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An interview with Trent Jamieson

Fantasy Book Review has the pleasure to once again speak with acclaimed author Trent Jamieson in the week that his latest novel, Day Boy, is released.

For those of you not familiar with Trent Jamieson he is an Australian fantasy and science-fiction writer and the winner of two Aurealis Awards.  His Death Works series of novels, released in 2010, were urban fantasy tales in which employees of Death shepherd the recently deceased to the afterlife, easing their passing. Four novels later, two further Death Works books and The Nightbound Land Duology, Day Boy marks the beginning of a new literary adventure for Trent.

Mark is a Day Boy. In a post-traumatic future the Masters - formerly human, now practically immortal - rule a world that bends to their will and a human population upon which they feed. Invincible by night, all but helpless by day, each relies on his Day Boy to serve and protect him. Mark has been lucky in his Master: Dain has treated him well. But as he grows to manhood and his time as a Day Boy draws to a close, there are choices to be made. Will Mark undergo the Change and become, himself, a Master - or throw in his lot with his fellow humans? As the tensions in his conflicted world reach crisis point, Mark's decision may be crucial.

Can you tell us a little about Day Boy?

It's about Mark, a boy who serves a vampire in a small country town in a world ruled by vampires. It is his last year on the job, and everything is about to change whether he wants it to or not.

Had to come up with a one line pitch a little while ago and it was (slightly tongue in cheek) this - To Kill a Mockingbird meets Dracula. I know that sounds hokey, but one of the key works I was riffing off was Harper Lee. I wanted to write a vampire dystopian fantasy that was intimate - you get a sense of the bigger picture, but it's really about growing up in a small town and the violence of boys.

And what I wanted at stake (pardon the pun) was not the future of the world, but the future of a young man's soul.

Day Boy was originally a short story, what made you decide to develop it further?

I loved the voice of the protagonist. But most importantly I felt there was more to say. And I let my feelings guide me when it comes to novels. I am a pretty instinctual writer, and this felt like something I could live in for years if I had to - and I did.

How did you find the process of transiting the short story to a full novel?

Difficult. Short stories are very different creatures, the world building is often only hinted at, there can be big whistling holes in the fabric of the story because the reader is just passing through and (hopefully) won't notice them. Novels generally need deeper foundations that no amount of hand waving can substitute for.

But Mark's voice drew me through.

Did you find it hard to re-establish the characters in your mind?

That was the easy bit. Mark and Dain's relationship was very clear in my mind. And it was fun to draw out some of the other characters' backstories. As long as I had Mark the rest of the characters were happy to come along too.

For those who have read the original short story, what can they expect in the novelised version?

A slightly different and more detailed world. I like to think of this as an alternate version of that story. There's a bit of cross over: but they are quite different too. The novel (as it should be) is richer in motives, world building, and a sense of place.

The cover of Day Boy has a simple but textured feel to it, is there a special meaning to the highlighting of the lettering?

It's meant to be chalk on a door - the Day Boys mark the doors of those their masters intend visiting. The splash of red is a wonderful menacing touch. Imogen Stubbs, who designed the cover, did a simply brilliant job.

I understand it's early days and without giving any spoilers away, do you see Day Boy as more of a stand-alone or can you see a further story to be told?

It's very much a stand-alone - though I do have plans for a very loosely connected book (Mark is telling this story to someone, and that person would be the heart of the other book). I feel like I have been writing in this world for a very long time without realising it. If I do write a sequel it will also be a spin off from a short story, one called Cracks. Day Boy is about fathers and sons, Cracks is about mothers and daughters. But that is a long way off, I am a slow writer and I have a couple of other novels to finish first.

You have created a playlist on Spotify, can you tell us a little about your choices behind the song selection?

I write to music and collect songs that suit a story. By the end of a novel I've driven myself nuts listening to the same things over and over, and my playlist has usually grown considerably. This is a bittersweet book in a run down world: and the music reflects that. Most of the music is a bit cinematic in nature too. This is a world haunted by the past, that despite it all, keeps getting on.

They have a saying: It's not the end of the world; Cause that's already happened.

If you had to pick one song from the list you have created to illustrate the nature of Day Boy, which one would it be and why?

I Know You Love to Fall by Message to Bears. It's quite a simple song but it sums up Mark, and his nature. He is always getting into trouble, and part of him likes that. There's something joyous and sad in that song, and I'd like to think the book has that joy and sadness too.

And, I know you said one, but the Ticket Taker by the Low Anthem sums up the world a bit too. There's something apocalyptic about that song, and yet it's also a love song.

Day Boy is being published through Text Publishing, can you tell us about your experience with this great Independent Australian team.

They are simply wonderful to work with. I have enjoyed the process immensely. Mandy Brett is a fantastic editor. Drafting is a lonely business (you're writing into silence) but the back and forth of the editorial dialogue always excites and challenges me. Every pass I did I could feel the book getting better, and that's thanks to Mandy. A good editor is priceless - and she's one of the best.

Text are publishing some wonderful work. They're exciting, energetic, and a fine bunch of people. I am delighted beyond belief that they took a chance on this book with its monsters and angry boys.

Full details on Day Boy, including purchasing options can be found through the Text Publishing site.

I am very grateful to Trent for taking the time to speak with us today. If you haven't read any of Trent's works, check them out, the Death Works series is a great read. A review of Day Boy will becoming soon to Fantasy Book Review. You can read a review of book one in the Death Works series, Death Most Definite here, as well as read our previous interview with Trent for Fantasy Book Review's How Stories Connect section here.

If you would like to know more about Trent, you can check out his site at http://www.trentjamieson.com.

Trent Jamieson was interviewed by Fergus McCartan

Our Trent Jamieson reviews

Day Boy by Trent Jamieson

Mark is a Day Boy. In a post-traumatic future the Masters - formerly human, now practically immortal - rule a world that bends to their will and a human population upon which they feed. Invincible by night, all but helpless by day, each relies on his Day Boy to serve and protect him. Mark has been lucky in his Master: Dain has treated him well. But as he grows to manhood and his time as a Day Boy draws to a close, there are choices to be made. Will Mark undergo the Change and become, himself, a Master - or throw in his lot with his fellow humans? As the tensions in his conflicted world reach crisis point, Mark's decision may be crucial.

"Day Boy is a coming of age story set in a world of harsh truths, blood, death and survival. It is a poetic story of humanity, of monsters living in the Shadow of the Mountain, bitter cold and open to the burning of the clear night sky."

Read our review

Managing Death by Trent Jamieson

Steven has a new job, with an important-sounding job title: Australia’s Regional Death. On a good day he thinks it has quite a ring to it, but on a bad day (that’s most of them) it’s more of a toll. He’s recently averted a Regional Apocalypse, but a huge national death count - instead of a normal, manageable death count - is still a big risk. And with barely a month to go until his first Death Moot, where the world’s thirteen Deaths get together to talk, er, death, Steven feels a crisis is imminent. People are dying in the unusually brutal summer heat. Monstrous Stirrers are on the rise as their dark god draws near. Someone is trying to kill him. And he has a conference to organise. Steven must start managing Death, before it starts managing him, or this time the Apocalypse will be more than Regional.

"There is a discrete difference between Death Most Definite and Managing Death, and the best way to describe it would be to say there is more wholeness to this instalment than the previous book. Maybe as the reader, I was more familiar with the characters and their world, but truthfully it feels more than that. If I had to pick one reason, I think Jamieson had grown in confidence and belief in the story and its characters, which shines in the writing."

Read our review

Death Most Definite by Trent Jamieson

Steve knew something was wrong as soon as he saw the dead girl in the Wintergarden food court. Nothing new - he saw dead people all the time - but this one was about to save his life... Steve is a necromancer in the family firm, tasked with easing spirits from this dimension to the next after death. And he’s kind of OK with that, until someone high up the corporate hierarchy makes a bid to be Australia’s new Regional Death. This means killing all of the current Death’s staff. After his parents, relatives and pretty much every other necromancer he ever knew has been killed, Steve is left to make a reluctant stand. But to do this he must stay alive. Threatened at every turn, Steve and the perilously attractive (and dead) Lissa go on the run to save what’s left of their world.

"Life, Death and the One Tree calls all, its branches sway and creak as soul after soul walks its paths, maintaining the cycle as old as time. Resurrect some time and start reading the Death Works series, it won't kill you and if it does Steven will be there to guide you home."

Read our review