Q. Fantasy seems to be going from strength to strength while other speculative fiction genres (with the exception of supernatural romance) still 'struggle' - what's the appeal of fantasy?
I have to come at this by saying I don't read fantasy myself and haven't for about 15 years (if I write in a genre I can't possibly read it) but from things my readers have said, it provides a sense of adventure and romance that simply isn't readily available in real life.
Q. Can you tell me a bit about your latest book, The Infinity Gate?
Dear heavens - I wrote that when I was feeling really ill and then my world fell apart entirely, so I am trying to remember back through the fog of pain and illness! It is the conclusion of the Darkglass Mountain series. I am not too sure what I can say without revealing the plot, but we get an appearance by Axis' long-dead (or so he thought) half-brother Borneheld, even more Icarii get killed off, and Ravenna (almost) redeems herself. But the major surprise in this book is the Skraelings - they finally reveal who and what they really are and <em>do</em> redeem themselves!
Q. In late 2008 you were diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. How has this affected both your approach to writing and how you feel about the writing itself?
I was pretty stressed writing The Infinity Gate and was thinking I needed a whole heap of time off but how can I do it - then I got the cancer diagnosis and realised that if I didn't take a year or more off then I would die. Fortunately a couple of years earlier I had taken out income protection (I cannot recommend this highly enough) and I received a huge payout - so now I am free at last! Free at last! I can escape writing for at least a year! I needed a break so badly and the best thing that the cancer did was a) force me to take it and b) give me the money to do so. So I am taking off for as long a I can - writing was getting too stressful and I need a big-time break from it.
Q. I've heard from other fantasy writers that making a career out of it really can be like 'stepping on the treadmill'. Was this what it was like for you and, from the point of view of unpublished writers, do you think it's a cautionary tale (not getting the cancer, of course - more about being careful what you wish for)?
Yes for me taking on writing as a career was definitely stepping onto the treadmill. When I was writing for fun and working elsewhere, writing was my escape from work. It was enormous fun! Then I began writing as a career and it became 'work', and yes it becomes as stressful as other careers. It was no longer fun. I really, really needed a break. I'm not too sure how to escape that treadmill - I really admire any writer who maintains the level of fun for their writing as they did when it was a hobby and not a means of living.
I also found writing fantasy peculiarly stressful as you are so often trapped into writing trilogies - instead of being able to embrace new ideas each year for a new book you're trapped into the same project for years on end - I have grown very, very tired of that. I am reading a series of crime novels at the moment - they've gone on for 20 years and I really admire that author for being able to stay with the same characters for 20-odd years and still maintain interest and verve and freshness in both characters and writing.
Q. Could you see yourself just giving up writing entirely? Or, at least, when you get back into writing, doing it more on your own terms?
Yes, I can see giving up writing - writing does not define me, so I don't 'need' to actually write. But on the other hand I can just as easily see myself producing the odd book occasionally and really enjoying it. I don't think I will ever, under any circumstances, do a trilogy or series of books again. I just don't have it left in me, and I don't want to commit to that level of writing (and stress) again, but I can see myself doing stand alones every so often. I am also keen to try different genres - I would love to be able to slip into historical romance at some point. But going back into writing will be more on my own terms rather than on other people's - be they publishers or readers. I think I want to do what I want to do, now. And who knows what that will be? :) Overall, however, I am going to give other areas of my life much more attention and time. Writing will take a third or fourth seat.
You can join Sara Douglass for a live chat from 8am (AEDT) today. Go to the Flycon home for more details.
I thought I'd post this in case anyone would like to read it. I didn't know Sara but she seemed to have her priorities straight.