Interview by David McDonald.
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. While working as a freelance illustrator and designer she wrote the bestselling Black Magician Trilogy, which was published in 2001-3 and was named an ‘Evergreen’ by The Bookseller in 2010. The Magician’s Apprentice, a prequel to the trilogy, won the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel in 2009 and the final of the sequel trilogy, The Traitor Queen, reached #1 on the UK Times Hardback bestseller list in 2011. For more info, visit www.trudicanavan.com.
A lot of people would know you mainly as an author, but you have an extensive background in illustration and, lately, you have turned your hand to painting. Could you tell us a bit about this side of your creative life, and what it means to you?
While I’ve been painting for years, portraiture is something I’ve wanted to do but didn’t have the courage to try. But four or five years ago I needed another creative outlet that didn’t seem under attack from all sides, as writing was – and there weren’t even crazy Productivity Commission recommendations to abolish or weaken copyright back then! Painting portraits is in some ways the complete opposite to writing fantasy. It’s about things that exist (people) and trying to capture reality, not fantasy. And they are challenging and very satisfying to paint.
You’ve been hugely successful all around the world, but you seem to have a particular affinity with Europe, with numerous visits of the years and translations into multiple languages. What are some of things you love most about that part of the world?
It’s possibly more accurate to say that my books have an affinity with readers in some parts of Europe. I do love visiting that part of the world, but I’ve actually covered very little of it so far and can’t say I know it that well. The trouble is, visiting as an invited author means you don’t see much more than the inside of a bookstores in a few cities, and everything is organised for you by someone else. I don’t really get much insight beyond that unless I can wrangle a bit of time to be a tourist, while sometimes still in a haze of exhaustion!
But if I was to choose one thing I love most about Europe, it would be the attitude toward the arts, particularly in Germany. The level of support, enthusiasm and value placed on art and artists made me realise how much Australia treats its creative professions as if they’re not legitimate career paths or sources of income.
Is there a type of book you’ve always wanted to write but haven’t had a chance? What can we expect to see in the near future?
I’d love to write for a younger audience, either YA or a series of novels for children, but first I have another trilogy set in the Kyralia world lined up next. It’s not going to happen very fast, because this year the chronic back issue I’ve had for 20 years suddenly became much worse, and I can only sit at a computer for an hour or two a day.
What Australian work have you loved recently?
Jay Kristoff and Aime Kaufman’s Illuminae, a brilliant concept executed masterfully. Those two have been quietly conquering the world, and I can see huge success for them in future.
Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?
Well, that’s quite different to who you’d want to sit next to at a dinner party. Especially if it’s a long-haul flight from Australia. I’d go for someone I’ve met who I got along with instantly, but who I don’t see often so there’ll be lots of interesting things still to learn about them. If it’s a local author, I’d be Traci Harding. And the international one would be Joe Abercrombie.