Today's Darklight On... is with Astrid Cooper. Welcome Astrid!
How did you come to write speculative fiction? What attracted you to the genre?
I began writing as soon as I could hold a pencil; I remember sitting in the school playground at age five writing and illustrating my stories -- even then they were about magic and aliens and spaceships. I believe that my father and mother contributed to my "speculative" bias by telling me bedtime stories about fairies and magical porpoises. The books I chose at the local library were also "speculative".
Then, as now, I read a lot and widely, not just speculative or romance. I think as a writer I can't afford to become locked in to any one genre, because reading (and writing) in different genres makes you spread your wings and "dare"; it also makes you aware of the limitations of specific genre. As a reader I find that I need a smorgasbord of reading material to keep me happy.
If there is one defining moment it was watching the original Star Trek series on TV ... this had it all: adventure, romance, intrigue - in space. I also followed the NASA space program, so science and the speculative have always held great appeal for me... Not to mention all things metaphysical/paranormal. As for the attraction for speculative fiction: it allows a writer to "boldly go where no writer has gone before..." That "what if...?" question that so intrigues writers to dare them to write outside the box.
I started the local STAR TREK fan club and I wrote and published fan fiction - this is what started me off. Readers of fanzines kept asking me to write in my own worlds, so I did.
Please tell us a little about your road to publication.
It was serendipity. I was in the right place at the right time simply because I dared to put myself out on a limb. My first big break came when I cold pitched to Virgin UK. I thought I'd run past a story line idea I had because it was different from what they were publishing. When I rang, I expected to be put through to an editorial assistant, but my call was sent direct to the editor in chief. I pitched my story, but at the end she said "we've just contracted for a similar book". I thanked her for her time and was about to hang up when she said, "But, I've just come back this minute from a board meeting. We're going to publish our first anthology of erotic stories, would you like to submit to that?" I did. Two weeks later, at 7pm one Thursday, my fax machine went off. It was the contract for my short story (an erotic vampire/romance). Around the same time, I was also presenting two fantasy/s.f./paranormal romance writing workshops at an RWA conference in Sydney. In the audience I noticed a publisher who was at the conference. I was nervous to see her there, but got on with the workshop. At the end, when I was packing up my handouts, she came to me and said how much she enjoyed my workshop and would I like to write some ff&p erotica for her? She gave me her card. I wrote for this publisher for many years until they went out of business.
Sometimes the road to publication is smooth, but more often than not my road to publication has been strewn with almost insurmountable obstacles. I think such moments are "tests" of my resolve. And of late my resolve has been tested!!!
Who are your favourite authors?
- Guy Gavriel Kay
- Tanith Lee
- Ursula K LeGuin
- James Lee Burke
- Stieg Larsson (how dare he die on me after only writing 3 books!)
- Laurence Gardner (excellent re-interpretations of history - the classic "what if...?" which really makes you think).
- Loretta Chase
- Tan Twan Eng (his first book came out years ago, where is the next one???)
What are you currently reading?
I have 3 books on the go.
- "The Secret Lives of Dresses"
- "The Dragon with the Girl Tattoo" (parody!)
- "Characters and Viewpoint" (a writing how-to book)
Do you have a favourite spec fiction movie or tv series?
STAR TREK!!!!!!!! (The Original Series).
Are you a plotter? Pantster? Or somewhere in-between?
I lean more towards a pantster, but it depends on the story line as to whether I need (or want!) to sit down and do indepth story and character arcs. And all the plotting in the world doesn't stop those exciting and rare moments when the characters take control of the story and do and say the unexpected -- I love it when this happens!
Do have a favourite of your characters?
This is a tough question! All of my creations are special. I think Harimal who was a secondary character in my sexy futuristic romance (STARLIGHT). Hari is screaming at me to write his story. Why is he special? He's wounded, vulnerable, a rogue, has a sense of humour... the classic hero.
What are you currently working on?
I have several projects.
1. re-editing a futuristic romance (CRYSTAL DREAMS) for re-release in a month or so.
2. Outlining a dark fantasy/paranormal series.
3. A gaslight romance that is turning out to be a lot of fun.
4. Re-working a huge fantasy romance duology (300,000 words!)
5. Outlining a non-fiction book on cats (requested by a reader/friend of mine). I've told her lots of stories about my cat rescues and their antics once they have settle in to my home - she has demanded I write them and publish them in a book!)
What can we expect from Astrid Cooper in the future?
The above in both digital and print formats. Maybe some writing workshops and a possible 'how-to-write/create workbook.
Do you have advice for emerging writers?
I have something to say about this on my website.
There is a lot of advice "out there" for writers - perhaps too much -- and it is often contradictory. Every writer has their own style and voice, their personal vision of their work. Never let anyone tell you that what you have done is "wrong" and "unless you write how I say you'll never get published." To this advice I say: "Baloney!" (actually, what I would say to this, well, it couldn't go up on the web... LOL!) I have encountered these people in my writing career especially when I was starting out in the big guy world of publishing; I listened to one and I ended up with writers' block for 2 years.
So my advice: Write what you love and write what you love to read. If what you love to read isn't out there on the shelves - write it; invent a new genre. DARE TO DREAM.
What is your favourite part of the process of writing?
Honestly? I love every part of the writing process and I hate every part of the writing process. Writing is a solitary, frustrating business and I find it hard to be objective -- my writing sucks... Every writer I know has this niggling/screaming doubt about their ability.
But my favourite part of the writing process would have to be the initial "what if...?" moment, or when I 'see' a character in my head, or have a dream that precipitates the first word on the first line of the first page. The inspiration is the exciting moment, for me. Then holding the print edition of the book at the end of the process... that moment eradicates all the tears and frustration of the previous months or years.
(the royalty cheque isn't bad, either! LOL!)
Thanks to Eleni, RWA and DSDU for the opportunity to chat about myself and my writing. I appreciate your time in reading this article and hope that in some small way I might have inspired you to begin that daring new project!