Saturday, March 21, 2015

Chatting with the Nix

Photo: Richard Lever
Yesterday, at the Newcastle Writers Festival, I had the pleasure of interviewing author Garth Nix.  We were in the beautiful concert hall, and though I’m sure there were many fantasy authors in the audience, who were attending primarily to learn how to improve their writing, I suspect that of all the NWF sessions, ours would have had the highest proportion of people who were there simply because they loved the work of the author.  There were plenty of Nix fans in the audience, clutching their books in eagerness for a signature and photo after the show, and enjoying Garth’s rich sonorous reading from Clariel, the latest book in the Old Kingdom series.  Garth was engaging, and though I was in the role of interviewer, I found his answers as inspiring to me as an author as if I’d been sitting with the audience.  Some of the points I took away were that his first 12 or so novels were written very much part time while he was working in a time-consuming day job (the first few books were not particularly successful or life changing).  He said he wrote only two nights a week and on Sundays and had a novel a year at that rate.  When he finally decided to write full time, he spent a year procrastinating and not writing, and went back to work for agent Curtis Brown just to get back to his productive part-time schedule!  
Photo: Richard Lever

One of the audience asked him how he came up with his lyrical book titles (character names) and he said he began with Sable - near black, and wanted the ‘iel’ suffix to conjure the notion of angels in people’s minds (Gabriel, Azreal, etc) as just a slight resonance.  He wrote out a long list of names and read them out loud many times in order to see which ones felt right ("Sabriel...Sabriel" he said into the mic in his deep resonant voice).  

Photo: Leonie Cutts
Abhorsen came straight from Shakespeare’s executioner in Measure for Measure (“I employed the time-honoured tradition of stealing from Shakespeare, who did it himself").  There were lots more gems, about world-building, about gender and genre, about monsters and family pets (“Mogget is every cat I’ve ever known”), about the joys, and sometimes pressure of having super-engaged fans. The audience asked wonderful questions (I apologise to anyone who had a question that we didn’t get to).  At the end, Nix gave away lots of goodies - books not available here, an audio of Clariel, and bell charms.  I have to make special mention of the wonderful volunteers, who made sure that everything ran smoothly and professionally.  They were at the NWF all day, working hard, smiling warmly, and it all felt effortless to me.  If you didn’t get to the NWF yesterday, and even if you did, there’s still a whole bevy of sessions on today.  There are tickets available for everything, and lots and lots of fantastic free sessions too.  

1 comment:

  1. It was a really great session, congratulations on being such a fabulous moderator.