Juliet Marillier was born and brought up in Dunedin, New Zealand, and now lives in Western Australia. Her historical fantasy novels for adults and young adults have been translated into many languages and have won a number of awards including the Aurealis, the American Library Association’s Alex Award, the Sir Julius Vogel Award and the Prix Imaginales. Her lifelong love of folklore, fairy tales and mythology is a major influence on her writing. Juliet has two novels due out this year: Shadowfell, first book in a new young adult series, and Flame of Sevenwaters, an adult historical fantasy. She’s currently working on the third instalment of the Shadowfell series. When not busy writing, Juliet tends to a small but expanding pack of waifs and strays. She blogs monthly on http://www.writerunboxed.com and her website is at http://www.julietmarillier.com
1. The first book in your new series is soon due out. Can you tell us a little bit about the series and in particular the first book, Shadowfell?
The Shadowfell series is being marketed for young adults but I’m hoping it will be a successful crossover series, with equal appeal to adult fantasy readers. It’s a story of tyranny and rebellion, set in an imagined version of ancient Scotland. Shadowfell is much darker and grittier than my previous young adult novels and I’ve loved that challenge. The first book comes out in July (September in the US), though we’ll have copies available at the Perth Supanova on June 23-24, when Shadowfell will be launched. The series is a departure for me in that it’s not based on real history, though the kingdom of Alban is recognisable as the north of Scotland. There’s a cast of uncanny characters, many of whom speak in broad Scots (did I mention I was born in Dunedin?) The book doesn’t fit into any specific period in real Scottish history, so this might be considered my first pure fantasy novel. It’s quite an epic story.
2. As a full time writer what sort of pressure are you under to develop future projects as well as write the currently contracted ones? Does it leave much room for other forms of writing, such as short stories, that don’t pay comparably?
As a mid-list writer of commercial fiction I’m expected to turn in an adult novel a year – less than that and there’s a danger of becoming invisible in the crowded US market. I know many writers who are far more productive than that, with several series on the go at once. I’ve found that a book a year is as fast as I can write while still producing work I can be proud of (and staying reasonably sane.) It can be extremely difficult to balance the need to earn a living from writing with the wish to exercise creative choice and to pursue the projects one feels passionate about. This is a dilemma I’ve been considering a great deal recently as I draw near to the end of my current contracts. I’ve been juggling adult and young adult projects for two different publishers in the US, and of course they don’t synchronise their dates to suit me, so the last couple of years have been stupidly busy. Part of it’s down to my reluctance to say no when writing opportunities come up!
Where short fiction is concerned, my choice to write very little of it is not related to the payment; I find short stories far more difficult to write than novels, so I am very slow at them. But when I do write a short story or novella that I’m proud of, it gives me immense satisfaction.
3. You have a short story collection coming out from Ticonderoga Publications next year. Can you tell us a bit about how the sale came about, the process of developing the book and what we can expect from the book?
I keep a relatively low profile on the WA speculative fiction scene, largely self-inflicted – I am in my comfort zone when at home working, with my dogs for company. So I’ve been slow to learn about what’s happening with local small press. One of the first Ticonderoga publications I read was Angela Slatter’s collection, The Girl with No Hands. I loved the stories and was impressed by the quality of the publication. And I’d contributed a cover quote to Ticonderoga’s Sara Douglass collection, The Hall of Lost Footsteps. (A few weeks before she died, Sara contacted me to thank me for this which was deeply touching as she had given me a fabulous cover quote back when I was a newbie novelist. She and I had been friends since we did a US tour together in 2001.) When Russell Farr put the suggestion to me that Ticonderoga might publish a collection of my short fiction I was really delighted (and challenged – see earlier comment.) What can you expect? The book will contain the best of my previously published short fiction, mostly fantasy with possibly a couple of romance or women’s fiction stories. There will also be some new stories and, I hope, a new novella. The title story will be folkloric fantasy. You can also expect a wonderful cover by a young Western Australian artist. Cover and title will be revealed later in the year.
4. What Australian works are have you loved recently?
I’m really picky about what I read; I think my critic’s hat is rusted on. But it’s been a great year or two for Australian fantasy. I wholeheartedly loved The Girl with No Hands by Angela Slatter – such an accomplished writer, with a real respect for her fairy tale material and a wonderful warmth of approach.
I was impressed by Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan (I have this in the UK edition, entitled The Brides of Rollrock Island.) Margo is our foremost Australian fantasy writer, a great stylist and a highly original storyteller. I tend to use her work a lot for ‘how to do it’ examples in writing workshops.
Then there was Kate Forsyth’s magnificent novel Bitter Greens, historical fiction with a Rapunzel thread woven through the three-strand story. I predict this will be an award-winner for Kate. It’s a brilliant piece of writing.
Am I allowed to include a Kiwi-born, Aussie resident writer? Karen Healy’s Guardian of the Dead was a stunning debut with an unforgettable young female protagonist and Maori folklore forming the uncanny element of the story. I just read her new novel, The Shattering, a YA fantasy thriller, and really enjoyed it.
5. Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?
I believe specialist small press is playing a bigger role now in publishing quality short fiction within the genre. It certainly seems far more visible. Aurealis Magazine has gone fully digital, and I imagine other publications have done the same or are headed in that direction.
Our writers continue to achieve international recognition – it seems to me Australians are represented more all the time in the big genre awards. At the pinnacle of this is Shaun Tan with both an Academy Award and the Astrid Lindgren Award in the same year. But our writers are making it onto World Fantasy Award ballots and being shortlisted for awards like the David Gemmell Legend Award (congratulations to Helen Lowe … oops, she’s another Kiwi.)
It’s encouraging to see the new talent coming up – writers like Thoraiya Dyer and Lezli Robyn. I predict a stunningly successful debut (as a novelist) for WA writer Lee Battersby, whose dark fantasy The Corpse-Rat King comes out from Angry Robot in the UK later this year.
We’ve had some notable losses within our ranks – the one-of-a-kind Sara Douglass, who raised the profile of Australian fantasy so much on the international scene,, and the incredibly brave Paul Haines. I salute them both.