Trudi Canavan’s fantasy novels have recieved widespread acclaim from all corners of the world.  I found the first book of the Black Magicians trilogy upon release and found the style and story incredibly interesting, as did a lot of other people.  That trilogy itself is considered as the most successful debut trilogies in the last ten years.

The Traitor Spy trilogy is due to complete with the release of The Traitor Queen this month.  That’s one to look forward to.

Now, on to the interview:

What genre would you like to write a book in (that you haven’t yet)?

I’ve had an idea for a horror young adult number sitting in the back of my mind for several years now, so that’s probably the genre I’d slip into if I wasn’t writing fantasy.

Where do your ideas come from?  Do you have a standard formula for plots or do stories come to you as a whole construct?

Inspiration comes from too many sources to list. To encourage it I try to stay constantly curious about this world and others. Firstly, I learn about this world by reading, watching documentaries (good for visual cues), finding people who know about something and questioning them, and trying out things for myself (like fencing, which I was absolutely no good at, but taught me a lot that was useful when writing fight scenes). Secondly, I learn about other worlds by trying to read a wide range of fantasy books. I tend to be what I call a ‘disloyal’ reader, in that I’ll read one series by an author then never get around to reading the rest of their work because I want to see what someone else has invented.

I don’t have a standard formula for plots, but a general guideline for pacing them so that (hopefully) the reader is hooked at the beginning and drawn through to an exciting conclusion.

When you start a new story, do you have a title for it?  Does that trigger the story?

With the Black Magician Trilogy I didn’t settle on any titles until the book was finished. Partly that was because I thought it would be one book, partly because it was a bit like naming a pet before you got to know it’s personality. Once published, I have to write up a proposal to present to the publisher before starting a series. But I outline extensively and have a fairly good idea what will suit so these ‘working’ titles do tend to stick. Either way, titles do come after the story idea, so they don’t trigger stories for me.

Do you see the future of fantasy as bright?  If so, which authors are driving it?

I’m optimistic. It worries me that, the more financial pressure publishers are under, the more they’ll have to restrict their selection to what they know sells best. Then fantasy will get typecast as only being super successful, sword-swinging heroic fantasy written by mostly male, US authors. Fantasy is so much broader than that. Still, there have always been smaller presses publishing books that don’t fit the mainstream mould so there’ll always be a market for well-written, exciting fantasy.

What themes are being overused?

‘Urban fantasy’ featuring vampires and werewolves has been well and truly done to death. Zombies seem to have infected everything for quite a while now so I think their demise is a ‘no brainer’. Steampunk is everywhere at the moment, and I suspect it’ll be running out of puff in a year or two as well.

Are movies of books ruining the book?

That’s entirely up to the viewer. Personally, I see film adaptions of books as just that – adaptions. I don’t get annoyed when they make changes, I get annoyed if they are badly made films.

Do you see ebooks threatening traditional publishing?

No. Traditional publishing is all about making choices easier for readers. When a publisher chooses to back a book financially, it reassures the reader that what they’re reading is better than most of what’s written – and the publisher helps make that true by having the book improved by people with an expertise in editing, design, etc. All that has changed is that the book comes in another format. And I don’t think digital books will replace print, especially while so many readers in the world can’t afford a device and internet.

Do you prefer to read established authors or debut authors? How do you choose which ones to read?

Both. At the moment, I choose what I read based on whether a) it’s a book or manuscript by a friend, b) it’s a book I need to read as research, c) it’s a book by a favourite author, or d) it’s on my to-read bookcase of over 120 books.

What is it about fantasy that appeals to you?

The impossible made real.

Can I get an autographed book? (lol)

Sure – which one do you want?

Do you have a group of people that you show a new story to? How much impact can they have on the whole story?

My partner and agent get to see batches of about three chapters as I write them. Then I have feedback readers who read the book at the end. I’ve always had a ’90/10%’ policy – I’m allowed to reject 10% of what they say. That makes me consider every comment closely, especially as sometimes it’s not what they think is the problem that is the actual underlying problem.

On the other hand, sometimes two feedback readers will love something and two more will hate it. This usually indicates something that’s more of an issue of taste than being right or wrong. When that happens, I go with what I prefer, because it’d be crazy to be writing the sort of book I don’t like.

Do you set yourself a word limit for each book?

Yes, though it is flexible – more like a word range.

Do you have a target each day?

These days I have a target for each week, because unexpected things always happen. I might have to stop and tackle one of the many non-writing tasks involved in being an author. Or my RSI or back problems flare up.

Do you write constantly or have breaks between books?

I have always had a new book lined up after the current one. That said, it takes over a year to write a book and there will always be breaks in that time, either because I get sick, go on holidays, do some publicity or hit the Christmas-New Year crazy season.

Do you have characters running around your head?  Do they dictate events and their histories to you?

I’ve always been fascinated by writers who talk to their characters, as if they are separate beings. Me, I am that character while I’m writing them. When I’m not writing, I’m me. But I do think about them, or rather, what I will be doing next time I am them.

After 20 books, how do you keep them unique?

Actually, it’s only 10! ‘Unique’ is a relative term when it comes to books. No story is completely original. Every one is influenced by what the author has read or watched or written. Of course, I try not to repeat myself. But on the other hand, I sometimes deliberately do something similar in order to show a difference. Like making Tessa a natural magician, as Sonea was, in order to highlight the different ways their situation was dealt with according to the era they were born in. To counter that similarity, I gave them very different backgrounds – one from a poor, broken family, the other from a middle class family, one who hated magicians, one who saw them as benevolent.

What is your biggest (self-imposed) time waster?

No time is wasted time to an author! Not when everything is research.

Do you remember the first time you saw your book in a shop?

Actually… no. I do remember when I first held a copy of my first book. It was oddly disappointing, because the story had been in my head for so long and had taken years of work to get it out, and here was this small bundle of paper. Books are very much more than the sum of their parts.

It also didn’t help that the first page I opened it to I found a small continuity error…

Do you read other people’s writing?

Yes. But only friends’ manuscripts. See above for the size of my to-read list. And the non-writing work of being an author (like this interview) now takes up as much of my time as writing itself.

Thank you for the interview, Trudi.  It was a pleasure to talk to an Australian author that has such worldwide recognition.  May the new Millenium’s Rule trilogy be more successful than your others.

Here are Trudi’s contact details:


Trudi Canavan’s Amazon page: