Trevor Melanson Interview
Trevor Melanson is the author of two novels and an award-winning journalist who’s written for numerous publications across Canada. He lives in Vancouver with his fiancée and their cat, Gilmore. Having grown up wanting to be a writer, he now dreams of work-life balance.
You state that Terminal City is a fictional Vancouver. What aspects or traits of Vancouver attracted you to use it as the setting?
Obviously it’s partly growing up here, but I think I try to play up the things about Vancouver that I quite like that other people maybe don’t like as much such as the rain. I talk about the rain a lot. So, the Vancouver I put in the books isn’t the Vancouver that you see when you see the classic tourism Vancouver skyline photo. It’s the Vancouver that I remembered in the fall with the rain. I wrote a lot of this when I was in Toronto, as well, so it was a Vancouver that I was nostalgic for. So that feeling is in there as well. I talk about the evergreens and I talk a lot about the glass towers and how it feels like a very new city, which is something that I, I didn’t realize as much growing up here, but when you leave and go to other cities you realize how glassy and new Vancouver is. All those aspects, and also Terminal City the name itself is actually a nickname of Vancouver. Not a frequently used one, but in this case I literally just made it the actual name of the city.
Because you wrote part of it while you were still in Toronto, do you think that any aspects of Toronto snuck in?
I wasn’t trying to insert Toronto as a place into the book. If anything, living somewhere else allows you to better grasp what makes a place unique. One thing I realized when I was in Toronto for four years and I came back here was just the colours blue and green. There was a lot of that, not just because of the ocean and all that, but in the environments and in the buildings I just noticed there was a palette to the city and to the region that I didn’t realize was a palette until I had lived elsewhere. So, I don’t know that I was channelling Toronto so much as it put Vancouver in stark contrast and helped me play up on the things that made the city different.
How important is the Vancouver setting to the overall story, plot, or characters over the series
I’m sure I could have written it elsewhere. It’s not the main focus of the book, but the book has these themes of isolation and of new frontiers and in Terminal City, in its name and also in the place like Vancouver evokes those themes. Vancouver is a cut off city. For major cities in North America, it is probably the most cut off of any major city in North America from other major cities. And it’s probably also the newest major city in North America. And necromancy is sort of a cut off society and there’s newness to it and there’s this question in the story as to where necromancy is going and it’s all about discovery. For me, the isolation of Vancouver and the newness of it plays well with the themes that I explore through necromancy.
How much research on necromancy did you do to write Terminal City?
Not much. Necromancy is obviously not a real thing, so I didn’t feel the need to get it right, so to speak. Part of the reason I like fantasy is that you can come at something and invent the way you want to do it. Obviously I have a lot of experience in journalism where you don’t really do that, you do your best to get it right and to reflect reality accurately. Whereas, in fantasy, I wouldn’t do research because my goal is not to be derivative. My goal is to take something in its most abstract sense and fill in the details my way with the themes that interest me. I grew up reading fantasy and playing fantasy games, so I was very familiar with necromancers and different versions of necromancers. But I wouldn’t say that I researched them heavily to come up with my ideas. It was more of a brainstorming session.
Did you create a copy of The Necromancer’s Grimoire for yourself to use as reference when writing the series?
No, but I do have in the back of my mind certain limitations that exist in necromancy. By design, it’s probably actually less valuable than a lot of other magic systems in fantasy in that you can’t just do anything. It’s not as whimsical as magic in Harry Potter and you can’t really do crazy things with it. It really has more to do with the life force in some mannerism. The idea is that you’re channelling energy from the spirit realm called spirit energy, so you can’t just do anything with that. Everything has to do with either warping reality or illusions or life forces and it’s kind of like a soft touch to everything. There are no fireballs or conjuring up giant buildings or anything like that. The magic system has a bit of a theme to it as well. I’m interested in world building, but I’m not one of those fantasy writers who, I don’t come from the J. R. R. Tolkien school of thought where I’m interested in detailing magic systems. I have nothing against that and I think that it’s neat that some fantasy writers are like that and are really into flushing it out, but, for me, I’m more interested in the story and the characters. So I don’t flush out systems far beyond what I think is helpful for the book.
How different is your writing process for your novels compared to your work in journalism?
Journalism has certainly helped me, especially in the sense that you need to write on a deadline and you also just need to let it go. That’s one of the hardest things for writers is to learn to let writing go. As in, you’ve edited it a few times, is it perfect? It’s never going to be perfect. It’s just letting it go and being happy with the imperfect version you’ve put out to the world. I think that, for me, is the most helpful thing journalism provided. But, beyond that, it’s very different in that it’s a lot longer. I do like long-form journalism, feature writing, which I did because I worked in magazines, but even then we’re talking about 2500 words versus 80,000 words, or more if you think about all three books. I think writing the first novel was the best learning experience in terms of how to structure a novel and get through it. It took me years to get through the first one because of taking wrong directions and starting new books and giving up on those. After the first one, I was able to write the second one in a year and a half because I had written the first one at a much slower pace. Journalism has made me a better writer and a more detailed editor and it’s helped me learn to accept things and move on to the next stage.
When can we expect to see book 2, Winter’s End?
Ebook in May. Print in August.
Mason has an experience that gives him a certain advantage in the craft of necromancy. However, he seems to struggle with what the consequences of this experience might be, especially in his personal life. Can we expect this dilemma to escalate in books 2 and 3?
It’s something that comes back in an interesting way more so in book three probably. In book two, things aren’t so bad in the beginning for Mason, they’re actually pretty good. But he’s cognizant of this thing and it’s there in the background a little bit. Things escalate a bit in book two and then in book three it plays up on that. It’s something that I actively haven’t forgotten and it is something that comes back in book three. Having said that, it is sort of a metaphor for the darkness that he carries with him, but the darkness he carries with him is like the darkness we all carry with us. It’s a more tangible thing for him, but it’s not so different from what we all deal with. There are times when we’re better at pushing it down and there are times when it creeps up and is a stronger influence on us.
Without spoilers, can we expect to see Asha play a bigger role in Mason’s life in Winter’s End?
Sort of. She kind of has her own story arc in book two and book three as well. So, in terms of in his life, maybe the same in terms of having her own storyline. That’s where I expanded on Asha’s character. She has a plot in book two and book three as well that is kind of her own experience. She’s still around and she’s still in Mason’s life, but she also has a story that’s in her own life. It’s still intertwined.
Ellen is a freelance fiction editor, book reviewer, research assistant for Simon Fraser University, marketing coordinator for WCSFA, and member volunteer for Editors’ Association of Canada. As of September 2017, she will also be a master’s student of publishing at SFU. You can contact her via ellenmichelle.com for any editing queries and at firstname.lastname@example.org for book review queries.