2016 Snapshot: Garth Nix

Interview by Tehani Wessely.

Garth Nix was born in 1963 in Melbourne, Australia. A full-time writer since 2001, he previously worked as a literary agent, marketing consultant, book editor, book publicist, book sales representative, bookseller, and as a part-time soldier in the Australian Army Reserve.

Garth’s books include the award-winning young adult fantasy novels Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen; the dystopian novel Shade’s Children; the space opera A Confusion of Princes; and a Regency romance with magic, Newt’s Emerald.

His fantasy novels for children include The Ragwitch; the six books of The Seventh Tower sequence; The Keys to the Kingdom series; and the Troubletwisters series and Spirit Animals: Blood Ties (co-written with Sean Williams). Garth’s next book, Clariel, is a prequel to the Old Kingdom trilogy, to be released in October 2014.

More than five million copies of his books have been sold around the world, his books have appeared on the bestseller lists of The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, The Guardian and The Australian, and his work has been translated into 40 languages.

He lives in a Sydney beach suburb with his wife and two children.

The new book in your Abhorsen sequence is coming out in October (can’t wait!) – what has it been like continuing this series over more than two decades? And is Goldenhand the final instalment?

While there have been long gaps between Old Kingdom novels (Sabriel 1995, Lirael 2001, Abhorsen 2003, Clariel 2014 and Goldenhand 2016) I have put  my toe back in the water, as it were, with the novellas “The Creature in the Case” in 2005 and “To Hold the Bridge” in 2010. To me, it hasn’t felt very long between the books, probably because I think about stories for years sometimes before I write them, and in fact the genesis of Clariel was a story note I made while writing Lirael in the late 1990s. That said, I do have to re-read my own books while writing new entries in the Old Kingdom, just to remind myself of half-remembered details or things I might or might not have set up. Goldenhand won’t be the “final” Old Kingdom book. I expect I’ll revisit the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre in due course for a book-length work, and in fact I have already written a short story “Doctor Crake Crosses the Wall” which will be a bonus in the Australian edition of Goldenhand.

Newt’s Emerald, which first came out in 2013, seemed to be a bit of a departure from your usual work – what inspired the book and can you tell us a little about its journey to publication?

Newt’s Emerald is a “Regency Romance with magic” and it reflects my perennial desire to write the kind of things I like to read myself. I’m a long-time fan of Georgette Heyer’s Regency Romances (which are also adventure stories and comedies of manners and much else besides) and Newt’s Emerald is an homage to Heyer, though being me I couldn’t help but think the addition of some fantasy elements might improve my own attempt. The book had an unusual path to publication, because I originally wrote a version of it way back in the early 1990s when it was a “book within a book” as part of a thriller called The Clearing House, which was about a publisher drawn into a conspiracy after receiving a manuscript (Newt’s Emerald) which contained coded clues which would reveal the membership of a secret society. Unfortunately, publishers universally felt that while thriller readers would like the thriller and historical romance readers would like the romance, neither could stomach every second chapter being from the other genre. As a reader who would be happy with both, I naturally disagreed, but the book went into a drawer. Many years later, re-reading it, I found the thriller parts sadly dated, but I thought the Regency Romance still worked well and that I could revise and improve it in a  few weeks. Several months later, with a great deal of it rewritten and new parts added, I decided to experiment with self-publishing it as an ebook. That went very well, and my traditional publishers paid attention and they offered for it, so it became a paper book as well. Only about twenty-eight years after the first version was written.

What’s coming up next for you? More Abhorsen? More collaborations? Something entirely different?

My next book after Goldenhand (out October 2016) is a children’s novel for all ages called Frogkisser! (out April 2017) which concerns the adventures of a young princess and her dog as they go on a quest for the ingredients for a magical lip balm she needs to turn her sister’s transformed frog back into a prince, a newt back into a boy, and a half-human otter back into an otter. Amongst other things. After that, I have another collaboration with Sean Williams, with a new children’s fantasy series called Have Sword Will Travel, and the first book Knights Errant should be out in September 2017. What I’m working on right now is a new YA high fantasy, set in a kind of Three Musketeers 17th century alternative Europe with angelic magic. And some other odds and ends, short fiction, screenplays etc

What Australian work have you loved recently?

I’ve recently had the honour to launch both Alan Baxter’s revamped Alex Caine trilogy and Rjurik Davidson’s second book in his Caeli-Amur series, The Stars Askew. Very different books, but both very enjoyable and interesting in their different ways, though both have engrossing stories. I’ve also recently read Angela Slatter’s Vigil, which is also a captivating read, combining elements of a classic private investigator tale with horror and dark urban fantasy, in a combination I particularly like, though I will never look at Brisbane in the same way.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

If it in’s First Class, it would have to be Sean Williams! We got upgraded flying from Sydney to LA once and ate too much, drank too much champagne and worked out the plots of several books and films we were going to write together. Unfortunately jet lag and hangovers deleted these stories from our minds the next day…

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