Archive for January, 2010

Naming Characters

How do you name your characters? Do you write the story first, using ‘protag’, as I do sometimes, then find a name which fits? Or do you plan the name beforehand?

In The Story of O, O is never named. Neither is the woman in Rebecca. I love not knowing her name in Rebecca; a brilliant decision from Daphne du Maurier. It means that Rebecca is the name we think of, Rebecca is the image we have, and the main character seems pale in comparison.

I found my notes on how I named Stephanie Searle in Slights. I knew I wanted her to admire Stalin. Stalin means ‘stone’. I wanted a name starting with S, and found that Searle means armour, which seemed to match ‘stone’ and gave me an idea as to what sort of character she was. Stephen means ‘crown’. I thought that worked because she is monarch in the dark room, centre of all attention.

I have two or three name books. I don’t always use them. If I’m struggling, though, I’ll seek out the meaning and match a name that way.

In Walking the Tree, all the characters are named for trees. I sat down with my 1978 Encylopedia Britannica and made a long list. I still love flicking through those books my parents bought for me when I started high school.

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Aurealis Awards

The Aurealis Awards Weekend is over. I always feel so invigorated after spending time with the Spec Fic community. Lots of dinners, drinks and huge brekkies. Lots of book talk, movie talk, writer talk. Very very little ego. Lots of laughter and support.

Trudi Canavan and I did a signing at Pulp Fiction Books along with Sean Williams, Scott Westerfield and others. Brilliant bookshop, this one. Here’s Trudi and me at the table. Photo taken by Trudi, who just won her first Aurealis for Best Fantasy Novel!

“Slights” didn’t win the Best Horror Novel. That honour was taken by “Red Queen” by Honey Brown, so congrats to Honey.

The good news is that Ellen Datlow has taken “The Gaze Dogs of Nine Waterfall” for her Year’s Best Horror 2. I am totally thrilled about this. Gaze Dogs is a Fijian story, inspired by a news item in the Fiji Times talking about vampire dogs killing stock.

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Angry Robot books have posted sample chapters of three books releasing in Feb. I’ve already downloaded The World House by Guy Adams, because it sounds fascinating. There’s also Edge by Thomas Blackthorne (who seems to be someone else as well) and my Walking the Tree.

I’m also reading Dead Souls, the horror anthology edited by Mark Deniz of Morrigan Books. It’s gorgeous to look at and to hold and the stories look very interesting. The only one I’ve read elsewhere is Stephanie Campisi’s “The Ringing Sound of Death on the Water Tank” and that’s a ripper. My story “The Blue Stream” is in there.

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This weekend, I’m heading up to Brisbane for the Aurealis Awards. Slights is shortlisted for best horror novel.  I’ll be dressing to win, so here’s hoping!

I’ll be appearing at Pulp Fiction Bookshop in Brisbane with Trudi Canavan at 10.30 on the Saturday. Here’s the full schedule of fab authors appearing:

Trudi Canavan and Kaaron Warren at 10.30 – 11.30am

Sean Williams, Scott Westerfeld and Justine Larbalestier at 11.30am – 12.30pm

Karen Miller and Glenda Larke at 12.30 – 1.30pm

Pamela Freeman and Katie Taylor at 2.30 – 3.30pm

To take my mind off the award, I’m sorting papers as I unpack our boxes. I found a folder of early notes for Walking the Tree, when I already had the story in mind but was thinking about the themes, layers and the nitty-gritty.

There is one precious piece of paper where my brilliant mathematician friend, Phil Kilby, figured out the size of my island. In Walking the Tree, schooling consists of the children leaving their home communities at the age of 8 and walking around the tree, stopping in other communities to get to know and understand the people living there.

Given the number of days the children walk and how manyhours a day they could be expected to walk, Phil figured out that my island was approximately 772,882 km squared. Approximately equal to Turkey.

It was important to know how big the island was to give me a sense of space. at first, I thought there would be many hundreds of communities, but as I wrote, a sense of isolation came through, of separation. knowing how big the island was meant i could imagine how far apart the communities were.

Phil is not related to Steve Kilbey, an Australian musical genius. This is the Church’s “Under the Milky Way“, one of those songs guaranteed to stop conversation at parties while everyone sings quietly and reverently.

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I mention The Guardian newspaper quite often as a source of material for stories and as a form of research.

I was delighted when they published my short piece about the shops of Suva last November, and in their latest Book Podcast SF Blogger Damien Walter has mentioned my novel “Walking the Tree” as a book to watch out for this year.

Gotta love The Guardian!

I’m sorting through copies from 1993 which moved with us from Sydney, I think.

Hard to throw them out, but they now smell of possum wee from being in the shed and are becoming brittle.

Still, I have to flick through them to see if there’s anything I need to know. The articles were longer then and the world seems like a different place.

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Top 3!

Chales Tan, at Bibliophile Stalker, has posted his Year’s Best. He lists Slights as one of his favourite novels! He also lists Angry Robot as the best new publisher, and I wouldn’t argue with that.

Angry Robot have just released this incredible cover for Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City:


John Picacio is the artist. A talented, charming man.

I finally sorted out the study. It was full of boxes labelled ‘odds and ends’ ‘files and folders’ and ‘papers’, but those boxes are all emptied and distributed. I now have a clear desk, where I can spread out my papers and not have to pack them up every night so we can eat dinner. Making a writer blissful is simple, really!

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Top 15

Luke Forney at Luke Reviews chose Slights as one of his top 15 books for 2009. I’m understandably delighted and talk about the process of writing the book at his site.

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January Releases

Angry Robot keep on publishing the kinds of books I would choose to read even if they weren’t my publisher. This week they launched Aliette de Bodard’s Servant of the Underworld and Lavie Tidhar’s The Bookman. I’m going to need a new set of shelves just for my Angry Robot counterparts!

I have six boxes of books still left to unpack and no space for them. I’ve tried to cull but it’s very hard. It’s all the odd little books which may one day come in handy, like the autobiography of a man with a wooden leg. You never know!

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Walking the Tree

I talked about some of the odd books I read last year over at The Book Smugglers.

I also just sent the dedication for Walking The Tree.  I’m never quite sure what to say in a dedication. I know I always need to mention my kids, because they get a great thrill out of it. But there are so many other people I make a list then ignore it, because I can’t dedicate to them all and I hate to leave anyone out.

I’m feeling just as excited about this, my second novel, as I did about the first. I loved writing it, loved researching it. I have boxes of notes taken while I was in Fiji, mostly descriptions of the beach, the sand, the coral, the trees. I find I’m like a vacumn when I’m thinking about a book or a story; everything gets sucked in. At the moment it’s all Amelia Earhart and rice, with a bit of lost cities thrown in.

I unpacked my storage boxes into the filing cabinet yesterday and it reminded me how long I’ve been working at being a writer. There is stuff going back 30 years; first drafts, edits, letters to editors, notes to self. I still love it. I really love it. I’m working on edits for Mistification this week and I wake up early, excited to get going. Of course, my kids wake up early too and need love and attention, but I’ve trained myself over the years to be able to snatch five minutes here, ten minutes there and make use of the time. Right now I’m deciding just what should happen to a boyfriend who discovers he was fed eagle egg to protect him from magic. Should it end badly or well? I can’t decide. I guess I’ll have to write it twice and see which one works out the best!

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