Author Spotlight – Justina Robson
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is Justina Robson!
Justina Robson is from Leeds, a city in Yorkshire in the north of England. She always wanted to write and always did. She has written numerous Science Fiction and Fantasy novels and has been shortlisted for various international awards including the Arthur C Clarke Award, the Philip K Dick Award and the Campbell. She has also been a fitness instructor, yoga teacher, administrative assistant and temporary secretary.
You can find Justina on Twitter @JustinaRobson, or support her on Patreon.
Thanks very much for joining us today, Justina. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
I really loved “Rejoice!” by Steven Erikson. It comes out on 18 October so you can’t get it yet – I was sent a review copy. It’s a fantastic SF story, absolutely of this moment, satirical and at the same time warm and full of ideas. The subtitle is “A Knife To The Heart”. My heart wasn’t hurt but I can imagine the lovely flame war that it could ignite. Ah, you’ll warm your hands and singe your socks on that for years to come. Lovely. Pass the marshmallows.
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
I am a rogue. I live by my razor sharp wit, which is my only weapon. I have a lot of flashbombs in my pockets because wit hurts people a lot but rarely incapacitates them so I will need to run away and vanish efficiently until they die of apoplexy whence I may return and divest them of their valuables at my leisure.
Sound strategy! When you’re not trawling through dungeons, do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Why?
I type. It is much faster, closer to the speed I think at. I was never fixated on any kind of recording in particular. Originally it was pens and exercise books, then typewriters, then computers. I might go back to longhand if I want a break from all the screen work. It is getting to be very tiring.
And how do you like to work – in silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps?
I will engineer the mood I want to create with music unless I am working analytically in which case I usually just have silence or whatever is around in the house – it’s not that quiet unless it’s a school day at midmorning.
Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit? Tell us something unusual about your writing method!
Plotting and pantsing are false idols. I have no unusual methods. I went through a tiara phase. Then I created a mystical tiara so I don’t need an object any more. Magic is still very useful.
What are your most significant non-book fantasy influences?
Probably all the cartoons I watched as a kid, and various movies. I also quite like travel and seeing actual places and things. There is a wood near my house which has a small patch of very old woodland. It played a large part in the development of my early imagination.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
Property Brothers: Buying and Selling. It features these two very handsome, tall, dark Canadian twins. There’s also some stuff about doing up houses and getting to nosy into other people’s homes so it’s a series that never stops giving.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write or otherwise do any work. How do you choose to spend the day?
Lie in bed, drink tea, eat biscuits, read some stuff, play a bit of WoW, put on a load of laundry because otherwise it backs up on you. I realise I should talk about something more exciting like horseriding or taking the kids to learn how to scuba dive but that’s not really going to happen. Yoga. That might happen. Eat with the kids. Watch some TV. Walk with the dog.
If you could choose one punctuation mark to be made illegal, which would it be and why?
I’ve lost track of all the dash types. So I would go for only the Em Dash to serve all dashlike purposes. Dashes should be like Highlanders. I could go for the En Dash. But just one.
In no more than three sentences, tell us a little something about your current work in progress!
It’s a sequel to Glorious Angels, called Hell’s Ditch. It’s the conclusion of the story of first contact and retro engineering and a whole lot of complicated biological and social knitting. I have this other work which keeps shouting from the back of my head wanting to get out so I may have to break out and put some of that down too.
If you could co-write or co-create a series (like The Expanse, or the Malazan Book of the Fallen), who would you choose to work with and why?
I would like to write on a big team of my favourite writers creating a huge series which we then write one instalment of each. But I think that tracking and managing such a project would drive one nuts quite easily. We don’t all play well together either. But I love it as an idea.
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Show Don’t Tell. Like its friend, Write What You Know, this advice is only helpful in very specific contexts. Taken as a general Always rule it is pure stupid in a jar. Sometimes you must Tell. You are always Making Shit Up, including everything that ever happened to you and your actual knowledge is trivial compared to the scope of all you will encounter in your life so don’t write what you know, write in order to discover what you may and may not know. That said, the advice was probably intended to stop people writing all about the struggles of a ballerina when they have never danced a step, seen a ballet or spent more than one minute looking at a photo of Darcy Bussell so I am probably overreacting. But I was always a very diligent, absolutely literal follower of advice so I got badly burned and you will have to suffer my wrath and ashes. Advise at your own risk.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
I would go to Southern India, thousands of years ago, when Adiyogi Ithe first yogi) arrived on the scene. I’d want to see them for real or, if they are only subtly real, then to see how their legend first got started.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
I don’t, always. If I don’t want to write I decide why that is and then act accordingly; if stuck so feeling flat then I do some analysis and fix the stuck. If I’m too tired or ill or if there’s something unresolved at a deeper level then I do other activities until I can return. I’m a terribly bad example.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
I think that Freda Warrington’s official sequel to Dracula, “Dracula The Undead”, is a wonderful book which is a terrific expansion on the original. It never got the recognition it deserved, IMO, nor the sales. She is, as a whole, an undervalued writer and one of the best of British fantasy.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with what we like to call a ‘shark elevator pitch’? (It’s exactly the same as an elevator pitch, but with sharks.) (Well, one shark. Which, by the way, is currently picking between its rows of teeth to try and dislodge the remains of the last author who stepped onto its elevator.)
Ahem. So: why should readers check out your work? A shark elevator pitch of your own book(s) in no more than three sentences – go!
Yeah, so, a race of (I just mistyped the following word as niceromancers) necromancers decide to craft an incredible gift for a demigod, in the hope that it will prevent him wiping them off the face of existence. They create him a wonderful Bride by sacrificing over half their own women and children, but before she can be delivered in her marvellous coffin/pressie-box-o-doom he gets killed by a bunch of chancers leaving her unwed and undead (she’s not undead actually but it rhymed and it seemed cool). She gets found by an orphaned girl instead and…you’ll have to read Salvation’s Fire to find out what happens.
It sounds fantastic, Justina! Thanks again for joining us today, and best of luck with the new book!
Justina Robson is the author of numerous science fiction and fantasy novels, including The Switch, The Glorious Angels, and the Quantum Gravity series. Her latest book, Salvation’s Fire, was released by Rebellion on September 4th 2018.