Today I’m thrilled to share an interview with Australian Speculative Fiction author Joanne Anderton, whose genre-bending Veiled Worlds Trilogy was recently completed with the release of Guardian.

You can read more about her at her blog, follow her on twitter right here and sample the first novel, Debris, in the trilogy here. Big thanks to Jo for agreeing to chat with me and hope everyone enjoys the read!

AC: Setting is such a vital aspect of speculative fiction – and all good fiction really – and I wondered if you could tell me a little of the inspiration for the setting of your Veiled Worlds Trilogy?

JA: Strange and vivid worlds are what I love most about reading fantasy and science fiction. Getting lost in them is what I love most about writing fantasy and science fiction!

The setting for the Veiled Worlds came about because I wanted to write a story about industrialised magic. I’ve always wondered why the worlds in the big fat fantasy trilogies I devoured as a teenager were usually rural, agricultural and feudal. Why would a culture get stuck there just because it has access to magic? Why wouldn’t technology keep changing and developing — and why couldn’t magic become part of that technology?

That’s where the idea of pions and debris came from, and they are the driving force behind the setting. Tanyana’s world is industrialised, and powered by pion manipulation instead of coal. It’s urban, militarised, and it struggles with pollution too — except instead of smoke or sludge, they get debris.

Of course, if you’ve read Guardian you know Tanyana’s world is a little more complicated than that, and nothing about it is quite as it seems. But I won’t get stuck into that, because spoilers 🙂

AC: It sounds awesome, I’m really keen to get in to it (Debris arrived in the mail last week) and wanted to ask, what sort of research did you undertake for the setting?

JA: Thank you! Hope you enjoy it!

Most of The Veiled Worlds is set in a kinda-steampunky, industrial-age, Russian-inspired setting. Sadly, I did not travel to Russia. But I did do a lot of reading on Russian history, architecture, climate… you get the idea.

The other major setting is… a spoiler 🙂

AC: How important – or dangerous – do you think tropes are for the speculative fiction writer?

JA: I think it’s important to know them, and why they’ve persisted — what is it about them that speaks to us, and why do they work? That’s part of being a reader and a writer, reading widely within and outside of your own genre. Avoid tropes if you want, but don’t do so at the expense of story. Ultimately, story is the most important thing anyway (in my opinion at least).

AC:  I agree, the story as a whole is more important to me as a reader than a single trope – and some tropes are quite endearing. Actually, that prompts me to ask, do you have a favourite trope, and if so, why do you think it remains favoured?

JA: Hmm, not sure if this counts as a trope or not, but I love stories set on fantasy worlds that are actually built on the ruins of advanced civilisations. It’s even better if their magic system uses that technology in some way, and ‘gods’ were really these super-advanced people who disappeared… or did they? Part of the plot should involve uncovering what happened to these people, and it’s going to be tragic.

AC: I noticed you’re a fan of the brilliant Devin Townsend – what other music do you find inspirational when it comes to writing? (And what do you think of his Infinity album?)

JA: Ha, that’s got to be trick question right? Because obviously the answer is Infinity is brilliant! I love them all, but my current favourite Devy album is Epicloud and that’s because I have a deep, deep obsession with “Save Our Now“. I may have gone a little insane when he played that live!

Music definitely plays an important part in my writing. I always listen to music as I work. Music does this whole ‘transport me to another place’ thing, where the rest of the real world just falls away. It really helps me focus on story-world instead.

Mostly I listen to metal (heaviness depends on the scene I’m writing), j-pop and soundtracks. I love a good anime or video game soundtrack. I know the Persona 4 soundtrack back to front and inside out I’ve listened to it that many times.

AC: I still haven’t got to Epicloud – added to my list – that’s his fifteenth, sometimes I forget how prolific he is! And speaking of j-pop, what did you think of Babymetal? Novelty or awesome?

JA: Ok, I’ll wait here while you go get Epicloud. Seriously, GO.

Ha, Babymetal’s hilarious. I think it’s a little of both! Novelty AND awesome!
AC: You switched publishers between Suited and Unbound, what were the most positive aspects to come from the switch?

JA: It was just wonderful to have the opportunity to get Guardian out there and complete the trilogy. I was very lucky to be able to work with Tehani Wessley at Fablecroft, who is such a talented editor and a very supportive publisher.

AC: It must have been stressful for a while there, did you write other projects during the gap or stay with Guardian? (Assuming, of course, you’re not the style of writer who finishes a whole trilogy before submitting the first book?).

JA: There are always other writing projects. I did have a lot of short stories to keep me busy — my (award-winning) short story collection The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories was released in this period. I also spent a lot of time watching the Giant Bomb Persona 4 play through, and that helped!

Stay tuned for a review of Debris in the near future!