2013 was a breakthrough year for me in a number of ways relating to my nebulous writing career. This year I wrote 100,000 words of prose fiction for the first time in a decade. In April and May I was an Emerging Writer-in-Residence at the KSP Writers’ Centre. I completed one novel, Yellowcake Summer, which was published by IP in September, and started working on another, Thirsty Work. This year I wrote just one short story, “A Void”, which was shortlisted for the Carmel Bird Award and was recently published in The Great Unknown, edited by Angela Meyer. I had a further three stories published in 2013, all of which were written in 2012, and I made my editorial debut alongside Andrez Bergen with The Tobacco-Stained Sky.
Like I said, I hit 100,000 words of prose written for the year, which I’m very happy about. The bulk of these words consist of the second half of Yellowcake Summer and the first half of Thirsty Work. 40,000 words of Thirsty Work were written in three weeks while I was at KSP, so I have the residency to thank for reaching this total. This is in additional to working full time as an English teacher, although I am lucky enough to have twelve weeks off from that per year.
Earlier this year I was invited by Andrez Bergen to co-edit The Tobacco-Stained Sky with him. Andrez had already selected a story of mine, “The Dying Rain”, for the anthology, but the book was in need of a prose editor and I was happy to step up to the plate. This was a demanding but enormously satisfying experience for me, and I’m very proud of the anthology. Thanks again to Andrez and to Kristopher Young of Another Sky Press for affording me this opportunity. I’ve always (rather perversely) enjoyed line-by-line editing, and as part of my KSP residency I also enjoyed mentoring WA writer Franci Leibenberg and editing a novel-in-progress of hers.
I was lucky enough this year to be invited by Martin Livings of the Australian Horror Writers’ Association to be one of three judges for this year’s AHWA Short and Flash Fiction awards. Working alongside Joanne Anderton and Ashlee Scheuerman, I had the rewarding task of reading dozens of stories in these categories and selecting the winners. The Flash Fiction winner jumped out at us, but the judges couldn’t split stories by Alan Baxter and Zena Shapter in the Short Fiction category. All three stories have since been published in Midnight Echo.
2013 was a watershed year for me in publishing, with one novel and no fewer than four short stories seeing print. I’m especially pleased of that second figure, as it represents all four stories I wrote in 2012 and 2013. Sequel to 2011’s Yellowcake Springs, Yellowcake Summer won Best Fiction in this year’s IP Rolling Picks competition and was published by IP in September. A science fiction story, “The Last First”, was published in Alien Sky from Another Sky Press, edited by Justin Nicholes. The other three stories are set in the universe of Andrez Bergen’s Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat. “Blue Swirls” was the first to see (digital) print in the first issue of Tincture Journal, edited by Daniel Young. “The Dying Rain” got a gig in The Tobacco-Stained Sky, as explained above, and recently “A Void” found a home in The Great Unknown.
Targets for 2014
It’s seldom a good idea to state one’s future targets so publicly, but here goes. In 2014 I aim to completely finish Thirsty Work by May 31st in time to submit it to the Australian/Vogel Award, and if that doesn’t work out I’ll start doing the rounds regarding potential publishers and literary agents thereafter. I’d also love another opportunity to pursue a Writer-in-Residence position in Perth or elsewhere. I want to try my hand at writing some literary stories for submission to Australian journals like Meanjin and Overland, but even if I get somewhere with that, those stories won’t see print until 2015. So 2014 certainly won’t match 2013 in terms of novels and stories published. I’d love to hit the 100k mark in writing next year, but that will probably be dependent on obtaining another residency. This will also necessitate me starting work on a new novel, perhaps another crime novel. So far I have a title for that and nothing more: Opprobrium.
AVON Valley author Guy Salvidge is launching two new books at Northam Library on Saturday, September 28.
It is set partly in the Avon Valley of the future.
“It took me two years to write this one between the school holidays,” Mr Salvidge said.
“My influences are various science fiction and crime authors including Philip K Dick and Raymond Chandler.”
His other book is The Tobacco-stained Sky, a collection of post-apocalyptic noir, future crime fiction short stories from various authors in Japan, India and the United States.
It has been published by a small American publisher.
Earlier this year, Mr Salvidge was a writer in residence at the KSP writer’s centre in Greenmount. In that time, he started writing a new novel called Dan, A Cautionary Tale.
“I have a view to get it published next year,” Mr Salvidge said.
Mr Salvidge will also be appearing at the Avon Valley writer’s festival this weekend proving various workshops.
It’s pretty self explanatory, but it’s only open to Australian residents.
[Guy Salvidge talks about his sequel to Yellowcake Springs, Yellowcake Summer, with David Reiter.]
DR: Yellowcake Summer is the sequel to your first IP title,Yellowcake Springs. Did you plan to write a sequel from the outset, or did it occur to you after you’d written the first book?
GS: I originally intended Yellowcake Springs to be a standalone title, but I found that after completing it the main characters were still kicking around in my head, wanting another chance. In particular, I had a clear idea of how I wanted Jeremy to develop from the ‘second string’ character that he is in the first novel to one of the major players in Yellowcake Summer.Furthermore, as the ‘Belt region of the Yellowcake universe is based on my own home in the Avon Valley, I found myself inspired by some specific settings, such as those that became Ley Farm and The Rusty Swan.
DR: Did the writing of the first book make it easier to get into the second? Did you learn anything from the reviews of Yellowcake Springs?
GS: Yellowcake Springs was certainly a breakthrough novel for me and it gave me confidence to start working on the sequel soon after publication. A number of people expressed their empathy for Rion’s plight in particular, so I made sure to keep him as the ‘moral centre’ of the sequel. Reviews of Yellowcake Springs were almost uniformly positive so I decided to stick to pretty much the same formula for Yellowcake Summer. The books can probably be seen as two halves of one longer, and now completed, story.
DR: The dystopian novel has been a popular sub-genre for some time. How much of this has to do with our fascination with doomsday stories and our uncertainty about the future?
GS: Dystopias are very much in vogue these days and it isn’t hard to see why. Fears about climate change, terrorism, food and water security and humanitarian crises are played out in dystopian stories of various kinds. It’s our way as writers and readers of expressing our discontent with the present course our civilisation seems to be taking. Growing up, I was fascinated with nuclear war and after-the-bomb scenarios, but it wasn’t until I watched An Inconvenient Truth in 2006 that I realised that climate change would be to my generation what nuclear war had been to that of my parents.
DR: Both novels are set in Western Australia. What strategies did you adopt to make their themes more universal?
GS: In my twenties I was leery of writing about Australian settings. My first published novel, The Kingdom of Four Rivers, was set hundreds of years into the future in a jungle-infested China, for example. On reflection, however, I realised that a certain verisimilitude would always be missing in constructing such settings, so I decided to set Yellowcake Springs in a world I personally knew. It was around this time that I also began to read a lot of Southern US fiction, which is almost always imbued with a strong sense of place and stubborn regionality. I realised then that I ought to be proud of my own regionality myself. Insofar as the themes in these or any novels can be said to be universal, I felt that the plight of my characters would be reasonably relatable to a non-Australian audience.
DR: Your ‘day job’ is teaching. Are your colleagues and students aware of your other life, and, if so, how do they respond to Guy Salvidge, the author?
GS: They certainly are! Some of my students like to remind me about how much they can find out about me on Google, which seems to be as accurate a measure of fame as any these days. As I teach English for a living, I find that the fact that I actively write stories gives me a certain credibility with students too. Some of my colleagues are quite enthusiastic about my work and a number of them have supported me over the years in various ways. But, for staff and students alike, my primary role as author is in disabusing them of the notion that I am (or very soon will be) a millionaire. I’m not in a position to retire from teaching just yet!
That’s right – Yellowcake Summer has arrived at the Kindle store and is available to purchase for $9.99. For those of you waiting for the physical edition, you can purchase it from Amazon here. I’ll add links to other booksellers as they become available. To celebrate the release, I’ll be launching the novel with my publisher David Reiter of Interactive Publications at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre in Perth at 3pm on Sunday September 15th – details here. I’ll also be appearing as part of the Avon Valley Writers’ Festival on the weekend of 21-22nd September in Northam and Toodyay. Exciting times!
My third novel, Yellowcake Summer, which is a sequel to Yellowcake Springs, will be released by IP in September. The novel follows the fortunes of Rion, Sylvia and Peters — all major characters from the first novel — as they swelter through the thirsty Australian summer. I’ve written this story in two parts, so there won’t be a third Yellowcake volume. Everything that is set up in Yellowcake Springs comes to a head in Yellowcake Summer.
To celebrate the release, I’ll be holding launch events at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre in Greenmount and the Northam Regional Library during September. More details on this will follow soon. I’ll also be promoting the novel at the Avon Valley Writers’ Festival on September 22-23 in Toodyay and Northam, where I’ll be presenting a workshop on novel writing.