Every issue, IN presents INside Authors, a look at authors from around the world who have significantly caught our attention and deserve a little space and recognition.
The following two authors are this month's choices. Our hope is to provide a glimpse, a snapshot, an overview of some of the finest writers of our time making waves both tidal and ripple.
Background INfo:We moved to Spain when I was eight years old, and then on to Australia when I was 15. Exposure to such different cultures taught me that sometimes nobody is in the wrong, and I like to reflect this in the characters contained in my novels. It also taught me that people can be odd wherever you live. At university I had to write fiction or they wouldn't have given me a degree. It was only after I completed the course that I started to write for my own amusement — only to give it up again with the arrival of my first child. Funnily enough, it was a return to university three or four years later which really spurred me on. I'd been writing and designing complex computer software for years, but I had no qualifications. I took up a graduate diploma in computing, but the initial lectures covered very basic material so my drifting brain turned to a pair of characters I'd left on a cliff some years before.
INfluences:One of the biggest influences was my high school English teacher, Barbara Holland. I was newly arrived in Australia, had spent the last eight years in the Spanish school system, and this teacher had to get me through year 11 and 12 English. She did so well in two years I left school with an English grade in the top one percentile of the state, which got me into university for my Bachelor of Arts in creative writing and literature. The only other grade I got approaching that level was for French, and that teacher was excellent too.
Advice: Write short fiction and try to get that published before you hit the novels. You can write a large number of short stories over three or four years, and unlike novels you can have many of them out with suitable markets at the same time. Once you've had short fiction accepted by paid markets it's time to dust off the novel and set to work. The alternative is to spend several years writing and rewriting the same manuscript, never knowing whether you actually write well enough to get published. I also recommend books on the process of writing. Self-editing, character development, plot... sometimes you only get one pointer from an entire book but it's still worth more than the cover price.
Internet Presence: It's a point of contact and not much more. Websites are very useful if you're famous, and completely useless if you're unpublished and want to make a name for yourself. You make a name by getting published, not by having a professional website. Once people are actively seeking your name and your books online, an author's website becomes a useful area for material related to the books, or for news of upcoming releases, or even older material which is no longer in print
The Future: Right now I'm reworking my third novel for a November release date, and my novel hits the shops Australia-wide in just under two weeks. The big news is that a New York agent has expressed interest in selling the Hal Spacejock series to a U.S. publisher. When first approached via email I thought it might be a scam, but when I checked the client list and history of the firm it was obvious they were anything but. They represent some very big names, and I'd be more than happy to be amongst them (or even lying at their feet. I'm not proud.)
Robots R Us runner-up, Microsoft Communique magazine SF competition (1995)
Ooloowoo winner, Microsoft Communique magazine SF competition (1996)
Hal Spacejock, short-listed for the George Turner Prize, Random House (2000)
Pastimes, Antipodean SF (2000)
False Alarm, Antipodean SF (2000)
Infection, Antipodean SF (2000)
Sleight of Hand, Potato Monkey (Winner of the 2001 Aurealis Award for short story — horror, 2000)
Loss Leader, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #3 (2001)
Escape Clause, ASIM #4 (2001)
The Desolator, ASIM #6 (2002)
Hal Spacejock, Bowman Publishing (Early version, limited distribution, (2001)
Hal Spacejock: Second Course, Bowman (Early version, limited distribution, 2003)
Hal Spacejock: Just Desserts, Bowman (Early version, 2004)
Hal Spacejock: Fremantle Arts Centre Press (First HS novel, rewritten and extended, 2005)
Hal Spacejock: Second Course, Fremantle Arts Centre Press (Second HS novel, rewritten, 2006)
Hal Spacejock: Just Desserts, Fremantle Arts Centre Press (Third HS novel, rewritten and extended, 2006)
Four of my published stories and the first chapters of both my current novels can be read online at www.spacejock.com.au
Background INfo: I've been writing since I was very small; I dictated my first story to my father when I was one and a half or two. As a teenager I began to write plays, and after college I pursued — and caught, thanks to my trusty crossbow —a n MFA in playwriting. I wrote my first novel at 19, and two more before the acceptance of my debut, Sunstroke. My first attempt at writing crime, it's about a woman who goes in search of her missing boss, in the process uncovering some deeep daaark secrets.
INfluences: My parents have provided excellent examples of professionalism and the sort of work ethic it takes to write for a living. My favorite authors are Nabokov, Stephen King, Waugh, Jim Thompson, Ruth Rendell, Leonard, John Fowles, Vonnegut, Mamet, David Ives, Sam Shepard, Graham Greene, Beckett, Tom Wolfe, Richard Dawkins. In addition, I am an avid reader of the Bible and the Babylonian Talmud.
Advice: I don't suppose this is very original, but you must read. Constantly. Read things that interest you, of course, but also push yourself to read things that don't. You never know where you'll find a kinship, a mentor, an inspiration. Similarly, cultivate outside interests. There's nothing more boring than a writer who only thinks about writing. I find having a page quota very helpful. In college it was 2.5 pages a day. Now I'm up to 10. Sometimes I come back the next day to discover that they're all garbage-and into the trash they go. But it's critical never to lose momentum. Even if you don't use a page quota, you should set yourself clear goals (word quotas, deadlines, whatever), and stick to them. If you can't manage, ask yourself whether you're not more interested in the idea of writing than in writing itself. Also, outline. The major shortcoming of my early work was insufficient planning. Some writers claim to make it all up as they go along, but that takes a supremely powerful memory and an innate sense of structure that most people —even most professionals — do not have. In short, unless you believe you're already a modern master, take the time to think your book out, and then to write those thoughts down. And if you believe you're a modern master, I don't know why you're asking me.
Internet Presence: The Internet is communicatively frabjous (sic). My website http://www.jessekellerman.com allows me to hear from people in far-flung places, 95 percent of whom would have never taken the time to write a physical letter. It's a pleasure. Of course, the Web can also be a pain in the keister. Novelists are at the mercy of the Internet, because our method of expression is plodding by comparison. It takes me upward of a year to write a book; it takes a stranger 90 seconds to dismiss that book. And — qualified or not — he instantly gets an audience far larger than mine. But c'est la vie. We live in a country where every citizen is entitled to trumpet his foolishness in public. I'm not sure what the next step is for writers. I've been toying with the idea of using some of my old scripts as radio plays, and making them available for audio download. That's an easy way for a playwright to get his work up in public, cheaply. These days there isn't enough money to produce plays; I'm hoping that, this way, I can find an audience for material that otherwise would've sat on my computer, collecting digital dust.
The Future: Right now I'm working on a new novel, which I hope will be out in early 2007. It's also suspense, although it doesn't feature the protagonist from Sunstroke. It's more creepy and less whodunnit.
Things Beyond Our Control (Samuel French)
Very Very Small Things (Playscripts)
Til Death Do Us Part (Baker's Plays)
Diego X. Jesus is a Dominican-born American freelance journalist and associate editor of IN who makes Toronto his home approximately half the time. Otherwise, we don't know where he might be. Email Diego X Jesus
Mark London is a Toronto based freelance writer and associate editor of IN who has been with the FWO-Int'l from the early years volunteering much of his time in assisting young writers' careers. Email Mark London