Thursday, June 2, 2011

Interview with Thoraiya Dyer

Thoraiya Dyer is a New South Wales based speculative fiction writer. She has had a number of short stories published in magazines and anthologies. A finalist in the Aurealis Awards in 2008 for her story, Night Heron's Curse, she was joint winner of the best fantasy short story in the 2010 Awards for her story, Yowie. In the Ditmar 2011 Awards she was awarded Best Novella or Novelette for her novelette, The Company Articles of Edward Teach, published by Twelfth Planet Press in their Novella Doubles series in 2010 and was also awarded Best New Talent.

Welcome, Thoraiya.

When did you first realise you were a writer?

When I was 5 years old, I changed from wanting to be a vet to wanting to be a writer. I had just been traumatised by some childhood immunisation and Mum told me that vets had to give needles to puppies. I couldn't imagine myself doing that! By the time I was 16, I'd decided to go for the
veterinary job after all. It seemed more secure and I really do love animals. For their own unselfconscious beauty as well as all the almost-human ways in which they reflect us.

How did you come to write speculative fiction?

A garden just always seemed more exciting if there could be fairies at the
bottom of it. OR if there could be a whole new planet where we could make
new and interesting mistakes instead of the same old ones. I wish I could
live forever because I'm desperately curious to know how the human story
ends. Science fiction is a way to indulge that.

What has been your most exciting moment so far as a writer?

Oh, can I say more than one? A couple of years ago, I sent a copy of ASIM with my short story, Night Heron's Curse, to a writer I respect and whose stories I am besotted with: Juliet Marillier (see interview below!) And she replied that she ENJOYED IT! And that is the biggest thrill for me, having writers whose work I love tell me that they reciprocate. I danced around my house for ages when Charles de Lint did me a blurb for Edward Teach - he made time for me! The man who wrote The Little Country made time to read my small press novelette!

So you can see how absolutely, tragically fannish I am. Books mean the world to me. My brain knows that writers are just people and it's ridiculous to idolise them. But my heart runs away with its fingers in its ears, singing, "la la la la!"

Of course, the Ditmar Awards Ceremony at Swancon this year will always glow warmly in my memory. It was the quadruple whammy of having won the award, of being congratulated by my idols, of having my wonderful supportive husband and my uncharacteristically well-behaved toddler in the audience (and occasionally on stage!), and the satisfaction of having lots of hard work by a number of people pay off.

(Not financially, but, you know. Maybe a fat cheque will be my next
highlight! Stay tuned!)

You list yourself among other things as an archer, veterinarian and traveller. Which of these inspires your writing most?

Archery inspires me to write sword & sorcery, vet science inspires me to write science fiction, and travel inspires me to write urban and historical fantasy. So you see why I can't pick just one sub genre to write in!

Where else do you get your inspiration from? I know it's a question writers hate but can you think of some examples of something that set your heart and mind racing and led you into a story?

The Bird, the Bees and Thylacine, (due to come out any day now in ASIM #51) came from a midnight contemplation of evolution and the small but vital differences that made the domestic dog such a successful species but the thylacine so dismally unsuccessful. I still think less competitive species are worth preserving, just as I think less competitive and warlike human cultures are worth preserving, and that led me to my Quaker main character and the question of whether a person could really go through life without doing any physical violence.

Did that sound very deep and meaningful? I also write stories about people I hate just so I can kill them off. Hahaha.

What are the essentials for you to sit down and write?

Before becoming a mother, I had the ability to completely wrap myself in my own thoughts; I would write on the back of receipts while standing up in train carriages. Now I need silence and preferably for my daughter to be absent or asleep! Her little voice, from the moment she was born, was wired into my brain, and even if she is not calling out for me that very moment, half of my brain is always listening for her while I am responsible for caring for her. So I can't immerse myself in story.

We all know rejections are part of the business of being a writer. How do you deal with them? Any memorable ones?

Oh, sending the stories straight back out again always helps. Electronic submissions are great; you hardly even have time to feel sad if you bounce it back out within minutes! The only problem is when you get to the last market on the list. Then you are allowed to have a small cry. You might even admit to yourself that maybe that story really doesn't work and never will. But that's OK, you still have hands, you can write another one. Novel rejections are harder because it can be 1 or 2 years between responses.

What ­- or who - has influenced you most as a writer?

Everyone knows I want to be Ursula Le Guin, right? Right?? Hahaha. I like to delude myself that I could have a style like hers one day, simple but so powerful.

What was the first book you remember falling in love with?

That was read to me? The Witches by Roald Dahl. That I read by myself? Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O'Shea.

What was the most useful writing advice you've had?

"Don't take advice from anyone who isn't where you want to be" - Kevin J. Anderson.

(Yes, that means nobody should listen to my advice, unless they aspire to be an unemployed, de-registered vet who is intimately acquainted with children's TV characters Spotty Wot and Dotty Wot!)

You've had quite a year with your novelette, The Company
Articles of Edward Teach
, being published by Twelfth Planet Press and
then your Ditmar and Aurealis successes. What are you working on now?
Anything in the pipeline?

My as-yet-untitled collection of short stories is forthcoming from TPP as
part of the Twelve Planets Series. It should be good. Not necessarily
because I am awesome, but because Alisa is John West and won't let anything
but the best go to print!

The novel I am working on now is about an imaginary continent half way between Australia and Antarctica. I only hope I can stop with the world building at some stage and start torturing some interesting characters. If there's too much world building, Juliet won't like it, will
she? Hahaha.

Thank you, Thoraiya. We appreciate your taking the time to talk to us.


  1. Wow, it sounds as if you have enough ideas and inspiration to go on writing for a very long time, Thoraiya! I hope you'll have a novel on the shelves within a year or two!

  2. I've edited the post to correct the formatting problems. Why they happened I have no idea.

  3. Oh, the formatting errors are because of my bizarre webmail provider. Thanks for fixing it! And thanks for having me on this little return visit to WA ;)


  4. Thanks for that, Thoraiya. It was a pleasure to have you on the blog.