When did you know you wanted to be a writer, and how do you do it?
I grew up in Launceston, in the north of Tasmania, with my parents, three older brothers, a retired racehorse called Chief and a dog called Jock. The things I loved doing more than anything were daydreaming, hanging around with animals (especially horses) and reading. I read while I was getting dressed, I read while I was eating breakfast, I read while I walked to school. I lived near a wild area called the Punchbowl, where there was a stream and cliffs and big slabs of fallen rock, and I used to go there, sometimes with friends and sometimes alone, and make caves and cubby houses, and dream about adventures. I wanted to be a vet, or maybe a horse breeder. But I wanted to write stories too.
I started writing my first novel when I was about ten, but didn’t get very far. When I was a bit older I wrote poems and plays and took them to school. Sometimes we'd perform the plays. At weekends I rode Chief through the bush around Launceston, or lay in the stable, in a hammock made out of a chaff bag, reading.
When I was fifteen my family moved to Hobart and I had to leave Chief behind. We took Jock with us, but he was old by then, and when he died we got a one-eyed Labrador called Honey.
I went to university in Hobart and studied Earth Sciences, but what I really liked was the stories -how the glaciers came (and how you can read the leftover signs in the landscape), how a volcano is born, how rocks get twisted and torn and reshaped into mountains. After uni I went to Papua New Guinea and taught there for three years, two of them in a bush school near some wonderful volcanoes. When I started at that school, there were no books, several hundred students and only three teachers. The kids lived at the school and grew most of their own food. I wrote plays for them too.
When I came back to Tasmania I worked at a lot of different jobs and never really settled to any of them. I've been a teacher, a tourist bus driver, a freelance journalist, a juggler, a research assistant, a community arts worker, a freelance editor and a professional actor.
It was while I was working as an actor in a theatre-in-education company that I started writing more seriously. I wrote a short play for the company I was working for, and we performed it. Then I wrote some plays for puppetry and radio, and some children's stories. That’s when I realised that all my other jobs were just preparation for being a writer.
These days I live in a blue cottage very close to the beach in southern Tasmania with a small tabby cat called Miss Mouse. I still love reading, and go through lots of library books. Fantasy is one of my favourite things to read. I still love daydreaming too, but now my daydreams mostly turn into stories. For me, writing is like reading, only better.
My office looks over my back garden which is surrounded by trees, and in summer I keep the window open so I can listen to the magpies and butcher birds, and the sound of the waves. In winter Miss Mouse snuggles up inside my jumper while I type, and keeps us both warm.
Tell us more about City of Lies, the second book in the Keepers series.
First of all, I knew that the Fugleman and Guardian Hope [from Lian's first book Museum of Thieves] were not finished with Jewel. The Fugleman's ambition is so huge, and his loathing of his sister the Protector is so bitter, that I knew he would be back. It was just a question of how and when - and what he had been plotting in the meantime.
Secondly, I wanted Goldie to keep growing. She came so far in the first book, but there was clearly still a lot for her to learn. One of the things I wanted to do was explore the idea of chains that are not physical. This was where Goldie's feelings for her parents came in. At the end of the first book it seemed so obvious that she was going to stay in the museum and be a keeper, and be free from all chains. But these things are never as clear as they seem, not when families and love get in the mix.
I also wanted to take Goldie and Toadspit away from Jewel to a strange city, where no one and nothing could be trusted, and where there were children who had grown up on the streets, with lives that were the complete opposite of Goldie’s and Toadspit's. These children - Pounce and Mouse - were one of the driving forces for the book, from my point of view. The other was the Festival of Lies. I loved the thought that there was a sort of magic underlying the whole peninsula - a magic that was in the earth, not the people, and that manifested itself differently in the different cities. And the Festival was enormous fun to write about. As were Pounce and Mouse.
I started outlining this book while I was still writing the first one. I needed to know if there were things I should plant in the first book that I would need later. Then, when I was working out City of Lies in more detail, I also had to outline the third book so that I knew where the whole thing was going. I often move away from these outlines as ideas come to me, but I like to start with a pretty clear notion of how the story develops.
One of the oddest things that happened during writing was the story of Toadspit's little sister. At the beginning of the second book, Bonnie has taken up archery, and her skill plays a major part in the story. I'm not sure why I added this – it was just something that seemed to fit the character. The thing is, I had named her after the daughter of a friend, and I had just finished the first draft of the book (with no one except me knowing what happened in it), when I went to visit this friend. We were talking about her kids - she's got two girls - when she said, 'Oh, by the way, Bonnie has taken up archery.' My mouth fell open. So did hers when I told her what I had been writing. (We haven't told Bonnie yet!)
Visit Lian at liantanner.com.au