Lance’s top creative tip: Experience is everything! I have tried to do as much as possible in this life, experience as wide a slice of this world as I can. Everything you do and every conversation you have will form part of the worlds that you create in your writing.
Lance Balchin studied photography at the University of Tasmania and went on to complete a Masters of Arts and Bachelor of Laws. Lance has worked as a head chef, co-owned a media production company, worked in fashion photography and fine art portraiture, and taught adult photography and film making. Lance was mentored by many of the original pioneers of the emerging Melbourne gonzo arts scene. The influences of Tom Waits, George Orwell, Patti Smith and Bukowski have always led his writing and image making. Lance is based in Brisbane.
Why do you write? I think that I write, illustrate and take photographs for the same reason; to communicate the way in which I see the world around me to others. The visual arts and literature are ways of performing to an audience and I love the idea that that audience could be anywhere and that my illustrative and written performance might move them and create an invisible connection between me and them.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’d work in community law. I finished a law degree at the same time as getting the first publishing deal with Five Mile Press and have been too busy working on the Mechanica series to take it any further. I’d only be interested in working within my community to help people to whom the legal system offers little chance of substantive justice. I grew up in the working class suburb of Collingwood in the late ’70s and saw the importance of community action and support organisations.
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Realising that what I had was a book. I’d finished a dozen illustrations and was thinking about exhibiting them in a gallery but then realised I could build a narrative around them. I was very lucky to find Karen Tayleur at Five Mile who has supported and helped develop the concept ever since.
How involved have you been in the development of your book? I have done all the illustrations and writing for the books. The team at Five Mile helped polish the graphic design. I’ve also developed a range of video and online content to help support the books.
What’s the best aspect of your writing life? At the moment it is the ability to work seven days a week on the books. I love getting up ridiculously early (at 2am) and working through the morning. The best thing about my writing life is the writing I suppose; love the process.
—the worst? Honestly, nothing. I love what I do and getting the chance to do it leaves me no room to complain about any aspect of my writing and illustration life.
What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Nothing. I would do exactly what I have done up until now. Writing for me came at the right time. Finishing law gave me the discipline to tackle longer projects and my background in the visual arts gave me a way of making images that would get my book noticed. I think all the elements that have gone into making Mechanica were the product of 46 years and couldn’t have come earlier.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? It’s all so new to me still so I can’t say I know enough to want to change anything. As a children’s author I’m competing with an exciting and engaging world of digital entertainment, I knew that when I decided to put he book together. While it is hard to get many children to put down their iPad to read a book, I think that authors can still produce books that cut through all the noise to create worlds that children love to explore. I hope I’m doing that with the Mechanica series.
What’s the best advice you were ever given? There’s a song called ‘Work‘ by John Cale and Lou Reed that is about Andy Warhol. “It’s work, the most important thing is work…’ For me creating anything involves work – thousands and thousands of hours of work; most of which goes nowhere. You just have to keep going and write, illustrate or photograph something every day to progress forward.
At the end of the 22nd century, the environment has collapsed, species have become extinct and the land can no longer support nature…
Drone armies, engineered by humans, have fought one another across the east and west, but during these battles, many became damaged and lost contact with their handlers.
In an effort to overcome the species loss, robotics designers created Mechapets, complex robots that were crafted to resemble Earth’s lost but most exquisite insects and birds. The Mechapets were kept in sanctuaries and zoos for the public to enjoy, but it wasn’t long before some of the insects and birds escaped and began colonising lands, where they encountered some of the lost military drones.
The Mechapets, now known as Mechanica evolved at a startling rate, increasingly becoming dangerous hunting machines. Battles were fought against the ruthless species of Mechanica, who threatened human existence.
Protagonist Liberty Crisp has grown up surrounded by Mechanica. She has intimate knowledge of these robots, having learned about them from her parents, both scientists, and being taught by expert, Reginald P. Prescott. However, when the Steel Wall Defence System collapses on Saraswati, Liberty’s island home, it’s up to her to save its human inhabitants from almost certain destruction by the Mechanica.
Mechanica is a dystopian tale for our times, appealing to us to live more sustainably and with a greater appreciation for our precious resources.
It is available from http://www.fivemile.com.au/search/Mechanica
And here’s the link to the trailer…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYO9u3Em9-