Aiki Flinthart lives in Australia and hasn’t yet been killed by any terrifying animals. She has, however, been shortlisted in the Australian Aurealis awards, a top-8 finalist in the USA Writers of the Future competition, and published 12 spec fic novels. When not writing, she’s generally to be found doing fantasy-character-approved activities such as martial arts (20 years or so now), archery, knife-throwing, lute-playing, and belly-dancing. She also gives workshops on Writing Fight Scenes for Female Characters, with a non-fiction book on the subject due out in Sept 2019.
1.Why storytelling? What made you yearn to tell a good story, and how long was this story within you before it came out?
Like most authors, I’ve always told stories in one form or another. I found some of my primary school efforts a while back and my family all had a good laugh. They were terrible, of course – stories, not my family.
And I tried my hand at writing romances when I was a teenager. Also terrible.
My main love was for science fiction and fantasy, so don’t ask me why I didn’t try to write those. But they would have been terrible and I’d have been discouraged.
Finally in about 2006, it wouldn’t be contained any longer and the 80AD series kind of poured out of me.
I was lucky enough to start publishing just as the Kindle ebook revolution started, so 80AD went a bit crazy with about 400 000 downloads. But I was naive and didn’t know to follow it up straight away with the next books. So it was several years before the Shadows (urban fantasy) trilogy came out, then the IRON – FIRE – STEEL Kalima Chronicles came out.
Now I have to work out what’s next! So many ideas. So little time.
2.What is it about your genre that speaks to you?
I daresay most fantasy/sci fi authors give a similar answer to this one – it’s the sheer scope of what you can do. You’re not restricted to any one time, place, or even one world. With sci-fi and fantasy the whole damned universe (and an unlimited number of alternates) is up for grabs. Which means you can mash up genres and have crime-fantasy, or romance-sci-fi, or thriller-urban fantasy. You can pull tropes from everywhere. Explore really out there themes and question the very fabric of society and how the world functions, both scientifically and philosophically.
Sometimes that’s daunting – there’s a LOT of research and worldbuilding in speculative fiction. And sci-fi readers, especially, can be brutal if you get your facts wrong. But it’s also liberating.
3.Without giving any spoilers, what is your favorite thing about this book?
I loved being able to draw on my original career as a geologist. The idea that there could be a genuine reason for a future colony to revert to semi-feudal conditions was intriguing. A society that couldn’t advance the way Earth had, because it totally lacks the iron and fossil fuels that drove our industrialization. It opened up a lot of room to play with the central themes of freedom of choice – for Alere, and for the society as a whole. How people react when you take away their freedoms, either bit by bit, or at once. How individuals justify towing the line because they feel guilty and duty-bound to help people – even to their own detriment, sometimes.
4.If I were stuck in a room with your main character, what would we be doing?
A lot of pacing, most likely. Alere is not someone to suffer sitting and patiently waiting for things to happen. She escaped from Xintou House (where she grew up) several times as a teenager. Once by breaking out through the ceiling and lifting tiles off the roof. She really hates being forced to do nothing.
She’d be seriously pissed off at herself for getting stuck in a room. She can pick locks, too. She’s not great at it, so it might take a while – just don’t annoy her by talking while she’s concentrating.
5.Everyone has at least one specific challenge that holds them back. What is that challenge in your work and how do you overcome it?
Mine is the feeling that there is just too much stuff to do. A writer these days can’t just write, edit, send a submission, cry at rejections, rinse and repeat. Nowadays, it’s all about building your online platform, branding yourself, marketing, advertising, etc. And if you’re self-published, it’s formatting, editing, uploading, maintaining various websites and author sites, putting out pirate fires, keeping up with the latest trends, and software, and websites for marketing.
It kills the joy.
There’s no easy way to balance it, either. So you need to be strict and schedule time to just write. Which becomes a bit of a dilemma for a creative person – force yourself to sit down and be creative. Sounds dumb. But it’s necessary.
6.If you could live anywhere other than where you are, where would it be?
I think, with the coming apocalypse of world collapse (can you tell I’m not optimistic about the next 20 years?) I’d really like to move to New Zealand. The prime minister is very forward-thinking. The climate will be ideal in about 10 years. The scenery is already spectacular. Plus, there’s Hobbits, and Orcs. Really, how can you go wrong?
7.You have a chance to hang out with any literary character for one day. Who would it be and what would you do?
I’d like to spend the day with Thursday Next – the protagonist of the Jasper Fforde The Eyre Affair novel. Mainly because she’s able to slip into ANY other book ever written. Which means she could take me with her! Then I could be an extra in LOTR. Or in a Star Trek book. Or a Star Wars book. Or any of the Marvel comics. Or in a Georgette Heyer novel. Or in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Or in my OWN books. Or… or… or… That would be SO MUCH FUN!
8.Now that you have published your first book, do you have any dreams you have not reached? Goals for new books, series beyond this publication, or anything else that can tantalize the fantasy public?
Now that all three of my main series are out, I’m starting to think….what next? So I’m partway through a prequel to IRON. And a prequel to Shadows. And a prequel to 80AD. Just to satisfy the demands of readers who loved those series.
In the mean time, I’ve just finished a challenging new mosaic novel which is made up of 25 short stories from 25 different character points of view. I was teaching myself to write unique character voices. It ended up being my favourite thing I’ve written so far. Set in 1486 Tudor London. So much research. So much thought to make all the short stories weave together to create a whole novel. I love it. Hopefully that will be out in 2020.
After that….I have several ideas in mind.
9.What element of this story can we expect in your future work?
I think it’s a given that much of my writing will be fast-paced and have at least the occasional fight scene in it. (My non-fic “Fight like a girl – writing fight scenes for female characters” will be out in September.) But I’m also now working on short stories to improve my ability to use evocative, poetic prose.
10.You are forced to pick a fist fight with one of the characters in your book. Who would you choose and why?
If I wanted to actually win, probably Mina. But I don’t think I could hit her! And she’d never actually agree to it, either. Or instigate it. She’s a healer. The conscience of the team. The one who keeps trying to get Alere to stop killing people – even for good and honorable reasons (good luck with that). She’s gentle and kind. So I know I’d win, but I’d feel terrible afterward. Plus, Alere would probably arrive in a rage and beat the crap out of me if I did hurt poor Mina.
11.You are going to commit a crime, bank heist, murder, you can choose a co-conspirator from your book. What crime would you commit and who would you choose as your co-conspirator(s)?
Oh, definitely Corin Mal-kin. He’s a born conspirator. Rogue, thief, excellent swordsman, great with an oud (musical instrument for those who don’t know). Not bad with throwing knives, but better with talking his way out of trouble (after having talked himself into it in the first place). Feckless, optimistic, and quick-thinking. Probably close to being alcoholic, but it never seems to impair his fighting skills or his energy levels. Best of all, not particularly hemmed in by all those boring ethics and morals that restrict Alere and Kett.
12.Do you share any vices or habits with any characters in your book? If so, what are they?
Oh dear, yes. Alere’s impatience, mostly. Kett is way more patient than either of us. Corin is a lot more fun and adaptable. Mina is much more forgiving and stubborn. Gavon (a minor character) has my pessimism – sorry, realism.
But luckily I also share some of their skills. It’s a bit of a causal loop. I taught them martial arts and swordplay. But Alere knew how to do archery, so I had to learn. Now I shoot longbow and horsebow – left and right handed. Because, really, when the zombie apocalypse comes, you have to be able to shoot around corners without exposing too much of yourself as a target, right?
And Rowan, the lead from the Shadows trilogy, threw knives – so I had to learn that, too. Gotta be realistic about these things!
13.Do you have a celebration that you embark on when you finish a book, be it a release party, a trophy, or even a shot of whiskey?
Weirdly, I usually just feel a bit lost when I finish and finally publish a book. I want to go back to the familiar and just hug it a little while longer before I’m ready to move on. So I’ll often spend time after publishing just reading to sort of reboot my brain and get some emotional distance from the characters and story. Sadly, I’m aware that I’m a bit of a martyr and often really bad at celebrating my own victories. I’m trying, really! But, deep in my head, I’m usually thinking it’s not good enough, so I really don’t deserve to celebrate. Too much information?
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