RONA Awards 2022 Celebration Drinks with… Freya Marske

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It’s Friday at last and tonight I am joined by the winner of the Fantasy Romantic Novel Award 2022 for her book, A Marvellous Light. Welcome to the blog, author… Freya Marske.

Freya Marske, Fantasy Romantic Novel Award, RONAs 22

Freya, welcome to Friday Night Drinks and thank you for joining me. First things first, what are you drinking?

I’m a gin & tonic girl through and through, so I’ll pore over the menu for any kind of gin that’s new to me and sounds exciting. And then I’ll add tonic in an alarming ratio that will make you wonder why I didn’t just order a martini, but trust me: the tonic is vital. Even if it’s just a splash.

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If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

One of my favourite places here in Australia is a hotel in the Southern Highlands which has a gin bar attached to the restaurant (see my gin weakness above) and, even more pleasingly, also has a whisky lounge. I think we’ll start with a meal and then retire to the lounge and curl up on their velvet sofas for a good long chat.

If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

I’m extremely torn when it comes to my parcel of favourite dead Dorothys, as to which of them would be the best value on a night out drinking. I would seriously consider both Dorothy Sayers and Dorothy Dunnett, so I could hurl myself into their laps with despairing pleas that they somehow teach me all the secrets of their genius—yes, right now, over this glass of wine—but I think Dorothy Parker would liven up the party best.

Similarly, much as I’d love to meet Shakespeare, I think Kit Marlowe would be a better addition to a drinking party. Just so long as nobody brings out any knives.

Great choices, although I would love to meet Dorothy L. Sayers too, I’m a huge fan. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

At the moment I’m in the early, groping-through-the-darkness, oh-God-why stages of drafting the third book in my romantic historical fantasy trilogy. You’d think I would be less melodramatic about it, given it is my third book in this world. But each book does have a different pair of POV characters and a slightly different narrative vibe, and hammering out the character voices always makes me feel like I’m breaking in an uncomfortable pair of new shoes for the first half of the first draft. 

Ideally, though, I’ll build up my calluses quickly and then be able to get on with finishing this trilogy. I’m really excited to be fulfilling some promises and digging my teeth into some themes and plotlines that I’ve been setting up since book 1. Here’s hoping I can pull it all off. 

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

I still get a jolt of disbelieving pride when faced with evidence that someone who is neither related to me nor a friend has read my book and enjoyed it, or found something in it that spoke to them and connected with them.

The biggest challenge has been the direct flipside of that: realising that now my joyful creative hobby is also a career, and I have contract deadlines and reader expectations to meet. There have been weeks where I can feel the tendrils of toxicity and pressure trying to sneak in, wrap themselves around the creative process and strangle all the fun out of it. But I’m determined to hold onto the joy and satisfaction that writing can produce for its own sake.

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, it’s just us talking after all!

The biggest and best thing I can think of is flourishing longevity of career. I want to be eighty years old with a massive backlist of both SFF and romance (and any other genres I feel like picking up along the way!), still writing new books, still acquiring new readers and delighting old ones, and swanning around the world to have cantankerous opinions at festivals and conventions. 

What do you have planned that you are really excited about?

Every single idea for The Next Book (of which I have…approximately seven) has realised that I’m meant to be writing my book 3 draft, and so they’ve all ratcheted up in detail and excitement. I’m planning some novellas—a format I haven’t played with before—as well as a space opera, a story about a magical medical school, and a new contemporary romance.

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

It might just be recency bias, given it was one of the places I visited just before the pandemic put an end to international travel, but I adored Barcelona. Researching A Marvellous Light gave me an enormous fondness for early twentieth century art and design movements, and I spent a lot of time geeking out over the Art Nouveau architecture of that city. And the food. And the wine. The rest of Spain is near the top of my bucket list, too, as I’ve only seen that one city and am dying to explore the rest of the country! 

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

The one thing about me that usually elicits an “oh! That’s interesting!” is the fact that I’m a figure skater. I think more adults should get into this as a sport: there’s much less pressure if you start as an adult than if you’re a tiny flexible child, and it combines strength and athleticism with moving to music (and wearing sparkly clothes, of course). And there’s something of a life lesson in the fact that learning to fall, expecting to fall, and cheerfully getting up again every time is part of the process. The overachiever in me has had to learn that it’s good for the soul to be bad at things, sometimes, and to slowly improve through hard work. 

This is  lesson I’m still trying to take on board at the age of 49! Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

 One of my favourite books of all time combines history, science fiction (time travel!), screwball comedy, mystery and romance: To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis. I defy anyone to read it and not finish with a huge grin on their face and a lightening of the spirit that will last for days. 

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Ned Henry is a time-travelling historian who specialises in the mid-20th century – currently engaged in researching the bombed-out Coventry Cathedral. He’s also made so many drops into the past that he’s suffering from a dangerously advanced case of ‘time-lag’.

Unfortunately for Ned, an emergency dash to Victorian England is required and he’s the only available historian. But Ned’s time-lag is so bad that he’s not sure what the errand is – which is bad news since, if he fails, history could unravel around him…

So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Drink a very boring and large amount of water before going to sleep, and then drink some more. If you wake up with a hangover anyway: stumble to the kitchen, put the kettle on for coffee, and give fervent thanks to the past version of you who knows to keep the freezer stocked with frozen hash browns.

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Saturday mornings I’m always at the ice rink, which means I start the weekend energised! Yes, I’m aware of how insufferable this makes me sound. I think that in order to force my bones out of bed before seven o’clock, on a weekend morning when the tiny devil on my shoulder is whispering sleeeeeep iiiiiiiin, I’ve somehow Stockholm Syndromed myself into genuine enjoyment. It does help that I love skating. (“I DO love skating,” I tell myself through gritted teeth in the middle of winter, when it’s minus six degrees outside and I’m about to step into an equally cold icebox of a rink.)

After that, my perfect weekend would usually contain several hours of reading, reaching my word count goal on whatever I’m writing, lunches comprised mostly of different types of cheese on crusty bread, going to an art gallery or a theatre matinee, and then going out for dinner with friends before coming back to my place to ply them with the contents of my cocktail trolley.

Freya, you have been an absolutely marvellous and entertaining guest, huge thanks for chatting to me and I can’t wait to read your book. Please come back on the blog any time.

Freya’s RONA award-winning novel, A Marvellous Light is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here. The second book in the series, A Restless Truth, is available for preorder in most places, including here!

Freya Marske, Fantasy Romantic Novel Award, RONAs 22, A Marvellous Light BOOK COVER

Young baronet Robin Blyth thought he was taking up a minor governmental post. However, he’s actually been appointed parliamentary liaison to a secret magical society. If it weren’t for this administrative error, he’d never have discovered the incredible magic underlying his world. 

Cursed by mysterious attackers and plagued by visions, Robin becomes determined to drag answers from his missing predecessor – but he’ll need the help of Edwin Courcey, his hostile magical-society counterpart. Unwillingly thrown together, Robin and Edwin will discover a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles.

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My website:

My twitter: https://twitter.com/freyamarske

My Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/freyamarske/

Freya Marske lives in Australia, where she is yet to be killed by any form of wildlife. She writes stories full of magic, blood, and as much kissing as she can get away with. Her hobbies include figure skating and discovering new art galleries, and she is on a quest to try all the gin in the world.

Her short fiction has appeared in Analog Science Fiction, Andromeda Spaceways, and several anthologies. In 2020 she was awarded the Australian National SF (Ditmar) Award for Best New Talent.

Her debut novel, the queer historical fantasy A MARVELLOUS LIGHT, was published in 2021.

Connect with Freya:

Website: https://freyamarske.com

Twitter: @freyamarske

Instagram: @freyamarske

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