Friday, 7 October 2011

Author Interview: Jo Anderton

Novel: Debris

Short Stories: listed here

> What is Debris about? 

Debris is set in a world where everyone can work a kind of magic by manipulating sub-atomic particles with their mind. At the beginning of the book Tanyana is very skilled at this, and she earns a lot of money by doing so. However, she is involved in a terrible accident that scars her body, and strips her of her abilities. She is forced to the lowest rung of society, collecting debris -- the garbage created by all that manipulation of sub-atomic particles. But nothing is quite what it seems. Was her accident really so accidental? Is debris more than the waste product everyone else thinks it is? Tanyana fights to learn the truth, and discovers a world she could never have imagined.

> You've written and published a number of short stories while Debris is your first novel. Beyond the matter of length, do you find it easier writing short stories or novels?

Writing novels and short stories has always felt like using different muscle groups. Working on both keeps the overall body healthy. Novels build stamina, short stories are all about discipline. I wouldn't say one is easier than the other, just that they are different, and I like to keep a balance between the two.

>Your writing alternates between science fiction, fantasy and horror.  Which genre is the hardest (or easiest) to write and why?

Horror seems to come naturally to me (I wonder what that says about me?) so in a way I find it the easiest genre to write. It's like an addiction -- I feel so much better if I just have a little fix of something horrific! I've started all sorts of stories that have turned into horror by the end, even romance. The hardest genre for me is always science fiction. I worry about getting the 'science' part right. So I tend to sneak a bit of horror in my Sci-Fi stories, just to calm the jitters.

> Did your day job as the marketing coordinator for a book distributor help with regards to learning about the book industry and getting published?

Yes and no. My day job has taught me a lot about what happens 'on the other side' of publishing, and it's great to go into this with that knowledge and support. I wouldn't say it's helped with the getting published part -- apart from teaching me to be patient! I know how busy publishers are (I sit opposite one, and let me tell you, publishers are flat out busy all the time, and wonderfully dedicated to their authors and their books).

> What made you want to be a writer?

Stories. I've always been addicted to stories. As a kid I used to get lost in the stories in my head and I've never really grown out of that. Writing is my way of getting the stories out -- I stick a pen in my hand, or a keyboard under my fingers, and set them free.

> In the book and short stories you’ve written, who is you favourite character and why?

You want me to play favourites? What if my other characters find out and stop co-operating? Okay, well in Debris I can't help but love the main character, Tanyana. She's arrogant, she's opinionated, damned stubborn and strong too. Get on her good side, and she'll be loyal to you for life. Piss her off and...well...don't piss her off. I also love Lad. He's a large, volatile man who seems simple and child-like on the surface, but is hiding some of the book's biggest secrets. I love his honesty and earnestness. He made me laugh, and cry, more than anyone else.

> What is your university degree in and does it help with your writing?

I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in English Literature and Modern History. Strangely enough, I learned the most about writing from studying history. I loved drilling down through what happened to why it happened, and I think that's vital to the creation of characters, worlds, and the stories themselves. What happens is just the surface, why it happens is what really matters.

> When and where do you write?

Evenings and weekends are my writing time. I've got myself set up in a study at home. Unfortunately I'm not very good at writing 'anywhere' or 'anytime', thanks to a persistent back injury. The idea of sitting in a café chair and typing on a laptop makes me hurt just to think about! And regular breaks are a must. I need to get my arse out of the chair at least every hour, and move, and stretch, do a bit of yoga or go for a quick walk.

> What’s the best/worst thing about writing?

The best thing is the good writing days -- when I'm not even aware of typing any more, because I'm there, in that world, with those people, and they feel just as real as the so-called 'real world'. Woe to anyone who tries to disturb me on a good writing day! The worst thing is all the damned sitting.

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

Write. Revise. Join a writing group and get feedback from other writers. Listen to what they have to say. Revise some more. Keep writing. Above all, keep writing.

> Any tips against writers block?

Exercise. For me, the best thing is to get away from the screen/paper, get outside, and run. If you don't want to run, at least walk. Don't go to a gym either, get some open sky and fresh air and green into you. It does wonders.

> How do you discipline yourself to write?

I'm a creature of habit. If I have a nice routine going, I can stick to it. When my routine gets disrupted, then I run into difficulty, and I just have to force myself to get off the couch and back to the desk. I use food rewards (like I do for my dog!) and tea rewards to make it easier. "Write a thousand words and you can have a piece of chocolate and a peppermint tea. Come on Jo, that's a good girl."

> How many rejection letters did you get for your first novel or story?

I stopped counting them a long time ago! About the same time I learned to love them. Rejection letters are great, they mean you're writing, and submitting, and writing more, and submitting more. And that's all good.

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