From an Interrogate Ian day on Facebook, 26 April 2016.
Arron: Can you put me and Travis in one of your books. Preferably as 2 soldiers who do something heroic and die in a gruesome manner?
Ian: I’ll see what I can do. There’s always a role for people who enjoy fine liqueurs and order people around. In fact there’s one of them in The Summon Stone though … no, I’ll say no more.
Jack: How do you manage the switch from academic writing/work from your novel writing and back again, without it interrupting your voice/style?
Ian: Don’t really know, Jack. I guess the two are so different they don’t interfere. Or maybe because I’ve been doing both so long I just automatically slip into the required style.
Simon: What would be the most Australian book you could recommend for a pomm in good old Blighty. I fell in love love with A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz.
Ian: I haven’t read it, Simon. The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay springs to mind but that’s a kid’s book. Possibly the Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan.
Tara: Do you enjoy our occasional banter? Is fan interaction generally something fun for you?
What’s it like being on the con circuit? Do you guys ever need con lackies?
Ian: I love the banter, Tara. It helps to recharge and inspire me. The con circuit can be a bit tiring though most of the time I don’t do much of it. I haven’t been to a con in a year and a half, actually, though I’ll be at lots in may and June after the new book comes out.
Peter: I was curious which one of your characters, if any, is your favourite? And which was the most fun for you to write?
Ian: Karan is probably my favourite. The most fun to write are usually the villains, though I enjoyed writing Ullii, and Nish and Irisis.
Aaron: which came first, your career as a marine scientist, or an author?
Ian: Science came first Aaron. I decided I wanted to be a scientist at the age of 14. Didn’t start writing seriously till my 30s.
Kyreena: How does it feel to create something that others become close to and hold dear, like the characters in your books? smile emoticon
I’m an illustrator and designer and can’t imagine people actually holding my creations dear to them like I do book characters!
Ian: It’s a wonderful feeling, Kyreena, especially after working on a book for a year or more and doing many drafts. It’s inspirational, too. It makes me work harder on the next book for fear of letting readers down.
Scott: why are u not at the key board typing, I want more books. shame shame shame. your are not allowed to rest. oh fantasy only! dump that other garbage. smile emoticon
Anne: Hi, you say structure and plotting is important.. How do you keep yourself to task for the current project as I am sure other stories would beckon? Do you dream about the story you are writing whilst in the project?
Ian: I’m pretty focused, so if an idea for another story does beckon I just scribble it down and put it in a folder with other unused ideas. Though it has to be said, I rarely use any of the ideas from that folder.
Margreta: I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate my 30th birthday than sunning by the pool in Bali immersing myself in a new journey with Karan. Can’t wait!!
Ian: Sounds pretty good to me too, Margreta.
Sue: Looking very mellow indeed ! Speaking of which..fave wine, music, TV show, movie, holiday destination, naughtiest thing you did at secondary school, most hated household chore, most embarassing moment, regrets?????????????????????????
Ian: Fave wine Penfolds Bin 387. Music, Pictures at an Exhibition. TV show … errr. Movie err … holiday destination, Cradle Mountain. naughtiest thing – struggling. Alas, I lack a misspent youth. Maybe that’s why I’m so cruel …Most hated household chore … none really. I don’t mind housework. Not much effort required, relatively speaking, and instant result. Regrets … not having totally undeserved wealth.
Jeff: General physics theory suggests that a cat will always fall on its feet , and buttered toast will always fall buttered side down . Now …… What will happen is you strap a piece of buttered toast butter side up to the back of a cat . Will the cat/toast combination rotate around the force centre of the suggested anti gravity moment , thus entering a rapid spin and hovering few inches above from the floor ?
Ian: I said ask me anything, Jeff. I never said I’d be able to answer it – and that one’s beyond me.
David: 1)what do you find is the most rewarding aspect of writing an epic series like the mirror series?
2) what would you consider is your favorite way to unwind that does not involve books?
3) what is your favourite mythical creature?
Ian: David, I love epic stories. One rewarding aspect is actually crafting and editing a monumental, complex story and finally, after many drafts, having it come together and work as a story. The other really rewarding aspect is the entertainment, escape and help that people have gained from my stories. So many people have written to me over the years telling me how much comfort they’ve found in my stories in times of stress and trouble. My favourite way to unwind. Walking and gardening, i guess. My favourite mythical creature? That’s a question I’ve never thought about. It’d have to be a dragon or some other kind of intelligent mythical creature though. Not just a beast.
Elric: I would have to say that I love all the characters. But my fav would have to be Tiaan. My question is where did your inspiration for her come from? And do you plan on ever using her again?! heart emoticon
Ian: I honestly don’t know where the inspiration for Tiaan came from, Elric it was back in the year 2000 when I created her. But I know I wanted to create a more flawed and less likeable character than Karan, and someone who was very different. I think I created her bit by bit over many drafts.
Stacy: One of the things I do love in your books is the descriptive food and eating as it really takes me there. What is your favourite comfort food?
Ian: Curry and pizza, Stacy. Not at the same time.
Angela: How did you come up with the landscape of Santhenar? Was it in general your knowledge of ecosystems, bits pulled from places you had been, pure fancy? (a while ago I went to a rainforest lookout in a certain mountainous town, and looking at the shape of it I couldn’t help but think I was looking at Mirrilladell, although I have no idea if you had even been there when you made your maps). Did you then write your stories across the landscape, or did certain parts of the landscape pop up because of narrative need?
Ian: It was all of those things, Angela. I’ve studied all the sciences and travelled a lot and I know a fair bit about landscapes and ecosystems. I made many of the maps of Santh a decade before I started writing the first book so I had a fair bit of time to design locations. Having said that, I’ve also drawn upon a number of places I’ve been in my travels. And I’ve also designed some locates specifically for their dramatic setting, for instance the peak in the first and second books of Song of the Tears. There’s a bit more on the maps here.
Stuart: If you were offered a TV/Movie deal which set of books would you prefer to be made?
View From the Mirror
Well of Echoes/Song of the Tears
Grim and Grimmer
I split Mirror and Echoes cause whilst they are linked they have their own separate stories and characters.
Ian: It’d either be the Mirror series or the Well of Echoes series, Stuart. Sentimentally I’m more attracted to the former though I think the Well of Echoes series is a lot more original and might be better for that. But either would be great.
Roxanne: Have you always been a natural writer? Has writing always been a strength of yours?
Ian: I wouldn’t say I was a natural writer, Roxanne, though I think structure and plotting has always been one of my strengths – my editors hardly ever ask for significant cuts. I’ve always been interested in writing and I’ve done a lot of it – in addition to my books I’ve written hundreds of scientific reports. But I’ve never found it easy.
More Q&A in due course.