An Interview With Trudi Canavan: 9 August 2006
Trudi Canavan broke onto the fantasy scene with the Black Magician Trilogy’s first book, The Magician’s Guild, which was well received, followed by The Novice and The High Lord. She has recently completed the Priestess of The White.
Back in 2001, as The Magician’s Guild was being released, did you expect such praise and utimately for it to sell so well?
Everyone hopes their work will sell well, but few expect it. It surprised me that it sold at all, and then the degree of surprise I felt kept getting greater. I was surprised by the success in Australia, then astonished by how well it did in the UK.
Prior to completing The Magician’s Guild, did you have the continuation of the story in mind, or did that come later?
I worked and reworked that trilogy so many times over so many years that by the time I was nearly finished I was sure I didn’t want to write anything further in the same world with those characters again. But as I came close to finishing the last polish of The High Lord a sequel idea began to form. It didn’t have an ending, however, and I was content to work on another story and world and let the idea develop in the back of my mind. By the time I neared the end of writing the Age of the Five I knew I was ready to return to the world of Kyralia, and by then another idea – for a prequel – had also come to me.
I first caught sight of The Black Magician Trilogy in 2005 in a bookshop; it was the simplistic, yet eye catching front covers which originally drew me to them. This design, as I understand it, was not the original. Which do you prefer?
I like each of the three cover designs for different reasons. The graphic designer in me loves the UK design for it’s striking customer-attracting simplicity. The writer in me loves the Australian covers, because I worked closely with the artist to get the details as accurate as possible. The artist in me loves the US covers for the sheer skill in the illustrations (even while the author in me shakes her head at the flying horse on The Novice).
Was there a commercial reason for changing the covers, for example, different covers for different countries?
That’s exactly it. The three publishing companies know their own markets best, and commission covers accordingly.
When was the idea and storyline for the Trilogy originally conceived?
1992 – just before the Barcelona Olympics. I’d seen a late-night news report about the homeless being rounded up and trucked out of the city so they wouldn’t make the city look untidy. That night I dreamed the first chapter of The Magicians Guild. Generally dreams don’t make good stories, but I wrote it down anyway, and later other scenes and ideas came along to turn it into a larger story.
Inspiration can come from anywhere; was there anything specific you were inspired by for The Black Magician Trilogy?
Oops, I just answered that.
How difficult was it to first get published?
It took quite a few years. The first publisher I sent the Black Magician Trilogy to never replied – not even a rejection. The next held onto it for two years until I gave up and withdrew it. At this point I would have been happy to receive rejection letters! By the time the trilogy found a publisher it had been on editors’ desks for about five years.
Do you have a few quick tips for aspiring authors?
Read a lot. Write a lot. You have to be writing for the love of it, because most writers don’t make much money. Find out as much as you can about how the publishing and bookselling industry works, and you will not only understand and therefore be able to work within the limitations of it, but editors, publishers and booksellers love it when you show interest and understand the difficulties they face.
Could you tell us a bit about what you are currently working on?
At the moment I’ve given myself six months ‘long service leave’. Unfortunately, the four months I’ve taken so far have been mostly filled with writing-related work – fanmail, the website, conventions, publicity, etc. and I really don’t feel as if I’ve had much rest at all. I’d really like to write some more short stories, and polish up a novella I wrote years ago, but I still haven’t found the time.
I am not aware of any short stories which you have written; did you go straight into publishing novels, as opposed to publishing short stories first?
I’ve had two short stories published: Whispers of the Mist Children in Aurealis magazine and Room for Improvement in an anthology called Forever Shores, and they both won awards. They’re probably only available in Australia, but if you wanted to read them badly enough there are several Australian sf bookshops willing to ship copies overseas.
As an action fantasy story, The Black Magician Trilogy has the promise of transferring to the big screen - lavish scenery with a twisting plot and believable characters; have films rights been looked at regarding any of your books?
I have a film agent, but there have been no offers so far. I’m staying realistic about the chances. Most fantasy turned into films is either a classic (Lord of the Rings) or a children’s book (Harry Potter) or both (Narnia). In fact, while a film would be great I think an anime series might work better.
You’ve been painting since you could pick up a paintbrush; do you see similarities in painting on a canvas, with writing on a page?
There are similarities – too many to list here - but also some aspects that don’t translate from one to the other. I’ve turned both into work at one time or other. The main difference is that a painting is relatively static. It is a snapshot, even if it contains some narrative aspects. A story evolves and travels.
What medium do you prefer to work with, in terms of your artwork?
Oils are my favourite medium. I just love the buttery texture.
What is your favourite icecream?
Actually… I don’t like icecream all that much! But if I do have a bit I’ll go for a small bit of something luxurious like cookies and cream. Chocolate is my preferred treat.
Thank you for your time Trudi. We’re looking forward to seeing Sonea again in The Traitor Spy Trilogy.