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Interview with author Gerry Huntman, and giveaway! (1 Viewer)


Retired Chief Media Manager
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We are to excited to welcome author, Gerry Huntman, whose middle-grade fantasy, Guardian of the Sky Realms is out this month!
Gerry is a writer and publisher based in Melbourne Australia, living with his wife and young daughter. He has sold over 50 short fiction pieces, most of which are dark and for mature audiences, but he also has a love for middle grade fiction. He loves travel and gets many of his story ideas from distant lands and culture, but is equally happy with the cafe set in his hometown.

You are both a publisher and a writer. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Writing came first, by a long shot. As a juvenile I wrote a lot but due to personal circumstances too complex to talk about here, there was a long hiatus (although not entirely wasted, as I spent a lot of time in game design). When I returned to serious writing I joined a virtual writers’ group that was truly amazing for me, and one of the recurring discussion themes was understanding that there were more good writing pieces being created in the marketplace than there were publishers to publish them. A few of us got together to form a publishing company to help address this issue and was the start of my publishing journey. I should add that I was a qualified editor at this time, so there was a good synergy there as well.

If you could change one thing about the publishing industry today, what would it be and why?

The larger publishing houses are too conservative with their publishing content - they don’t want to take risks and they only want to focus on titles that will achieve a certain threshold of return in their business cases. This leaves out a swathe of authors who specialise in less-popular genres/subgenres/styles, and experimental forms fall by the wayside. I love all the dimensions of speculative fiction, but there’s a special place in my heart for dark fantasy and horror. These two fields are not very well supported among the larger presses, and poetry/flash fiction and the like are even less supported. Less represented writers are also a concern, such as women, people of colour, and the like. My company does its best to support all of these groups and content and I would like to see the larger presses do the same.

Guardian of the Sky Realms is a middle grade fantasy novel, yet you also write adult dark fantasy stories. Is there a major difference in how you approach each?

Absolutely. Middlegrade fiction is distinct, and often lumped with either Young Adult or juvenile fiction. It isn’t the same. Middlegrade fiction is meatier than juvenile fiction, where a story can in fact extend to novel length, but at the same time the age group likes adventure, escapism and magic and monsters above everything else. Young Adult fiction digs deeper into characterisation, theme and plot complexity, and often reserves a lot of words on relationships, emotional and sexual. Adult fiction, of course, extends again and doesn’t have to specialise in any specific age group for mature readers. I've portrayed a simple set of differentiators, but the point I’m trying to make is that when I write middle grade fiction I crank down the complexity and relationship elements, and focus on the adventure. This doesn’t mean the stories are devoid of theme or purpose, or that the characters are cardboard cutouts - and this is where middle grade writing is not trivial - it is about pitching the words, the stories, the characters at exactly the right level. Ironically, many readers choose to read middle grade fiction through the filters or Young Adult, Juvenile, or even adult expectations. This is counterproductive.

What inspired you to write Guardian of the Sky Realms.

Many years ago my writers group had a weekly exercise where a short story or vignette was written on some topic prompt - it could be a song, a photo, a piece of art, a poem, or even a task explicitly stated. We took turns setting the topics, and all of us wrote our pieces, which were then critiqued. In one particular week an abstract painting was set as the inspiration point, and I was well and truly inspired. I wrote a brief glimpse into a world where cities floated in the sky and where the origin of mythologies on Earth are sourced. I introduced this idea by having a young female protagonist obsessively break into a small art gallery to view a painting - the same painting that was set as the topic. This story forms the basis of the opening words to the novel.

What has been your favorite story to write? Least favorite?

Most of my stories are for mature audiences, but I do enjoy writing for younger people too. One of my short stories that is rather heavy, but for juveniles, is about a young girl who is a champion of a fantasy land, but it turns out that this fight is in fact in her head, and she is fighting cancer in a hospital ward. It was very powerful and I thought it might be too emotional for, say, 10 year olds, but it in fact was published in two different children’s fiction journals. My favourite adult story was a horror piece set almost entirely in a vertical plane - rock climbers doing their thing. This story was published in the prestigious The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror (2014). I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed writing any story, but perhaps a few are harder to execute than others. One story I wrote, The Girl Who Floated To Heaven, was a very serious piece on suicide and unrequited love. It took a long time to get it right, but it did find a home.

What do you see as common traps for aspiring writers?

The biggest trap for an aspiring writer is to assume that the whole writing game is a solitary one. It isn’t, if you want to get anywhere. Yes, you can write most of your work alone, in front of a laptop, but for your skills to grow you need to interact with other writers, you need readers and writers to provide feedback, and you need to network within the industry. An essential step.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

While I intellectually understand the difference between originality and delivering what readers want, I also see where they intersect. While there may be readers who want ‘tried and true’ to an extreme level, I believe most readers who have a taste for a certain style or genre/sub-genre/setting etc, highly appreciate an original take on the love. This is, in my view, the test of good writing and what separates the mundane from the special. And when I refer to ‘originality’, I am not referring to something completely unique to a story - this is no longer possible, for decades (arguably, for centuries). It is about layering together the various components of a good story so that the combination is original, enough to raise eyebrows in gratitude by a reader. This is what I intend in the majority of projects I start.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

A great regret for me was not to pursue fiction writing more seriously when I was in my teens and twenties. And yet, my style and who I am as a writer is the sum of my life to date, so the regret has to be carefully weighed. "Gerry, start writing now!"

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I read a lot of juvenile and adult fiction in my teens, mainly because my father was a voracious reader. Whenever he finished a book, I grabbed it and read it too. While very young I may not have appreciated the full scope of the art and discipline of the words I read, I did enjoy the stories, and when I grew older, they took hold of me. The real power of fiction is to transport the reader to another place, and get them as close as possible to seeing, tasting, feeling the world they are in, and to feel, cry, laugh with its characters. Power indeed, and I never stopped wanting to do the same to my readers since those early days.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Yes I do read my book reviews. There are outliers, which is ok, but there can be growth for me if a point is made that makes sense. If it is a good review I’m happy to thank the reviewer, and certainly happy to share it to the world. If it is negative, I will never respond and I will let it lie. I firmly believe that if I have written something of value, it will ultimately shine without my interference.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find? Will you share one with us?

I don’t deliberately leave Easter Eggs in my stories, but like most writers, I can open something close to my heart and reveal it in a story. It could be something bad or good that has happened, and it is always modified to some extent or another. I wrote a science fiction story quite a few years ago where an astronaut who was mining the asteroid belt triggered an ancient alien AI to ‘awaken’, and whose sole purpose was to judge whether the civilisation that had awoken it was worthy to join the galactic civilisation. It would eliminate Earth or welcome it. The way it was programmed to make this judgement was to draw all of the astronaut’s memories and interrogate the human with simulations of people he knew. The answers would be assessed, and be extrapolated as a representation of humankind. I personally had a disruptive childhood and a falling out with my father. Before I could reconcile with him, he had passed away. In a very emotional part of the interrogation in the story, the astronaut interacted with a simulation of his father, having had the same experience as I had. It was very tough to write and, by and large, cathartic for me.

How long on average does it take you to write a short story? What about a novel?

It depends on how hard they are to write. Some stories can almost be intuitively plotted in one’s head, and they can be written quite quickly, while others are complex or less defined at the inspirational stage, and so they take a little while longer. Novels for me are never fully conceptualised - they need some degree of plotting, which also takes time. Using my gut feeling, I think a short story, from concept to polished commission, would take about a week, possibly two, and rarely carried out full-time. Short novels, and novels for middle grade audiences, would take about 3 months to write, while adult novels, particularly if they are complex and/or large, would take about 6 months.

What are you reading right now that you would recommend?

I’m currently re-reading The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, which is in 5 volumes. I read a lot of Smith in my youth and I couldn’t help but be sucked into his various dark and vivid worlds, many of which were lost civilisations of Earth. He also slid in and out of the Cthulhu Mythos, as he was close to many of the Mythos writers in the Thirties and Forties. I love revisiting his stories, and I recommend this multi-volume collection because it is annotated.

What’s coming next?

As of July 2020 I am a full time writer and publisher, which frees me up in terms of output. I am writing Book 2 of the Sky Realms series, titled Champion of the Sky Realms (the title is loaded, because it isn’t just a variation of the title of the first book - but if I say more I will be giving you a whopper of a spoiler). I am also writing a few short stories, and I’m working on a few adult pieces which are much larger - an epic fantasy as well as a science fiction piece.

Is there anything we didn’t ask that you’d like to share?

Not really - your questions were very thorough, and it allowed me to say quite a bit. Thank you so much for spending time with me.





GENRE: Upper Middle-Grade / Lower YA / Fantasy

BOOK PAGE: https://www.meerkatpress.com/books/g...he-sky-realms/


Maree Webster—an "almost-emo" from the western suburbs of Sydney—hates school, has few friends, and is obsessed with angels and fallen angel stories. Life is boring until she decides to steal a famous painting from a small art gallery that has been haunting her dreams: swirling reds, grays and oranges of barely discernible winged figures. There, she meets a stranger who claims to know her and stumbles into a world where cities float in the sky, and daemons roam the barren, magma-spewing crags of the land far below. And all is not well—Maree is turning into something she loves but at the same time, fears. Most fearful of all is the prospect of losing her identity—what makes her Maree, and more importantly, what makes her human. Guardian of the Sky Realms takes the reader on a journey through exotic fantasy lands, as well as across the globe, from Sydney to Paris, from the Himalayas to Manhattan. At its heart, it is a novel about transformation. Book two of the series will be released in 2021.

BUY LINKS: Meerkat Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Gerry Huntman is a writer and publisher based in Melbourne Australia, living with his wife and young daughter. He has sold over 50 short fiction pieces, most of which are dark and for mature audiences, but he also has a love for middle grade fiction. He loves travel and gets many of his story ideas from distant lands and culture, but is equally happy with the cafe set in his hometown.
AUTHOR LINKS: Website | Twitter

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Darren White

co-owner and admin
Staff member
I agree with his statement that writing is not a solitary action. I've learned and progressed the most in conversations and through critique by other writers.
Great interview.


Staff member
Lots of gems in this interview. I hadn't thought about the difference between Middlegrade and Young Adult, but I can see that there is a clear distinction that I've missed.

Great interview! Thank you!