Marianne de Pierres is one of the rising stars in SF. Her first series of books introduced us to Parrish Plessis in a trilogy of fast-moving, post-apocalyptic cyberpunk.
Hobbit caught up with her as her latest book, Dark Space, was released in the UK.
Mark: Hello Marianne! Welcome to a different area of SFFWorld – Many thanks for agreeing to this interview.
Background first. Let’s start with a biggie. You were born and brought up in Western Australia. I’m a big believer myself in the idea that our experiences in our formative years affect our futures (and in the case of writers, their need to write as well as their writing!) Would you say that Western Australia was an influence on you in that way?
Marianne: Without a doubt. I grew up on a wheat and sheep farm in the central wheatbelt area of the state. Then I spent my twenties in an outback mining town in the far north of Western Australia. After that I have a couple of years on a sub-tropical island. I have a very strong connection with the physical landscape of Australia. In the Parrish series it is very definitely another character. In Dark Space the mining planet of Araldis is a direct extrapolation of my time living in the iron ore mining town, Paraburdoo (Place of the White Cockatoo).
Mark: How did you end up writing SF?
Marianne: I meandered my way as a reader through boy’s own adventure stories and girlie romance, on through literary fiction, splashing down into the vast pits of epic fantasy. SF seemed to be the only place I could combine all the things I loved in books. And quite simply, I love to read it.
Mark: Influences and early genre interests?
Marianne: My reading influences are unashamedly eclectic and went (chronologically) something like this: Zane Grey, D.H Lawrence, James A. Michener (The Drifters), J-P Satre and Simone de Beauvoir, Carlos Castenada, A.C. Clarke, William Gibson, Vernor Vinge, Octavia Butler.
Mark: What is the attraction for you as a writer in terms of being able to write SF?
Marianne: It is a double edged thing. SF gives you so much imaginative freedom but makes you work incredibly hard to pull it off. It provides the ultimate writing challenge and the ultimate freedom.
Mark: You have a BA in Film and Television and a Postgraduate Certificate of Arts in Writing, Editing and Publishing. How has (or indeed, has?) this helped your SF writing?
Marianne: I think both areas of study have helped in different ways. I believe that I write quite cinematically as a direct result of my exposure to filmic conventions. The Writing, Editing and Publishing post grad helped me to become more professional in my approach to writing. The co-ordinator of the course, Dr Roslyn Petelin, has very high standards and I learnt a lot from her about being the best you can be.
Mark: Have you considered using your training by expanding to the film world? Parrish would be quite filmic, I think?
Marianne: That comes back to the cinematic thing. I have had numerous ‘nibbles’ about turning Parrish into a film. Mostly from emerging producers but one from a sizeable company in the US. Nothing has got to option stage though. I actually believe that many films get made by the people who grew up loving a certain book or comic. Maybe in twenty to thirty years, someone who loved Parrish as a younger person will revisit the text and have the passion to see it through to a film.
As a writer I am collaborating on a medium budget SF film where I am co-writing the treatment and the early draft. I enjoy that type of writing but it is not easy to switch back and forth between the two ie novel and script. I feel like I need blocks of time to immerse myself in the screen writing medium and that is not a luxury I have at the moment. I am hoping this project, when it gets up, will have the type of impact that Pitch Black did (the pre-cursor to ‘Chronicles of Riddick’).
Mark: Perhaps we should also mention here that Parrish Plessis has been turned into a roleplaying game by White Mice Games. What was your involvement in that? Is it something you would consider doing again?
Marianne: I was approached via e-mail by a guy called Cary Lenehan who lived in Tasmania. I was kind of interested but not knowing him at all, a little hesitant. As it turned out we got to meet soon after that. I then felt quite happy for Cary to fool around in my world and we got contracts drawn up. Cary was meticulous in keeping the game world and novel world the same. That meant he had to read the novels three or four times each and transcribe every noun. I admire his work ethic and commitment and was extremely happy with the quality of the product. Marketing has been difficult though.
And yes, I would do it again, but I would look closely at how the company proposed to market it.
Mark: Your latest work gets into Space Opera. Dark Space has much of the conventions of Space Opera: spaceships, aliens, lots of places and characters. What attracted you to write Space Opera? What do you think it is about ‘big stuff’ like that that readers (and writers!) find attractive?
Marianne: I don’t think there is a person alive who doesn’t wonder about what is ‘out there’. Space Opera is a chance for us to run possibilities and perhaps it’s our very human way of ‘being prepared’.
Mark: Can we now look at your writing pattern? You are a writer and a mum. How do you juggle the need to write with all the usual priorities of life? Are you a writer who has set times and set places to write, or is it more of a case of grabbing time when you can?
Marianne: Both. I can’t exist without a set routine: mornings 8.30 – 12.30. But I grab what ever I can outside that. I recently moved house and am sharing my writing space with my three teenage sons. School holidays have forced me to do that morning slot in the local library. It’s incredible how much easier it is to shut out noise when it doesn’t have ‘mum’ tagged to it.
Mark: Can you explain to me the importance of avocadoes?
Marianne: I love to eat ‘em! I ate so many avocadoes when I was pregnant with my third child that my husband swore he’d be born scaly and green (alien like in fact). He also said I was sending the family broke with my cravings. I’m a bit more moderate these days but I found them to be an amazing source of energy.
Mark: Moving a little away from your own work specifically, there seems to be a resurgence of SF at the moment. Would you personally agree with that? You have with your work with the Vision Writers Group and RoR (wRiters on the Rise) been actively involved with promoting the genre. Could you tell us about what that actually involves?
Marianne: Yes. I think that writers are pushing the boundaries of SF in different directions, which means that readers are being offered a greater choice. Also technology is so enmeshed with our existence now that I don’t think people are as intimidated by SF concepts as they once were.
My involvement in promotion of the SFF genre has been an organic thing. The Vision Writers group spawned a very active community who have achieved many things and, I think, excited other pockets of genre enthusiasts around the country. The Fantastic Queensland organisation was a direct result of Vision. FQ have mentored Clarion South, The Envision Novel Writer’s Workshop, a ‘Writing for Games’ Project and many other things. My critique group, ROR, have recently sold a shared world fantasy series to ABC publishers: seven writers collaborating on one world.
I find one initiative leads to another. The Queensland Gov’t found FQ so proactive that they began to look for things to promote us, and subsequently organised showcases for Queensland writers in LA and New York.
At a very personal level I strive to reinforce inclusion and abundance amongst my colleagues. It is returned tenfold.
Currently I am very delighted to be involved with the Supanova Pop Expo (games, comics, movies etc) and how to bring books a higher profile to the expo attendees.
Mark: Thinking further in that vein, if we accept that SF is looking fairly healthy at the moment, have you any thoughts as to the future? Orbit, for example, are expanding to set up shop in Australia. Is the scene in Australia good at the moment? What do you think SF needs to do to maintain this apparent momentum?
Marianne: The Australian writing scene is burgeoning. To date though, Harper Collins Voyager has been the only one consistently purchasing SFF. Orbit will be a most welcome addition to the scene. They tend to buy slightly broader range of fiction and this is exciting for the local writers.
Mark: And what of the future yourself? I know that you have some more material after Dark Space coming up. Care to explain further?
Marianne: The Dark Space series is planned for at least three books, maybe four. But in the works I have a very dark fantasy called Burn Bright: Lady Great and The Detester, and the film project. Other than that, there is one more Parrish book, and some standalone novels maybe set in the Sentients of Orion universe…maybe not…I’ve got a hankering to get back to something slick and fast. Oh and a secret, awesome project…
Mark: Thank you again, Marianne, for your time.
Marianne: Thank you, Mark. It’s my privilege to be part of SFF World.
Marianne’s own website can be found at: http://www.mariannedepierres.com/
Publisher’s Website: www.orbitbooks.net
SFFWorld’s review of Dark Space is HERE.
Mark Yon / Hobbit: July 2007