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.