Interview with Trent Jamieson, author of Roil

Trent Jamieson is the author of the urban fantasy trilogy Death Works. His newest book, Roil (reviewed here), was released in September by Angry Robot Books and is the first book in a duology, The Nightbound Land. After I recently had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Roil, and finding the author to be very friendly and approachable, I thought it might be fun and worthwhile to get to know the man behind the books. So, let me introduce the talented and imaginative author and ‘all round nice guy’ Trent Jamieson!


Introducing Trent Jamieson

Hi Trent! Thanks for joining us. Your latest book Roil has just been released by Angry Robot and all three books in your Death Works trilogy are already available in stores. You’ve also picked up some awards. How does it feel?
Great. This is stuff I’ve been working towards most of my life and for it to finally happen, I feel very lucky.

Can you tell us a little about yourself? If you were writing a character description of ‘author Trent Jamieson’ in a book what would you say about him?
Trent works in the Avid Reader bookshop, lives in Brisbane with his wife Diana, and two crazy dogs, and isn’t quite as tall as he’d like to be. He likes good beer, loud music, and to laugh.

Can you give us any idea what to expect from you next? Any new series planned? What are your current projects?
I have so many ideas I’m frightened they’re going to burst out of my head. I’ve another urban fantasy series in mind (this one about a big family on the fringes of Brisbane); there’s also a sword and sorcery novel that is really huge and weird, and needs another couple of drafts. I’ve some kids books I’d like to see in print. I guess it all depends on what my publishers get interested in. I’m patient; I know I’ll get to them all eventually.


Roil, Death Works, genres and the end of the world

For those who haven’t read it, can you give as a short overview of what Roil is about?
is end of the world steampunk. It’s a story about a world called Shale that is on the verge of being swallowed by a monster-filled darkness called the Roil (hey, that’s the title of the book!). It follows the wounded souls who decide to fight back, each of them not quite what they seem. There’s a drug addict by the name of David Milde, there’s Margaret Penn, a vengeful survivor of a city destroyed by the Roil, and Cadell, a man who is thousands of years old and who may be even more monstrous than the Roil itself.

Roil is the first book in The Nightbound Land duology. Can you give us any idea of what to expect in the next book?
It follows on almost directly after Roil. It’s a bit tighter and a bit more focused on David, Margaret, and Kara Jade. At the same time you get to see a bit of the bigger picture. And the Roil itself keeps getting smarter.

Was your experience writing Roil much different from writing the Death Works books? What were some of the main differences between writing urban and epic fantasy? Is it easier to write a story set in this world or a world entirely of your creation?
Yes and no. I actually think there’s a lot of thematic cross-over; they both deal with some sort of looming threat, though I think the Death Works books are a little lighter in tone.

Urban fantasy is easier in regards to the worldbuilding—people know what a bus is, or a supermarket—but fantasy, particularly secondary world fantasy, does involve a lot more explaining, and a bit more mental lifting. Though, to be honest, I’ve lived in both these worlds so long now they feel real to me.

Both have their challenges; the real world demands balance with the fantasy elements, and they need to take each other seriously. A completely made up world still needs a way of drawing the reader in, without alienating them too much with the strange (though we all have a different threshold of weird, so there’s no hard and fast rules).


Journeys in The Nightbound Land

Do you have a favorite character in Roil, or one that was particularly fun to write? If so, who was it?
I think Cadell is my favorite. He’s rather complicated, and I had a lot of fun writing him. Margaret was great to write, too; she’s so wounded and strong. And she has such trouble trying to understand the people around her—she’s better at killing the creatures of the Roil than comprehending people’s motives.

There are many strange creatures and technologies in Roil. Do you have a favorite creation or one that you are particularly proud of? If so, what is it and why?
I love the Melody Amiss, Margaret’s steam carriage. I’m also very fond of the Aerokin.

Where do you find inspiration for the more outlandish elements of your books?
Books, music, art—the paintings of Turner and Goyer in particular. Oh, and poetry, too—like most fantasists, I’m guilty of borrowing from Blake and Milton.

Parts of Roil were decidedly creepy and horrifying. Did you ever surprise yourself with what you came up with? What do you think the scariest moment in Roil is?
Sometimes, but not as often as you’d think. The scariest moment for me is on the train The Dolorous Grey.

Roil could be described as a novel of hungers. David hungers for his drug, Margaret for revenge, the Roil to consume, and the less said about Cadell’s hungers the better. Is this a deliberate move on your part? What do you think it adds to the story?
Yes, and I’m glad you noticed that! This is a very hungry world, running down, resource poor, but always hungry. Kind of like our rather ravenous society. What it adds as an engine of story, well, hungers and desires that bang up against each other cause conflict, so I think that adds to the story.

I’ve heard David wasn’t always intended to be a drug addict. What made you decide to change this about him?
There was a scene at the end of the book where I referred to a drug called Carnival. The name’s ironic—it’s anything but a high, more a cushioning from the world—and I started to wonder if David might be addicted to it.

How do you envisage people responding to your work? What would you like readers to get out of your books?
Hopefully enjoying it. I think everyone gets something different out of a book, but if I can take them somewhere else for a while I’m happy. If they get some of the metaphorical elements of the story, I’m happy too. But metaphor’s a slippery beast, and what I think I’m doing and what other people think I’m doing are usually a bit different.


Bookstores, chocolate and other fun insight

I’ve heard you sometimes work in a bookstore; so do I! Any books you would particularly recommend to us that we might not have heard about yet? What are some of your favorites?
I do, more than sometimes! It’s the Avid Reader in West End and it’s a great indie bookstore. Some of my favorites are Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees (yes, I use her name for a city in the book), The Magicians by Lev Grossman (it’s a really fabulous fantasy novel), and Tansy Rayner Robert’s Love and Romanpunk. I could go on and on. I’m currently reading the new Richard Morgan novel The Cold Commands and that’s really good.

Is there any question no one has ever asked you in an interview before that you wish you could be asked? If so, what is the question and how would you respond?
What is my favorite sort of chocolate?

To which the answer is: any.

Okay, time for some weird questions. If I woke up tomorrow morning in Chapman instead of Melbourne what should I do to maximize my chances of survival?
Get the hell out of there! Head as far North as you can. Avoid Witsmoke. If that’s not possible, I’d suggest going to the pub and drinking as much as you can (feel free to substitute any other activity if you’d rather not deal with the hangover).

An aerokin - a kind of badass, living blimp

Now, what if I woke up in the middle of the Roil?
Now, that’s problematic. You’re not going to last long unless you’re wearing a cold suit and driving some sort of armored vehicle. Yet again, I’d suggest heading North towards the pole and as fast as possible.

You are challenged to a duel with fellow author and self proclaimed ‘angriest man in the world’, Sam Sykes (Tome of the Undergates and Black Halo). What is your plan of attack, choice of arena and weapon?
Go in hard and fast, obviously the best type of weapon would be Mad Max’s Interceptor—you hit Sam at about 150 km/h [or about 90-95 mph], he isn’t getting back up.

Can you draw me a picture of an aerokin and/or a vermatisaur? (Okay, now I’m just hijacking the review with a personal request, but I really want to know if they look like how I imagined them!)
I’m no artist, but here are two rather delicate aerokin. I’d draw you a vermatisaur (I’ve tried) but it really wouldn’t capture it, and I’ve lost the blurry Polaroids I took when I was in the Roil.

Thanks very much for joining us, Trent!
You’re very welcome.


Roil is available now from Angry Robot Books while the sequel Night’s Engines is expected in May 2012. I thoroughly recommend you check them out!

About Michelle Goldsmith

Michelle Goldsmith
Michelle is an Australian university student, bookseller, voracious reader and fantasy geek. Although her major is in Behavioural Ecology she has a passion for literature of all kinds. When she isn’t reading or stalking wildlife she can be found lurking among the shelves at her workplace, telling bad jokes, unintentionally traumatising delivery men, small children and the elderly or drinking ridiculous amounts of coffee with various enablers. Some (aka. Stephan) speculate that Michelle never sleeps and possesses slight, and mostly useless magic powers that allow her to guess almost anything correctly. These rumors are yet to be scientifically confirmed. She also keeps a personal blog of book reviews (various genres), and other assorted ramblings (some of which are actually coherent).

View all articles written by Michelle Goldsmith.

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