Author Archive

Fun with Friends: Helen Lowe Talks with Gillian Polack


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. This month’s guest is Gillian Polack.

Gillian Polack is based in Canberra, Australia. She is mainly a writer, editor and educator. Her most recent print publications are a novel (Ms Cellophane, Momentum, 2012), an anthology (Masques, CSfG Publishing, 2009, co-edited with Scott Hopkins), some short stories and a slew of articles. Her newest anthology is Baggage, published by Eneit Press (2010) and about to be reprinted. One of her short stories won a Victorian Ministry of the Arts award a long time ago, and three have (more recently) been listed as recommended reading in international lists of world’s best fantasy and science fiction short stories such as the Datlow/Link/Grant Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror series. She received a Macquarie Bank Fellowship and a Blue Mountains Fellowship to work on novels at Varuna, an Australian writers’ residence in the Blue Mountains. Gillian has a doctorate in Medieval history from the University of Sydney and one in English (pending) from the University of Western Australia. Contact Gillian on Twitter @GillianPolack, on Facebook at Gillian Polack and on Live Journal at gillpolack. Her webpage needs updating (but not as much as her Wikipedia page) and is untrustworthy, but is at GillianPolack.com.
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Fun with Friends: Helen Lowe Talks with Ian Irvine


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. This month’s guest is Ian Irvine.

Ian Irvine, a marine scientist who has developed some of Australia’s national guidelines for protection of the marine environment, has also written 29 novels. These include the bestselling Three Worlds fantasy sequence (The View from the Mirror, The Well of Echoes and Song of the Tears), a trilogy of eco-thrillers, and 12 books for younger readers. Ian’s latest fantasy novel is Rebellion, Book 2 of The Tainted Realm trilogy. He is currently editing Book 3, Justice. Ian’s website is ian-irvine.com.


Helen: Ian, you are a scientist currently writing epic fantasy. Do you find the science informs the epic, for example with world building, or are the two parallel but separate realms?
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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 Karen Healey:

Karen Healey is the award-winning author of young adult urban fantasies Guardian of the Dead and The Shattering, and the forthcoming cryonic Sleeping Beauty tale, When We Wake. She technically lives in New Zealand, but actually lives on the Internet. You can find her there at www.karenhealey.com


Interview With Karen Healey

Helen: In the time I’ve known you, you’ve lived in Australia and New Zealand—as well as on the internet—but your new novel When We Wake is set in Australia, whereas Guardian of the Dead and The Shattering have New Zealand locales. Was there something about an Australian setting you felt particularly suited this story?

Karen: For the purposes of my story, I needed the setting of a future world superpower. Now, I think New Zealand certainly ought to be a world superpower, because it is the best country in the world, bar none. But alas, I don’t think it’s going to reach the status that it deserves in a mere hundred years.

Australia it was! The setting, of course, influenced the concerns of the story in its turn as I considered the likely landscape and resources of Australia in the future, and what kind of historical events would lead to an Australian superpower (like the collapse of the USA during a series of secessionist Fundamentalist Wars. Sorry, American readers!)

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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.

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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 Stephen Minchin:

Stephen Minchin is the publisher at Steam Press, a small press specializing in speculative fiction that has been operating since 2011. Stephen’s background is in the sciences, but after working for a horticultural consultancy company for seven years he realized that he would far rather retrain and get into publishing. He now works for a number of independent publishers in Wellington, New Zealand, where he focuses on digital production and drinking vast quantities of coffee. Steam Press released three books in 2012: The Prince of Soul and The Lighthouse by Fredrik Brouneus (which has now sold into Germany and the Czech Republic); Mansfield with Monsters by Katherine Mansfield with Matt and Debbie Cowens (which was one of the New Zealand Listener’s top 100 books of 2012); and Tropic of Skorpeo by Michael Morrissey (which is so bonkers that no one seems to know quite what to make of it.)

Photo by Jane Harris.

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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.

This month for my “Fun with (Australian & New Zealand) Friends” series, I’m talking with New Zealand author, Elizabeth Knox, best known for The Vintner’s Luck (1998), The Dreamhunter DuetDreamhunter (2005) and Dreamquake (2007). Elizabeth Knox has been a full time writer since 1997 and has published ten novels, three autobiographical novellas and a collection of essays. Her best known books are The Vintner’s Luck (1998), and The Dreamhunter DuetDreamhunter (2005) and Dreamquake (2007). The Vintner’s Luck has won numerous awards, been published in seven languages and made into a film of the same name, directed by Niki Caro. Dreamquake, the second in her Dreamhunter Duet, was a prestigious Michael L Printz Award Honor book in 2008. Creating worlds began early for Elizabeth in the imaginary games she played with her two sisters. By the time she was eleven the games had become one game, an on-going saga set in another world, a game she shared with her sisters and several friends. One day, her father interrupted a discussion the girls were having about the possible results of a secret treaty, by saying, “I hope you’re writing some of this down.” Elizabeth, her sisters and a friend began writing letters between their characters, and stories about them. Elizabeth enjoyed writing and decided that this – writing fiction – was what she wanted to do with her life. She went on to graduate from New Zealand’s Victoria University with a degree in English Literature and has become one of New Zealand’s most successful fiction authors. Elizabeth lives in Wellington, New Zealand with her husband, Fergus Barrowman, her son, Jack, and three cats. You can find out more about Elizabeth Knox and her writing on her website, here.

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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.

This month’s guest is Adam Christopher, a New Zealand author now based in the UK,whose first novel, Empire State (Angry Robot, 2011), received a very positive reception. His second novel, Seven Wonders (Angry Robot, 2012), is new out.

Allow me to introduce Adam Christopher:
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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.

This month’s guest is Jane Higgins, a New Zealand YA author whose first novel, the future dystopia The Bridge was published in 2011 to critical and popular acclaim.

Allow me to introduce Jane Higgins:

Jane was born, raised, and still resides in Christchurch, New Zealand, where she works as a social science academic, primarily researching on how young people craft identities and create pathways from school to their post-school lives. Growing up in Canterbury, the big skies inspired her love of astronomy and space travel, and she was drawn to the strange worlds of myth, science fiction and fantasy, especially stories by Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, J.R.R. Tolkien and Ursula Le Guin.  A few years ago she decided to try writing fiction and wrote a futuristic war story in which the central characters are young people crossing borders and working out where they belong. This initial story, which became The Bridge went on to win the 2010 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing and was both a New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards’ Honor Book, and also “Children’s Choice” book in the YA category, in 2012.  Jane still works as a researcher with young people, still reads, still writes (and still watches Dr. Who.)  She is currently working on a sequel to The Bridge.

To find about more about Jane, see her website, here.


An Interview With Jane Higgins

Helen: The Bridge is future dystopian SF, currently a very popular genre for YA readers, although I suspect that’s not why you wrote it. So why, then: why future dystopia and why YA?

Jane: Why YA? They say you write the books you love to read. I’ve always loved reading, but I think the time in my life when reading was most magical, and when I was most able to get completely lost in a book, was when I was a teenager. I can still remember vividly how I felt reading some of my favourite books back then. I can remember where I was when I read the first page of Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea (in my school library) and when I read the last page of The Lord of the Rings (by gaslight in my parents’ cabin in the mountains of Canterbury). So when I decided to try writing fiction, I gravitated towards the type of story that I loved most when I was growing up.

Why future dystopia? I wanted to write about some young people caught up in a war, as so many are around the world at present. But I didn’t want to import into the story all the current context of a particular war. So I made one up. To do that I took some current trends and pushed them a couple of hundred years into the future. I didn’t sit down and think: “ok, I’m going to write a dystopia,” but it’s not too surprising that when you project trends like global conflict and climate change into the future, things do look fairly grim. But it’s not all grim! I hope that readers find that the book is also about the way friendship and simple human decency make it possible to navigate those challenges.

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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.

Today’s guest, Tim Jones, is well established in New Zealand as an author, poet, editor and blogger, but perhaps not so well known beyond its borders – although as his bio and the interview may hint, I suspect that is starting to change amongst the discerning. Either way though, I am pretty sure that followers of speculative fiction will find plenty about Tim and his work that is of interest.

Allow me to introduce Tim Jones:

Tim Jones is a poet and author of both science fiction and literary fiction who was awarded the New Zealand Society of Authors Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature in 2010. He lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Among his recent books are fantasy novel Anarya’s Secret (RedBrick, 2007), short story collection Transported (Vintage, 2008), and poetry anthology Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand (Interactive Press, 2009), co-edited with Mark Pirie. Voyagers won the “Best Collected Work” category in the 2010 Sir Julius Vogel Awards, and has been selected for the “Books On New Zealand” exhibition at the 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair. Tim’s most recent book is his third poetry collection, Men Briefly Explained, published by Interactive Press (IP) in late 2011. He is currently working on his third short story collection. His story The New Neighbours appears in The Apex Book of World SF 2, edited by Lavie Tidhar (2012).

For more, see Tim’s Amazon author page (which contains links to Tim’s individual books) and his blog, Book In The Trees.


Helen: Tim, you immigrated to New Zealand at an early age from the UK. How do you consider that experience has influenced your perceptions and approach as a New Zealand author?

Tim: I think it’s had a big effect on my writing – after all, my first collection was titled Boat People and a number of the poems in it dealt with how emigrating affected my mother, my father and me, while my second short story collection, Transported, is all about journeys of one sort or another. Looking back, I am amazed by how many of my short stories feature journeys by or over water! (I was clearly never cut out to write vampire fiction.)

But on a wider level, the experience of being an alien is an excellent grounding for writing about the alien. As a child in rural Southland[1], whose ears stood out as much as his pronounced Northern English accent, my failed efforts to fit in at school in my new country certainly provided plenty of fodder for alienation. There are a lot of outsiders in my early stories: now, I’m more likely to write about people who might appear to the outside world to be insiders, but are still all too well aware of their difference from those around them.

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About the Series:

Last month I kicked off a new series for SF Signal, interviewing and in some cases introducing 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. Although with well-known SFF friends such as today’s guest, Juliet Marillier, the focus may tilt slightly more toward what the author is currently doing.

Juliet seemed like a great person to have as my guest, not just because she is well known outside Australia-New Zealand, but because she is both a New Zealander and an Australian – but onward to the interview to find out just how that works!

Allow me to introduce Juliet Marillier:

Juliet Marillier’s historical fantasy novels for adults and young adults, including the popular Sevenwaters series, have been translated into many languages and have won a number of awards including the Aurealis, the American Library Association’s Alex Award, the Sir Julius Vogel Award and the Prix Imaginales. Her lifelong love of folklore, fairy tales and mythology is a major influence on her writing. Juliet is currently working on the Shadowfell series, a story of tyranny and rebellion set in a magical version of ancient Scotland. When not busy writing, she tends to a small pack of waifs and strays. In addition to this interview, you may find out more on Juliet’s website http://www.julietmarillier.com; she also blogs monthly on http://www.writerunboxed.com.

An Interview With Juliet Marillier

Helen: Juliet, you’re a New Zealander by birth and upbringing, but have lived in Australia for a long time, and your writing draws deeply on Celtic mythology and legend – are these three distinct traditions or do you find they overlap?

Juliet: The overlap, for me, is that I was born and brought up in Dunedin, which is one of the most Scottish places outside Scotland itself. Scots settlers brought their traditions with them. As a child I was surrounded by Celtic music, stories and culture, from the Burns Club to the pipe band competitions to the shop where you could have kilts made in your clan tartan – mine is Scott. I think Scots immigrants must have loved Dunedin for its physical similarity to their homeland – hills, forests, sea and islands. And freezing winters!

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I have been planning this series with John DeNardo for some time—taking the opportunity to boost the signal for friends and fellow SFF authors from Australia and New Zealand, with a short interview format focusing on “who they are” and “what they do” in writing terms. Some of my guests will be names that are known to SF Signal readers already; others though, I hope may be new. I will be doing one interview a month, so the format may evolve over time, but initially I’ll be asking each author five questions, which I hope will give you a little of the Antipodean flavour. I am calling the series “Fun with Friends” because that will be the initial focus, although I hope and intend to spread the net wider as the series progresses.

Since I am a New Zealand author, I felt my first guest should be an Australian. Given SF Signal is a US-based blog, I also thought: who better than an Australian author that originally hailed from the United States—which led me straight to Kim Falconer. I hope you enjoy this brief insight into her writing life.

Allow me to introduce Kim Falconer:

Kim Falconer writes speculative fiction novels set in the worlds of Earth and Gaela. Her latest release is Journey by Night, the third book in the Quantum Encryption series. The second-in-series, Road to the Soul, was recently shortlisted for the Norma K Hemming award for excellence in the exploration of issues of race, gender, sexuality, class and disability.

Currently, Kim is working on a novella coming out in 2012 and a whole new series set in a very different world. In addition to this interview, you may find out more at kimfalconer.com or her blog The 11th House.

An Interview With Kim Falconer

Helen: Kim, You’re known as an Australian author, but I understand were originally a Californian. Are there overlaps between your writing and geographic journeys?

Kim: Hi Helen! Thank you for inviting me here to SF Signal! Read the rest of this entry


Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, and interviewer. She has twice won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for achievement in SFF, for Thornspell (Knopf) in 2009 and The Heir of Night (The Wall of Night Book One) in 2011 and is currently the writer-in-residence at the University of Canterbury. Helen posts every day on her Helen Lowe on Anything, Really blog. on the 1st of every month on the Supernatural Underground and occasionally here on SF Signal. You can also follow her on Twitter: @helenl0we.

Celebrating Epic Fantasy & Publication of The Gathering of the Lost

Over the past year I have been honored to contribute to SF Signal through both guest posts and a couple of Mind Melds. Today I feel doubly honored to be here again with a post that celebrates both epic fantasy and publication — yes, it’s today, yippee! — of the second novel in my The Wall of Night series, The Gathering of the Lost. And also, incidentally, to kick-off (together with a launch post on the Orbit blog) a blog tour marking simultaneous publication in North America, Australia and New Zealand. Publication in the UK is close too — the book will be out there in just nine days time. So to celebrate I’ll be e-traveling to visit a number of friends and fellow authors in two hemispheres and at least three countries (details here.)

As an SF Signal contributor it feels absolutely right to be starting the North American leg of the tour right here. And the reason I want to celebrate epic fantasy is fairly straightforward: I love the genre. But although I have talked about this enthusiasm here before, I haven’t specifically discussed the style of epic I enjoy reading, which (again, surprise!) is also the kind of story I best like writing.

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Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, and interviewer. Her latest novel, The Heir of Night, the first of THE WALL OF NIGHT quartet, is published in the USA and internationally. Helen has twice won a Sir Julius Vogel Award, for Thornspell (Knopf) in 2009 and The Heir of Night in 2011. She posts every day on her Helen Lowe on Anything, Really blog and on the 1st of every month on the Supernatural Underground. You can also follow her on Twitter: @helenl0we.

Making Epic Fantasy New – Do We Need To?

At the end of last year I sat down to write a post on “making epic fantasy new.” I had been seeing opinions for some time that was critical of epic, from the aspersion that the genre itself is ho-hum, to allegations that it is variously monocultural, reactionary and misogynist. I was also mindful that when The Heir of Night was released in the US my Big Idea post on John Scalzi’s Whatever addressed concerns around some contemporary epic fantasy – chiefly that issues of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ were not only portrayed in absolute terms, but that affiliation to one or the other depended more on what color “hat” a protagonist wore, rather than focusing on his or her actual behavior.

Yet somehow, the “making epic fantasy new” post just wouldn’t come together. Instead I found myself reflecting on the quest-journey and what an integral part of epic fantasy it is – and almost before I knew it I was completing my first “Having Fun With Epic Fantasy” post on ‘Making the Grand Tour.’ After that I just had to write about the ‘Band of Brothers‘ and ‘Heroes with Soul-Sucking Swords‘ as well. Not to put to fine a point on it, I was having a lot of fun-and by the time I had finished the blog series I realized why I hadn’t been able to write that post on “Making Epic Fantasy New.” Because I don’t actually believe that it needs to be “made new” at all. In its essentials, I think it’s absolutely fine just as it is!
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Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, and interviewer. Her latest novel, The Heir of Night, the first of THE WALL OF NIGHT quartet, is published in the USA and internationally. Helen has twice won a Sir Julius Vogel Award, for Thornspell (Knopf) in 2009 and The Heir of Night in 2011. She posts every day on her Helen Lowe on Anything, Really blog and on the 1st of every month on the Supernatural Underground. To read more about Helen and her writing, click here.

Having Fun with Epic Fantasy: The Soul-Sucking Sword

So over the past couple of weeks, to help get through that run-up to Christmas-New Year craziness, I’ve been having some fun with epic fantasy, first “Making the Grand Tour” (aka the quest-journey) and secondly looking at the importance of the “Band of Brothers” when embarking on that quest. And this week, with the festive holiday nearly upon us, I felt I just had to look at “elves” with soul-sucking swords.

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Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, and interviewer. Her latest novel, The Heir of Night, the first of THE WALL OF NIGHT quartet, is published in the USA and internationally. Helen has twice won a Sir Julius Vogel Award, for Thornspell (Knopf) in 2009 and The Heir of Night in 2011. She posts every day on her Helen Lowe on Anything, Really blog and on the 1st of every month on the Supernatural Underground. To read more about Helen and her writing, click here.

Having Fun with Epic Fantasy: The Band of Brothers

by Helen Lowe

…And Crispin…[Day]…shall ne’er go by

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remembered –

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother…

If anyone doubts epic fantasy’s strong and enduring roots in story, this quote from Shakespeare’s Henry V (the famous St Crispin’s Day speech made on the eve of Agincourt) must dispel their error. For the famous quote, “we band of brothers”, speaks to the heart of epic fantasy just as much as the quest-journey of my previous “Having Fun With…” post.

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Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, and interviewer. Her latest novel, The Heir of Night, the first of THE WALL OF NIGHT quartet, is published in the USA, UK, Australia/NZ, and The Netherlands. It recently won the Sir Julius Vogel Award 2011 for Best Novel, as well as a Single Titles’ Reviewers’ Choice Award in 2010. Helen’s first novel, Thornspell, is published by Knopf and she posts every day on her Helen Lowe on Anything, Really blog and on the 1st of every month on the Supernatural Underground. To read more about Helen and her writing, click here.

Having Fun with Epic Fantasy: Making the Grand Tour

A few weeks back I posted on why epic fantasy keeps “speaking” to us, by which what I really meant is that despite its critics, people keep writing and reading in the genre. I discussed epic’s mythic roots and how it allows readers to step outside the everyday and focus on a wider world-but in a way that lets us have some fun as well. Since then, I’ve found myself coming back to the fun and reflecting on some of the elements of classic epic fantasy that I most enjoy. So much so that I thought I’d share a few of those elements here, starting today with “epic fantasy and the Grand Tour”-because ever since Beowulf first sailed to Hrothgar’s hall, the quest journey has been one of the most distinctive elements of epic.

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Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, and interviewer. Her latest novel, The Heir of Night, the first of The Wall of Night quartet, is published in the USA (Harper Voyager), UK and Australia/NZ (Orbit), and The Netherlands (Luitingh.) It recently won the Sir Julius Vogel Award 2011 for Best Novel, as well as a Single Titles’ Reviewers’ Choice Award in 2010. Helen’s first novel, Thornspell, also won a Sir Julius Vogel Award (for Best Novel, Young Adult) and is published by Knopf. She posts every day on her Helen Lowe on Anything, Really blog and on the 1st of every month on the Supernatural Underground.

Looking at the Stars: Why Epic Fantasy Keeps “Speaking” To Us

I live in New Zealand, which although recently re-cast as Middle Earth by Sir Peter Jackson, is still very much ‘the far side of the world.’ Arguably the only places further away from world hubs such as New York and London, Paris and Beijing, Berlin and Tokyo, would be Tierra del Fuego and Antarctica-which leaves New Zealanders with two fundamental choices: to turn inward, or look outward to the larger world.

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