Featured post

A new lease of life for my books

As you know, I was bitterly disappointed when Satalyte shut up shop as it might have meant the end of my admittedly short career as a publi...

About Me

My photo
I am a writer, editor, reviewer and dance teacher based in Perth, Western Australia.

My books

The first novel of my trilogy, The Talismans, is available as e-books from Smashwords, Amazon and other online sellers. I do have paperbacks of The Dagger of Dresnia at the low price of $AU25 including postage within Australia. I also have a short story, 'La Belle Dame', in print - see Mythic Resonance below. Book two of the trilogy, The Cloak of Challiver, will be available again shortly. The best way to contact me is via Facebook!

Buy The Talismans

The first two books of The Talismans trilogy were published by Satalyte Publications, which, sadly, has gone out of business. I hope to see my books back on Amazon under a new publisher in the near future.

The Dagger of Dresnia

The Dagger of Dresnia
Want a copy? Contact me at satimafn(at)gmail.com

The Cloak of Challiver

The Cloak of Challiver
Available again as an ebook soon!

Mythic Resonance

Buy Mythic Resonance

Mythic Resonance is an excellent anthology that includes my short story 'La Belle Dame', together with great stories from Alan Baxter, Donna Maree Hanson, Sue Burstynski, Nike Sulway and nine more fantastic authors! Just $US3.99 from Amazon. Got a Kindle? Check out Mythic Resonance.

Follow me on Twitter

Share a link on Twitter

Follow by Email

My Blog List

Blog Archive

Places I've lived: Manchester, UK

Places I've lived: Manchester, UK

Places I've lived: Gippsland, Australia

Places I've lived: Gippsland, Australia

Places I've lived: Geelong, Australia

Places I've lived: Geelong,  Australia

Places I've lived: Tamworth, NSW

Places I've lived: Tamworth, NSW

Places I've Lived - Sydney

Places I've Lived - Sydney
Sydney Conservatorium - my old school

Places I've lived: Auckland, NZ

Places I've lived: Auckland, NZ

Places I've Lived: Mount Gambier

Places I've Lived: Mount Gambier
Blue Lake

Places I've lived: Adelaide, SA

Places I've lived: Adelaide, SA

Places I've Lived: Perth by Day

Places I've Lived: Perth by Day
From Kings Park

Places I've lived: High View, WV

Places I've lived: High View, WV

Places I've lived: Lynton, Devon, UK

Places I've lived: Lynton, Devon, UK

Places I've lived: Braemar, Scotland

Places I've lived: Braemar, Scotland

Places I've lived: Barre, MA, USA

Places I've lived: Barre, MA, USA

Places I've Lived: Perth by Night

Places I've Lived: Perth by Night
From Kings Park

Inner Peace Blog

Inner Peace Blog
Awarded by Joanna Fay. Click on the image to visit her lovely website!

Versatile Blogger Award

Versatile Blogger Award
Awarded by Kim Falconer. Click on the pic to check out her Quantum Astrology blog!

Fabulous Blog Award

Fabulous Blog Award
Awarded by Kathryn Warner. Click on the pic to check out her Edward II blog!

Search This Blog

Monday, 26 January 2009

Interview meme

Friends, you will be wondering what has gone wrong with me, posting every day for four days running! Anyhow, this one is here because I took the bait over at Jason Fischer's blog, and now I'm doing the interview meme.

In the interests of fair play, here are the rules. If you want to be interviewed by moi, please leave a comment below and I'll interview you as gently as any sucking dove.

1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me!"
2. I will respond by asking you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will post the answers to the questions (and the questions themselves) on your blog or journal.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions. And thus the endless cycle of the meme goes on and on and on and on...

I am not the must succinct person to interview, and these are great questions that Jason dreamed up, worthy of close attention. So this is quite a long post, I'm afraid. However, without further ado:

Jason Fischer interviews Satima Flavell

Q1) You are a sub-editor for the Specusphere. How did you initially get involved with this brilliant resource, and what is your role?

A1) From 1987-1995 I wrote on the arts, primarily dance, starting off with reviews for Music Maker (which later morphed into ArtsWest) and pretty quickly I was given my own column. I've must've done OK because I soon got head hunted by Dance Australia and The Australian as a dance reviewer. That was great - I got free tickets to see fantastic shows, I got to meet some fine artists, and had opportunities to interview interesting people who loved what they were doing. And I got paid for it! There was the odd nice party, too:-) However, In 1995 I went overseas and was away for over three years. I came back to find ArtsWest defunct - at least in part, or so the editor assured me, because they couldn't replace me! However, the other publications had certainly replaced me, so I would have had to start over, looking for new markets. While I was away, I'd started writing Fantasy. Because I wanted to focus on that, I couldn't be bothered starting again in my old field. But I missed writing non-fiction, and so that I could get to know other writers and fans I wrote occasional articles for the old Visions zine. That morphed into The Specusphere in 2005 and the Editor-in-Chief, Stephen Thompson, needed a Reviews Editor. I stuck my hand up, and I'm still here!

Q2) How do you see the future of reviewing novel-length fiction in Australia? What are the principle difficulties in attracting and retaining quality reviewers?

A2) My first thought here was "Hang on Jason, that's two questions!" But in fact the first segues nicely into the second.

Few print publications are publishing reviews at all and those that do, publish very few. A new genre author has little chance of getting a review in, forex, The Australian, or even the state newspapers these days. Publishers are relying more and more on the webzines for publicity, and that includes reviews. It's easy to see that the whole industry will be largely electronic within ten years or so, and even big publishers - Tor and Harper Collins, forex - are playing with e-publication. Now, the big drawback, as I see it, is that there is not yet a good, inexpensive reader on the market, so reviewers, who are, after all, writing FTL, are obliged to read ARCs on their computer screens.

This brings me to the second part. Few people read on-screen from choice. Most readers - and that includes reviewers - much prefer hard copy. So one difficulty in attracting and keeping reviewers in future is going to be the lack of a good, cheap, hand-held reader. I'm getting murmurings about it already when I ask for volunteers to review e-ARCs. They don't mind doing anthologies, because they can share the workload by doing one or two stories each, but they baulk, and I don't blame them, at Fat Fantasies. Or, indeed, anything over about 30,000ww.

However, that's not yet the main reason it's hard to attract and keep reviewers. The main one is time - people start out willingly enough, but a good review takes time to write, and that after spending anything up to 20 hours reading the book. People who have livings to earn and who also want to write their own works often find reviewing more onerous than they'd expected, and give it away after a few months. However, we've built up a good team at The Specusphere over the last year or so. The reviewers are all keen readers and some of them have had or are having academic training - in fact, some supervisors suggest their candidates write reviews in order to hone their critical faculties - and all of our reviewers absolutely love speculative fiction.

Q3) Who are the most exciting writers you've recently read?

A3) I don't know who to talk about first, Jason! You only have to look at the recent Jack Dann-edited antho Dreaming Down Under, in which you had an excellent story, to see that even in just the short story area there are some fantastically talented and inventive people. Lee Battersby, to name just one, goes from strength to strength and guys like you and Felicity Dowker are hard on his heels. The short story is in no danger of becoming moribund in this country!

Novel-wise, I am particularly taken by the recent crop of writing in the "tight third" point-of-view. People like Jo Abercrombie, Margo Lanagan and K.E. Mills have lifted this style to new heights by making dialogue and narrative seamless, so the reader is deeply immersed in the writer's world. Writers are realising, I think, that reading has to compete with visual forms of entertainment, and reading's big advantage is that it can take the reader into someone else's body and mind, experiencing the characters' thoughts, emotions and physical sensations in a way that is simply not possible in film or TV.

Q4) How do you weigh in on the authors right-of-reply for interviews they disagree with? Have you had any experiences of angry authors attacking reviews done by Specusphere (you don't have to name names of course)

A4) I've never had anyone complain about an interview because I always run my work past the interviewee before upload. It's all too easy to misunderstand something when interviewing and I want to be sure I have got my facts straight and am presenting the inteviewee's thoughts and ideas correctly.

Reviews are a different matter. It would be highly unethical to show an author a review before publication. I'm reviewing the book, not the author. It is also highly amateurish for an author to try to enter into dialogue with a reviewer by complaining. I do hear from authors, of course, but it's usually to ask for clarification of a point of criticism, such as "Can you expand on your comment that my main character fails to convince the reader of his sincerity?" - and the writer is asking because s/he genuinely wants to know why I thought they failed on that particular point, taking it on board if they feel it will help them improve their work.

The only times I've had authors complain about reviews were when I was silly enough to accept a few very amateurish e-published books for review and they got the reviews they deserved. This is another reason why we don't like reviewing e-books!

Q5) Finally, what approach would you recommend for people who'd like to get into reviewing? What makes a good review?

A5) Good reviewers are well-educated and well-read. They have to be able to recognise, forex, classical references or references to other art forms and disciplines such as philosophy and psychology. A reviewer of hard SF benefits from a sound technological base (several of our hard SF reviewers come from a scientific back ground) and Fantasy reviewers (and writers too, but don't get me started on that!) really need, I believe, good general knowledge of history, mythology, religion and linguistics. And of course good grammar, spelling and syntax are important because I don't want to have to rewrite the bloody things.

But the big plus lies in the reviewer's empathy. A good review serves several purposes. One is to help the publisher to publicise the work, and this must be done as sympathetically as possible, even if the reviewer doesn't like that particular book very much. Emphasising the positives, mentioning them up front, and softening the negatives make for good reviewing. Never forget that it's only your opinion - granted, a well-informed and considered opinion, but in the end it's still just an opinion; no more, no less.

The next thing that makes a good review is that it will help the writer to see the work through someone else's eyes and perhaps learn from that. And the last thing is that a good review helps readers to decide whether or not this might be a book worth looking at, in light of their own tastes and preferences. So the reviewer's job, really, is to give service to the publisher, the author and the reader.

Thanks, Jason Fischer, for giving me a soap box.

17 comments:

Felicity Dowker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Felicity Dowker said...

That was an excellent interview, Satima. I enjoyed reading it. Thanks! The interview meme is one of the better ones I've seen going around, and Jason comes up with great questions. As always, your words of wisdom - especially in regard to reviews - are exceedingly relevant and useful.

Satima Flavell said...

Yes, Jason did dream up great questions! I think this meme is a super way to learn a bit about people I only know as names and avatars on LJ, Blogger or Facebook!

Marilyn Z. Tomlins said...

Satima --

Interesting questions and answers. I'll wait until I'm really famous before I will sit for an interview!!

Marilyn

Satima Flavell said...

Heh heh - I didn't want to wait that long, Marilyn. Fifteen minutes of fame and all that:-)

SarahP said...

Pick me!

Satima Flavell said...

Sure will, Sarah! Give me a few hours to put the questions up here and you can answer whenever it's convenient.

Satima Flavell said...

And here they are:

1. Sarah, you've been involved in fandom for a long time now, and only recently did you come out of the closet as a writer. Which came first and how long have been a writer / a fan?

2. Which do you best like to read and/or write - Hard SF, Fantasy or Horror?

3. Can you name a writer or two who you'd like to emulate in some way, and tell us why?

4. You're a person of many talents and many interests: as well as being a fan, a writer and a mum you're also a feminist, a prolific blogger and a fantastic cook. How do you balance all those interests and commitments?

5. Have you got a favourite recipe to share with us?

You can answer them here or on your blog or both, as far as I'm concerned - but I'd like to filch your pearls of wisdom and use them as a post here, too, if that's OK. A lot of my readers don't do LJ and I'd love them to meet you!:-)

Lee Battersby... said...

G'wan then. :)

Satima Flavell said...

Right, Lee: I'll be back l8r with quezzies.

Satima Flavell said...

Questions for Lee

1. When I first met you, back in about 2002, you had just received recognition in the Writers of the Future contest. Since then, you've had many more short stories published, including your collection "Through Soft Air"; you've been a tutor at Clarion South and you've written one or two novels as well. Of all your achievements since WOTF, which one stands out for you?

2. Which of your own stories do you love the best?

3. Your wife Lyn is also a writer of no mean repute. Which one of Lyn's stories do you love the best?

4. You've made it clear on many occasions that traditional fantasy is not your favourite genre. What do you think of some of the current drop of writers, such as Margo Lanagan, who are putting new, darker spins on some of the old tropes/

5. And finally, what are your ambitions for the next five years, both personally and writing-wise?

Lee, I'd like to put this on the front page of my blog, too, as a lot of viewers don't click through to the comments page so they won't know it's on your blog. So it would be good if you'd put your anwers here as well as on your own blog, and I'll turn it into a post in a few days.

Lee Battersby... said...

Okay, here we go:

1. Probably being invited to tutor at Clarion South. Most of the things I've done as a writer have been at the small press level, but Clarion was the first (and to date, only) time I was really ranked amongst the big boys by someone, which I think was a massive show of faith by the organisers. I'd like to think I didn't let them down, but, to me, if you look at the names of tutors over the years I do stand out like a sore thumb as the "Who?" guy amongst them. My entire career seems to have been a case of stepping above my station on one occasion and then working my arse off not to have that step be a one-off. To date, that Clarion appearance is my biggest step, and my biggest one-off.

2. I don't have a favourite. Once the stories are written and published, they're yesterday's news. I don't have a huge amount of reprints because I rarely look backwards. It's more important to be working on the next thing, the new project, than to think about what I've already done. (As Michael Keaton said about playing Batman: I don't want to find myself at a car show in twenty years, still in the suit, with a kid on my knee, saying "Is that your Mom? Tell her to meet me after the show.")

I have several stories that stand out, because of awards, or because they're good to use at readings so I use them more than once, but there's no real star of the litter. I'd much rather hear that a reader has a particular favourite than have one myself.

3. Ah, see, now this is easier :) Lyn's best story is called 'A Whisper In The House of Angels'- to date, it's unpublished, because it's a very hard sell: it's subtle, disturbing, and gives the reader very little in the way of sure footing. It just needs the right editor, and when it finds publication, it's going to win everything. Of her published stuff, I have a real soft spot for 'Of Woman Born', in Daikaju II. It's very short, only 600 words or so, but it's everything Lyn is capable of: feminine, mature, imaginative, unique, all the elements that make up a Lyn Battersby story, plus it manages to be more than a little twisted and giggle-inducingly funny into the bargain. I think it's been sadly ignored, and vastly underrated.

4. Actually, I'm not a fan of Lanagan's writing. I find it contrived and soulless. I'm also aware that I'm in a tiny minority on this issue. I am going to raise issue with your statement, though: the thing is, I am a fan of traditional fantasy. What drives me to such public distraction is the sheer amount of bad trad-fantasy we see served up to us. It's precisely because I love the good stuff that I rail against the Eddings' and Brooks' of the genre. Despite all his flaws, Tolkein's work was incredible, as was Dunsany's, and Stephen Donaldson's original Thomas Covenant trilogy was amazing. It's just that trad-fantasy seems to be the logical extension of Sturgeon's Law, and nobody seems to say "Stop! The good stuff is over here!"

I also don't see the usurpation of standard fantasy tropes as a new thing, although I'm a fan of writers such as Mieville and KJ Bishop who are spinning it out in new directions. You don't have to go too far back to see Tim Powers doing wonderful things within 'standard' settings (witness 'Anubis Gate' and 'Drawing Of The Dark') and you can go back even further to writers like Wolfe, Vance, Moorcock, Le Guin and Poul Anderson to see some astonishingly wonderful 'non-traditional' fantasy stories.

It's writers like these who point out how well you can do epic fantasy (Trad-fantasy, high fantasy, call it what you like), which makes it all the more annoying to me to see readers settling for the latest installement in whichever pale 'Witches Guild of the Wheel of Shannara' Tolkein-shadow you care to name.

5. I'm 38 years old. I want to be supporting my family through my writing by the time I turn 45. I want to make a concerted effort to move away from the short story/small press/horror story niche I seem to have been tarred with, and move into a wider publishing base-- novels, more in the line of guys like Chuck Palahniuk and Jonathon Lethem, who are writing genre, to all intents and purposes, but who seem to have avoided being hemmed in by the label. If I get a chance to write another screenplay, or work outside my current boundaries, I'll be eager to do so. I didn't start out wanting to be an SF writer: I wanted to be a writer, non-specific, one thereof. I've become distracted, rather, since I started selling-- small press SF is a bit of a honey trap, psychologically. I really want to go back to my original, pure desire-- to write, and publish, whatever I choose, without thought of genre, or form, or purpose. I love writing poetry, and comedy sketches, and plays, and screenplays, and short stories, and cartoons. And I've published all of them over the years. That's what I want.

Of course, what I'd like to do is really push towards achieving a significant artistic and commercial impact over an extended period of time. People like Spike Milligan, David Bowie, Stephen Fry, Alice Cooper, and David Hockney are my template: multi- form artists who can move from medium to medium as the need arises. It's a very British way of thinking, to me- defining the artist by themself, rather than what they produce. Nobody over there tells Stephen Fry he can't write a novel because he's an actor, but over here we tend to look down on people who try to cross boundaries, as if they should be glad to work in one form. I'd like to break past that.

Either that, or I'd like to dress up as a bat and fight criminals. I'm still undecided.

Satima Flavell said...

Heh heh - and tell kids to egt their mums to meet you after the show...Many thanks, Lee, for those very thoughtful answers.

Lee Battersby... said...

My pleasure. And cross-posted on my blog as well.

Danny said...

Ok, I'll bite - interview me...

Satima Flavell said...

Onya, Danny:-) Ready to A some Q's?

Q1. You're an Adelaide boy born and bred. Have you ever lived elsewhere?

Q2. Being allergic to bee stings, have you had any narrow escapes?

Q3. It's obvious that you're a fan of the comicbook. Who are your favourite characters, writers and artists?

Q4. Do you enjoy reading other forms of fiction, too?

Q5. Tell us one of your personal or professional ambitions for the next decade.

You might like to post your answers here, Danny, and if you can give me link to a photo or a pic you'd like to use as an avatar, post that too:-)

Danny said...

Q1. You're an Adelaide boy born and bred. Have you ever lived elsewhere?

Definitely. Lived in Melbourne for a while, and have travelled around the country extensively. So much so in fact that my second home is on the Sunshine Coast and the third home is Melbourne. I love travel, this country has almost too much to offer a person, but each time I see those lights from the hills I know I'm home. A great place, is Adelaide.

Q2. Being allergic to bee stings, have you had any narrow escapes?

Narrow? I guess if you call physically dying a narrow escape then sure. When I was 14 I was stung by a bee resulting in a mad dash to the hospital. Unfortunately for me my ma took me to the Lyell McEwan on a Saturday night! While she was arguing with the admission nurses I quietly slid off my chair unable to breath anymore. By the time they finally got me into the emergency rooms my heart had stopped and I was, for all intensive purposes, dead. Loads of adrenalin and other drugs later the prognosis was worse - I got better.

Q3. It's obvious that you're a fan of the comicbook. Who are your favourite characters, writers and artists?

Too many to mention. No real favourite character, although I do have a soft spot for the Phantom and, naturally (being a boy), I do like the iconic figures of Captain America and the like. Personally you could eliminate shit like Wolverine and I'd be happy - very few people have actually written that character right.

Writers? Alan Moore and Alan Grant spring to mind, obviously. With the later stuff, ie: stuff out now, none of them interest me at all. Too many 'events'.

Artists - Norm Breyfogle, Alan Weiss, Armando Gil, Dave Simons - those guys all move me, along with a hundred others.

Q4. Do you enjoy reading other forms of fiction, too?

Here's my confession - I'm not a huge fan of fiction. Never have been. I love non-fiction. History. Bio. Events. I watch TV and scream at it when I see errors.

I have read a lot of fiction but after a while I realised that what I was reading just wasn't as interesting to me as the stories behind the stories. I love 1984, for example, but I wanted to know what was going on behind the scenes, what prompted Orwell to write it. It's why I write not about comic books, but what goes into them. Who wants to read what I, or anyone else for that matter, thinks of a topic? But if I can give you the backstory to a series or an event, then I'm sure that's more entertaining than the event or story itself. I thirst for knowledge and my flaw is that I think everyone else does. As I've found out in recent times, some people prefer to remain ignorant.

Q5. Tell us one of your personal or professional ambitions for the next decade.

To be alive. I'm just happy to keep working behind the scenes and allowing others to get all the credit. If more of my stuff makes it out there, either with my by-line or with someone elses, then that'll be fine for me.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...