This week I've got an amazing line-up of guest posts, starting with this interview by Alis Franklin. I read and reviewed Alis's book Liesmith a year or so ago, and I was tremendously excited to get my hands on the sequel Stormbringer. It's a worthy follow-up , and I'll link to my review when I get it done. In the meantime, I'm thrilled that Alis was willing to answer my interview questions...
What’s the most compelling thing about Stormbringer, the thing that’s kept your butt in the chair through hours of writing and revising?
More seriously, I wanted to explore the idea of what it's like for the "bad guys" in SFF stories. I was a big Blizzard fangirl growing up, and one of the things they started to do in their video games in the mid- to late-90s, was deconstruct the idea of the faceless, disposable Always Chaotic Evil horde of monsters. Because in Blizzard games, the player gets to play as Warcraft's orcs (who are, well, orcs) and Starcraft's zerg (alien space locusts). Which means the narrative in those games has to give the orcs and the zerg things like culture and personality and motivations, and these have to go beyond the KILL ALL HUMANS used in media with "traditional" protagonists like lost kings and space marines. That stuck with me as a kid, and I think once you've seen this sort of humanising (for want of a better word), it becomes hard to go back to taking the Bad Guy Horde at face value.
Deconstructions like this aren't new or unique, but I've noticed there seems to be a recent proliferation of media that feature simplistic Good Guys vs. Bad Guys, "they hate us for our freedoms" style conflicts. I'm talking films like Pacific Rim and The Avengers, that show a sentient alien Other invading Earth, usually for reasons that are never explored much beyond "because they're evil!". Worse, these narratives often laud the mass (nuclear) genocide of said Other as a moral and heroic act. That's not a plotline I'm comfortable with, particularly when it seems to pop up over and over and over again.
So I guess Stormbringer is a reaction to that. In the book, the core conflict is about a group of heroes on a quest to retrieve a magic hammer before an undead horde and a monster army destroys their home. At least, that's the story they think they're in. Other characters have different ideas, not least the said undead horde and monster armies themselves...
One of the things I liked best about Liesmith was its basis in Norse Mythology. What’s the appeal of that particular set of gods and goddesses for you?
I grew up in a place called the Woden Valley, and when I was about thirteen or fourteen, I discovered Woden is an alternate name for Odin, the Norse Allfather. I thought that was pretty cool, so became a voracious collector of other trivia about the Norse myths. The more I learned, the more I realised almost all Western fantasy fiction is built on the Norse sagas, which come down to us via Tolkien. Tolkien, of course, put his own spin on the old myths, influenced by his own religious and cultural beliefs. A similar thing happened to the Vikings. Our knowledge there comes filtered through Christian and Muslim scholars to the point where even the name "Viking" would be have been considered offensive to the Vikings themselves! Unpacking all those assumptions makes for fascinating worldbuilding, I think.
Clutter or quiet? Describe your perfect writing situation.
OMG I know! I once tried to write a naughty scene on an airplane sitting between my two besties. Did. Not. Work.
I’ve only been to Australia once – a short 2 weeks in Melbourne – but the food amazed me. Do you prefer making your own dinner or dining out, and what special treat do you miss most when you’re away from home?
Cooking I go hot and cold on. I like it, but I don't like having to do it every day as a chore between my day job and writing. My mum's also an exceptional cook--we eat at her place every Saturday--so it's hard to live up to her legacy in that regard.
I get quite a few people complaining to me that they get hungry when reading the Wyrd books, and, well. All I can say is that there's a reason for that!
What’s next on your horizon? Describe your current WIP(s) or other upcoming project.
It's also a good opportunity to show a side of Australia I don't think gets much airplay to non-Australian audiences. Stereotypes about the outback and crocodiles are great and all (
#sarcasm), but the vast majority of Australians live lives as divorced from that as New Yorkers do from people living in rural Texas. So Stormbringer was about subverting a bunch of tropes common in epic fantasy, then its sequel is about subverting some common ideas about Australia. Which is a lot harder in some respects, I think, so... wish me luck!
That sounds SO COOL! I'm already looking forward to your next book. Thanks so much for the interview, Alis, and all the best with the release of Stormbringer!
HERE's a link to Stormbringer on Amazon, and HERE's a link to Liesmith on Amazon.
Alis Franklin is a thirtysomething Australian author of queer urban fantasy. She likes cooking, video games, Norse mythology, and feathered dinosaurs. She's never seen a live drop bear, but stays away from tall trees, just in case.
A product of the early 80s, Alis grew up in Canberra, Australia, in a place called the Woden Valley. The mythology theme would prove prophetic, with Alis spending most of her awkward teenage years buried inside a copy of Cassell's Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend, inflicting various Norse-themed plots onto her incredibly tolerant Werewolf: the Apocalypse group.
Despite spending a childhood insisting she was going to grow up to be an "author and illustrator", at college Alis accidentally a whole interest in computer programming instead. This resulted in an ill-conceived attempt to enroll in Computer Science/Law at university.
The Law degree didn't stick, and Alis replaced it with Political Science in second year, earning herself two "unscience" degrees. She also managed to accrue a husband, and they currently live together in a house far too small for the number of computers it holds.
Catch up with Alis HERE on her website and blog...