Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is very happy to shine our Friday spotlight on Fantasy, Dark Fantasy and Science Fiction author Leife Shalcross. Leife will actually introduce herself, and tell you a bit about her writing, but one thing to note – I believe that she may be our first Australian author!
Here is her introduction:
Hi! I’m Leife Shallcross, author of The Beast’s Heart. I’m a hopeless fairy tale tragic – I have loved reading them since I was tiny. I’ve also had a bunch of short stories published. One of them, Pretty Jennie Greenteeth, won the 2016 Aurealis Award for Best Young Adult Short Story. I’ve got a couple more coming out in the next few months, both of them fairy-tale-themed. In 2018, I co-edited an anthology of short Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror stories, A Hand of Knaves. I live in Canberra, Australia, with my partner and two teenage kids and an elderly disaster of a King Charles Cavalier.
And of course, our usual first question is: Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)
There are links to my short stories on my website at https://leifeshallcross.com/
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
I’m mostly online on Twitter (@leioss) and Instagram (@leife.shallcross). I have a very neglected FB page and a blog, but I don’t’ update them very often. *guilty face*
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from The Beast’s Heart?
I write fantasy, dark fantasy and a little bit of soft science fiction every now and then. I really love beautiful words and lush language, and I have a real weakness for stories where the story world is so vibrant and alive it’s almost a character in itself. So that’s what I try to achieve with my work! I use fairy tales and folk tales a lot, because I could not get enough of them as a child and this seems to have done a lot to shape the landscape of my imagination. My favorite kinds of books are the ones you can really get lost in, so that’s what I try to write. Someone once asked me to describe what I do without using words like “author” and “writer”, and I came up with: I create portals to other worlds where people can lose themselves for a little while.
What kind of research went into writing this book? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
So much research! For this book it was mostly the historical details like what clothes they wore and what food they ate. I had to research 17th Century French wedding traditions (people got married on the steps outside the church door, not at the altar!) and answer questions like did fireworks exist? One of the most interesting things I found out was that in 17th Century France forks were not yet in common use. There are a fair few scenes in my book with people sitting down to eat together – but you won’t find forks mentioned in the book anywhere.
What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?
Like I said earlier, my favorite kinds of books are the ones you can really immerse yourself in and forget there’s a whole world out there of COVID-19 and day jobs and cleaning the stove and paying car insurance and… I’m also really drawn to stories that contain an element of wonder at their core. This might be beautiful writing or an unusual setting or the nature of a relationship between two of the characters. But I’ve most often found this sense of wonder in fantasy and science fiction books. I read a lot of fantasy and science fiction growing up, and that’s where my imagination really lives. I spent a long time waiting to grow up and write Serious Literary Fiction before I realized that I really just wanted to write fairy tales about curses and secrets and thorns and magical kisses. So here I am.
I also love the way fairy and folk tales provide such strong cultural touchstones. I find these traditional tales are endlessly malleable and can be reshaped again and again to give us new stories and show us new truths, while at the same time they have these deep, deep roots that offer up layers of meaning to explore. I draw mostly on the British and Western European tradition of fairy and folk tales for my work, because that’s the body of folklore I am familiar with, but I love exploring traditional tales from other cultures. It’s just endlessly fascinating.
What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?
Find yourself a writing community! Whether it’s online or through your local writers’ center, finding other writers who get what you are writing is really important. Writing is a lonely business, and the right (ha! See what I did there!) community can cheer you on and keep you sane, and also provide critique and feedback on your work and help you develop as a writer. Something no one tells you when you start out writing is just how crazy weird the publishing industry is, and how important it is to understand how that industry works. Actually being able to string words together to create a story really is just half of what it takes. Finding a writing community and building networks with more experienced writers – or writers who just have experienced different areas of the industry to you – is incredibly useful. (And don’t forget to pass on your own insight and experience to newbie writers when you become one of the old hands.)
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
I am working on a couple of new novels (but I write very slooooowly, so it’s taking ages.) The first one is a Young Adult novel which is a reimagining of Cinderella, where she has faked her father’s death to get him out of his marriage to her horrible stepmother. She then discovers her stepmother is involved in a plot against the throne and, as they say, shenanigans ensue. The other is a historical fantasy for adults set in 18th Century London. It’s got a runaway, cross-dressing, orphaned heiress and a dissolute Viscount and magic and murder and angels and demons. It’s kind of a love letter to one of my favorite writers, Georgette Heyer, and enormous fun.
Thank you for having me!
Thank YOU for taking the time out of your busy day to answer our questions, Leife!