10 Questions with Grace Bridges
Grace Bridges is a geyser hunter, cat herder, editor and translator, and Kiwi. The current president of writers' organisation SpecFicNZ, she is often found poking around geothermal sites or under a pile of rescued kittens. She is a multiple nominee and two-time winner of the Sir Julius Vogel Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand, an editor and mentor for Young NZ Writers, and has edited dozens of published books. Her own novels include Irish cyberpunk, Classics in Space, and the Earthcore urban fantasy series based in New Zealand.
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Tell us a bit about yourself! Where do you call home and what do you write?
I've been writing since I was nine, though I played at it before that too. It was always sci-fi and fantasy. I think one of my earliest was a super blatant Superman ripoff. But we all have to start somewhere, right?
I live in Kaipatiki, a lovely bush-filled corner of northern Tamaki Makaurau, AKA Auckland. Just about every window I look out of will show me a volcano sticking up here and there from the cityscape. Having grown up in the area, it's fair to say I've been influenced by the shadows of these hills and mountains that came into being from violent paroxysms of the earth. My Dad was from Rotorua and we always spent a lot of time there, of course with the ever-present geothermals bubbling just under the surface and breaking out through cracks all over town.
All of this eventually led me to come up with the Earthcore stories about the magical powers certain people experience when they're exposed to geyser steam or hot springs, and the mythological creatures that traditionally rule over these natural features. I categorise it as urban fantasy, but with a strong focus on real places and NZ culture. I deliberately include aspects of our life and language here, whether local English slang or Maori words from common use and other contexts. With a glossary, of course, although most things should be clear in context.
I also have a dystopian/cyberpunk series set mostly in Ireland, a series of steampunk in space novellas in progress, and a space-opera adaptation of Pride & Prejudice that is currently with my editing team. So, I play in a lot of related genres.
What drew you to that particular genre/age group?
The Earthcore series is Young Adult fantasy due to the age of the protagonists, but that's a technicality. I don't really write any different. Even my other books with older characters have been called YA and I'm not always sure why; perhaps it's a nod to how I tend to write for pure escapism. Then again, a lot of the current YA is very dark so I'm not sure what everyone is thinking. Certainly most of my readers are adults, so it doesn't really matter what anyone calls it.
What’s your best known work?
Mariah's Prologues is a collection of 16 short stories that I wrote to give myself background information on the characters in my Irish series. I published it because I could, and then it ended up winning the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Collection of 2017, which was the last thing I expected.
Right now, I'm planning for book 7 of the Earthcore series. It's going to be called Firecat, and involves a sulphur-powered shapeshifter, a sun-dragon, an undercover time-traveller, the finding of a long lost aunt, and other interesting things that I haven't yet fully fleshed out.
What inspired you to write it?
The shapeshifter was introduced in a short story, promptly appeared in three other shorts, and then I thought, she needs a book of her own! Besides, I'm cat crazy, so it was really about time to have a story about a cat.
Tell us about your writing process.
I plot out a lot of detail, but it's incredibly vague. This combination allows me to keep aiming at the overall story goal while pantsing all of the stuff that actually happens on the page. It makes the writing really fun, and fast as well! If anyone's interested in the details of this process, I wrote it in an article at this link: www.jenelleschmidt.com/blog/writing-unstuck
What’s the strangest or most interesting thing you’ve researched for your writing?
Probably the toxicology surrounding geysers. Aside from the whole boiling water aspect, there are acids in there, and lethal gases that can fall out of the steam plume because they are heavier than air. Makes for some really interesting stories!
What’s the most personal story/scene you’ve written and why?
All of my descriptions in Earthcore are personal, because they're places I've been. I absorb a lot of ambience through observation and lean in hard to reproduce the effect in writing so readers can feel like they are really there.
Who are your literary influences? In what way?
That's really hard to quantify because I have a lot of favourite authors who must have influenced me, but I don't really write like any of them. I suppose in my earliest reading days I actually took a lot in from Enid Blyton, with her lightweight serial adventures in long series—although again, mine are completely different. But as a kid, I loved the idea that there would be so many books in a series. As an adult I've enjoyed the longevity of series by Lois McMaster Bujold and Anne McCaffrey, so that is an enduring legacy.
What books are on your bedside table right now?
I've been working my way through Marc Secchia's Dragonfriend series and related spinoffs; next up is The Pygmy Dragon. I'm also in the middle of Reformed by H.L. Burke which is about rehabilitating supervillains. My bedside table also includes favourites like Bujold's Memory and other things that I like to reread from time to time.
Last and most important, where can we find your books/stories?
The Earthcore series is at here along with my Amazon author page. But that also includes lots of anthologies where I have short stories, several anthologies I edited, and even a novel I translated from German, so there is a lot of stuff to wade through.
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