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Lee Murray's Speculative Fiction Show - Kevin Berry

Welcome to Lee Murray’s New Zealand Speculative Fiction Show, an interview series featuring star acts from NZ’s science fiction, fantasy and horror community, including news, insights, and sneak-peeks of their latest performances.

Today’s guest is Kevin Berry, the author of dystopian cyberpunk novel Teleport, and interactive children’s titles Stranded Starship and Duel at Dawn, as well as contemporary YA novels, Stim and Kaleidoscope.

Thanks for interviewing me on your blog, Lee!

Lee: In my review of Teleport, I described it as “one of those stories that’s hard to define, with the kind of unusual content which indelibly changes a genre, like Card’s Speaker for the Dead, or Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The kind of story that appeals to readers who like to be challenged.” Other reviewers have made similar comments:

—It’s an unconventional story.

—This story has several layers to it. Some are quite subtle and can be easily overlooked.

Would you agree with the sentiment that, of all your work, this particular story is difficult to categorise? Did you intend to provoke and challenge readers with the socio-political and technological world-building introduced in the story?

Yes, it’s difficult to categorise because I strayed from what a typical reader of the genre might expect into some challenging social issue areas. That decision has shown up in some of the reviews with a few readers not liking it. In hindsight, I loved the world-building but I perhaps should have left the epilogue out. On the other hand, if I’m challenging my and my readers’ sensibilities, I’m doing my job as a writer in making them think about society and human nature.

You write across a broad range of genres, including some early epic fantasy titles co-written with a collaborator. Do you have favourite genre? Where do you feel most at home?

Even after eight books, I’m not sure that I have a favourite genre yet. I’m so indecisive. One thing I do know, though, is I like challenging readers. I don’t want to write an ‘ordinary’ book that gets three stars and is soon forgotten. I’d rather write a book that people don’t forget—preferably because it’s so different to the average book and challenges the reader to think—and that means five stars, or one/two if they don’t ‘get’ it.

If you could claim any book by any writer, living or dead, as one of your own, which would you choose?

What a question! It would be my favourite book, Passage by Connie Willis. She makes characters so real, and she’s won multiple Hugo and Nebula awards.

Writing for children is especially challenging. What’s the appeal of interactive fiction for you? Does using the structured story framework of the interactive fiction make it more or less challenging to write?

It’s so much fun to write interactive fiction books. Where else can you kill off the main character several times? I find the structure makes them easier to write. You need a good idea and some original story threads, and then it’s just a matter of making the story engaging.

You’re also an editor. Does it throw you out of a story when you come across a typo?

It certainly does. I won’t read a book if I encounter too many errors.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

God-like ability to create superpowers at will would be awesome. But if I am to be restricted to just one, then teleportation would be my choice. It would make it so quick to nip down to Burger Fuel and back again. Not having to sleep would be great too, and I’m slowly working on developing that one by not going to bed until 2.00-2.30am most nights.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

The Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi books such as The Emotion Thesaurus are gold mines for writers.

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us.

My dream is becoming a professional gambler.

What top secret project are you working on right now?

You’ve caught me out here. I’m still thinking about what to do next. I mean procrastinating. It’s my worst fault, and one that I’ll deal with tomorrow. Or next week. Sometime this year, anyway. But, seriously, I am looking for that next great idea. Possibly I’ll turn my keyboard to writing a thriller. Or something new on social issues, but that is tough. It takes an emotional toll writing about social issues, but someone has to write the hard stories. I may write a new interactive fiction book first. Did I say I was indecisive?

Thanks for stopping by, Kevin! Next up, look out for an interview with Jamie Sands.

Kevin Berry’s love of writing began when he handed in a 50,000 word murder mystery for an English assignment to his stunned teacher. More recently, his fiction has received independent writing awards and glowing reviews. He lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, with two sons, and is most definitely a night owl, writing into the early hours.

Find out more at

Stranded Starship:

[If you're a New Zealand creator of speculative content and you would like to appear on Lee Murray's New Zealand Speculative Fiction Show, please contact me. Guests viewpoints are their own.]


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