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Interview with Trent Jamieson

Trent Jamieson, Brisbane short story demi-god, local luminary of the writing scene, University teacher, Aurealis Award winner and Clarion South tutor, has written his first novel: an urban fantasy “Death Most Definite”, and soon to be the first in a trilogy.

How did you get your start in writing fiction?

I’ve always written fiction, well, since I could hold a pen and write. And I’ve always written Speculative Fiction. It’s what I grew up reading. Everything from the Magic Pudding, Lord of the Rings, and Lud in the Mist, to Dan Simmon’s Hyperion Cantos. Spec Fic has marked the important moments of my life: it’s been a comfort through some pretty horrible things, and an accompaniment to some wonderful stuff as well. So it’s natural, I guess, that I’d want to write it too. Not that I don’t read other literature as well, but Spec Fic will always be at the heart of my reading and writing.

You have an impressive number of short stories publications. Was it a big leap to moving from short stories to the long form of novels?

Not so much a big leap, just a different direction. They’re two very different modes of writing. But I’ve been writing both for a very long time: it’s just that the short stories started selling earlier.

How did you get your break with the Death books?

Persistence. Seriously. Orbit opening their offices in Australia certainly helped. It’s a bit easier to get your foot in the door, if there’s a door to put your foot in. I found Orbit to be very approachable and fortunately they liked the idea of this series and loved the first book. Hard work, lots and lots of hard work, luck, and good timing all played their part too. And my biggest break was marrying Diana. My wife has always supported my writerly aspirations. That kind of belief is incredibly important. Without her I may have given up a long time ago. And Diana is the reason I fell in love with Brisbane and ended up writing a novel(series) set there. Diana is the keystone to all my fiction.

Your trilogy is essentially being published back-to-back over the next 2 years. Has it been difficult writing each novel in such a short period?

I’ll let you know when I finish the third book. Like any long project it has its ups and downs, but, in the main, I’ve loved writing the books. I think novels suit my temperament.

Have you had any issues with maintaining consistency between the novels?

Not consistency, my stories are very much about voice, and I think I’ve got a very clear idea who my protagonist is and how he sounds. Steven de Selby is the glue that holds those books together and, while he changes, and grows up a bit, he has very peculiar world view.

Can you tell us about the process of deciding the style of covers?

I’ve not had that much of a say in it – though I love my cover. Of course, I’ve been shown it at various stages of its development, and my opinion’s been sought, but the decision hasn’t really been mine. And, to be honest, I really don’t think it should be. I’m not really about having a cover that I love and everyone else hates.

You were a tutor for the first time at Clarion South in 2009 and we have often heard of Clarion experiences from its students. What was it like from the other side of the desk?

It was wonderful, exhausting, and exciting. I’m quite sure I learnt much more than I taught. The worst bit for me was that I had caught some sort of virus and I had to push through the fatigue – you don’t get a lot of sleep when you’re tutoring. The best was seeing all that potential in the room, listening to all those insightful critiques. You really start to feel invested in the student’s future. I’m always so excited to hear of a sale or some other milestone reached. Oh, and jealousy, definitely jealousy. I forgot about that, you’re all so much more talented than me, damn it.

Is Clarion South comparable to the QUT short story writing course you teach?

Well, this year I haven’t been doing much teaching, so many deadlines! Though I’m back in a month or so. But not really, they’re two very different things. At Clarion you are living and breathing short stories, meeting tight deadlines, and getting in each other’s faces 24/7. The short story course is one of many units a student will be doing that semester, it’s part of an integrated whole. I think either would compliment the other.

You have been writing to various deadlines for the Death books in the past months. How do you motivate yourself each day / how do you ensure you achieve the progress you need to meet those required submission dates?

It’s just a matter of breaking it down into achievable targets, knowing there’s a bigger picture, but not thinking about it too much. I’ve still got a couple of deadlines to meet yet on this series so I don’t want to be too smug about it.

What is your opinion on the recent debate over e-book pricing? Are there plans to release your Death books for e-book readers as well as print?

I must say I don’t have an opinion, but I guess it comes down to content, and what the-book contains that the paper-version may not. E-books certainly allow for a richer environment – though that makes them somewhat different to books, more book as app, then book as book. Regardless of format the e and hardcopy books go through the same editorial process, and that `ain’t cheap. So, hey, I do have an opinion. Yes, my books will be available as e-books.


Trent’s own site can be found here and a review by Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus here .

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Reader Comments (1)

How lovely, seeing Clarion South 2009 from a tutor's point of view. And so excited to see Trent's trilogy!

January 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteramanda

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