Category: Features

Dirk interviewed by Jamie Marriage

Jamie: Path of Night is a fascinating mixture of genres; hard-boiled cop show meets classical horror tale, action crossed with political intrigue. What do you see as your greatest influences for this novel?

Dirk: I’m currently studying for an MA in creative writing at Uni of Tas, and I’m focused on genre fiction. Unusually for tertiary study, I’ve found a great deal of practical use for my reading. One of the things that became increasingly clear was the idea that ‘genre’ as a set of closed boundaries was a real hindrance – yet at the same time, it is incredibly valuable to understand how readers expect genre to be enacted by a narrative. Thus, in writing the story I felt quite free to borrow tropes from all over the place, but I knew I had to present a structure that offered support and sense for the work. In the end, it’s structurally a thriller, I think… but as for major influences? 

Everything. I wanted to tell a story about a sort of ‘everyman’ drawn into a darker world. There are plenty of those. I really wouldn’t know where to begin. In end, the most important influences were those that told me what I DIDN’T want to do. I didn’t want conventional, comfortable vampires. I didn’t want ‘sparkly romantic’ creatures either. Nor did I want a grim-jawed hero ready to take on the world: I really wanted an Australian character, in over his head, reacting like a young, reasonably smart Australian man would. And in his partner-in-crime Jen Morris, I wanted an Australian woman, tough and competent enough to stand up, and smart enough figure out how to tip the game her way. Real people forced into heroic roles, not heroes riding out on white horses to save the day. 

Still, let’s see: a bit of Stoker’s Dracula. A bit of Jim Butcher and Harry Dresden. A little Alistair Maclean. A touch of Charlie Stross’ “Laundry Files”… maybe even a little Joss Whedon, in the sense of wanting to strip back and expose some of the hoary, cliched tropes of the genres. Will that do?

 Jamie: Your characters suffer rather large amounts of abuse throughout your novel. In fact very few seem to escape without some level of serious injury. Did you find it hard to inflict so much suffering upon the creatures of your own creation? Or did you find it more difficult to hold yourself back from pushing them harder?

Dirk: The story dictates what’s needed. It’s true: I like the main characters. No, let’s be honest — I like almost all of them. My elder son was annoyed with me that I killed off one of the particularly interesting villains. He tells me that he ‘liked that guy’ — and I like that, because if the villains aren’t a little interesting and sympathetic, then the story’s probably rubbish. But look — Path of Night leans towards horror in a big way. Horror has certain demands. I can’t stand reading thrillers with invulnerable protagonists, and there has to be something really dangerous at stake to raise the suspense. So the charactiers in Path of Night are in danger. If they fail, they die — and potentially, they die in quite a nasty fashion. It’s one thing to tell your readers that, but I think it’s more effective when they can see it happen. (Although I probably owe poor Doctor Parker an apology.)

Jamie: What didn’t make it into PoN? Are there any aspects of the story you really wanted to explore further?

Dirk: What didn’t make it in? Not a whole lot, really. I wrote this very quickly, laying down the plot as I went. Mind you, I know a great deal about the backstory of everyone in the book, and about the Night Beasts, and anything else you  might want. But once again — genre storytelling places certain demands on the nature of your tale. My editor/publisher Tehani will tell you, if you ask her: there was virtually no wholesale cutting. The MS had to be trimmed and polished, but I didn’t need to lose anything major. Still, as you can tell from the epilogue the book is as much a springboard as a tale that stands alone. Think of it as an ‘origin story’, if you like. It’s complete in and of itself, but it sets up a couple of heroes for future tales.

Jamie: You obviously have a lot of regard for Sydney as a dramatic location. Is it somewhere you see yourself continuing to base your work?

Dirk: Tehani Wessely of Fablecroft pointed out that for some reason, most of us in Australian speculative fiction seem to leave Sydney alone. Probably we’ve all seen enough of it on TV and elsewhere. And yet it’s our best-known city internationally, with one of the world’s most recognisable architectural landmarks. It’s also a wonderfully diverse city in many senses, so yes: it makes a really great backdrop. I’m never going to “throw a shrimp on the barbie, mate” but I really don’t mind taking advantage of the iconic status of our best-known city to help readers enter the world of the Night Beasts. Having said that, though… no, I’ll answer the next question. It will explain things nicely.

Jamie: What’s next? A sequel maybe? Or even a prequel? Will you return to Jen and Michael or move on to other things?

Dirk: Path of Night is the first in a series surrounding the Night Beasts. It sets up the two lead characters, leaving them in a position to investigate further, and act against these terrifying creatures. There is an overarching plot, a grand arc of revelation that will (hopefully) culminate in an ending which is both surprising, and satisfying to the readers. I expect it to take about five or possibly six books. The next one is already underway. Set in Sydney again, the working title is “Midnight in Chinatown”. Jen and Michael will indeed be back, and this time they’ll be racing against time to prevent a war between different groups of the Night Beasts. And why are they trying to stop a war between deadly, vampire-like predators? Well — let’s just say it’s in everybody’s best interests. You’ll get the chance to find out when the book hits the streets!


Dirk Flinthart is an Australian speculative fiction writer operating out of the wilds of North-East Tasmania. With scores of short stories (and the odd novella) in print, a Ditmar and a bag of shortlistings to his name, and a non-fiction best-seller co-written with John Birmingham,  ‘Path of Night’ is Flinthart’s first full length novel, and he’s determined to enjoy it. Flinthart himself is a… difficult… character. He plays flute and Irish whistle, teaches ju-jitsu, studies Iai-do, handles a fifty-acre rural property with aplomb and a chainsaw, raises fearsome kids, and is currently studying for a Masters in creative writing at the University of Tasmania. He’s presently at work on a bunch of short stories, a novel derived from a Steampunk opera libretto that he wrote for Brisbane company Outcast Opera, and of course the next Night Beasts book: Midnight In Chinatown. 

Bec Stafford talks to the creator of SAGE ESCAPE, Damien Simancowickz

sage escape newDamian, I really loved the first two eps of Sage Escape. Firstly, why cyberpunk? Is this a genre you’ve always been interested in?

Yes, always loved the genre. I grew up with Oliver Grunner blowing away evil cyborgs in Nemesis. Had a minor obsession with Bladerunner, Hardware and Akira. Marvel had some excellent cyberpunk titles in the 90s. And friends got me hooked on William Gibson’s eBooks and MP3s. If it’s a high tech future with an antihero, I’m in.    

What made you create a female lead character, and is she based on anyone?

Originally, I had a male protagonist. But it worked better with a female. Maybe because the hero was teamed with Grim, a masculine mechanoid. Sage’s appearance is loosely based off a teenage girl I once worked with. She was fun to banter with and we’d occasionally have Friday night beers. She’s where Sage’s spiky black hair and leg tattoo came from. As for Sage’s personality, that’s all hers. She lets me know what she wants to say.     

I’m a fan of the Aeon Flux series, so really love the way you similarly position your strong, sassy lead in a dangerous, dystopian future setting, giving her challenges and keeping us guessing. Who are your favourite cyberpunk characters and worlds, and why?

Sooo many to choose from! Here’s three of the coolest. The cyborg, Death’s Head 2 is at the top of the list (from the UK comic book series). Death’s Head and his sexy replicant partner, Tuck, faced it all: cyber viruses, evil scientists, plus demonic villains who combined cybernetics with magic. Open the comic and you’d be slingshot around the universe and through time. And even though Death’s Head looked monstrous, his go-get-‘em attitude and heightened intelligence made him charismatic. The metallic artwork’s outstanding. Ghost Rider 2099 started off strong (it seemed to be heavily influenced by William Gibson’s novels). The hero, Zero, is a
deceased cybersurfer who’s been resurrected in a synthetic body. He can switch appearance between his original human form, and the robotic Ghost Rider. Zero’s a fun hero because he knows the street and takes you through a twisted word of tech, and villainy. He also has a cool leather jacket and motorbike. And like Death’s Head 2, the story’s world is visually rich with futuristic detail.
The first Aliens graphic novel by Dark Horse (black & white edition) is a knockout. Set ten years after the film, Hicks is now a drunk, alienated by other soldiers. Newt has been locked up and pumped full of drugs. And both the Church and military are secretly obsessed with the alien species. Hicks breaks Newt out and smuggles her onboard a ship full of synthetic soldiers, bound for the alien home world. Tough heroes, androids indistinguishable from real humans, explosive action and space ships–pure gold.   

Can you tell us about your illustration and design process? Do you begin with sketches, which you then animate; or, is it all done digitally?

It begins with old school pencil and paper. I then scan the panels, and ink and colour them in Photoshop – all by hand with a Wacom tablet and pen. The episodes get edited in Final Cut Pro.

How far in advance do you write each ep? Do you plot storylines in advance, or write as you go?

The entire Sage series was plotted before we started the first episode, with scripts completed for three comic book issues.

sage escape 2How long does each ep take to produce, from start to finish? Can you step us through a brief description of your process?

Haha, it depends on everyone’s schedules. So the time varies. But here’s the process: I complete the graphic novel pages, then do a rough visual edit of the episode for Benjamin Black, our audio producer. We record the voice actors one at a time. Then over the next week, Ben lays down ambience, sound effects and music. Ben and I bounce back versions of the episode to each other as we try different things. Then, when we think it works, we run it past the team, and make improvements.

Who are what are you influences, artistically? Is there anything you read, watch, or listen to to get yourself in the zone for each new piece?

I’ve been building a Sage production bible for over then years. So I surround my office with Sage production art. As for influences, I often have random comics open. Sage:Escape is pretty intuitive. I know something works when it feels right.  Music’s a different story. I’ll put on specific artists with strong beats and chorus lines, like Trip Sinister and MC Kean. For action scenes, I crank Machine Head and Chamberland.  If I need to snap into work mode, I play Fear Factory’s post-apocalyptic albums. Fear Factory’s Obsolete and The Industrialist are cyberpunk themed concept albums. Genius (if you’re into metal!).

You come from a film background, and have worked on features and music videos; and you’ve also developed work for other producers. How satisfying is it to work on this solo project, and in a completely different medium?

It’s great. The ‘solo’ project now has a team with graphic designers, web developers, VFX artists and musicians. So I still have plenty of meetings and brainstorming sessions. We review and tweak content before it goes out. In previous projects, I’ve contributed the writing and visual design, so in that respect, it’s familiar territory.

How much research do you undertake when writing each story? Is it important to know something about biotechnology, or combat, for instance, in order to write Sage; or, do you give yourself free rein to invent concepts and terminology as you go?

There’s a fair bit of homework with Sage. I like to immerse myself in real world images that relate to different parts of the story. Some research is fun, like studying how a to physically flip a person. Some is disturbing, like researching mass graves for Sage’s backstory. And there’s also beauty, analysing colour schemes and materials for the main cast. As for the futuristic technology and terminology, that’s left to the imagination. Sage’s cybernetic brain and nervous system are key parts of the plot. They’re story concepts as opposed to anything that relates to the real world.

Thanks for talking to us and good luck with Sage. We hope to see much more of her in the very near future!


First of all, thanks so much for your time Glenn.

You’ve had your share of both live audience and recording studio. Which one do you prefer and why?

That’s a hard one really. With live audiences, its always that “immediate reaction attraction”, and you can get a vibe on what people are feeling “in the moment”, but when you’re recording in the studio, you’re at your creative best I guess, and ideas are more finite and realised, as opposed to live gigs where its instantaneous and spontaneous. They both have their positives and negatives and I love them both for different reasons. Live-the instant connection to your audience and Studio-for the perfection you’re hoping to seek and realise, coupled with your “end result vision” as an artist, writer and producer. There’s excitement in both and for very different reason, both of which excited me equally. :)

I think one of the things that resonates with people about you is that you are so open and genuine. Are you finding that difficult now with so much of your life in the public eye?

Not really, and also, thank you for the compliment. I only ever hope to be perceived as who I am, and that person is a direct result of my wonderful mum and the way I was raised. I am who I am, and if people “get and SEE that person” then I’m a happy man. There’s no point in being anything but yourself in our country especially. As Aussies, we respect an honest person and I’ve been raised to be nothing less, which I am eternally grateful for.

How much do your favourite artists or your own personal life contribute towards what you write or perform?

My influences musically and non musically affect everything I do really. I’d say my biggest musical influences would be Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Babyface and James Taylor among others. Coupled with other influences in life like my mum, singing teachers and mentors thru the years they have ALL shaped who I am as a person, and being a songwriter, I think everything in your world has an effect on you, and specifically on your lyric writing. Life is the greatest teacher and one of the joys I have, as a songwriter, is getting to express those feelings in song. Everything I write documents something life has taught me, and that’s a wonderful gift I end up getting to give to MYSELF, as well as the public…

Now, you’ve written, produced and performed with some huge names including Delta Goodrem, Ricki-Lee, John Farnham and Jimmy Barnes. Is there any artist out there that you would love to perform with in the future?

Without doubt, the first name on that list would be Stevie Wonder. He’s influenced my music more than anyone and I was lucky enough to sing with him backstage a few years back, but to write and record with the man would be a dream come true.

In terms of personal development, how much do you think The Voice helped you as a performer?

The Voice helped me in several ways, and not least of which, as a performer. After 20 years writing, producing and performing with the best on the business, it actually taught me how to THINK of myself as “the artist” moreso, and Delta was integral in that discovery. Her guidance, sometimes in the smallest ways, or thru the most seemingly insignificant conversations, really changed my thought pattern toward me as an artist. For that alone I’m very grateful and I thank her personally for that as well. It’s a tough thing to change after so many years in the “industry background”

Would you change anything if you could do The Voice over again?

Simply-NO. I was who I am, and I would only ever make the same choices because I always try to follow my gut, so there’s no regret or remorse. It’s led me to where I now am, and to where I will go from here. Making true and honest decision in your life is the key in my opinion.

Not everyone can pull off the singer/songwriter combination, but obviously you’re very gifted with both. Which part do you prefer? Would you consider yourself a singer first or a songwriter first, and why?

That’s a great question, but I think, if you do both, its just ingrained in you and the two are intertwined. I’ve sung since I could speak, and written since I was 9 years old, and after 37 years on this earth, the two are so fused together that I couldn’t THINK about them as separate entities, much less USE them that way. I love the creative process as a whole and that is singing, writing and generally “creating” simultaneously  so I couldn’t say that one part is preferred over the other.

Your debut album, Soul Document Volume 1 is out now and receiving some great reviews from fans. Do you have a particular song in there that holds more of a personal connection than the others?

I love the album because it was my favourite songs for me personally that I’d written up until that time, but If I had to single songs out, I love Welcome Home as it’s actually about my family and I wrote it for my mum, and I also love Hurry On Home, which is basically about “living a good and honest life” and trying to adhere to some pretty basic principles in life that I was taught, which I think we could all benefit from.

You’ve been incredibly musically gifted from a young age. What do you think it is about music that resonates with you so deeply?

I have a lot of music in my family history, so I guess that “natural ability” side of things come from there. The rest-its honestly a mystery. My life is music, and music is my life. I have no explanation but I know I couldn’t do anything else. One thing I always say to people is “I’m so lucky to do what I love as a living. If you do what you love, you never actually WORK a day in your life”. No truer words have been spoken. You always go the extra mile when you love what you do.

Now, for the question that everyone’s asking. What comes next for you? Have you got anything new in the works and what can you tell us about it?

Well, first I’m releasing Heaven as a single Oct 5th. It was the final song I performed on The Voice and I’ve had lots of feedback about it thru social media so I thought it was a great place to start seeing as it was never released thru the show. At the same time I’m working on the next album which will be more gritty, but still with that soulful undertone. I’m really excited about it, and about the new audience I’ve found through doing the show :)

Thanks for your time and good luck!

Thanks to Joelene Pynnonen and our creative partner THE SPOTLIGHT REPORT for this interview.


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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