Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Wisdom of the Garth

On Thursday I snuck out in my (very late) lunch break to hear Garth Nix speak at the Adelaide Writer's Week. He's one of my favourite authors so I was very keen to hear what he had to say. I wasn't disappointed.

Sean Williams (left) extracts the good oil on Garth.

Here's a summary of the things I got from his interview.

1. He thinks he could have written all his books better than he did.

Wow, what a relief to hear him say that. Even now I find myself thumbing through Ghost of Ping-Ling and thinking about all the bits I wish I'd done differently. Like Garth said, there comes a time when you just have to "let it go".

2. His first book didn't sell very well, and his second wasn't even accepted for publication.

I have been a tad stressed about how well Ghost of Ping-Ling will sell. It's easy to start thinking about it in terms of a "make or break" situation. Hearing Garth talk about low sales for his first book took a huge amount of pressure off (not that GPL is having low sales, or high sales. It's too early to have any idea yet). I should say, for those who don't know, Garth's third book "Sabriel" was a huge success (and one of my favourites).

3. He wrote many of his books while holding down a busy job.

Yep, when he said this I felt like the only person in the audience. Finding time to write would have to be one of my biggest struggles at the moment. Lately it gets squeezed in to an hour or so at around 8.30 pm, but many days of the week I don't even get that. It's easy to start thinking that successful books are only ever written by full-time authors. Clearly that's not the case.

4. He writes what is "on his heart", not what he thinks/is told will be be most commercially viable.

Always good to be reminded of this. I have another series that's bursting to get out of me once I've finished Tales of the Blue Jade, and it's completely different in audience and style (though it is in the same world). Perhaps it would be "safer" to keep writing in familiar territory, but that's not what I'll be doing.

5. Every time he starts writing a new book, he worries that he might have lost his ability to write. (I'm cheating a bit here, because Garth didn't actually say this on Thursday, but I heard him say it in another interview so I thought I would include it here.)

Yep, that could have come directly from my mouth too. It's definitely an exciting venture when you start on a new book, but there's always that fear lurking in the background as to whether you can pull it off again. If Garth feels that way after all his successes, I guess a newbie like me has all the more reason to feel exactly the same (if not worse).

So there you go. All in all, an extremely rewarding lunch-hour!


  1. It's nice to be reminded those we aspire to join are human, too. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi Jonathan. Sorry I somehow managed to miss your comment, it's great to hear from you again. Yes indeed, it's always a huge encouragement to hear that our idols are human too :-) Hope things are going well with you and your writing.