2010 Snapshot Interview: Karen Miller

Karen Miller is a Sydney-based speculative fiction novelist, writing epic historical fantasy, Star Wars and Stargate novels under her own name, and the Rogue Agent fantasy series under the pen  name K E Mills. Her website is www.karenmiller.net.

1. Your book Witches Incorporated (written as KE Mills) was recently shortlisted for the Best Fantasy Novel category of the Aurealis Awards – please tell us a little about this series, and why you chose to publish it under a pseudonym.

Well, the pseudonym thing came about because of the differences in style, tone and setting between the Rogue Agent books and the other stuff I write.  I’m also publishing epic/historical fantasy sagas and Voyager felt it would be good to differentiate the flavours, as it were. Also, whereas the ‘Miller’ books are multi-volumed self-contained stories, each Rogue Agent book is a single installment of an ongoing series with continuing characters — another difference they wanted to highlight.
As to the Rogue Agent series itself — I’m not entirely certain where it came from, beyond the fact that I sat up in bed one morning and said, I have to write the story of Gerald the hapless wizard and his best friend Reg who happens to be a witch-queen who got turned into a bird centuries ago. It all grew from there, really, evolving into the story of a man who has a particular talent that takes him to some dark and life-altering places, and how he copes with that, and reinvents himself  in his quest to do the right thing, no matter how hard that might be. And how he creates his own family of disparate friends, and how those friendships endure and change as the result of their various adventures.
I love mystery fiction and thrillery stuff as much as I love fantasy, and this felt like a great way to combine the styles. Plus these books give me a chance to do some comedy, both bantery and slapstick, as well as explore some good meaty dramatic moments. It’s not comic fantasy and it’s not straight-down-the-line hardcore drama, either. Dramedy? I suppose that comes closest. And I also have the chance to play with the fact that the cultural influences are slightly more modern — late Victorian/early Edwardian, with some social points to be explored. What I’ve discovered in the writing of the first three is that I truly, deeply and desperately love these characters and that writing stuff with humour in it is seriously, seriously scary. Every morning the same question: Oh my lord, can I be funny today???? Plus it’s a huge challenge, keeping the balance between the natural humour that arises out of these people’s relationships, and the underlying seriousness of the world they live in and the work they do. And I do love a challenge.

2. You are such a prolific writer, producing work in your own worlds, under more than one name, and in media tie-in worlds as well – which experience to you enjoy the most, and why?

Really and truly, I don’t have a favourite. I love them all, for different reasons. With the tie-in work, I have the enormous luxury of being asked to write in two worlds — Star Wars and Stargate — that I happen to love a great deal. It’s been an honour and  a privilege to be asked to contribute to the tapestry of those stories. I don’t have the words to describe the thrill of being the writer who got to tell the story of how Obi-Wan Kenobi and Bail Organa found their way to a friendship that ultimately helped save the galaxy from destruction.  Or to explore how Obi-Wan and Anakin made the transition from master and pupil to equals as they fought in the Clone Wars. Or to take one of my favourite episodes of Stargate, "A Matter of Time", and do a follow up that looked at the repercussions of those tragic events.
With my own-world fiction, I have the luxury of wearing different hats. As a reader, a consumer of stories, I love deep and difficult dramas and I also love stories with a lighter bent. It’s so fantastic that I’ve been given the opportunity to explore as a storyteller what I love to explore as an audience member. That’s why I can’t choose!

3. I’m almost afraid to ask what we’ll be seeing from you in the next twelve months, but there’s no word limit here, so please, tell us what’s coming up from Karen Miller (or her pseudonyms!) in the year ahead!

In terms of work coming out in 2010, I’ve got The Reluctant Mage, which is the sequel to The Prodigal Mage, wrapping up The Fisherman’s Children duology. I’ve also got a Star Wars duology, the Clone Wars Gambit — Stealth and Siege. In terms of work I’m doing this year for publication next year, I’m currently working on A Blight of Mages, which  is the standalone prequel to the Lur books. It tells the story of Morg and Barl and how the whole mess in Lur got started. Beyond that, while I have a few irons in the fire, I’m not in a position to say anything publically. Yet. But stay tuned … *g*

4. Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year?

When it comes to long fiction, absolutely Glenda Larke. Nobody creates a fantastic fantasy world better than Glenda. When it comes to short fiction, I’d have to say Angela Slatter, Paul Haines and Kaaron Warren.

5. I believe you will be at Aussiecon 4 in September.  What are you most looking forward to about it?

Most of all, the chance to kick back and catch up with friends from all over the world. Not only is the Australian writing community geographically scattered, but as you know writing is an inherently solitary occupation. And while I am a card-carrying, all dues paid up loner, I do love to mix and mingle too. Plus I’m really looking forward to hearing what a variety of smart, experienced people on panels have to say about the various facets of our crazy life and the publishing game in general.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2010 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from Monday 15 February to Sunday 22 February and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at:


If you’re involved in the Scene and have something to plug, then send us an email at snapshot2010@gmail.com and we’ll see what we can do!

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