science fiction and fantasy writer

The Next Big Thing

In Uncategorized on December 12, 2012 at 7:29 am

For those who haven’t yet come across it, there’s a “blog hop” (pyramid scheme?) doing the rounds at the moment where writers respond to a standard set of questions about their next book project and then ping a couple more writers to do the same. Simon Petrie pinged me.

In my case, “next” book project means “first” book project:

1) What is the working title of your next book?

My working title is Austrialia (note the extra “i”). I like it, some beta-readers have hated it (the title, not the book, he hastens to add for the benefit of all the agents and editors out there who are no doubt reading this post).

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was looking to write a historical fantasy and kicking around a few moments in Australia’s colonial story that I could use for a starting point . The Eureka Stockade miners’ rebellion during the Victorian gold rush caught my interest for a number of reasons.

Rafaello Carboni, who wrote the only first-hand account of the stockade, was a probably-crazy Italian revolutionary with this amazing hyperbolic turn of phrase. Peter Lalor, who led the miners’ rebellion (for democracy and against government corruption and oppression), as a parliamentarian later in life voted against suffrage for the gold miners. Charles Hotham, the governor of the day, was an out-an-out Royal Navy badass, but utterly inadequate to the role he’d been given. All great characters, plus there were all kinds of conspiracy theories about foreign interference and suchlike surrounding the rebellion.

In the real world, the Eureka Stockade ended in a one-sided battle and a massacre of the rebel miners by the British Army. My story plays around with what might’ve happened instead. Oh, and plus magic and spirits in the land that will catch you by your shadow and suck out your soul.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Historical fantasy. Or fantastical history, perhaps? Fantastical historical adventure?

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Ha! Yeah, no.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Seeking a new life, a veteran of Italy’s failed revolutions joins the gold-rush to Austrialia, where he discovers a colony at war with the land it occupies and finds himself entangled once more in rebellion and the Great Game of empires.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I won’t be self-publishing, so if it does find its way out into the would it’ll be through a publishing house and hopefully via an agent.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Six months for the first draft. Then I ran away to a silent meditation retreat to rest my poor battered brain.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

It probably fits into that part of the genre where you find things like Tim Powers’s The Anubis Gate, Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle and Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Sentences mentioning my book alongside those titles would no doubt begin with “McHugh’s novel, unlike…”

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I did, I guess.

I’ve written a series of short stories set in the same alternate Australia, in which the spirit of the land is active and hostile and its dreams prey on its human and animal inhabitants. The stories started with “Bitter Dreams”, the first thing I wrote at Clarion West in 2006, and which won grand prize in the Writers of the Future contest a couple of years later. The second story, “Once a month, on a Sunday” (published by Simon in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine) won an Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Short Story. Two more stories have been published in the series, “Red Dirt” in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and “Dancing the Labyrinth” in Tales of Moreauvia. A fifth story, “Vandiemensland”, is forthcoming in the new CSFG anthology, Next, due out in April 2013.

I have sketches for more short stories, but I also wanted to try it out on a larger stage.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Um, follow the links to the short stories and have a read?


Now, I also need to nominate a couple more people to pass this baton to, so here’s a couple of my Clarion West classmates who I very much admire:

Tina Connolly – author of the new dark fantasy Ironskin, a steampunk re-imagining of Jane Eyre (sequels forthcoming) from Tor books. Tina is the publisher/reader of the Parsec-winning flash fiction podcast Toasted Cake and a prolific short story writer. If you’ve visited Podcastle or Beneath Ceaseless Skies you may also have heard her reading there. If you’ve been to a festival in Portland, she may have painted your face. And she juggles all of this with being the mother of a young child. I think there’s secretly more than one of her, although she won’t admit it.

Gord Sellar – has also evidently cloned himself in order to pursue his interests as a storyteller-poet-essayistmusician-composerphotographerbeer brewer-professor-film maker. Also, he somehow has time to blog about these things. Gord was shortlisted for the John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer and is now sidling up to the notion of adding “novelist” to his hyphenated list – and presumably either decanting another clone or sobering up his beer brewing clone to do it. Oh, wait a minute… novelist… beer… maybe he’s actually been prepping for this for a while now.

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