Felicity Banks is a Canberra author specialising in fantasy and interactive fiction, including her Antipodean Queen fantasy steampunk series. She also writes various pirates tales (some appropriate for children, some definitely not) — stories and images that appeal to the not-so-secret pirate within all of us.
Felicity, you obviously have a love for pirates, what drew you to writing pirate stories?
When I was eighteen I was living in Indonesia and I had the idea to invent my own fantasy world, Rahana (based on Indonesia). That meant a place with lots of islands, which naturally led to a lot of sailing, which led to pirates. That in turn led to my researching piracy by sailing on the Young Endeavour. That led to my dressing up as Jack Sparrow to go to a pirate-themed ball… which was where I fell in love with the man who later became my husband.
The Rahana trilogy is an exciting middle grade series. What adventures will Princess Ana have in the latest book, The Princess and the Pirate?
The kind that involve a very naive tween girl searching the world for a murderous pirate—and finding her.
How did you get into interactive fiction?
I wrote a Choose Your Own Adventure style story as a teenager, but although it was fun it was a lot of work so I didn’t write any more. I also did a lot of live-action role-playing, which falls under the interactive fiction umbrella (on account of being both interactive and fictional, even though almost nothing is ever written down).
After my two kids were born and I wasn’t well enough to return to work, one of my friends pointed me to the “Choice of Games” website, where they offer an advance based on an outline. I figured that was worth investigating, and soon fell in love with the ChoiceScript writing tool, and then with the rest of narrative-based interactive fiction (parser IF still makes me cry with frustration).
What drew you to writing fantasy? Were there any authors that inspired you to write in this genre?
I’ve always loved fantasy, because why would I write about normal life when I could invent my own universe? Growing up I loved CS Lewis’s Narnia (still do) and it didn’t get knocked off its first-place pedestal until I discovered the Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix. Nowadays I have too many favourites to rank: Pamela Freeman, Sandy Fussell, Gail Carriger, Mishell Baker, TJ Berry, and so on.
What is your biggest motivation for writing?
I’m one of those people who can’t stop. Even now, when I write full-time, I have to force myself to take a day off once a week (and often on my “day off” I just let myself work on a different book to the one I should be working on). In fact, most of what I write is done while procrastinating about something else that I should be writing.
How many books have you written? What is your favourite?
I’ve literally lost count. About fifteen “regular” books (most of them thrown away for very good reasons), and probably about the same amount of interactive novels. Heart of Brass was my first published book, so that will always have a special place in my heart, but I always think my next book will be the Greatest Of All Time, so whatever my next book will be is my favourite. Especially if I haven’t started it yet.
What advice would you give a young writer trying to get published?
Don’t write unless you love it. As I tell my kids, it’s such a fun job that a LOT of people want it. So go ahead and write, but make sure you have another job too.
What inspires you when you’ve hit writer’s block?
Sometimes the only thing to do is wallow in self-pity for a while and/or clean the house. Usually writer’s block hits when there’s a plot problem that needs to be solved. Eventually I’ll come up with a fresh idea or angle, and then I’ll be able to keep going. Failing that, bribing myself with chocolate.
Describe your writing style in three words.
Magical. Fun. Uh-oh.