Author Archives: Steven Lochran

Heroes, Muses & Perfect Strangers

It took me about a week to realise that the subject header of my last blog post was a Perfect Strangers reference. I could have gone with something highbrow and literary. But no. I went with Balki and Coosin Larry.

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But that wasn’t the important part. The important part was that Paladero: The City of Night Neverending was out and available to buy/borrow/definitely not steal. And it even continues to be so!

Reviews are just starting to come through now. Waiting for feedback on a book is always a tricky time for any writer. You don’t dare trust the good reviews, you feel exposed by the bad ones. Either way, you try not to let them sway you too much.

That said, the review that’s probably meant the most to me so far has come from Tina Healy of Gender Diversity Australia (or GenDA for short). Keen-eyed readers will note that Tina is thanked in the book’s acknowledgements after she very generously went to the effort of reviewing the unpublished manuscript to ensure that the depiction of transgender characters was handled sensitively.

In asking her to do this, I provided her with a comprehensive listing of all the relevant sections of the manuscript to use as a shortcut. But she went the extra mile of reading the whole thing to ensure she had a full understanding of the story, and then went the extra extra mile of providing the following review:

For trans people, being trans is a major influence in our lives, but not the whole story. Most of us just want to live our lives in the shade of gender with which we identify. Steven Lochran is a master storyteller. He has written a gripping fantasy story which includes a transgender character, with an amazing insight and feel for the lived experience of trans and gender diverse people. His exploration of the impact families have on the lives of trans people touched so many memories for me. I know they will resonate with others in my community.

It’s great to see stories being written where gender diversity is a part of the context of the story, rather than the focus. Thanks so much for the opportunity to review “Paladero Book 2”. I recommend it.

Now to be perfectly honest, as proud as I am of that review, I was hesitant in posting it. The last thing I want is for anyone to think I’m trying to pat myself on the back. But Tina went to the effort of reading the book and writing this critique, and I thought it was only right that I share it.

Because it was Tina who was one of the main inspirations behind the book and its inclusion of a transgender storyline. She and I met when she was first starting to publicly transition, and I found her openness and courage inspirational. At the same time, I remember reading articles and seeing news reports about transgender kids taking their own first steps in transitioning, and it led me to think about where those kids could find representation in fiction. After all, as fellow Hardie Grant Egmont author Melissa Keil wrote in an article for The Guardian:

Everyone deserves to see themselves as a hero – to see their life, their reality, in all its complexity, reflected in their books. For young people, at a time in their lives that can be isolating, and fraught with questions of body image, sexuality and identity, this representation can be vital.

Thankfully, the issue of representation – while still far from perfect – has seen some improvement over the last few years. Traditionally speaking, however, transgender characters (let alone transgender heroes) have been few and far between.

In 2013, when I was first outlining what would become Paladero, the major examples that immediately sprang to my mind were Viola from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Mulan, both of whom were forced to present as male rather than personally identifying that way. I also thought of Grant Morrison’s version of DC Comic’s Shining Knight character, who was originally conceived in the Mulan mold as a girl masquerading as a boy to fit into a patriarchal society, and only later evolved under writer Paul Cornell into being a true transgender character.

My idea was to have a character who identified as transgender from the start, and that I would use the inspiration I found from talking with Tina as a guide in achieving that. The challenge was to present this character in a pseudo-medieval setting without any of the modern terminology we have to discuss these issues in a sensitive fashion. It was here that I relied on the insights of sensitivity readers, with Sally Goldner of Transgender Victoria very generously helping with The Riders of Thunder Realm. But I was keen to get Tina’s insights, given the role she’d played in setting me on this path.

Unfortunately I had lost touch with Tina in the intervening period. But I didn’t need to worry about that for too long, as she had gone on to become an active campaigner in the LGBTIQ community, which enabled me to reach out to her. And she was just as kind and generous as I remembered her being, happily agreeing to read the manuscript and offer her insights.

So for all this – from the initial inspiration she provided through to the feedback and encouragement – I wanted to take the opportunity to publicly thank Tina, to highlight the fantastic work she’s been doing, and to let those readers out there struggling with their own issues of identity and acceptance: you are not alone. There are places you can go, people you can talk to, and a thousand unending chances that tomorrow will be better. You can be the hero that you’re looking for.

Now, having gotten quite serious there, I think it’s only fair that I leave you with the thing that’s been whirling around in my head ever since writing the intro to this post…

 

Because if I have to suffer with this, then so do you.

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Paladero Book 2 is out, and so we do the dance of joy!

It’s here! After months of waiting, it’s finally here!

Captain America: Civil War is available to stream on Netflix Australia! Yaaaaay!

Oh. And also.

PALADERO: THE CITY OF NIGHT NEVERENDING! (Or ‘Paladero Book 2’ for all you googlers out there).

This requires many gifs of celebration!

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Ugh. I think I have motion sickness now. Sorry about that.

But yes, the book is out, free, escaped its author’s clutches to be purchased, borrowed, and most of all read. I hope very much that you like it.

And to celebrate, Goodreads is hosting a competition to win your very own copy. This will be open to Australian and New Zealand readers through the month of February. I wish you good fortune, and may the odds be ever in your favour.

I’ll be back to post more about the book very soon, but in the meantime I’ll be working on the manuscript for Book 3. After all, there’s no rest for the wicked … or even the wishy-washy!

Happy reading.

Paladero Book 2 Cover Reveal (Excited exclamation mark!)

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly six months now since the release of The Riders of Thunder Realm. A lot has happened in that time, the least of which includes the book receiving some very generous reviews. The biggest thing – for my wife and me at least – was the birth of our son, Max.

Max is our first child, and we had all these ideas of how he would arrive in the world. He defied almost all of them, with an emergency c-section leading to a week spent in the NICU. I’m happy and relieved to say that he’s in the best of health now, but there were times where that was much less certain, and they were the scariest of my life.

In the midst of Max’s dramatic arrival, I was also writing and editing the second book in the Paladero series. Meeting deadlines proved to be a challenge between hospital visits, meeting with doctors and eventually making it home with a newborn to look after, but somehow those tricky waters were navigated and the manuscript was delivered.

And even more exciting than that – the cover reveal! This happened at the Centre for Youth Literature’s 2017 YA Showcase, as presented by my fantastic publisher Marisa Pintado. Not being very good at ze tweets, I tried to play it off like I was unaware of what was going on, with the intention of turning around and being all ‘Whoop! There it is!’ when the image finally dropped.

Mostly, though, I think I came off a bit bewildered, reinforcing to myself that I need to develop a new tweeting style that less resembles a certain spray-tanned autocrat’s; declarative statement, end on excited exclamation mark!

Ahem. I have, again, wandered off-topic. All of this is to say … Paladero Book 2 will be released in February 2017. It’s called The City of Night Neverending, which can be added to your Goodreads TBR list here. And this is its absolutely stunning cover, as once again provided by dynamo illustrator Jeremy Love:

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And to do you one better, here’s the blurb:

Joss has always wanted to become a paladero, and now he finally has that chance. But before he can start training, the town is attacked by vicious pyrates who abduct half the villagers, including Joss’s best friend Edgar … and then vanish into thin air.

Joss has no choice but to forge alliances with merchant captains, merfolk and ancient creatures from the deep in an effort to rescue his fellow prentice – all while risking the paladero training he’s worked so hard for. But the stakes are even higher than he knows. Joss’s rescue mission will set him on a crash course with his own tragic past, and a mysterious figure he’s long-thought dead …

I still have the original pitch document for the Paladero series saved on my computer, where the plot for this book was originally allocated as belonging to the third entry in the series. The story demanded that it be moved forward, and I began writing it at the start of 2016, a year that would turn out to be horrible in so many ways and the absolute best in one very particular instance.

The thing that strikes me most is how a book that has so much to do with fathers and sons would be getting finalised, entirely by coincidence, just as I was becoming a father to a son.

Accordingly, I’ve dedicated it to Max. Hopefully he’ll get the chance to read it one day, and maybe even enjoy it. If he’s not too embarrassed by how mushy his dad is about him.

Happy holidays, everyone. Merry Christmas, if you celebrate it. And may the new year find you trying new things, making new friends, discovering new places, reading life-changing books, and dreaming the biggest and best dreams.

End on excited exclamation mark!

With Sympathies to George RR Martin

It’s been a few months now since the publication of Paladero: The Riders of Thunder Realm and I thought an update was well overdue.

First of all, I want to thank everyone who’s taken the time to read the book, as well as those who’ve reviewed it on Goodreads and various other sites. The reception it’s had has been overwhelming, and I really appreciate it.

Now, for those who’ve been wondering about Book 2 – good news! Paladero: The City of Night Neverending will be published in February 2017. We’re still finalising the cover and synopsis, though I can tell you that Jeremy Love has returned to provide the artwork. I couldn’t have hoped for a better illustrator for The Riders of Thunder Realm, and I’m thrilled that he’s back.

In addition to finishing up the copyedit for The City of Night Neverending, I’m also in the midst of writing Book 3 in the series. It fries the brain a bit to be editing one book and writing another, especially when it’s a Fantasy series and you have to either research or invent every object, location, term and turn of phrase. I’ve never felt so much sympathy for George RR Martin in my life.

That said, while progress is slow it’s still steady. So I don’t think we’ll be encountering any Winds of Winter situations anytime soon. Hopefully.

In the meantime, there’s still a couple of days left in the Goodreads Riders of Thunder Realm giveaway. If you haven’t read the book yet, and would like a free one (and really, why wouldn’t you?), make sure to enter before time runs out.

I’ll also be appearing at Dymocks Camberwell as part of Star Wars Reads Day, where I’ll be reading the first chapter from Adventures in Wild Space: The Escape. I’m a lifelong Star Wars fan – which I think is pretty obvious if you read the Paladero series – and I’m delighted to be participating in what should be a very fun day. I’ll be there from 1pm, so please make sure to come along and say hi.

And that’s it. I’ll be back to drop the Book 2 cover/synopsis on you before too long, I promise. So long as writer’s block and mental burnout doesn’t get me first.

‘Til next time.

Paladero: The Riders of Thunder Realm – Steven Lochran

Thanks to Collins Chirnside Park for the review. Happy to say that Book 2 is scheduled for release in February, so not too long to wait!