2020 Snapshot: Trent Jamieson

Trent Jamieson is a multi-award winning novelist and short story writer. He sold his first story “Threnody” to Eidolon in 1994, which means he has been selling fiction with various success for over twenty-five years. He is the author of the Death Works series, the Nightbound Land duology, Day Boy, the short story collection Reserved for Travelling Shows, and the children’s picture book The Giant and the Sea.

He lives in Brisbane and works at the Avid Reader Bookshop. 

  1. Tell us about your recent publications/projects?

I’ve just published a picture book with Lothian called The Giant and the Sea. I think it’s my best attempt at discussing climate change, and the cost of ignoring the advice of people who give their lives to the study and science of the environment when what they ask seems too difficult, or uncomfortable to achieve. So, I guess it’s kind of my anti-capitalist, anti-climate denier story. Of course, I do this using a giant, and a fable narrative, because that’s the way the story led.

The book is beautifully illustrated by Rovina Cai, and I don’t think I have ever been happier with a book. It has also been optioned for a short animated film by Like a Photon Productions. They have a truly epic vision for the story, and they produce work with real heart, so hopefully the stars will align on that production. I’ve never had work optioned before so that has been a real delight in itself.

I also have a “final” draft of my follow up to my 2015 novel Day Boy ready to go, something that may be coming out in 2021. Yet again it is hard to say, particularly in the current climate for books and publishing. But I’m crossing my fingers. At the moment it’s called The Stone Road, but that may change. I know it’s been a while between novels, but in the words of Gandalf, “I was delayed.” The book contains some of my favourite scenes, and characters that I truly adore, and I feel it works as a bookend and a balance to Day Boy: both are set in the same world, but different bits of it.

It is about dark family secrets, and grandmothers and granddaughters, and it has monsters, and wickedness, and love. It was me trying to write a story that doesn’t have violence at its heart, but a deep love of towns and family. If I’ve done my job well then Day Boy and Stone Road (or whatever we end up calling it) should talk to each other without Stone Road feeling like a sequel – it isn’t. I’ve been calling this one a fairy tale Western.

I think, as I’ve gotten older I’ve really started to shy away from violence as any sort of narrative solution. Without giving anything away, the ending of Day Boy still horrifies me, and sometimes I don’t know if it was a narrative inevitability or lack of imagination on my part. As a writer acutely aware of my shortcomings I mostly come down on the latter.

Finally, I’ve just finished a draft of a new novel (the longest book I have ever written) about someone learning the craft of a particularly demanding style of magic. I don’t want to say too much about it, or even mention its name, but it is as close to high fantasy as I am ever going to get, and there are dragons and giants and mad kings and a court of the dead, but it is very much about a character coming to terms with their own power and failings, and the dangers of ambition (which is kind of funny because writing a novel is an act of ambition I guess, wrapped up in doubt). But it’s about learning a craft too, and the painful physicality of that, and the joy as well. It’s about as me a book as I am ever going to write until I write something else.

  1. What has been the best publishing experience of your career so far?

I feel so lucky. Not that I’ve ever been a big seller, but I have had so many good experiences, and made such good friendships. I love working with an editor, I love being pushed to make a story better. I’ve been lucky enough to have had that happen several times.

I am really enjoying the experience of publishing a picture book. Watching The Giant and the Sea grow was a lesson in writing itself. Having it optioned was an unexpected pleasure. But the thing I love most about it, is the audience. I’ve already encountered more enthusiasm for this book than anything I have ever written.

  1. Which recent Australian/NZ work would you recommend to international fans interested in expanding their Antipodean spec fic knowledge? 

I’m a bookseller by trade so you’re going to get a few.

I loved Greg Egan’s recent novella Perihelion Summer a lot, it’s an extremely Australian take on Climate Change, and a great introduction to Egan’s work. I’ve hand sold a lot of it at work. I can’t wait to read Kathleen Jenning’s Flyaway, she has to be one of the most talented writers and artists in the field. Honestly, she is as close as we’ve come to an Australian Mervyn Peake: a real visionary. Anything by Angela Slatter is great, few have such a mastery of short fiction and novels – also she sets her first series the Verity Fassbinder series in Brisbane, something which I adore. Same for Gary Kemble, his Harry Hendrick books are great.

Alan Baxter is a prolific powerhouse, who I think keeps getting better. And, of course, Sean Williams – Perilous Mansion his new book is a wonderful middle-reader –  and Garth Nix, I can’t wait to read Left-handed Booksellers of London. Oh, and anything, absolutely anything by Margo Lanagan, Marianne de Pierres, Tansy Rayner Roberts (who I need to catch up on), Maxine McArthur, and Rowena Cory Daniells – I’m showing my age, but these writers have not only been firm friends but deep influences on my writing.

Samuel Maguire is a talent to watch his fictional autobiography is like nothing else you have ever read, and I know he has new book out in the next twelve months that sounds spectacular.

Oh, and Grace Dugan has a novel called Motherland Garden coming out in the near future. I’ve read it twice and it is amazing. Genuinely one of the best works of Fantasy that I have ever read. I can’t wait for people to read it.

I think Krissy Kneen produces great speculative work, particularly a novel called An Uncertain Grace and her most recent Wintering. Ellen Van Neerven writes work that crosses a whole range of genres including poetry. Clare G. Coleman is a writer coming into their strength, Terra Nullius signalled the arrival of an important new genre voice, and The Old Lie really showed that they were here to stay.

Finally, James Bradley’s Ghost Species is a remarkable book, charting the unravelling of our world through climate change. I always find his work so scary, even though it has a deeply poetic heart, because it strikes to core of my own fears.

I’m sure I have missed so many people, and I do have my biases, but I think this is a pretty good representation of SF in Australia at the moment. I can’t wait to read what other people say so I can fill the gaps in my reading.


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