Sunday, 27 January 2008
Author interview: KS Augustin!
KS, welcome to my very first author interview! Tell us a bit about your background.
I was born in Malaysia but educated predominantly in Australia. Since meeting my husband, J, we've travelled around a bit, working in the United States as well. Right now, we're based in Singapore. Although I'm in IT, I've also held down a number of other jobs, from martial arts instructor to comedy writer. We have four children - two humans, The Wast and Little Dinosaur, and two cats, Cat B and Cat A.
What books do you remember most from your childhood? Were there any special favorites that you read more than once?
I think I had the traditional British education...back when a British education actually meant something! I used to devour all of Enid Blyton's books, for example. I began reading science-fiction at a young age, but my reading was mostly of American writers, like Stanley Weinbaum, Henry Kuttner, and Ray Bradbury. In high school, I discovered Harry Harrison and his Stainless Steel Rat books, and I constantly have to buy new editions of his works because, to this day, I keep wearing the old ones out.
I remember my own Enid Blyton days. What kind of books do you write?
I write mostly science-fiction romance and space-opera.
How long have you been writing?
In an effort to get published? Since 2002. But before that, I'd written short stories for the school newspaper...the usual kind of thing. In high school, I became editor of the high-school newspaper. At that time, poetry was my favourite medium, and I got a Highly Commended in a state poetry competition!
Was your road to publication a difficult one?
I don't quite know how to answer that one. I think, like any budding romance writer, I thought Harlequin was the way to go, and I would get to the partial stage (i.e. sending along a synopsis plus three chapters) to editors in the USA, then get rejected. This happened to six different manuscripts. That took three or four years. J told me there was an obvious misfit between what I wanted to write and what Harlequin was producing at the time and, as I was looking around for other avenues, I stumbled across electronic publishing. So I sat down and wrote a sci-fi romance, which came more naturally to me, and it was accepted by New Concepts Publishing. That was The Commander's Slave and it was contracted in September 2006, and released in April 2007.
You're probably wondering why I didn't try other houses such as Avon or Dorchester, but I didn't think I was up to writing full-length novels at that point. 80,000 to 100,000 words? It terrified me! In fact, the only 80K+ novel I've completed to date is a space opera that came in at 130,000 words, but I actually split that into two and am still doing some work on it. If you go to my website, you'll see I'm working on my first novel-length sci-fi romance, called The Turk. Wish me luck!
I read on your website that one of your novellas, The Commander's Slave, has been nominated for a CAPA award. Tell us about your awards.
The Commander's Slave won the paranormal category of the Indiana Golden Opportunity award a few years ago, and that was a huge boost for me because it was somebody independent telling me that they thought I had talent. I mean, you may think that about yourself, but having someone else actually give you some reward for it is something else again! So that gave me impetus to continue writing. TCS is currently up for a Psyche Award from The Romance Studio, which is like the catch-all award for releases that don't fit any of the other categories. I don't know the exact criteria so can't tell you why it was chosen, but I'm particularly stoked because the nomination came out of the blue.
Congratulations! That kind of recognition for your work must be very encouraging. What in your opinion is the most important thing a writer seeking publication should know?
That it's a business. And that a writer will have much more time to spend on her/his craft before s/he snags that first contract rather than after. I've run businesses before, so it hasn't come as too much of a surprise to me, but I definitely recommend anyone seriously wanting to pursue writing as a career to take a small business course. The writing is only the tip of the iceberg.
What are some of your favourite novels?
I'm a great Amanda Quick fan. She's an almost-auto-buy for me. (I have no absolute auto-buys.) As is Lois McMaster Bujold and Iain M Banks. I am also a huge fan of Heinrich Boll, the late German writer. His style of writing is one I constantly aspire to, but know I will never ever achieve; our voices are too different. I'm ashamed to say that, as an Asian, I am woefully ignorant of Asian English-language literature. I don't mean Amy Tan or Jung Chang's books, but those that are closer to my own culture, written by south-east Asian writers. So my answer to you may be different this time next year as I continue educating myself.
Do you have any pet peeves?
Um, personally or writing-wise? Should I start alphabetically? LOL! I think, more than anything else, I dislike wilfully ignorant people. I also dislike people who see things in black and white. In fact, my favourite colour is grey (it's true!), which I think is also a psychological insight into how I think. I'll also mention this because I know you've read the books, Liane. I also have a niggling dislike for the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books by Alexander McCall Smith. Don't get me wrong, the writing's good and very evocative, but why aren't I reading such stories written by African writers? Why do I have to read about Africa from a white Scottish man? I mean, I don't have anything against white Scottish men... Gordon Jackson, Billy Connolly, Iain Banks, I love me some white Scottish men, but why can't I read about Africa from native African writers? I don't believe there are no talented African writers. And the books themselves are not nakedly allegorical, the way Conrad's Heart of Darkness is. This is a true slice of life series of books, so I'm disappointed to a large degree. Then again, someone could say my dislike is nothing more than post-colonial resentment and they might be right.
I understand post-colonial sensitivity, for obvious reasons. I read the Detective Agency books first, and researched the writer afterwards. The nationality/ethnicity of a writer doesn't matter to me; it's all about the story. And I love stories written in so-called 'exotic' settings. A random question: how do you grow tomatoes in your bathroom? Seriously. My mom wants to know. (I think she's getting ideas.)
Ha ha. Actually, we pulled them out and replaced them with herbs. We have almost floor to ceiling frosted glass bay windows in our two bathrooms which, I thought, was perfect for tomatoes. And they initially seemed to do well. But the afternoon sun was falling directly on the windows and they started to get burnt every afternoon. Without carrying out some fiddly remedial work in our rented apartment, there was little we could do and once flower after flower started to crisp, I realised the environment was wrong. Now we have parsley, celery leaves and basil growing there. I'd love to grow some rosemary (it was too hot for our sage, chervil and coriander), but we're probably moving in a few months' time, so I think I'll just stick to what we have for now.
Thank you for being my guest, KS, and I wish you the best of luck with The Turk and all your books. This has been fun.
Thanks for inviting me, Liane! I've had a blast.
KS Augustin's bibliography:
The Commander's Slave (novella), sci-fi romance, New Concepts Publishing (the CAPA nominee)
On Bliss (short story), sci-fi romance, Total-E-Bound
The Dragon of Ankoll Keep (novella), fantasy romance, Samhain Publishing (Romance Junkies' Reviewer's Favorite [sic!])
Prime Suspect (novella), sci-fi romance, Total-E-Bound
Combat! (novella), sci-fi romance, Samhain Publishing
The KS Augustin website: http://www.ksaugustin.com
The KS Augustin blog: http://blog.ksaugustin.com