Alison Croggon is the award winning author of the acclaimed fantasy series The Books of Pellinor, named a Top Ten Teen Read by Amazon in 2005. You can sign up to her monthly newsletter and receive a free Pellinor story at alisoncroggon.com
Her latest Pellinor book, The Bone Queen, was a 2016 Aurealis Awards Best Young Adult Book finalist. Other fantasy titles include Black Spring (shortlisted for the Young People’s Writing Award in the 2014 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards) and The River and the Book, winner of the Wilderness Society’s prize for Environmental Writing for Children.
She is a prize-winning poet and theatre critic,, and has released seven collections of poems. As a critic she was named Geraldine Pascall Critic of the Year in 2009. She also writes opera libretti, and the opera she co-wrote with Iain Grandage was Vocal/Choral Work of the Year in the 2015 Art Music Awards. Her libretto for Mayakovsky, score by Michael Smetanin, was shortlisted in the Drama Prize for the 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. She lives in Melbourne.
- There is a lengthy period of time between The Bone Queen and The Singing (the final installment in The Books of Pellinor quartet). Was a prequel always on the cards? If not, what made you return to the Barding world?
I remember, at the exact moment that I typed “THE END” on the final book, that I swore I was never going to write another Pellinor book! (I’ve since learned never, ever to make those kinds of vows, but at the time, I meant it.) The first four books took around ten years to write, and after all that time I thought that was all I could do with that world, I really didn’t think there was anything more I could bring to it. And the thought of writing another epic fantasy was just exhausting.
Fast forward a few years…and I had an idea. There was always the seed of a prequel in Cadvan’s backstory in The Naming, and I started thinking about what that might be, how that had formed the Cadvan who is in the later books. And then I thought about it a bit more, about things like guilt and forgiveness and so on. And suddenly I knew I was going to write another epic fantasy book. Curses!
- Did you find it difficult to return to that world? What was the most challenging aspect of writing the The Bone Queen?
It was surprisingly easy in many ways, like coming home. The really challenging thing was trying to write a book that didn’t spoil the later books for those who hadn’t read them, but that was, at the same time, satisfying for anybody who had read them. And remembering a million little details, so that there aren’t inconsistencies. That is really hard. When I do slip up, my readers always find me out and send me curly questions. They always assume that I did it on purpose, but that’s because I have lovely readers. I think it’s ok in this one – but me and a bunch of copy editors and proofreaders thought so in the other ones, too!
- What was your favourite part of the process?
My favourite part was definitely revisiting familiar characters in new situations. Especially Dernhil. And actually meeting people like Milana, Maerad’s mother, who are only mentioned in the other books. I loved writing Selmana, a major new character in this book. She’s a queer red-headed six-foot-tall tone-deaf Bard who is a brilliant smith. It’s always so interesting to feel characters come to life and start speaking, it’s one of the really alchemical, mysterious things about writing stories.
- You recently wrote “The Island,” a short story that features a grown-up Maerad. Can we aspect more stories from the world?
When I showed The Island to my husband, he said that it read like the beginning of a novel. And I was like, oh dear, it does, doesn’t it? And I started having ideas…which is how books start. It’s always a long road from the first idea, they have to gestate and develop and then you have to write the things, but you can’t write anything without that initial spark. So I think it’s extremely likely! (As in, I’m actually going to start writing it next year…)
- Is there a project that is currently in the works and your readers should be looking forward to? (Anything you can talk about would be amazing!)
Yes! It’s a bit of a shift from epic fantasy (I’m one of those shape-shifting writers, I’m afraid), but I co-wrote a novel last year with my husband Daniel Keene, who’s a playwright. We ended up writing a cyberpunk dystopia called Fleshers, the first in a new series, and I’m pretty excited about it. Fleshers is about a young woman called Dez and her brother Bo, who live on the edges of Newport City, the only habitable place left on a planet that’s been devastated by environmental catastrophe. Dez is bascially a living computer, after something that happened when she was young. The action begins when Dez accidentally kills a cop during a routine raid and subsequently discovers that the City is planning to exterminate most of the people in the outer suburbs of Newport.
We’re going to publish Fleshers in June next year, and follow up with Pinkers, Book 2, in November. If you sign up to my newsletter, you’ll keep in the loop (and also get a free copy of The Island). So 2018 is going to be full-on.
- Would The Books of Pellinor be different in any major way were you to write them at this point in time rather than when you did?
They would be different, I expect, because I’m older and hopefully wiser; but on the other hand, I wouldn’t be the writer I am now if I hadn’t written them, so it’s a question that kind of goes in circles. I learned so much writing those books. And there’s always so much more to learn…
- And finally, is there any recent novel or essay you have read that you would like to recommend to our readers?
It’s so hard to answer these questions, there are so many choices! I adored Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings, Book 1 in Dominion of the Fallen. Book 2, The House of Binding Thorns has just come out and it’s awesome. She’s a marvellous writer, and the world is stunning.