Author interview with Craig Cormick



Author interview with Craig Cormick

Author bio:
Craig Cormick in an Australian science communicator and author. He was born in Wollongong in 1961, and is known for his creative writing and social research into public attitudes towards new technologies. He has lived mainly in Canberra, but has also in Iceland (1980–81) and Finland (1984–85). He has published 15 books of fiction and non-fiction, and numerous articles in refereed journals. He has been active in the Canberra writing community, teaching and editing, was Chair of the ACT Writers Centre from 2003 to 2008 and in 2006 was Writer in Residence at the University of Science in Penang, Malaysia.

Cormick's creative writing has appeared in most of Australia's literary journals including Southerly, Westerly, Island, Meanjin, The Phoenix Review, Overland, Scarp, 4W, Redoubt, Block, as well as in overseas publications including Silverfish New Writing (Malaysia) and Foreign Literature No 6 (China). He has previously been an editor of the radical arts magazine Blast, and his writing awards include the ACT Book of the Year Award in 1999 and the Queensland Premier's Literary Award in 2006. As a science communicator he has represented the Australian Government at many international science forums including APEC and OECD conferences, presenting on issues relating to public concerns about new technologies.



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Hi Craig, welcome over to The Book Plank and for taking your time to answer these few questions for us.

BP: First off, could you give us a short introduction as to who Craig Cormick is? What are your likes/dislikes and hobbies?
CC: This sounds suspiciously like speed dating. But let’s see - well, I live in Australia and I work as a science communicator, specializing in understanding people’s concerns about new technologies (http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/features/a-scientific-view-non-science-beliefs/). I have travelled to all seven continents, including Antarctica, for work.
I have three grown up children and a son who is five-years-old and two Pomeranian dogs. My wife is of Chinese-Malaysian descent, but if you ask her where she is from, she is more likely to say Perth in Australia.
I have written about 20 books and about 100 short stories and about 20 or so academic journal papers. My books cover fiction, non-fiction and children’s books. 
I like – just hanging at home with my wife and son – and dislike all the many, many things that get in the way of me hanging at home with my wife and son. My son clearly thinks likewise since he has a long list of excuses why he shouldn’t go to school and should stay home (it’s going to be snowing outside - the school doors are all locked – they lost the keys, etc). He has autism and sees the world quite differently to the way other kids do.

BP: You have been writing for many years already, do you still know the moment when you decided that you wanted to become a full time author?
CC: I can’t actually put my finger on a moment when I decided to become an author – but I know that I always wanted to be a story teller and can remember as a young boy sitting around in the back yard of various uncles as my father and his many brothers and sisters sat around telling each other stories –and just being fascinated by each one and thinking to myself – one day I’m going to be sitting there with them telling stories too.

I still have the first book I ever wrote – when I was about ten years old or so – it was called the End of the Second Eon and was a hand-written fantasy book. It had knights and ravens and magic and .... hmmm, I’d better go and dig it out and look it over and see if it was truly atrocious as I fear, or whether there might actually be the gem of a good idea in there that I could re-use.

BP: In your writing years you have written books across many different genres. Your latest book, The Shadows Master, is pure fantasy with a historical element in it. How did you come up with the idea of The Shadow Master?
CC: I have been lucky enough to have travelled a lot in my work as a Science Communicator, and I was a conference in Florence a few years back, and while walking around the Galileo museum I got this idea – what if science behaved like magic? And what if, when Galileo invented the telescope, it actually transported you across to what you were looking at – and what if the early chronometers actually slowed down time? And it all started forming out of that magical moment. Incidentally a highlight of the Galileo museum, if you ever get to go there is finding Galileo’s mummified middle finger in a glass jar, pointing at the church. (http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/scitech/display.cfm?ST_ID=2321)


BP: The Shadows Master is out June 24th later this year, if you would have to sell your book with a single sentence, how would it go?
CC: (*takes big breath*) It is a kick-arse tale of alternative history, love and conflict, madness and magic, with sword fights and mad clerics and assassins and bombs and magical shape-changers and dark catacombs and tall towers and an army of plague people – with everything except a car chase. 

BP: Having written books across multiple genres, do you think it has given you experience that you were able to use when you were writing The Shadows Master?
CC: I’d sure like to think so. I think the best fiction uses elements of non-fiction in it and the best non-fiction uses elements of fiction. I really enjoy writing in the spec-fiction genre, but don’t get too caught up in the over-genre-isation of things (is that clock-punk with a dash of classical sci-fi mixed with neo-horror?). I just write stories and try and make them resonate with a reader in a deep way.

BP: Did you encounter specific problems when you were writing The Shadows Master?
CC: Not many. I wrote the book in two months, going pretty full on. Once I had the idea and had walked around and sketched it out in my head it all came pretty easy after that. The only problems I had were stopping to tend to those nuisance things like eating and drinking and sleeping and talking to my family.

BP: What was the hardest part when you were writing The Shadows Master?
CC: Making my family feel that they were more important that the book, and at least as important as eating and drinking and sleeping.

BP: Besides the hardest part of the book, which chapter/scene did you enjoy writing about the most?
CC: The bit I really enjoy is when I’m pulling all the disparate threads together at the end and can actually see it’s all going to work out and fit – and often surprise me as well. It’s not much fun when you get to that point and realize that your continuity won’t fit, or you have a major plot hole, or something like that though.
BP: The synopsis of The Shadows Master mentions Leonardo and Gallileo and the cover reveals something of this era of history. What do you like most about this piece of history?
CC: I actually didn’t know too much about the Renaissance and Florence and the Medicis and so on, and had to do a lot of research, but I also reached a point where I stopped doing research as I found it was grounding my book in fact overly and I wanted to let my imagination soar a bit, and then I came back and checked how close it was to factual afterwards.

There is a love story in the book with two young lovers from two different warring houses and it sounds a bit like Romeo and Juliet, but I actually took the scaffolding from a book called the Betrothed (Il promessi sposi), written in Italy in the 1820s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Betrothed_(Manzoni_novel)) , and have a lot of references to it in the book. Okay, maybe two and other people will get those references, but they’re there.

BP: In using this era of history, did you have to carry out extra research in these field to keep certain facts correct for your story?
CC: As I mentioned above, I did a lot of reading and watching of documentaries to get the feel of the place right, but I also wanted to know about things in detail so I could purposefully change them.

BP: If you would be given the chance to rewrite any particular scene of The Shadows Master before it hits the shelves in June, would you do so? If yes, which part and why?
CC: OMG! Don’t ask me that! Don’t you know that Walt Whitman spent his whole life re-writing Leaves of Grass, just because a blogger asked him that exact same question!

BP: Will The Shadows Master a stand alone book or do you have plans to turn it into a series?
CC: I’m working on the sequel between answer blog interviews. The sequel is really, really, really good. It’s set in a Floating City, something like Venice and I’m using the original Italian tales that Shakespeare adapted into Romeo and Juliet, Othello and the Merchant of Venice, within it. A lot of fun and really enjoyable to write.

BP: Do you have any other projects that you would like to pursue now that The Shadows Master will be published?
CC: There’s always something in the pipeline - and I’ll probably need to call a plumber around to clear it out – but I’m just looking over the proofs of a novel I’ve written about Adolf Hitler having been found hiding in a small fishing village in Australia during the Falkland’s War, and I’m getting near the end of the editing of a book on the science of the Australian Bushranger Ned Kelly. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ned_Kelly)  It involved editing a collection of pieces from all the different scientists who have worked on identifying Ned Kelly’s bones and remains that were recently located at a prison cemetery.  It involves forensic pathology and DNA testing and archaeology and detective work through the records and is absolutely fascinating story. Watch this space!

BP: Everyone enjoys science fiction and fantasy in their own way, what do you like most about it?
CC: The fact that it lets the imagination soar.  The ideas that underpin the best sci-fi and fantasy are the types of ideas that suck all the air out of the room and make your head spin. It’s a good feeling to finish a book and believe it made you overall smarter and wiser rather than dumber.

BP: If you would have to give you top 5 favourite books, which would they be?
CC: Do you mean my favourite five books that I’d grab off the shelf in the case off a house fire before I went and got my wife and kids? They’d have to be:
Fishing the Sloe-Black River, by Column McCann
The complete set of Tin Tin.
100 Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
 The next two unwritten Game of Thrones books
 The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
Learn to count books.

BP: And just lastly, can you give us a sneak peak as to what will be in store for the readers of The Shadows Master?
CC: The assassination attempt was a bloody and clumsy thing. But that may have been a part of the careful planning of it, to distance any suspicion from those stealthy murderers employed by the Lorraine family. If they had used poison or employed a night-creeper to enter the Medici bedrooms while they slept, suspicion would have immediately been cast upon the Lorraines. But to attempt to stab Cosimo Medici and his brother Giuliano when they were attending a service inside the Grand Cathedral of the Walled City – surely only a madman or fanatic would attempt that?
                If it had succeeded and the assassins had escaped into the crowds, the city would have been thrown into utter turmoil. Undoubtedly the Lorraines would have quickly produced unknown corpses to accuse of being the assailants. Foreign spies could have been blamed. The city guard would order everybody off the streets and the Lorraine family would offer to bolster the guards with their own much larger militia. The High Priests would have to support them for the sake of order and once granted military power over the city the Lorraines would never relinquish it.
                But that was not quite the way things had turned out. Only one of the Medici brothers lay dead and one of the assassins had been captured. And the city’s bells rang out to let all citizens know to that chaos had descended upon them all.



BP: Thank you very much for your time Craig and good luck with your future writing projects!



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