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!
I came to Australia at a young age so my memories of California are fanciful and probably a bit distorted. They reflect the experiences of a timid child and yes, I use that contrast in my writing! For example, living bang on top of the San Andreas Fault line does something to one’s idea of ‘home sweet home’. I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to write earthquakes quite so viscerally if I’d grown up here on the stable tectonic plate that floats Australia. In this way, living on two vastly different continents has been an excellent model for writing Earth and Geala. I know what it’s like to find myself ‘in another world’ as my characters often do. I have easy access to the feeling of being welcomed, estranged, fearful, excited . . . the gamut.
Helen: Is there any other ways in which Australia, either through the physical environment or culture, has influenced your writing?
Kim: The ‘differences’ of this land have catapulted me into another culture, one with strange mythologies, oceans, rivers and bush. There is an Earth magic here unlike anywhere else in the world. The flora is spectacular and unique; the fauna startling and primitive. To be surrounded by marsupials, parrots and other exotic creatures has opened my eyes to this dazzling environment. Learning about extinct species native to Australia, such as Dromornis stirtoni, a three metre tall, 500 kg flightless bird, and the massive Diprotodon optatum, a marsupial herbivore that weighed in at 2800 kg, has sparked my imagination and amplified my awareness of animals currently on the endangered species list. Thoughts like these can’t help but seep into the writing. There are themes of value, worth and reverence for all life running parallel, and sometimes contra-parallel to the plotlines of my books. My latest project is based in part on the great cycles of extinction over the last 300 million years. Australia is rich with stories embedded in a very living and real ‘Dreamtime.’ All you have to do is go out into nature and listen.
Helen: Your novel, Path of the Stray, the first in your Quantum Encryption series, contains themes of environment, particularly environmental degradation, and the status of women. What led you to write SFF around those themes?
Kim: Fate led me. I didn’t seem to have much of a say in it!
The initial idea for the Quantum Enchantment and Quantum Encryption series arose from a single question, a writing prompt: ‘What if a girl came home to find her family murdered?’ This happened to a classmate of mine in California and was a memory I couldn’t put to rest. I wrote the scene, a 500 word piece, and it grew into a novel, then a series and then another series. It has expanded far beyond my initial intention, covering contrasting worlds, multiple sentient beings and over 2000 years of history. Very early on, my main protagonist found she was a child of two worlds, a futuristic dystopian Earth and a magical, agrarian based Gaela, drastically different hegemonies. More and more I was haunted by something Arthur C Clarke said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
That notion lead me to the world of quantum physics where time is symmetrical (flows both forward and backward), where particles can be in two places at once and communication can occur at faster than light speeds, even in our DNA. From one perspective it’s pure magic, epic fantasy. From another, it’s science fiction based on science fact. Even those differences of perception become part of the story as different character’s experiences collide. I can’t say I planned to explore issues of gender, mind over matter, environment or geo-engineering, but as the story unfolded, it demanded it. All because a girl came home to find her family murdered!
Helen: Can you explain how the Quantum Encryption series blends ideas from science with fantasy? And is this a formula you plan to stick with?
Kim: The blending was inevitable because of the environments, the parallel worlds—a future dystopian Earth and an agrarian based, magical hegemony, Gaela. A portal opened up between the two words very early on. At the time I wasn’t thinking, oh boy, this is going to be a genre blender . . . I was just following the story where it led. In retrospect, I’m glad I was naive about the inherent marketing issues with mixed genre works. It didn’t cross my mind that this was shaky ground! I went there because the story demanded it!
For example the Southern Continent of Lithia two thousand years in the past is a major story element in Road to the Soul, the book that follows Path of the Stray. Readers of the earlier books know that the continent sank (this is not a spoiler, it’s history) so when my main characters found themselves on Lithia right before it went under, I had to research a plausible way to submerge the thing. Guess what? Continents doesn’t actually ‘sink’, at least not the way I was planning. But if under the surface there are cracks and tunnels where steam has built up we have the perfect fuse, and the perfect set up for a culture that taps the thermal energy. Suddenly along with magic and technology, dystopia and time travel, I had steampunk! It was fabulous learning how to make steam generated technology and oh boy is it unstable! What can I say? Environments can dictate story, and visa versa.
Writing science fantasy has been much more a process than a formula. My current project is based on very different kinds of mythologies and environments. It’s a whole new world that explores the terrains of the unconscious mind as much as the world at large. I would call it epic psych-fantasy, not a SFF blender. The telling of any story is so exciting because from the initial idea I never know where it will lead. My muse has absolutely no respect for sub-genre boundaries!
Helen: Path of the Stray is currently featured by the Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF) Book Club. Can you explain what the ISF Book Club is all about and why you’ve gotten involved?
Kim: This is so exciting! ISF was founded by actor and environmentalist Ian Somerhalder whom you may know better as Damon Salvatore, a main character on the CW series The Vampire Diaries. (Derived from LJ Smith’s books.) Using his celebrity status to action millions of followers, Ian has created the foundation with one aim in mind: to empower, educate and collaborate with people and projects to positively impact the planet and its creatures.
I supported ISF early on and developed an email friendship with the CEO, Kim Klingler. (Having a name in common got us talking) She asked what inspired me and I told her about the series I was writing and its environmental issues, geo-engineering, deliberate creation themes etc. She wanted to read it so I sent her Path of the Stray and the book that follows, Road to the Soul. It was almost a year later that she got a chance to read them but when she did, she sent me a firecracker of an email. Kim and Ian were thrilled with the way the books both portrayed future environmental disasters and at the same time empowered the reader, encouraging reverence for all life. They were keen to collaborate and spread the word. We got on the phone, brainstormed and voilà, the ISF Book Club was born.
The Ian Somerhalder Foundation Book Club is hosted by Goodreads, the perfect platform for what we’re doing – creating a community think tank; talking about characters we love, (or love to hate); discussing the scenes and events that move us; and playing with ideas that support our connection to all life, the environment, mind, body, spirit, personal power, law of attraction, astrology, magic, self-awareness, writing, education, artistry and the expansion of consciousness. I’m donating all proceeds from Path of the Stray to the IS Foundation to aid a specific project, their new animal sanctuary, a safe haven for all the outcast animals that have been neglected, mistreated and ultimately misunderstood. Nothing could be closer to my heart. Feel free to come join us. All are welcome!
About the Interviewer:
Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, interviewer, and the current 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 has recently been published, and she has just 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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