Snapshot 2012: Lezli Robyn

(posted on behalf of Alisa Krasnostein, who is in transit!)

Lezli is an Aussie Lass who loves writing sf, fantasy, horror, humour and even dabbles in steampunk every now and then. She has made over 25 story sales to professional markets around the world, including Asimov’s and Analog, and her first short story collection will be published by TICONDEROGA PRESS in late 2012. Lezli was a finalist for the 2009 AUREALIS AWARD (Aussie) for Best SF Story, the 2010 IGNOTUS AWARD (Spanish) for Best Foreign Short Story, and a 2010 CAMPBELL AWARD NOMINEE for best new writer. In 2011 she won the Best Foreign Translation ICTINEU AWARD (Catalan) for “Soulmates”, a novelette written with Mike Resnick, which was first published in Asimov’s.

1) Your debut short story collection, Bittersuite, is due to be released from Ticonderoga Publications in 2012 – can you tell us a bit about the process of pulling together this book and what we can expect?

This collection is going to be a great representation of what I’m best known for writing: bittersweet stories. Whether writing sf, fantasy, steampunk, horror, or mainstream, I chose the genre to help me tell the best character development story. The setting, content and “voice” often differ vastly from story to story – I have written first person, third person, and in present or past tense – but in all my stories I tend to focus on the emotional resonance between characters, and their personal evolution.

Half of this collection will be made up with previously published stories, including a couple written with Mike Resnick, because I do not see this collection as being a true depiction of my journey thus far as a writer without including some stories that we’ve written together. (I started my writing career after meeting Mike and we wrote our first collaboration.) The collection will also include at least five new stories, all with a bittersweet element or ending. My idea is that by the time Russ and I finish putting together the collection, it will be a kaleidoscope of stories that together both contrast and compliment each other at the same time, showing as many different facets of what I can do as a writer as possible.

2) You’ve made most of your sales to international markets. How do you find Australian markets differ from those offshore? Do markets such as China, Russia or Italy place different emphases or have different interests compared to Australian ones?

I have made most of my sales specifically to the United States, where I started writing and selling with my frequent collaborator, Mike Resnick, and then have sent my stories onward around the world to see which market they resonate the most. All my sales have been short fiction or novelettes, and so most of my analysis of the industry has been in that sphere.

Anthologies are always themed in some way everywhere around the world, but magazines vary dramatically around the world. I have noticed that Australian markets in general prefer darker fantasy stories, or very out-of-the-square sf and horror stories, and I believe our industry is on the cutting edge of unique ideas. In comparison, the US has a lot more markets, but they usually are more specific about the types of stories they will consider each publication. Aussie magazine’s are more likely to mix the genres within one publication, whereas a lot of the US magazines will often only accept one genre.

Clarkesworld is an example of a US market that reminds me the most of Australian small press publications, where the genre or content of their stories can be quite diverse, and they often publish brilliant, somewhat dark, out-of-the-square stories. In contrast Asimov’s typically love sf stories with an emotional resolution, whereas Analog usually prefer sf stories with practical solutions – although that is a broad generalisation, and not always the rule.

I have also noticed that non-english foreign markets (such as Russia, China, Italy, Greece, poland, Spain, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic) often buy stories that focus on the emotional journey of a lead character, rather than a richly-detailed plot or setting which often can’t translate as well, especially when describe with western-inspired details. I think that since English is the second language of most of the first readers for the magazines, they are more easily able to identify with stories focusing on the character’s emotional journey because no matter where you live in the world, and what nationality we are, like the characters in the stories we all fall in love, suffer loss, evolve relationships, and overcome obstacles that turn into life-changing events. Those type of stories translate well into any language.

3) In your 2010 snapshot, you talked about a novel you were writing. How is that going? Is the process as you expected it would be?

I have two novels in the works at the moment. One of them is the one I was previously discussing in my 2010 snapshot, however since that snapshot was done my life has gone through huge upheavals. Following Aussiecon 4 I was admitted into hospital for multiple lung clots, I moved house, then my beloved Grandma passed away, I flew to America for three months to help my partner through stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma and it’s brutal chemo treatment, we got engaged, and then I returned to Australia to start the exhausting process of applying for a VISA to move to Ohio while ending up in hospital twice since my return, and working six days a week for a six month period. (Phew!) To say the least, I didn’t have much time to write – if any at all – but I have had an amazing year, with so many highs and lows, and although it as kept me from writing as much as I would have liked to, I am confident my experiences will enrich my writing in the year to come – especially since the lead character of the novel in question is a writer. I have so many new writing quirks and personality nuances to add to my character when she will be writing under pressure, as they say personal experience can add depth to a novel when you put elements of yourself into your stories. The character might not be me, but we will have writing in common.

I realise that what I wrote is not so much an answer to your question, but ask me again next year, and I will be able to give you a much better answer. I’m looking forward to discovering my novel-writing processes.

4) What is next for you?

Along with the 2012 publication of Bittersuite, and the novel that is still waiting on the sidelines, I have a Stellar Guild book with Mike Resnick scheduled to be written at the start of 2013. Our book will be a part of a series of books where a well-known author and their protégée both write a separate piece of fiction set in the very same universe the well-known author has made famous. Four books in the series are almost done, and in various stages of publication, and ours will also be published by Arc Manor Publications in 2013.

I also plan on writing a story with the intention of submitting it to Asimov’s by the end of the year, and I would love to sell a story to another Aussie market after I move to the US and have much more time to write.

Unfortunately, the other projects I have in the works I can’t mention in detail, except to say that I am very excited about them, as I will be creating my own Aussie weird western series of stories, as well as writing more steampunk-set fiction, which I think is an evocative genre that helps to beautifully frame emotive storylines. I have pre-sold two stories to US anthologies, and I have a VERY promising novel proposal that a specific publisher is very interested in too, which would be written in 2013 if we get to contract stage. I have a rule where I don’t mention details about my future projects unless a contract has been signed, or I know the deal is otherwise set in stone, so I can’t tell you more even tho I wish it.

5) Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?

The industry is changing so much. It appears that the smaller presses here are getting more and more notice with reviewers and editors in Great Britain and the United States, and Aussie authors are getting mentioned more frequently in Year’s Best anthologies around the world, most notably in the US. However, the mass market publishers appear to be affected by the increase in e-publications, and I’m sure there will be big adjustments regarding the future of mass market paperback sales with the increasing closures of bookstores. I know there are major Aussie authors who are still having frequent mass market publications, and I have heard others discussing the decreasing opportunity to sell novels despite their well-recognised names. I think that could be just due to the current transition period between paperback and e-books, with publishers naturally more reticent while the industry is changing so much.

Overall, I think that the short story sales are definitely on the increase for Aussie’s, with more markets are opening up in the US and UK every year for Aussie’s to expand their sales outside of our part of the world. Aussie publishers like Ticonderoga and Twelfth Planet Press are also doing their part by purchasing even short story collections from Aussie authors than they were in previous years, as well as publishing even more anthologies, although I have noticed there aren’t that many true sf anthologies in production here compared to the US or UK.

It will be very interesting to see the changes to the publishing world by the next Aussiecon. We’re quickly becoming a world where ebooks, and e-readers are quickly replacing printed books. Holographic books, perhaps? Who knows! In the speculative fiction industry anything is possible.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1 June to 7 June and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at:

https://thebooknut.wordpress.com/tag/2012snapshot/

http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/tag/2012snapshot

http://helenm.posterous.com/tag/2012snapshot

http://bookonaut.blogspot.com.au/search/label/2012Snapshot

http://www.davidmcdonaldspage.com/tag/2012snapshot/

tansyrr.com/tansywp/tag/2012snapshot/

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1 Comment

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One response to “Snapshot 2012: Lezli Robyn

  1. Pingback: Snapshots! Part Nineteen | Refracted Ambiguity with Polar Bear

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