I read on your website that your stories are set in "analogue or outright Australian landscapes." That threw me. What exactly is analogue?
That's my latest attempt to find a one-word term for "secondary world based on Australia but not Australia." For example, the lack of a northern sea border, and a few other geographical adjustments, like taking Indonesia, rotating it 90 degrees, and pointing it west from the coast of what would be Western Australia. Also the flora and fauna look Australian, but they had to have different names. Apart from words like "kangaroo" and "kookaburra" that would bring the primary world back with a crash, a lot of our local plants and animal names aren't known outside the area. It's not much use talking about a ti-tree or a bandicoot when no-one would know what you mean, so I had to invent almost across the board.
What is Amberlight, your new book, about? And why did you write it? What is the story about? What is the theme?
The short answer is: "A city. A mystery. An impossible love affair."
I guess the longer version would be that it is about a city, Amberlight, which is the ruler of its world. The city is set along a river somewhat like the Nile. Amberlight has the monopoly on qherrique — the mystery. It's taken me three books to figure what qherrique is exactly, with a fourth one still in the thinking stage. It's neither animal, vegetable, nor mineral, though it has qualities of all three. It is photosynthetic, it's also pizo-electric which means it feeds on light and it makes an analogue of electricity. It has some kind of pychic qualities in relations to humans, and it's not an alien. It belongs in its world.
While any ruler can use a qherrique statuette "tuned" to him or her to help "control" his/her people, only women can actually craft qherrique, and only women of Amberlight, and then only Amberlight women who have the Craft ability.
When I understood what qherrique was, the first thing I thought of was "spice" in Dune, another book in which a natural resource is of major importance. In Amberlight, however, that resource is in the hands of women. Not usual in fiction or in our reality.
No, it's not usual, and it really was a flow-over from feminism, and the PhD, I think. As for the parallels, I think the closest was not so much the Dune spice as the Jewel Junk in Crystal Line, Anne McCaffrey's third Killashandra book — though the qherrique is a lot more sentient and has a lot more properties. "Singing" the "stone" and using cutters on it also may well have come from the earlier Killashandra books. It's hard to pick specific influences when anything you read can get sucked into the memory matrix and surface somewhere else.