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