In celebration of the David Gemmell Award long-lists being published, Gollancz is thrilled to be running a series of interviews-in-sixty-seconds with as many long-listed authors as we can get our hands on. Today we’ve caught up with Elspeth Cooper, author of the acclaimed fantasy debut novel Songs of the Earth which is nominated for Best Fantasy Novel 2011 AND Best Debut Novel 2011, and is the first novel in The Wild Hunt series which continues this year with the exception sequel Trinity Moon. We caught up with her, and took a moment to ask a few questions . . .
Congratulations on being long-listed for the David Gemmell Awards! Can you tell us, in a few words, why any readers who are new to your work should rush out and read it?
Because it’s organically-grown prime British fantasy. No artificial ingredients. GM free. Contains 100% of your Guideline Daily Amount of magic, adventure, religious bigotry and drama.
Who was your first favourite author?
It was a dead heat between Alan Garner and Susan Cooper.
Who would you cite as your influences?
Too many to count. Guy Gavriel Kay, Melanie Rawn, Tad Williams, the aforementioned Garner and Cooper. Pretty much every book I’ve ever read, actually. I learned how to write by learning how to read.
Do you think authors have a responsibility to do more than tell an entertaining story?
Do you mean a moral responsibility to address issues like intolerance, inequality or various forms of prejudice, by shining the harsh light of fiction on them? I don’t think we should be *expected* to do so, but we almost always do. How could we not? Our own societal strictures, personal beliefs and the things about our world that we hear on the morning news that make us start spluttering into our cornflakes are always going to emerge through our writing. If something shapes our worldview, it’s going to shape our fictional worlds, either to reflect, distort or analyse that view, or at the simplest level, as a means of escape.
Is there a storytelling tradition you see your work as part of?
I’m nowhere near well-enough read in the genre to say where Songs of the Earth fits into the fantasy canon. It has been described as ‘classic’ fantasy, ‘the kind they don’t make any more’ since the genre took a turn down grimier, grittier streets. I certainly didn’t set out to write something like that; it was just the way the story evolved. I had these characters in my head who wouldn’t shut up until I wrote down what they were telling me, and then a book happened.
If your novel were to be arrested for a crime of passion, what crime would it be and why (society may not be to blame!)?
Strictly speaking, the crime passionnel was almost always a murder or violent assault, and by the end Songs is pretty much up for wreaking a bit of bloody vengeance . . . and none of this best served cold nonsense. He wants it raw and dripping.
Elspeth Cooper is an exceptional writer. Born and raised in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, she has always been fascinated by the magic of words and it was inevitable that she would come to write magical fiction of her own. You can learn more about her and her novels on her website, or follow @ElspethCooper on Twitter.
You can vote for Songs of the Earth, or any of the novels long-listed for the Legend Award for Best Novel, here, or vote for it as Best Debut novel (or any of the others) here. You can also vote for Collaboration JS’ amazing artwork, as the Best Art of the year, here.