Well, it’s been ages since the last FFI and I have to apologise to the authors lining up in the green room. Sorry guys. No real excuses, but apart from being a lazy sod, I’ve been really busy publishing the latest in the DCI Jones Casebook series, Sean Freeman.
On that front, I have to say that I’ve been both staggered and delighted by the way the book has been received. Thanks to everyone who’s already bought a copy, and to those of you who’ve not yet acquired one I ask, why the hell not? Teehee.
Okay, on to the real business of the day. I’m talking with another Australian friend today, the multi-talented, poet, teacher, blogger, and author of epic fantasies and something called haiku (no, I’ve no idea either). I give you, Ashley Capes.
KJD: Welcome Ash, how you doing, today?
AC: Yeah not bad, mate. Is it beer o’clock here yet?
KJD: At this time of the morning? Sorry, I’m only making tea or coffee.
AC: I’m on Aussie time, but since this is your party, I’ll have a coffee and one of those lovely little cucumber sangers with the crusts cut off, please.
KJD: Now this is getting silly, can we proceed with the interview?
AC: You started it. (Smiles, winks, adds three spoons of sugar to his mug, starts slurping*). Fire away.
KJD: So, let’s start with my usual knock-it-out-of-the-park underarm slow ball (only old cricket lovers will understand that one). What’s the best thing about your hometown, and what can you see out of your studio window?
AC: Location – it’s close to the sea, which is a big draw. Not that I sail or anything, but I love the ocean. I catch a great view of a neighbour’s antenna—I hope they have better reception than me—and if I stretch really far, I can see some of their fence too. 🙂
KJD: Impressive. Do you have colour TV in Australia these days? (Ducks a flying cucumber sandwich). Sorry, I’ll stop that now. My wife lived in Perth, Western Australia back in the 1970s and I’ve always wanted to visit.
Here’s another easy question: You are shipwrecked on a deserted paradise island, apart from the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare (yeah, as if), what other book must you have and why?
AC: I must have Hogfather by Terry Pratchett, so I can laugh in the face of all that solitude.
KJD: I’ve never managed to finish any Terry Pratchett novels, but I know his work is loved by many and he’ll be sorely missed. His passing is a sad loss to the world of fantasy fiction.
AC: I’ll second that.
KJD: Starting to get a little mawkish here, so, under the same conditions as above, on the deserted island, what’s the one luxury item you take with you and why?
AC: Possibly my acoustic guitar, as I’d want music and my singing voice is not at all pristine, especially after a few years playing in a heavy metal band 🙂
KJD: Hey, that’s a surprise. Apart from the writing, we’ve something else in common. We both play guitar and neither can sing. Teehee. (A two-hour break for battle-of-the-axemen ensued before the interview resumed—Ed.).
AC: I won, by the way.
KJD: No you didn’t, you fluffed that last power chord. Anyway on with the show, what book genres do you read?
AC: I’ll try just about anything when it comes to books, though the two that I read most outside of speculative fiction, would be biography and poetry. Poetry, for instance, I think differs in that there’s a focus on the compression of meaning and language, at the expense (sometimes) of narrative.
KJD: Wow – don’t think I understood one word of that last sentence. You poets are on a different plain to us normals—not that I consider myself that much of a normal. I’m going to gloss over my ignorance of the finer art of woredsmithery. The closest I’ve been to writing poetry is penning the occasional song lyric.
Back to the prose writing, what’s the first thing you do when starting a new novel?
AC: For me there’s usually a character, a place or an idea that kicks things off and I simply jot down ideas around that spark. Sometimes the document I start things off in ends up 10 pages long, sometimes it’s only 10 dot points.
KJD: Yep, I guess it’s pretty much the same when I write. What excites you about writing and the writing process?
AC: The thrill of creation. It’s amazing, to start with an idea or two and then get to work and see a complete story start to take shape. It’s a little like both kinds of sculpture. First, it’s Additive – building a first draft and adding scenes and characters, until it becomes Subtractive – whittling away sub-plots, characters and scenes with each revision, until the story is all that’s left.
KJD: Writing as sculpture? Lovely analogy, I never saw it like that. Must be the poet in you. For how long have you been writing creative fiction?
AC: Probably 17 years but professionally, only 3 – whereas I’ve probably been writing and publishing poetry for the last 13 or so, and all the while, I was writing fiction at the same time. So the lines are often blurred for me 🙂
KJD: Blurred lines comes with a writer’s territory. Tell me a little about your latest work.
AC: I’m currently writing a mystery with a bit of horror and definite fantasy feel to it. It’s set in a small Australian town and revolves around a wildlife ranger who has to unravel the truth around the existence of a giant white kangaroo.
I grew up in a place similar to the fictional setting of the story and I really wanted to write something using native animals in some way. My dream was for the novel to be released in November this year but I’m revising that to 2016…early. Maybe. Hopefully!
I’d love to share some but nothing quite ready – too much a hideous first draft!
KJD: Wow that sounds really weird and I can’t wait to read it! I just know it’s going to be excellent. Don’t think I’ve said how much I like your writing for a while, but I do.
AC: Aw, and there’s me thinking you were just an old Pom. Thanks, Kerry. I’ll have to revise my opinion. 🙂
KJD: Credit where it’s due—even for an Aussie. We’re gonna win the Ashes back this year! (Cut the cricket references, we’ve all had enough—Ed.)
Let’s change the subject. If there were a single thing you’d like to change about yourself, what would it be?
AC: I’d like a better memory. Mine is terrible – not in terms of forgetting a shopping list or an anniversary, but in remembering important events in detail. I’d love to see a bit more of key events in my mind’s eye.
KJD: I’m with you there, mate. I could really do with a full-time PA. Writing, editing, cover art, promo, takes forever and I’m always forgetting to do stuff.
Here’s another of my favourite questions to gain an insight into your inner self, ready?
AC: Uh, no.
KJD: Oh go on. You are planning a dinner party and have a choice of five guests, (you can chose from anyone in history). Who do you invite and why?
AC: That’s not so bad. I choose, Jack Kerouac, Grace Kelly, Neil Postman, Dali, and Nero. I’d hope there would be some interesting conversation and that I’d be able to film or tape the conversation. I’d need a translator too – can I have a spare seat?
KJD: I’m not usually this generous, but as you’re a mate, yes. But only one extra chair. I’ll be hovering in the background, taking notes.
What’s next in your life?
AC: I have a tower-like structure of unread books I want to get to.
KJD: I hope you get to it before it topples! Finally, tell me something about yourself you wouldn’t want you partner/parents to know. Don’t worry; it’ll be our little secret. 🙂
AC: There are no secrets in a small town, sadly 😀
KJD: Sure it’s not the old Aussie character holding you back? Sorry, no more cricket jibes! Finally, finally, is there anything I’ve forgotten to ask that you’re keen my readers should know?
AC: Only that the follow-up to City of Masks – The Lost Mask – is getting ever-closer!
KJD: Fantastic, can’t wait to read that one. I loved City of Masks. Notch is a particular favourite character for me.
I think that’s all I have in the way of questions but I know you’ll want to get your own back for losing the first guitar duel. Grab your axe man, and let’s have at it.
AC: You’re on, mate. Before we start, I’d like to say, thanks for the opportunity to chat, now try following this lick …
KJD: Wahay, old metal fingers is back!
*No sugar bowls were used during the course of this interview—we’re both sweet enough.