Author Interview: Vogel Award-Winning Kura Carpenter!

The Sir Julius Vogel Awards are New Zealand’s annual celebration of home-grown science fiction and fantasy, with awards covering books, dramatic presentations, fan publications and more. One of the most competitive categories is Best New Talent, and this year’s winner was Dunedin-based author Kura Carpenter!

Kura’s debut novel, The Kingfisher’s Debt, tells the story of Tamsin Fairchild, a translator who must team up with rookie cop Scott Gale to investigate the disappearance of a newborn baby. But this is no ordinary crime: beneath familiar New Zealand locations is a world rich in danger–and magic. Vogel Award judges described The Kingfisher’s Debt as “very cleverly set in an urban fantasy world overlaying (or underlying, depending on your perspective) Dunedin, New Zealand. The writing is crisp, the plot excellently designed and executed.”

We contacted Kura to discuss her writing process, the Vogel Awards and what it’s like to be a fantasy writer in New Zealand. For more on her writing check out her website, and for the full Sir Julius Vogel Awards list, click here. Enjoy!

You’ve described The Kingfisher’s Debt as urban fantasy–a genre combining both fantasy and mystery. How did elements of these two genres complement each other in the shaping of the story?

My story follows a typical mystery structure–crime discovered, investigation, clues revealed, case solved–but the world it’s set in is an alternative New Zealand where magic exists, but most regular people don’t encounter it, in much the same way that you don’t know anything about crime unless it directly touches your life.

The crime in my story is connected to the people who deal in magic, I guess maybe that’s what you mean by shape. The mystery and magic are interconnected. Without the magic, there would be no desire to try and steal it.

Reviews of The Kingfisher’s Debt have praised your descriptions of real-life locations–Dunedin’s midwinter darkness and the “80s kitsch of St Clair”. Were there many challenges in bringing this familiar world to the page?

None. Although I was going for a 90s vibe, so I guess I failed.

There has also been a lot of positive feedback about the characters in The Kingfisher’s Debt–their grittiness, unusualness and dialogue. How did the character of Tamsin–and her excellent first person perspective–come about?

She just popped into my head and I wrote down what she said.

I’m an introvert, I feel awkward meeting people, so I talk to myself all the time, practice conversations, that kind of thing. It’s probably the only benefit of anxiety, all the internal practice improves ones writing ability to capture ‘voice’.

Was it difficult to create a story with both past and present timelines? Was there much planning or re-drafting required with this?

No. I don’t plan, I’m a pantser, an intuitive writer, (which often surprises people who assume I must be a strict outliner). I’m just fortunate to have better than normal intuition for pattern and structure.

I’d come across the zipper-structure (alternating timelines) when reading a novel years ago, and after I’d written my first draft I realised that’s what I’d inadvertently created, it just needed some shuffling of scenes to get the timeline straight and make sure the subtext was as I wanted.

It’s always exciting to have a story that includes a library! You’ve previously worked in Dunedin City Library–what was it that drew you to the library as one of the locations in The Kingfisher’s Debt?

Yes. I’m lazy. It was the easiest thing to do, use locations I’m familiar with.

How do you feel about the fantasy writing scene in New Zealand at the moment? How do you think it might develop in the future, especially with WorldCon taking place in New Zealand next year?

That’s a hard one. On the one hand adult-reading level fantasy has been all but deserted by New Zealand’s traditional publishers, not for lack of talent, but because it’s simply not profitable. Talent wise I think the scene is stronger than it ever was. With the rise of self and indie publishing, has come a lot of opportunity.

While in many fields New Zealand punches above its weight internationally, for example film, sport, and even our P.M. is beloved globally, however when it comes to fantasy writing, we haven’t managed to carve out a spot beyond our borders.

Other New Zealand writers who write realist fiction consider what I write to be commercial and appealing to the masses, but because I’m not writing American or U.K. stories my story is actually non-commercial, it only has local appeal. WorldCon will shine a spotlight on us briefly, but the trouble ultimately remains that we’re a small market for telling our own stories, our own brand of fantasy. If we’re going to develop in the future then we must become leaders and not just followers.

Urban adventures: experience VR this Thursday & Friday

Experience virtual reality in your lunch break–or before your bus home!

Ever wanted to fly a car through dystopian Los Angeles? Or come face-to-face with a Demogorgon on the set of Stranger Things? Maybe you’d prefer to free-climb El Capitan, or dive down into the Mariana Trench?

All these things are possible at our fantastic – and free! – virtual reality experience. Bookings are essential as space is limited.

Book your session

Details

Thursday 16 and Friday 17 May

Committee Room Two (Ground Floor, next to Citizens’ Advice Bureau)
101 Wakefield Street
(Wellington City Council building)

Each session is 20 minutes and multiple slots are available in each session.

If you have any other questions, please contact enquiries@wcl.govt.nz. And for a sneak peek at what’s available, check out our previews of some of the VR experiences below!

Selected Available Experiences

Blade Runner 2049: Replicant Pursuit
“When a rogue replicant kills two people it’s up to you, a Blade Runner, to run him down. Experience the vast cityscape of Los Angeles in the year 2049 from the skies as you pilot your spinner in a thrilling chase set in the Blade Runner universe.”

Coco: VR
Coco VR is Pixar’s stunning debut into virtual reality: an adventure into the beautiful Disney-Pixar film, Coco. You can choose either a single or multi-player experience, and follow the magical alebrije into the luminous world of Coco filled with lovable characters and beautiful settings from the film.”

National Geographic: Free Solo
“Immerse yourself in the experience of free solo climbing Yosemite’s famous El Capitan alongside Alex Honnold in this breathtaking 360 video.”

Face Your Fears
Face Your Fears will scare you, creep you out, or cause your jaw to drop in awe and amazement. Try looking around, looking up, looking behind you. You never know what’s lurking in the dark. Share the experience with your friends! It’s even more fun to watch them scream and jump!”

theBlu
theBlu is a deeply immersive VR series that allows audiences to experience the wonder and majesty of the ocean through different habitats and come face to face with some of the most awe inspiring species on the planet.”

New Science Fiction and Fantasy titles

The Blue Salt Road book cover

“Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable, let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.” — Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Our final Science Fiction showcase of 2018 has titles in it that think the unthinkable, do the undoable, and grapples with the ineffable from Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch, to the future noir of Richard Morgan’s Thin Air. Terry Brooks science fiction outing, Street Freaks to Joanne M Harris’s The Blue Salt Road and the wonderful Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri. From tales legendary to those full of trickery and wisdom this selection ranges far in the geography of imagination. These new Science fiction and Fantasy titles hold something special for all tastes.


Syndetics book coverLies sleeping / Ben Aaronovitch.
“Martin Chorley, aka the Faceless Man, wanted for multiple counts of murder, fraud and crimes against humanity, has been unmasked and is on the run. Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard, now plays a key role in an unprecedented joint operation to bring Chorley to justice. But even as the unwieldly might of the Metropolitan Police bears down on its foe, Peter uncovers clues that Chorley, far from being finished, is executing the final stages of a long term plan. To save his beloved city, he might have to come to terms with the malevolent supernatural killer and agent of chaos known as Mr Punch.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverStreet freaks / Terry Brooks.Street Freaks: Limited Edition
“Go into the Red Zone. Go to Street Freaks.” his father directs Ashton Collins before the vid feed goes suddenly silent. The Red Zone is the dangerous heart of mega-city Los Angeles; it is a world Ash is forbidden from and one he knows little about. As Ash is hunted, he must unravel the mystery left behind by his father and discover his role in this new world.
Brooks has long been the grandmaster of fantasy. Now he turns his hand to science fiction filled with what his readers love best: complex characters, extraordinary settings, exciting action, and a page-turning story. Through it, Brooks reimagines his bestselling career yet again.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe blue salt road / Joanne M. Harris ; illustrated by Bonnie Hawkins.
“The Blue Salt Road balances passion and loss, love and violence and draws on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern mythology around a nameless, wild young man. Passion drew him to a new world, and trickery has kept him there – without his memories, separated from his own people. But as he finds his way in this dangerous new way of life, so he learns that his notions of home, and your people, might not be as fixed as he believed.
Beautifully illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins, this is a stunning and original modern fairytale.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHannah Green and her unfeasibly mundane existence / Michael Marshall Smith.
“An unpredictable, poignant, and captivating tale for readers of all ages, by the critically acclaimed author of Only Forward. There are a million stories in the world. Most are perfectly ordinary. This one… isn’t. Hannah Green actually thinks her story is more mundane than most. But she’s about to discover that the shadows in her life have been hiding a world where nothing is as it seems: that there’s an ancient and secret machine that converts evil deeds into energy, that some mushrooms can talk and that her grandfather has been friends with the Devil for over a hundred and fifty years, and now they need her help.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFire & blood / George R. R. Martin ; illustrations by Doug Wheatley.
“Centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones, House Targaryen took up residence on Dragonstone. Fire & Blood begins their tale with the legendary Aegon the Conqueror, creator of the Iron Throne, and goes on to recount the generations of Targaryens who fought to hold that iconic seat, all the way up to the civil war that nearly tore their dynasty apart.
With all the scope and grandeur of Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Fire & Blood is the the first volume of the definitive two-part history of the Targaryens, giving readers a whole new appreciation for the dynamic, often bloody, and always fascinating history of Westeros.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThin air / Richard Morgan.
“An ex-corporate enforcer, Hakan Veil, is forced to bodyguard Madison Madekwe, part of a colonial audit team investigating a disappeared lottery winner on Mars. When Madekwe is abducted, and Hakan nearly killed, the investigation takes him farther than he had ever expected. Soon Hakan discovers the heavy price he may have to pay to learn the truth.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverEmpire of sand / Tasha Suri.
“The Amrithi are outcasts; nomads descended of desert spirits, they are coveted and persecuted throughout the Empire for the power in their blood. Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited. When Mehr’s power comes to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda. Should she fail, the gods themselves may awaken seeking vengeance.” (Syndetics summary)