Interview: The top fantasy author chats to Stephen Jewell about her forthcoming book The Rogue
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Melbourne-based writer Trudi Canavan has become well-known for her extraordinary world building and strong characterisation. Last year she returned to the world of her Black Magician books with The Ambassador’s Mission , the first in the new Traitor Spy trilogy. And in May this year, The Rogue hits bookshelves (both virtual and physical), continuing the story and dialling up the action with a threat to the Guild of Magicians itself. Stephen Jewell spoke with Canavan this month and quizzed her about her work:
SFX: You introduced black magician Sonea and her son Lorkin in The Ambassador’s Mission . After Sonea took centre stage in the first book, does Lorkin come into his own in The Rogue ?
Trudi Canavan: It’s very much his story. I must admit that I intended him to be the main character but the other characters have already been established and they’re really strong characters. They have a habit of trying to take over some times so I have to hold them back a bit.
Have you enjoyed developing Lorkin’s character?
He’s the new character in the series and it’s been really fun to get to know him. Of all the characters, he’s the only young one so there’s also a great contrast between him and the rest of the characters.
Sonea is now 40 years old and is a little bit cranky. She doesn’t realise how intimidating she is to other people and if anything she’s been a bit of an overprotective mother. I first created her as a character when I was in my late 20s but I wasn’t published until many years later. Now I’m writing her and I’m in my early 40s. But I honestly didn’t base her on myself and if anything, she’s more how I’d like to be. She’s more fierce and unpredictable while I tend to sit in the background.
Are you interested in social hierarchies?
The idea of the world of Kryalia springs from how magic has to be taught, which means that the teacher is going to be a very powerful person. As with any developing culture, it eventually works out that the only the most powerful class in the society would actually have magic and they are only taught by their own class. The Magician’s Apprentice was about someone from the low end of society, manifesting magical power and how that completely messes up the balance of the whole system. In The Black Magician Trilogy, only people from the highest class are allowed to join the Guild but they’ve had to relax that in this series because they lost so many magicians at the end of the last book. They have to build up their numbers again so they have had to open it up to anyone. There’s now a mini-class war within the Guild, which goes from bullying between novices right through to the politics of the graduates and senior magicians.
Do you believe that fantasy realms should always be rooted in reality?
The first rule of world building is available physics, which basically means that if you want it to feel real, it has to follow the same rules as this world, from gravity to how human behaviour works. If you have a fantasy element that doesn’t obey the laws of physics, make sure that it has a fantasy explanation.
What can you tell us about the final instalment, The Traitor Queen ?
I always love writing the third book in a series because you get to tie up all the threads that you put out in the first two books. You finally let people know what really happens and reveal all the secrets and bring certain characters together. With this series, there’s been hardly any room to move in a way, as there’s been one important thing after another. I can’t really tell you much but Lorkin gets to move around a lot. He has even greater reasons for his loyalties and Sonea is put through the wringer as a mother due to Lorkin facing further adventures.
After that you’ll be embarking upon a new trilogy, Millennium’s Rule .
I tried really hard to think of an idea that wasn’t three books but that was just the way the story seemed to come. The setting is a multiple worlds scenario so it’s not so much world building but universe-building. The Black Magician Trilogy was about a conflict between countries and was very limited and almost claustrophobic in its range of settings while The Age of the Five was about a conflict between continents. This one has even greater scope, which I’m finding really exciting.