A conversation  with S.L Mills - Author of GOM's Gold

SL-MillsSarah, it is unusual for a fantasy novel to be set in Australia, let alone the Blue Mountains, what influenced your decision?

The Blue Mountains are spectacular. I’ve travelled much of the world and visited many world-heritage-listed sites and few places can rival it. If this can’t be a setting for fantasy world, what can be? Also, I grew up imbued in the Australian culture and Australian colloquialisms. It was a great life and I wanted to share it.

Published authors told me it was a risk setting a fantasy in Australia – that readers’ expectations for pure fantasy are for a medieval European setting and that, when it comes to genre fiction, it is unwise to disappoint such expectations.

But I decided it was my book and I had enough faith in it and in readers to take that risk. It would have taken all the joy out of it to bow to convention, and the world of GOM’s Gold would never have seen the light of day.

So, if it is not a typical fantasy in a medieval setting, what is it?

In some ways, it is a combination of several fantasy genres. The medieval castle, the dragon and its inhabitants draw on the pure fantasy tradition, the monsters offer a horror twist, the inter-dimensional travel places it firmly in the sci-fi fantasy camp, while the energetic themes in the book (like the Jedi religion that underpins Star Wars) places it firmly in the “energy” fantasy camp.

So, I guess it reflects much on the Australian psyche to that extent – a mixture of many influences, yet thoroughly distinctive.

You settled in the Blue Mountains about 10 years ago. What drew you to the area?

My spouse was posted to western Sydney and I have always preferred to live either smack-bang in the city or in a beautiful country location so we moved to Woodford. At first, we thought the move would be temporary but then we found our way to Leura and the perfect house and everything felt just right. The people in the mountains are great – culturally, there are a lot of creative professionals here and, thanks to the tourism, everything we could possibly need is on tap. We knew this was the place for us.

Why did you choose S.L. Mills as the book’s pseudonym?

Using initials is part of a great fantasy tradition. Just look at J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, J.M. Barrie, A.A. Milne and J.K. Rowling. I know there are many more brilliant fantasy writers that use their full name but, to me, Tolkien, Lewis, Barrie, Milne and Rowling are still the fantasy greats.

How long did it take to write the book?

This is probably the question that most people ask me. It probably took six months to finish a very poor first draft then it took another eight years to fix up my mistakes. If you were to translate it into full-time effort, it probably took as much as two years. I am sure if I wrote another book now, I would finish it in a year or less, working full time.

How did it feel to have the book published?

Amazing. E-books are all very well but, from this author’s perspective, there is nothing like holding a physical book in your hand. It feels real, as if you have finally graduated. For me, as long as it was on the computer, it was still in the ether. So when the typesetters sent me the e-pub and mobi versions of the book, it was all very ho-hum – the same thing I’d been viewing on my screen for the past eight years.

But with the physical book, that was something else. It was something tangible to show for all those years of effort. A great big truck drove into the driveway with two palettes of boxes. It took the driver a good 15 minutes to half an-hour, and great machinations (the lift wasn’t working), to get them off the truck. Then he put them on a trolley and dragged them into the garage. I grabbed a knife, ripped open the nearest box and pulled a book from the top – oh what a feeling! I was walking on air for a week.

GOM'S GoldGOM's Gold is now available from Megalong Books RRP $17.95

Click here to order your copy.