it’s cool to hang out with Mum anymore.
7. I just want to chill out.
Response: You used to think writing was chilling out.
8. I’ve forgotten where I’m up to with the plot which means I’ll have to reread several chapters to remind myself and given I only have a couple of hours to write before I nod off over my keyboard – why bother?!
Response: Always finish off on a section where you know you’ll be able to pick up easily again and leave a note on what you plan to write next.
9. I’m not inspired which means anything I write will be crap and won’t be worth reading, so again, why bother?
Response: Because you can edit crap but you can’t edit nothing.
10. I earn so much more in the Corporate sector than I ever will as a writer so isn’t that where my focus should be?
Response: It’s not about the money it’s about doing what you love and are passionate about (but I need to survive…stop buying shoes and eat 2 minute noodles).
I could go on, but you get the idea. I’m curious to hear whether anyone else has the same excuses and how you overcome them. Despite the above responses to my excuses I am still managing to indulge in procrastination. Not one to give up, I have consulted a hypnotist on a friend’s recommendation. Yes, you read correctly, a hypnotist. Watch this space for my next blog on how a chicken learns to write.
P.S it is not lost upon me that the time I spent writing this post I could have spent working on one of my manuscripts.
It’s been ages since I’ve posted and there are a number of reasons for that, namely writers block! More on that later but in a bid to get my head back into the right space and try to stir up the embers of creativity I’ve decided to share part of my exegesis on my blog. I wrote Not Like My Mother as part of my Masters degree for which I was also required to write an exegesis. Suffice to say it was a challenging experience assessing my creative work while trying to write it. For me the biggest challenge was to determine whose ‘truth’ I should write. The excerpt below explains in more detail.
As a journalist I have been taught to report the facts accurately and objectively. I was encouraged to approach a story with a degree of scepticism, to research and uncover the truth and report it without any use of literary devices. Certainly, I had an opinion about each story that I covered, but I was not personally invested in the story. Readers were not interested in what I thought, as I was not a voice of authority.
However, when it came to writing Not Like My Mother my personal connection to the story provided me with some authorial credibility. I quickly realised that the story I wanted to tell would be subjective. Because of this personal connection to the story I could not distance myself and be objective. In any case, given the reaction of readers to authors such as Frey and Khouri, I did not feel that readers would be willing to accept my work as fact, but I wanted to report the story as truthfully as possible. There were a lot of holes within the narrative, which needed to be filled, but the basis of the story, I felt, was an important one that needed to be told.
In Searching for the Secret River Kate Grenville explains why she chose the genre of Creative Nonfiction for The Secret River:
I wanted to tell the story of what I’d learned about the frontier, to explore that sad history of fear, misunderstanding and violence. It was a tale that drew its power from the fact that it was real. Interposing a layer of invention would defeat my aim: to tell the unvarnished story as truthfully as I could (Grenville 2006, 146).
For nearly the same reasons that Grenville identifies, I opted to write Not Like My Mother as Creative Nonfiction. I also had a frontier (years of Balkan civil wars), misunderstanding (Serbians, Croatian, Bosniaks and Albanians, all of whom struggled to understand each other and seemed unable to effectively communicate their needs), and violence (war, and family violence). All this was composed out of a collection of facts, both historical and familial, which I had to juggle and incorporate within the narrative. It was a mammoth task. The Balkan situation is a complex one. Toss into the mix my family’s personal experiences: my grandparents living and trying to survive World War II; my parents fleeing a communist-driven, oppressed Yugoslavia; and me, growing up in a religiously and culturally mixed family.
What I hoped to achieve in my work was a fusion of multiple truths, which would represent the Balkan people and their plight. I hoped to show many truths, not just a Bosniak truth, but also a Serbian and Croatian truth. Mindful that Creative Nonfiction did not have a credible modern history, it seemed, however, the only genre in which I could effectively deal with facts and the larger truth.
Through Creative Nonfiction I hoped to give a voice to the ordinary people caught up in the Balkan conflict, and while the story is based on some facts, such as the history of various Balkan wars, geographic locations, familial accounts, historical facts, socio-economic facts and cultural problems, I felt the story needed to be assisted by literary techniques commonly used by novelists: multiple points of view, composite characters, metaphorical devices and so on, to draw on fact through imagination (Simpson 2003). I felt this would result in a richer text, which would achieve greater narrative satisfaction. I wanted to explore the relationship between mother and daughter in a culture of conflict; to explore the notions of identity, displacement, unconditional love, pride, loss, and infidelity. I would have been unable to do this if I had simply reported the facts, as Garner had in Joe Cinque’s Consolation. It is the inner nuances of each character, which helped craft a story in which conflict existed not only on the surface, through civil wars, but also through interpersonal conflicts an aspect of history not easily reported in traditional modes of journalism. By exploring the text through Creative Nonfiction I was able to incorporate the inner working of the characters’ minds and show how the social and political changes and religious upheaval in which they were caught up, moulded the characters’ personalities.
This need to embellish the facts came about from gaps within the factual story that my family told. They are uneducated people. Their stories live on only in their memories and not through the written word. Relatives had died and so, too, had their stories, their truth. An alternate truth had been passed on, but it was unreliable.
With this eclectic palate of truths and facts I began to weave a story which depicts the lives of three generations of women who struggle through their individual battles. Though I attempted to remain objective in what I wrote, I struggled to detach my personal connection with the stories of these women. To ignore this connection would be to lie, in the same way that VS Naipaul perceived his representation of his childhood memories in his collection of stories Miguel Street. He felt he could not disassociate himself from what he knew was outside his ‘ childhood view’. His adult knowledge coloured his work (Jack 2007, 5), and so, too, does my truth colour my work.
One of the main themes that surfaced in the Balkan conflict was the disharmony between Serbians, Bosniaks and Croatians. As my father is a Bosniak and my mother is a Serbian Catholic, I was able to create characters for my story based on their personal experiences. It is through my parents’ stories that I was able to create a plot through which I explored the relative cultural disconnection that resurfaced between these Balkan cultures after 35 years of peaceful Communist rule. By doing so, I was also able to explore the dichotomous relationship between Muslims and Christians in a modern historical context. Throughout Not Like My Mother, I have tried to establish a framework that highlights the differences and similarities between the two religious cultures and how those differences and similarities are passed on to the next generation. This is reflected in the repetitive cycle of abuse the three female characters are exposed to. It is also reflected in how all sides in the Balkan conflict killed those they perceived to be the enemy. Both Anika and Muhammed abuse their children. These similarities cross cultural truths, but also individual truths based on the perceptions and individual morals of each character.
To my mind, one of the reasons the Balkan conflict escalated into genocide, was the inability of generations to let go of past hurts and acknowledge the veracity of their competing individual truths. Each culture has retained stories of past conflicts from when the region was first settled, and then invaded by the Turkish Ottoman Empire or the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The maintenance of these narratives reflects our need to connect with the past and our ancestors, and our desire for a concrete cultural identity that can be lived whether through the accumulation of land lost to previous invasions or through the ability to freely practise one’s chosen religion. I suggest that it is this connection with our identity that determines our truth. In Not Like My Mother, Ivo’s knowledge of previous Balkan conflicts informs his opinion of the Serbians; it is through his stories that he passes on this perception or individual truth to his nephews. Similarly, Azis, while acknowledging all the Balkan cultures are at fault, fails to realise he too passes on the culture of conflict through abusing his own son, Muhammed.
(a) Finding my authorial voice
It was unlikely that I would be able to remain objective in writing Not Like My Mother. I cared too much about the politics in the Balkans, was outraged by the genocide that had occurred and the lack of response by the rest of the world.
The novel began years ago when my parents and grandparents told me stories about their pasts. These stories remained vivid in my mind for years. I began drafting the stories from my memory. In revising the work it was evident that my memory did not provide the detail necessary to make the narratives fuse. I needed more facts, so I researched the history of the Balkans, the eruption of World War II, the period of peace under Tito’s 35-year rule, and, finally, the downfall of Yugoslavia under the reign of Milosevic. But there were still gaps.
I conducted a series of interviews with my parents who relayed, in more detail, their life stories and those of their parents. In comparing the transcripts, discrepancies became evident. While subsequent interviews with my maternal grandparents helped to fill in the gaps, their memories were vague. Time had sucked their anecdotes from their minds. My paternal grandparents had died many years before I started the project and I relied heavily on mine and my father’s memories of them. I attempted to emulate Garner’s technique in representing a variety of truths through direct transcripts from the interviews I conducted and on researching the former Yugoslavia and the Balkan wars. However, as Frey found, relying on memories left me vulnerable to my perception of those memories and interpreting them within the narrative as such.
This compilation of truths moulded the person I have become and influenced the identity of my characters. Anika and Muhammed fled the oppression of Tito’s rule, seeking a freer world in Australia, fearing conflict would eventually rise again from the tainted Balkan soil. The paradox of their need to escape the conflict of their world only to carry it into their personal lives reflects the personal and private impact of being exposed to abuse and conflict; how culture and identity are passed on through generations.
In my research, I also drew on statements made by victims brought forward as witnesses at the War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague: horrific accounts of rape and abuse. It was important to me not to soften these accounts and dishonour the reality of the victims’ experiences, but I also became aware of the need to present the details in a way, which would not deter the reader from continuing on the journey of the story. Professional analysis of my draft provided the feedback that my graphic recounting of the horrors which occurred in the Balkan wars—information sourced from transcripts from the tribunal, refugee letters and stories recounted by refugees—would scare readers away and I needed to tone the facts down in order to tell the story.
Unlike Frey, I do not present my work as an example of pure memoir or non- fiction. It is Creative Nonfiction, a genre in which fact and fiction can be mixed to varying degrees. While I have tried to emulate Garner’s technique of providing clear demarcation lines between fact and fiction, I found it often detracted from the narrative and read as journalism, or sounded didactic. As a result, I attempted to weave facts into the characters’ dialogues. I found this technique was more subtle and did not interrupt the narrative flow, such as in the following example:
She looked at the plaque that had been erected in honour of the Duke and those killed during World War I. My God, she thought, it was my people who started the First World War. Guilt welled up inside her.
“Why did he kill them?”
“The same reason they are stirring up trouble now. The Black Hand is a nationalist group intent on recovering land the Serbians lost to Turkey during the Ottoman Empire invasion. When the Turks lost control of Bosnia and Herzegovina during their war with Russia, control of the area was handed to Austria. The Serbs weren’t happy; they felt the land should have been handed back to them.” (Alagic 297, 2008)
The authorial framework that I have established is a relationship with the truths portrayed in the text. I do not profess it to be everyone’s truth, as this can never be achieved due to different individual perceptions, but what I do propose is that my direct cultural link can provide a more truthful insight into the working minds of the characters within Not Like My Mother than perhaps a novelist. I understand the Balkan people; I have come to understand why my parents were abusive. My personal connection and living experiences within these truths provide a degree of authority. However, I am under no illusions that a reader will also perceive this information as being a universal truth. In the end, a writer can present their perception of the truth, but has no control over the reader’s interpretation of that truth.
Today I have another guest blogger, Phillipa Fioretti , author of The Book of Love and The Fragment of Dreams. Phillipa gives us her views on the various publishing options available to authors.
Over to you Phillipa!
Advice is rarely heeded, but as I emerge into the ‘emerging author’ category, people ask me what advice do I have for aspiring writers. Tough question if you take it seriously and pretend people will take any notice. My experiences during my fledgling writing career are particular to me, with a few universals one can pick up anywhere with a bit of research. However there is one nugget I would like to share, one I heard from the lips of a commissioning editor at a forum and one that has stuck with me.
As a writer, think carefully about whether you want to be published by a mainstream commercial publishing house or not. It’s really good advice. Get it clear in your mind before you even start and you’ll save yourself a lot of grief. I know some brilliant writers who are very realistic about the size of their readership and prefer to pursue the independent route, and I know others who spend every moment banging on the publisher’s door pleading to be let in. That door is never going to open for them because what they have written will not sell in today’s market – and this is before you get to issues of talent or quality. The history of milk bottles told in verse is never going to cut it.
Do your research. This is imperative. Find out what is on the shelves, find out what people are reading and why. Then take this knowledge and think about it. Is it the direction you want to take? Would your book easily stand with those already in the bookshops, is it better, does it take the genre and shift it slightly? Taking a professional, commercial approach does not mean leaving your soul or your imagination out. It means thinking about your readers, it means having a thorough understanding of the conventions of the genre you choose to write in – not being a slave to them, maybe even subtly undermining them – but knowing how the classics in your area have been crafted is vital.
If you just want to write what you want to write and expect readers will clamour to read it, you could be in for disappointment. You can’t blame the agents or publishers for this. Publishing is a business, not a charity, not a subsidised outlet for experimental writing and not a storehouse for oral history.
This is my advice. Go forth and ignore it.
Thanks Phillipa. For more information about Phillipa’s books you can check them out on her website at
“an adventurous debut from an Australian author with a knack for
turning the minutia of life into something delicious.” Cosmopolitan magazine
“A marvellous mix of mayhem, action, charm and love.’ Womans Day
I nearly choked on my breakfast this morning when I heard Radovan Karadzic’s claims that he was a misunderstood man and should be considered a ‘peacemaker’ in his opening defence at The Hague war crimes tribunal.
Karadzic is on trail for alleged war crimes in Bosnia in which 100,000 people were killed including a massacre in Srebrenica.
His comments are hypocritical and offensive to the Bosnian people. In researching my book Not Like My Mother it was evident to me that Karadzic played a major role in crimes against humanity, some of the worst seen since World War II. Let’s hope justice is served.
See the full story at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/17/radovan-karadzic-peace-efforts?newsfeed=true