Public Republic random header image

Interview with Australian fantasy author Trudi Canavan

January 6, 2011 by · 1 comment

In December 2010 Priestess of the White, Book 1 of Trudi Canavan‘s Age of the Five Trilogy, was published in Bulgaria. It is also the first book in Bulgarian for the Australian SF writer. So far her works have been translated in German, French, Russian, Dutch, Danish, Czech, Polish and Portugese.

Trudi Canavan is author of seven bestselling fantasy novels to-date. She currently lives in Melbourne, Australia.


Excerpt from Priestess of the White:

Though Danjin Spear had entered Jarime’s Temple on several occasions before, today he felt as if he were arriving for the first time. In the past he had visited on behalf of others or in order to perform minor services as a translator. This time was different; this time he was here to begin what he hoped was the most prestigious job of his career.

No matter where this led him, even if he failed or his duties proved tedious or unpleasant, this day would be imprinted on his memory forever. He found himself taking more notice of his surroundings than he usually did — perhaps in order to memorize them for future reflection.

Recently Priestess of the White – Book 1 of the Age of the Five trilogy was published in Bulgaria. Your books already have a wide international audience. How would you introduce them and yourself, of course, to your new readers in Bulgaria?

I’d say ‘Hi! My name is Trudi Canavan, and I’m one of a bunch of Australian fantasy authors who took the world by storm in the last decade, including Jennifer Fallon, Russell Kirkpatrick, Karen Miller and Glenda Larke. My books are mostly about magic and how a world and different societies – and different characters’ lives – might develop if it were real.’

The fantasy world you have created in the Age of the Five trilogy partly reminds me of Ancient Rome and Greece. What was your inspiration while building the world of the Age of the Five?

The initial inspiration came from reading about classical era mythology, and imagining what it would be like if gods like the ones in those stories were real. It seemed to me that if they answered your prayers or if you got their attention in some way, then the result was as likely to be bad as good. These gods were very human in their emotions and ambitions, reacting out of lust and jealousy and love. They were as likely to create monsters as well as great beauty, and were often in conflict with each other. And poor humans were often dragged into these creations and conflicts, though some quite willingly.

What is the most difficult part of the whole writing process? Do you write down lists and/or systemize in some way the plot and the huge number of characters you create?

Probably the most difficult times when writing a book are the days I’m really not in the right mood, but have to sit down and write to meet a deadline. I’m a little strange in that I enjoy writing synopsis and back cover blurbs and even find pleasure in editing, though I do find proofing corrections is dull work. But even I have days when I’d rather be vacuuming.

I do keep lists of character names and have a system of planning and outlining the plots and subplots, though that is always flexible. I’m not going to dismiss a really good idea just because I might have to rework an outline.

Are there any of your characters who resemble real persons, for example close friends of yours?

I don’t base characters on people I know. That’s far too dangerous! I once used a friend’s name for a new character, but the character turned evil on me and I ended up regretting using the friend’s name. I have, however, named an evil character after a company that exploited a friend of mine.

Do you see many fellow writers? Do you share ideas and plots for novels with one another?

I see a lot of local writers, usually at Australian SF conventions. At first I knew only a couple of non-sf writers through working for publishing companies, either as a full time designer or as a freelance illustrator. I got to know more local sf writers after I began working for Aurealis magazine back in the mid 90s. Then, as I said in my introduction, a bunch of new sf writers broke onto the scene in the last decade, and many of us have met and stayed in contact.

Do you find time to read books?

Not as much as I used to! I was a book-a-week reader once upon a time. Then I started working from home as a freelance illustrator and lost the reading time of commuting to work. After I started writing full time I found that I was tired of words and reading by the end of the day. Then two health problems stopped me reading at all for a few years: a bad back and chronic fatigue. My back became so painful that I had to lie down to read, and having chronic fatigue meant that I’d fall asleep after a few pages.

I’ve mostly recovered from the fatigue, but my back is still a problem. I manage to read about ten books a year now by sticking to small books or listening to audio books. I’m hoping that eBooks will allow me to read larger books again, though at the moment I’m finding that the books I want to read aren’t available as eBooks in Australia yet. It’s why I haven’t rushed out to buy a reader. Eventually the territorial issues with eBooks will be sorted, and by then there’ll be even better readers on the market.

What kind of books do you prefer reading? Do you ever re-read some of your favorite ones?

I prefer fantasy (no surprise) but these days, for the reasons above, I prefer the smaller ones rather than the big doorstops. I do occasionally re-read an old favourite. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but the ones I like to re-read are smaller, multiple book series, like the Earthsea books by Ursula leGuin or The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander.

You have audio versions of some of your novels. What according to you will become of the regular book in the future– is it going to change from paper to e-paper or to audio in the coming years?

I think there will be a mix of the three. Some people will embrace eBooks, some people will never stop loving print books, and some people will find audio books more convenient.


How long does it take for you to write one of your novels? Are deadlines by publishers hard to keep up with?

It takes about a year for me to write a book, though that depends on the size of the book. The main bulk of that time is spent writing the first draft, then I do a couple of months of redrafting and polishing. After that there are several weeks spent checking editorial corrections and proofing, which usually interrupt the writing of the next book. And, of course, time goes into making a map, writing blurbs, synopsis and other bits and pieces, updating my author site, interviews and publicity. My deadlines have been based on this yearly cycle, and it’s only outside forces that have upset them: like a particularly nasty flu or the problems we had with the builder working on our house a few years back.

Could you please tell us something about your future projects?

Currently I’m bringing together ideas for the next series of books. I can’t tell you much about it, as it keeps changing, but it is fantasy and is set in a new universe with an entirely new kind of magic. I have some information on my author site, but even that has changed a little since I wrote it. I’m also hoping to write more short stories this year and perhaps put out an anthology in the next few years.

What is your advice to young fantasy authors?

Write what you love – and write a lot! It is said you need to write a million words before you start to get any good at it, so you may as well enjoy the process.

What questions are you tired of answering that you continuously get asked?

Haha! I can’t answer that because the question would spoil the plot of one of my trilogies! Instead I’ll say that I put a lot of information on my website ( because I was being asked a lot of the same questions and I was getting so much fanmail I couldn’t answer it all.

The questions I find most frustrating are ones about release dates or whether a book will be published in a particular language. Usually I don’t know and don’t have the time to chase down the answers, even though they’re questions I’d like to know the answer to myself!

Thank you for your answers. I wish you lots of inspiration and an eventful and exciting New Year!

And the same to you, too!

Questions by: Vladimir Penov


Trudi Canavan was born in Kew, near Melbourne, Australia. From early childhood she was creative and interested in art, writing and music. After deciding to become a professional artist she started a freelance business, The Telltale Art, specialising on graphical design services. In 1995 she began working for Aurealis, a magazine of Australian Fantasy and Science Fiction, working a do-it-all job as art and cover editor, reading manuscripts, creating web pages and stuffing envelopes. By taking on this job she was able to start writing in her spare time. Until the age of 25 she dreamed of writing a novel but lacked the focus to do so. When she turned 25 she took several writing courses, worked on refining her fiction writing skills, while she fought her way through several rejections.
Although she started her writing career with a short story – the one entitled “Whispers of the Mist Children”, she became world famous after publishing her first trilogy, “The Black Magician Trilogy”. Canavan is now in the process of writing her third trilogy and she plans to stick on to fantasy in the future.

Related posts ↓

1 comment so far ↓

  • Nobody has commented yet. Be the first!