Welcome to “Conversations in the Fisch-Bowl”, a new and hopefully regular fixture on this, the Fisch-blog. From time to time I’ll add to this Conversation, where I’ll allow a special guest to pontificate on matters high and low. My first guest is the incredibly talented Lisa L Hannett (whose name actually contains the word “talent”, so there you go). Lisa is a fellow Adelaidean, survivor of Clarion South, viking fancier and an all-round champ. She recently came home with two Aurealis Awards, and is really starting to blaze a trail with her writing. In a very short time she’s placed rave-worthy stories in top genre markets, brought out an award-winning collection, and possibly constructed a longship out of spare award trophies. Welcome to the Fisch-Bowl, Lisa.
(Image nicked from Lisa’s blog, photo by Cat Sparks)
1) Lisa, you are a Canadian who moved to South Australia to study Scandinavians. Your award-winning “Bluegrass Symphony” is a speculative exploration of southern-fried Americana. Are you geographically confused, or just collecting countries?
A little from Column A, a little from Column B? I mean, really, who in their right mind decides to write a PhD about medieval Iceland after moving to the other side of the globe? In Canada, I lived a hop, skip and a jump away from Iceland! And now it’s so very far away! *shakes head* But seriously, I think it all comes down to curiosity. Basically, I want to learn more, all the time, about everything. I want to be immersed in new experiences and new ‘worlds’ whenever I can, instead of just touching on things superficially. It’s the same urge that drives a lot of writers and a lot of readers out there, I’d say – we want to get stuck into a new location (real or imagined) and really feel what it’s like to live there. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had the chance to live in some fascinating places – Canada, Taiwan, Korea, Australia – but instead of quenching my curiosity, living in these different countries has actually fuelled it. So my writing does end up being a kind of collection of countries, and geographically confused, but that’s fine. It’s an accumulation of my interests, and I’ve no doubt that my stories will morph into different (and, let’s be honest, weirder) places the longer I live. I don’t think I’m unique in this at all, by the way. Other writers have just as many incongruent interests – like zombies and karaoke, you know, just for example – and manage to interweave them into really compelling stories.
2) This month saw you land an Aurealis Awards double-whammy: Best Collection and Best Horror Short Story. It can safely be said that you’ve arrived. How does it feel to be Lisa Hannett right at this point in time? Where are you hoping to guide your ascendant career?
It’s funny. Winning the Aurealis Awards was honestly like a wonderful dream – I still can’t quite believe it’s real – but I don’t feel like I’ve “arrived” because of them. Don’t get me wrong, it was an incredible honour to have my work acknowledged at the Awards. Absolutely incredible. But I was so excited just to see my name on the shortlists with people like Paul Haines, Margo Lanagan, Deb Biancotti, Angela Slatter, Tansy Rayner Roberts — I mean, WOW! What company! Next to having my book published in the first place, that was the coolest. And I also know that I’m still a tadpole in this pond. I’ve been an avid reader my entire life, but I’ve only been writing for four years. I still have a hell of a lot of work to do before I feel like I’ve “arrived” – if I ever feel that way! There are still so many books I want to write, so many aspects I want to improve in my writing, so many new projects on the horizon… So as much as it feels pretty awesome to have won these awards, I can’t help but feel that they mark only one moment in my career – hopefully not the arrival, but the beginning.
3) While I still believe you to be the bastard love-child of Joe R Lansdale and Margo Lanagan, you are in fact your own entity (saving the occasional transcontinental brain-meld with Angela Slatter). What is the sort of legacy you hope to forge for yourself as a writer?
I think I need a t-shirt, or at least a coffee cup, that says “Bastard love-child of Joe R Lansdale and Margo Lanagan.” It’s official: that is the best compliment ever! As for a legacy… hmmmmmm, I feel a bit pompous talking about a legacy, actually! How about we focus on the ‘hope’ part of that question instead? I hope to put words together in weird and beautiful ways. That’s a long-standing inspiration, so perhaps it’s the closest I’ll get to pinpointing my legacy at this stage. I hope to keep writing stories that are combinations of ugliness and loveliness, horror and hope, humanity and monstrosity. I hope that people will read those words and those stories and respond to them – ideally in a positive way, but even negative reactions are fine so long as it means they’re being read, absorbed, discussed, thought about, even a little bit, before they are forgotten. (Of course, I hope these stories will be more memorable than forgettable…)
4) You’re all over this short fiction gig like a cheap suit. Like Conan, your victories cannot easily be counted. Are you working on any novels, and if not, why not?
Yes, I’ve got a couple of longer works on the go at the moment. The first is a dark fantasy novel called The Familiar, which, thanks to a Project Grant from Arts SA, I’ve been focusing on since January this year. It’s the first book in a series of three (not quite a trilogy in the Lord of the Rings sense, but three books that will have important connections) and it’s about witches and shapeshifting lunatics in a world that wants to be rid of both. I’m a fairly slow-and-steady type of writer, so it’ll take me a few months yet to finish this book, but it’s coming along! Meanwhile, I’ve been working with Angela Slatter on our collection, Midnight and Moonshine (which I’ll talk about while wearing my pimp hat…) but I’m also working on a mosaic novel called Lament for the Afterlife, which is set in the same world as ‘The Good Window’, a story I had published in Fantasy in 2009.
After that, the follow-ups for The Familiar are also on the cards, as well as a few novels I’ve got in embryonic stages: one is a romp through the underworld called Steam; another, called Feast, follows the gastronomic adventures of an unfortunate sous-chef as he blunders his way through life; and while researching The Familiar, I was struck with ideas for three other novels that I’m dying to write (two works of historical/weird fantasy, and another book of linked tales).
All I need now is a clone.
5) Here, take this pimp hat and swagger-stick. Promote whatever you like, and don’t forget to HUSTLE.
*dons pimp hat*
I’m really excited about Midnight and Moonshine, which Angela Slatter and I have been co-writing for several months now. It’s a collection of interconnected stories inspired by our combined love of history, fairy tale, Norse mythology and fantasy. The stories span over a thousand years, beginning around the 9th century and ending in the 20th. The narratives follow the trials and tribulations of two families (of humans and Fae) as they progress from Ásgarðr into our world, from Scandinavia down the east coast of North America, and eventually ending up in the Deep South. (Talk about a collection of countries!) My own collection, Bluegrass Symphony, explored dark, creepy and often horrific aspects of the pseudo-“Southern-fried” American States, but Midnight and Moonshine delves into fun and magical elements in that setting. There are Fae Queens and disappearing children, werewolves and 1920s flappers, giants and ice palaces — and hopefully people will have as much fun reading these stories as we’ve had writing them. Midnight and Moonshine is being published by Ticonderoga Publications in November 2012.
Many thanks for visiting the Fisch-Bowl, Lisa. Please, sprinkle some of those food flakes into the water on your way out. Next guest to be announced soon!