Working with Words: Trent Jamieson

Trent Jamieson is a Brisbane-based bookseller and writer of science fiction and fantasy. Perhaps best known as the author of the Death Works series, his most recent novel Day Boy won the 2015 Aurealis Awards for best Fantasy Novel and best Horror Novel. He spoke to us about the magic of the subconscious, Ursula Le Guin, Bilbo Baggins, and the poetry at the heart of fantasy.

What was the first piece of writing you had published?

The first serious piece of writing I had published was a short story called 'Threnody' in a magazine called Eidolon. It was published way back in 1995 and the story illustration was done by a young Shaun Tan. 

What’s the best part of your job?

I love the imaginative leaps that the subconscious throws at you. An image or a sentence or even a kind of rhythm builds itself into a story. No matter how much work is then involved in making that story into a cohesive satisfying thing, there is still something magical about the process.

I love the imaginative leaps that the subconscious throws at you. An image or a sentence or even a kind of rhythm builds itself into a story.

What’s the worst part of your job?

All the work that's involved in making a story as good as I can get it. (But that's also kind of the best part too – I guess I'm a masochist.)

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

There have been so many moments. First short story sale, first novel sale. I have been lucky that publishers have had enough faith in my work to publish it. 

What’s the best advice you’ve received about writing?

That you don't need a lot of time to produce work – writing is made of increments, and even fifteen minutes to half an hour most days can be enough. Persistence pays off over time. 

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

That I was born in Newcastle – I was actually born in Gunnedah. People still tell me this, and it isn't true. 

You don't need a lot of time to produce work ... writing is made of increments.

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

My day job, which is working in a bookstore. I work at Avid Reader in West End, and I love it. 

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

I've taught writing for many years.

I think it can be helpful, but the most important thing is reading. Read widely, find the rhythms of story and form and let them take shape from all that reading. There's plenty of techniques you can hone, and approaches to structuring story, but reading is the most important thing. Writers are readers first.

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

Read. And be brave.

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

Both. Mainly in bookstores, but I often impulse buy e-books.

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

Bilbo Baggins because hobbits like their food, and drink, and the talk would be of dragons, and dark woods and mountains, and who doesn't want to talk about that over dinner? 

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

The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin. It gave me the poetry at the heart of fantasy. That, and The Hobbit, led me down a literary path that I have been following since I first started writing.

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