Interview with Marianne de Pierres

Australian author Marianne de Pierres is the author of the acclaimed Parrish Plessis and award-winning Sentients of Orion science fiction series. The Parrish Plessis series has been translated into eight languages and adapted into a roleplaying game. She is also the author of dark fantasy, notably her Burn Bright novels. I talked with Marianne about her and her writing.


Paul Weimer: You mention in your bio that your then-boyfriend introduced you to reading SF [Rendezvous with Rama]. But when did you start putting pen to paper and writing SF yourself?

Marianne de Pierres: I had started writing fiction at the age of eight or nine – adventure stories really, I guess. And even though I was reading SF in my twenties, I wasn’t game to have a go at writing them myself until I’d read widely in the genre. Ten years later I penned my first ever short story, about the discovery of a brown dwarf. It’s the only short story I’ve written that’s never been published – probably because it was horrible. I enjoyed writing the descriptions of the planet so much though, that I was hooked from that moment. I went out and brought a subscription to Sky and Space magazine (an Aussie astronomy mag) and ideas started proliferating.

PW: You’d written a sheaf of short fiction before diving into your various novel series that you have going. What were the challenges and opportunities of tackling longer forms?

MP: Actually, I think I’m a natural novel writer. Short fiction is tough and very time consuming. It can take me (almost) as long to write a short piece as a novel, so ultimately I’m more comfortable in the long form. Often, I use short fiction as a way to explore ideas that I might later develop into a full blown novel. Except for the Glitter Rose collection. That is a series of interlinked stories that reads like a novella. They are like a time capsule of my time living on a sub-tropical island and are very dear to my heart.

The main challenge I find with novels, is not letting to many sub plots take over. Keeping your eye on the ball is so important for a satisfying read, and I can sabotage myself by letting too many plot twists confuse the end game.

PW: What is your writing style like? Are you more of a pantser or a plotter? Does this differ with the length of form?

MP: I definitely straggle down the “pantser” end, although I always have some kind of end point and character arc in mind. How I get there is a glorious mystery and the reason that I write stories.

I’m fascinated by the way the unconscious percolates and brews tales in a writer’s brain. It’s as if the ideas need to be strained through a thousand tiny sieves in order to produce the best version. Hmmmm…. something like that at least. As you can imagine though, synopses and outlines are tedious tasks for me. Why spoil a novel with a detailed plan! And, no, form doesn’t seem to change my process.

PW: So as a Pantser how do you deal with the “Squirrel” phenomenon; when writing, when something clicks that doesn’t immediately fit with the part you are writing now, but you know has to go into the book?

MP: I’m a very linear writer. I don’t tend to write scenes out of order. I can’t seem to get the narrative drive I need in the story if I write “out of order”. I sometimes wonder if that’s very boring of me, because a lot of my colleagues write in patchwork pieces. Maybe it is! In the end, I don’t expect it matters how you do it, if the story is decent. I suspect that any pieces that pop up out of sequence get stored in my brain, rather than on the page, until I need them.

PW: Your most recent work includes the young adult Burn Bright series, most recently Shine Light. So why don’t you tell us a bit about Retra, her brother Joel and the island of Ixion?

MP: The Burn Bright series is YA dark fantasy with a SF backbone. The window dressing is definitely gothic fantasy but the premise, once it is finally revealed, is very science fictional.

The story was born from an intersection of ideas and research. I had an interest in the notion of humans not requiring sleep ever since I read Nancy Kress’s Beggars in Spain. Add to that an attraction to Gothic architecture and some research on the habits of nocturnal animal and voila!

The story is quite complex and I really recommend anyone interested reads this analytical review by Dr Karen Brooks to get an overall picture of the themes and sub-texts. Here is a snippet from it: ‘All the books [in the series] have explored the various pressures of adolescence; how there are those who will stray from the “paths” – knowingly and unknowingly, willingly and unwillingly – and reap the consequences of their choices. But what the books also reveal is how those whom young people trust with their care can abuse that responsibility; exploit youthfulness for their own benefit and that realisation is the most disturbing of all – for everyone.’

PW: Ah, so it is a hybrid of sorts (This reminds me of Jo Anderton’s work). You did mention its a fantasy with a SF backbone. What appeals to you working in that space between genres? What are the challenges?

MP: I’ve mentored Jo Anderton and she certainly has a unique blend of SF going on – wonderful stuff! And yes, the space between genres is very appealing. My SFF collection Glitter Rose is the same kind of beast – SF at its heart with whimsical fantasy as a thick icing. As for the challenges …? I’m not sure really – I guess you risking losing readers who like their genre to be pure and uncontaminated. But honestly, I don’t think too much about that. I write things that stimulate me. What other way can you get yourself to sit down at the desk every day? :)

PW: Are there any spaces. or subgenres within the greater SF-fantasy “metropolitan area” that you haven’t tackled yet but would like to?

MP: I’m writing a SF/occult/western called Peacemaker which is probably not even vaguely commercially appealing to publishers, but I’m fascinated with it. So much so, that I commissioned an issue of a comic based on it as well. It seems to be a case of me becoming enamoured with an idea (e.g. writing a Western) and then finding a SF’nal way to express it. Even my contemporary crime series has a mild paranormal flavour. I can’t seem to help myself. I have a fantastic idea for a near future SF thriller series which I’m mulling around and don’t dare talk about for fear someone writes it before I get to it

PW: Well, then, our lips are sealed. Thank you so much for sitting down to answer my questions. Where can readers learn more about you and your work?

MP: Being a self-confessed social media addict, you can find me quite a few places. I’m going to bore you with the whole lot! And thanks, Paul. It’s been fun!

 

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