Trudi Canavan

bestselling author of The Black Magician Trilogy

Trudi's Blog

April Calendar – Regin

Another month over and here in Australia it’s my favourite season of the year: autumn. A few days ago I sent my corrections to proofs of The Traitor Queen back to the publisher. That’s the last I’ll see of it until my author copies arrive, probably a month before the release in July. From here on I’ll be focusing on writing the first book of Millennium’s Rule, so it’s like saying farewell to not just The Traitor Queen, but the sequel trilogy and to Kyralia and the characters that live there. Well, except for these character sketch calendars.

I’ve not shown a villain yet, so here’s Regin as a young novice:

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Click on the image to get to a full size version. As before, if you don’t know how to download and set images to be your computer screen wallpaper, seek the help of your usual source of computer advice.

It’s Aussie SF Awards Time Again

Well, that year went fast! It doesn’t seem that long since I wrote my last Aussie awards post. It also doesn’t seem all that long since I sat, on the other side of the planet, refreshing Twitter over and over as each winner of the 2010 Aurealis Awards was announced. Awards season is a good time to find out what other Aussie sf writers have been doing (always lots), look back on what I’ve contributed (seems like very little in comparison – just one book: The Rogue).

The Aurealis Awards
The shortlist for the peer judged Aurealis Awards was released last week. Lots of very talented, hard working and dedicated people on that list. Back when I was a much faster reader I used to use the shortlist as a must-read guide to Aussie fantasy. (Now I give a wistful sigh and go back to my To-Read Bookcase.)

Here’s the media release with details and the list of finalists.

The Ditmars
The other national Australian SF awards, the Ditmars, is now open for nominations. Like the Hugos, they are a popular vote style awards system linked to a convention. You must be “natural persons active in fandom, or from full or supporting members of Continuum 8, the 2012 Australian National SF Convention” to nominate. Supporting memberships are usually much cheaper than the full rate, allowing people who can’t make it to the con and aren’t involved in fandom to nominate, and the definition of being active in fandom isn’t overly strict.

You can find more information about the convention and the awards, including the link to the nomination form, here.

In the Mailbox: Spanish Edition of The Magician’s Apprentice

The above book arrived in the post the other day, so I know spanish readers are reading about Kyralia centuries before the Black Magician Trilogy. Spanish readers can also find out more about me and my books over at El Legado del Mago Negro and the Spanish Facebook page.

I also received a US edition copy of the mass market paperback of The Rogue. Which has the same cover as the hardback just, well, smaller.

I’m going to give a new idea for this blog a try: an ‘In the Mailbox’ series of posts. I’m already posting covers of books as they come in, but more than just books arrive on my doorstep. Sometimes I get cover samples and interesting marketing material. I could also mention if I’ve signed a contract for editions in a new foreign language, or new books in a language I already have books published in.

Of course, there can be a long gap between signing a contract and a book being released, and I won’t be able to tell you release dates as I don’t usually know. But it could be of interest to readers to know what’s coming. And it’ll help me keep track too!

Who Am I Writing For?

Years ago, at a charity auction, I bid for and won a t-shirt because it had a bunch of writing quotes on it, including this one:

Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money – Moliere*

Of course, there are more things to write for than that. You might start making up stories to entertain a child, or write more for respect and recognition than money or the simple enjoyment of it, but I suspect that when a writer starts being paid for writing – when it becomes a source of income – they (and others) have to wonder how that influences them. After all, saying you don’t do it for the money but for the love of it sounds so noble, but a writer still needs to eat and pay the bills. And there’s no better proof that someone likes your work than when they spend their own hard-earned cash on it.

But I’m less interested in “what do you write for?” as I am in the “who do you write for?”. By that I mean who a writer is trying to please while they’re doing the actual writing.

Me? When high on the thrill of inspiration, when the words flow and the story is rocking along, I’m having so much fun that it’s hard to believe I’m writing to please anyone but myself. When I’m struggling, forcing myself to write when not in the mood in order to meet a deadline, I wonder why I’m doing something that is so much hard work and I’m convinced I’m doing it for everyone but me: my agent, my publisher, and the readers.

But even when I’m having fun, the enjoyment isn’t entirely self-centred. I can think of two examples:

1) When I’m holding back information, or revealing it, I get a real kick out of imagining what the reader will be thinking at that point. I might know what’s going to happen, but they don’t. I’ve always had a few ‘three chapters at a time’ test readers, so I can pester them with ‘what do you think is going to happen next?’ questions as a book progresses. It lets me know if I’m being too obvious, or confusing them. I know I’m getting it right when they have no idea, but can’t wait to find out.

2) If the writing is dragging I think to myself: “Well, this is no good. If I’m bored, then the reader will be too. Time to make this more interesting”. It’s the fastest way to get out of the doldrums.

And yet, it’s not all about pleasing the reader. Which brings me to another favourite quote:

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone – Bill Cosby^

I’ve seen newly published writers get all tied in knots after encountering reviews of their first book and/or hanging about on forums. A couple of readers don’t like prologues, or first person, or that creatures that were similar to cows were called something else, and the author panics. It’s as though every reader was their editor, and it leaves them thinking if they doing something wrong and should change the way they write.

After my first book was published I encountered the same feedback. Sometimes what readers hated in books – say, that it was written in first person – was something I liked as a reader. Sometimes what they thought was wonderful was something that I disliked intensely. One reader loved what another hated. It was perplexing until I realised that readers aren’t editors, they’re more like test readers. When my test readers disagree with each other about something, it usually comes down to a matter of personal taste.

It’s more obvious that personal taste is the problem when, for instance, I get the very occasional reader who objects to me putting gay characters in my stories. It’s not a flaw in the book; it’s just not to this particular reader’s taste. And that takes me back to the question of who I’m writing for. Obviously NOT a reader who objects to gay characters. They can always read something else. It’s not like there’s a dearth of books without gay characters in them.

The truth is, when I’m writing for readers, I’m not writing for all readers. Tastes in books vary so much, that it would be impossible to please everyone. So I’m writing for ‘my’ readers. But I’m also writing for myself, because while I gain a great deal of satisfaction and entertainment out of writing, a large part of that comes from thinking about the enjoyment my readers will have reading them.

*While this quote is usually attributed to Moliere, it turns out that may not be exactly true.

^Bill Cosby may be an odd person for a writer to quote, but it goes to show that some audience-creator issues are universal.

March Calendar – Dorrien & Rothen

I can’t believe it’s already time to post the computer wallpaper calendar for March. This time you get two characters for the price of one:

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Click on the image to get to a full size version. As before, if you don’t know how to download and set images to be your computer screen wallpaper, seek the help of your usual source of computer advice.

El Legado del Mago Negro

My lovely Spanish edition publisher has set up a website for my books called El Legado del Mago Negro (Legacy of the Black Magician) and a Facebook page to coincide with the release of La Maga (The Magician’s Apprentice) last week.

So head over there to find information about me and my books, including release dates for the Traitor Spy Trilogy. More content will be appearing on the sites, including competitions (there’s one on the Facebook page right now) and the opportunity to ask me a question.

Bulgarian Edition of TMG

Another foreign edition turned up the other day – the Bulgarian edition of The Magicians’ Guild. I already have a Bulgarian edition of Priestess of the White, but it appears to be by a different publisher. I don’t know if any other of my books have been published in Bulgarian yet – I usually don’t find out until a book turns up in the mail.

Which leads me to remind readers that authors usually don’t know what’s going on with foreign edition titles. To find out which of my books are available:

1) first check the Books menu above. Under each title I’ve put covers of the books I’ve received
2) check online bookstores, or ask your local bricks & mortar bookstore to look it up
3) ask the publisher (who can tell you if they’re planning to buy the rights to books they haven’t published yet)

February Calendar

Here’s the computer wallpaper calendar for February:

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It was pointed out to me that the four screen resolution sizes I’d provided were really just two ratios. So long as you choose the right ratio, the computer should scale down the image to fit the screen. If it doesn’t, let me know and I’ll add a scaled down version.

Click on the image to get to a full size version. As before, if you don’t know how to download and set images to be your computer screen wallpaper, seek the help of your usual source of computer advice.

10 Books I Enjoyed in 2011

It’s getting on to the end of that time of year when people make lists of top ten books for the year. Last year I posted one, but because I’d only read ten books that year those ten were what it contained. I read a lot more books in 2011: twenty-eight plus six of my own books in the Great Reread of 2011, so I am spoilt for choice. It was hard to whittle the list down to just ten books. Here they are, not in any particular order:

Madigan Mine by Kirstyn McDermott
A creepy horror novel of love, betrayal and possession. I know Kirstyn and enjoy her short fiction, and it was… well, it seems weird to say I found her nasty little tale a delight to read, but it was.

Souless by Gail Carriger
And Changeless, Blameless, Heartless. Funny, action-packed, sometimes raunchy, unashamedly fashion-conscious steampunk adventures. Gail effortlessly writes in the style and language of the era without slowing the pace. There are werewolves, vampires and other supernatural manifestations along with the mechanical marvels, but it’s a fresh take and nobody sparkles.

Eona by Alison Goodman (Also known as Necklace of the Gods.)
Following Eon (also known as The Two Pearls of Wisdom), Eona is a satisfying conclusion to this wonderful story set in a world based on Chinese mythology, with an ending I didn’t see coming.

Debris by Jo Anderton
An amazing debut novel. The exact genre it fits into is hard to define. I’d have called it fantasy, but I’ve seen it referred to as science fiction. It would appeal to readers of both. It’s like a cross between Bladerunner and Dark City. The idea behind the technology/magic is unique and brilliantly thought out, the characters are complex, and the plot is full of mystery and tension. My prediction for Best Fantasy Novel in this year’s Aurealis Awards.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfield
I decided to investigate steampunk this year and picked up this book because of good recommendations and, well, I’m a sucker for a book with fabulous illustrations. A romping tale follows, set in a complex and strange alternate earth where technology is biologically based in one land and in another it’s all about enormous, steam-powered machines. Great fun and I’m looking forward to the next books. I’m seriously considering buying this again in hardcover because the illustrations are wonderful, but don’t look so great on cheap paperback paper.

The Kingdom of Gods and The Killing Moon by N K Jemesin
The Inheritance Trilogy has all the elements I love in fantasy: worlds that are fresh and not overly derivative of fantasy that’s gone before, complex characters with both strengths and flaws, powerful magic that isn’t just a substitute for technology but affects everything from the obvious like power structures to the subtle, like everyday attitudes and habits. Oh, and a compelling, gripping plot. And I cheated and slipped The Killing Moon in here, the first of a new series set in an entirely different world, but written as beautifully.

Power Unbound by Nicole Murphy
The second book in the The Dream of Asarlai series. If you like spicy paranormal romance, but are a bit sick of vampires and werewolves (or even if you’re not but want a pacy fantasy romance) give this series a try.

You Suck by Christopher Moore
The sequel to Bloodsucking Fiends, which I remember calling ‘What Vampire novels would be if 14 year old boys wrote them – but in a good way”. Hilarious. I have Bite Me, the next one, near the top of my To Read pile.

Art Theory: A Very Short Introduction
A very small book that summed up the subject beautifully. Since reading it I’ve been heard to say, “Context! It’s all about context!” more than a few times when the question “Is it art?” came up.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
After having enjoyed Outliers and Blink, I set out to read Malcolm Gladwell’s earlier books. Though his ideas weren’t quite as developed (obviously) the book was just as fascinating, and it was interesting to see he tackled a phenomenon also discussed in Freakonomics, another book I read last year, and came up with a very different answer.

The French Edition of The Rogue…

… arrived in the mail yesterday. Love the tattered robes and badass expression. I hope French readers are enjoying the ongoing story of the Traitor Spy Trilogy.