Rachel's Blog: Snapshot 2010: Narrelle M. Harris

Mon, 15 Feb 2010
Opposite of Life cover art

Narrelle M. Harris is the author of The Opposite of Life, a Melbourne-based vampire novel. She has also authored three other novels, and wrote an essay for the true crime book Outside the Law 3.

1) You have set up Twitter feeds for your characters, Gary (the vampire) and Lissa (the librarian) and they often review movies together (to hilarious effect!). Is this a natural extension for you in terms of social networking and book promotion, or does it come more from your past as a writer of fan fiction?

I suppose being a former fanfic writer didn't hurt, as I'm used to thinking of characters outside the context of their original story. A major influence is the fact that Gary himself collects books, films and stuff about vampires, so naturally he has an opinion on them. He thinks most of them are pretty stupid, in that they are not accurate in terms of how he understands being a vampire. He's kind of literal minded! So I found myself watching vampire-related stuff with a dual eye - what I thought of it, and what Gary thought of it. Actually, at my public talks people often expect me to know what his opinion would be on a variety of things!

So the Twitter accounts and the GaryViews (Gary-reviews. Sorry about the awful nearly-pun) came about from a combination of the above, an interest in social media and how it can be used to keep an audience engaged in the long wait between books, and my own entertainment.

The very first GaryView actually happened because I talked a comedian into giving me tickets to her show, on the basis I would blog about it. When the time came, there was the split between what I thought and how I thought Gary and Lissa would react, which has amused me a lot at the time. So I wrote their reaction as a conversation. People seemed to like it, and I found it immense fun, so I've continued. These days, I find both the reviews and the Twitter conversations excellent writing exercises. Ideas get explored that I might not do in the novels themselves. People ask questions or react in ways I wasn't expecting, and I have to think about how these characters would respond, which is great for getting under their skin.

2) You recently had an essay published in Outside the Law 3. Do you find that non-fiction writing feeds your fiction writing? Does it flow the other way at all?

I write for a day job as well, actually - corporate writing, web editing and so forth, so I've been switching between fiction and non fiction regularly for about eight years now. I think the two do feed into each other. With the kind of jobs I've had (including being a journalist for a business to business magazines about retail) I learn about things I would never have independently researched and I can sometimes slip that info into a story. But I try to use creative skills in writing articles too. Just because you are writing for an 'expert' group (like supermarket owners!), you absolutely don't want them to be bored. One of my favourite non fic pieces was a promotional piece on suits for a local manufacturer!

3) I believe you're working on the next Gary and Lissa book, what can you tell us about it? Are there more Melbourne landmarks for us trainspotters? When will we get to read it?

Is AAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!! an appropriate answer to this? I've blogged and spoken before about the fact that my first stab at the sequel didn't work and I had to go back to the drawing board. I submitted the new manuscript in January. The publisher called at one point to say the editor was ten chapters in and loving it, but they've been busy since then preparing a few more books for publication. When they get the chance there'll be a raft of edits, I'm sure. I wouldn't expect to see it out before the end of the year, though I will keep my fingers crossed for an Aussiecon 4 launch. As for more Melbourne landmarks - well of course! And the guys do a trip out to Ballarat as well.

4) Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year?

I loved Peter Ball's Horn, and Tansy Rayner Roberts' Siren Beat. Deborah Biancotti's A Book of Endings was also superb. It's fairly obvious I've been reading a lot of Twelfth Planet Press stuff lately! Another Victorian writer who isn't well known in the SF community is Mary Borsellino, whose YA vampire series, The Wolf House, has been published as an e-book. I understand the first two books may be coming out as a hardback compilation sometime soon. She has a vivid style and a fresh approach to the vampire legend - she describes it as 'Twilight for punks'. More people should read her work, so head off to www.thewolfhouse.net to find out how to download it. Another amazing book which defies classification is Tom Cho's Look Who's Morphing, which is fantastical and strange. So I don't know if he's eligible, but he damn well ought to be! I mean, in one chapter, the lead character and his mother turn, Transformer-like, into cars! How cool is that?

5) Will you be at Aussiecon in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to about it?

You betcha! I'm very much looking forward to seeing what is happening in the publishing industry, especially with small presses, and how the community is dealing with the introduction of e-books, the iPad, Kindle and the like. If things pan out well it would be great to launch the new book there, but I'm not holding my breath for that. Editing and publishing take a Really Long Time.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2010 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We'll be blogging interviews from Monday 15 February to Sunday 22 February and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus.

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If you're involved in the scene and have something to plug, then send us an email at snapshot2010@gmail.com and we'll see what we can do!