An interview with Trudi Canavan

By Joshua S Hill

It has become quite apparent to me that Australia is producing more and more of fantasy’s best writers. Thankfully for me, they are also some of the nicest people around, and one of the best, Trudi Canavan, was happy enough to sit down with me a few weeks ago.

Funnily enough, it turned out that we lived pretty close to each other, and so we met at my local shopping centre for coffee and lunch, and what followed was two and a half hours of great conversation with one of the better Australian writers’ I’ve come across.

Life for Trudi, however, is simple, and focuses very much on her writing. From dawn till dusk the computer is on and she is writing. But when dinnertime comes, her husband Paul and Trudi taking it in turns to cook, the computer goes off.

Some nights the pair can be found at a group of people interested about writing, bitching about one book or reliving the joys of another. Other nights might see them at the Melbourne Science Fiction club, or simply resting at home together with their 14 year old ginger cat.

Born and raised in Victoria, Australia, Trudi Canavan has always had a passion for stories. When in primary school Trudi’s librarian started to read a story that she had already read herself, she complained. In fairness, Trudi had read the vast majority of the library, so this was probably a little unfair on the librarian. Nevertheless, seemingly unfazed, the librarian asked Trudi if she would like to tell the students a story.

She agreed.

What followed was a lesson in storytelling that could very easily have turned Trudi off writing altogether. She reversed the original Little Mermaid story so it was the human male falling in love with the mermaid. For those who know the original story, you’ll know that the mermaid actually ends up dying, kinda. Trudi found that, despite hating the ending to the original story, she couldn’t change the ending in her own story. She had to kill off the human man who had fallen for the mermaid. Trudi noted that “the other kids didn’t like it very much. And that was my first introduction to how fans will react when you kill off their favourite character.”

Personally, I think we’re lucky to have any stories from Trudi Canavan.

Maybe we can owe our thanks for Trudi’s perseverance to the 80’s radio production of Lord of the Rings, which inspired her to not only read the book but to want to create something as epic. Or maybe we can thank the teacher that, after Trudi mentioned she wanted to make something like the Empire Strikes Back.

Trudi tells of what life was like after the second Star Wars movie was released. Between hooning around the playground with the boys pretending to be tie-fighters, Trudi went to a teacher and said that she wanted to make movies when she grew up. The teacher told Trudi that the movie industry was hard to get into, so maybe she should start writing her ideas down.

“I actually have a little book somewhere that I made by hand, the story of the Dollmouse, and I would have done that when I was 8; my first written book.”

Not surprisingly then, Trudi has a large collection of notes that date back to 12 years of age. Trudi’s most recent trilogy, the Age of the Five Trilogy, actually dates back to one of those original ideas.

“The Age of the Five actually saw me go back to a story I was writing at age 14. So I took out the really embarrassing elements, like the telepathic miniature winged horses, and the villain who wore leather so he creaked all the time. “

But it was in her mid twenties, when Trudi attended classes on writing and grammar that her writing began in earnest. And, following in the steps of her love for research, Trudi found herself investigating other Australian authors, looking for signs of tertiary education. What she found is truly fascinating.

“I did a lot of research before I was published, and I looked at all the authors that had been published and whether they had a degree and what the degree was in. And I found that only about half the authors had a degree, and only half of those had anything to do with writing. The other ones had degrees in other subjects like geology and biology and things like that. So I think you always need to have a great enthusiasm for other things as well. “

“I’ve got a great curiosity about the world,” Trudi continued. “I love reading non-fiction books, I love watching documentaries. I love going out and trying something. I’ve learnt weaving recently, and I know how difficult weaving is. I’ve done woodcarving, I’ve done pottery, and I’ve done fencing for awhile.”

Trudi is probably best known for her Black Magician’s trilogy, first released in 2001 (but originally written well before Harry Potter). She spent a long time waiting for one publishing company to get back to her, and dealing with a troublesome commissioning editor before Trudi moved on. “Eventually I got a real commissioning editor who took me on and then got me the publishing deal at HarperCollins. So I didn’t get any rejection slips. I always wanted them to give me a rejection slip so I could pass it on to someone else. So I wrote another book in the meantime, because you don’t just sit around and wait.”

Following on from the success of the Black Magician trilogy, came the prequel, the Magician’s Apprentice. And naturally, Trudi will be continuing that series with the Traitor Spy trilogy, set to be released early 2010, and to be set about 20 years on from the end of the trilogy.

According to Trudi, the titles to the books are a huge hint as to the content (The Ambassador’s Mission, The Rogue and The Traitor Queen). And for those who have read the previous books, the titles will probably tell you we will be seeing more of Savara and her people, who are also (probably) the women who disappeared out of Sachaka into the mountains at the end of Magician’s Apprentice.

One of the questions I love to ask authors is whether anyone in their books mirrors people in their real life. And though Trudi wouldn’t tell me who the character was, she does explain why she doesn’t like doing it.

“I always said I’d base characters on character types, not on people. But a few years ago I was scratching around to name a character, and I didn’t know anything about her, I just needed to replace a character. And so I stole a friend’s name, and altered it a bit, and I thought, what the hell, I’ll make it like this friend, because the friend had lots of personality. And then, this particular character decided to grit her teeth and become a totally different character, and she became evil. And I had this friend who knew I had based a character on her, but the character had turned evil, and I thought ‘I’m not doing this again’.”

There was a lot more to our interview, a lot that I’ll keep to myself. But for a lot more information on the author, make sure to check out Trudi’s website at




Our Trudi Canavan reviews

The Magician's Guild by Trudi Canavan

The Magician’s Guild is a fantastic first book to begin The Black Magician Trilogy. I found it to be simply written, yet original, unpredictable, fast-paced and throbbing with intensity.It was easy to be transported into the world described, and quite often I felt present on the journey with the likeable lead character. I did, however, feel a slightly stronger connection to the characters, and particularly their emotions, than the environment.There was a tendency to flit between storylines mid-chapter and this may disrupt the flow for some readers, while others may find [...]


Read our full review

The High Lord by Trudi Canavan

Book three of The Black Magician Trilogy: The High Lord, is an excellent read, arguably the best of the trilogy.This highly rewarding book draws all of the storylines together, smoothly. This is some achievement, considering that there are so many sub-storylines, and that the intensity and lively pace remain.You are reminded of just how many characters and sub-storylines you have enjoyed throughout the trilogy. The number of characters I have been intrigued with, and liked, in this trilogy has been astonishing, the most of any book or series I have read.I felt particula [...]


Read our full review

The Magician's Apprentice by Trudi Canavan

This stand-alone book is linked to - and precedes - The Black Magician Trilogy but was actually published a significant time after it. Seemingly more confidently written than the trilogy, it has a stronger adventure element, and arguably the most lively and adult-themed interplay between characters.Although the book was imaginative, entertaining and unpredictable there are far fewer sub-storylines present than in The Black Magician Trilogy. If readers are keen on such layers in the story, they may be a little disappointed in this book, especially considering its length of nearly 700 [...]


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The Novice by Trudi Canavan

Book 2 of The Black Magicians Trilogy continues the light reading style from Book 1. It is written at a fast pace, and oozes intensity. The storyline is extremely enjoyable, with a good amount of progression, intrigue and mystery. It is perhaps the least ambitious of the trilogy, but the flow is probably the best. Book 3 is the brilliant reward for completing Book 2.By the end of the book I had really grown familiar with the setting for this book; the Magicians Guild, the learning environment and base for the novices. I have rarely become so familiar with a setting in a book before. [...]


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The Rogue by Trudi Canavan

When an author allows themselves to spend time in a universe across time I’m rather happy. By this I mean when an author publishes books from the same universe, but not necessarily the same time; allowing themselves to tell a larger-form story over a period of decades or centuries.I’ve found myself lucky in regards to reading Trudi Canavan’s ‘Kyralia series’ because I came across it when I read the prequel, ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ which was actually published after the original ‘Black Magician Trilogy’, which I promptly [...]


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The Ambassador's Mission by Trudi Canavan

Continuing a series is always a perilous decision for a writer, as sometimes they can simply push the story beyond what was feasible and other times they can create something better. Trudi Canavan has added to her 'Black Magician trilogy' twice now, first with the prequel 'The Magician's Apprentice' and now with the first book in her new series set in the same world, 'The Ambassador's Mission.'The series, entitled 'the Traitor Spy trilogy' starts out twenty years after the end of the Black Magician trilogy. Several old characters are revisited [...]


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Thief's Magic by Trudi Canavan

In a world where an industrial revolution is powered by magic, Tyen, a student of archaeology, unearths a sentient book called Vella. Once a young sorcerer-bookbinder, Vella was transformed into a useful tool by one of the greatest sorcerers of history. Since then she has been collecting information, including a vital clue to the disaster Tyen's world faces.Elsewhere, in a land ruled by the priests, Rielle the dyer's daughter has been taught that to use magic is to steal from the Angels. Yet she knows she has a talent for it, and that there is a corrupter in the city willing [...]


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The Traitor Queen by Trudi Canavan

I’m always a little disappointed when I leave a book sitting on the shelf too long – long enough for the author to release another book. I feel even worse when the book on the shelf is the end of one series, and the beginning of a new series arrives on my doorstep before I find the time to get back to the one on the shelf. Such is the case with Trudi Canavan, whose book ‘The Traitor Queen’ arrived just as I found myself reading very little. However, with the arrival of Canavan’s latest series, I picked up the initiative and read the final book in the & [...]


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