Working with Words: Tom Trumble

Tom Trumble is the author of the travel book Unholy Pilgrims (Penguin) and is currently working on his second book, as a recipient of a Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowship, supported by the Readings Foundation. He has worked as a print journalist, a parliamentary political advisor and a copywriter - and still works as a freelance copywriter.

We talked to him about reporting on fat dog epidemics, hanging out with Tintin’s Captain Haddock and why aspiring writers should ‘read, read, read’.

What was the first piece of writing you had published?

It was a colour piece in the Herald Sun about a fat dog epidemic in Narre Warren. Not exactly Walkley award-winning stuff.

What’s the worst part of your job?

The worst part of the job also happens to be the best part: as a non-collaborative exercise, it’s all up to you.

What’s been the most significant moment in your writing career so far?

Getting my first book, Unholy Pilgrims, published. Hearing my publisher say the words, ‘we want to publish your book’ was a moment of unmatched euphoria.

What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve received about writing?

Read, read, read …

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever heard or read about yourself?

I heard that there was a four-year waiting list on my book at Balwyn Library. Then I was told that library users only find out the waiting time after they place an ‘on loan’ book on reserve.

If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

I’d like to think something fun (television) or important (medicine). My professional history would suggest middle management in a company I loathed.

There’s much debate on whether creative writing can be taught – what’s your view?

I think it can be taught. Take a look at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. That place is a finishing school for Pulitzer Prize winners, Prime Minister Literary Award recipients, bestsellers and the critically acclaimed. What more proof do you need?

What’s your advice for someone wanting to be a writer?

Read.

Do you buy your books online, in a physical bookshop, or both?

Both.

If you could go out to dinner with any fictional character, who would it be and why?

Captain Haddock from the Adventures of Tintin: a deeply flawed middle-aged soak prone to moments of weakness and heroism. In Haddock’s company, boredom is impossible. We would talk about the secret of the Unicorn over a dram of single malt Loch Lomond whisky or whatever else he had in the ship’s hold.

What’s the book that’s had the most significant impact on your life or work – and why?

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S Lewis. I write narrative non-fiction, but it was high fantasy that first got me into reading, this book above all. I still love the genre.

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