Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Meet the Author: An Interview With Paul Collins

About Paul Collins


Paul was born on Canvey Island, England in 1954. He was raised in New Zealand and moved to Australia in 1972. His first published work was the Western novel 'Hot Lead-Cold Sweat' (1975).  To support himself so that he could write, Collins launched 'Void' in 1975, a science fiction magazine. This was the beginning of a successful publisher career that has sat alongside and supported his writing for many years.

Paul has written many books for younger readers. He is best known for his fantasy and science fiction titles within 'The Jelindel Chronicles' ('Dragonlinks', 'Dragonfang', 'Dragonsight' and 'Wardragon') and his contributions to 'The Quentaris Chronicles' ('Swords of Quentaris', 'Slaves of Quentaris', 'Dragonlords of Quentaris', 'Princess of Shadows', 'The Forgotten Prince' 'Vampires of Quentaris' and 'The Spell of Undoing'). His young adult books published in America are 'The Earthborn', 'The Skyborn' and 'The Hiveborn'. But he has many strings to his bow. He has written over fifty chapter books, around thirty non-fiction hardcover books for the education market (published both in Australia and the US), and two collections of his own stories. He co-edited four boxed sets of anthologies with Meredith Costain ('Spinouts' and 'Thrillogies'), edited twelve trade anthologies, and was the editor of 'The MUP Encyclopaedia of Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy'. Paul pioneered the publishing of adult heroic fantasy in Australia and has done much to raise the profile of Australian fantasy and science fiction.

Interestingly Paul has black belts in both taekwondo and jujitsu, served in the commandos, was a kick boxer, trained with the Los Angeles Hell Drivers and has been a pub bouncer! This experience has been put to good use in his fast-paced cyber-oriented tales, which have culminated in the cyberpunk novel 'Cyberskin'.

Paul has published and written many anthologies, including the young adult anthology 'Dream Weavers' for Penguin, the first original Australian heroic fantasy anthology. This was followed by a similar book called 'Fantastic Worlds' and the 'Shivers' series of children’s horror novels from Harper Collins. Hodder & Stoughton published Paul’s next anthology, 'Tales from the Wasteland' in 2000. Collins has also written under the name Marilyn Fate and he and Sean McMullen have both used the pseudonym Roger Wilcox.

Collins’ recent output has been mostly for children. The success of his YA anthology, 'Dream Weavers', and its sequel, 'Fantastic Worlds' encouraged him to write and edit for younger readers. His latest books are: 'The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler', 'The Glasshouse' (illustrated by Jo Thompson) and 'Mole Hunt', the first book in 'The Maximus Black Files'.

He has received a number of awards including the inaugural 'Peter McNamara' prize, the 'Aurealis' prize for fantasy, horror and science fiction. 'The Glasshouse' (illustrated by Jo Thompson) was chosen by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) as an outstanding book in 2011 and has been shortlisted for the Children's Book Council's Crighton Award for illustrators. He has also been shortlisted for many other awards including the 'Ditmar' for achievement in Science Fiction.

You can find a comprehensive outline of Paul's extensive works and achievements on his excellent websites 'The Worlds of Paul Collins' and a second site (here) and also at Ford Street Publishing where Paul is the publisher.

'Mole Hunt'

'Mole Hunt' is the first book in 'The Maximus Black Files'.  It is set in a world where cities can float, people can regenerate at will and humanity has invented new ways to destroy itself. The main character is eighteen year-old, Maximus Black. Maximus works for the Galaxy's law enforcement agency, Regis Imperium Mentatis (RIM). He is charming and brilliant and has a big future ahead of him. He has had a difficult past that included witnessing the murder of his parents when he was just six. He makes it his personal goal to avenge the wrongs he has suffered. He is a cold-blooded sociopath who has a plan that would ultimately plunge the universe into chaos permitting him to take control. There is only one person in his way, an equally clever agent, Anneke Longshadow. Who will triumph?

The story adopts two viewpoints, Black and Longshadow, and moves back and forth as they engage in their deadly encounters.  The plot has many twists and turns as they try to outsmart one another, while avoiding endless peripheral obstacles like assassins and alien bounty hunters. For children aged 11-15 who love science fiction it offers a knuckle ride and exciting adventure as they wage their intergalactic battle.

Interview with Paul Collins


1. What contributed most to your love of story in your childhood years?

Alas, I didn't read books as a kid. In fact, there wasn't a book in our house. To this day no one else in my family has read a book nor does anyone show much interest even in what I write. All very peculiar considering my career. I did however enjoy Marvel Group comics such as The Hulk, Spiderman, Daredevil, Captain America etc. All my pocket money went on these comics.

Is there a single reason (or two) that fantasy is so important to you?

When I finally did start reading I enjoyed Fritz Leiber's Fahryd and the Gray Mouser series, and Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian books. I think my earlier fantasy stories owe a lot to them.

2. Why does dystopian fantasy have so much appeal?

If I'm to be honest, I have a rather bleak view of the future. If the human race hasn't got it right yet, and we haven't, then it never will. On a lighter note, with dystopian fiction, young readers get to test out their own belief systems and moralities without getting too close to the real issues – because they get to empathise with the characters in the books instead. It’s commonly set in bleak or post-apocalyptic landscapes where resources are scarce, and features futuristic technology, mind control, violence and war. It's a very fertile medium within which to write. I also have a history of writing within this genre with The Earthborn Wars (The Earthborn, The Skyborn and The Hiveborn), and Cyberskin, a novel I wrote fifteen years before The Hunger Games, but with a strikingly similar plot.

3. Are there examples of childhood fantasy novels (other than those you’ve written or published) that for you broke new ground?

As mentioned, the Marvel comics greatly influenced me. reviewers often refer to my fiction as "filmic" and fast-paced, which of course is what all comics strive to achieve.

4. Do you have in mind a particular reader when you write fantasy?

Most of my work is for 10 to 18 year-olds. The Jelindel Chronicles were for 13+, but adults tell me they also enjoyed them. The same applies to Mole Hunt. A reviewer for The Fringe said he as an adult enjoyed the book, but he isn't the book's target audience.

5. Would your characters in books like Mole Hunt be possible for you to create without your particular lived experience? If you were an accountant, fascinated by growing native violets and who loved nothing more than watching ‘Dancing with the Stars’ each week, would Maximus have been a different character?


I've lived a rather active life, I have to admit. I have two black belts in martial arts, was a kickboxer and was enlisted with 2 Commando Coy for a brief spell in the 80s. A lot of this comes out in Mole Hunt. But if I were your suggested accountant, I doubt I'd have written such a book. Unless of course I was an extremely frustrated accountant!

6. Is your passion for writing or publishing? Are you a writer who edits and publishes, or a publisher who can write?

I started out as a self-published writer. That was a minor disaster, so I started publishing other authors' books and short stories in anthologies. Meanwhile I wrote as a hobby. My daytime job was owning bookstores and working nights in hotels as a bouncer. In the late 90s I began earning more from my writing than I did from the bookshop I had at the time. I realised I'd finally attained my dream job, that of writing full time. So I sold the shop in 2000 and became a full time writer. I'm currently more of a publisher than a writer, although I do have several books lying around that with a little attention will be very publishable.

7. On a long haul flight to London next week, which two books would you take?

One would have to be "How To Make This Flight Go Fast", and the other would be a much slimmer tome because I'm such a slow reader I doubt I'd get the chance to get to it. Maybe something like "101 Sleep Tips For A Long Flight".

8. What is the best response you've ever had to a book?

I've had some great quotes from people like Isobelle Carmody, Ian Irvine, Allan Baillie and Brian Caswell. I quite like Bookseller + Publisher's quote for Mole Hunt: "Bitingly clever and imaginative, a cross between The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Dexter and Total Recall".

"Thank you Paul for this wonderful insight into your writing, background and personality." TC

Other Posts

All posts in the 'Meet the Author/Illustrator' series HERE

All 'Author Focus' posts HERE

1 comment:

Kim Ngoc Minh said...

Thanks:), I love science fiction and fantasy for kids.