Trudi Canavan

bestselling author of The Black Magician Trilogy

Trudi's Blog

Polish Edition Box Set

boxset.jpgForeign language editions of my books are always fun to receive. There’s something quite trippy about seeing a book so familiar to me changed into one that is filled with words I can’t read. It’s like it came from an alternate universe, written by that universe’s version of me. But no, it merely came from a mysterious land on the other side of this world. A place I’d love to visit one day.

Most of the foreign language edition publishers have used or recycled the same artwork my UK publishers produced, which is a huge compliment to the artist and designer. A few have created some very interesting interpretations – look closely at the Indonesian editions and you’ll see some very familiar figures. This Polish edition is a very clean, uncluttered reuse of the artwork. But what delighted me most was that they’ve also produced them as a box set. Unfortunately the box of the set that arrived the other day is damaged, but I’ll tape it back together and put it on my bookshelf anyway.

Because there’s something about a bit of folded cardboard holding the books together that makes them extra special. I’m not quite sure why, but it always has for me. Does it for you?

Thankyou DeathRay!

I’m not a big fan of prophecies in fantasy books. Firstly because they usually give away the plot. Secondly because I prefer characters win the day (or not) out of effort, determination and cleverness rather than the inevitability set up by a (often badly-written) piece of poetry.

The kind of prophecy I like, however, arrived in my letterbox this week, sent by my publisher. In DeathRay magazine, and it’s not because it isn’t written as poetry.

Deathray.jpg“Hardback to the Future” is an article predicting the next six months of speculative fiction reading matter, and along with some exciting new titles I was rather chuffed to find this lovely write-up about The Magician’s Apprentice:

Canavan’s Black Magician trilogy took the fantasy world by storm a few years ago, turning her into a Sunday Times best-selling author in almost record time. This prequel, set several hundred years before the events in the The Magician’s Guild, should please her legions of fans, and doubtless add to their ranks.”

To which I squeaked in delight not just because it says nice things about my book, but it’s quotable. I’ve read plenty of good reviews over the years, but somehow they never contained really good quotable phrases. Every time my publishers have asked for quotes to promote my books I ended up saying: ‘Well, there’s that one from five years ago…”. I’m going to write “…should please her legions of fans, and doubtless add to their ranks” on a piece of paper and stick it to my pinboard behind my desk, ready for when the marketing people call. 

So THANKYOU to reviewers/prophets who write not just nice things about my books, but keep my marketing people happy, too!

At the MSFC

The reading at the MSFC seemed to go well last week. Here’s a pic of me looking scruffy and serious:


Which was about the time I warned the audience about the gory beginning, and told them if they wanted to put their hands over their ears and sing ‘lalalalala’ I would signal to let them know when the gory bit finished.

I was impressed that nobody covered their ears and sang ‘lalalalala’. The MSFC are a tough bunch.

They’re also wonderfully supportive and enthusiastic, and bought lots of books, which made my friendly local specialty sf bookshop owner very happy. The reading part took about 20-25 minutes and I managed to resist editing my own work in the middle of it (though I did find a few things I’d like to tweak). There were questions and the signing of books, and a nice hot cup of tea to finish with.

So thank you to Natalie and Murray, who organised the event, Justin from Slow Glass Books for catering to the book buying attendees, and to everyone who came along to listen to me read the first chapter of The Magician’s Apprentice.

First Paragraphs

The first paragraph of a book is one of the most important. It contains the words that can introduce a reader (or commissioning editor) to an author’s writing style, the world the book is set in, and is the first taste of the story to come. If the reader doesn’t like the first paragraph, they may stop reading and put the book down. Because of this, it’s easy to become intimidated by writing first paragraphs.

Me? I love them. As always, I’m not vain enough to think I can dazzle everyone with sublime prose, so I aim to have a little fun. In the Black Magician Trilogy the first paragraphs were all about establishing a mood and a feel for the world the story was set in:

The Magicians’ Guild:

It is said, in Imardin, that the wind has a soul, and that it wails through the narrow city streets because it is grieved by what it finds there. On the day of the Purge it whistled amongst the swaying masts in the Marina, rushed through the Western Gates and screamed between the buildings. Then, as if appalled by the ragged souls it met there, it quietened to a whimper.

The Novice:

For a few weeks each summer, the sky over Kyralia cleared to a harsh blue and the sun beat down relentlessly. In the city of Imardin, the streets were dusty and the masts of ships in the Marina writhed behind the heat haze, while men and women retreated to their homes to fan themselves and sip juices or – in the rougher parts of the slums – drink copious amounts of bol.

The High Lord:

In ancient Kyralian poetry the moon is known as the Eye. When the Eye is wide open, its watchful presence deters evil – or encourages madness in those who do wrong under its gaze. Closed, with only a sliver of white to mark its sleeping presence, the Eye allows hidden deeds of both good or ill to remain unnoticed.

As a writer you are always learning. When I came to write the Age of the Five trilogy, I had worked out that a first paragraph was much more effective at making a reader want to continue on if the tension of a situation was immediately apparent:

Priestess of the White:

Auraya stepped over a fallen log, taking care that no crinkle of crushed leaves or snapping of twigs betrayed her presence. A tug at her throat warned her to look back. The hem of her tawl had caught on a branch. She tugged it free and carefully chose her next step.

Last of the Wilds:

Reivan detected the change before any of the others. At first it was instinctive, a feeling more than a knowing; then she noticed that the air smelled duller and that there was a grittiness to it. Looking at the rough walls of the tunnel, she saw deposits of a powdery substance. It coated one side of every bump and groove, as if it had been blown there from a wind originating in the darkness ahead.

Voice of the Gods:

The man staggering through the hospice door was covered in blood. It streaked his face and clothing, and leaked from between fingers pressed to his brow. As the occupants of the greeting hall saw him they fell silent, then the noise and activity resumed. Someone would take care of him.

But when I came to write the prequel to the Black Magician Trilogy, I needed to drag my attention away from the many distractions competing for it, and I think that may have been the source of this first paragraph:

The Magician’s Apprentice:

There was no fast and painless way to perform an amputation, Tessia knew. Not if you did it properly. A neat amputation required a flap of skin to be cut to cover the stump, and that took time.

Which, while short, has drawn some interesting reactions from test readers. What do you think?

A Reading

Writing – at least writing Big Honking Fantasy Trilogies – tends to involve a lot of time spend alone and unobserved. It’s a job ideally suited for a loner. That suits me fine. I reckon I’m 90% hermit and 10% social party animal.

The 10% social party animal comes in handy when it’s time to promote a book. Over the last seven or eight years, since I first had a published book to wave about, I’ve taken part in most of the usual forms of book promotion. I’ve held a book launch. I’ve signed books in shops, or at conventions. I’ve been interviewed via email, the telephone, and in a radio station studio. I’ve accepted awards. I’ve did one short talk at an English teacher’s conference – boy was that nerve-wracking! I’ve sat on panels at conventions, done a few talks to SF social groups, and occasionally run writing workshops.

The one thing I have avoided is readings.

Why? Well, I’ve read excerpt of other people’s books when launching them, so I know I can do it. For some reason when I read someone else’s writing I don’t worry that I’ll have a coughing fit, or lose my voice, or accidently substitute a word for something rude.

But with my own work? Anxiety abounds. And worst of all, I just know that I’ll find a mistake in the text. And then I’m going to forget I’m reading to an audience and start editing on the spot.

For a long time I’ve been telling myself that the only way to get over this anxiety is to confront it. But I’m good at avoidance, and it’s taken the dogged perseverance and irresistible charm of Natalie at the Melbourne Science Fiction Club to finally corner me into doing a reading.

So if you’d like to watch me freak out hear me read the first chapter of The Magician’s Apprentice, come to the Melbourne Science Fiction Club on the evening of the 21st November.

Just make sure there are no red pens in sight.