Saturday, June 25, 2016

Interview with Joanne Hall, author of Spark and Carousel

Today the spec fic showcase have great pleasure in chatting with Joanne Hall, author of Spark and Carousel, and joint editor of the Fight Like a Girl anthology.

As well as writing novels, you have edited and contributed to several anthologies. What was the inspiration behind Fight like a Girl?
Fight Like A Girl grew out of a Twitter conversation instigated by Danie Ware, following a lot of discussion about how women are under-represented in SFF anthologies, and wouldn’t it be great to have an anthology that was all female writers that celebrated female strength? It kind of snowballed from there. I’m proud that we’ve managed to have not only a great collection of stories by women, but also two women editing it, a female publisher, and a female cover artist too – I think it shows what women in SFF can achieve.

Do you prefer to write series, or stand-alone novels?
Hard to choose – I often find myself accidentally committing series fiction when I intended to write a stand-alone (whoops!) What I really enjoy is writing more-or-less stand-alone novels in a world I’ve already established, so the stories are linked in small ways but can be read independently. I think that’s fun for returning readers but also doesn’t exclude new readers. It’s nice to be able to add little in-jokes and references for hardcore fans to get!

Fantasy can be both a radical and a conservative genre. What are your thoughts on this?
I think there was a time when Fantasy tended to be a little hidebound (certainly the popular, big selling fantasy) – there was a lot of debt to Tolkien and perhaps authors and publishers were nervous about straying from the profitable “elves and goblins” template. But there’s always been room for radical and ground-breaking books in the genre, and while they might not initially have been the biggest-selling I think they’re the books that have had a lasting impact, those that weren’t afraid to break new ground and try something bold. I’m thinking of books like Ammonite by Nicola Griffith, God’s War by Kameron Hurley, or Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint, which engenders a lot of love from everyone who’s read it.

Is there a specifically British strand of Fantasy writing?
I don’t think there is, really, any more than there is a specifically American brand of fantasy writing. I think what unites fantasy writers the world over is our fascination with the impossible, with a world that’s different from our own.

You describe your latest novel Spark and Carousel as “Oliver Twist meets The Godfather, only with magic and demons”. Tell us more…
Spark and Carousel is the story of a mage-trained boy who goes on the run, blaming himself for the death of his master. He ends up in the sprawling southern city of Cape Carey, where the underworld beneath the streets is dominated by rival criminal gangs. When Carousel, a wire-walker and petty thief, rescues him from the streets she takes him to join the Nobility, who are engaged in a turf war with rival gang Startide for control of the city. But Spark has little control over the magic he has learned, and when he lashes out in anger with it, he cracks the city streets and unleashes a terrible evil on the city. Only the mages, Elvienne and Kayall, who have come to the city hunting for Spark, can bring his power under control. But first they have to find him, and keep him out of the clutches of a beautiful daughter of high society, who has her own plans for both Spark and Carousel.

Do you use Scrivener or Word? Or another word-processing program? Or even pen and paper?
I use Word. I tried Scrivener but I found I was spending more time trying to remember how to use the various functions in it than I was writing, and I found them a distraction. If I have reference pictures or research notes for a novel I tend to save them in a folder on my desktop where I can access them easily, or on a Pinterest board. When I’m writing a first draft I tend to write it all roughly and very fast, and write notes in it to look things up later when I’m going through the second draft, so I’m not sure Scrivener works all that well for the way I write.

Do you have any pets? Do they influence your writing?
I have a very lazy greyhound, who mainly influences my writing by dropping tennis balls by my feet to try and encourage me to play when I should be writing…

Would you rather see your stories on the big screen or the little screen?
That would depend – I’d like either an epic 2-hour movie OR a 24 part high-budget HBO TV series. I’d be perfectly content with either of those things…

What is your favourite Science Fiction (or Fantasy) film?
Don’t make me choose! My favourite films vary from week to week but include Terminator, Star Wars, Dogma, Labyrinth, The Princess Bride, Fury Road, Howl’s Moving Castle, Aliens…

Are you a Luddite? Or do you prefer to be on the bleeding edge of technology?
I’m usually slightly behind the curve when it comes to technology – I wouldn’t say I was a Luddite but my finger is some way from the pulse of what’s cool! My friend Jon has all the gadgets – the Raspberry Pi Arcade and the Oculus Rift, and he lets me play with them…

Are you--or have you ever been--a gamer?
Yes. Not a hardcore gamer and I don’t play well with others, but a nice big immersive single-player game like Skyrim, or a Zelda game – I can happily lose many hours playing. Often I hold off starting a new game and play as a reward for handing in a finished book!

Do you cook? What is your best/favourite/most popular recipe?
I do cook, but while some people find it relaxing and sip a glass of wine while whisking up a perfect paella, I’m more of the school of setting myself on fire / setting the kitchen on fire / drinking all the wine… I do make a very nice lasagne, and I also have a recipe for Redcurrant muffins which is mighty tasty.

Do you have a garden? Have you ever grown your own food?
I don’t have a garden, but I’ve experimented with growing strawberries and chillis on my window sills, with variable degrees of success…

Would you prefer an independent bookshop, or a big chain?
I like the atmosphere of indie book shops, and the choice available in a big chain – can I have both, please? In fact, can I just have all the bookshops?

Do you have your own office, study or writing space, or can you write in a cafe or the library?
I have an office – I need somewhere I can go into and shut the door, though in practice the door is rarely closed because the dog likes to wander in and out with tennis balls. But the office is mainly a repository for STUFF – I can pretty much write anywhere and manage to tune out what’s going on around me. I have all my published books on a shelf above my PC, so in moments of despair I can look up and remind myself that yes, I am actually capable of writing books that people want to publish….

Who do you consider are your major influences in writing?
I always knew I wanted to write, but when I read Diana Wynne Jones and David Eddings, David Gemmell and Anne McCaffrey, I knew that what I wanted to write was fantasy. I don’t know that I particularly write like any of them (Gemmell, probably, is the closest) but I consider them to be my formative influences.

What writer, living or dead, would you most like to meet?
Ursula LeGuin, but I’m not sure she would want to meet terrified gibbering fangirl me!

If you could have any director to shoot the film of your books, who would you choose?
Peter Weir. He directed “Master and Commander”, “Dead Poets Society”, “Picnic at Hanging Rock”. His films always look great but he’s never done a fantasy film. I just think he would make it look awesome.

How would you define Speculative Fiction?
The fiction of what could be, what might be, and what could never be – SF, Horror and Fantasy.

About Joanne Hall:

Joanne Hall lives in Bristol, England, with her partner.  She has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pen, and gave up a sensible (boring) job in insurance to be a full time writer, to the despair of her mother.  She had previously dabbled in music journalism, and enjoys gaming, going to gigs and the cinema, and reading. 
Her short stories have been published in several anthologies, including Dark Spires and Future Bristol, as well as a number of magazines. With Roz Clarke, she has co-edited the anthologies, Colinthology, Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion, and, in 2016, Fight Like A Girl.
Her Art of Forgetting duology, as well as the stand-alone Spark and Carousel were published by Kristell Ink, and her latest novel, The Summer Goddess is due out in September 2016.
In the interests of not showing off, she’s not mentioning that her work has been longlisted for both the Tiptree and the Gemmell awards.
Joanne is also one of the founders of BristolCon. She’s always happy to hear from readers.


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