Reality Skimming

Interview with Hayden Trenholm

Hayden TrenholmHayden Trenholm’s stories have appeared in On Spec, TransVersions, Neo-Opsis, Challenging Destiny, Talebones, Gaslight Grotesque and on CBC radio. In 2008, he won the Canadian Science Fiction Aurora Award, "Like Water in the Desert." He won a second Aurora in 2011 for his short story, “The Burden of Fire.” His first SF novel, Defining Diana, (Bundoran Press 2008) and sequel, Steel Whispers, (2009) were nominated for Aurora Awards in the novel category. Stealing Home, was published in August 2010 and received an Aurora and a Sunburst Award nomination. He recently edited a collection of short stories called Blood and Water.

He lives with his wife and fellow writer, Elizabeth, in Ottawa where he works as a policy analyst for the Senator for the Northwest Territories. He has a B.Sc in Chemistry and a B.A and M.A in Social and Political Thought. In the past he has served on numerous arts and other Boards and worked for many years as the coordinator of a “learning through the arts” school program. He spent 6 years in the 1990s as a full-time writer, actor and director (and part-time bartender).

Interview with Hayden Trenhom by Michelle Carraway

When did you first become interested in publishing?

Until last year, my main interest in publishing was the same as most writers, that is, on getting published. I followed trends and listened to panels as an 'interested observer.'I had a few discussions with my writers' group on putting together an e-book of our previously published work -- mostly as a learning exercise to see how self-publishing worked or didn't work. I had edited a few newsletters and other documents for work or for some ofthe organizations to which I belonged but my first taste of real editting came when I put together the Blood and Water anthology in 2012. Still, I had not seriously considered being a publisher until early November when Virginia O'Dine approached me with an offer to sell me Bundoran Press. Once I thought about it, I saw it as a natural progression of my career and took the plunge. See for a few more details.

Is running a publishing company a difficult job?

It is hard to say at this point -- I've only been doing it for a month! However, it is clear that running a publishing company is no more or less difficult than managing any complex, multi-faceted enterprise. There are a number of skills you need to have or master to succeed. Attention to detail is vital but you also have to retain the big picture. Before embarking on this venture, I formulated a vision of what I wanted to do and put together a plan for the first two years of operation. I needed to consider how much money and time I was prepared and capable of putting into it (given I have a job and still want to keep writing). Every decision going forward has to refer baqck to that vision -- otherwise it becomes too easy to drift off target. And as a small publisher, I have to do a lot of the work myself or find reliable contractors to take on specific functions. There's a lot to do from acquiring and contracting novels, working with writers on edits,layout, purchase of cover art, copyedits, proof reading, hiring a printer, storage (including physically moving a lot of books), e-book conversions, dealing with distribution, special events, publicity and marketing, wholesale and retail sales, accounting both for the business and for royalties. Holy smoke! What have I gotten into?

What sorts of things do you publish?

Up until now, Bundoran Press has published a range of speculative fiction from paranormal romance to fantasy to science fiction. While I will continue to support and work with my existing authors, for the foreseeable future I intend to focus on science fiction novels, plus the occassional themed anthology of original SF stories (which I will edit.)

What would you consider your top three achievements in life to be?

Living this long? I've done a lot of different things over the years and had numerous acheivements -- big and small -- that are important to me if no-one else. I'll give you a list of the ones that come to mind and you can choose which are the top.

  • Getting a First Class Honours B.A in Sociology/Political Science a year after I got a B.Sc in Chemistry/Mathematics with distiction obtaining 18% of the vote as the 25-year old candidate NDP candidate in the 1980 federal election in one of the most Conservative ridings in Canada
  • Writing the first government "HIV in the workplace" policy in Canada for the government of the NWT.
  • Being a key advisor to the Premier of the NWT for two years Winning the Three Day Novel Writing Competition
  • Helping to rejuvenate the Alberta Playwrights Network in 1993 with two time GG-winning playwright, Sharon Pollock.
  • Restoring one actor's faith in the theatre through colour-blind casting
  • Winning the Alberta Playwriting competition
  • Writing the Steele Chronicles -- all three of which were nominated for an Aurora Award and one for a Sunburst as well
  • Winning the Aurora Award twice for short fiction

How has science fiction affected your life?

I started reading SF when I was about 8 and there is no doubt it led me to being a science student and going to University to study Chemistry. It also instilled in me a life-long interest in all things scientific. For the last 18 years, almost all of my writing has been in SF and now it has lured me down the dark alley of publishing.

What is your favourite writer/author/book or universe?

Despite my love of science fiction, my favorite book of all time is Farewell to Arms by Earnest Hemingway and he is probably my favorite author as well, though Chinua Achebe and Umberto Eco are close seconds. My early SF loves were Asimov, Heinlein and Andre Norton. These days I read widely both in and out of the field, including Tim Winton (absolutely brilliant Australian writer), Michael Chabon (who is both in and out), Robert Sawyer, Rex Stout (love Nero Wolf), Ken McLeod, Ian McEwen, Jonathan Lethem, Joe Haldeman and on and on. As to universes, both Bujold (Miles Vorkesegian sp?) and Cherryh (Merchanters series) are great and I'm a huge Trek fan, but my favorite universe is that of Sherlock Holmes (I've read every original story at least 3 times and tons of pastiches; I've even had two published myself).

How did you first hear about the Okal Rel Universe?

I've known Lynda for a number of years (going back to the original books from Edge) so I guess it was by osmosis.

What life experiences have contributed to your creative endeavours?

All of them is the easy answer. Becoming an atheist at the age of 14 and being intensely politically active as a socialist from my teenage years into my thirties. The death of my father when I was 24; his stories made up a huge part of my novel, A Circle of Birds, which won the 3-day novel writing competition. Living in northern Canada for 9 years plus travelling extensively in Mexico. Acting and improvisation was a great lesson in writing dialogue (I highly recommend it to all writers). Working in a multitude of jobs from policy analysis to general labour. Being poor and being affluent on several different occasions. Learning to play the saxophone very badly and a life time of immersion in listening to all types of music contributed to the rhythm of my writing. Writing policy briefings for Cabinet taught me a ton about writing clearly, quickly and with powerful narratives. Yeah, I was right the first time: all of them.

What is your greatest source of inspiration?

The ocean, great writers, people who are passionate especially about social issues.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don't give up your day job -- it's not the money, it's the necessity of regular human contact to keep you from being self-absorbed. Write often -- though not every day, then it becomes a chore. Revise, revise, revise. Have something to say; don't be afraid to say it; don't chase someone else's dream; your own is plenty big enough.

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