WA author Sue Isle is the author of the YA fantasy Scale of Dragon, Tooth of Wolf. She is an Aurealis and Ditmar nominee, as well as an Aurealis winner for Best Fantasy Short Story with “The Woman of Endor”. Her short stories have appeared in Orb, ASIM, Agog!, Sword and Sorceress, to name but a few. She is also the author of one of TPP’s Twelve Planets series, Nightsiders.
1. I first knew I was a writer when …
… Somebody said to me, “Why are you writing on the weekend?” I was probably around 12 and writing longhand in notebooks, having not yet learned how to type. That was my first inkling that writing stuff when you didn’t have to was in any way unusual. That needing to do it was regarded as a sign of some sort of psychosis, like volunteering for more homework.
I still didn’t stop.
When I was about 14 and had submitted a “creative writing exercise”, a teacher corrected the grammar in a character’s dialogue and I was annoyed because I knew the grammar, but this was the way the character spoke. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the nerve to defend this to the teacher, so lost the marks.
I guess I knew I was a writer when I realised I had to write, no matter how weird the people around me thought I was.
2. Top five writers who inspire you?
It’s very difficult to narrow this down to only five, because all the writers I have read inspire me to some degree, even if it is only, “I am never, ever going to turn out something like this.” Can you have negative inspiration?
I know this question is aimed at positive inspiration, so I will name the authors of my favourite books:
Harper Lee, the one shot wonder who turned out To Kill a Mockingbird, the best book ever. The way the children invent play is exactly what I used to do, before I began writing things down. I never met an author who understood this as well as Lee, or who is able to get inside a child’s comprehension and also show adult awareness of a terrible situation.
Rudyard Kipling, whom I began to read as a child and go back to every so often to this day.
Antonia Forest, author of the Marlow school and family stories, who taught me about characterisation and the value of well-placed understatement.
S.M. Stirling, author of some of the best alternate history around, who inspired me to try to create my own.
Madeleine L’Engle, for the fantastic and complex worlds and characters she created.
I could keep going …
3. You get to go anywhere and anywhen: discuss.
Again, picking just one is really hard, so I’m going to mention several.
I want to go to space. A trip to the International Space Station would do for a start, once we have proper spacecraft to make the trip. Perhaps I would time it to when there is a colony on the moon, so I could get that visit in too.
I’d like to visit Roman Britain, probably in the first or second century of the occupation.
I’d like to go on a journey of exploration, on a Tall Ship, to find a new continent. One with dragons. I think “anywhere” should include alternate realities!
4. The inspiration for Nightsiders came from …
Living through Perth’s summers.
The climate change debate over the past several decades. It only became “popular” over the last few years or so but it has been here for a long time. I have on my shelves a book by Dr Ian Lowe, titled Living in the Greenhouse (1989). Dr Lowe was Director of the Science Policy Research Centre at Griffith University. Also an inspiration was Dr Tim Flannery’s The Weather Makers (2005), particularly a chart showing the dramatic change in the amount of inflow toPerth’s dams from 1911 to 2004.
The other inspiration is my fondness for apocalypse literature, the “new beginning” idea which features a small group surviving an end of the world scenario [zombies, plague, nuclear war] and beginning again. So far I haven’t destroyed the world in Nightsiders, but give me time.
5. Donuts or danishes?
Both are a temptation, particularly the danishes dripping with chocolate which are served up at Croissant Express on the way to work. Yet I find I can resist these more easily than the jam and cream donuts from the bakery in the shopping centre where I do most of my grocery shopping. It’s like payment for the uncomfortable experience of going through a crowded supermarket. The bag with the donut lands on top of the Healthy Stuff and gets eaten at home later while I read the paper. This happens most weeks that I shop, while the chocolate danishes are saved for workdays of high stress. Each have their place and cannot be ruled out in favour of the other.
The awesome trailer for Nightsiders is here.