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Interview with Peter Coleborn & Jan Edwards

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Today it’s my pleasure to welcome Peter Coleborn and Jan Edwards to talk about their new anthology The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors, the joys of editing, horror and short fiction!

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Today sees the launch of your latest anthology The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors – what inspired you to choose the theme and what horrors can we look forward to seeing in it?

Peter: Besides the very general theme ‘horror’ the book has no theme. I feel that stories in themed anthologies, especially tightly themed ones, can become too similar. I enjoy variety. I enjoy coming across something unexpected. In this I mirror the views expressed by Mark Morris, editor of the wonderful New Fears series.

I use the word ‘horror’ as a wide catch-all net. What you will find between the covers is 25 well-written yarns that will hopefully chill you, or at the least make you go: wow, I didn’t expect that. Weird stories. Creature features. There are stories that may have been at home in The Pan Book of Horror Stories, perhaps in New Terrors (edited by Ramsey Campbell), or in one of Stephen Jones & David Sutton’s anthologies. Other anthologies are available.

Jan: Taken at its roots the term ‘horror’ is a wonderfully broad remit that encompasses everything from Hammer Films to Grimms’ Tales. Horrors gave writers scope to write about anything and everything – and they did.

Tightly themed anthologies can become frustrating. After the first six tales about two-tailed dogs in a bone factory any sense of tension and wonder has pretty much worn away.  Of course the answer is not to read a tightly themed anthology at one sitting.

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With the APB of Horrors #2 opening for submissions in January 2019, what are your long term aims for the series and are there any particular types of tale you’d like to see submitted for Volume Two?

Peter: All being well – health and wealth wise – I’d like to see this become an annual event. I’d like to see a few more ghost / supernatural stories next time, otherwise more of the same – good quality horror fiction. I rather not see the usual horror tropes unless handled well / differently.

May I also mention artwork? Well, I am! One of the things I liked about the British Fantasy Society days was that there were so many pen & ink illustrations. I wanted to emulate that in Horrors so I managed to get 26 original Jim Pitts drawings for volume one – and all being well I hope to do the same for volume two onwards. The illustrations, I think, add a little class to the book.

Jan: I can’t add much more to the points Peter has raised. Yes, a few more ghost stories are always welcome. I am a fan of the good spooky tale – and folk horror, naturally – that uses imagination without resorting to ‘jolt’ tricks. Whether supernatural horror or not, anyone submitting work will always do well to avoid the ‘tropes of fashion’, for want of a better term, unless they have a genuinely different twist to perform.

What are the qualities of a good short horror story for you? What horror tropes turn you off?

Peter: Well-written tales are a must, otherwise it is difficult to describe the quality of a good story. If you can be precise about definitions then the story may lose that sense of wonder that grabs you. Generally, I like stories about people in strange or weird situations. I’m not a fan of people becoming victims for no reason whatsoever except to end them in particularly gruesome ways. Bloodshed is fine, but keep it in check. Subtlety is good!

Jan: As with the previous question, it is the things that go bump in the night that most people find scarier. The mad axemen will make you sweat a little yet they can usually be fought off or outwitted. We are hardwired to be far more afraid of the unknown, those things we cannot see or touch. The horror is always in the anticipation. Yes, there is horror in the more visceral but that relies far more on revulsion than genuine fear in many cases.

Who are your favourite short horror authors, and what short horror stories do you keep coming back to? 

Peter: I find this sort of question difficult to answer, to be truthful. I enjoy a range of short stories from a range of writers. Of those no longer with us, I would select Karl Edward Wagner as one of my favourites, as well as Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, etc… As for living authors: I rather not say because I’m bound to miss someone out.

Jan: I always hate these favourite or most influential writer questions. Partly for the reasons Peter has given but also because the moment I have delivered my choice I come up with a half dozen others. So not going to name names because they know who they are. But if pushed then I’d have to say that Daphne du Maurier will always take some beating in the short story stakes.

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What would you say is the appeal of short fiction anthologies for the reader? What anthologies would you recommend new readers try? 

Peter: Read Alchemy Press anthologies (and collections)!

I’ve mentioned a few earlier. In the UK I would always recommend you seek out any anthology edited or co-edited by Stephen Jones. Jones and David Sutton probably taught me more about anthologies than almost any other editor. Mark Morris’s New Fears series promises to be a top-notch home of quality horror – long may it exist. There are also several anthologies in the UK small press arena that are worth checking out.

In the US, go for Ellen Datlow anthologies. If you can find them, try Dark Forces edited by Kirby McCauley, Prime Evil edited by Douglas Winter, Masques edited by J N Williamson, Unknown Worlds edited by Stanley Schmidt and Martin Greenberg (this last is more weird fiction rather than horror).

Also, read the best of annuals, those currently edited by Stephen Jones, Ellen Datlow, Paula Guran, Johnny Mains. And dig around second-hand bookshops for the best of series edited by Karl Edward Wagner and Gerald Page.

And of course, read the magazines such as Black Static.

Jan: For me at least, though the novel allows scope for building tension and ramping up the chills, horror often works best in the brevity of the short form. For example I have always found Stephen King’s short fiction far more thought provoking than the majority of his novels. It brings us back to the unknown. The less you know, or is explained to you, the more scope your brain has to speculate.

What would I recommend? The best of annuals are a showcase for the best in the field selected from the plethora of anthologies and collections produced every year. Peter has listed most of the better known in those categories but there are always others. The great thing about them is finding authors who are new to you and appeal to your tastes. Like Forest Gump’s infamous box of chocolates, ‘you never know what you’re going to get.’

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You’ve edited a variety of publications for the British Fantasy Society as well as your work for the Alchemy Press, Penkhull Press (and Jan’s work for Fox Spirit Books) – how did you get started with editing short fiction? When and how did you realise it was something you wanted to do, and who were/are your editor influences?

Peter: I first edited magazines for the British Fantasy Society, including Winter Chills (aka Chills from number 5), which received some favourable comments from Ellen Datlow. That started me off. In the late 1990s I felt that the BFS wasn’t able to do the kind of thing I was after so I started The Alchemy Press. The first publication was a slim collection of Damian Paladin stories by Mike Chinn. (I should say here that Mike has been a huge help with all this editing and publishing lark – thanks Mike.) The next books included story and poetry collections by Kim Newman and Jo Fletcher. The first anthology Alchemy did was the loosely themed Beneath the Ground edited by Joel Lane (RIP, Joel. He would’ve been 55 this year), then Swords Against the Millennium edited and co-published by Mike Chinn/Saladoth Productions.

After a break of a few years – blame the BFS and FantasyCon – I decided to launch the press again with two anthologies, The Alchemy Press Book of Ancient Wonders (edited by Jan and Jenny Barber) and The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes (edited by Mike Chinn). Then there were several other anthologies and collections. I usually did the backroom stuff – final edits and design work.

The first Alchemy Press book with my name on the cover was Something Remains in 2016, a tribute to Joel Lane – I’m very humbled to have produced this book. And now we have The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors due on 1st November (and launched at FantasyCon in October).

Jan: Like Peter, I started small, editing anthologies for writers’ groups and graduating through journals such as Dark Horizons up to open call anthologies. So yes, the BFS has a lot to answer for! Dark Horizons, and its later siblings, spawned many an anthologist and championed many a writer in its time.

I teamed up with Jenny Barber for both Alchemy Press and Fox Spirit to produce some dark fantasy anthologies. When we first started planning Ancient Wonders almost all anthologies being produced in the UK at the time were more traditional horror. We wanted to produce volumes that were dealt with the themes of fantasy and folklore. From that came the two Alchemy Urban Mythics and Fox’s Wicked Women.

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Editing The Alchemy Press Book of Horror with Peter is a return to editing after a little break, mainly because I have been more heavily involved in writing crime fiction in various forms.

And finally… what are you up to next? 

Peter: Besides The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors, I’m also publishing this year the second collection by Bryn Fortey, Compromising the Truth. Bryn’s first collection, Merry-Go-Round and Other Words was also published by us, a few years back. Bryn is a wonderful gent who had stories published in The Pan Book of Horror Stories – so we’re going full circle in a way.

I sent Bryn a mock up of the cover, based on one of my photos, which he liked so much he wrote a new and brilliant story for it, ‘Ain’t that the Truth.’

Otherwise, I’ve decided that I will keep Alchemy Press low key and publish just two titles a year, one anthology (Horrors 2, obviously) and a collection (which is hush hush at the moment). As you can tell, I am a short story fan.

The Penkhull Press is a non-fantasy/horror imprint formed by a few local writers, a sort of co-operative. Penkhull has published novels and short story collections, for which I seem to end up doing all that backroom stuff – but that’s okay, that’s fine. One of our books, Winter Downs by Jan, a World War Two crime drama, won this year’s Arnold Bennett Book Prize, which is fabulous news.

Jan: I have three more WW2 crime novels in the pipeline, and intend to get my urban fantasy trilogy out at some point (which is also crime in its way, but with supernatural elements thrown in).

I also have my novella, ‘A Small Thing for Yolanda’ just out in the French folk horror anthology Into the Night Eternal and have several short stories in gestation that are intended for crime anthologies, and at some point I will finish my ‘Captain Georgi’ cosmic horror collection, though as always its finding the time!

Thank you for joining us Peter & Jan!

The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors is available in ebook and paperback formats from Amazon and all good retailers!

Peter Coleborn created the award-winning Alchemy Press in the late 1990s and has since (co-)published a range of anthologies and collections, including The Alchemy Press Books of Pulp Heroes and Urban Mythic, and collections by John Grant, Anne Nicholls, Marion Pitman and others. He has edited various publications for the British Fantasy Society (including Winter Chills/Chills and Dark Horizons) and co-edited with Pauline E Dungate the Joel Lane tribute anthology Something Remains in 2016. Besides editing and publishing he mucks around with Photoshop a lot, as you can tell by the cover artwork.
www.alchemypress.co.uk

Jan Edwards has edited been anthologies for various presses, notably Fox Spirit, The Alchemy Press and the BFS for over twenty years, including: (co-edited with Jenny Barber) Wicked Women, Alchemy Press Book of Ancient Wonders and APBO Urban Mythic 1&2. The Alchemy Press book of Horrors (co-edited with Peter Coleborn) is just released. Several of her anthologies have been shortlisted for awards.

Jan is also a writer of short fiction, which can be found in many crime, horror and fantasy anthologies. Her fiction has appeared in books as diverse as The Mammoth Book of Moriarty, Terror Tales of the Deep and the Dr Who DVD and anthology Daemons of Devil’s End; some of those tales have been collected into: Leinster Gardens and Other Subtleties and Fables and Fabrications. Her supernatural crime novella ‘A Small Thing for Yolanda’ appears this year in Into The Night Eternal: Tales of French Folk Horror.
Her novels include Sussex Tales (winner of Winchester Slim Volume award) and more recently, Winter Downs: Bunch Courtney book #1 (crime novel; winner of the Arnold Bennett Book Prize). In Her Defence: Bunch Courtney #2 is due out late in 2018. Jan is also a recipient of a BFA Karl Edward Wagner award.
Blogsite: http://janedwardsblog.wordpress.com/ Twitter: @jancoledwards

 

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Winter Downs: Interview with Jan Edwards

Winter Downs Jan Edwards front coverAnnnnnd, welcome to the next stop in the Winter Downs Blog Tour, celebrating the launch of the ever excellent Jan Edwards’ new book – Winter Downs – a thrilling ride of 1940’s crime fic starring the kick ass Bunch Courtney.   I interrogated Jan to find out more…

Winter Downs is the first in your Bunch Courtney Investigates series – who is Bunch and what can we expect from future books in the series?

Bunch Courtney is a well connected young woman who is set adrift  by the changes that the coming of war has imposed on her, and knows that the life she was brought up to lead will never return. When she stumbles on a murder she discovers a talent and taste for sleuthing as she interacts with the local police force; and with Chief Inspector Wright in particular.

Bunch Courtney Investigates is an open ended series with the next two already mapped out in note form and ideas for at least two more. I am hoping people will love Bunch as much as I do so that I can see her through to D-Day at the very least. After that? It could be fun to take her into peacetime; maybe as a private investigator.

How difficult or easy did you find it to get the flavour of the era, were there any research holes you fell into, and did you find any elements of women’s life in the era that resonated with you?

I do like writing period pieces. I’ve written for a number of Sherlock Holmes anthologies and have a series of diesel punk/cosmic horror tales staged in the early 1930’s and starring Captain Georgianna Forsythe.

Immersing myself in the language and social mores can be a lot of fun, and the research required is jam on the top. I do get lost in seeking out small details. I can spend hours, even days, looking for one tiny fact. It is amazing what comes to light!

The lives of woman of the 20th century are so very different to the 21st.  Bunch, for example, finds herself controlling the farm as the men were gradually absorbed into the war machine, even as early in the war as January 1940, yet still treated as a ‘girl’ by many of the men in traditional positions of power; police, the military, farm manager, even her own family.

I worked for 20 years as a Master Locksmith – the first female ‘practising Master’ working in the UK. I know first hand the frustration of having men (and sometimes women)  peer around me as they ask to speak with the Locksmith, because they just ‘know’ it couldn’t possibly be me… I never whacked any of them with a spanner, though the temptation was there – everyday!

You and fellow writer Misha Herwin regularly appear on 6Towns radio – how did that start, what things do you talk about and where and when can listeners find you?

I think it began with a general call to local writers who may want to guest on the Curtain Call show on 6 Towns Radio  http://www.6townstv.com/   And because we had a series of events to push it somehow morphed into a semi-regular gig. We talk about writing events and our own fiction going into print as well as writing in general.

How has your radio experience impacted your public speaking ability?

I guess it has made me less self-conscious about public speaking, though talking in a studio with just the show hosts present is rather different to sitting in front of a live audience.

You and Misha also regularly organise the 6×6 Writers Café – could you tell us how you started, what it is, where, when, and how people can find out more and/or get involved.

6X6 came about because we were trying to get reading gigs for new local writers but because of library cut backs the slots available were getting very scarce. Poetry does okay for events  but prose not so much. We had heard of a regular event in Birmingham that gives writers a set time to strut their stuff and decided Stoke on Trent could use something similar – 6 writers – 6 minutes.

It’s a quarterly event at City Central Library, Hanley, Stoke on Trent. To take part people can go to the 6X6 blog at https://6x6writingcafe.wordpress.com/ and follow the guidelines!

Having been a long time organiser of, and attendee at, Fantasycon and other events, how important are festivals and conventions to the writer at the beginning of the career, and how does this change as their career progresses?

Conventions, conferences, lit, festivals  and events such as 6X6 or Fantasycon are all great opportunities for writers to both network with industry professionals and to find a readership. It’s essential for those starting out and remains true for writers at almost every stage of their career. Yes, when someone reaches the top echelons they will be the main attraction for readings and signings and guesting at conventions etc. but they will still be out there. Not that these things should be seen as purely business, though that is an essential part of the process. I’ve made lifelong friends from going to cons either as organiser, bookseller, author or reader. They are a fun as well as productive part of being a writer.

As a member of the Authors Electric site, how important is being a part of online writer communities and what ones do you recommend?

Blogs such as Authors Electric provide support and encouragement for writers and help to connect them with readers. Having an online presence is an essential part of being an author and popping up in regular slots helps in getting a wider reach  for your profile.

What would I recommend? Authors Electric of course 🙂

You’re in a crime story – are you the detective, the victim, the villain, the red herring or the plucky sidekick?

Detective naturally. Though being the villain could be fun, and the Watson personna has the advantage of being an observer of the action at close quarters.

What are you up to next?

I am on the scripting team for White Witch of Devil’s End, a Dr Who world DVD out this autumn – along with a book of the film. It concerns the life of Olive – the witch who appeared in the Dr Who story The Daemons from the Pertwee Who era.

I have a couple of other projects, but none I can talk about right now!

I should be at Fantasycon in the autumn, and had to make the Theakston Crime festival, but moving house and launching Winter Downs has been more than enough to deal with 🙂

But Winter Downs is the big one this year!  Of course there is Bunch Courtney Investigates: Book Two coming next spring (or sooner).

Thank you for talking to us Jan!

Jan ps 1Jan Edwards is a Sussex-born writer now living in the West Midlands with her husband and obligatory cats. She was a Master Locksmith for 20 years but also tried her hand at bookselling, microfiche photography, livery stable work, motorcycle sales and market gardening. She is a practising Reiki Master. She won a Winchester Slim Volume prize and her short fiction can be found in crime, horror and fantasy anthologies in UK, US and Europe; including The Mammoth Book of Dracula and The Mammoth Book of Moriarty. Jan edits anthologies for The Alchemy Press and Fox Spirit Books, and has written for Dr Who spinoffs with Reel Time Pictures.

Winter Downs is published by Penkhull Press and is available in paperback and kindle editions from Amazon.

Don’t forget to check out the next stops on the Winter Downs blog tour:

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Wicked Women Anniversary Interview: Adele Wearing

And today we welcome the genius mastermind behind Fox Spirit Books – Adele Wearing, take it away!

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to read:

Adele picOk, about me, by day I’m a mild mannered (or slightly grumpy) local authority employee, by night Aunty Fox. Ok it’s not quite such a clear divide, but key things are I hate to be bored and I always feel I’m at my best in that sweet spot between waving and drowning.

My reading tastes go in phases, I used to read a lot of horror, these days I lean more to fantasy. I particularly devour urban fantasy, it brings together the sort of noir crime tropes I love in a fantasy setting. That said I’ve always just loved a good yarn, I want characters that engage me (even if I don’t like them) and storytelling. I engage less with the complex world building and politics of some of the big doorstop epic fantasy and sci fi series.

What’s the story behind Fox Spirit – how did you get started, what are you looking for and what are your hopes for the future?

I was conned! Ok not exactly, but it makes for a better story. I ran Alt.Fiction in 2012 and had a houseful of awesome creatives. By the end of the weekend, with a soundtrack of Buffy and the English countryside to inspire us, we had decided to do an anthology Tales of the Nun & Dragon. It was going to be a one off on profit share, just for fun. By the time it came out Fox Spirit was born. If any of us there that weekend had owned a pub it might never have happened.

What we look for is always the story first. It’s much easier to fix the writing (or so I assure my editor, the tireless Daz, who actually has to do it) with the author than it is to fix the idea or lack of. We like things that pull from whatever genre the story wants, ignoring traditional boundaries. We have a lot of fun and put out stories we think deserve a readership.

Hopes for the future are of course world domination. We have another Vulpes (HEMA) title coming up and this year we start our FoxGloves (martial arts) range. We have another announcement coming this summer and I’d love for us to grow our income enough to pursue all the different angles in our heads. There are some audio and film project ideas that are going to take time to develop and get out, but we are determined to do.

What’s the appeal of short fiction for you and do you have any short fiction recommendations?

I love quick reads. There is a sense of guilt for many of us in taking the time to read a book, which is ridiculous, but it’s still there. Stories you can fit into a coffee or lunch break are a wonderful guilt free treat. Also I think there is a freedom with short stories to play about, to not tell the whole story. A novel, even a novella, really needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. A short story can pick up at a peculiar point in the plot and exit without explanation. I don’t feel the same need for a satisfying conclusion. If a novel is a journey a short story is an interlude, it’s the motorway services, a look through a window without the benefit of the full view. I love that.

Both history and fiction are replete with women who aim to misbehave – do you have a favourite wicked woman and why?

KayleeIn fiction I have an enduring soft spot for Kaylee in Firefly, she is such a charming balance of girly ruffles and tough resilience. She’s more afraid and has fewer resources than the other women in the series, for physical conflict, but she still stands up for herself and her friends. To me she is the closest representative for most of us. I realise she doesn’t at first seem wicked, but she is the mechanic on a pirate ship, that’s pretty wicked really.

In real life I suppose I am a little charmed by Bonnie Parker (Bonnie and Clyde). She’s not exactly a great role model, but she’s fascinating. Also the women who lived secret lives to work at Bletchley or as spies, the real life Agent Carter’s of the UK, smart, capable and living outside of cultural expectation. It’s a reoccurring theme with me. I get a bit Moley (hang whitewash) about expectations. I think society puts so many behavioural and physical expectations on everyone and it’s hard to learn to block them out, but it’s the best way to be happy.

What kind of apocalypse will it be and what do you have in your Go Bag?

I actually have started putting together a go bag, it has windproof matches and water purifying tablets, a compass and a collapsible water bottle along with a few other bits and pieces. It’s useful during power cuts.

Obviously with the various martial arts we do and well me being me, the house is well equipped with bows, bladed weapons and axes.

Sadly I think the apocalypse will be the slow inevitable destruction of our world at our own hands. I still hold out hope for zombies, I live in the country and as long as we are all home I feel fairly well equipped to deal with zombies. Capitalism I can do less about.

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?

Oh, now that’s tricky. It’s easy to say ‘zombies have been done to death’ or something but in the right hands even the oldest clichés and tropes can be fresh and brilliant. So I would like to 101 the faux medievalism and laziness of women being raped/abused etc in fantasy as a standard motivation or plot device. I think we are ready for something a bit more subtle and intelligent and ‘it’s historical’ is neither accurate nor a good excuse in fantasy. You are building the world, you get to make the rules, make them better. Violence and abuse happens, but writers should ask themselves if it’s balanced, nuanced and necessary or whether rape is just a short cut.

What are you up to next?

Fox-Spirit-Book-6-Thing-In-The-DarkAfrican Monsters and Things in the Dark have just come out and this year we are having a bit of a launch do for African Monsters at Forbidden Planet London at the beginning of March. That will pretty much kick off the year in terms of appearances. We will be at Edge Lit this summer with a table, so you can find all manner of wicked women and other delights.

Thank you for joining us Adele!

Adele Wearing, know to the skulk as ‘Aunty Fox’ is a lifelong genre fan, was for some time a book blogger and then set up Fox Spirit in response to, well trickery and cunning on the part of her friends. Seriously, it was set up!

Aunty Fox takes care of a skulk of writers, artists, editors and other foxy folk, while trying to keep everything in place to get the books out. In addition she has a full time day job (which we do not discuss). Since she lacks the swiftness and cunning that typifies her species, Aunty Fox trains in mixed martial arts, in order to ensure her grinning muzzle and infamous brush tail don’t end up on a huntsman’s wall.

Wicked Women Anniversary Interview: Sarah Anne Langton

Today we welcome the fabulous cover artist of Wicked Women – Sarah Anne Langton, take it away!

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write and draw:

Sarah-Anne-Langton-Ha, well I was the kid who desperately wanted to be an astronaut and firmly believed there was, indeed, ‘something nasty in the woodshed’. Finally realising that joining NASA probably wasn’t an option I ended up at art college, fed on a diet of William Gibson, Tim Powers, Fortean Times, 2000AD and Ray Harryhausen movies.

So any urban occult weirdness, preferably involving crazy-ass science and I’m up for that. Even better if there’s dinosaurs! I managed to do half an Open University Astronomy degree, so I’m pretty big on radio telescopes… which hasn’t, erm, exactly found many artistic openings yet… Somebody out there has a ‘Fourth Reich jacks the Arecibo radio telescope and uses the Spear Of Destiny to summon unspeakable space evil’ novel in them. I am just biding my time!

How long have you been an artist and how did you get started?

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00024]After completing an art degree I went to work as an archaeologist for a few years, obviously, then was employed in a comic shop – all whilst dabbling in a little freelance illustration. So I have an ace Indiana Jones hat and know way too much about the X-Men, ideal for a career in illustration! I moved down to London Town about five years ago and the lovely Anne Perry and Jared Shurin at Jurassic London asked if I fancied doing a book cover… I think I said “yes, if you’ll buy me a vodka”. From there folk just kept asking me to draw stuff for them – which is awesome!

Which authors and artists have influenced you and why?

Ooooooooow tricky. I particularly like the work of Eduardo Paolozzi, one of the early British Pop Art guys. His artwork mixes pop culture references and technological imagery, man-machine stuff – I love the décollage mix! Swiss graphic design studio Büro Destruct are a favourite – super-clean, simple typography, something I always, well, try to do. And the work of artist Bill Sienkiewicz – as somebody who totally ignored how traditional comic book illustration ‘should’ look and brought in a healthy dose of fine art. Ignoring how something is traditionally supposed to look is always a plan. I’m basically a pop culture junkie – and probably shouldn’t ever have been given access to the Internet – so anything from 1950’s advertising to pulp comics!

And authors? Rudy Rucker’s crazy-ass science fiction and non-fiction, for challenging my understanding of science and visual representation. The Fourth Dimension & How To Get There made me learn how to question my perception of space, dimensions and, well, pretty much everything. Robertson Davies for a love of myth and magic – seeing the hidden archetypes in our dull little everyday lives – with a healthy dose of humour! Anything from Lovecraft to Robert Anton Wilson, I guess it all seeps into Mr Brain and influences how you visually represent the written word.

Both history and fiction are replete with women who aim to misbehave – do you have a favourite wicked woman and why?

Jeanne de Clisson, The Lioness of Brittany is a pretty damned interesting lady. Ms de Clisson mercilessly hunted down the ships of King Philip VI’s fleet, to avenge her husband’s death, during the Hundred Years War. de Clisson fought as a pirate for thirteen years, not just commanding a single ship, no she sold off her land and bought a fleet! She had her ships painted black and dyed their sails red to intimidate her enemy, earning them the title of “The Black Fleet”. Her merciless sailors, under her orders, would kill entire crews, leaving only one or two alive to carry news to the king that she had struck again. A woman with the courage of her convictions, who didn’t do things by half.

You’ve illustrated for a wide array of media ranging from comics and games to music events and publishing – are there differences in your approach to projects in different media and do you have a particular favourite venue your work has appeared in?

Hodderscape-Dodo-LogoThe design process for everything is usually something like… google images, tea, google images, tea… flap out for several hours, then make tea. Eventually I’ll find the killer image to actually use for the project but I do quite a lot of pottering about the internets for inspiration. Virtually all of my work is entirely digital, regardless of the medium, I design straight into photoshop. My main problem is people writing interesting books, hence fascinating imagery, so I then get distracted reading about Antarctic ice flows online or something.

Not a venue but it always amuses me to see Pickwick the dodo, the Hodderscape logo which I worked on, running around on Twitter and getting into stuff on the internet!

What can you tell us about the Fizzy Pop Vampire?

Ah, right… the little guy is the product of Mr Den Patrick’s peculiar brain. A fat little vampire… erm, thing, that sneaks into you kitchen at night to steal your lemonade! Basically a tiny book for kids about the terrible consequences of not cleaning your teeth. Lots and lots of fun to draw as Den’s quirky sense of humour is great to illustrate. The one and only thing I draw by hand so there’s lots of wobbly trees and giraffes! The Fizzy Pop Vampire’s best friend is a giraffe, named Keith. Obviously.

What’s the appeal of short fiction for you and do you have any short fiction recommendations?

Books oPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00007]f short fiction are like a lovely author selection pack – there might be the odd dodgy Orange Crème but there’s bound to be something tasty you really love. Always a great way to discover new writers and I’m fascinated how, given a single theme, how many wonderfully diverse tales come out of a single idea.

Apart from Fox Spirit’s Wicked Woman, because clearly everybody should have taken a look at that…. ahem, the Apex Publications Books Of World SF are a great introduction to some authors whose work I hadn’t read before. Oh, and Super Flat Times: Stories by Matthew Derby was one of my favourite short fiction reads this year – very Franz Kafka meets Phillip K. Dick – a fascinating set of genuinely weird tales set in a brutal future where technology has died. Well, if that’s your thing!

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?

But there’s so many! Just the one? Okay…. ‘Evil Emperor’s beautiful daughter falls in love with the hero.’ ‘All it takes it the love of a good man’ syndrome. YAWN – this clearly intelligent woman has unlimited wealth, power, flying monkeys an’ probably a zombie army – she’s really not going to be impressed just because some dumb-ass bloke has a big sword!

(Also: Mysterious taverns, FOR NO REASON. They can go as well, as I’m here. Oh, and people inexplicably dressing in ancient costumes in the future. There is no reason anyone would wear a Roman togas in deep space. Really, there isn’t.)

What are you up to next?

Fox-Spirit-Book-6-Thing-In-The-DarkOoooow, I have a set of covers coming out for Angry Robot next year, just finished the design for Jurassic London’s Jews Vs Zombies & Jews Vs Aliens Omnibus, comic book illustrations for Lavie Tidhar’s New Swabia are out any time now-ish. There’s a tiny short story by me in Fox Spirit’s Fox Pockets Anthology Things In The Dark. Erm, and I appear to be drawing a suicide rollercoaster poster for Lavie’s new book Central Station. Yeah, I’m just going with that…

On the random front, I’m forcing myself to go to zazen more often, looking for stardust with http://stardustathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/ and watching Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D, when I should be drawing 🙂

Thank you for joining us Sarah!

When not planning world domination Sarah Anne Langton draws things, writes and catalogues her ever-growing shoe collection. Qualified Astronaut. Part time archaeologist. Full time geek.

zombie-attack-barbieSarah has worked as an Illustrator for EA Games, Hodder & Stoughton, Forbidden Planet, The Cartoon Network, Sony, Apple, Marvel Comics and a wide variety of music events. Written and illustrated for Jurassic London, Fox Spirit, NewCon Press, Hachette and ‘The Fizzy Pop Vampire‘ series. Hodderscape dodo creator and Kitschies Inky Tentacle judge. Daylights as Web Mistress for the worlds largest sci-fi and fantasy website. Scribbles a lot about the X-Men, shouts at Photoshop and drinks an awful lot of tea. Responsible for ‘Zombie Attack Barbie‘ and ‘Joss Whedon Is Our Leader Now‘. Her work has featured on io9, Clutter Magazine, Forbidden Planet, Laughing Squid and Creative Review.
British Fantasy Award 2015: Best Artist Nominee.

Her website can be found at http://secretarcticbase.com

Wicked Women Anniversary Interview: Sam Stone

Today we welcome the author of Wicked Women story ‘The Book of the Gods’ – Sam Stone, take it away!

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write:

Sam release.jpgI’m Sam Stone. I’m an award winning female writer. I enjoy writing Horror, Steampunk, Fantasy and Science Fiction. But I have also turned my hand to writing some official Sherlock Holmes stories too.

How long have you been writing and how did you get started?

I started writing at the age of 11 and it was basically terrible fan-fiction!!

As I grew older and gained more experience of life, married, had a child, the idea of becoming a writing professional seemed like nothing more than a pipe dream. I told myself that one day I would write a book and get it published.

The opportunity for this came when, still following my dream, I completed my Masters Degree in Creative Writing and, for my dissertation, wrote a novel. This was really the start of my career as that book went on to win the Silver Award for Best Horror Novel in ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Awards in the USA. This then led to me getting my first professional deal, when The House of Murky Depths picked up the novel, and published it as Killing Kiss.

Since around 2009 I have been writing full time and have completed about 14 novels, a few novellas, and many short stories as well as audios, and a couple of screenplays.

I see this as my job and work the hours accordingly!!

Which authors have influenced you and why?

I have always been massively influenced by Tanith Lee, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Bram Stoker and other 19th Century Gothic writers such as Sheridan Le Fanu and Mary Shelley. I’ve also been influenced by writers such as Isaac Asimov and Philip K Dick. Ray Bradbury’s stories used to be read to us in science lessons when I was at high school. I loved them!

Both history and fiction are replete with women who aim to misbehave – do you have a favourite wicked woman and why?

Aphra Behn was awesome! She was a poet, playwright, translator and fiction writer born in 1640. She was one of the first women to earn a living from writing and she was also rumoured to have been a spy for Charles II. I think she was brave, unique, intelligent and a complete role model for future generations of women who have the power of words inside them.

Tell us about your radio show at SirenFM – how did that come about, what can listeners expect from a Stone Tapes show and where can we find it?

The Stone Tapes was conceived after I appeared as a guest on SirenFM’s Midweek Drive show a couple of times. We proposed the idea of a genre chat show to producer and founder of the radio station Alex Lewczuk and he really liked it. In February/March 2015 the show was given the green light and we launched our first episode in May 2015.

The Stone Tapes is dedicated to all things genre, and so we cover books, films, television, chat, music and have some great guests joining us for the show.

The team now consists of David J Howe (co-producer), Alex Lewczuk (Producer), Patricia H Ash-Vildosolo who is the editor of Gearhearts Steampunk Glamor Review Magazine,  our regular reviewer, Robin Pierce, who is a writer for Starburst Magazine and is our Wales correspondent, and finally assistant director, actor and barman to Hugh Hefner, Joshua Lou Friedman, who is our LA Correspondent. I’m the voice that brings them, and the show, all together.

The show is pre-recorded and then transmitted on SirenFM, and can be listened to on transmission from their website at http://www.sirenonline.co.uk/about/how-to-listen.

All the past episodes are also available to download and stream online … and they include a Zombie Special (Episode 7) where we get trapped in the studio, and all sorts of other mayhem. http://southsidebroadcasting.podbean.com/category/the-stone-tapes/

You currently have three series in print – The Jinx Chronicles, The Kat Lightfoot Mysteries and The Vampire Gene series covering a range of genres from horror to SF to portal fantasy – do you find yourself drawn to writing series rather than stand alones, and what’s the appeal of series fiction for you?

I have always loved writing series. When I devise characters and really like them, I always want to write more about them and to spend time with them in their universe. With the Vampire Gene series, I was halfway through writing the first book when I realised that it had to be at least a trilogy. But when I got to the end of the third book, I knew that there was still so much more to say. I’m currently working on the sixth book, Jaded Jewel, which should be out later this year.

Jinx Town Cover 2 F 100With the Jinx Chronicles, however, I always knew this was going to be a complete story in trilogy form. I have no intention of taking the characters anywhere else after that, and I know I’ll bring it all to a satisfactory conclusion on the third book. The first is called Jinx Town, Jinx Magic is the second book, and Jinx Bound will be the third. The second volume of that should be in print this year.

The Kat Lightfoot Mysteries started life as one book, as I’d had the idea for Zombies at Tiffany’s and knew that this would work well. But again, once I had written it, I knew there was so much more to tell and explore about Kat and her demon slaying companions. This series has such a wonderful following too and I’m sure that it will go on for very many years to come.

I have written a couple of standalone novels which are currently in the hands of my agent, and I have completed an outline for a mainstream thriller which is also with her. At the moment I’m seeing all of these very much as stand alone projects … but who knows what could happen in the future.

So … I do prefer series, but I also enjoy writing one offs as a change. There’s something very freeing in knowing that you have said all you need to about a character and their universe. It’s not always that easy to let go!

Given the range of genres you write in, do you have any particular genre preference?

I started my writing career very much as a horror writer and I would say that horror often spills over into the fantasy and sci-fi works when I’m writing, but I really love dabbling in all genre fiction. Crime has a particular appeal for me and the idea of unravelling a mystery is quite thrilling. I’ve written two Sherlock Holmes tales for anthologies now, and I love how you need to set the mystery without falling back onto horror or supernatural reasons. I think I’d like to write more crime and definitely some more thrillers. But even if I do, I think I will always come back to my roots and dabble in some horror.

You’re also the editor of the Telos Moonrise imprint – how are you finding life on the other side of the publishing desk and has this changed how you approach your own fiction?  

It is a real eye opener working as an editor and yes, I do believe my own writing is much tighter now because of it! This is because when I’m editing I wear a completely different hat to when I’m writing and that editorial mindset also comes on when I edit my own work too. Also, I find myself editing and questioning myself more as I go along. It’s slowed my writing process down a little, but I feel I’m producing a tighter first draft now as a result.

Are there any exciting new titles coming up from the imprint?

I have just bought an exciting new series but can’t say more as contracts haven’t been signed yet. We also still have a huge backlog of previously acquired titles. We have a super YA novel coming soon from Bryony Pearce, and a novel from Martin Owton which goes very much into fantasy territory. But there will be more on this closer to release via Telos’s newsfeed and on their website at http://www.telos.co.uk.

I am also hoping that by summer we will be looking to buy more new material, but we are also on the lookout for some classic fiction by well established writers.

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?

All of them if possible! I really hate clichés. Although I wonder sometimes if that’s to my own detriment because it does seem that some of the most boring clichéd stuff is that which enjoys overnight  success.

What are you up to next?

Well – I’m in some very exciting talks at moment but can’t say more on those even though I’m bursting to!!

Otherwise, later this year I’ll be doing some writing workshops at the Regis Centre in Bognor. I’m travelling to the USA in a couple of weeks to appear at Gallifrey Convention as a guest with my husband David J Howe – where I will also be hosting a writing workshop for anyone who’s keen to become a writer, improve their work, or sell it in the future. I have the third Jinx novel to write, Jinx Bound. Have to finish Jaded Jewel and I need to come up with a new Kat Lightfoot novella to launch at the Asylum Steampunk Weekend in Lincoln in August. As well as all that I’m discussing new ideas with my agent, and she is planning how to pitch these all over to new publishers.

I’ve also been asked to write a stage play – still working out the theme for this one – but if I do it’s fairly certain to be produced so I must find time for it!!

I’d like to do some more screenwriting. And I do have a few short stories commissioned too.

It’s lucky that I like being busy!

Thank you for joining us Sam!

Award winning author Sam Stone began writing aged 11 after reading her first adult fiction book, The Collector by John Fowles. Her love of horror fiction began soon afterwards when she stayed up late one night with her sister to watch Christopher Lee in the classic Hammer film, Dracula. Since then she’s been a huge fan of vampire movies and novels old and new.

Sam’s writing has appeared in many anthologies for poetry and prose. Her first novel was the fulfilment of a lifelong dream. Like all good authors she drew on her own knowledge and passions to write it. The novel won the Silver Award for Best Horror Novel in ForeWord Magazine’s book of the year awards in 2007.

In September 2008 the novel was re-edited and republished by The House of Murky Depths as Killing Kiss. The sequels, Futile Flame and Demon Dance went on to become finalists in the same awards for 2009/2010. Both novels were later Shortlisted for The British Fantasy Society Awards for Best Novel and Demon Dance won the award for Best Novel in 2011. Sam also won Best Short Fiction for her story Fool’s Gold which first appeared in the NewCon Press Anthology The Bitten Word.

In 2011 Sam was commissioned by Reeltime Pictures to write a monologue for their talking heads style Doctor Who spin-off, White Witch of Devil’s End. She was also co-script editor with David J Howe. White Witch, starring Damaris Hayman, was released on DVD in October 2014.

Rights for Sam’s first novel Killing Kiss were bought by Verlag Bucheinband lnes Neumann in March 2013 for translation into German. The novel, Todeskuss, and was launched in December 2013. Since then Sam has sold an original novella, The Darkness Within to AudioGo for Audio and Ebook. She was also commissioned by Telos to write a sequel to her hugely successful Steampunk Novella Zombies at Tiffany’s and her much loved heroine, Kat Lightfoot, returned to the printed page in September 2013 in Kat on a Hot Tin Airship. The audio rights to Zombies at Tiffany’s were subsequently bought by Spokenworld Audio and was made available for download in Halloween 2013. Further sequels to this series are What’s Dead Pussykat (2014) and Kat of Green Tentacles (2015).

In 2011, Sam became the commissioning editor for Telos Publishing’s new digital imprint Telos Moonrise.

In May 2015, Sam launched her own monthly genre radio show, The Stone Tapes on Siren Fm in Lincolnshire.

An eclectic and skilled prose writer Sam also has a BA (Hons) in English and Writing for Performance and an MA in Creative Writing, which means that she is frequently invited to talk about writing in schools, colleges and universities in the UK. She is said to be an ‘inspirational’ speaker.

Wicked Women Anniversary Interview: Gaie Sebold

Today we’re joined by the author of the British Fantasy Award nominated Wicked Women story ‘A Change of Heart’ – Gaie Sebold, take it away!

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write:

Gaie Collodion B&W

Photo credit: Gordon Fraser

I love walking (not hiking. Gentle, civilised walking that ends in tea and cake, not in fighting to pitch a tent on a mountain in a howling storm). I love gardening, I grow quite a lot of fruit and veg. I like to cook. All very ordinary. The only out-of-the-ordinary things I’ve done, outside fiction, have been live action role play – which is practically mainstream these days – and learning swordfighting (well, I say learning… I only did it for a couple of years. Up against anyone who actually knew what they were doing, I’d be entirely hopeless). I’ve worked in the theatre and done various office jobs, mainly for charities, but now I write full time and run writing workshops, which I adore.

In writing, I’ve largely been concentrating on fantasy the last few years. I still have occasional excursions into poetry, which was my first love. I have a number of projects on the go, one of which probably falls under historical crime – no supernatural elements in that one. I like having fun, with characters, with language, with descriptions. But even when I’m having the most fun, I’m usually dealing, or trying to, with issues that I think are important, like compassion and fairness and the responsibilities of power.

How long have you been writing and how did you get started?

I started writing almost as soon as I could read – at about four. Fortunately I don’t think any of my early work has survived! I think I started by imitating what I was reading. Looking back, some of it could be called proto-fanfic – if I really enjoyed a story I didn’t want it to end, so I’d carry it on in my head. I do remember one early original effort involved unicorns, landing on the roof like Santa’s reindeer. That may have been the entire plot – there were unicorns, what else do you need? I wrote a lot of poetry and some short stories. I didn’t attempt a novel until I was in college, where the First Great Fantasy Tome started its long but inevitable progress towards the trunk.

Which authors have influenced you and why?

Jane Austen and earlier Fay Weldon for scalpel sharpness and dry humour. Stephen King for characterisation and sweaty-palmed I-can’t-stop-reading drama. Angela Carter for brilliance and sheer imaginative force. Terry Pratchett for being amazingly funny about stuff that matters – and for wonderful heroines. Tolkien – for all his problematic aspects – because Lord of the Rings swept me away.  Neil Gaiman for mythic power.  And lots and lots of other writers.

Both history and fiction are replete with women who aim to misbehave – do you have a favourite wicked woman and why?

Hah! It hasn’t actually taken much for a woman to ‘misbehave’ throughout history. Do something considered unsuitable for ladies – which at some points has been anything at all other than ‘look pretty and produce babies’ – and you’re classed as misbehaving! More seriously – it’s often hard to find out about the influential women of history, there are still many whose contributions are completely ignored, they aren’t being taught in schools, and it’s a disgrace. But yes, I have a soft spot for Anne Bonny and Ching Shih (because who doesn’t love pirates), the Suffragettes, of course, Rosa Parks and Aphra Behn – because not only was she earning a living as a writer when that was almost unknown for women, she had a huge influence on the development of the novel, and many of her plays were considered very naughty – which takes some doing, in the Restoration period. Fictional wicked women? Pratchett’s Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax, definitely. Fevvers, from Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus. Lady Joanna Constantine from Gaiman’s Sandman. Oh, was I only supposed to mention one? Sorry…

Rumour has it you’re collaborating with partner David Gullen on a project- what can you tell us about that, and how are you finding the collaboration process?

Dave and I tend to talk a lot about writing. Sometimes wine is involved. Often ideas happen. Most of them are simply us going off on a wild mental spree, but just occasionally something seems to grab both of us as a real possibility for a project. This one did. It’s a sort of steampunky romp, involving fine wine, nefarious doings, the Crowned Heads of Europe, and Neanderthals.

The collaboration process is something we’re still working out. Dave is much more of a planner than I am – though I’m becoming more of one – but this we needed to plan in quite a lot of detail. So I’ll look at the plan and write a bit, and he’ll write a bit, and then we’ll argue about the direction it’s going in, and then something comes up and it goes on the back burner for a month or two because we both have to do other things, and then we come back to it – I have no idea when we’ll get it finished, but eventually, I hope!

You’ve got the second book in your Sparrow series – Sparrow Falling – coming out from Solaris Books in 2016, what can readers look forward to from it?

sparrow-falling-9781781083826_hrThis one involves my heroine, Evvie, finding herself in financial difficulties yet again as she tries to keep her rather unusual school for young ladies going. Looking for lucrative work brings her into contact with a man who is having some dangerous and unpleasant dealings with the Folk (my version of the Fey), and both Evvie and her fox-spirit friend Liu find themselves caught up in the rivalry between the English and Chinese Crepuscular Courts, while trying to prevent a war between Great Britain and Russia. Drama! Intrigue! Magic! Strangeness! Flying Machines! Extreme Peril!

What’s the appeal of the steampunk genre for you?

Since I have the engineering knowledge of a flea, it’s nice to write about fun machines that don’t exist without having to explain how they work. And the clothes are cool. And I am fascinated by the Victorian period – it was such a combination of huge advancement and reform alongside appalling brutality and exploitation, both at home and abroad.

How has being a member of the T Party Writers group helped you?

The T Party was hugely helpful to me. I regret I haven’t been very involved the last couple of years – but it was a great source of critique, encouragement, and information. And I made some very good and long-term friends. I think a well-run writing group can provide you with so much. I would always suggest people try them out, because writing can be a very isolating endeavour and it’s important to have people you can talk to about it. But it’s also extremely important to find a group that suits your particular temperament and areas of interest.

Tell us about your involvement with Plot Medics and has it given you new insights into your own writing?

I started Plot Medics with Sarah Ellender (also of T Party Writers) with the idea of providing writers with general help with their plots. It’s morphed into the platform for the workshops, which I run with Sarah when we can organise it or by myself otherwise. Running the workshops has really made me think about my own process, about what inspires me and keeps me going, and about the frameworks you can use to construct a story, explore characters, and so on. I love the enthusiasm and energy of the participants, and always come away from them completely knackered but inspired.

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?

How long have you got? Actually, female characters who have nothing to do but be motivation or reward for male characters, that’s a major one. And it applies to many genres, not just fantasy.

What are you up to next?

Sparrow Falling is out next year as you mentioned – I don’t have a definite date yet. I’m signed up for Nine Worlds Geekfest, and hoping to do a workshop there. I’ll be at Eurocon in Barcelona, which I’m hugely looking forward to – I’m planning to take a few days around the con for exploring. I’ve got one workshop planned for a local writing group and I’m looking to do more. I’m partway through a new fantasy novel, set in a different world from either the Babylon Steel or Gears of Empire series, and have a few short stories and other projects at various stages of completion. Oh, and I’ll be going on a course to make my own bronze sword, so that should be fun. And research. But mainly fun.

Thanks for joining us Gaie!

Gaie Sebold was born rather longer ago than seems reasonable.  She has written several novels, a number of short stories, and has been known to perform poetry.  Her debut novel introduced brothel-owning ex-avatar of sex and war, Babylon Steel (Solaris, 2012); the sequel, Dangerous Gifts, came out in 2013. Shanghai Sparrow, a steampunk fantasy, came out in 2014 and the sequel, Sparrow Falling, is due in 2016. Her jobs have ranged from till-extension to bottle-washer and theatre-tour-manager to charity administrator.  She lives with writer David Gullen and a paranoid cat in leafy suburbia, runs writing workshops, grows vegetables, and cooks a pretty good borscht.

Her website is http://www.gaiesebold.com and you can find her on twitter @GaieSebold.

Wicked Women Anniversary Interview: Zen Cho

Today we’re joined by the author of Wicked Women story ‘The First Witch of Damansara’ – Zen Cho, take it away!

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write:

Zen-iDJ-Photography-Final-5

Photo credit: Darren Johnson / IDJ Photography

I’m a lawyer and writer who was born and raised in Malaysia. I’m currently based in London. I write fantasy novels and short fiction, generally with a sprinkling of romance and a dose of history.

How long have you been writing and how did you get started?

I’ve been scribbling bits of stories since I was all of six years old, but it took me a long time to figure out how to finish things! I got into fanfic in my teens and that got me used to sharing my writing with other people, as well as giving me an online community with whom I could talk about reading, writing and ideas. I started writing original short fiction for publication five years ago, and my first novel Sorcerer to the Crown came out in September 2015.

Which authors have influenced you and why?

The authors that have left the most lasting marks on me are those I read as a kid and teenager. Terry Pratchett, P. G. Wodehouse, Diana Wynne Jones and L. M. Montgomery are up there. I also really admire the work of Karen Lord, Amitav Ghosh and Geoff Ryman, who I read a bit later on.

Both history and fiction are replete with women who aim to misbehave – do you have a favourite wicked woman and why?

Not actually wicked, but Sybil Kathigasu was a Malayan WW2 heroine who wrote a memoir of her experiences supporting the resistance against the Japanese occupation, No Dram of Mercy. I suppose she misbehaved from the occupiers’ point of view! It’s a short book but fascinating because you can tell what a strong character she was, perhaps to the point of being overbearing – you get the impression she ruled the roost in her household. She was also very much aware of writing for the historical record – no false modesty in that regard.

For a “wicked” example, I’ve always been fond of the Chinese female pirate Ching Shih.

Your most recent book – Sorcerer to the Crown – is set in Regency England, what drew you to that era and how did you put your own twist on Regency style fiction?

zen SorcerertotheCrownUKcoverlargeI’ve always been fond of Regency England as a setting and several of my favourite authors used it to great effect – Susanna Clarke, Patrick O’Brian and Naomi Novik among them. My version has magic, of course, and centres on England’s first African Sorcerer Royal, Zacharias Wythe, and the incorrigible female magical prodigy Prunella Gentleman. I think of it as Georgette Heyer with dragons and politics.

You’ve also edited the Buku Fixi anthology Cyberpunk: Malaysia – has your experience as an editor changed how you approach your own fiction?

Not really – I’m focusing on writing a novel at the moment, and I find writing novels such a different beast from writing short fiction that I can’t say I’ve been able to apply any lessons from the experience of editing Cyberpunk: Malaysia to my own writing so far. That said, it did bring home to me how much an editor is on the writer’s side – I was really invested in the short stories I worked on – and I hope I remember that when my next set of editorial notes come in!

What’s the appeal of short fiction for you and do you have any short fiction recommendations?

As a reader it’s nice to be able to explore a story and world without the time commitment you need for a whole novel. A short story is capable of making a point more efficiently and powerfully than a novel – it’s a particularly good vehicle for science fiction for that reason. Besides Cyberpunk: Malaysia, two books of short stories I’d recommend to SFF readers are the collection of James Tiptree Jr’s short fiction Her Smoke Rose Up Forever and Pu Songling’s Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio.

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?

Movies suffer from this more than books – at least the kind of books I read – but I really hate the trope of the badass female character who you’re set up to think might be the chosen one, but actually the chosen one is the totally mediocre male lead.

What are you up to next?

I’m hard at work on the sequel to Sorcerer to the Crown. The only con I’ve got in the diary at the moment is Åcon 8 in Finland in May 2016 – I’m Guest of Honour and I’m really looking forward to it!

 

Thank you for joining us Zen Cho!

Zen Cho was born and raised in Malaysia. She is the author of Crawford Award-winning short story collection Spirits Abroad, and editor of anthology Cyberpunk: Malaysia, both published by Buku Fixi. She has also been nominated for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer and the Pushcart Prize, and honour-listed for the Carl Brandon Society Awards, for her short fiction. Her debut novel, Sorcerer to the Crown, is the first in a historical fantasy trilogy published by Ace/Roc Books (US) and Pan Macmillan (UK). She lives in London with her partner and practises law in her copious free time.