Hunter writer’s first novel set in dystopian rainforest

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IMAGINED WORLDS: Author Thoraiya Dyer, now living in Sydney and published in New York but still a proud Novocastrian at heart. Picture: Cat Sparks

AS a child, Thoraiya Dyer says she was always writing stories.

Thoraiya DyerCrossroads of Canopy –Dyer had more than two dozen stories in print.

Along the way, she picked up various gongs for her science-fiction and fantasy work, winning four Aurealis Awards and three Ditmar Awards.

Most of her stories were publishedin small specialist titles, and as she writes in the acknowledgements accompanying Crossroads of Canopy, she has followed a “tortuous path” to this point, including a move to Sydney in 2015.

“Who would have guessed that the were-platypus [as in werewolf] novel would be buried by another 10 full novel manuscripts as well as various detritus left by the raising of actual children,” Dyer says.

But she was always aiming high.

“It was always my goal to be published in the US, not only because it’s a much bigger audience, but because I would like to see possums and koalas and n plants and trees in print as much as we see American wildlife,” Dyer says.

Crossroads of Canopy, the first installment ofa contracted trilogy, is published by Tor Books, a New York imprint that is part of the venerable Macmillan Publishing Group.

Fantasy is not my normal reading choice, but Dyer’s imagined dystopian future, of battling tribes struggling to survive in a massive, multi-storey rainforest, got me in from the start. She describes it as “drawing inspiration from Western and Eastern traditions, including the Nepalese incarnated goddess, Kumari, in a monsoonal rainforest with arboreal fighting”.

There are basic similarities with the blockbuster Avatar,but Canopy’s feminist sympathies are a long way away from the “white savior” undertones that Dyer’s sees in the James Cameronfilm.

Most authors dream of seeing their fiction expressed on screen and Dyer is no exception, with an agent in the US scouting for the deal that could break her into the big time.

In the meantime, she is coming home this weekend, to launch Crossroads of Canopy at MacLean’s Booksellers in Beaumont Street, Hamilton, from 4pm to 6pm on Saturday, March 18.