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Trent Jamieson

Trent Jamieson dark fantasy author talks to Nalini Haynes of Dark Matter via Skype; this interview is in MP3 format at the bottom of this page and in text format.

Trent Jamieson
Trent Jamieson

Nalini: Thank you very much for talking to Dark Matter.

Trent: Not at all, I am very pleased to be talking to you.

Nalini: I’ve been looking you up on the Internet and it looks like you’ve had 15 to 20 years of being published. How did you develop your career as a writer?

Trent: I don’t know if ‘developed’ is the right word. Ever since I can remember I’ve been writing; it’s always been part of who I am. I wrote a lot of short fiction to start off with. It wasn’t really a career decision, it was just that was what interested me when I was writing. I’ve always been working on novels as well. Not finishing a lot of them when I was younger.

I don’t know that I have aimed for a particular career trajectory. I suppose that a lot of the authors that I grew up reading, Ursula LeGuin, Asimov, Harlan Ellison, were authors that had made a career out of writing short fiction first and then moving into novels. But that is more to do with the history of spec fic in its way. I assumed, I suppose, that is how you did it. Also in the early days of my writing there were great local magazines like Eidolon, and Aurealis to aim for, and they were only publishing short fiction.

It probably slowed me down with novels in a way because writing short fiction is a very different skill set to novel length fiction.

Nalini: Someone said that if you want to do a speech, the longer the speech the less time you need to prepare for it; the shorter the speech, the more time you need to prepare for it because nothing can be wasted. Would you say that’s similar in novel writing and short stories?

Trent: It certainly is. With short stories, there is always a chance you can make a short story almost perfect, so, oddly enough, it’s easier to stuff up. Novels tend to move around and you can go and explore little areas. In some ways the discipline is very different. I wouldn’t say it’s less focused but the focus is different, if that makes sense. If you make a mistake you have the weight of the novel to distract from that in a way, whereas with a short story it is so easy to stuff them up. I know I’ve stuffed up plenty in my time.

Nalini: And yet you’ve won awards and been nominated for more awards.

Trent: Yes, I’ve been quite lucky that the stuff I’ve written, people have enjoyed enough to nominate for things. But it has been a long time between my first short story submission, which was I think back in the early 90s, and my first award, there’s a good 15 years between them. I’ve been very patient; patience is a very important virtue for a writer I think.

Nalini: Another aspect of writing for many people is having a day job: have you had a day job through this time?

Trent: I have. I’ve pretty much always had a day job, usually in retail selling books. At the moment I work in a bookstore called The Avid Reader in West End.

Nalini: This is in Brisbane, isn’t it?

Trent: Yes. I met my wife in a bookstore: she was working in Dymocks and I started working there: that’s how we got together. So, basically, the last 16 years or so I’ve been working in bookstores, so that kind of supplements my income. It’s not a huge paying job, but it’s actually good because it gets you used to the very small income you tend to make as a writer. I don’t know how people give up their day job and write full time and make enough money to live unless they’re doing very very well.

Nalini: Working in a bookstore sounds like the ideal job to me.

Trent: It is, I love it. Avid Reader is a delightful workplace. There are actually a few of us who are published novelists. I work with Chris Currie and Krissy Kneen, both of whom have been published with Text. So we share that love of writing and reading and a love of books as well. But then again everyone at Avid has a deep love of books, it’s an inspiring place to work.

It gets you excited about books. You’re always: what’s out there, what’s coming in? It makes you read perhaps a little more widely than you would otherwise, too. It’s a great place to work.

Nalini: When you say ‘reading a little more widely’ what would you be reading if you didn’t work in a bookstore as opposed to what you read because you do?

Trent: I actually don’t know now, I’ve worked in bookstores for so long. I’d probably read a few more classics than I do, because quite often working in a bookstore you’ve always got new books. You can get a little bit worn out by that. There’s always something new and exciting that you want to read. We get quite competitive at work as well: who’s read what and who gets the reading copies. Fortunately for me, I’m the major genre reader at my work so I tend to get all of those.

You do learn a lot working in a bookstore too, about what people like to read and how readers approach books. That can be heartening and disheartening too. Particularly in our bookstore, it’s a lot of literary fiction so I’ll sort of lean customers towards spec fic section, and it’ll be: ‘Oh, no, no, I don’t read fantasy,’ That kind of dismissive thing can be a little bit disheartening, but then the fun is in turning someone around to something that they may not have otherwise read.

Nalini: When you say ‘genre’ – and I’m guilty of this too, but I want to actually start exploring this issue – people talk about ‘genre’ fiction as if there is only one genre. Why is that? I assume that the genre that you’re referring to is spec fic.

Trent: I am actually – which shows how one-eyed I can be. Everything is a genre in its way. They all follow certain conventions, I mean genre basically… I should really say I’m the only spec fic writer; you’re right there. And I think each genre writer, depending on what genre they are writing in, tends to think when they say ‘genre’ they meant their genre. I’m definitely meaning spec fic though I am aware that there are many other genres as well.

Looking at our bookstore, we break things up into crime and science fiction… and then you’ve got your YA stuff as well which can be broken up into various different genres as well. Whether or not that’s a good thing, I’ve been giving that a lot of thought lately, I still don’t know. Because I also think genre is basically an argument as well. With spec fic there are various different streams and it depends on what you’re reading and where you fit within that genre. There is this great big dialogue of books and I don’t know whether or not we’ve oversimplified the word these days to mean less than what it should. I don’t know. It can become a bit of an insult, which it shouldn’t. It just means this book fits within this dialogue.

Nalini: That would be a really interesting debate to have at a convention don’t you think?

Trent: Mm. Mm. It does come up a bit. I think writers of specific genres become quite self-conscious. I guess no-one likes to be told where their books fit.

Essentially writers tend to write within the areas that they read, the areas that fascinate them, the areas that they grew up reading. It does get complicated. It’s very easy to insult people when you start looking at genre too, I think, because we all have our own opinions on it. For me spec fic is kind of like home, as well, if that makes sense.

Nalini: Yes, it does. We’re talking about science fiction and fantasy and yet you were nominated for a horror award with the first book in the Deathworks trilogy.

Trent: Yes, I was. I’m certainly happy to have been nominated for a horror award. There are horrific elements in the book but I’d say it’s more – it depends on your definition of horror as well. I feel quite often horror gets regarded as a very simplistic genre when it isn’t that at all. It actually made me very happy because it was shortlisted as fantasy as well. I do tend to like to write across genres so it was good to see horror readers respond to it in a positive way as well as fantasy readers.

Nalini: I was actually surprised that was nominated for horror. But then I avoid horror, or I say I don’t like horror, but I like Buffy, Angel, Underworld, things like that. So it’s kind of skirting the edges of that genre.

Trent: It certainly is. And it didn’t win, but the book that won, Madigan Mine by Kirstyn McDermott, is an excellent, excellent novel. It’s horror in that it’s a psychological horror novel with supernatural elements as well. It’s a really, really good read and it’s definitely worth checking out. There’s not a lot of light to it though, whereas I think my books are a bit funnier. I think she definitely deserved to win because it was an amazing book.

Nalini: It’s certainly been very highly spoken of by a lot of people.

Trent: With reason. It’s absolutely fantastic. And I think you’d probably enjoy it.

Nalini: I’ll have to have a look at it. I have had a few people recommend it to me, but unfortunately my to-read list is quite large.

Trent: There is never the time to read the books we want to read.

Nalini: Speaking of reading books you want to read, you mentioned a few of the authors that you read while you were growing up. What kind of books do you particularly enjoy or do you feel particularly influence your work these days?

Trent: I particularly like Neil Gaiman, American Gods, Anansi Boys, the Sandman Graphic Novels. I think pretty much everything I read these days tends to have some influence on me. What am I reading at the moment? I’ve got a complete blank. As soon as somebody asks you – A book I read at the end of last year, which is not a genre one, called the Art of Fielding, it was just a fabulous book, written by Chad Harbach. Just the way it built up its characters and then stripped them away was just fantastic. With regards to the genre that I am reading there is an author called Lev Grossman who wrote a book called The Magicians and The Magician King: they are fabulous fantasy novels. Anything that Margo Lanagan writes, anything Tansy Rayner Roberts writes, anything that Marianne de Pierres writes… These are friends of mine, but I love their work. I don’t know if you’ve read any of Tansy’s stuff?

Nalini: I’ve been reading the Creature Court and am waiting for the third in the series. 

Trent: It’s nearly out. She is just fabulous and Tansy’s one of those authors that just seems to get better and better. When you know them and you’ve been in the same writing group as them, you can tend to feel a little bit competitive as well, so it helps you lift your own writing I think. So I get a lot from her. I don’t know if you’ve read Love and Romanpunk?

Nalini: No, I haven’t got hold of that yet.

Trent: You definitely need to: that’s one of her best things. It’s an interlinked series of short stories. It’s not very big but it’s great. She is working on a new fantasy novel at the moment, and from what I’ve seen of that, it’s amazing. It’s set in Hobart, and beautifully drawn. She is definitely an inspiration. But so are Margo Lanagan, Marianne de Pierres and Rowena Lindquist (Rowena Cory Daniells)… There’s a lot of different authors I find inspire me.

Nalini: You’ve raised the topic of wRiters on the Rise (RoR). I should probably mention here that although I had a mental blank as to who else is in the group I have actually interviewed Marianne, Rowena, Tansy and Richard.

Trent: Richard as well? He is superb too, his Steampunk novels are really amazing; great sense of humour too.

Nalini: One of my goals this year is to collect the set of wRiters on the Rise interviews.

Trent: Aaaaah.

Nalini: What has your experience of wRiters on the Rise been for you?

Trent: It’s been a wonderful group of writers. Unfortunately the last couple of meetings I haven’t been able to get to for various different reasons, but we’re really supportive of each other. If you’re having a bad day you can send an e-mail around and people will give you a pat on the back or a kick in the pants, whatever you need. They’re a great bunch of writers.

I totally respect them as writers and as people as well. They’re wonderful. It’s a very important part of my life: it’s like having a second family in a way. That’s been one of the things that I’ve really treasured from my life as a writer, it’s the friendships that I’ve made and particularly with that bunch. When we get together, it is so much fun. There is probably too much wine drunk, but other than that, it’s a ball. It’s just so good to see how successful some of– well, all of us have done quite well in the last few years. A lot of those books are books that we’ve critiqued as well. I’ve an immense sense of pride in the people that are in that group. That I’m a part of them too, sometimes I have to pinch myself.

Nalini: I’ve heard in other interviews about the structure of your weekend get-togethers, how it is split up so that it’ll be a morning or afternoon looking at a particular book by one of the members. What’s that been like getting feedback from others about your work? I mean the good and the bad.

Trent: I think that’s one of those things that you just get used to. There’s a lot of rejection and a lot of feedback in writing so you need to develop a bit of a thick skin. We’re all friends, but none of us are gentle with each other. Usually you’ll find that you’ll get stuff that they like and stuff that they don’t, It might be structural, it might be character-based – you basically have to sit down and absorb it and think about it for a month or two months and then get back in and work on it.

Quite often you get different opinions as well: somebody will like one thing and another person will hate it, so you have to unpick all that too and at the same time you’re actually thinking about ‘where do I want this work to go’ as well. It’s like any feedback: you take what you can and use what you can and most of the time they are right. I’ve learnt that.

I think it’s actually helped having that feedback. When I was in the editorial process with the Deathworks books, it really helped focus me. I actually think some of my best writing occurs in the editing. The manuscript becomes a lot better between drafts. I actually really respond well to feedback. When I don’t get it I start to worry and get a bit paranoid. It’s actually been good for me, I think.

Nalini: That’s good. On the subject of your Deathworks trilogy: how did this come about?

Trent: I think I’ve always been a bit obsessed with death really. It’s odd because the order of books I’ve had come out the most recent is Roil, but it is my oldest novel in many ways my oldest complete novel. I actually wrote the first Deathworks novel, Death Most Definite, as a bit of a break from that. Roil jumps between a lot of different characters, it’s a little bit all over the place.

With the Deathworks books I wanted a story that just had one point of view character and you follow them. You’re right at the edge of the story with them without worrying too much about what was going on over the horizon. It was a good excuse to do all the things that I’m a little bit obsessed about: the idea of underworlds and the afterlife and also write about Brisbane as well. It was a world that I didn’t have to work on too hard in the background: I didn’t have to describe what a bus was or what certain parts of the city might be like.

It was a bit of a holiday, and then when it actually sold the race was on to get the next two books written. That was a lot of fun. By the time I’d finished those I was ready to go back into a multi point of view novel as well. The book I’m working on at the moment is the sequel to Roil, and it has become a break from the tight focused point of view of the Deathworks books. Yeah. So writers are never happy. We’re always miserable and wanting to do the next thing.

Nalini: I haven’t actually read Roil but I’ve read the Deathworks trilogy: the thing that impressed me with the Deathworks trilogy is that I’ve never been to Brisbane but I felt that if I went there I’d have a kind of sense of familiarity with the city. I have lived in Hobart, Adelaide and Melbourne, all cities set on rivers and all cities with some similarities to how you describe Brisbane. I felt very strongly that Deathworks was set in an Australian city.

Trent: I’m very glad that you said that: that makes me very happy. I think Brisbane in many ways is a kind of an amalgamation of a lot of other Australian cities.

And it is set on a river and the river winds through the city. I actually thought it was a good setting in that it wasn’t so – I love Brisbane – but it wasn’t so distinct from other cities that people reading it would be alienated by it as well. The geography is reasonably easy to understand. I kind of stuck with mainly the inner suburbs: that was partly because when I was writing the first book I lived in Toowong, which is reasonably inner city. I used to walk around Brisbane a lot. A lot of places that I was writing about were places I’d walk to and then sit down in the location and write about it.

I’m really glad that it feels like an Australian city because it’s meant to. It’s a city where there is a big transition going on because its had a massive increase in population over the last 10 years. I moved here in the mid 90s and the city has changed a lot. Oddly enough, a lot of the places I was writing about in these books have changed since I’ve written about them as well. I’m a little bit sad the Winter Garden food court doesn’t look anything like it did in these books.

Nalini: That’s one of the attractions: reading your book is like ‘If I get to Brisbane, these are a few of the things that I want to see.’

Trent: Most of them are still there. The gas stripping power is still there. The streets are all the same, Roma St station is the same, and they’re never going to knock down Mount Cootha: that’s always going to be there. And the Kurilpa bridge is far too new to be going anywhere, that’s the footbridge in the CBD over to the Cultural Centre.

Nalini: Where the Death Moot was located?

Trent: Yes, where the Death Moot was located. I actually wrote a fair whack of that sitting on the bridge. At one stage a storm did come in, and I thought, I’ve just got to sit here and experience that. It wasn’t very pleasant, I probably should have just got under the cover, but, yeah.

A lot of the main locations are still the same but there are just a few places that I’m a bit sad that have changed. Anyway, a city that is always growing, and growing so rapidly, is going to go through big transitional periods and things are going to change. So in a way I’m glad that I’ve managed to capture some of those things that aren’t there now. It’s a little bit sad but it’s also nice to have written about them.

Nalini: Your central character, Steven, is very loyal but he is very introverted as well: how much of yourself do you think is in Steven?

Trent: There is a little bit of me in there. He is possibly the closest to me in that I do tend to put things off until the last minute and avoid conflict as much as I can.

I do try to avoid learning how certain processes work if it means I can avoid the responsibility of actually running them, so in that way he is very similar to me. I suppose these books in a way kind of chart my experience with publishing if that makes sense. The first book I wrote without any idea that it was going to sell, then it sold. Then I thought ‘Oooh, now I have to write another one.’

There’s one thing being a writer and writing this stuff without having to worry about writing to deadlines, but then suddenly having that responsibility and knowing that you have to deliver – until you’ve experienced it, it’s very very odd. You think you’re ready for it, then you realise that you’re not at all. Still, I thought I met the challenge and I learnt a lot about myself as well. I don’t know if I’ve just avoided answering that question or not…

I’d like to say all the good elements are me, the bad elements are someone else. Except the putting off of things, that is undeniably me.

Nalini: How much do you think the Dresden Files has influenced the Deathworks trilogy?

Trent: Not much because I’ve only read one of them.

Nalini: Really?

Trent: Yes. It’s not because I don’t like them. I did see the TV series after I had written Death Most Definite and Managing Death. I think the moment somebody said to me this is kind of like the Dresden books was the moment that I thought ‘well I’m not going to read them’ because I don’t want to start playing off that, if you know what I mean. I did avoid that.

I wanted the mythology of these books and the background of these books to be a little different as well. The background is very personal for me, if that makes sense. It’s a weird mixture of all the things that I’m interested in and a little bit illogical as well. I really wanted to try and make it as individual as possible. I start to worry that I’ll start borrowing stuff subconsciously. I can’t say that the Dresden books have been a major influence but I was aware of them. And the one copy I read the dog ate – I took that as a sign.

Nalini: The interesting thing I found about the Dresden Files and the Deathworks trilogy is that you’re both male authors writing a central male protagonist. To some extent you have people around you: in some of the Dresden Files there is a bit more of a community while in others he is much more isolated. Yours is uniquely Australian and it is very different; so on the one hand I’m surprised that you haven’t read the Dresden Files because I think you’d enjoy them.

Trent: They’re definitely on my list of books to read, and I think that now I’m stepping away from that I will read them.

Nalini: So you are stepping away? Because at the end of the third book I wasn’t sure whether you left yourself open for more books in the series.

Trent: Well, I do have three more books planned. It really depends how well the series goes as a whole. I don’t know whether or not Orbit is going to jump at another series, but I definitely have another one planned.
I don’t want to give away too much, but there is a definite story arc. I was actually talking about it with my wife the other day – I think she is getting sick of hearing about these books – it’s very firmly in my mind how I want to proceed and how they’ll echo the first three books.

If it ends with the Business of Death and I never write another one, then I’m fine with that because I feel that Steven’s had a good story arc. But if I get a chance to do the other three then I definitely will, because he is very enjoyable to write. I like the voice of the character and I like the way that he is a mixture of different elements. He is very resolute and very loyal but he also tries to avoid doing stuff. He’s not exactly an antihero but he is not that particularly heroic as well so he’s fun to write about.

I do have a lot of scenes, if I do write these other three books, I can see them very clearly and they make me laugh, so I think maybe I will go back to them. I’m finishing off a new book then I’ve got an entirely different thing that I want to write. It’s less urban fantasy, it’s set around northern New South Wales. It’s more of an existential science-fiction-fantasy comedy.

I’m looking forward to that and when I’ve done that I think I’ll go back and have a crack at trying to sell the next Deathworks trilogy.

I definitely see them as three books. There are plenty of other characters I’d like to explore as well. I’d like to do a Mr D book one of these days and that would be a historical novel explaining certain absences that are in the first book, and look at the culture behind Mortmax a bit more, and I think that would be fun to do. But it would involve so much research that I’m pushing it into the distance.

Nalini: Fair enough. One of the mistakes I think Jim Butcher’s made is having this Dresden series that goes on and on and on. The last several books have been an arc. I love his work, I even love the ones that aren’t as good, but his series had a definite dip in the middle there and now he’s kind of picking up again. I like the idea of the trilogy that has a story and I like the idea – I do like the idea of six Deathworks books, but I think you can make a mistake of dragging things on ad infinitum, it becomes a soapie.

Trent: You certainly can. That’s a problem with any series; in some ways it can be diminishing returns. You set up a world and one of the things that is fun about world creation is that it’s new and it’s exciting and you explore it and people don’t know what to expect to start off with. But the moment you have these rules laid down then it becomes “well how do you make that interesting? How do you disrupt it?” It gets harder and harder I think.  Things like continuity start to drag you down as well because basically every new book you do, potentially you have to draw in new readers, but you also have to make sense of everything that’s happened before. That’s a real challenge with writing a series. You write each book as a book but you’re also writing aware that there is this broader story arc and some authors are brilliant at doing that and others maybe not so. I don’t know what sort of author I am yet, so we’ll see.

I am looking forward to writing a book after this one that isn’t part of a series, that I don’t have to write a second book kind of recapping what happened before so people can follow on.

Continuity has always been my weak point: I’m not a very big note taker but I have bought a massive whiteboard that I started using. That is really helpful. I’m looking forward to doing a book that is just one book, that isn’t part of a series. The appeal of the series, though, is that you get to hang around with the character for quite a while and see them change. You get to play with that voice and you get to do horrible things to them over a long period of time, and that’s fun.

Nalini: So you’ve enjoyed making Steven suffer?

Trent: I do, I do. I did make him suffer quite a bit. But I think he was quite resilient, your good characters suffer in the most entertaining ways, watching them get back up again has always made me happy.

roil cover

Nalini: Tell me more about Roil: I found it on your website. I haven’t looked at it in depth. What’s it all about? And is it with Angry Robot?

Trent: It is with Angry Robot. It’s a steam punk fantasy novel. Most steam punk tends to be historical; mine is set in a secondary fantasy world or a world that has been colonised in the distant; I try to keep that kind of vague. Its people are obsessed with history: it’s a world where everyone tends to write a history at some stage. It’s kind of like the main literary medium.

It’s a world that is heading towards some kind of global apocalypse with this thing called the Roil: a dark monster-filled cloud that is slowly expanding from the equator around the world, so it’s kind of like global warming but with monsters instead.

The story is set in essentially what looks like the last few years of that world’s life. It’s basically these characters are thrown into this situation where they have to see if they can stop the Roil.

It’s a cracking adventure with lots of big machines and lots of monsters. It was fun to write, and very different to The Business of Death: for one, the characters are much darker. I think they’re a little bit lighter in the second book because you begin to understand their motivations, but in the first book there is a lot of running, a lot of darkness, a lot of gloom, but it’s leavened by big monsters and steam engines with names like the Dolores Gray and living airships called Aerokin which have lovely names like the Roslyn Dawn and the Matilda Ray. It was a fun book to write, but it’s a book that is a little bit hard to sum up. The Deathworks books are a little bit easier: a guy works for death and it’s his rise in the business, whereas Roil is essentially what happens when a world runs down and the only people who are left to save it have really odd and contrary motivations. I really wouldn’t want to spend any time alone with them in a darkened alley because they’re all a bit dangerous.

Nalini: You mentioned that there are a number of different characters’ viewpoints in the story.

Trent: There are. There is Cadell who is a 6000 year old man who is kind of a little Gandalf-esque but not very pleasant. There is Margaret Penn, the last survivor of the Roil-subsumed city of Tate. Then there is David Milde whose father is a politician. Poor David’s a drug addict. At the beginning of the book, he’s just taken this drug called Carnival and he watches his father’s assassination by these guys called Vergers: so it gets quite complicated. He’s basically on the run from these assassins and he meets up with Cadell, and they meet up with Margaret. So it has quest elements to it but the characters perhaps don’t have the purist of motivations. It sounds a bit confusing the way I’ve described it.

Nalini: If they’ve got confusing motivations then they sound like normal people.

Trent: One of the things I like to write about are heroes that aren’t particularly heroic but are more people on the street, basically. They have confused motivations, they’re shades of grey. I like to think that maybe I’m a little bit more optimistic in that people aren’t quite as grey as they think they are, but I like flawed characters and they’re very flawed in the Nightbound Land. They become a little bit more interesting in the second book as well: there are various other elements that come into play.

Nalini: You were talking about another book that you are working on at the moment or is about to be published.

Night's engines cover

Trent: That’s the sequel to Roil which is called Night’s Engines. The Nightbound Land is a duology, and this one ties everything up, it’s should be available early June. It’ll be nice to have that series finished although I’ll miss it as well, but that’s one I don’t think I’ll be going back to once that book’s done. Then I’ll be moving on to something new, which is nice.

Nalini: So this is the one in Northern New South Wales that you were talking about earlier?

Trent: At the moment it’s called The House in Arbitrary. I don’t want to say too much about it because it’s still very nebulous. It came to me in the shower so I’ve written a few notes. It’s been making me laugh so hopefully it will be fun to write regardless.

Nalini: Hopefully it will make other people laugh too.

Trent: I hope so. It’s always a bit of a worry, though, if the book makes you laugh. Generally that just means it’s not really funny, it’s just that you think it is, you know what I mean? Comedy is a hard thing to write.

Nalini: Yes. I am full of admiration for people who can pull it off.

Trent: So am I.

Nalini: There is not much about you in Wikipedia although you do have a Wikipedia entry which is more than some Australian authors have.

Trent: Yes, I don’t know how that happened actually. I think it’s very hard to get on there so I keep waiting for that come down. There is not a lot on there, but that’s kind of nice too. It mentions the books that I’ve written and some of the short stories that I’ve published, and that’s all people really need to know, isn’t it?

Nalini: It depends on your public persona. Was it you who was tweeting about the whiteboard and how life has changed thanks to the whiteboard?

Trent: Yes it was. It’s great, I’m looking at it right now. It’s a good way of displaying the structure of the book and where I see particular flaws. It’s very sad that I really am enjoying having a whiteboard. I write with Scrivener, which is really good at breaking scenes and chapters down, but this whiteboard is just so cool. Maybe it’s just the novelty, maybe that’s what it is.

Nalini: Maybe it’s just a bit more tangible so you can have it all there instead of in nebulous ether land.

Trent: Maybe it is, maybe that’s what it is. But I do adore it.

Nalini: I’ll be interested in hearing your adventures of the whiteboard. Have you heard about Jennifer Fallon’s story of whiteboards?

Trent: No, I haven’t.

Nalini: She has some gorgeous stories. In this particular story she had a number of whiteboards. Jennifer was working on a prequel trilogy and was dealing with continuity issues, so she had a list of people who had to die. She put them up on the whiteboard and she was crossing them off as she went. They had to die in such a way that you never ever spoke of them again, which explained why you didn’t hear about them in the original trilogy. Apparently her air-conditioning died and she got air-conditioning guys to come in and fix the air conditioner. She thinks they might have seen the whiteboard and misunderstood. They repeatedly assured her that they’d do a really really good job.

Trent: I can imagine that. I write on the bus quite a bit, and sometimes if I’m writing a particularly violent or bloodthirsty scene I do tend to worry what the person sitting next to me is seeing. It could be a little bit odd. I haven’t had anyone just get up and change seats though, so that’s probably a good thing.

Nalini: So you haven’t had anybody call the police or anything like that?

Trent: No, not that I know. Particularly with the Deathworks books there were a few explosions in Brisbane there, so, yes…

Nalini: It could be entertaining. If you get any stories I’d love to hear them.

Trent: I’ll let you know.

Nalini: Do you have anything that you’d like to say to fans?

Trent: That’s a tough one. I’ve really just been bowled over by some of the e-mails I’ve got from some of the people who have really enjoyed the books and really enjoyed Brisbane. So maybe just thank them for reading. It just astounds me, as coming from writing short fiction where the audience is not particularly huge and quite often you don’t get any feedback at all, it’s just been a delight. I’m astounded when people write reviews of books that they’ve actually spent time reading and engaging with the work and actually thinking about it. Whether or not it’s a good or bad review, it still bowls me over that people take the time to do that. As a writer and as a person who has always enjoyed reading spec fic and paperbacks and… I’m so used to it being other people’s books if you know what I mean. I love it when fans send me an e-mail or get on the website (www.trentjamieson.com) and make a comment. Even if they don’t like the ending of the book they’ve actually travelled through the book with me, and that delights me, I just hope that I can keep on entertaining them.

Nalini: I thoroughly enjoyed the Deathworks trilogy so I’ll be looking forward to reading more of your work. Do you have any plans for conventions, writers workshops anything like that in the coming year?

Trent: I do a few workshops in Brisbane, so there’s the Year of the Novel that I’m teaching this year and there’s a short story workshop that I’ll be doing with the Qld Writers Centre. I try to get to conventions: it generally comes down to whether or not I can pay the mortgage, so it’s usually based on finances if I don’t attend one, because I do enjoy going to them. But I will be at Supanova on the Gold Coast in April.

I’ve not had much luck getting to Melbourne though, I made it to WorldCon, that was a lot of fun. At the moment I don’t have any concrete plans. Finances allowing I’m aiming to go to more conventions this year. Last year I couldn’t afford too, that’s just the high-income game that is writing, but I do try to get to them. That’s very vague… You can see how much I structure and plan my life, can’t you?

Nalini: Well, you have good intentions but you haven’t decided yet?

Trent: That’s the perfect answer.

Nalini: And we all have bills to pay. Sadly.

Trent: And flights just don’t seem to be getting any cheaper at the moment, which is a little sad.

Nalini: Yes, especially from places like Brisbane.

Trent: Mmm. Where you are that little bit further away too… I’ve always been meaning to get over to Perth and it usually just comes down to – maybe I just need to manage my money better, maybe that’s part of the answer.

Nalini: Perth is across the Nullarbor. That’s particularly expensive. So you don’t know if you’ll be attending Continuum which is this year’s National convention?

Trent: I’ll try and get there.

Nalini: That could be your big chance to come to Melbourne.

Trent: It could be. I really like Melbourne.

Nalini: Well, if you get down here, I’ve got a book for you to autograph.

Trent: I will do that with pleasure.

Nalini: Thank you very much for talking to Dark Matter.

Trent: Thank you very much for asking me.


Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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