April Interview and Giveaway – Ann Somerville

12970842Nancy sits down to discuss books and writing with Ann Somerville…

  • Please tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be a writer.

I’m an Aussie, and I live in Queensland, Australia, which is where I grew up. However I spent 17 years living in the UK where I married my husband, a zoologist. Living in the UK for so long has left me seriously confused about modern Australian culture, spelling, and why I spent so long away 🙂 I’m overeducated, overinformed, and overopinionated. I see these as assets but not everyone agrees.

I started writing fanfiction while I lived in the UK, but very quickly my interest in slash fanfiction turned to writing long complicated Alternate Universe stories, and finally to writing my own characters and plots featuring mainly GLBT characters. Like a lot of people writing ‘original slash’ at that time (2003), I put my work on the web for free. It was only much later that I attempted to sell any of my work. I’m grateful that Samhain Publishing decided to take me on and I learned a lot from their dedicated, impressive editors. But since my writing tends not to fit neatly into any genre, I’m much more comfortable self-publishing, which is what I do now.

  • How do you react to a bad review of one of your books?

I get a tight feeling in my chest, and I tend to mope for an hour or so. Sometimes I get a little burst of anger every time my eyes pass over that review if I think it’s particularly unfair or inaccurate (which to be honest, has only happened half a dozen times over all my books.) Occasionally I will bellyache to a friend in DM on Twitter or in email.

Then I get over myself. All books and all authors occasionally (or more than occasionally) will get a negative review. I’m nothing special in that regard, and I can definitely agree with many of the criticisms I’ve seen from readers. If anything almost all my readers are far more tolerant of my flaws as a writer than I am as a reader of other people’s books! (That’s one of the downsides of being a writer.) I’m a staunch advocate for the right of readers to review how they want, where they want, and have blogged and commented about this many, many times.

A negative (which is not the same as a bad) review stings, of course it does. Sometimes it hurts because you think they’ve just missed the point so very much, and other times it’s because they’ve nailed the weaknesses all too clearly.  But whatever the case, my reaction has nothing to do with their reaction, and I need to shut up about it.

A bad review is one where the reviewer is grinding an axe, and I think that’s happened to me all of four times in my entire writing history. Those you just dismiss as being worthless and showing more about the ‘reviewer’ than my book. It’s not worth the energy being upset about that kind of thing.

  • What books or writers have been the most influential to your work?

Oh god. So many. Dick Francis (and other thriller writers for the spare style)? Pam Nunn for the way she takes such apparently impossible situations and makes them work (I love the idea of enemies working together)? Dorothy Dunnett because everything about her writing and her books is monumentally amazing? Jane Austen for the way she takes small, domestic situations and makes them important?

In my youth I read masses of genre romance, science fiction, fantasy, and thrillers. I think they all curdled up in my head and produced something very strange 🙂

  • What do you prefer reading – paperback, hardcover, or e-books?

Ebooks. My eyesight is deteriorating to the point where I need the backlight and the large font. The joys of getting old.

  • Are you working on anything new at the moment?

I’ve just finished a little ghost story. Sort of a ghost story. I have ideas but sadly my writing has tailed off to the point where I feel a fraud claiming to be an author. But as I’ve found, the moment I say ‘Never again!’ a compelling idea comes to me and I must write it.

  • Your titles are some of the most original I’ve come across.  How did you come up with Interstitial, Impedimenta, Somatesthesia and how do they fit the stories?

‘Interstitial’ means ‘between’, and I felt that was appropriate for a love triangle where Jati, who’s in love with North (unbeknownst to him) sees Seb as getting between her and North, and Seb being hindered from pursuing his attraction to North because of North’s relationship with Jati.

‘Impedimenta’ means ‘the things that impede or encumber’ especially relating to a task or exploration, and in this story, both the dangers that Seb and North face on the planet and North’s refusal to abide by Seb’s authority over him, are the impedimenta to their continuing relationship (and the actual journey their ship is on.)

‘Somatesthesia’ was actually suggested by a friend. It means ‘the perception of tactual or proprioceptive or gut sensations’ which I thought was appropriate both for Connor’s scientifically enhanced senses and for Devlin’s more instinctive way of approaching a problem – he goes with his gut a lot of the time.

By the way, a lot of readers hate unusual titles. It’s not something I recommend to other writers 🙂

  • Learning to Dharn features a deaf main character.  I like how Rhede Kelten’s deafness was not treated as a disability but rather as a different way of life.  Do you know any deaf people in real life?  What made you want to write a book about a deaf character?  Was there a lot of research into deaf culture involved?

Dharn was inspired by ongoing conversations about disability with a deaf internet friend, and about other things I’d read about able-bodied privileged, attitudes to disability and so on. My friend told me a lot of stuff I was completely unaware of about deaf people and Deaf culture. She also passed on views of the draft from her deaf friends, and I was also lucky enough to receive feedback from another deaf colleague, another author. So I’m incredibly grateful for the gift I received of their help and advice.

  • What do you think is the most important thing for you personally to keep in mind when you are writing?

Be true to your feelings. Don’t write what other people want if you don’t want it to. It will always show. If you don’t feel passionate about your characters, no one else will.

  • What three words would describe you best?

Obnoxious, damaged, struggling 🙂

But in good ways, you understand!


Thank you, Ann, for chatting! You can visit her at http://annsomerville.net 

 Leave a comment for Ann by 4/8 for a chance to win one of her self-published books (your choice). Congratulations Vneedstobehappy!

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  1. Hurray for Ann Somerville! I love the Remastering Jerna trilogy, and am desperate for more! Thanks for a great interview!
    brendurbanist at gmail dot com

  2. Great interview with some interesting views. Thank you for the opportunity to win.

  3. Have got the Unnatural Selection collection in my TBR, but always pleased to read an Aussie author

  4. Very interesting interview indeed. I know Ann as an author for a while by now and I love her style of writing. Still, this interview shed light on some aspects I did not know yet. Especially the unusual title thing: I was not aware that people do not like unusual titles. For me, non-stereotypical titles are exactly the thing that can draw me in when seeing a book for the first time. But maybe I am a bit unusual too. 😀

  5. I haven’t read anything by you before, but sounds good and I’ll give it a try.

  6. I am not one of those readers that don’t like unusual titles! I love it when an author (or editor, depending) can sum up a book or attitude so well in a title and make it unique, stand out.

  7. I’d also like to try a new author!

  8. Vneedstobehappy

    Oh yea! I’ve some of her books and I’m a big fan. Count me in.

  9. I’ve heard good things about Ann Somerville’s books and I would love a chance to win one of them!

  10. Interesting author and interesting titles indeed! This is a new to me author so I’d love to have a taste of her writing. Thanks!!

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