Women in Genre Fiction: Glenda Larke

I discovered Glenda Larke’s writing shortly after I discovered Karen Miller because Karen was so full of praise for Glenda’s writing.  I remember reading the first two books that had been published here in the UK and thought to myself: whatever they are feeding authors in Oz, I want some too.  And the group of authors that I call The Oz Contingent has not stopped producing some utterly excellent books! But, enough of me:

Please welcome Glenda Larke to the second installment of our Women in Genre Fiction week. 

** 

Glenda and a friend

Can you tell us about your road to becoming a published author?

Aged about eight, I decided I was going to be an “authoress”. So for the  next thirty-five years I (spasmodically!) wrote fiction, mostly thrillers with a strong romantic element, for a critical readership of one. Me. I was publishing non-fiction in glossies, but lacked the confidence to take the plunge with my fiction and actually, y’know, show it to anyone. My only explanation is that this was pre-internet and it was more difficult back then.  Not much of an excuse.

 …Until one day in my forties, I woke up. What the heck was I doing?? My dream was being frittered away by time! So I got serious. I wrote several books. Age forty-six, I found an agent who loved my work. Even then the road was rocky – I wasn’t published until I was over fifty.

Your first novel to be published here in the UK was Havenstar, which is now very hard to come by.  Would you like to see it republished and introduced to your fans who may not have had the chance to read it when first published?

Oh, absolutely. And I’ll make a promise right here and now: it will be. I’ll either blackmail, bribe or torture a publisher somewhere until they oblige (I’m working on that), or I’ll do it myself as an eBook and/or POD novel. Within two years from now, it will be available. My next book is set in the same Havenstar world, different characters, so I am eager to go back there, and to relaunch Havenstar at the same time would be fabulous.

I spotted over at your blog that Pygmalion has bought the right to your Stormlord trilogy.  Huge congratulations!  Why do you think fantasy novels are so popular across all cultures?

 Because they tell universal stories. They buy into the same deep need for mythology and heroes and the triumph of the human spirit over adversity –  it doesn’t matter where you’re from, we all respond to that.

You are very pragmatic about reviews and profess to enjoy reading them.  How did you get into this mindset, one which I admire personally as I dislike reading negative reviews of “my authors” whom I have read and liked.

At first I started by mixing up toxic potions in the basement to send to all those reviewers who give me one star…

No, seriously, what’s the point? It would be a terrible world if everyone liked the same books and hated the same ones, too! I learn from reviews. There is one kind of review I genuinely do loathe, though. It’s when the reviewer hates the book for being exactly what it is: “This is a trilogy and I hate trilogies! One star!”  Duh.

You were shortlisted  for Aurealis for 5 books:  The Aware, The Tainted, and the Song of the Shiver Barrens and more recently Heart of the Mirage and The Last Stormlord. As I went through the list for the last few years, more and more female names cropped up.  Do you think the Aurealis is leading the way, making a big conscious effort acknowledging the superb work of female writers in general or is it based more on solid common sense?

I would be extremely surprised if gender was a consideration of the judges! However, there may be hidden biases – perhaps the presence of more women judges now? Although that would presuppose that women prefer to read women writers, which I suspect is not necessarily the case.  The converse is more likely: less male judges who don’t like reading books by women. Or is it simply that there are more women writing in the SF/F field than there used to be?

Have you ever considered writing other genres, say sci-fi, horror or urban fantasy?

Who knows? Maybe I’ll go back to those thrillers…but I don’t think so. I’m having too much fun with fantasy.  Horror doesn’t appeal, and I’m not sure my science is up to writing SF.

 How influenced are you as a writer by where you live and your own experiences?Hugely influenced. I have been immensely lucky with my life. I started as a farm kid on an Australian farm that was so small it was only viable with hard work seven days a week. Money was tight. Just the kind of beginnings on which to build an understanding of life in a pre-industrial society!

 

From there, I went to the suburbs and university; next, to the largely undeveloped Malaysia of the 1970s; then to the expatriate life in Vienna, Austria, for over six years; and on to Tunis in North Africa for another two years; then back to Malaysia, including two years in Borneo… So many experiences! I’ve been a teacher, an environmentalist and a writer. I’ve met heads of state and swapped stories with people who’ve lived their whole lives in a rainforest. I’ve slept in palaces and huts and out in the open. I’ve watched the midnight sun from my tent, tramped the Hungarian steppes, swum with penguins … and leeches. Those kind of mixed experiences are gold to a writer. The Last Stormlord, for example, owes its existence to the dunes of Central Australia and the wadis of Algeria, the ancient water systems of Iran and Yemen, the salt pans of Western Australia, the millipedes and beetles of Malaysia, the water artists of India…

Where do I get my ideas from? Playing with my memories!

Out of your 3 series –  which has thus far been your favourite to work on?

Each book goes through the same stages: it starts with passionate enthusiasm and “this is going to be the best one yet”; followed by love, doubt, worry, loathing, panic, and finally a despairing: “everyone-will-hate-it”! Fortunately the end of the book usually culminates with “I guess it’s OK” or “not half bad, I suppose.” If I can bring myself to read it after publication, I have a final stage of: “Wow, did I really write that?”  Probably more because I can’t remember writing half of it!

I’ve read through various links and reviews and readers consistently comment on your world-building, singing its praises.  How do you go about creating recognisable yet fantastical places without alienating your readers?

It probably comes from spending much of my adult life living in an Asian society as a member of an extended Muslim family, speaking a language not my own, in a culture I wasn’t born into. So I learned what makes a world “other”. We are all human with similar desires and passions. It’s the little things, the subtleties both physical and cultural, that make the difference. Once you understand that, building a fantasy world is easy. 

And if you don’t want to alienate your readers, don’t info-dump. Build the world little by little.

  

Do you keep series bibles for your various series to keep track of names, characters, personal details etc? And if you do, how did you start?  

Most of it’s in my head.  I do have a white board and for the latest trilogy I had a colour-coded time chart as well. And I have been known to forget a character’s name – but I do that in real time too, unfortunately. (What did you say your name was again?)

What is your writing day like? Do you write for block periods of time and then stop or do you look at a set word-count per day?

No plans, it just happens. And I’ve developed the ability to write anywhere, anytime – planes, airports, coffee shops, under a tree, in a tent,  on a boat deck. Essential when my environmental job takes me to strange habitats and my scattered family means I travel internationally a lot.

 

Do you have any advice to aspiring writers out there today who are looking to break into the fantasy market?

Three pieces of essential advice:

  • Read books. And then read some more of them. I’d suggest that if you aren’t reading an average of about book a week, you need to cut down on TV viewing, or something.  If you think you can get published without knowing what is selling, you are overly optimistic.  It might happen, but you are making things difficult for yourself.
  • Write. Write and then write some more. If you aren’t writing something every week, how serious are you?
  • Read all you can on the internet about submitting, what agents want, writing advice and dos and don’ts… There is such wonderful advice out there. I wish I’d had that when I started out.

**

Thank you Glenda for a fantastic interview.  Glenda’s most recent novel is out now here in the UK: The Last Stormlord and I’ll shortly be reviewing it for GeekSyndicate, stay tuned.

Do check out Glenda’s official website and her informal blog.

More from the world of Geek Syndicate

One comment

  1. Hi Glenda,

    Love your writing. Really like what they’ve done with the covers of Heart of the Mirage, Shadow of Tyr and Song of the Shiver Barons. Best of luck with The Last Stormlord.

    Cheers, Rowena

%d bloggers like this: