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[GUEST POST] Paul Collins on The Writing Career

Paul Collins has written over 140 books and 140 short stories. He is best known for The Quentaris Chronicles (The Spell of Undoing is Book #1 in the new series), which he co-edits with Michael Pryor, The Jelindel Chronicles, The Earthborn Wars and The World of Grrym trilogy in collaboration with Danny Willis. Paul’s latest book is The Only Game in the Galaxy, book three in The Maximus Black Files. A trailer for the series can be viewed here. The Beckoning is Paul’s first adult novel. Paul has been short-listed for many awards and won the Aurealis, William Atheling and the inaugural Peter McNamara awards. He recently received the A Bertram Chandler Award for lifetime achievement in Australian science fiction. He has had two Notable Books in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards. He is also the publisher at Ford Street Publishing.He has black belts in both ju jitsu and taekwondo – this experience can be seen in The Jelindel Chronicles and The Maximus Black Files. Visit Paul’s websites:, and

The Writing Career

by Paul Collins

I didn’t read books as a kid. I did read a helluva lot of comics, though. Captain America, Spiderman, The Hulk and many others from the Marvel Group. From this I figured it would be easy to write books. Go figure. Stupid. Naïve. And the rest of it. Also bizarrely at the age of 20 I figured I could publish a science fiction magazine, despite only vaguely knowing the name Asimov. I did have the foresight to realise I needed help, though. Many Australian greats of the 70s and 80s pitched in and helped this fledgling publisher. A Bertram Chandler, Jack Wodhams, David Lake, Wynne Whiteford, Frank Bryning and others all contributed to Void Magazine, the only nationally distributed magazine published in Australia at that time. Buoyed with their support, I started publishing SF and F novels – in fact I published Australia’s first heroic/epic fantasy novels by Keith Taylor, Russell Blackford and David Lake. I also published A Bertram Chandler’s last SF novel, The Wild Ones.

Somewhere during this period I started writing short stories. I had a stack published, mostly in small press magazines. My first, an SF/fantasy story, sold to Paul Ganley’s Weirdbook in 1977. I opened a second-hand bookshop and read a lot of books, mostly horror and SF. I even collaborated with Guy N Smith on an SF novel that never saw print. Regardless, I launched into writing a horror novel. I called it Wind Chill. It took a year to write on the counter of my bookshop. It didn’t sell. I changed the title to Evil Intent. It didn’t sell. I revised it and called it The Beckoning. It didn’t sell. That was about 30 years ago. Deciding I couldn’t write books for adults, I wrote two novellas for children called The Earthborn and The Wizard’s Torment. They sold straightaway to an educational publisher. Who promptly folded. This misfortune had nothing to do with me – they hadn’t published my books!

I rewrote The Earthborn and sent it to every major and some not so major publisher in Australia. They all knocked it back. Then an agent, Cherry Weiner, said she’d try selling it. I rewrote it as a novel, and voila! the first publisher she sent it to was Tor, and they published it. The Skyborn and The Hiveborn completed the trilogy. I was on my way!

During this time my various bookshops, plus twelves years as a bouncer in hotels supported my writing habit. These days it’s more about cross-subsidization. I’ve returned to publishing with Ford Street Publishing. I’ve published a shared-world scenario called The Quentaris Chronicles which I also co-edit with Michael Pryor. I publish just about any genre, but I lean towards SF and F. Also contributing to my career is Creative Net, a speakers’ agency. So I’ve kept up with the writing with financial support from my other businesses – nothing’s changed! – in fact I’ve sold around 150 books, the latest being my young adult SF novel, The Only Game in the Galaxy, book three in The Maximus Black Files.

And guess what? On a whim I submitted that old manuscript The Beckoning, which I’d luckily saved on various storage devices such as floppies, 3.5 discs, CD, USB sticks, to Damnation Books and they accepted it. It’s just come out and is available at Amazon.

The writing game is all about challenge and persistence. Pure and simple.

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.
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