Deborah Biancotti is a writer based in inner-city Sydney, Australia. Her first published short story won an Aurealis Award and her first collection, A Book of Endings, was shortlisted for the 2010 William L. Crawford Award for Best First Fantasy Book.
Her second short story collection, Bad Power, has just been published by Twelfth Planet Press, and her first novella has just been released by Gilamesh Press in the Ishtar anthology.
Deborah is working on her first and second novels. She continues to write short and long stories and refer to herself as a 'tired idealist'.
Blog | @deborah_b
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The future of books is a big challenge for anyone in these days, from authors to readers. As an author how do you see things change in the book universe? Which aspects do you think are going to move faster?
It looks to me like the world’s opening up for authors. Especially authors willing to try non-traditional methods to reach an audience. Personally I’m loving the whole ‘eBook singles’ idea in particular, where a single story or novella is sold independently of any covering anthology or collection. I think that’s really exciting and kinda subversive. I’m interested to see whether editing becomes as independent as writing is becoming.
I love buying one or two stories (or ‘singles’) for a quick afternoon read. And since I like reading at the shorter word length, I’m excited to think that maybe the whole eBook revolution will lead us back to the days when novels were only 60,000 words or less and novellas were available in every newsagent. As opposed to the the big ‘door stoppers’ that traditional print made popular for the sake of printing economies of scale.
Or, you know, some other format entirely might take over. It’s anybody’s guess.
Bad Power is a collection of sinister police procedural short stories, with a particular kind of supernatural characters: the one who dislikes having superpowers. What do you love the most on the mix with police procedural and fantastic genre?
I think what I love is the order vs. chaos you get when we try to apply our cumbersome human systems of justice and security onto a world we don’t understand. There’s something kind of honourable about the attempt, and something sweetly sad and inevitable about the failure. You know, it’s a very human trait that in the face of chaos and ‘the void’, in the face of mortality and the apparent impossibility, the hostility of life, we still try to keep to the ways and traditions we understand. We still try to protect ourselves and each other. We still do the best we can.
And in Bad Power, Detective Palmer is very much doing the best she can, trying to be the best she can be. She’s compassionate and humane even when the world around her falls short of those values. And the outcomes from that aren’t great for me. Palmer, to me, is a living, breathing example of consequence, of good intentions getting nowhere.
It’s the same for Detective Ponti, who’s being torn apart by his power. He has the uncanny ability to find lost children. But his power is so unpredictable that people start to suspect he’s involved in the disappearances. He’s someone whose career and his life have both apparently stalled. But he keeps showing up, doing his job and doing his best. It hasn’t bested him. Yet.
Your readers love your ability with dialogues and images: a wonderful way to define them is "cinematic". Which is the best way to grab reader's attention, in your opinion? Are there any essential key points you can't miss on doing it?
Why, thank-you! As a reader, I always love that moment of immersion that happens when you really believe a story and you find yourself trusting the author. How that happens is probably different for each reader, but for me what you can’t miss out on is a good character. For a story to work, you need to care about the outcome, and the way to care is to find a character you can invest in. That’s certainly what’s behind my desire to write interesting dialogue and a world that’s visually evocative: it’s that immersion I’m aiming for.
What do you think about the current police procedural stories? Which are the main qualities you can see in them, today?
One of the things I love about police procedurals is that they’re almost always stories with a sturdy narrative spine and strong, energetic characters. You start at the beginning, usually with a crime, and you end with a resolution, and along the way you dive in and out of the lives of a bunch of people with problems. Big problems, typically. It’s an old story structure that’s never gone out of fashion, and that’s because it’s so satisfying and so versatile. It’s a form and format that drags the characters with it, kicking and screaming, regardless of what else is happening in their worlds.
Nowdays I think police procedurals are expanding more and more to take part in other kinds of stories. Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men is a police procedural, but it’s also a literary story, a gothic western story, a thriller. Local Australian author Katherine Howell is writing police procedurals often from the point of view of paramedics as well as police. In graphic novels, Gotham Central is a fabulous police procedural based in Gotham City and featuring a bunch of cops who are coming to resent the superheroes (read: Batman) almost as much as they hate the bad buys. And I won’t even begin to talk about the police procedurals on television, such as Detroit 187, Southland, The Killing, Wallander. Luther, Rush ...
I'd like you to give your best reading suggestions to our readers. Could you pick three titles that they can't miss?
Oh, man, just three? That’s so hard.
Well, I think Katherine Howell is going to be huge. Her Cold Justice is an action-packed thriller ride through Sydney and shouldn’t be missed. It’s a multi-point-of-view story about a bunch of strong, complicated characters coming together around a cold case involving a murdered teenaged boy from twenty years ago. It’s about how much the present belongs, still, to the past.
And I absolutely love Michael Marshall Smith’s Bad Things and think you should read it. He’s at the top of his form with this book about a man whose son goes missing in front of his very eyes, and the spooky reasons that wind up being behind that. He writes marvelously clear prose and his characters are immediately sympathetic and interesting.
And, hmm, Dorothy Porter’s The Monkey's Mask is a brilliant, sexy, smart police procedural told in verse. It’s one long poem that takes the form to its logical conclusion. We all enjoy snappy, fast-paced action, right? Well, this book is the definition of snappy, fast-paced action. Porter is one of Australia’s best, most exciting, most energetic poets and everyone should read at least one of her books.
And then, for those who are looking for good writing advices: do you have three tips for them?
1. Keep writing.
2. Ignore people who try to diminish you.
3. In the words of Goethe, “Do not hurry; do not rest.” (i.e. KEEP WRITING!)