Trudi Canavan lives in Melbourne, Australia. She has been making up stories about people and places that don’t exist for as long as she can remember. Her first short story, “Whispers of the Mist Children”, received an Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Short Story in 1999. Soon after, her bestselling Black Magician Trilogy was published, and in 2010 was named an ‘Evergreen’ by The Bookseller. The Age of the Five trilogy followed, then a prequel and sequel to Black Magician Trilogy. The prequel, The Magician’s Apprentice won the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel in 2009.
1) Before becoming an international bestselling author (I bet that never gets old) you worked for Aurealis magazine. Did your experience with the magazine – stuffing envelopes aside – help in your development as a writer?
Reading slush certainly did. There’s nothing like seeing other people’s mistakes – and realising you make them too – to knock your own writing into better shape. It also helps teach you how to write a good cover letter, understand the importance of formatting the ms properly, etc. All exposure to editing helps, so even the less exciting process of entering editorial corrections to stories was educational.
It also provided plenty of opportunities to make helpful connections in publishing and the speculative fiction community. While I knew a lot of people in publishing from having worked for companies as a designer and illustrator, I didn’t necessarily get to meet people relevant to writing – as in the editors of speculative fiction, rather than, say, the head of the design department of an education or travel book publisher.
2) Over a number of years there’s been plenty of discussion on the lack of female agency in fantasy novels. Given that your novels often put female characters front and centre, does it annoy that there are authors who still struggle with the concept?
No, it only annoys me when publishers do.
And to a lesser extent, when the ‘taste makers’ – reviewers, magazine editors, award judges, etc. do.
3) What can you tell us about your upcoming Millennium’s Rule trilogy that you haven’t mentioned anywhere else?
Hmm. Well, I’m only seven chapters into the first book, so there’s not a lot more to add yet that won’t be a spoiler. Continuing with the gender theme… I’ve deliberately chosen to have one male and one female point of view character, with the same time and space dedicated to one as the other. It’ll be interesting to see what – if any – effect that will have. I’m hoping I can talk my publisher into designing a cover with neither a male or female figure dominating, too. But I suppose having TRUDI in big letters across it will mean readers with a bias against female writers will still be put off.
4) What Australian works have you loved recently?
Jo Anderton’s Debris. Such powerful writing for a first book. I’m a bit of a latecomer, but I had a great time reading Marianne dePierre’s fast paced Parrish Plessis series recently. Also enjoyed Nicole Murphy’s fantasy romance Rogue Gadda. Currently being enchanted by Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels.
5) Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?
I haven’t seen as many changes as there were after Aussiecon 3, but then I’m not as close to the action as I was when I was working for Aurealis magazine. It was impossible not to notice the usual build before, with the con being a source of inspiration and motivation for ambitious projects, after which things always go quiet for a while. I did notice that a lot of people joined Twitter.