Category: Features

Mitchell HoganHi Mitchell. It’s a pleasure getting the chance to interview you in time for the official release of your novel A Crucible of Souls.

Thank you for the opportunity! Being interviewed is a new thing for me; so, hopefully, I can provide some insights into my process and the path my writing career has taken so far.

First off I’d like to start with a couple of basic questions to warm up before we start talking about this novel. Which authors inspired your earliest works?

This is a tough one… I’d like to say the prose of Patrick Rothfuss inspired me, or the epicness of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series drove me to put words down on paper. But the truth is, I don’t think I’ll ever write to Rothfuss’s standard, or write a gigantic 10+ novel epic fantasy series. I’d read for decades before I decided to write my own novel, so I had a good idea about what I liked in fantasy and what didn’t work for me. I’d always been drawn to books where characters progressed, where they went from humble beginnings and ended up overcoming great odds or making a difference in their world. An author who springs to mind is Anne McCaffery, especially her books Dragonsong and Dragonsinger. I’ve read them many times, and they show just how a characters plight can affect a reader without sword fighting and battles and magic. Although I love those too!

Hogan-Crucibleof-Souls_3D_smallversion-1A Crucible of Souls won the prestigious Aurealis Award in 2013 in the Best Fantasy Novel category, and is now being released by one of the largest publishing houses in the world. How did first Crucible come into this world and did you ever think it would achieve such success?

I’d always wanted to write a fantasy novel, and one day I decided if I didn’t do it soon I never would. That prospect filled me with dread. I didn’t want to regret not trying. So I quit my job and started writing, and eventually self published A Crucible of Souls in July 2013. Although I thought I had a decent novel, and I’d received some professional feedback that it was good, I knew that the reality was most books don’t get published. So, I thought I’d put it out there and see what readers thought of it. I honestly believed it wouldn’t sell many copies, and I’d have to go back to working in the industry I was in previously. I think a good part of the book’s success was due to the fact I approached everything professionally. I tried to make my book indistinguishable from a traditionally published novel.

Tell me about your process. What sparks the conception of a new piece?

I usually have ideas for characters and certain scenes, along with a magic system I’ve invented and want to use. Then I like to write those scenes, and by the end they’ve usually taken me somewhere I didn’t expect. I’m what is usually called a “discovery writer”, or a “pantser”. Sometimes that doesn’t work out, but usually I can adjust what’s happening so everything gels. However, it does mean my first drafts are very rough. And by the end of the novel there could be a whole lot happening in the beginning that now doesn’t make sense.

hogan_Inquisitor-3DAre there any recurring themes or character types in your work as a whole?

It’s funny you should ask this! My editor mentioned something when he was going through my first sci-fi novel, Inquisitor, and I hadn’t realised it myself. Both A Crucible of Souls and Inquisitor have inanimate constructs (or automatons). In my fantasy novels they’re similar to mechanical and/or sorcery driven golems, while with SF they’re robots. I also enjoy writing characters who develop their skills or powers, whether they start out as young and naive, or with a good deal of world experience.

Your works have until this time been mostly self published; what important lessons have you learned through the years of publishing and promoting your own work?

Whether you self publish, or you’re looking for a traditional deal, you need to understand the business of writing. Some authors focus on the craft of writing and ignore the business side, and I think that’s a big mistake. Write for yourself, but look at publishing as a business. Understand the business you’re in, and you’ll be able to make better, more informed decisions.

How many pieces are you currently working on at the moment?

Technically, three. I’ve just handed book 3 of my fantasy series (the Sorcery Ascendant Sequence) to Harper Voyager, and I’ve started work on a new fantasy series. So I’m writing a new book, while I’m waiting for the structural edit of book 3 to come back, and book 2 is still in the works and I expect the copy edit soon. I also have ideas for a sequel to my SF novel, and for a new series in the world A Crucible of Souls is set in, but ideas and brief outlines don’t count, right?!

If you can give one piece of advice to aspiring authors what would it be?

Finish writing that manuscript! Seriously. You can’t fix something that isn’t written. And you can’t publish or submit something that hasn’t been fixed.

Thanks for your time, Mitchell. I wish you all the success you deserve and look forward to more of your work in the future.”

SONY DSCStuart, I grew up reading your Dolly reviews as a teen and was always amused by your witticisms and exhortations that we should listen to cooler music (it was probably you who first got me into the Hoodoo Gurus). Since the 70s, you’ve written for a wide range of publications, including your Roadrunner mag at Adelaide Uni, Rave Magazine, Rolling Stone, and the Sydney Morning Herald. Your gigs as a publicist included work with such luminaries as The Cramps and The Clash and you’ve also worn the hat of band manager. Do you recall the early days fondly, and have your own personal musical tastes changed much since then?

Roadrunner was after I’d left Flinders Uni and not connected with it. I had edited Empire Times which was the Flinders Uni mag.
 
Of course I recall them fondly! What wasn’t to like? Looking back on four decades of writing about music I have cause to reflect on just how lucky I’ve been. OK, I can string a sentence together but I’ve also found myself in the right place and the right time. I also grew up in the last great age for music journalism – lots of wonderful publications to write for, good editors who cared about words and ideas, and the freedom to stretch out and – heaven forbid – be critical and not beholden to the pressures of record companies and their advertising spends. I don’t think my musical tastes have really changed all that much – I used to say that there was nothing wrong with loving Hank Williams and ABBA – at the same time. That’s still how I feel. I just look for music that moves me and I don’t really care where it comes from.  I listen to a crazy amount of new music – but also still listen to most of the music I grew up with. My love of English, Scottish and Irish folk music endures. I like Supertramp and ELO now more than I did then, and I’m not sure I still feel as passionately about Grand Funk Railroad  and Uriah Heep. I still worship the likes of Dylan, Springsteen, Presley and Sinatra.
 
coupe-Godinski_FrontPgYour biography of the legendary Michael Gudinski, ‘Gudinski: The Godfather of Australian Rock ‘n’ Roll’, is set for release at the end of this month. When did you first start thinking about writing this book and what’s the research and writing process been like?

After my book The Promoters was published in 2003 Michael told me how much he liked it. To date he’s bought 170 copies of it. He signs it and gives it to people. It was then that I started thinking about a book just on him. So I tried to convince Michael about a book for over a decade – and he says he’s turned down dozens of offers and proposals to have one written by or about him. I realized about 18 months ago that he was probably never going to agree to having one written so my publisher, Matthew Kelly, and I decided we’d just start writing one and see what happened. Michael then spent at least a year hoping that I, and the book project, would just disappear, but, eventually, he realized that wasn’t going to happen so – somewhat reluctantly I must say – he agreed to a few interview sessions and gave his blessing to people in his world talking to me. I was very clear that I didn’t want to write a history of Mushroom Records or Frontier Touring Company – it is a book about Michael and his world. I read pretty much everything I could find about him – and was surprised (and then not given his attention span) that he’s sat for very few long form interviews in his career. Some parts of his life, Skyhooks and Split Enz, for example, are already very well documented. Then I started talking to people and filling in the gaps. Everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – has a Michael story. I had to work out which ones were true, and then if and how they related to my story. The actual order then seemed to find itself – but at last count I had gone through no less than 15 versions of the manuscript. I can almost recite the whole book now!
 
 
What have been Michael Gudinski’s most profound contributions to the Australian musical landscape, from your perspective, and how has he influenced you personally?

There’s many of them. Forming Mushroom Records in the early 1970s is clearly one of the main ones. His obsessive devotion to and support for Australian musicians is key. His intensity, passion and almost religious zeal for local music is what makes him stand out. He really is the most significant figure in the Australian music industry over the past 50 years.  His influence on me – well, he’s caused me to spend a lot of money on records he’s released and concerts he’s promoted. When I was managing Paul Kelly in the 1980s he taught me an enormous amount about how the Australian and international music business works. He constantly reminds me that one of the great luxuries we have in our lines of work is that we can be totally ourselves. I don’t and never have owned a suit and tie. I suspect Michael might be the same!
 
I know you’ve known Michael for many years. How did he respond when he first heard that you were going to write this biography? Did he have any reservations and does he make for an easy interview subject?

As I mentioned earlier he was initially extremely reluctant, and I sense that he’s still far from comfortable. This isn’t an authorised book but he did have the opportunity to correct factual errors – of which I’m pleased to say he found very few. When his ’fact’ correcting quickly reached the level of telling me that the green Jaguar he bought in the early 1970s was second-hand and not new, I realised I was pretty much on the mark with the bigger stuff. He’s a tough interview subject as he doesn’t really have the attention span to focus on any one subject for more than a couple of minutes. An hour with Gudinski can seriously traverse 100 different subjects – so then you have to decipher the wordage! Can’t say it wasn’t – for the most part – a lot of fun though!
 
Laughing outlawYou put your first indie label, Green Records, together back in the early 80s. Your current label, Laughing Outlaw Records has been in existence since 1999 and features a solid stable of young Aussie artists. How has the local music scene evolved over the years and what keeps things fresh and exciting for you?

The music caper seems to change daily – particularly with the emergence of new technology. The major change I see is that artists are now their own retailers at shows as record shops are largely a thing of the past. And I believe that music for the most part – like it or not – will continue to be predominantly free, which presents an entirely different landscape for everyone. I say to artists that we’re no longer in the music business because there isn’t one – we’re in the merchandise business. So music is something you create and give away to hopefully persuade people to pay to come to live shows and buy T shirts and other merchandise. As for me – if I don’t wake up and during the course of the day, hear something chill-inducingly-brilliant, I’ve had a bad day – that can be new or old music. And how bad is my day – I spend them talking to artists, listening to music, talking about it on the radio and writing about it. Tough!
 
bruce-springsteenI know it would be difficult to distil your decades of live gigs down to a handful of favourites; but, off the top of your head, what have been three standout live music shows that you’ve seen and why?
 
There are of course thousands but as you asked, off the top of my head . . .

  • Bruce Springsteen& The E Street Band – any place any time. I’ve been seeing Bruce since 1981 and I don’t believe the world will ever see a greater live performer. He’s probably better now than at any stage in his career.
  • Bob Dylan – State Theatre and Opera House 2014. I’m the only Australian to interview Dylan twice and I’ve seen him a lot over the years. This last tour he was singing better than ever, looked positively happy and both shows I saw were completely moving.
  • First Aid Kit – Sydney Opera House 2013 (I think). Two sisters from Sweden. I expecting them to be great but had no idea just HOW good. That’s what makes for a transcendent live music experience. I was just shaking my head at how sublime their performance was and I realised why Patti Smith and Paul Simon had been reduced to tears watching First Aid Kit perform their songs.

I could go on with this one!

Buy GUDINSKI now!

 

BIO

Stuart Coupe (born 1956) has worked as a journalist, author, editor, manager, record label director, radio presenter, publicist and tour promoter.

After growing up in Launceston, Tasmania he attended Flinders University in Adelaide (1976 – 78) where he became editor of the university magazine, Empire Times, and founded the music magazine Roadrunner. In late 1978 he was poached by Rock Australia Magazine (RAM) and moved to Sydney. After 18 months at RAM he became the music writer for the Sun Herald for the next decade as well as freelancing for countless publications ranging from the National Times to Dolly. Stuart is the only Australian to interview Bob Dylan twice and has conducted thousands of conversations with musicians from around the globe. He estimates that he has had in excess of six million words published over the years.

Stuart also managed the Hoodoo Gurus, and then Paul Kelly through the period when Kelly recorded the quartet of albums Post, Gossip, Under The Sun and So Much Water, So Close To Home. Over the years he has continued to manage artists such as X, Perry Keyes, LJ Hill, Starky and The Devoted Few.

As a tour promoter Stuart was responsible for Australian tours by musicians Guy Clark, Lucinda Williams, Chris Whitley, Ted Hawkins, Link Wray, Dick Dale, Harry Dean Stanton, Dave Alvin, Kinky Friedman, Chris Smither, Rosanne Cash, Mary-Chapin Carpenter and others. He also promoted events and tours with authors James Ellroy, Ed McBain, Lawrence Block, Elmore Leonard and PJ O’Rourke. He used those experiences as the basis for the successful book The Promoters (2003) which was recently reissued. That is one of ten books that Stuart has written, co-written or edited.

After a stint co-presenting the album show on 2MMM in the 1980s, Stuart has spent the past thirteen years presenting a weekly show on FBi radio in Sydney. He also presents a show entitled Dirt Music on radio 2SER and during 2013 filled in for Lucky Oceans on Radio National. He is also a frequent commentator on radio, TV and in print media on matters relating to music and popular culture.

Stuart has frequently worked as a publicist, starting with The Clash, The Cramps and other international artists. He is a founder and director of Laughing Outlaw Records which began in 1999 and has done the bulk of the publicity for the more than 180 releases from the label. Laughing Outlaw releases music from predominantly new and emerging Australian artists working in a wide range of styles from jazz to folk, Americana, punk rock, bluegrass, vaudeville, singer/songwriter and psychedelia. Stuart is also responsible for all contract negotiations and marketing for artists on the label.

For 17 years Stuart was the crime fiction book reviewer of the Sydney Morning Herald. He also founded and edited Mean Streets magazine and co-edited three crime fiction anthologies. In 2005 at the annual Ned Kelly Awards he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to the crime fiction genre.

Stuart has attended the SXSW music industry conference in Austin, Texas most years since 2001. In 2012 and 2013 he presented panels on the Australian music industry. He has been a speaker at the WAMI Conference in Perth, Music Business Adelaide, and Big Sound in Brisbane. He has also been a panellist at various Sydney Writers’ Festivals.

Stuart is married and has four adult children. He likes talking about Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and the Sydney Swans, not necessarily in that order.

 

Our content partner and good friend Jorge Duran interviews John Jarratt from the Wolf Creek movies and sneaks in a question from MDP. See if you can pick which one it is!

Thanks to Spotlight Report for letting us share this video.

Awards

davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 

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