Thursday, 17 November 2011

Interview with Jo Anderton

It's time for another interview! Today we are joined by fantasy author Jo Anderton, who recently published her first book, Debris. You can read my review of Debris here.

For more information about Jo Anderton, visit her website or follow her on Twitter (@joanneanderton)

Firstly, many thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. To kick things off, could you tell me a little about yourself and your work, and why you chose fantasy as your genre?
You're very welcome! Let's see, I live in Sydney, Australia with my long-suffering husband, two cats (one rules our household with an iron paw) and a dog. When I'm not writing I work in marketing for an Aussie book distributor. Why fantasy? You know, it's a little hard to say. My writing just turns out that way -- even if I try to write something set in "real life" weird things find their way into the story. Maybe because I grew up on a diet of Tolkien? Or maybe I'm just wired that way?

When did you start writing? Is it something you have always been doing? Were there any books you read as a child that inspired you to take up writing?
I've been writing since I was a kid, and even then I wrote weird stuff. I think I was the only person in my class who wrote post-apocalyptic stories for their creative writing assignments. I just loved being completely absorbed into the worlds in my head and on the page, and still do. I have a very clear memory of asking a teacher, when I was 13, if he thought "I could publish a book one day". He totally said yes, if I worked hard enough. And that was pretty damned inspiring.

What did it feel like reading your first review?
Absolutely, stomach churningly, nervous! Don't get me wrong, it's so exciting when people enjoy the book, but it still freaks me out every time.

Any advice you would like to share to anyone thinking of writing their first book? Did you receive any advice?
The best advice I can give is to write. Then write more. Revise what you've written. Join a writing group, get some feedback, give some feedback. But most of all, write. And write some more.

Over the years I've received wonderful support from the Australian and world wide speculative fiction community, including advice. That's something else I would recommend -- connect with others who love what you love and do what you do.

Debris is your first book. I’d love to hear more about those early days. Did you have to pitch it to many publishers? How did you come into contact with Angry Robot Books?
Debris took an unusual path to publication. A few years ago I attended a manuscript development program, but with a completely different book. The program was so helpful, it involved discussing our books and careers with a publisher, agent and a professional writer -- in this case the wonderful Marianne de Pierres. While talking to Marianne I happened to mention I was working on Debris. Through her mentorship I met an agent who subsequently approached Angry Robot. I guess the lesson is to seek out opportunities (like applying for things like the manuscript development program) and take advantage of them. I very nearly didn't mention Debris, because I was at the program with a different manuscript. But I'm glad I did!

I know you have recently had a really long holiday in Sri Lanka and I loved all the elephant pictures you posted. Will we perhaps see any elephants in your coming books? Or is there something in Debris which was inspired by an earlier holiday?
Oh I loved Sri Lanka (and the elephants!) and hope I can go back again one day! I've got a couple of short stories playing around in my brain that have been inspired by the trip, but neither of them involve elephants. Of course, that doesn't mean there won't be elephants later on. I never know what my brain's going to come up with. Can't say Debris was inspired by a holiday. But I think I should go on more of them, you know. For inspiration...

I really liked how you turned physics into magic by using pions. Where did you get that idea from? Also, are you a rocket scientist?
Haha! Rocket scientist? No. Thanks for asking though!

Pions came from a desire to write about an industrialised form of magic. Basically, I wanted to know what the industrial revolution would look like in a world where magic was common place. In the world of Debris almost everyone can see and manipulate pions to rearrange matter, but not to the same degree. You can't just say "build that giant statue for me" you have to know how to create cement and steel, how to design it so it doesn't collapse (under normal circumstances, of course!). The better educated you are, the better you are at manipulating pions and the more money you can earn. So you have factories where circles of low paid, low skilled pion-binders generate light for the city, and heat, and regulate sewerage, that kind of thing. Meanwhile you have architects like Tanyana, the main character, who do highly specialised jobs for a lot of money.

What books are you currently reading and are there any must reads you would like to recommend?
At the moment I'm reading Future Babble: Why expert predictions are wrong and why we believe them anyway by Dan Gardner. Non fiction, and absolutely fascinating. I try to mix up my reading with fiction, non fiction, fiction, non fiction. I have a giant TBR pile full of amazing looking books. No idea what I'll chose next!

Most importantly, are you working on something at the moment?
Well I've been working on Suited, book two of the Veiled Worlds, which is due out in 2012. So that's pretty exciting. I'm also playing with a completely new book. It's a post-apocalyptic romantic comedy, set in Sydney in the not too distant future, with ghosts. And aliens. Heaps of fun. And, as always, I'm trying to keep control of all the new ideas that pop into my brain, demanding books, until I have time to write them!

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