Marianne took some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions, which I am very grateful for – I know she had been hard at work completing Mirror Space (book 3 of the Sentients of Orion). Her earlier novels, the Parrish Plessis books are on my to-buy list as I’ve heard a lot of great things about them. You can visit Marianne’s website here and also check out that of her publisher, Orbit, here. Also, courtesy of Orbit, there is an extract of Chaos Space up on their site – just have a look here.
Anyway, enough of my rambling, here’s the interview!
Many thanks for taking the time out of your undoubtedly busy schedule to answer a few questions. First off, could you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to write – and why science fiction?
I’m the daughter of wheat and sheep farmers from Western Australia. Being the youngest by a quite way, I spent a lot of time alone reading and imagining because my siblings had already left home. I had an amazingly free, uncluttered childhood which at the time I thought was boring – but now I truly appreciate. It all came to a nasty end when I was sent to boarding school at twelve. Anyway, the reading habit stayed with me through the ‘BS’ years – and offered me escape. It led, in time, to the desire to emulate the things I loved to read. Not much different from any other writer I guess. Science fiction writing seemed like the ultimate mountain to climb (and still does). I wanted to take that journey and enjoy the view along the way.
What sort of books have influenced you and your writing?
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly because I’ve read so differently at different ages. My young teen years were filled with pulp, ‘boys own’ adventure novels and Zane Grey. Then in my later teens and early twenties I alternated between literary fiction and historical novels. Late twenties I experienced a fantasy glut and became entranced by mainstream saga’s like Kristin Lavransdatter. In between there was some weird slipstream stuff… and of course … Carlos Castenada. My latter years have been almost exclusively SF. Given those shifting tastes I’ll just mention a few authors that stand out for me: Sigrid Undset, A.C. Clarke, Ian MacDonald, DH Lawrence, Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Anya Seton.
I must admit that I’ve yet to read the Parrish Plessis series (it’s on the list though!), but how have those first books helped you as a writer?
From the point of view of the writing craft, I guess I got a good look at the merits and downfalls of writing in first person. Three books in the first person viewpoint of a very intense, volatile character was an interesting experience.
In terms of building a readership the series has been great. Parrish is a colourful anti-hero who attracts a lot of fan art and some fan fiction – she even has her own message board called Parrish’s Patch. Because of Parrish, I’ve had a lot of reader interaction. Personally I don’t think you can ask for much more than that – other people getting enthusiastically caught up in your fictional world and characters. The downside is that fans don’t want to let go and let you try other things – it meets resistance. I understand why, but a writer has to be able to grow and experiment.
You’re also a part of the wRiter on the Rise group, has this helped you grow as a writer by having feedback like this?
ABSOLUTELY! I can’t begin to describe how much my writers group has helped me improve. If you surround yourself with calibre writers you get forced along with them. A bit like competitive sport – if you play with the best, you learn to be better.
We meet every 12 – 18 months, each bringing a novel to be critiqued. It’s a fascinating and exhausting process. It’s also been a great gift to see some truly stunning novels form and refine like Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels and Richard Harland’s upcoming YA novel Worldshaker.
With a role playing game spawned from Parrish Plessis and some truly spectacular fan art on the forum, do these give you a boost?
I never fail to be astonished and cheered by the response I get from readers to the Parrish books. I love the fact that I’ve written something that has stirred their creative impulses. Right now, a group in Western Australia are creating a Parrish animation, and I’m currently in film negotiations for Nylon Angel. I truly believe she’ll make it to the big screen at some stage – she’s that kind of girl!
With the change of sub-genre with the Sentients of Orion series, how much of a difference is there writing space opera? Any pros or cons?
Sentients of Orion has given me a chance to be a whole lot of different people and visit some exotic and weird places – better than a holiday really. Much as I love Parrish, her world was tawdry and downright loathsome at times. Writing Sentients has been like growing wings. With Space Opera you can go anywhere, be anyone. I love that but it’s also meant juggling a number of balls over a number of books and I’d be lying if I didn’t say how demanding that is. One the greatest pleasures in writing this series has been weaving the character’s storylines so that they fall in and out of each others lives. Manipulating fate is unbelievably cool.
Without giving away too much can you briefly outline Dark Space and Chaos Space?
That is so tough – they are complex books that resist simple, concise explanation. So I’m going to cheat by giving you my series pitch and a link to chapter samples on my website.
God is discovered alive and well in the Orion constellation; and its/his/her name is Sole. Scientists and academics and believers are overjoyed. But it takes a pregnant, eccentric noblewoman and a larrikin misogynist to unravel the real reason for Sole’s sudden appearance and stop the sentient species of Orion committing genocide in their effort to win Sole’s favour.
*** Put more directly … if you like intrigue, and ideas, and sexual tension then these might be the books for you***
Personally, I found Dark Space to be a very slow build up that paid off hugely in Chaos Space – was this always the plan?
Yes, although in retrospect it may not have been such a smart thing. Some readers found the narrow focus of Dark Space belied the space opera tradition and were not happy. However, my idea was to start with an intense focus on a couple of characters on a single world, in the first book, and then let the story blossom into a grand adventure and intrigue that spreads across the Orion constellation. That fitted with the ‘chaos theory’ theme – drop a stone in a pond… I *think* that those readers who have gave me the benefit of the doubt with Dark Space – trusted me, if you like – have been well satisfied. My editor at Orbit, Darren Nash, has been amazing to work with – I don’t think there’s been a single editing point that I’ve disagreed with him on over four books.
What can we expect from the next two in the series?
The canvas expands yet again in Mirror Space as Mira travels to Post-Species space and then I start the process of reeling things in, in the last novel, Transformation Space. Aside from tying up the story threads for the characters, the last novel is very much about the SOLE entity and its part in the whole storyline – it tackles the really BIG questions.
Your film script ‘Stalking Daylight’ has been optioned and your alter ego, Marianne Delacourt, is publishing a new series next year – you sound like a very busy person indeed! What else will we be seeing from you in the near future?
I set some goals for this year and am happy (and a little surprised) to have achieved them. The Stalking Daylight script is a long term SF project and gives me a chance to work with colleagues Lynne Jamneck and Enchanter producer, Matt Carter. I always wanted to write a film that achieved the same type of suspense as Pitch Black, so that’s where we’re aiming. The paranormal, humorous crime series is LOTS of fun – written by me in my spare time as counterpoint to some of the tragedy and seriousness of the Sentients series. In Australia it will be released by Allen and Unwin and you can follow its progress at the Marianne Delacourt blog: http://taratasse.wordpress.com/. The series pitch goes like this:
Tara Tasse should be just another unemployable, twenty-something, private school girl but she can see people’s auras. The trouble is, auras sometimes tell you things people don’t want you to know. When Tara reads crime boss Johnny Vogue’s aura, she’s sucked into an underworld ‘situation’ that sees her running for her life. Tara Tasse is Triple F. Funny. Fast. Feisty.
I’ve also written a very dark, gothic teen fantasy entitled Burn Bright which needs a little more work but I hope will be out in the next year or two.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Nice to chat with you, Mark. Have a wonderful 2009. Keep up the good work – the industry needs intelligent reviewers like you.
Once again, many thanks for your time – I look forward to catching up with Parrish and eagerly await the next book in the Sentients of Orion!