Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Interview with Kaz Augustin
I'm lucky enough to have another author stop by my blog this week. Please welcome Kaz Augustin, author of various novels, including War Games and the forthcoming Quinten's Story.
Please tell us about yourself.
Hi Sandra and thanks for inviting me here. Kaz Augustin is...a nomad, I suppose. I was born in Malaysia, educated in Australia and have worked in the United States, Australia and Singapore. We're back in Malaysia at the moment, I personally think it's a great place for kids to pick up new experiences and perspectives, but we won't be here forever. Already, my husband and I are starting to get itchy feet again! :)
What drew you to writing science fiction, fantasy, and romance? Do your projects tend to fit into one genre, or are most of them cross-genre?
Science fiction has always been my first love and, no matter how hard I try, I always find myself gravitating back to it. In fact, after almost five years of writing romance, I'm finding myself slowly drifting away from it and back to my first love. We've had this discussion before, right? ;) I'm very happy with what romance has taught me but I don't think it'll be my guiding light into the future.
How did you get the inspiration for War Games?
War Games was essentially a challenge for myself, following on from a Smart Bitches post lamenting the lack of f/f romances. I started thinking. Could I write an f/f science fiction romance? The actual inspiration came from an old Polish TV series set in WWII, roughly translated as “Stakes Higher Than Life” (Stawka większa niż życie), about a Polish agent who masquerades as a captured German Military Intelligence officer so he can feed intelligence back to the Polish Underground. I was caught by the idea and wondered what it would be like to put the action on an alien planet and raise the bar so we're talking about not merely a country at stake but an entire empire! The novel's been in and out of drawers for a few years now, so I'm glad to finally get it out there!
What is War Games about?
Laisen Carros is an undercover agent working for a galaxy-wide conglomerate called the Fusion. In twenty years of missions, she's stolen, killed, explored, mugged and generally manipulated everything around her for what she believes to be the greater good. In her current mission, however, she's been dropped, completely alone, on a planet in order to engineer the downfall of the Fusion's current adversary, the Perlim Empire.
It's not going to be easy. She has a conniving second-in-command to handle, is still trying to handle ghosts from her past (including her immediate past), and her new driver is a woman who is tasked with assassinating her. And then, just to throw a Spaniard in the works (as John Lennon once wrote), she starts falling in love with her would-be driver/assassin. With exhaustion and cynicism setting in, Laisen isn't sure she's going to get out of this alive. The trick is finding out how she does it.
Since you’ve been traditionally published, why did you decide to self-publish War Games?
I had approached lot of literary agents with this novel. Four or five said they loved it but couldn't sell it. That gave me enough heart to start submitting directly to a number of small print presses. I got a bite(!) but was devastated when I read their contract. It was a choice of signing the contract and selling my soul or keeping my soul and walking away. I walked away. That happened in late 2009, from memory. Then, early this year, I started reading about Konrath, Hocking, et al., and thought, what do I have to lose?
What did you find most different between the traditional publishing process and self-publishing?
The level of control. The ability to work with the editors I want to work with. The ability to push the cover art in a particular direction (not to mention being able to see it, often before the rest of the world does!). The ability to hold a release back if it needs more work than I anticipated. If you're that way inclined, self-publishing is all about quality that will hopefully lead to commerce. Traditional publishing is broadly about numbers that will hopefully lead to commerce. (Aside from Sandra: I love these lines!) They are two different perspectives. I'm not saying one is satanic and the other is angelic, but the two camps have different ways of looking at the same situation.
Who are your favorite authors and why do you admire them?
Author Diane Dooley asked me this question as well and I had to say I have no favourite authors. I might peruse the cover copy for the latest Iain M Banks' book, but I won't necessarily buy it. I tend to impulse buy more non-fiction nowadays.
What other writing projects are you working on?
An alter-ego of mine, Cara d'Bastian, is working on an urban fantasy series at the moment set in south-east Asia with Asian characters and south-east Asian fusion mythologies. This is one of those books that I thought I'd have released by now (the first in the series, called The Check Your Luck Agency) but my Developmental Editor read me the riot act on some basic aspects of it and now I'm still waist-deep in edits. I doubt it'll be ready till October.
What’s one of the goals you hope to achieve with your writing?
To earn a living.
Since you’ve lived on four different continents, what was your favorite place to live? Is there one place that inspires your writing the most?
I hate every continent evenly! J and I have a reputation amongst our friends for being “difficult to please” and I think they're right. When we were in the United States, I missed the Queensland thunderstorms. When we were in Melbourne, I missed Mexican cheeses and buying a laptop at 2am. When we were in Singapore, I missed being able to pick mushrooms from the bush behind our house. Now we're in Malaysia, I miss bacon, fish and chips and having a decent butcher.
What was your favorite non-writing job?
Wow, that's an interesting one. For a start, I don't think I've ever had a non-interesting job. Even the one I had in high school and at Uni, working in a shoe shop, was actually very entertaining and educational. In seven years, for example, I only came across one pair of smelly feet! People smell nicer than you think.
I enjoyed being my own boss when I ran my own IT consultancy business. I loved being a martial arts instructor although I don't think I'd like to own my own martial arts school again...you have all the politicking as usual but, in addition, every ersatz black-belt wanker thinks they can take you down. I didn't like being a coder in an IT company but I enjoyed being a middle manager. I loved owning an SF&F bookshop. Yeah, maybe that one. It was successful for as long as it was open, was the nexus for a wonderful community of people and I got to read terrific books for free!
What’s something people wouldn’t be able to guess about you just by looking at you?
I swear more than Billy Connolly.
POSTSCRIPT: I know that buying new authors is always a bit of a crap shoot, so I make sure to have full first chapters up at my website. That way, you can judge for yourself whether you like my writing style before you put any cash on the table. I also blog at Fusion Despatches.
If you're more a fantasy fan, I’m also self-publishing a new urban fantasy series set in south-east Asia, under the name “Cara d’Bastian”. Cara blogs at http://caradbastian.blogspot.com and the series website is http://www.CheckYourLuckAgency.com The first book (THE CHECK YOUR LUCK AGENCY) should be out in October or November.
WAR GAMES will be available through Kindle, Smashwords, B&N Nook and Kobo in every format under the sun! If anyone would like to see an audio version of it, drop me a line and I’ll see what I can do. The novel is long enough for print (90,000 words) but, unless I hear otherwise from readers, I’m not eager to go down that route because I believe that the digital format gives readers more value for money. But, again, if I hear otherwise, I’ll certainly reconsider.