Video transcript
2017 NSW PRC author interview - Garth Nix

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[music playing]

- Good morning, everyone. And welcome to day two of Book Fest. Thank you so much for joining us. We're here for our second session with a bona fide rock-star of books, publishing, writing, and fantasy, and-- just had a mind phrase-- science fiction writing. We're so thrilled to have Garth Nix with us today.

And Garth, thank you so much for joining us. We're in the middle of Book Fest. We're halfway through the Premier's Reading Challenge. I couldn't think of a better person to talk to the students today about writing, reading, and particularly, hopefully we're going to talk about your new book, 'Frogkisser,' which is out. Thank you so much for joining us.

- Oh, thank you. It's a pleasure to be here. Thank you.

- So it's really welcome-- welcome to Book Fest. I'm the Premier's Reading Challenge officer. My name's Yvette. And I'd like to send a shout-out to the over 40 schools we've got watching us this morning from all over the state. We've got some really small schools, far flung schools. We've got some big metros schools joining us.

We've got over 2,000 students watching us right now, Garth, so there's absolutely no pressure at all.

- Hi, everyone.

- Give Garth a wave. If you can see Garth, give him a wave. He can see you. So let's make this happen, guys. Garth, we're in such good company, everyone. Garth here, a 'New York Times' best selling author. I've got a touch of the nerves, I must say.

We're so happy to have you here. And we're just looking forward to hearing about your world and how you create them. And I've had loads and loads of questions from the readers. All your books are on the challenge. It's a great start for anyone who is interested in delving into worlds of magic and fantasy and really stretching their imagination. Is this the kind of book-- are these the kinds of stories that you read a lot of growing up?

Were you always a fantasy reader?

- Yeah, I mean, I love all kinds of books. And I've always read absolutely everything. And I always encourage people to read absolutely everything as well, particularly if you're interested in being a writer or you just want to expand your mind, it's always good to read all kinds of stories, all kinds of books. But I do have a particular fondness for fantasy and science fiction. And in fact, when I try and write something that's sort of realistic, contemporary realism, like set in, say, modern Sydney, I nearly always end up having something strange creep in, the fantastic creeps into my stories whether I wanted to or not.

So I'm kind of naturally suited to be a writer of fantasy and science fiction. I mean, some people suspect that having the name Garth Nix kind of made me be a writer of fantasy because it sounds like a writer's name, it sounds like the sort of name that a fantasy writer would have. And in fact, a lot of other writers, particularly American writers, often think it's a pseudonym, they think it's a name that I chose to write under. But actually it is my real name. It's really one of the most common questions I get asked.


- Is Garth Nix your real name? Other writers ask me, because it just sounds so perfect.

- They want a great name like that.

- Yeah, well, and it fits on the book. It fits really well in the book. It's short. It's easy to remember. And it just, yeah, it sounds like a fantasy writers name. But, yes, it is my real name.

- Garth, you're just back from travelling to the United States and the UK to launch your new book, 'Frogkisser,' which we're going to talk about. Your books-- you've brought in a lot of different editions today. And you've been published in 41 different languages. And we were just talking a little bit about some of the really unusual languages you've been translated into. You able to tell us a little bit about that?

- Sure. One of the great things about books is that they can travel. The English language books can travel. You can be a writer in Australia and your books can be published in America, United Kingdom, all over the world. And if you're lucky, and the books appeal, and you get some good chances, then the books may be translated and they'll appear in lots and lots of different languages.

There's a Greek edition of my book 'Sabriel' there. It's always interesting when there's a different alphabet involved. My name is still in the Roman alphabet, so that's interesting. But the books have been-- and there's some Dutch ones here. And I'm not sure that I bought a Finnish one. The Finns were very early adopters. I'm always very grateful to Finland for taking my books early.

Danish, Norwegian, Thai, both forms of Chinese, lots and lots of different languages. Farsi. All kinds of things.

- Gosh, interesting to think now about the students in New South Wales, who are reading, but also all those students around the world, and young readers, who are reading wherever they may be, your stories, which are delving them into completely new worlds as well.

GARTH NIX: Yeah, of course, I don't actually know whether the translations are any good or not. And in fact, one of my books, a German friend of mine read it, and he read the English one, and he said, oh, this is a really terrible translation. And I said, oh, thanks, I wish I hadn't heard that. But then the German publisher actually re-translated it and reissued it about a year later.

So I guess it was a really terrible translation, so they felt they had to do it again. And I do know some of the translations are really great. Not because I can read the language, but because people have told me, who've read both editions, that they're really good translations. That's an art in itself, of course.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: Well, it's quite an interesting process because often you can be working on a book and it takes some time for the book to eventually come out. And with 'Frogkisser,' which is just out in Australia and actually all around the world, how long have you been working on that story? And can you tell us a little bit about it?

- Sure. I can't hold up a copy of 'Frogkisser' because the cover's green. And with that-- well, we've got one--

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: I think we've got it behind us.

- Behind us. It would disappear otherwise. 'Frogkisser' actually is an unusual book for me because it came out of nowhere really. And normally I think about books for a long time before I start writing them. So I get-- the ideas form in my head and I start writing down some notes. And I often write them in notebooks like this.

I have lots and lots of these black and red notebooks. And my earlier books, 'Sabriel,' 'Lirael,' 'Abhorsen,' all those Old Kingdom books, 'Shade's Children,' I actually write most of those longhand first. So I would write them in notebooks like this. I'd write a chapter longhand with my pen, then I'll type it up on the computer, print it out, correct it, write another chapter longhand, and so on. And that was a process that I did for a lot of books.

But at one some point I just started typing them directly, about 10 or 12 years ago, but I still have the black and red notebooks to write down ideas and little fragments of pieces to work on a book. But actually, 'Frogkisser' just came out of nowhere, as opposed to that long period of thinking about a book, where I might not start actually even writing it for a year or so. 'Frogkisser,' I was flying back from the United Kingdom.

I had a bit of an idea. I also never-- I was saying this before. I never work on planes. I never work in hotel rooms. I have author friends who writer all the time, doesn't matter where they are, hotel room, on a train, on a bus, whatever, they writer. But I don't normally. But I was flying back and I wrote the first chapter of 'Frogkisser.' And I thought, this is going to be one of those things I put away.

Because I quite often start things, and then I put them away, and I'll come back or I don't come back. They're still in the drawer waiting for me to return. But 'Frogkisser,' when I got home, I thought, I'd better put that aside, because I haven't sold this to a publisher. There's not a publisher waiting for this. And there was a publisher waiting for something else I was working on.

But I didn't. I'd actually just wrote it all quite quickly in about four or five months, which is very short for me to do a book. Normally takes me around a year, sometimes longer. And so, yeah, the idea just came out of nowhere. And it's a fairy tale book, as you might guess from the title 'Frogkisser.' But in the way that I like to do, I turn things around and twist things and try and change your expectations about fairy tales.

So it's called 'Frogkisser.' It's about a princess called Anya who has to kiss a frog, but not exactly. Because in actual fact what happens is that her older sister has a prince who's turned into a frog, and she gets her younger sister to find the frog and bring him back. And then the other sister won't kiss the frog. She's already moved on. She has a lot of boyfriends. She's already moved on to a new prince.

And she's not interested in the old one. So, but she's made her sister promise to turn him back. So princess Anya has to find a way to turn this frog back into a prince even though it's not her true love. It's not even a prince she's interested in. So the way she works in how to do it is that she learns that there is a transmogrification reversal lip balm you can make.

And if you make the lip balm, and you put it on, you can kiss a frog, It'll turn him back, or kiss anything that's been transformed, it will turn them back into what they were before. And Princess Anya ends up going on a quest accompanied by her faithful dog, Ardent, who is a talking dog. I love talking dogs and animals across my fantasy books. And so Anya and Ardent embark on a quest to find the ingredients of a transmogrification reversal lip balm, so they can turn the prince back for his sister.

And the prince has been transformed by their evil step-step-father. It's kind of complicated. The book explains that you can have an evil step-step-father. But on the course of the quest, they discover that it's not just about turning that prince back, there's a whole lot of other things going on. The step-step-father is involved in a lot of other stuff, which she needs to fight against.

And over the course of her quest, Anya finds herself accompanied by a boy thief, who's been turned into a Newt, a really large Newt, and by an Otter, who's been turned half human and has all kinds of other complications. And as the, I think, the Australian book says on the back, there's an awful lot of frogs. So that's in a nutshell. So it's kind of a take on the Frog Prince story, but it also-- there's lots of other things in there.

There's a Snow White in this book, but not the one you'd expect. There's the Seven Dwarfs. Again, probably not the Seven Dwarfs you might expect. There's the evil sorcerers. There's witches. There's all kinds of stuff. So it was just one of those books that demanded to be written. And I wrote it. And I was really happy that it was so well received.

It's already been picked up by 20th Century Fox in the US to make as an animated film, as a musical, which will be brilliant. So, and that's in process. You never know whether these things ever will actually conclude, that's the nature of film deals and so on. But this one seems to be progressing well.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: Once again, we've got the scoop here at Book Fest, everyone. We're just getting-- we're just getting all the major news right here. Garth, thank you. We wish you all the best with the next--

- Well, you know, I hope so. It was, as I said, a fun book to write.

- A fun book to write.

- It's been visible. Does it work? Almost.


- Oh, it's actually kind of freaky.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: Did you want to read us a little bit of 'Frogkisser?'

- Sure. Yeah. I'll read a little bit from the beginning. If that's all right, I'll get my reading voice happening.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: Get your speaking voice on. Obviously, you love fairy tales, you've been influenced by them, but this is the real-- got a real twist in there.

- I love fairy tales, I love fables, I love myths and legends in all my books to some degree. I draw upon myths, legends, fairy tales, obscure pieces of folklore. I love all that stuff. I also like to rework it and change it and just see what happens. So this is from chapter one of 'Frogkisser.'

'The scream was very loud and went on for a very long time. Princess Anya, who was reading in the castle library, ignored it at first, but eventually lifted her head from her book to listen. That sounds bad, said Gotfried, the librarian, in his quavering high pitched voice. Disturbed by the sound, he immediately turned into an owl and began to vomit up a nasty package parcel of bones from the mouse he'd had for breakfast.

It was something he did when under stress, turning to an owl that is. The vomiting just came with the shape. It does, Anya frowned. It was her older sister Morven screaming, which was not unusual. But the intensity and duration of this particular scream were quite out of the ordinary. Anya shut her book with an emphatic thump and latched it closed, since it was a copy of 'The Adventures of a Sorcerer Typesetter's Apprentice,' and the words inside would otherwise climb off the page and go wandering around the library.

In fact, there was still several words missing from an earlier reading, including the particularly troublesome pair of 'instantly' and 'forthwith,' which Gotfried now believed had escaped the castle altogether, or had been eaten by one of the dogs. The screaming continued as Anya hurried out of the library, across the inner courtyard to the main part of the castle, and up the private stair to her sister's rooms.

Morven was the heir to the kingdom, at least theoretically, so she had more space than Anya's little room. The sisters had not one, but two step-parents. So the matter of inheritance was a complicated one. This was one of the most frequent questions Anya was asked later in life. How is it possible to have two step-parents and no actual parents? The answer ended up being rather straightforward.

Their mother, who had been the ruling queen of the little kingdom of Trallonia, had died when Morven was six and Anya was three. Their father remarried a year later to Countess Yselda, so they had a stepmother, who was expected to be quite evil, but mainly turned out to be a very enthusiastic botanist. She was not interested in the children at all, for good or ill, only in plants.

But then their father died a year after his marriage to Countess Yselda, and their stepmother married Duke Rikard. So the girls had two step-parents. Their stepmother, the botanist, wasn't a problem. But as it turned out, their step-step-father was evil and wanted to be the king.'

I'll leave it there.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: Oh, could listen to that all morning. It's always great when the author actually can read you the story.

- Yeah, well, the audio-book is actually fantastic as well. It's read by an English actor called-- my mind has gone blank-- Merissa. And she's just won an award for the audio-book actually. She does a fantastic job. So the audio-book's worth checking out as well as this book.

- Does that spin you out when you hear somebody reading your story?

- I can't listen to them. Actually, I can only listen to like a page or two before I start thinking, oh, I should've changed that word.


- I wish-- I really wish I had changed that one word. And so I have to stop. And I've actually been very fortunate with my audio-books, because The Old Kingdom books were read by Tim Curry, who has the most amazing, fantastic voice. So I've been generally incredibly-- but even with Tim Curry reading 'Sabriel' and the other books, I still couldn't listen for more than five minutes. Even though his voice is so hypnotic and amazing, I'd still be thinking, ah, I wish I'd--

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: I wish I had done this or--

- Yeah, I should have taken that, and, out, or the, the. Just these little tiny small changes.

- Well, we're going to get to talking about some of your reading habits a bit later on. Some of the classic questions we ask our authors about where they read, how they read, favourite books, et cetera, but we'll come back to that. One of the things that really occurred to me while you were reading, that part of 'Frogkisser' at the character names, the names of the worlds that you create. And across all your series, the students would know really well the seventh tower, the Old Kingdom, Keys to the Kingdom.

It's just a huge factor with what you're writing. And how do you come up with these incredible names? Because some of the characters, I couldn't imagine them being called anything else.

- Thank you. Well, I'm glad to hear that.

- How does that work?

- Well, I spend a lot of time on names. Because I think, particularly, if you're writing fantasy or science fiction, but fantasy in particular, if the names sound really stupid or if the names just don't fit with the story you're telling, you get thrown out of the story. So everything stops working if you don't get the character names right. So I spend a lot of time trying different combinations of sounds and words to create names that, whilst they're unique and new, they sound right, they sound as if I've been around for forever.

And sometimes I also take them from other things as well. 'Sabriel,' for example, I went through probably 100, or 120 combinations of different names where I was using the I-E-L and A-E-L endings you find in angel's names, because that makes them feel like resonant with power. You recognise that, oh, this sounds a bit like an angel's name. And angels are these mysterious, powerful beings. So giving that kind of feeling to that name, helps create the impression.

And Sabriel, herself, is a mysterious and powerful person. I won't go into details about those books, but she has power over the dead, she can enter death, go through the nine gates of-- up to the ninth gate of death. No one comes back from the ninth gate. So trying to get the right name for her, I spent a lot of time working on that. So I try and make them up by combining fragments of words, but I look at what the word's resonance is, and what their meaning is.

So we instinctively feel that the name has a feel to it, has a resonance to it. And if you get it right, then it works. But also, I steal names from time to time. Again, in those books, 'Abhorsen,' which is the title, it's the title of the people who make sure the dead stay dead. In 'Abhorsen,' that's a name I stole from Shakespeare actually, which is a grand tradition, steal character names from Shakespeare.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: That's part of it. The tradition continues.

- Yeah. And he did too, of course. And Abhorsen is an executioner in measure for measure. Spelt with an O-N instead of E-N. So I make them up. Little fragments of names, put them together. But also take them from history, from myth and legend. Some, just rearrange them a little bit. So I might take a hero's name or a God's name, but then rearrange it a little bit from different mythologies.

But, yeah, I spend a lot of time to get it-- make sure it sounds right. I say it aloud, repeat it aloud, put it in different sentences, see what works.

- Well, obviously, you have love for the English language, and the way it sounds, the way it looks. And the relationship a word might have with some other idea that we have of a word or a person, were you always interested in other worlds when you were a younger reader? Were you always reading myths and legends and history, and have that fascination?

- Yeah. Yeah. I love history. I love biographies. I love reading about real things as much as I like fantasy and science fiction. And I've always done that. Actually, that reminded me, I was going to read one of my very, very-- my first book.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: Could you show us?

- I should have done that first to give you the comparison.

- So let's go through it now.

- So this is my very, very first book here. 'Stories' by Garth Nix.

- You've kept that in good nick.

- Yeah, it's only a little book. Obviously, it's self-published. I was way ahead of the self-publishing curve. So I made this when I was about probably six or seven years old. And I completely forgot about it. But about three years ago, my younger brother produced it at a family Christmas. And I thought he'd made it, this is a joke, just to give me a hard time, because he's my brother, you know.

But my parents said, oh, no, that's a little-- you did make these little books. You were making them all the time. And that-- this is one of them. So I'd like to think this is my very, very first book, which is 'Stories' by Garth Nix. And I thought I might read you my very first story. My first published story. My first self-published story.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: Self-published.

- I think it gives you a kind of an insight into my whole writing career actually. I did read this once and everyone-- some people said, yeah, you've gone downhill since then.


- This is like this is the peak.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: That's a harsh critic.

- So this is a story-- this story is called 'The Coin Shower.' It's quite long, so you should settle back, guys. Be prepared. 'The Coin Shower.' A boy went outside. It started raining coins. He picked them up. The end. That's it. My very first story.

- Well, you know, it's a fantasy novel.

- It's a fantasy story. Also, it's got a beginning, and it's got a middle, and it's got an end. So I was quite pleased when I found this that even back then I was thinking about the structure of stories. The one sentence beginning, one sentence middle, one sentence end. And you can write a story just doing that.

- Well, that's such good advice. A lot of the students who are watching this morning are budding novelists. We know that some of them are into their second self-published novels out there. They're hard at work on their books. And if there is that one piece of advice you could give to the young writers out there, what would it be? Is it to have three sentences? Or is it to have some other kind of system? What's your general rule of thumb for writing?

- Well, three sentences is not a bad way to do a story, to start a story, and then you can expand from that. So you can try and write your story in three sentences with one's the beginning, one's the middle, one's the end. And then expand it to three paragraphs. And then expand it again to three pages. And then expand it again to three chapters.

So that actually is not a bad exercise. It might not actually end up with something that you want at the end of the process, but it's a really good exercise. A lot of writing is just practise. The more you do of it, the better. So the more you read, the more you write, the better you will get at writing. And a lot of the time you will write things that may not see the light of day, they might not go anywhere, but you still need to have done them in order to move on to the things that will.

It's been said that you need to do a million words of writing and practise before you'll get something published. I don't think that's necessarily true, but it's certainly true that the more you write, the better you will get. And the more you read, the more you're putting stuff in your head about how to tell stories, you're learning techniques. One of the great things about writing is that it's a craft and an art. You can learn by reading stuff, which is fun and easy, which is fantastic.

There's not many things that-- as easy to learn if you just keep reading and keep writing. But the other thing, I guess, I would say is something that took me a while to learn when I was a young writer, is the importance of finishing things. Because if you write half a story or you write two thirds of a story, nothing can happen with that. That can't go anywhere because it's not done, it's not finished.

But if you finish it, you've created the possibility. Anything can happen once you've actually finished something. And you never know, who knows what can happen. Maybe it will be a practise work. Maybe it will be something that will get published. Maybe it'll be a massive success. But if you finish it, you create the possibility.

So it doesn't matter whether it's a short story, or maybe it's only 10 lines long, but if you only write eight lines of those 10 lines, it's never formed, it's never going to get out there. If you write all 10 lines, who knows. And same with books.

- That's really good advice because finishing off could be the hardest part.

- It is. Well, keeping ongoing is the hard part.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: Keeping ongoing.

- And also, everyone, typically, I mean, amongst all the writers I know, I think this is good for people to learn early, because people look at-- often when people are getting started writing and look at people like me, who've written lots and lots of books and stories and so on, they think I must always love my work, and I'm just carried on by this tide of inspiration and enthusiasm. But actually I'm not. I typically hate my books halfway through. I start complaining to my wife about them, who's a publisher, so it's really unfair.

She's got all neurotical anyway, doesn't need one at home. You get halfway through it, and I say, I hate this. I've forgotten how to write, even though I've written so many books. But I've learned over the years that you just, you have to push forward. If you keep on doing it, if you keep writing, you can always fix up what you don't like. You can always come back and fix it up. Maybe you'll change your mind. And nearly always, I don't like what I'm doing, I push forward, I keep going, and I come back and I revise it.

And I think, hey, it's not that bad actually, or it's even pretty good. So pushing on.

- You can get a bit of perspective on it too.

- And pushing on is really what-- and most writers I know have exactly this thing where they don't like their work, some of them don't like it at the beginning, some of them don't like it in the middle, some of them don't like it at the end, some of them don't like the whole process, but they still do it. And they like having finished. Everyone likes having finished. I think that applies to anything.

- Yes, I think it does. Is there anything that you've worked on that you have love and gotten to a good point, and then it didn't go ahead or it didn't get published or it just never got out into the world?

- Sure. Well, in fact, my very second book-- this is my very first actual book, I guess. It's this one, but this isn't the original cover. This is a later edition. But 'The Ragwitch' is my very first book, which was published in 1991, so we're going back a long time. So 'The Ragwitch' was my first book. And like a lot of people, when your first book comes out, a lot of writers, you think, well, my first book is out.

It's going to sell heaps. I can give up my day job. And I'll just write books and lay on my hammock and it'll be great. And of course, that didn't happen. The book did reasonably well. It got good reviews. But it didn't become a bestseller, it didn't suddenly make it possible for me to give up my day job. And then the book I write after 'The Ragwitch,' which I loved the idea, was a book called 'The Clearinghouse.'

And if you look at Wikipedia or any of the other things where they mention all my books, you will not see that mentioned. So I wrote this whole book. And I loved the idea. And it was a thriller about a manuscript. It was a thriller about a Regency romance. And I wrote both books. Every second chapter. So thriller, Regency romance, thriller, Regency romance. And for me, that was perfectly fine, because I read everything.

And I loved both those things. But all the publishers said, no. The thriller readers will hate the Regency romance and vise versa. I don't think that's necessarily true, but it's probably true enough. And so even after my first book was published, I couldn't get the second book published. And I could easily have given up, in which case, I would not be sitting here talking to you and talking to all you guys out there. This would be someone who wrote a book a long time ago.

But I didn't. I put it aside, and I wrote my next book, which was 'Sabriel', the fantasy. Which has just kept on keeping on going from strength to strength. So that was the book where I loved the idea. I wrote the whole thing. I still really liked it, but nobody else did. And the publishers didn't. But many years later I did separate out the Regency romance part, which is 'Newt's Emerald.' This book here, which got published. So that's 20 years later.

- Can you explain the Regency period and why it fascinates you?

- Well, the Regency period was at the beginning of the 19th century basically, in England during the Napoleonic Wars, where King George had gone mad, and his son was made prince regent. So he was looking after the kingdom, while his father was basically locked up. And the Regency period I think is attractive to lots of writers. I guess my main reason I like it and why I wrote 'Newt's Emerald' is that because I love Georgette Heyer's Regency romances so much.

And they're funny. They're historically very accurate in that period. It's the same period that Jane Austen is writing. I'm a big fan of Jane Austen too. So there's-- that attracted me. I think it's just-- one of things I like about Georgette Heyer is the books are funny. A lot of books, they're full of upper class idiots. And they love stories which are complicated and everything goes wrong. And that all appeals to me.

And 'Newt's Emerald' is really my homage to Georgette Heyer. But I love historical novels. But of course, again, I tried to write 'Newt's Emerald' as a straight Regency romance, straight historical, and it ended up having magic in it. So it is the world of England in 1817, but it has magic. They're magic practitioners, there's different kinds of magic. I just couldn't help myself.

So it's interesting psychologically, even when I try and write something straightforward and historical or contemporary, it always ends up having some weird stuff goes in there. I don't know. My brain, obviously.

- It's really interesting the way your brain works. You've written quite a few series. You've also written some standalone stories and some short stories.

GARTH NIX: Lot's of short stories.

- Do you have a preference for the kind of story that you write? Or do you have a favourite series that you've written? Or is it just too hard to choose?

GARTH NIX: It is too hard to choose. I mean, people sometimes ask me, which is my favourite book of my own books. That's quite a common question. I always say that my favourite book of my own is always the one I haven't written yet. It's always the one I'm thinking about. Because I'm very proud of my books, I'm very, very proud of what I've done with them. And they work, and people like them.

But when I'm thinking the story up in my mind, it's always much more amazing than what I can capture on the page. I get close, but I can never quite capture it as-- to make it as good as it is in my head. So I always think, the next time this story that's building up inside my head, the story that I'm putting together, that I'm making notes in my black and red notebook about, I think that next book is going to be really amazing. But of course, it never quite is.

I never quite get there. And maybe this is a good thing, because if I could write the absolutely perfect book, I'd probably get to the last word and I'll just drop dead at my desk, because you couldn't do any better.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: We can't let that happen.

- Well, I don't want it to happen. Because it would be like you've created the perfect thing, and so there's nowhere to go. So I always think it's going to be the next book. But in terms of writing series or stories or short stories or screenplays, which I also write, I think, I don't know what they're going to be when they're first forming in my head. I start getting some ideas. I'll make some notes. I don't know it's going to be a novel, I don't know it's going to be a short story, or something I'm going to try and address in some different way.

Sometimes I start writing a novel thinking it's going to be standalone, and then I realise it needs to be a series, or it needs to be two, or whatever, geology. So you just you never can you never can tell what a book, what a story is going to be, what the form it will take until I actually start writing it.

- Do you work on one thing at a time or are there multiple ideas training away?

- Yeah, I work on quite a few at a time, but I mainly work on one thing. So I'll be working on my next main novel. And I'll be like 80% working on that. And then I'll be doing other stuff as well. So at the moment, I'm working on a new novel, a big fantasy novel, young adult fantasy novel, which is not related to any of my previous series, it's a completely new world. But I've also just finished a couple of long short stories for some anthologies in the US.

So I'm always mixing things up. And I've got a few other little things, I don't know what they're going to be, but I've started writing bits of them. And who knows what they'll turn out to be. So like a short order cook, I've got lots of pans all at the same time.

- Flames in the fire.

- Yeah. Yeah.

- Well, Garth, just brace yourself. We're onto the fast money questions now.


- This is just where we put all our authors under the pump. It's going to be all right.

GARTH NIX: I'll take a sip of water.

- Take a sip of water. We're going to ask you some really important questions about your reading habits. And we're hoping that you will share some insights into how you read, and when you read, et cetera.

- Sure.

- So the first question for you is, when we're were talking about the different kinds of books, the audio-books that you've heard of your own books, do you just read paper copies or hard copies of books? Do you read digital copies of books? Do you listen to other author's works? How do you consume books? Or are you just a massive consumer?

- I'm a massive consumer of written stuff. I read paper books. I read on the Kindle. I read on my phone as well, which some people think is like anathema. How can you possibly read on your phone? But I do have the Kindle app on my phone. So and I flip-flop between all those. I don't listen to audio-books usually, very occasionally. If the family' taking a car trip or something, I will end up listening to one because the rest of the family.

But I typically prefer to read, but across paper, digitally, whatever, even on my computer sometimes. If I don't want to read-- my phone's looking too small, in my office, I might read on my computer.

- And do you do all your writing in one place?

- No, I actually write in pretty much-- I've tried to teach myself that-- so I can write anywhere. I've kind of failed with the planes, hotel type thing. But I write at home. I have a little corner of a spare room. I actually-- I'm very lucky I have a separate office, which is about 10 minutes walk from my home, so I walk up there and I will write there as well.

And I have a standing desk there, actually, that's my relatively new thing. I stand at my desk typing away. It's very good for the neck and back when you write-- you're writing, maybe, a million words a year, it's probably good to stand, or maybe 500,000 words a year, I don't know.

- What about these people that have a treadmill too?

- Oh no, that's a step too far.

- That's the next step.

- Yeah, at least I walk to my office. I walk there to start with. I do know people who have the treadmill. I don't know, I think I'd be like crashing into my screen all the time.

- Goodness knows what kind of work you'd produce if you did that. Next question is, where do you take the books in your house?

- Ha, that's a very good-- we have so many books. We don't keep them just in the house. We keep them in the house, in the shed, in my office, and I also have a storage unit in Waterloo, which has 140 boxes of books in it.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: I thought you were going to give us the address.

- Yeah, does anyone want some--

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: Where can we find these books?

- So we have so many books. My wife is a publisher, as I said, so between the two of us and our kids, many, many books, many, many, many books. I have no idea when I'll ever be able to assemble them. And some of the books I have in storage have been in storage for more than a decade.


- One day I hope to bring them all out. I'll have a barn or something-- like a--

- Well, the thing is we don't want you to read too much because it means you'll stop writing. And you're not allowed to do that.

- Well, it's all part of that. The reading is part of the writing. You've got to do both. It's maintaining the balance is the--

- Is the hard part. Final question is, did you have a book in your childhood, or from your childhood in particular that inspired you or meant a lot to you at that time when you were a younger reader?

- Sure.

YVETTE POSHOGLIAN: That you can tell us about.

- Well, many, many books. And I think the books that I read growing up have had an enormous influence on the kinds of things I write. And in fact, 'Frogkisser,' I actually did thank, particularly, a number of writers who had a huge influence. So in the back of 'Frogkisser' I thank various people, as you do in your acknowledgments.

But I particularly thanked a bunch of writers, who influenced this book, but I think have influenced many of my other books as well. And for this one in particular I mention Lloyd Alexander, who wrote 'The Chronicles of Prydain,' American writer. Nicholas Stuart Grey, British writer, one of my favourite books of his is a book called 'The Stone Cage,' which is the story of Rapunzel, but it's told from the point of view of the witch's cat.

So the witch's cat tells the story of Rapunzel. That's a great book. Probably quite hard to find now. And Robin McKinley, whose book 'Dogsbody,' which is for young adult and older readers, is a fantastic book about all kinds of things, but it has tremendous dogs in it. And I'm sure that was an influence. And perhaps, one of the most important was James Thurber and his book 'The 13 Clocks,' which I think has just been made into a film.

It's a great book. And T.H. White, 'The Sword and the Stone,' which is also a big influence, I think, on this book. So those were some of the authors who were enormously influential upon me. But also people like-- it's kind of obvious, you write fantasy, and probably about 80% of fantasy writers are hugely influenced by Tolkien. And then there's about 20% who are anti-Tolkien. So but I loved the 'Lord of the Rings.'

When I had my-- I had an operation on my nose when I was about 12. My parents gave me the hardcover set of the 'Lord of the Rings.' And I sat in hospital-- I'd already read it, but I read it again and again. So Tolkien, a big influence. But there's so many. CS Lewis. In a way, 'The Ragwitch,' my very first book in 1991, is kind of an attempt to write a kind of a harder edge 'Narnia' book.

Because I always thought, if you suddenly got-- you were kids from this world, and you suddenly ended up in a fantasy world full of weird stuff going on, you'd be much more frightened, would actually be much more frightening. So I tried to write a sort of frightening 'Narnia' book. But I possibly succeeded too well, because when it was first published in America, it was published as horror. And I'm like, it's a children's book.

It's a children's book. It's my take on 'Narnia.' And the American publisher was, no, it's so frightening. We've had to call it horror. Oh, that's not what I was aiming for. And so yes, the harder edged 'Narnia' book. Didn't quite hit the target there perhaps. There are other people that would not agree. And it was republished as a children's book later in America as well.

That could have just been one of those weird publishing things that happen from time to time. It was a big shock to me at the time.

- Well, Garth, we could just sit here and chat all day about your books and the influences on your books and your reading. It's been a real pleasure to talk to you. I know that the students want to show their appreciation. So guys, if you're watching, can you please give Garth a massive shout-out.

Give him a wave. We can see you. Give us a little dance. Stand up. Jump around. Show some love.

- Thank you.

- There we go. Garth is feeling the love right now.

- Thanks, guys.

- That is just wonderful.

- Thanks, everyone.

- We've just had such a great session talking to Garth about his wonderful books. And we know that you're going to go out and find them, read them, and add them to your list on the Premier's Reading Challenge. Garth, it's been such a pleasure to talk to you. And thank you so much for joining us for the Premier's Reading Challenge Book Fest.

- Thank you. Keep reading. Keep reading.

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