How’s your con?
Oh, well, I’ve always liked Nine Worlds! I missed last year, but that’s the first year I’ve missed. This year, there have been some fantastic panels – the Hidden Histories panel was a favourite. But probably my highlight was playing four hours of The Good Society. It’s a Jane Austen based tabletop RPG. And it was really intense.
Who were you?
I played the heiress, the daughter of the lady of the manor. You know, beset by suitors, having to choose the one that was least awful … and you can’t choose nobody.
Oh my God. What happened?
Well, the misconception is that in Austen novels nothing happens. But imagine if you watched somebody trying to defuse a bomb, and you didn’t know what they were doing …
You’d assume they were doing nothing?
Yes! Every tiny movement in Austen is immensely high stakes. Everything is life or – okay, if not death, then at least permanent disgrace and penury. It’s massively mercenary and exciting. What’s really interesting was watching people who are used to playing swords‑and-sorcery games adapt to those mechanics. And we had a fantastic game as well.
That sounds so cool. I wanted to ask you, actually, about the role of conflict when you write fiction. In a lot of writing advice, we’re told how important conflict is. I wonder what you think about that from a craft perspective?
I mean, I’m not the most accomplished fiction writer. We’re sitting at Nine Worlds here, and I guarantee you that within this three-hundred square metres, there are people …
We stare in quiet awe at a nearby group of people.
I don’t know these people here, but I absolutely guarantee you that there’s probably somebody better to ask just sitting around.
We’re all fucking brilliant.
Everybody’s fucking brilliant. But to answer your question, I guess ‘tension’ is as good a word as ‘conflict.’ If you’re writing about something that’s problematic, something that’s tense …