Bec Stafford

Bec Stafford has a Masters of Philosophy from the University of Queensland. She blogs and interviews for MDPWeb and the Spotlight Report

AlisonBec: A number of important themes run through Refuge: (friendship, loyalty, and self-discovery to name a few). What is the most important thing you’d like your readers to come away with, after having read this book?

A V Mather: If Refuge could be considered a cautionary tale, in the tradition of the original fairy tales, then the Doctor is the witch in the gingerbread house. I wrote the character as an example of how easy it is to be taken in and controlled by someone, when you are lost and desperate. I guess one message is: if a much older stranger seems to be completely captivated by you, if they agree with you and understand you better than anyone else, be very suspicious. They may be leading you somewhere dangerous and some people never come back from those experiences. Even if they are not physically harmed, they can remain trapped there emotionally, just like the children in Refuge.

The story is also about finding your own strength and your own character, regardless of what other people are doing or saying. That is a very difficult thing to do, to back yourself, particularly when you are young and feel you have no real power. Nell discovers that she does have worth, beyond the needs and desires of the people around her, and this gives her the courage to forge her own path.

Bec: Refuge contains some incredible world-building. Can you tell us a bit about your process? Do you draw maps for yourself, for instance?

A V Mather: I do a bit, but they’re mostly just scrawls to orient things in my head.
The world-building is at the centre of the process for me, and I tend to be very indulgent about it. I am that person who notices everything and I have a tremendous curiosity about my environment. I had to cut reams from my first drafts of Refuge because there was far too much description of the world Nell was seeing.

Most of my process stems from an original point of view and then grows outwards. For example, I see it from Nell’s perspective first, experiencing it as she would, and then pull back to the bigger picture. That first impression is very important to me and I find that if I do it the other way around, I tend to lose that original sense of wonder or intimacy. I begin with my imagining of the place — the look, feel, smell — and then follow that up with research. This is mainly if the place or object is based in historical reality, if it’s drawn from a subject that I know little about, or just to feed the imagination with examples.

Bec: The characters in Refuge are so vivid and distinctive that they virtually leap off the page. Can you tell us a bit about the process you went through creating your central characters and their relationships?

Mather-Refuge Official CoverA V Mather: I began writing the story around the characters of Doctor Nathanial Fray and Gideon. Although it might not seem like it to the reader, the story very much grew from the Doctor, rather than from Nell, so I devoted a lot of my time to him in the beginning. I knew that he had to be a psychiatrist and not from the modern era, so I did a great deal of research on the development of psychiatry through the ages. I wanted him to be experimental and tragic and I’ve always been horrified and fascinated by Bedlam, so seemed the ideal place to start.

It’s very important for characters to have their own, authentic voice. This was a challenge in Refuge because so many of them belong to different eras, as well as nationalities. There was a constant danger of slipping into the wrong mode of speech. Keeping them all distinct from each other while having the same conversation proved difficult, particularly when I was racing to keep up with what they were saying in my head. I found it necessary to keep a vocabulary profile for each character, that I could refer to when writing their dialogue.

All the Australian characters have grown from my own experience, but all of the others were researched. The Doctor is from early-mid 1700’s in London, Gideon is an English ‘wharf rat’ from later in the century, Fox is one of the ‘Bright Young Things’ from the early 1920’s, Deuce is from the Deep South in the ‘50’s and Janus is from Queensland in the mid ‘70’s. Mixed in with that are characters like Mary Wentworth, who is from the Doctor’s time but a different social class, and the twins, who originate from Paris in the early 30’s.

The real trick was to make all of that authentic but not alienating. I constantly had to keep my audience in mind when writing the interactions between characters, to make sure that they would be able to follow it.

As for creating the relationships, I think all of them are based on real-life scenarios, if not as true accounts, then at least symbolically. Gideon’s need to confront the father who bullied him, and his need to bully others in turn, is probably the most obvious example of an eternal allegory or trope. You can see examples of it every day in the news, the workplace, or the school playground.
I strove to portray a variety of relationships and show that they don’t have to be perfect, or even particularly wonderful, to be valuable. For example, Nell’s relationships with her grandfather, her aunt and Grace are pretty uncomfortable at times, but they’re worth more than a thousand fake friendships with the likes of Tabby Crane.

Bec: Which of your characters Burns Brightest in your mind and why?

A V Mather: My first reaction is to say the Doctor, although of course I like them all. The Doctor is really the character that the whole story revolves around and without him there would be no Refuge. The first thing I wrote of Refuge was one of his interactions with Gideon and it grew from there, so they are both close to my heart. Perhaps it’s strange, beginning a story by writing the villains but they are so interesting.

The Doctor is brilliant, charming, perceptive and ruthless. A man ahead of his time, crushed by tragedy, who has been given the opportunity to rewrite history — a dangerous combination. He is a master of manipulation and operating on a completely different playing field to everyone else. He represents what happens when intelligence and sensitivity become warped by ambition, guilt and obsession. I very much enjoyed developing his character. One of my early readers said that he reminded them of a spider, sitting in the centre of its web and I like that analogy.
And just quickly, I also love Fox. I would love to be that confident and unflappable.


I was born an only child in a remote gold mining town in Canada. My family moved to Australia when I was very young and I grew up on stories of eccentric characters in wild places; of exciting rescues, bears that destroyed helicopters and the silence of wolves.

My life since has continued to take a few eccentric turns of its own, from studying Visual Arts in Northern NSW, to set painting on a TV series, to teaching art at a boy’s boarding school in Central QLD. Through it all, my love of stories — telling, watching, reading and hearing them — grew stronger and eventually I answered the compulsion to write.

I enjoy reading widely across genres and am also interested in art, nature, satire, history, photography, popular culture, psychology, road trips and good stories – real and imagined.

I live in Brisbane, Australia with my husband and a constant sense of foreboding.


Refuge is available now on Amazon for Kindle:


Bec Stafford

Bec Stafford has a Masters of Philosophy from the University of Queensland. She blogs and interviews for the Escape Club and The Spotlight Report.

hough-zero-world-coverYour last release, is Zero World is about technologically enhanced superspy, Peter Caswell, who tracks colleagues through a tear in space. Your earlier work had been compared to John Scalzi and because of your previous novel The Darwin Elevator, you’ve been asked to speak at the NT Work and Safety Conference at Charles Darwin Uni about health and safety issues related to a zombie apocalypse, as well as various other disaster scenarios. How did you become involved in that topic and what lessons can we learn from such scenarios from speculative fiction?
I was invited to speak at the conference by its organizer, Martyn Hill. Though I have no professional experience in the health and safety field, Martyn felt (and I agree) that it might be interesting to hear the perspective of a fiction writer on these topics.  I’m planning a lighthearted talk about the crazy, dangerous scenarios we sci-fi authors imagine, but more importantly how our characters react to those situations.  I think perhaps some of the techniques we use to tell these stories can help safety officials envision real-world scenarios and solutions, particularly in the future.
Your new sci-fi spy thriller, Zero World, centres on a technologically enhanced superspy, Peter Caswell. Can you tell us a bit about the process of writing this story and how you first came up with Peter?
My process involves creating a brief outline (one sentence per chapter), along with a lot of thinking about the world the story will be set in. In this case, Peter finds himself on a world that appears to be Earth’s twin, at least geographically.  His character came partly from necessity for the story I wanted to tell, and partly from a random conversation with another author about Korean action thrillers.
When you were a kid, were you into spy fiction and film and did you ever dream of being a spy, yourself?
As a kid in the 80’s, I discovered James Bond through the films, though I quickly read the books as well. As I grew up I moved on to the works of Le Carre and others.  The kid-version of me, who knew only of James Bond and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., certainly wanted to join the CIA. But more serious Cold War fiction made me realize the real deal was not for me. I wanted to create those stories, not be in them.
Jason HoughWhat are some of your favourite zombie films, and which best reflect your ideas about surviving a zombie apocalypse? Do you often find yourself shouting, ‘Oh, you’d neverdo that!’ in frustration at the screen when the protagonists are hatching escape plans?
To be totally honest, I’m not a huge fan of zombie films. At least, not the typical cliche shambling, shuffling brainless brain-eating zombie films. If we get technical about it, my books feature subhumans — real living animals that have been infected with a brain altering virus.  They’re not undead.  It’s a common misconception.  Still, I understand it, as they fall into the “formerly human” category.

So with that in mind, my favorite zombie films are probably “Shaun of the Dead” and “28 Days Later”. I also recently enjoyed the zombie novel “The Girl with all the Gifts”.
Jason, you were formerly an animator and game designer. Has that background informed your writing career and what are your top 5 games of all time?
It’s definitely helped! My animator background has helped me to envision the “props” and sets my stories use.  As a game designer, my primary job was to build the world of the game. What populates it, and what rules govern it.  This is the same sort of work I do when starting to plan out a novel.  The big difference is that now I’m not constrained by the capabilities of the technology, or how many artists and programmers are available.

It’s hard for me to rank my favorite games because I like them for so many different reasons. There’s no quantifiable way to say “this one is better than that” on a list.  So, I’ll throw out some favorites in no particular order: Thief: The Dark Project, Deus Ex, System Shock, Elite, Half-Life.

Jason M. Hough – author of The Dire Earth Cycle and, out now, ZERO WORLD.



Jamie Marriage

Jamie Marriage is an internationally published Australian cyberpunk author with a taste for the dangerous and obscene aspects of life. His work ranges from the sarcastic to the satirical. Links to his work can be found at

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.”


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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