Hayden Trenholm: Science Fiction’s Statesman

Author Hayden Trenholm

Today we will be putting the tough questions to Hayden Trenholm

He is a sci-fi author who has been writing since 1987. His first significant work was a play, produced at the Northern Arts and Culture Centre in Yellowknife in 1998. He won the 3-day Novel Writing competition in 1992. His first SFFH publications were in 1996. He was also the owner of Bundoran Press, one of Canada's most well-known science-fiction small presses.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.

-Hayden, what first attracted you to the genre?

Even at a very young age I was attracted to science (I think I had my first microscope when I was 10), so naturally I was drawn to science fiction. They made it easy to find in those days; the library books had little pink rocketship stickers.

-What were your favourite TV shows growing up?

Well, this will certainly date me. Our television initially only picked up one channel (on a good day, 2), so I was limited in what was available to watch. Bonanza was an early favorite as was The Ed Sullivan Show (especially the comedy acts) and a little later, I Spy, Man from Uncle, I Dream of Jeannie and, of course, Star Trek.

-Name three of your favourite books, and why they are your top picks.

This is an incredibly tough question. In my life I've read over 2000 books, so picking even ten or twenty favorites probably depends on what day it is, but here goes. I've deliberately left off books by my friends (cause a lot of those are my favorites, too)

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway -- it introduced me to a style of writing and way of story telling that, in my own small way, have tried to emulate. I've read this book 6 times, more than any other book.

Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg -- maybe the best book on editing that I ever read, not as a manual of craft but as a philosophical guide

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon -- Brilliant writing and a terrific merger of literary and genre fiction

Sorry, can't stop -- two bonus books

Paris 1919: Six months that changed the world by Margaret MacMillan -- brilliant history by a leading Canadian scholar and the inspiration for my Max Anderson mysteries

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury -- to stand in for the dozens of SF novels before and since

-Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Mostly a plotter but it's always a sparse plot so there is room for exploratory writing and I always rewrite my plot about halfway through the book (though the ending seldom changes, just how I get there)

-What are your two favourite shortcomings to give a character?

The easy one is that they all tend to be distractible (good food, drink, a pretty face); the other is both a bug and a feature -- they are ordinary people, seldom with any specific training, knowledge or skills to do what needs to be done but they forge ahead anyway

-What is your idea of happiness?

I suppose the things that have made me happiest in life were those occasions where something I did made a material and positive change in another person's life. Sartre said: Hell is other people. For me, happiness is other people.

-What is your idea of a living nightmare?

I worked for politicians for most of my career, something I enjoyed. But it also included attending many functions with relative strangers where I had to make small talk and make sure my boss talked to the right people and not the wrong ones. I hated it, I did it, and the nightmare part was, I was good at it. It makes me shudder even now.

-What are your ideal writing conditions?

I've learned to write pretty much anywhere; I can lose myself in the words. But I prefer to write in my own room (which can be anywhere I am alone) between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

-Where or when do you feel most inspired?

Inspiration for me mostly comes from conversation -- either with real people in real time or in talking back to writers (especially of non-fiction) in books.

-What do you appreciate most in your friends?

Kindness (the same quality I aspire to in myself) but also wit, curiosity, passion, intelligence.

-Where would you like to live?

I'm happy in Ottawa because I have a lot of friends here and everything, including nature, is so accessible but of all the places I've travelled the one where I immediately felt like I was coming home was Oaxaca, Mexico -- the people, the culture, the food, the joie-de-vivre, the climate-- but I'm afraid my Spanish isn't quite good enough for permanent residence

-Who are your greatest heroes/heroines?

I'm not big into heroes or heroines but I have met a few genuine ones, people who fought for others either literally or figuratively -- Tommy Douglas, Romeo Dallaire, Alexa McDonough, my father and countless ordinary people who put the needs of others before their own.

-If there was one recommendation you could give to authors starting out, what would it be?

Be determined -- writing takes practice and brings rejection but keep at it, most of my success as a writer came after the age of 40

-What are the characteristics you believe make a great science-fiction story?

The sense of wonder--the felling that something marvelous is happening before your eyes -- is core quality to good science fiction but what makes SF great is moral purpose. Even if your moral code is different from mine, seeing it clearly displayed (shown not told) in fiction will always win me over.

-What is the title of your latest story?

The Passion of Ivan Rodriquez is my latest novel being released by Tyche Books in July

-Can you give us a synopsis of it?

It is a post-apocalyptic story of recovery set about 200 years from now. Three people -- a female physicist, a middle aged math prodigy and an airship captain -- each with their own personal tragedies and problems, work alone and in unison to same the world from itself.

-What sparked the underlying theme?

I am an eternal optimist; there is nothing that can't be recovered from. I believe in the future and I want to write a novel of hope.

-Are you working on anything else at the moment, or have the germ of an idea for another story you’d like to titillate your audience with?

It is a kind of sequel to the current book, working title: The Legacy, set another 2-300 years on. All new characters, of course, but sort of an exploration of the limits of life.

-Once again, thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions. I wish you all the best of luck in your writing endeavours!

The Passion of Ivan Rodriguez
vista of a cyberpunk city, cover image

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