viernes, 19 de octubre de 2012

Interview with Jaine Fenn

Photo Credit: James Cooke
I have recently read, enjoyed and reviewed Downside Girls by Jaine Fenn. Thus, I'm really happy that she has accepted to answer some questions about this collection of short stories and her work in general.

Odo: In the stories of your collection, Downside Girls, we find the concept of Democracy by Assassination: the citizens can vote so that politicians that fail in their public service get killed by the Angels. I find this idea both disturbing and fascinating. How did you come up with it? 

Jaine Fenn: Sometimes when I'm asked about the Tri-Confed political system I say (jokingly!) that a Democracy by Assassination is wish fulfilment – after all, the politicians would behave if we could make them pay the ultimate price, wouldn’t they? - but actually the idea evolved from the original germ which my first book, Principles of Angels, grew from. I asked myself what it would be like for an assassin working with the sanction of the state to be asked to kill someone she knows – because if you're part of the establishment, you have to take the job. That idea led to a short story, actually one of the first short stories I wrote. It was never published, and quite rightly so, because I had no clue how to write back then. But I did have this idea. It gathered a load of other ideas until, a few years later, I had a novel on my hands. By then I had taken the time to learn the basics of the craft of writing. In the final version of Principles of Angels the original idea is still present, but occupies a lot less of the book than the world and the other events which it inspired.

Odo: The first three stories of Downside Girls have a very definite noir tone. In fact, they reminded me of Frank Miller's comicbook Sin City. Is crime fiction an inspiration for your writing? What authors have influenced you the most?   

JF: I'm really flattered to be compared to Frank Miller, not least because the concept of the Angels in my books owes a lot to the Miller/Sienkiewicz graphic novel Elektra Assassin. I also enjoy and admire Raymond Chandler. I read/watched a lot of Manga/Amine when I was working on Principles of Angels and the associated short stories, and looking back, that influence shows. More generally, I love the early Iain M. Banks Culture novels, and the SF of C.J. Cherryh, to name but two.

Odo: Religion is a theme that seems to be very present in your work, for instance in the story "The Three Temptations of Larnia Mier" (included in Downside Girls) and in some of your novels. Do you think that science fiction is especially suited for exploring religious themes and believes?

JF: I do, although religion is always a tricky area. I think that the distance SF gives us makes it an ideal genre to discuss 'heavy' subjects, as it allows us to detach ourselves from any references to a particular faith or political viewpoint. For the record, I'm agnostic: I don't know what the answer is but that doesn't mean I'll stop looking for it. However, I do feel a certain unease with organised religion, and this comes through in my stories.

Odo: You have published four novels so far and have another one coming next year. Do you approach novels and short fiction in a different way? What do you prefer to write?

JF: I like both forms. Principles of Angels was the first novel I wrote. However, it took me a long time to write it, because I wanted to get it right. Part of the process of getting it right was learning the craft and I did this largely through writing short stories, some of which were related to the novel and ended up in Downside Girls. Since getting a book deal I've had concentrate on novels to meet my deadlines, but I retain my love of short stories, and still try and fit them in when I can.
Long and short form do require different skills. Short stories are a lot less forgiving, and every word counts. When I'm working on a book, then on a good day I can get three thousand words of first draft down; for a short story I'll be lucky if I manage half that. Short stories also pay less, so from a professional point of view I should maybe give them up to concentrate on the novels, but I don't want to, as some ideas only work as shorts.

Odo: Your novels are set in the same universe but are somewhat independent. What reading order would you suggest for someone who, like me, has only read your short stories? 

JF: The best place to start the Hidden Empire series is with Principles of Angels. The stories in Downside Girls are all prequel stories for this novel. The next book in the series, Consorts of Heaven, actually takes place at the same time on a different world and links into Principles only tangentially, through the relationship between two characters. The later Hidden Empire books then follow on from these two.

Odo: What are you working on now? Can you give us a sneak peek at your future projects?

JF: I've actually just finished a short story which features one of the most interesting Spaniards of the twentieth century: Salvador Dalí. It's a bit of an odd story, written largely for my own amusement, so I don't know if it will ever see publication. I'm also working on a Young Adult space mystery novel; something like a cross between the film Silent Running and William Golding's Lord of the Flies. I will, at some point, return to the Hidden Empire series, as although there is a resolution of sorts at the end of the fifth book, I have a lot more plot I want to inflict on my characters.

Odo: Where can our readers learn more about you and your work? 

JF: I'm in the usual places: on Twitter as @JaineFenn and on Facebook as Jaine Fenn. I also have a website, although lack of time means I don't post as much there as I'd like to.

Odo: Thank you very much for your answers!

(You can also read this interview in Spanish/También puedes leer esta entrevista en español)

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