In Conversation: Matt J. Pike

When Adelaide indie author Matt J. Pike started his writing career, the publishing landscape was nothing like it is now. Indie publishing was still new and risky while traditional publishing was still more appealing, being less risky. The multi-award-winning author attempted to make his start with traditional publishing, but after many rejections for Kings of the World and having a major publisher drop Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor, he turned to indie publishing – he hasn’t looked back since.

Of his books and series, Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor has been by far his most popular. Told in a first-person perspective point, Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor follows Jack Baldwin, a teenager living in Adelaide who survives a meteor colliding with the Earth. The series has been a success in both ebook and print and has won three bronze medals in teenage and young adult categories on Amazon in the UK and US. Kings of the World (Starship Dorsano Chronicles) and Scared to Beath (Zombie RiZing), the first in their series, have won the Global Ebook Awards in Teen and Juvenile Literature in 2013 and 2015.

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Pike’s various sci-fi worlds aren’t just created for pleasure, he’s hoping to find a cure for his daughter. Pike’s youngest daughter has Rett Syndrome, a neurological disorder which can hinder someone’s ability to do everyday tasks, such as walking and talking. It’s a childhood disorder, affecting more girls than boys (about 1 in 9000). All earnings from his books are donated to helping to find a cure. For those who are interested in finding out more about Rett Syndrome, visit his page here or AussieRett here.

Writing and publishing indie fiction, according to Pike, is both fun and challenging, with creative and marketing control being one of these. “I think having creative control, as well as marketing control is a pretty powerful combination,” says Matt, “as is having the worldwide rights to my work. Sure, it means a lot more things to do (like, lots), but I like all those challenges.  You have to be dedicated, but it’s rewarding.”

As for the future, Matt has plenty of stories coming up for avid readers and fans. He will be releasing the final entry in his Apocalypse series, entries 7-9 in the Zombie RiZing series. A “very inappropriately funny sci-fi action novel” he is co-authoring with fellow Adelaide indie author Russell Emmerson is also currently in the works. He also plans to start work on a side series to Apocalypse soon.

For those interested in Matt J. Pike and his works, check out the link to his website here. He will be doing the convention circuit at numerous Adelaide events, including AvCon in July and Supanova in November. He will also be at the upcoming Sydney and Brisbane Supanovas.


 

Words by Cameron Lowe

Racing the Sun

44330028Reading Racing the Sun by J.R. Koop was like taking a deep breath of fresh air. Set in a Southern Asian inspired fantasy kingdom and with a queer love story at the centre, this Young Adult work is bright against its heavily heteronormative, and predominately Western-based peers. After the soul is stolen out of her secret lover’s chest by a sorceress bent on resurrecting the Ashen God, Rahat must race through the dangerous jungle to save both her lover and her kingdom.

Koop’s writing flows easily and is very fun to read. Her characters and their relationships, especially between family members, are engaging and well-formed. The passages with the faerie, Qaidra, were some of the book’s best they provided much of the lore and world-building background for the work. Qaidra is a being that has suffered and the glimpses into her past were sharply drawn and helped flesh out the faerie into a strikingly memorable figure. That said, I do think the world of Abrecan  could have done with a little more world-building in terms of the lore of the Gods and the significance of the faerie Rapture; at times it felt as though the author expected you to be privy to the inner workings of the world without the full breadth of that insider knowledge quite making it to the page. However, the world-building that was present was rich and interesting – Koop clearly has a vivid, active imagination and lots of love for the things she creates.

The politics of this novel – Rahat and Iliyah, her lover, are both of the ruling class but cannot be together: instead Rahat is promised to Iliyah’s brother to unite their kingdom – add tension to the plot and a desperation to Rahat that endears her to her readers. Although, again, I would have benefitted from a tiny bit more of an explanation about the things that prevent Rahat and the girl she loves from being together, especially given the reason for their separation – Iliyah’s service to a God as a dream weaver – proves to be easily dismissed at the end by the powers that be.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which felt like a good mix of Neil Gaimen, Garth Nix, and Audrey Coulthurst. There’s lots to love in Racing the Sun: the rich world of Abrecan; the sweet love story; the love and encouragement between family members; the unusual range of creatures and beasts (I loved the mechanical horses, they were my absolute favourites); the adventure. This novel is a refreshing addition to the YA genre, and I am excited to see what Koop produces next.

Four Stars.


 

Words by Riana Kinlough

Heaven Sent

Heaven Sent
S.J Morgan
Midnight Sun 2018


S.J Morgan’s Heaven Sent is a fun, easy-to-read Young Adult debut. Following Evie, an Australian sixteen-year-old with a crooked spine, the novel examines the complications of separated parents, new love, and mental illness.

This novel is home to some strong, if inconsistent, writing and I ripped through it in a matter of hours. The prologue, in particular, struck me as both vivid and wistful. There are some pacing issues that are distracting – the immediacy with which Evie trusts the boy, Gabriel, who crashed through her bedroom wall one night, feels rushed and a little bit at odds with the girl’s naturally suspicious nature. Additionally, this feels like a book deciding what it wants to be as it goes – the beginning feels like it could be a supernatural romance, but the ending is definitely an action-thriller. Morgan’s writing is capable of being both tight and engaging in either genre, but toying with both is disorientating.

However, Morgan seems to have a thumb at the pulse of the friendships of teenage girls. Evie and her best friend, Paige, demonstrate the simultaneously emotionally manipulative and caring behaviour of teenage girls, who are still determining the best way to navigate the world. Indeed, Morgan is gifted at creating some rich characters. Gabriel’s erratic and earnest attempts at ‘watching over’ Evie create a chilling atmosphere and a creeping sense of concern. Seb, Evie’s mother’s much younger boyfriend, was perfectly cast as a slimy, pathetic loser. Even Evie’s house, broken and tarp-covered, feels like an oppressive character, and the eventual move she and her mother make is a satisfying thematic event.

Evie suffers from scoliosis – a condition that warps the spine into a ‘S’. She is in the final stages of wearing a brace designed to straighten her spine. Scoliosis is an incredibly painful condition and Morgan’s depiction of it feels a little simple and easy. The brace is removed in the first half of the novel and though Evie often complains about having to wear it, there’s no complexity to the physicality of both the condition and the treatment. It feels as though the brace is removed before it can be an imposition, or narrative object.

That said, Morgan has produced a novel with a lot of heart. Heaven Sent will appeal to its teenage demographic, its pacing faults aside. To me, Morgan is an author with a considerable amount of potential and her next work will be something to keep an eye on.

3.5/5 stars


Words by Riana Kinlough

Adult Fantasy

Briohny Doyle

Scribe Publications 2017


Briohny Doyle’s Adult Fantasy is an unflinching examination of the cultural mythology surrounding the wispy notion of adulthood. Doyle is in her early thirties and still plagued by the feeling she’s not a proper adult. She doesn’t have her life together like the thirty-somethings in television sitcoms: her writing career is still in its infancy; home ownership is a far-flung dream; she has no desire to be a mother.

More importantly, Doyle isn’t convinced by this list of adulthood pre-requisites. Adult Fantasy sets out to deconstruct the Western fixation on marriage, reproduction, and home ownership and their relationship to the preconceived idea of a functional, successful adult. These institutions are incised with a steady, expert hand. The misogynistic and homophobic history of marriage, the relatively new sanctity of childhood, the impossibly high (and extremely contradictory) expectations placed on mothers, and the near-impossible millennial dream of home ownership, are all unpacked and examined.

Doyle is particularly interested in the generational gap between millennials and their parents and the generational sledging that distracts from a changing and frightening economic landscape. Doyle uses the distance between she and her father, a working journalist, as an example of both a shifting working environment and misplaced generational sledging. Her father is woeful that his daughter is still studying in her thirties, and cannot simply go to the Advertiser and ask for a weekly column. He sees this as a lack of drive indicative of a millennial work ethic, whereas Doyle is quick to point out the sheer volume of university-educated millennials who are unemployed, underemployed or underpaid. For Doyle, this is a sign that things are not the way her father remembers.

As a middle class, mid-twenties writer, who works in what Doyle dubs a ‘survival’ job, I’ve never had a piece of non-fiction resonate so totally. Doyle does an excellent job of navigating an angst-ridden topic without sounding too self-pitying, or too privileged. She interviews a string of thirty-somethings who have chosen varying degrees of adulthood, including a polyamorous triad, divorced thirty-somethings, and a woman seeking life in a commune.

If you’re a millennial stuck by the casualisation of the workforce and impossibly high rental prices, I would encourage giving this book to your parents. If you’re the parent of a millennial, who’s path is taking a different one to your own, I would suggest reading this book and then giving it to your millennial to make them feel less alone.

 

5/5 stars


Words and photography by Riana Kinlough

Adult Fantasy is available for purchase here.

The Art of Taxidermy

The Art of Taxidermy

Sharon Kernot
Text Publishing 2018


Sharon Kernot’s Young Adult verse novel The Art of Taxidermy offers an intimate look at the mechanisms of grief and how it can make you strange. Charlotte is just thirteen, has lost her mother and her younger sister, and is obsessed with making the dead look alive again. Her obsession leads her to collect, and then later taxidermize dead animals she finds in the bush surrounding her Australian home. Her aunt is horrified by this behaviour, but her distant father defends it as the burgeoning habits of a young scientific mind. Kernot makes the collection of the dead feel like a natural extension of Charlotte’s grief and pain; much like the meddling of Charlotte’s aunt and the distance of her father is an extension of theirs. The desire to resurrect the dead with whatever means available is both naively young and incredibly human, and Kernot explores it with a matter-of-fact tenderness.

It is not only their grief that makes Charlotte and her family strange. They are German immigrants and her father and grandfather were interned in the Loveday camp, near Barmera on the Murray River. The verse novel is set in the years after the second World War ended and the family’s German heritage marks them as different, as Other. It’s hard to imagine this family living outside this deep saturation of sadness – their tragedies started before Charlotte was born and it feels as though they will continue long after she’s dead.

Kernot paints a family in freefall after the unthinkable has happened, not once but twice, with a sure and steady brush. The work couples the swift, clipped charm of a verse novel and the unpredictable beauty of the Australian landscape in a captivating manner that showcases an author entirely comfortable with her form. This is a novel easily consumed in an afternoon, but one that lingers in the mind for weeks afterwards.

The Art of Taxidermy is due for release July 2 and can be purchased from Text Publishing here.

The book will be launched July 18 at the Tea Tree Gully Library from 6:30pm click here for more information.

5/5 stars


Words by Riana Kinlough

Howl’s Moving Castle – the novel

It was only a few years ago that I discovered that Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film Howl’s Moving Castle was based on Dianna Wynne Jones’ novel of the same name. Given how much I enjoy the film I am almost ashamed that it took so long for me to get to the book—and to discover there were a further two in the series! So three days ago I finally found myself a copy and settled in for what I fully expected to be a great read. I was not disappointed.

There are some children’s books which you can come back to and enjoy at any age and there are quite a few you cannot. Thankfully Howl’s Moving Castle is one of the former. From the very first words I was spellbound by the novel’s fairy tale quality, by the third chapter I was buying an extra copy for my nieces and nephews, and by the tenth chapter I was so unwilling to put it down I read more than half of it in one sitting.

The story, for those that are unfamiliar with it, follows the journey of Sophie Hatter after her father’s death. Left in her step-mother’s care and full of self-degradation for being the eldest (the eldest can never do a thing right), Sophie trims the most exquisite hats, drawing the attention of the dreaded Witch of the Waste who curses Sophie with old age. Meanwhile, Wizard Howl is on the prowl for more young women’s hearts to eat—chased by a scarecrow, at a loss for what to do, and believing herself safe from the evil wizard, Sophie finds herself at Howl’s house. Despite her expectations, the house is not filled with the hearts of the women Howl terrorised, but his young apprentice, Michael, fire-demon-friend, Calcifer, and plenty of spiders. Having been forced against her will to seek her fortune and expecting only misfortune to come of it, Sophie settles in nicely in the castle, slowly discovering her talent for witchcraft and speaking things to life.

Jam packed with wonder, the novel is fairly short and quite accessible to young readers as well as being enjoyable for adults. I have yet to read any others in the series but am eagerly awaiting their arrival. I would highly recommend the novel, Sophie’s practical voice rationalises any fear the reader may have about the Witch of the Waste, Howl, and the scarecrow.


Words by Kayla Gaskell.

kaylaKayla Gaskell is an Adelaide based writer and reviewer whose work has appeared in Empire Times, Readplus, Buzzcuts, Where’s Pluto, and now Tulpa. A self-professed bibliophile, she has a pressing problem: she’s running out of bookshelves.