About the Series:
“Fun with Friends” is an SF Signal interview series in which I feature fellow SFF authors from Australia and New Zealand. The format is one interview per month, with no more than five questions per interview, focusing on “who the author is” and “what she/he does” in writing terms.

Introducing Mariane de Pierres:

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 Role Playing Game. She is also the Davitt award-winning author of the humorous Tara Sharp crime series, written under the pseudonym Marianne Delacourt, and the Night Creatures teen dark fantasy trilogy. In 2013 her Sentients of Orion SF series has become available to North American readers for the first time.

Marianne is an active supporter of genre fiction and has mentored many writers. She lives in Brisbane, Australia, with her husband, three sons and three galahs. To find out more about Marianne’s writing, visit her websites at www.mariannedepierres.com, and www.burnbright.com.au and www.tarasharp.com. You can also follow Marianne on Twitter: @mdepierres

Interview With Marianne de Pierres

Helen: Marianne, with three SFF series to your name—the “Parrish Plessis” (near future dystopia) books, the “Sentients of Orion” (space opera) series, and “Burn Bright” (dystopian YA)—you obviously love science fiction. When did that love begin and how did it develop?

Marianne:  Hi Helen! I’d never read science fiction until I was in my twenties, though I had grown up with Doctor Who. Once I discovered Arthur C. Clarke though, there was no going back. I read SF steadily for several years. Then in my thirties I spent time reading endless fantasy sagas. When I’d gorged myself there, I returned to space opera. While I read a lot more crime these days, there are certain SF authors I must always have. Ian MacDonald heads that list.

Helen: To what extent do you feel your writing displays a distinctive Australian character?

Marianne:  Most of my work features some aspect of Australia, whether it be in the landscape or the characters. I guess you could say it’s part of who I am. But more than that, it’s who I choose to be. The Sentients of Orion series features a guy called Jo-Jo Rasterovich. Jo-Jo is the ultimate Aussie larrikin (by my definition, at least) – good humored, ebullient, irreverent but intrinsically selfish. The Parrish Plessis series is heavily imbued with Australian fauna (albeit mutated!) and set on the east coast of Oz. (Helen: “Oz” is Australia for those who may not know.).The Glitter Rose collection is set on an island off the Australian coast and the Delacourt series is straight up Aussie in tone, humour and location. Perhaps the Night Creatures (teen) series is the only thing I’ve written in which I can’t specifically point to an Australian influence (and ironically it’s my most successful series!)

Helen: All your series feature female characters as the lead protagonist—was that a conscious decision or just the way the stories evolved?

Marianne:  Yes, it was a conscious decision, although I also made a decision to write the Sentients of Orion from multiple points of view (several of them being male characters). Naturally, female characters feel more comfortable to me but sometimes the story needs a male voice. I try and listen to what the story tells me to do.

Helen: In a recent SF Signal Mind Meld on “Holding Out for a Hero”, I recall you stated a strong preference for the anti-hero. How do the protagonists in your novels reflect that preference?

Marianne: The heroic aspect of my characters is generally that they are imbued with an intrinsic kindness or generosity of spirit. The anti-hero side is that they are always extremely flawed and make lots of bad decisions. Complexity of character means internal conflicts, doubts, mistakes and missed opportunities – stereotypical heroes don’t harbour those kinds of problems.

Parrish Plessis, for example, is really all about saving herself from a bad situation. She has a tendency to be dangerously impulsive and her believers are kind of swept along in her wake, for better or for worse.

Mira Fedor (Sentients of Orion) is quite a passive, under-confident personality in the beginning. Her life is all about doing what she needs to do to survive.

Helen: The Sentients of Orion series, newly released in the US as e-books, is Space Opera SF. So why that genre—why does it “speak” to you as an author?

Marianne:  The Sentients of Orion series was written at a time when I was almost exclusively reading space opera. I was obsessed with the new wave of SO writers (Banks, Hamilton, Reynolds etc) and their ability to combine strong characterisation with mind-bending ideas. Finally, I had found what I was looking for in literature – stories told from a future perspective through eyes of regular (and sometimes not so) people. That insatiable desire I had to ponder what might be, began to be fed. What I still felt wasn’t being satisfied in me as a reader though, was the depth of experiences of the females in those stories. I wanted to write a series where a female character drove the narrative and got to experience the things women do, along the way e.g. childbirth.

Subsequently, when I read this review of the series (from Australian Speculative Fiction In Focus), I felt that I had achieved that goal (for this one reader at least) and that made the five years it took to write it, totally worthwhile:

“[The Sentients of Orion is] set across an entire galaxy populated by ‘humanesques’ and other, more alien beings; the action veers from intense family drama to planet-wrecking destruction. It considers genetic engineering, religion, politics, personal responsibility and the different forms love can take. It’s both character and plot-driven, and the conclusion totally astounded me. This is a series that has changed my way of thinking about space opera, and the characters that populate it.”

Helen: That is quite an accolade, Marianne, and as a lover of space opera myself, I am glad there’s a definitive “Southern Hemisphere” version out there—not that I am a great believer in stories carrying passports, but diversity is always a plus. And thank you so much for doing the interview, it’s been great to hear more about your work.

About the Interviewer:

Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, interviewer, and a 2012 Ursula Bethell Writer-in-Residence at the University of Canterbury. The Gathering of the Lost, the second novel in her The Wall of Night series, was published in April, and sin June she won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012 for the first-in-series, The Heir of Night. Helen posts every day on her Helen Lowe on Anything, Really blog, on the first of every month on the Supernatural Underground. and occasionally here on SF Signal. You can also follow her on Twitter: @helenl0we

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