Welcome to Behind the Pen, combined today with a series feature. For my part in the blog tour for Restoration, published by Hachette Australia, I am thrilled to be chatting with Brisbane author extraordinaire of the Verity Fassbinder series, Angela Slatter.
Walking between the worlds has always been dangerous – but this time V’s facing the loss of all she holds dear.
Verity Fassbinder thought no boss could be worse than her perfectionist ex-boyfriend – until she grudgingly agreed to work for a psychotic fallen angel. And dealing with a career change not entirely of her own choosing is doing nothing to improve V’s already fractious temper. The angel is a jealous – and violent – employer, so she’s quit working for the Weyrd Council and sent her family away, for their own safety. Instead of indulging in domestic bliss, she’s got to play BFFs with the angel’s little spy, Joyce the kitsune assassin . . . and Joyce comes with her own murderous problems.
The angel has tasked V with finding two lost treasures, which would be hard enough even without a vengeful Dusana Nadasy on her heels. And Inspector McIntyre won’t stop calling: the bodies of Normal women who disappeared decades before are turning up, apparently subjected to Weyrd magics. Angelic demands or not, this isn’t something she can walk away from.
And the angel is getting impatient for results . . .
How would you describe Restoration to readers if you could only use 5 words?
Oh, dear gods! No, not those words. These: fast-paced, bold, fun, challenging, satisfying. I hope!
When you first began writing Vigil, were you planning for it to be a series or did this evolve throughout the writing process or even after, by way of reader response?
I hoped it would be a series, but I must admit that the pitch for Corpselight was basically three paragraphs and the pitch for Restoration was three lines! Both evolved (thankfully!) from there. And that was largely to do with how Vigil came out at the end of the process … the book I started with wasn’t the book I ended up with, but I think that’s quite natural if you keep a degree of flexibility in the story development.
In terms of Verity Fassbinder, was she already a firm picture in your mind before you started writing or did she develop a personality of her own as the series progressed?
She was always a very well-developed personality in my head, but she’s definitely developed and changed (mellowing on some things, hardening on others) as the books have progressed. I think that’s really important for characters and reader experience: I kept giving her more to lose and having to fight harder to keep the people who were important to her safe … and making the decisions she had to make more and more complex, with greater risks and consequences.
How far has your writing career evolved from when you first began to write to what it is today? Is this in line with your initial expectations?
Hmmmm. I started writing seriously about thirteen years ago … so that’s three novels, ten short story collections, about 200 short stories and articles … translations into Chinese, Spanish, French, Russian, Japanese, Bulgarian … I guess I’m in a pretty good place, but have yet to be able to afford a castle in Scotland or even a minivan in the middle of Australia … I’m happy with what I’ve achieved, and very proud of it. Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess and down to the will of the gods, readers and publishers …
Where do you normally write? Is it in the same place every day or are you an all over the place writer?
It depends: I’ve got an office at home and spend a fair bit of time at the desktop there. When it’s write club, I use the laptop in the dining room so I can talk to my writing partner. Some days I take a notebook and pen out onto the back deck and write there. Sometimes I go to the State Library or a cafe and work there. If I’m travelling, I’ll write in the hotel room or find a cafe or a museum and write there. Jeff VanderMeer told me years ago that one of the things you need to do as a writer is get rid of writing fetishes − which is not as exciting as it sounds. It just means that you need to be able to write wherever you are, with whatever materials are to hand, and at any time. When I teach, it’s one of the best pieces of advice I pass on, because writing is such a difficult profession that we don’t need to put extra obstacles in our own paths: “Oh, I can’t write without my lucky pen/facing the east/with a cat in my lap and a dog on my feet/hanging upside down in the Batcave”.
Do you have an all-time favourite book? Why is this book so significant to you?
Oh, I have so many! But I guess the one I’d pick out (this instance, at least) is Tanith Lee’s Night’s Master, from her Flat Earth series. It’s a beautiful mosaic sort of story and probably influenced the shape of the Sourdough and Bitterwood books more than I realised when I was writing them. But I learned a lot about interweaving stories, which threads to follow, which to leave loose, and how to create flawed but engaging characters. Tanith was such an astonishing writer, working across so many genres, so masterful in her use of language. She didn’t always stick the landing, but you can always see what she was reaching for − and I’d say she got it right more often than she didn’t.
But if you ask me tomorrow, I might give you a different book …
What attributes do you think you need to remain sane as a writer? Are there any particular things you routinely do for yourself to maintain your own headspace?
Well, maybe we get to stay as close to sanity as possible? Or at least put up a good and convincing front for the rest of the world? I know that I need a task list each and every day. I also know that the one thing I must do if I’m going to achieve anything is to make my bed every morning; it might seem weird, but as long as I start the day with that one act of discipline, nothing else is too big to do. Being able to prioritise is a big thing, being able to take yourself seriously and regard what you do as a business rather than a hobby is hugely important; being able to visualise where you want to be in a year, two years, five, etc, is also important BUT the most critical thing is making sure that you DO the things you need to do to get yourself to that place. It’s all very well writing “be a writer” on your vision board but if you’re not actually doing the writing, learning your craft (always keep learning no matter how famous you become), going to the conventions, etc, then all the wishful thinking in the world isn’t going to make you into a writer!
Also, I drink a lot of coffee.
Because you are a fantasy writer, I can’t resist asking, if you could walk through a door into another realm, describe the universe you’d choose to visit.
Ah, I’d go into my Sourdough universe. Because it’s a fairy tale kind of place but I’ve made sure there’s indoor plumbing. So that’s kind of a strange mixed world of fairy tale, Renaissance, Middle Ages, Victorian era London … with architecture from the UK and Europe across many periods, and many, many fashions. I talked about it in more detail over at Tor.com
What is the speculative fiction scene like here in Australia? Do you feel it has a strong presence? Has being Australian impacted on your writing and/or writing career in an overly positive or negative way?
There’s a very strong spec-fic scene in Australia. The problem for us is the lack of local markets − which is not to say there aren’t any, because there are BUT there are so few. My advice to new writers is don’t think you’ll conquer the Australian scene first then try overseas; try overseas at the same time. Your work might find an audience elsewhere. And your strategy should be “top down”, which is not an instruction for driving a convertible, but rather send your story to the highest paying, fastest replying market first, then proceed down the list. Sure, if you start lower down the list, the story might get accepted BUT there’s the chance you could have sold it for a better fee to a market with higher visibility … you lose nothing by trying the top first (but make sure you’re sending your best work!).
I don’t think being Australian has impacted on my career in any way. It’s about the quality of the writing, not my nationality … and the fact that I have been strategic about submissions, etc. It pays to be a smart writer rather than an “artiste”.
Verity Fassbinder has her feet in two worlds.
The daughter of one human and one Weyrd parent, she has very little power herself, but does claim unusual strength – and the ability to walk between us and the other – as a couple of her talents. As such a rarity, she is charged with keeping the peace between both races, and ensuring the Weyrd remain hidden from us.
But now Sirens are dying, illegal wine made from the tears of human children is for sale – and in the hands of those Weyrd who hold with the old ways – and someone has released an unknown and terrifyingly destructive force on the streets of Brisbane.
And Verity must investigate – or risk ancient forces carving our world apart.
VIGIL is the first book in award-winning author Angela Slatter’s Verity Fassbinder series.
Published by Hachette Australia
Life in Brisbane is never simple for those who walk between the worlds.
Verity’s all about protecting her city, but right now that’s mostly running surveillance and handling the less exciting cases for the Weyrd Council – after all, it’s hard to chase the bad guys through the streets of Brisbane when you’re really, really pregnant.
An insurance investigation sounds pretty harmless, even if it is for ‘Unusual Happenstance’. That’s not usually a clause Normals use – it covers all-purpose hauntings, angry genii loci, ectoplasmic home invasion, demonic possession, that sort of thing – but Susan Beckett’s claimed three times in three months. Her house keeps getting inundated with mud, but she’s still insisting she doesn’t need or want help . . . until the dry-land drownings begin. V’s first lead in takes her to Chinatown, where she is confronted by kitsune assassins. But when she suddenly goes into labour, it’s clear the fox spirits are not going to be helpful.
CORPSELIGHT, the sequel to VIGIL, is the second book in the Verity Fassbinder series by award-winning author Angela Slatter.
Published by Hachette Australia
Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing me with a copy of each of the titles in the Verity Fassbinder series for the Restoration blog tour. Restoration was released on the 14th August, 2018. All tiles in the series are available in paperback and e-book.