An Interview with Alicia Wanstall-Burke

G’day Grimmies! I’m here today with one of my favorite Aussies—Alicia Wanstall-Burke.

Now, if you aren’t familiar with Alicia’s work—it’s ok.  She is still fairly new to the scene; however, she has been stirring more than a little buzz with her book Blood of Heirs which is a current SPFBO (Self Published Fantasy Blog Off) finalist. Book two (which until recently I thought was called Legacy of Goats, I kid, I kid—oops, did it again. OK, I’m done) Legacy of Ghosts was just recently released and has been well reviewed.

[TS] Alicia, thanks for stopping by!

[AWB] Hey mate! No worries!

[TS] First off, congrats on making the finals of the SPFBO.  I think the last few years the Aussie women have been really making their mark on the fantasy scene.  I’ve been a big fan of Lian Hearn (Across the Nightingale Floor) since like forever, but I’ve enjoyed watching the likes of you, Sam Hawke, and Devin Madson lighting up the scene.

Do you think that living in the unique environment that Australia offers lends itself to the kind of thinking necessary to write darker fantasy, and why or why not?

[AWB] Short answer—yes, absolutely! Australia is inherently terrifying, even to people who live there. We also get a bit of a kick out of scaring the pants off our foreign friends, but that’s how you know we love you! I’d say the worst thing about the place is the isolation. No one can hear you scream out there. Then there’s the landscape, the animals, the weather—all completely uncontrollable and untamable. They almost become a character of their own in the narrative of home. The other thing is, there isn’t a great deal of fantasy in the mainstream (that I know of) that uses Australia as the foundation for its worldbuilding, so it tends to stand out as strange and otherworldly, which again can be scary in and of itself. I haven’t even mentioned the spider and the drop bears and the snakes yet…

[TS] As you recently moved to the UK, I have to ask:  How does the writing scene differ from Australia to England? And what is the craziest thing that you have encountered that you are having trouble wrapping your head around?

[AWB] Writers in Australia are horribly isolated 90% of the time, which is probably a good thing. Large concentrations of Australian writers tend to cause damage to the fabric of space-time. I lived in Central Queensland, in a town about two hours drive from the nearest coast, 12 hours drive from the nearest capital city, and that’s not even that isolated compared to where some people live. What it means is that we hang out with other Aussie authors on social media, then end up meeting in, I don’t know, Dublin at a WorldCon (hey, Sam and Devin!). Industry contacts tend to be based in the US and the UK too, and for self-publishers there are all sorts of bullshit restrictions within Amazon that we have to navigate.

As for completely mental things in the UK, I’ve almost mastered driving here (these people are deadly behind the wheel), but the fucking seagulls here are HUGE! And vicious! I’ve met sharks that are more polite than these pale, hook-beaked Pteranodons.

[TS] What would you say is the most influential fantasy book written in the last 10 years, and why?

[AWB] Depends if you’re looking at global impact or just within our little genre pocket. I’m going to go with a cliché and say that A Song of Ice and Fire is my pick, but let me try and explain. The books are one thing (some of them falling outside the ten-year time frame), but the show was something else entirely. Say what you will about the creative choices made there and the long release periods between books, but the series as a whole took our genre and shoved it all the way down the mainstream’s throat.

For the longest time, I could only describe my books as being ‘like’ The Lord of the Rings—it was the only fantasy most people I knew could relate to and it wasn’t a very accurate comparison. Every now and then I would meet someone who had read an author I knew, but in my world that was rare. Meeting someone who read for fun was rare! But now we’ve got fantasy and sci-fi stepping out of the dungeon and into the light; comic book heroes, dragon riding queens and sword-wielding witchers are now part and parcel of the everyday. I could go to work and talk about the latest ep of The Expanse or Altered Carbon. Ten or twenty years ago, that just wasn’t a thing, and for me, the real ground swell began when Game of Thrones broke down the door, and that meant SFF books became something a wider audience was interested in.

[TS] Everyone has different reasons fo