Category Archives: Interviews

Quintette of Questions: Heloise West

Quintette asks writers five quick questions. This week’s interview is with:

Heloise West

COVER IDEAS 31.What’s the name of your latest book – and how hard was it to pick a title?

Ardent is the title of the book. Morello named the colour he invented for his feelings for Benedetto, ardent red. Originally, the title was Ardent Fire, but I had three titles with fire or burning in them, so I dropped Fire.

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

I have images in my head that don’t relate to actors—I don’t go looking unless someone, like you, asks. There are a few occasions when I’ve come across someone who reminds me of my characters without specifically looking. So I can’t really answer that.

3. What five words best describe your story?

Art, love, lust, murder, justice

4. Who is your favourite fictional couple or team?

I recently read all the books in Imogen Roberson’s Westerman and Crowther series, set in Georgian England. I do hope there’s more. They’re not a couple, but it seemed there were a few hints about that in the future in the last book—though I like them better as a team. I recommend this series highly if you like your historical mysteries with a lot of depth and complications.

5. What song always makes you cry? 

Put me in a room with John Dowland while I’m creating a sad scene (like the last scenes in Ardent), and I’ll be typing with tears in my eyes, but other than that, music won’t do it for me—I’m just not a good crier.

About Ardent

In the village of Torrenta, master painter Morello has created a colour that mimics the most expensive pigment of all, the crimson red. Master Zeno, from strife-ridden Medici Florence, tells him the colour gives him a competitive advantage – but Morello must be careful. Fraud is ever-present in the dye and pigment markets.


As they work together in Torrenta, Morello falls hard for Zeno’s assistant, Benedetto Tagliaferro, a young man of uncommon beauty and intelligence. Benedetto is still fixed on his old lover, the master painter Leo Guisculo, and cannot return Morello’s affections.


But when Leo dies in a terrible accident, it’s to Morello that Zeno and Benedetto turn for help. And Morello soon finds that in Florence, every surface hides layers of intrigue.

See more at Manifold Press.

About Heloise West

heloisewestinlisbonHeloise West, when not hunched over the keyboard plotting love and mayhem, dreams about moving to a villa in Tuscany. She loves history, mysteries, and romance of all flavors. She travels and gardens with her partner of thirteen years, and their home overflows with books, cats, art, and red wine.

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Quintette of Questions: Eleanor Musgrove

Quintette asks writers five quick questions. This week’s interview is with:

Eleanor Musgrove

COVER IDEAS 41.What’s the name of your latest book – and how hard was it to pick a title?

My new book is called Submerge, and it was a bit of a nightmare to name, actually – I was referring to it as ‘The Bowler Hat novel’ and even ‘Bowler Hats 1’ until the day before I sent it to my publisher! In the end, it wasn’t until I started thinking about a continuation of the story that I realised it would make sense to name it after the central club – and it relates to the themes of the story quite well, too!

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

As Jamie, I’d probably cast Jaz Deol, who gamers may know as the voice of Henry Green in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate – he matches up very nicely with how I picture him. For Gina, I’d be inclined to go for Natalie Dormer or someone like her – fun and effortlessly glamorous. As for Addie and Miles, I have yet to find the perfect cast! I think it’s important for people to imagine the characters in their own ways, though, and I’d love to hear who readers would cast as my leads.

3. What five words best describe your story?

Ooh, these questions always stump me. Hmm, let’s see…
Mystery. Friendship. Intrigue. Deception. Romance. How’s that?

4. Who is your favourite fictional couple or team?

Ooh. Well, I won’t lie – my first thought was of Aaron and Robert from Emmerdale! They are playing my heart like a rocking guitar solo right now. My usual answers, however, is that my favourite couple are Benedick and Beatrice from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. They’re bickering children half the time, but they’re very devoted to one another and they feel very real, even centuries after they were written.

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

Deviating from the four main characters for a moment, I have a secondary character readers will see a fair bit of who has a drag act. The show always starts with a combination of ‘Copacabana’ and ‘Whatever Lola Wants’ – the latter actually makes me think of both Luke and his alter-ego, for different reasons, so that’s the song that immediately comes to mind. It’s probably one of the most regularly-heard songs at the club, too!

The version I’m most familiar with – and therefore rather fond of – is Della Reese’s – from the Magnum advert! That said, Ella Fitzgerald does a cracking rendition, too.

About Submerge

Jamie Hill walks into his local LGBT+ nightclub, Submerge, intending to make friends and have a good time. When he meets comedian Addie Crewe and her girlfriend Gina Wilson, his night is already looking up – but it’s the man Gina introduces him to who really catches his eye. Miles Bradford seems to be everything Jamie could want in a man: smart, funny, kind. Jamie can’t take his eyes off him.

But though Submerge might sparkle on the surface, Jamie knows that the club, just like himself, hides darker secrets in its depths … and even Miles might not be as clean-cut as he appears.

About Eleanor Musgrove

eleanormusgrove-150x150Eleanor Musgrove was born in a seaside town on the South Coast of England, where she developed a love of writing when she was very young. Other ambitions – and homes – have come and gone, but she has always wanted to be an author. After lots of practice, both through writing fan fiction and through participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) most years, Submerge is her first novel. She’s pretty excited about it!

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Quintette of Questions: Sandra Lindsey

Quintette asks writers five quick questions. This week’s interview is with:

Sandra Lindsey

ULS-320x4801. What’s the name of your latest book – and how hard was it to pick a title?

It takes me ages to find titles for stories – this one was called “miner + airman” until about draft 4, when I decided I was close enough to the end that I really ought to get thinking about a proper title. Having just settled on “Make Do & Mend” being suitable for the era and themes of the book, Manifold Press announced a book by Adam Fitzroy called – yes, you guessed it, “Make Do & Mend”.

So I went back to the books I’d read as initial research for inspiration, and found mention of a poem that members of the Air Transport Auxiliary thought fitted their work. The first lines were quoted as being “Dicing with death / Under leaden skies” I haven’t yet been able to find a copy of the full poem, but decided that Under Leaden Skies fitted my story very well.

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

Oooh, tough question! I don’t tend to cast my characters, but I’ve had a lot of thought, and decided Gregory Peck as Teddy and Errol Flynn as Cheeks because I think it was watching old movies with those actors which got me interested in the era when I was younger.

Huw’s more difficult, and I think I’ll go with James Bolam – I don’t know if he’s very well known outside the UK but he’s done a lot of very good TV work in the UK (all of these actors I’m casting in their younger years, to suit the characters’ ages).

Since I’ve mentioned the men, it would be rude not to think about Syliva. She’s harder for me to cast. I’m going to say Grace Kelly, but really she could be played by any one of many classy actresses from the 1940s & 1950s.

The only person I have no trouble casting is Jem, one of the secondary characters. I took a day’s break between my penultimate edit and last read-through, and watched the whole of Lucifer season 1.  Jem needs to be played by Tom Ellis with his Lucifer voice.

3. What five words best describe your story?

Aircraft, lovers, loss, family, love.

4. Who is your favourite fictional couple?

Another tough question… I fall in love quite easily with any well-written couple, and there are several I’ll enthuse about at any one time. I like a bit of snark and realistic misunderstandings to happen in a fictional relationship, because that makes it more believable for me. Sarcasm is also good and, because I’m British, the ability to sort everything out over a cuppa or a pint.

My top choice changes at least weekly, and is highly influenced by which book I read most recently… right now, I’m going to say Tom & Phil from JL Merrow’s Plumber’s Mate series (Pressure Head, Relief Valve, Heat Trap, and the recently-released-I’m-going-to-read-it-tonight Blow Down)

 5. What song always makes you cry?

Danny Boy – even just the tune will have tears streaming down my face. I’ve loved it since I first heard it as it’s a beautiful piece of music, but now I’m an adult it just gets me, every time.

I found a couple of versions online which I liked – one was by the Dublin Male Voice Choir (I do love a good male voice choir), but the one I liked best starts at 3:06 in this video:

I was imagining it was Huw singing while I listened to it… yeah, right in the feels (as they probably don’t say any more as I am always hopelessly behind the times)

About Under Leaden Skies

Love. Loss. Betrayal. Forgiveness. Honour. Duty. Family.
In 1939, the arrival of war prompted ‘Teddy’ Maximilian Garston to confess his love to his childhood friend, Huw Roberts. Separated by duty – Teddy piloting Sunderland flying boats for RAF Coastal Command, and Huw deep underground in a South Wales coal mine – their relationship is frustrated by secrecy, distance, and the stress of war that tears into every aspect of their lives.

After endless months of dull patrols, a chance encounter over the Bay of Biscay will forever change the course of Teddy’s life. On returning to Britain, how will he face the consequences of choices made when far from home? Can he find a way to provide for everyone he loves, and build a family from the ashes of wartime grief?

About Sandra Lindsey

slwprofilepicSandra lives in the mountains of Mid-Wales with her husband. Their garden is full of fruit and veg plants as well as home to a small flock of rare breed chickens, and she is a servant to two cats.

Sandra loves indulging in stories because she gets to spend her time with imaginary friends, and the research and observation required to write fiction open her eyes to a myriad different ways of seeing the world. Find her on Twitter @SLindseyWales – or curled up out of the way reading a good book!

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Quintette of Questions: Camille Taylor

Quintette asks writers five quick questions. This week’s interview is with:

Camille Taylor

No Law1. What’s the name of your latest book – and how hard was it to pick a title?

No Law. I did have a play around with the title, though I can’t recall the names now. I wrote it many years ago. As it’s part of a series – each with Law in the title – you wouldn’t think it’d be so hard!

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

Glenn Quinn as Dmitry. I’ve loved him since the first season of Angel and Bryce Dallas Howard as Carey. She plays a great take-charge heroine.

3. What five words best describe your story?

Sweet. Sexy. Love. Action and Chemistry.

4. Who is your favourite fictional couple?

I’m going to go with an Austen couple (surprise surprise) Christopher Brandon and Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility. Though this is more to do with the 1995 movie than the book and the fact that I absolutely loved the way Alan Rickman portrayed Captain Brandon. *Sigh*

 5. What song always makes you cry?

Hmm, cry? Not sure if I’ve ever cried but the one song that does pull at my heart is Mad World by Michael Andrews from Donnie Darko. Something about that song gets to me.

About No Law

Carey Madigan thought she was finally putting her horrible past behind her, no longer looking behind her or jumping at shadows until her boss at the museum she works is murdered. She quickly becomes the prime suspect when the police discover that her husband, a major player in the antiquities world, had been murdered too, in Russia where she had lived years before.

She has nowhere to run when she finds herself being pursued by a faction of the Russian Mafia. She’s seen their faces and now must be silenced. Frightened, she turns to old friend, Elena Gates for help.

Dmitry Ivanov doesn’t believe Carey’s wild story at first but quickly changes his mind. Not only is he attracted to her, but his sister’s friend is beautiful and intrigues him. He offers his specialised computer services to help her uncover why her boss was murdered and to put a stop to the men responsible before it’s too late.

The stakes become high and lives are threatened. Together they uncover a trail that leads them to the discovery of the century and must fight to keep it – and themselves – safe.

About Camille Taylor

camilleCamille Taylor is an Australian author who resides in the Nation’s Capital. She loves to read, write and procrastinate on Pinterest looking at nail art, cake decorating and funnies.

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Quintette of Questions: Atlin Merrick

Quintette asks writers five quick questions. This week’s interview is with:

Atlin Merrick

night1. What’s the name of your latest book – and how hard was it to pick a title?

The Night They Met came out 30 December 2015 and, as it was inspired by and follows The Day They Met, the title was rather forehead-slappingly obvious. Seriously, I slapped my forehead.

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

Hmmmm…Watson would have to be Martin Freeman, no other actor. I would be content for Holmes to be Benedict Cumberbatch, Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, or Tom Hiddleston. Content she says. As if just barely managing to cope…

3. What five words best describe your story?

Reimagining two legendary characters’ meeting.


Friendship. Adventure. Belonging. And love.

4. Who is your favourite fictional couple?

My apologies for the predictability but whether seen as the best of friends or heartfelt lovers, the relationship of John Watson and Sherlock Holmes is justifiably legendary…and my favourite.

 5. What song always makes you cry?

I have no songs that make me cry but I’ll tell you a thing: I can’t read stories where John Watson or Sherlock Holmes truly suffer. It physically pains me. I love these fictional beings so much that their imaginary pain produces in me literal pain. I suppose if I were to put that feeling to music, it would be Sinéad O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2U.


About The Night They Met

Some things belong together, the one with the other, natural pairs.

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Holmes and Watson. Sherlock and John. Whether it’s in an empty house during the Blitz, a West London strip club in the 70s, or deep in the heart of a Hong Kong computer lab, the meeting of these two legendary men is inevitable.

Spanning one hundred and twenty-eight years, The Night They Met contains nineteen stories of that destiny. Of how a detective meets a doctor, of how they change each other in heart and mind.

Of how they fall in love.

About Atlin Merrick

sixsecretlovesAtlin Merrick’s next book will be The Six Secret Loves of Sherlock Holmes. Atlin, who also writes under the name Wendy C. Fries, is fascinated with London, writing, theatre, and lattes.

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Quintette of Questions: Jane Elliot

Quintette asks writers five quick questions. This week’s interview is with:

Jane Elliot

smoothie-200-200x3001. What’s the name of your latest story – and how hard was it to pick a title?

My latest book is called Smoothie, and it was actually my easiest title ever!  Usually I worry and fret about titles, but one of my favorite parts about Smoothie was the idea that something small — like going out for a frozen treat — could have life-changing consequences.  I wanted my title to reflect that idea.

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

Melissa McCarthy for Heather, no question.  Natalie’s a bit tougher — I can’t decide between Zoie Palmer of today or Linda Hamilton post-Terminator 1 and pre-Terminator 2.  Maybe a combination of the two?

3. What five words best describe your story?

Adventure, personal growth, comedy, romance

4. Who is your favourite fictional couple?

At the moment it’s Phryne Fisher and Jack Robinson from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.  I love the respect between them, despite their different backgrounds and social class, and I love the slow build of their romance as Jack adjusts to the idea that he’s in love with a “modern woman” of the 1920s.  (Fingers crossed that there will be a season 4 – I want to see how Phryne deals with the concept of *shudder* monogamy!)

 5. What song has had the most impact on your life?

I’ve never been particularly musically inclined, and didn’t own a single piece of music until I was nearly in high school.  Then I heard R.E.M.’s Losing My Religion and my entire understanding of music changed.  I’ve built a very eclectic music collection since then and listen to a wide variety of bands, but I still get a thrill every time I hear Losing My Religion.

About Smoothie

Nothing much ever happens to Heather, until the day she’s innocently minding her own business when a bomb goes off – and she’s swept up into the kind of adventure that only happens to people on TV!

Thankfully she’s about as prepared and resourceful as a girl can be, because all of a sudden she’s in the middle of a road movie along with an extraordinary woman named Natalie and the two of them find themselves running for their lives into and out of a mess of complicated situations in which nobody is ever quite what he or she might appear to be.

About Jane Elliot

avatarJane Elliot has been writing novels, short stories, and screenplays for over twenty years. She believes that fiction can help promote understanding and acceptance of alternative and marginalized societal groups and most of her writing is focused on relationships, be they platonic or romantic, between individuals from all walks of life.

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Quintette of Questions: AB Gayle

Quintette asks writers five quick questions. This week’s interview is with:

AB Gayle

TKJFF_Composite_1000x15951. What’s the name of your latest story – and how hard was it to pick a title?

Tyler Knoll:  Originally it was titled Just for Fun as that’s why it was written, but no one wanted to read it because they’d never heard of an author by that name.

A.B. Gayle: For good reason! You didn’t exist before then!

Tyler Knoll: See what I have to put up with?!?! And she uses nearly as many exclamation marks as I do! Well, anyway, this nice lady, Lily Velden, from Wayward Ink Publishing read it and decided it was funny and worth sharing with the world — or with Ms A.B. Gayle’s friends at least.

A.B. Gayle: You have to admit that’s at least more than your circle of friends. How many have you got now? Rupert isn’t talking to you. Robert is convinced you’re after his job, and Gareth…

Tyler Knoll: Shhh. Please don’t use the G word. It’s banned at our place.

A.B. Gayle: Exactly! You need me even if you don’t want to admit it.

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

Tyler Knoll: I think you can tell from the video that I’m perfect for the part. As for the plethora of G… (Oops, nearly used the G word myself)

A.B. Gayle: Guys you fuck?

Tyler Knoll: Please, that’s just tacky. I prefer to think of them as stepping stones on my path to discovering my one true love.

A.B. Gayle: Ooh, you used the “L” word!

Tyler Knoll: Hey, you’re the one who said no one would read it, if it didn’t have a happy monogamous ending!

A.B. Gayle: I said that was one of the reasons no one would like it. Big difference.

Tyler Knoll: Now, who’s being snarky? But to answer this nice lady’s question. There are three photos of one of the actors who would be perfect in the video trailer, and another is mentioned explicitly in the book, but you have to read the book and look at the trailer to work out who is who. Doing otherwise would be a massive SPOILER. Here, check out the Just for Fun trailer.

As for the guy I end up with? That I will leave to your imagination. He’s shy.

3. What five words best describe your story?

Tyler Knoll: Fun! Happy! Amusing! Witty! Entertaining!

A.B. Gayle: Humph. I would have used Unlikely porn. Preposterous plot. Far-fetched fantasy. Poorly written BDSM and corny romance

Tyler Knoll: Whose fault is that?

A.B. Gayle: Good point. Doesn’t mean I’m wrong

Tyler Knoll: Anyway you used thirteen words, or does a hyphenated word count as one?

A.B. Gayle: Sigh. Have I mentioned lately that you give me a headache?

Tyler Knoll: Ha, ha. To quote a character who shall remain nameless. I am what you take for a headache!

4. Who is your favourite fictional couple? 

A.B. Gayle: Ben and Nik from John Wiltshire’s “More Heat than the Sun” series

Tyler Knoll: (Silence)

A.B. Gayle: What? Is that a pout I see? Read the question, she said “favourite Fictional” character. I can’t use you two!

 5. What song always makes you cry?

A.B. Gayle: Take Me to Church by Hozier makes me cry, particularly if accompanied by the original video.

Once I realised what was going to happen, I had to stop watching. I prefer watching this one.

Tyler Knoll: For once we are in agreement! Thankfully, now in the United States we can get the gold ring, picket fence and two and a half dogs statistically speaking (otherwise known as the GRPFATAAHDSS!)

About Tyler Knoll’s Just For Fun 

Tyler Knoll was born one wild, stormy night in April 2013.

Of course, Tyler might tell you he was born twenty years earlier, but should we believe anything he says? That’s for you to decide.

In Tyler’s first adventure—like many a gay man before him—he was SNARED by gay porn, wallowing in tales of bigger, stronger, harder….

Then his fickle mind was seduced and SHREDDED by the prospect of BDSM and slavery.

When a Big Misunderstanding SLASHED at Tyler’s sanity, almost costing him his life, he turned to another genre for his salvation. But even this encounter proved potentially hazardous—not from freezing temperatures, but at the hands of irate fans.

Finally, tired and SCREWED by all his trials and tribulations, he discovers—like many storybook heroes before him—that sometimes Mr. Right is closer than we think.

About AB Gayle

2006-10-01 20.11.55-3Unlike many authors, A.B. Gayle hasn’t been writing stories all her life. Instead she’s been living life.

Her travels have taken her from the fjords of Norway to the southern tip of New Zealand. In between, she’s worked in so many different towns she’s lost count. A.B. has shoveled shit in cow yards, mustered sheep, been polite to customers, traded insults with politicians. Sometimes she needs to be forgiven as she get confused as to who needs what where. 

Now living in Sydney, Australia, A.B. finally has time to allow her real life experiences to morph with her fertile imagination in order to create fiction that she hopes her readers will enjoy. 

Best known for her Opposites Attract series, A.B. values feedback on her writing, both negative and positive.

Buy Tyler Knoll’s Just For Fun

Interview: Tansy Rayner Roberts

Large Greyscale TRRTansy Rayner Roberts is a fantasy novelist who shares a pair of typing fingers with crime novelist Livia Day. Livia’s first murder mystery, A Trifle Dead, will be released from Twelfth Planet Press on 28 March 2013.

Tansy’s recent releases include Power and Majesty, The Shattered City and Reign of Beasts, the three books of the Creature Court trilogy.  Her first novel, Splashdance Silver, was recently re-issued as an e-book.

With so much going on for Tansy and her alter ego, I thought it was high time I asked her a few searching questions. She repaid me with very thorough answers!

The Shattered City is a terrific book, telling a whole story yet still functioning as the middle book of a trilogy. You said to me you’d set a challenge to yourself to overcome the ‘Middle novel problem’. How do you define that problem, and how did you go about meeting it?

I think there are two sides to the middle novel problem – one is that narrative: the middle act in a three act structure is the one that has to hold everything together, and in the case of epic fantasy, that’s a really long time to keep everyone entertained while you move all the pieces into place for the big finale.  What you don’t want is your reader to think of the middle book as being the interval they had to sit through in order to reach the second half.

The second and perhaps more dramatic problem is one of reader perception – fantasy readers are pretty worn down and cynical these days, and the middle novel of a fantasy trilogy has acquired a poor reputation, I think unfairly.  If the middle novel is soggy or boring or has characters running around in circles for no good reason, then that’s the fault of the author and to some extent the trilogy – it doesn’t mean that middle books everywhere are unnecessary!

I rather like the middle book of a trilogy because it tends to be the one with the most character development, and more room to breathe because the readers know who everyone is now, and aren’t yet all tensed and psyched up for everyone to start being killed off. Which means, of course, that as an author, I can happily screw with their expectations.

In my own case, the secret was in fact to originally plan a four book series, agree to let it be a trilogy instead, and write two books worth of plot into the middle book. This meant paring down a lot of stuff, building up new characters, and sadly resisting the urge to kill off a beloved character as a cliffhanger to a volume. In retrospect, it meant that the middle volume had to be the tightest, and work the hardest, which is actually what I should have been striving for anyway.

After all that, though, Sarah Rees Brennan’s definition of the trilogy is one I now wave at people who suggest middle books are a waste of time. “Book 1 – Set up. Book 2 – Make Out. Book 3 – Defeat Evil.

shattered cityIf you’ll pardon the pun, the concept of Velody being a dressmaker is interwoven through the whole of the Creature Court stories. It’s not just her job, it’s fundamental to who she is and her approach to life, and that sense of creating new things permeates the politics and relationships we see. It is also, though, a catalyst for some pretty destructive plot elements. I suppose I’m asking if you’re a dressmaker and, either way, how that concept got woven into plotting the series.

I’m so not a dressmaker!

I love fabrics and textile arts, and I’ve always been fascinated by them. I’m a quilter and I love to play with the pretties. But my secret downfall is measuring. I sew like I cook (and like I write!) – madly, and without measure. Which means trying to make an actual garment that fits an actual specific shape is totally beyond me.

I have however spent my life surrounded by artists and creative people, and I am well aware that whatever your artistic obsession is, that’s how you see the world. So it was important to me that Velody’s Point of View voice would be wrapped up in her sewing terminology. I did need a friend to read the books over for clanger mistakes, though – and among other things, to make sure Velody could do what she actually needed to be capable of doing, I did shift the industrial level of the world just a tad, to let her have an early Singer sewing machine.

I knew Velody was a dressmaker before I knew what her name was, so it is an integral part of the story, but the most important thing to me was that she was a professional craftswoman, someone who was a practical producer of things, because of the conflict between that life and the insanely frivolous, beautifully dressed Creature Court. Sure, they save the world on a regular basis, but that’s their only contribution to society – in other ways, they’re quite parasitic.

Velody had to have a real job, because one of the essential questions of the book was – how can you save the world and hold down a real job at the same time? I wanted a woman as protagonist who had responsibilities, and valued what she did in the daylight, and had to weigh that up with what she could achieve during the battles of the nox. Not all superheroes are Batman – some have to pay the rent! And the contrast between Velody and Ashiol, who drops every responsibility he’s ever been given, never hurts for money, and constantly lets the people he loves down, because of that single justification that he’s busy saving the world.

Heroing is so often unpaid work in fantasy worlds, to the point where heroes who want to be paid are seen as unworthy of the role, and I wanted to write a fantasy which addressed how problematic that is from a privilege/class/gender point of view. Not that I’m preachy about it, I hope!

Frankly, one of the questions I want to ask is: “How do you manage to be so very, very awesome as a plotter?” but that’s a rubbish question. I still want to ask it, though. Do you do huge, 10,000 word story treatments, like PG Wodehouse used to do with his own convoluted plots? What is the secret of your success?

Thank you for the compliment! I work really hard on my plots, it’s not a magical talent that comes naturally to me. I tend to work fairly free form, with only a general idea where I am going, but a quite clear idea where I want to end up. Mostly I allow my plots to grow out of characters rather than the other way around, because I find characters more interesting.

I also try and stop and check in from time to time, to make sure I’m going in the right direction, and to run the story so far past other eyes to make sure I’m not majorly stuffing up.

I did call upon a spreadsheet or two for this one, but that was mostly to keep track of character history rather than plot threads – there’s a complex back story and the hierarchy of the Creature Court meant I had to know the history of servitude and alliance that each character had been through – the fact that Mars was Livilla’s courtesi once and is now her equal and ally is important to how they behave towards each other, as is the uncomfortable, complex relationship between Ashiol, Garnet and Poet (which you’ll see more of in the third book!).  There are a couple of characters not alive for the entirety of the trilogy who are vital to how my sweeties interact with each other now.

But as for plotting forward… I’m actually a terrible leaper rather than a looker. I know the feel of what I’m going for, and I grope wildly towards it. More than once, I get it wrong, and have to recover fast.

I will admit that when I was writing the third book, I was still building the finale, and in many cases I only knew about particular events days or hours before writing them. Other parts had been planned out from the beginning. But I am a big believer in the idea that if you know the past of your characters in great detail, then their future will unfold with integrity.

Do you have any preferences for a fantasy casting of the novels? I like Johnny Depp for Poet, myself.

I want to say he’s too old, but Johnny Depp, of course, is never too old. You’d definitely need someone with his great capacity for being weird, scary and innocent all at the same time. I have a fondness for the actor who played young Octavian in HBO’s Rome series – I think he could pull off the part, in a few years, which is at least as long as it would take to get something like this off the ground as a production. If not, grab him from a few years ago via. time travel and he can do the flashback scenes.

After seeing all those beautiful stills of the Great Gatsby, I would accept Carey Mulligan as Delphine in a heartbeat. Joel Edgerton or Dan Spielman as Macready. Now I’m just totally rifling through old Secret Life of Us casting…

Nicholas Hoult is too pretty for nearly everything he is in, so I’m sure we could find room for him somewhere.

When it comes to my central protagonists, though, Ashiol and Velody, I can’t cast them at all. I know how they look in my head, but couldn’t match them to anyone real.

TrifleDead-Cover2Your new crime novel, A Trifle Dead, comes out through Twelfth Planet Press later this month, under the pen name Livia Day. It’s set in Hobart and features a pastry chef named Tabitha Darling. Is this a kind of theme of yours? Elevating domestic skills to literary greatness? What is it about the domestic arts you find so appealing?

Partly it’s a fantasy for me – I will never cook as well as Tabitha nor sew as well as Velody. But I do value the domestic arts highly. The combination of practicality with aesthetic pleasure is fascinating – there’s a narrative there, and it’s something I find excellent to make stories out of. Tabitha doesn’t just cook – she uses food to soothe people, and butter them up, and tease them. She even withholds food on some occasions, which proves she is a little bit evil.

I wanted to show what a good detective she would make through her other life – and her other life is about social skills and food. You learn a lot from Tabitha about her work and her attention to detail – that’s there in how she dresses, as well, and organises parties, and is the social centre of her friendships.

But I also think that the domestic arts are not valued as highly as they should be in our society, particularly in our history. There’s that whole bullshit gender idea that something women do is lesser somehow, that it’s compromised, despite the fact that female artists often have less to work with from a resources point of view. As a social historian, I think it’s brilliant that women have often used domestic arts as a foil or a cover for other freedoms.

For instance the whole thing about patchwork being invented out of frugality and the saving of every scrap of fabric, is an insanely beautiful con job that the women of colonial America played on their men – sure, fabric was scarce, but it’s ridiculous to believe that the beautiful quilts they made were the most efficient use of their time. They used the cover of frugality and housewifely virtue to gather in female social groups, to share information and gossip, to entertain each other, and to make beautiful art that also had a significant social value as well as practical use.

And maybe that’s not true at all. Maybe that’s my immense Western 21st century ignorant privilege speaking, that I even think that. But the narrative seems so clear to me – a combination of pretty things and practical function can’t help but tell a story.

Also, my heroines are always more stylish than me. That’s definitely a theme.

This book is set in Hobart: what about Hobart makes it an appealing locale for the story?

Pretty much that I know Hobart inside and out, plus that’s where Tabitha lives, which makes it convenient. It was never a conscious choice.

Having said that, if I had been going out of my way to pick a location for a murder mystery that was going to be on trend in 2013, Hobart would have been a genius choice. Our media is exploding right now with the artistic and tourist boom in Tasmania, and it’s a very creatively exciting place right now.

We’ve been a forgotten corner of the country for a long time, off on our little island, but over the last few years, Tasmania has become a Destination with a capital D. When I first started writing about Tabitha and her world, I remember an earlier version of the manuscript being rejected by an industry professional who couldn’t comprehend my Tasmania at all – she had visited the place once I guess, and was so wrapped up in the narrative of us as a ghostly colonial throwback, all old fashioned sweet shops and “an almost biting sense of cold” that she could not accept a book which showed Hobart as being vibrant and bright and, you know, occasionally had a bit of sunshine.


So yes, it’s rather lovely that the Australian narrative about Tasmania has changed and continues to change, just in time for this book to be released. Because the idea that books can’t be set here without being full of sad people and grey skies makes me want to beat my head on a sandstone brick.

splashdanceYour first novel, Splashdance Silver, has just been reprinted. How do you feel you’ve developed as a writer since you won the George Turner Prize with that book? Do you have any advice for your younger self? Does your younger self have any advice for your current self?

Fifteen years, can you believe it? My first novel was published nearly fifteen years ago (the anniversary is in September this year).

I know that I’ve developed a lot as a writer since then because I have had the charming and alarming experience of proofing the books for e-release (Splashdance is available now at Wizards Tower, Weightless Books and via Kindle, the rest are to follow shortly). Aargh! I also learned that my publisher really had stopped caring about me by book 2 because oh my goodness, the errors that made it through to the printed version, they make my head hurt…

My advice to my younger self would simply be not to get ahead of yourself. Selling those books was a brilliant moment of my writing career, but it was not the gateway to a consistent or easy career and there were a few painful bumps and jolts along the way. Then again, if I’d told my younger self that it would be another decade before she had another year of Real Full Time Income from writing, then it probably wouldn’t have good consequences for either of us!

I would like to tell her to get more manuscripts under her belt before having children because OMG what did you do with your time before then?

I’m not sure if that younger self has much useful to offer me in return (though I would totally take any free babysitting she’s offering) but I’m glad her books are back in print. Every now and then I get an email, or meet someone who genuinely loved those books and it’s so nice to hear because I have a tendency to put down my early work, and I shouldn’t. You have to own your history, all of it, and those books were a really important stepping stone for me.

Coming back to them, I still love the characters and the world, even if I would write them differently now. It’s quite fun to think back to where I was when I wrote them, and what I was bouncing off. It’s not until the third book (written more recently) that it really felt like they were MINE, though, rather than that faraway twenty-year-old

What’s coming up next for Tansy and/or Livia?

Livia has to finish the second Cafe La Femme book and get it to the publishers by May, which is exciting. I do love me a deadline. Tansy, meanwhile, is writing a lot of shorter pieces right now, while gearing up for the Next Big Fantasy Series. I have stories due to appear in anthologies such as One Small Step (Fablecroft), Where Thy Dark Eye Glances: Queering Edgar Allan Poe (Lethe Press) and Glitter and Mayhem. I’m also working on a bunch of non fiction commissions and will be announcing a new online creative writing course later in the year.

Plus, WORLD FANTASY OMG! I’m going to Brighton in October, and ridiculously excited about it.


Check out Tansy’s blog at, and follow her on Twitter as @tansyrr. You can hear her talking about the publishing industry on the Galactic Suburbia podcast, and about Doctor Who on the Verity! podcast.

  • Get A Trifle Dead by Livia Day, available from 28 March, from Twelfth Planet Press
  • Get Splashdance Silver by Tansy Rayner Roberts for Kindle or  Weightless Books
  • Get Power and Majesty, The Shattered City and Reign of Beasts and other books by Tansy Rayner Roberts on

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at

Interview: Rowena Cory Daniells

Rowena Cory Daniells’ latest book, The Price of Fame, has just been released through Clan Destine Press. Set in St Kilda in both the 1980s and the present day, it’s a paranormal crime thriller, engaging both music and painting in the unravelling of the murder mystery.

The storytelling is vivid, the characters strong and the distinctive sense of place combines with a slow-building creepiness to make The Price of Fame a compelling read. And it contains so many of my favourite things: Melbourne, mystery and rock and roll!

To celebrate the release of the book, I asked RC Daniells a few questions about the book, music and art.

Q: The Price of Fame is set in St Kilda: what relationship do you have with that town?

When I moved to Melbourne at the age of eighteen, I ended up living in St Kilda and stayed there (in several different flats) for the next twelve years. I loved Acland Street with its continental cake shops. I used to wander along the Esplanade to look at the craft markets and I used to go for early morning jogs through the Blessington Street Gardens.

Q: The Price of Fame combines crime, the paranormal and rock music. What do you think makes those three concepts go together?

Perhaps I’m weird but to me this seems perfectly normal. We lived in a grand old mansion that had been turned into flats. Below us were the members of a punk rock band who would practise all hours of the night and have noisy fights. One of our friends was a taxi driver who used to pick up street kids and try to help them. I was reading a lot of SF, fantasy and horror. It seemed only natural to combine all these elements. I wrote the early narrative thread of the novel when I was twenty-three, then added the contemporary thread more recently.

I should say here that the people in this book are invention. Like Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, they are an amalgamation of lots of people, fused together to drive a narrative.

Rowena and Lindy Cameron

Rowena (right) and Clan Destine publisher Lindy Cameron

Q: What music influenced the book?

Suffering through nights of trying to sleep while the band rehearsed. Someone told me they were The Boys Next Door (later known as The Birthday Party). I don’t know if they were, but I do know they were doing the whole Punk Rock thing. There was a vibrant music scene happening in Melbourne at the time. My husband Daryl was going to hotels like The Prince of Wales where bands like The Models, The Ears, Midnight Oil and Men at Work were playing.  He says if you want to get a feel for what it was like, watch the movie Dogs in Space, directed by Richard Lowenstein, staring Michael Hutchence.

Q: Does music influence your writing generally?

I’ve done some surveys with writers on this topic and I’ve found about 75% of writers are music oriented. They’ll play certain songs to get them in the mood for certain books, even make up a play list to listen to. Music is powerful. It goes straight to the hind-brain and draws on our emotions so it’s not surprising authors use it to help them find the ‘zone’ when they’re writing.

The proportion of writers who are visually based is much smaller. I’m one of the visuals. I can go to the art gallery and come out feeling like I’ve reached a zen state. I dream vividly in full colour (sometimes with a sound track, sometimes with people singing in rhyme. The night zombies did a 1940s song and dance routine down the street was pretty amazing). But I’m not a writer who will make up a play list for my books.

Q: Do you have favourite music to listen to while you write, or do you prefer to write in silence?

Looks like I’ve answered this one. When I was illustrating, (I used to illustrate children’s books and I painted super-realist), I would play classical music. But when I write I don’t seek out music. If something is playing in the background with lyrics, I find the words get in the way of what I’m writing.

Q: What artists do you find most interesting/stimulating or are just your favourite? 

Ahh, artists. You can hear me drawing a big breath. There are so many, I’m sure to forget a few.

There’s George de la Tour (1592, 1652), who did amazing things with light. He brings the intimacy of a life lived by candle light to us five hundred years later.

There’s Joseph Leyendecker, who was a homosexual immigrant to the US, yet he shaped the way US citizens thought of themselves and created the ‘look’ for a generation. You’ll recognise his work from the many Post covers and advertisements he did.

There’s the Pre-Raphaelites who reacted against the establishment until they became establishment. Their woman are beautiful, romantic and haunted. (I’ve blogged about them here).

There’s Maxfield Parrish with his saturated colours and idyllic settings.

I’ve blogged about Art Nouveau and Art Deco in the past because both these styles inspire me.

Sigh. Just writing about them makes me happy.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, iPhone apps, public speaking and other activities at

Interview: Les Petersen – Cover Artist

I was lucky enough to win a competition recently. The prize: a cover for an ebook created by artist and writer, Les Petersen. I’m in the process of compiling a special edition of my Witch Honour and Witch Faith novels, complete with extra material. To your right you’ll see the magnificent cover Les created for the book.

I’m delighted with the result, and particularly with the different elements of the two novels he’s managed to weave into the cover without clutter. The picture has a lovely balance and he’s captured those two characters very well.

Les had created cover art for a lot of Australian writers, including Ian Irvine, Karen Miller, Trudy Canavan, Isobelle Carmody, Tony Shillitoe and Jennifer Fallon, so I feel especially chuffed to have my own Les Petersen cover!

Cover art is a specialist skill, of course. We’ve all been won over by lovely covers, or been disappointed by covers we didn’t think captured the essence of a favourite novel. I decided to ask Les about the process of creating good covers, and some other things about his own work.

Les has a special offer for people who need cover art either for their ebooks or their published-on-paper books. More about that at the end, though.

Les's cover of The Stone Key by Isobelle Carmody from her Obernewtyn series. (Design by Cathy Larsen of the Penguin Group)

You captured the essence of my two Witch books very impressively for the cover of The Witches of Tyne. How do you go about absorbing and synthesising someone’s novel to achieve that?

It’s a kind of magic. 😀 I suppose synthesising someone’s novel is like capturing the images that form in your mind when you read books. You hear the writer’s voice and it creates a texture of a story: best described as the internal movie that plays in your daydreaming mind. Then it becomes a purely mechanical action of putting together an image that gets as close to that movie as you can.

All illustrators have a personal visual repertoire and style/language they use, an arrangement of symbols and parts of symbols that go up to make the whole image, which they feel more than see in the beginning. So, it’s taking that personal repertoire, challenging your skill in using it, using a few references to help make sense of the vague ideas you have, and making the image work as best it can to fit the story.

Or, if you prefer a simpler explanation – “it’s magic!”

A lot of your cover art seems to be for fantasy or SF books. Do you prefer to create art for those genres? What other genres do you work in? Is there a genre you’d like to do art for – crime, westerns or romance for example, that you haven’t done yet?

I’ve been lucky to work in the fantasy genre, with a smattering of sci-fi as well – and they tend to be the kinds of commissions that come my way.

I’d work in any genre, except maybe overtly romantic images with bare-chested men and frocked women. That doesn’t challenge the image creation enough when you are restricted to a very narrow visual language. Horror also doesn’t interest me that much though I have done a few. My preferred direction would be to do more relaxed, “childish” images, like the cover I did for Ford Street. James Roy’s The Gimlet Eye.

You’re a writer as well as an artist. Has that influenced your approach to designing covers?

What an interesting question! At first I was willing to say the act of writing hasn’t really influenced the style of image I create, but on reflection, as we all know, both writing and image making are ways of telling stories. All images have narratives, or should, IMHO, so I suppose the construction of an image includes beats or suggestions of the story you are illustrating.

You should be able to look into the image and see details that suggest plot points. Insufficient image details make it all feel slick, I suppose – and maybe that’s the difference between design and illustration. Both look interesting, but one tells you more. Or maybe I’m getting to wrapped up in answering the question…let’s move on.

What do you think is the essence of a good cover?

Ok, I’ve spoken about the narrative of a cover, and that’s important. Also, there are the craft-based requirements: composition, colour harmony, style etc. And all publishing houses have their own ‘livery’ (for want of a word), but the difference between a good cover and a bad cover probably is ‘intrigue’. The art of being able to draw a reader into picking up the book off the shelf. If the marketing team have done their job well, the customer will buy the book. How do you create intrigue in a design. Ummmm. My, doesn’t the sky look wonderful today!

I know you are interested in animation. Who would be your favourite animation houses?

Les's Firebug, from his portfolio work.

It’s hard to go past the work coming out of Pixar, which have great story lines and wonderful character designs, but the ones that I am continually drawn to are Studio Ghibli’s collection – magical to look at and wonderful stories.

Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing is also superb (I’ve watched that over and over again) and as he’s a gob-smacking amazing illustrator, I’d almost say he’s the top.

However, if I was to choose just one animator to wave the flag for, it would be Jonathan Nix and his inspiringly beautiful work, with evocatively whimsical music. I recommend his The Missing Key.

For the tech-heads – what are your favoured tools for creating cover art?

Photoshop. Smith Micro’s Poser for figure marquettes, Vue. And a Wacom Tablet to draw with. BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY pencil and paper. Without using those, for me the rest is distracting and I end up with rubbish.

Les's cover for the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild's anthology, Outcast. (2006)


Les has very kindly offered a special rate to readers of my blog who need cover art for their e-book or print book.

Until the end of June 2012, you can commission Les for an e-book cover for $300. If you want the full works with e-book, high res and small images suitable for print as well as digital, he’s offering the special price of $1200.

If you are interested in taking Les up on this generous offer (the prices are significantly less than his usual charges) email me on with the subject line Les Petersen and I’ll get you two beautiful kids together.

See more of Les’s work at his website.