This interview was originally posted at SentientOnline on the 4th May 2010.
1. Welcome, Trudi! Could we start with who you are and what you write?
I write fantasy books. Not the sort of fantasy with dragons, elves, vampires and the struggles of royalty, but fantasy with magic and magicians, and the struggles of ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary situations.
2. You say that you plan out your novels in detail. Do you find you generally stick with your plan to the end, or do you sometimes let it take over and run wild?
The overall story idea stays the same, but details and subplots tend to develop and change as I write. So the destination is set, but the paths there can diverge in unexpected ways.
3. You have The Ambassador’s Mission (the first book in the The Traitor Spy Trilogy) coming out in May this year. This series will be the sequel to the Black Magician Trilogy and will revolve around Lorkin, Sonea’s son. What else can you tell us about it?
I had a lot of fun imagining what would have changed in this world after twenty years. For a start, the main characters are older and have greater responsibilities. The different lives they led might age some faster than others. Cery’s life as a Thief has been far more dangerous and taxing than Sonea’s as a magician, for example. The world around them has changed, too. Of course, a big event like the Ichani Invasion at the end of the The High Lord has had an impact on the whole region. But small decisions have had an effect, too. The Thieves, for example, no longer have the Purge as a motivation to co-operate with each other, so there has been a lot of infighting.
4. Out of all the stories in the Dreaming Again anthology, The Lost Property Roomwas the one that stuck in my mind the longest… then I finally looked at who wrote it and found it was you! What inspired that short story? Did you write it randomly, or specifically for Dreaming Again‘?
The idea of a lost property room filled with all kinds of objects came to me over twenty years ago when a friend left her umbrella on a train and went hunting for it. But the idea didn’t come with a story attached. I’ve learned that stories often spring from bringing two ideas together, so I’ve been waiting for the second idea to come along. It turned out to be the drought here that provided the second idea, which made it a story about ownership of property and getting more than you wished for.
5. When it’s time for the editing process, most authors find that they have to cut many scenes from their manuscript. Can you tell us one scene (from any book) you had to cut that you would have loved to keep in?
It’s been a long time since I’ve cut a scene – and then not one I was attached to. There were a few chapters in The Novice where Sonea had a silly Austin/Bronte-like holiday in Rothen’s country estate, but I got rid of those before I’d even finished writing the first draft. My agent told me, in the early days, that I was unusual in that she had to tell me to add more to my manuscripts rather than her usual advice of giving it a good trim. Even now, I know there will be the ‘could you add another scene with…’ requests after I deliver a book.
6. Some writers still write most of their novel by hand, or by typewriter. Others have certain programs they love, like Storyist or Scrivener. Some others stick with Microsoft Word. Where do you write your novels?
I write in Word, first draft through to final polish. The moment I started writing on a computer, in my late teens, it felt absolutely natural. I could construct and order sentences, paragraphs on screen, moving back and forth until I was happy with the result. It was a very non-linear way to write and it suited me perfectly. Now that I’ve had plenty of practise, I don’t move around as much, but I do tend to plan a scene out before I start. It also helps that I got myself into a typing class as a teen because I knew it would help with writing, and not long after got my first a computer I could type faster than I could think!
7. You maintain a healthy twitter account which is a rare thing, particularly among Australian authors. Do you see it as a publicity tool, or do you enjoy twitter as well?
Though I decided to give Twitter a try because so many of my fellow Aussie authors were joining up, and my publisher had suggested I establish a greater presence on the internet, if I hadn’t found I enjoyed it I wouldn’t have stayed for long. I find the short format works well. I don’t usually have time to write long blog posts – in fact, I’d often start write a post to announce or comment on something on my blog and find I’d summed it up so quickly I ran out of things to say after one or two sentences. Those posts work much better in Twitter. I also like how it provides links to news and articles that other people recommend, so I don’t have to trawl a lot of blogs and websites to keep my ‘finger on the pulse’, as they say.
8. What conventions do you plan to attend in the near or far future?
Aussiecon4, this years Worldcon, is the next convention I’ll be attending this year. I haven’t made any plans after that, since my publishers have been throwing the ‘tour’ word about and I don’t want to sign up to anything I won’t get to.
9. Do you have anything else you’d like to say?
I have a shiny new website! (http://www.trudicanavan.com/) I’m still excited about that!
Thank you very much for your time