I first met Trent at a Vision meeting back in 97, when Marianne and I were running the Vision Writers Workshop. He was working in a bookstore and writing short stories. Trent has had over 70 short stories published and his Urban Fantasy Trilogy Death Works is being published by Orbit.
We invited Trent along to the ROR we held in Varuna, because we knew we’d all benefit from his insight and we thought we needed some input from the male point of view.
Trent is one of life’s true romantics. His stories are both wonderfully whimsical and nicely ironic.
Trent has a copy of his latest book ‘Managing Death’ to give away. See the give-away question at the end of this post.
Q: Your stories have been finalists in the Aurealis Awards many times and have won two Aurealis Awards, yet I had trouble finding a complete list of your stories and where they were available. Are you not writing short stories any more?
I really should do something about putting a bibliography on my website. I guess there’s at least thirty stories I’ve published that I’d rather never see the light of day again, another thirty that I think are suspect and a handful that I’m happy with. Which may explain why I’m not writing any short fiction at the moment.
Short stories are too easy to screw up, and I’ve had a good twenty years of writing them (I started submitting short stories before my eighteenth birthday) so I don’t think there’s a pressing need for me to be writing them. Which doesn’t mean I won’t write any more, but right now I’m happy doing the novels.
Though, you never know when a story might grab you…
Q:Your Death Works trilogy is being published by Orbit. The trilogy is set in Brisbane, based on the premise that Death is a corporate business and your main character starts out as a little cog in a big machine. The Brisbane setting is evident and lovingly defined. Was there any resistance from your UK publisher to an Australian setting like Brisbane?
As far as I know there was no resistance from either my US or UK publisher. And these books are unashamedly set in Brisbane, but, hey, not every Urban Fantasy novel can be set in New York, New Orleans, London or Melbourne.
Q: You seem to be having a lot of fun with the whole Death as a Corporation premise. Where did this idea come from? Have you worked for a faceless corporation?
I just thought it would be an interesting approach to the grim reaper. Not so much a mystical job, but a job. And with the first book I was also writing with Work Choices very much in mind, things were looking for tough for workers and Unions, at the time, and I just reckoned that it would be even tougher for someone who worked for death. Must be the time for it, there’s a bit of a reaper vogue going on at the moment.
Don’t we all work for faceless corporations at one time or another – though they’re never really faceless. It’s the faces that make corporations interesting to write about. They’re states, cults and ideologies all rolled into one. I’ve had some interesting (and eccentric) bosses in my time, and there’s a bit of (some of) them in Mortmax.
Q: It is every writer’s dream to sell a trilogy. Yours wasn’t completed when you sold it. Have you found it challenging writing a book, while editing the previous one?
Yes, I was like the dog that catches the car. What do I with it now? Writing’s always challenging, and you never really know if you can do something until you’ve done it.
With all three books put to bed now, I think I can say that I know I can do this. Though, who knows, the next books I write may not go as smoothly (please ignore this, dear publishers).
It was harder than I expected in some ways – turns out, even with calendars and charts I still have a terrible grasp of time within a story – and easier, Steve’s voice often just dragged me through the narrative.
I learnt that editing wasn’t really for me, if I wanted to write. I also learnt that you really need to hook the reader from the beginning or you lose them, which I thought I already knew before this, but editing really drove it home.
Oh, and you should really read a magazine’s submission guidelines – they’re there to help you.
Q: Around this time Prime published a collection of your stories called ‘Reserved for Travelling Shows’. What did you learn in the process of compiling this anthology and is it still available?
One, that I had a bit of a death obsession, and two that really it was too early in my career to publish a collection. It’s a journeyman collection, and while there are some good stories in there, like all journeyman collections there’s some (to put it politely) not so good stuff, too.
It’s still available, and if you put the title into Google Books you can read a fair chunk of it.
Q: You’ve taught at Clarion South, and are currently teaching Creative Writing at QUT. You were a member of VISION for many years and you’ve been a member of ROR for the last 7 years so you have plenty of experience at critiquing. What is the most valuable thing you have learnt over the years about the craft of writing?
Be interesting, that is write what interests you, not what you think should be interesting or what you think you SHOULD be writing. The rewards of writing have to come from the writing itself first, and how can it be rewarding if you are writing something that really isn’t you, and that your heart really isn’t into.
Joy, enthusiasm, and peculiarity, these things make good writing for me.
Q: I believe you have handed in book three of the Death Works series. What is your next project?
I’ve three things that I’m working on. One is something that we critiqued in ROR, a duology called Roil and Night’s Engines. Another is a kid’s series called the Players (I’ve book One written, but I’m waiting on some feedback for that one) and, finally, I’m getting some notes and scenes together for book 4 and 5 of the Death Works Series – there’s still things I want to say about that world.
Q: When Marianne and I approached you back in 2003 to see if you’d like to join ROR, you agreed and have been part of the group ever since. ROR is very different from the VISION writing group in that we critique our novels in progress and we’re all published in novel length fiction. Did you find ROR helped you in developing or directing your writing? And if so, in what ways?
The simple answer is that I didn’t have a novel published before I joined ROR and now I do.
ROR to me is part critiquing group, part family. I find every member of ROR (awe)inspiring, and it’s great to have some wonderful writers with very different approaches to writing as friends and confidantes.
Q: At ROR we always do our realistic goals and our dream goals. So what are your realistic goals and what are your dream goals?
Finish my current projects by the end of 2011, I think that’s realistic enough. As for, dream goal, keep writing what I want, but with a few less financial pressures would be nice, but if not, well, I’m kind of living the dream now.
If you were charged with organising a meeting of the world’s Deaths, where would you host it and what food would you serve?
The competition will stay open until Monday night 13th December 6pm and the winner will be announced Tuesday morning on the blog.