Last year I very much enjoyed Craig Cormick’s The Shadow Master and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, The Floating City. The book was released last month and has received some lovely reviews. Craig was kind enough to agree to an interview to celebrate the release of his latest novel. Enjoy this Author Query and be sure to check out The Floating City.
Let’s start with the basics. Who is Craig Cormick?
My website www.craigcormick.com says that I have been writing since I could make up stories and have worked in journalism, communications, teaching and science communication. Also that I like to write across many different genres and styles, from fiction to non-fiction and literary fiction to speculative fiction. – So if I read it online then it must be the truth, right?
I could also tell you that I’m a twin, I have travelled to all seven continents for work – including to Antarctica, but the thing I most love doing in the world is reading books to my six-year-old son and remembering how more real than real stories were when we were young.
How would you introduce people to the world of the Shadow Master series?
The Shadow Master is intended to keep you guessing – which frustrates some readers, but hey, there are far too many books that don’t challenge you much already out there. He seems to come from a different time, but may not, and seems to know what is happening on a par with the author, but may not, and maybe knows more than the reader, perhaps.
Otherwise, think of the series as a kick-ass rollicking adventure, set in the Italian Renaissance, with assassins and sword play and a smattering of magic, topped off with romance.
Looking at the cover copy of The Floating City, it looks as if the book isn’t a direct sequel to The Shadow Master. Is that impression correct?
Fairly correct. It’s a sort of loose sequel and the Shadow Master is the only real connection. The world of this book is slightly different to the world of the first book – with more magic sustaining it. The Floating City is under attack from the Othmen who have sent Djinn into the canals of the city, and they rise up to assassinate the magical seers in the city. And parallel to all that I the story of three sisters attempting to navigate life and love amongst the turmoil.
In the guest post you wrote for the blog last year, you mentioned that the Walled City loosely resembled Florence. Does that mean that the Floating City is loosely based on Venice?
Yes, that’s right. It is a Venice-like city, but it is floating on the lagoon, and held up by the magic of the four pairs of Seers who control the city, and as they are assassinated the city begins sinking…
Any historical personages in the book readers might recognise?
Sort of. Rather than base this book on historical facts, I’ve based it on three of Shakespeare’s Italian plays. Well, in fact I based it on the three Italian folk stories that Shakespeare then adapted into his plays: Othello, the Merchant of Venice and Romeo and Juliet. The story has the three female characters from the original stories, Giulietta, Disdemona and Isabella as sisters. They are worth checking out to see how different they are from Shakespeare’s plays:
Giraldi Cinthio’s Hecatommithi of 1565,
Luigi da Porto’s Giulietta e Romeo of 1530,
As the books so far have a lot of Italianate alt-history content, I assume you have had to do a lot of research into Renaissance Italy. Did you discover any cool facts that were just too weird to include even in a fantasy novel?
Quite a few. I was in Florence when I got the idea for the Shadow Master books, and did quite a lot of deeper reading afterwards, trying to get into the feel of the Renaissance, but I actually found that if you get in too deep to the period, then you start adapting a Renaissance voice and the modern reader has trouble relating to it.
What’s next for you? Any appearances or conventions planned?
I was in Minneapolis for the Convergence conference in July – and did quite a few book store visits around New England, which was a lot of fun, and am doing a few conferences and appearances in Australia over the next few months. But I’d love to come back to the USA again next year with a few other Australian authors and do an Invasion from Down Under type tour.
Is there something else you’re passionate about other than writing and books?
You mean there are other things worth getting passionate about?
I can get quite worked up about injustice and human rights, and have only learned over time that it is more effective to have a soft hand in your writing to have impact, otherwise you’re better off writing essays. I satirize current global attitudes to refugees in my book, with the politicians of the Floating City demanding that the city militia turn back the boats that are seeking refuge there, for example.
I’m also fairly passionate about rights for the disabled – having a disabled wife and child.
I’d also like to think my wife says I’m fairly passionate in general – but that might be too much information!
As a book reviewer, I’m all about the book enabling; I can’t help but want to make people read all the good books out there. But I can always use help. What are your top recommendations of books we should look out for in the coming months?
Relativity by Antonia Hays. The Harder they Come, by T. C. Boyle. The Zeroes trilogy—by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti. Of course everything by Angry Robot. And I’d like to list another Shadow Master book too – but we’ll have two wait and see…
Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?
I have a rather unique system of book organizing, and when I get a new book and have to squeeze it onto the shelf I look for the types of books it might like to spend its days alongside of. So we might call the system the Book Friend System. Some authors I think wouldn’t like to sit next to particular authors and some books I think wouldn’t like to be near other books, so different authors aren’t all together, but similar books are. I file things sort of chronologically in that in my mind I know where individual books are based on when I got them and where I then filed them. It might not work really well for others, but it works for me. My wife thinks it a bit like a map of my brain, all these neurons with links that no one else is aware of.
Bio: Craig Cormick is an award-winning author and science communicator who works for Australia’s premier science institution, the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). He is a regular speaker at science communication conferences and has appeared on television, radio, online and in print media.
As an author he has published over a dozen works of fiction and non-fiction and over 100 short stories. His awards include an ACT Book of the Year Award and a Queensland Premier’s Literary Award.
His most recent book is the young adult novel Time Vandals (Scholastic, 2012).