D-Lit Questionnaire: Garth Nix

Garth Nix's latest Goldenhand, image used with permission from Harper Collins

I am a newcomer to the fantasy world created by Australian Author, Garth Nix. Last July, my friend Kim suggested that we read Sabriel for our book club. We ended up reading through the entire Abhorsen series before August was out, becoming great fans in the process.

I like Nix's work for many reasons, the strongest of which is that he has been writing strong and complex female protagonists for decades. His Old Kingdom books are full of dark and destructive forces, but they are populated by those who believe in doing what is right, even when it isn't easy. What's not to like about that? Needless to say, when I heard that Nix had a new book coming out I knew I needed to get him on on the Devour Lit Questionnaire. Enjoy!

If you'd like to pickup a copy of Goldenhand, click here.

What do you prefer to read fiction or non-fiction?


What is one bookstore you enjoy visiting, and why?

I pretty much love visiting all bookstores, because you never know what you’ll find. The accidental discovery of great books, usually while looking for something else, is one of the best parts about visiting a bookstore.

What books or other mediums have been particularly inspirational to you? Did they directly or indirectly affect your work? Why?

Garth Nix, image used with permission from Harper Collins

I get inspiration from pretty much everything I experience: books, films, music, the natural world, other people . . . but of course media is often a very concentrated and resonant form of emotional experience, so a five line poem, for example, can have as much impact as a real-life event played out over a greater time. I do find that listening to wonderful music or seeing a great film or a great play or reading something terrific is generally inspiring, it makes me want to try and create something myself, even if there is no specific relationship between what I have seen or experienced and what I want to write.

What emotion do you find is the most difficult to write and why?

It all depends on the circumstances and the story. Sometimes love is difficult, sometimes hate, and everything in between. As with so much in writing, there is no one answer to this: it depends.

What do you believe are your responsibilities as a writer to your readers?

I don’t think a writer has any responsibilities towards readers, only a responsibility to the story they are writing. Readers will make of it what they will. That said, I think people, in general, have a responsibility to be courteous and considerate to others, particularly those you work with or are connected by a shared environment or experience, and I would include author-reader and reader-author interchanges in this. However, this is separate from the actual writing.

Are you a disciplined writer or a habitual procrastinator? If the former, how do you keep yourself focused? If the latter, what are your favorite procrastination tactics?

Both. I am a habitual procrastinator who knows he has to get disciplined from time to time to get anything done.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer and why?

I always loved writing and telling stories, from a very young age. But I decided I would try to become a published writer when I was nineteen and traveling around the UK and Europe, re-reading many of my favourite childhood books. I decided to try to write one of my own and went from there.

If you could be a character in someone else’s book, who would it be and why?

I’d quite like to be Gandalf (though I’d skip the Balrog-wrestling happily) or perhaps Merlin (in The Sword in the Stone). Possibly this just means I’d like to be a wizard in real life, and still be me.

What is the most difficult part of writing for you?

Again, this varies all the time, depending on what I’m working on. That said, I do often have trouble around the middle of a book when I tend to doubt both the work and my ability to continue it and end up with something worthwhile. But having done this many times, I know if I press on this despondency and doubt will pass.

What is the most rewarding part of writing for you?

It’s all pretty rewarding. Making stories come alive through the whole process is a miracle, really. I do particularly like when that first real advance copy of a book arrives and I hold it in my hand.

Should the Oxford comma live or die?

Live. Or not. Use as required.

How do you feel when you look back at your early work?

Proud, while aware of the shortcomings.

What are you 5 favorite words?

Today, because any other day might be five different words, I’ll give you: remonstrate, edify, equilibrium, terror, and creature.

Is there a genre you haven’t attempted, but would like to? If so, what is it and why?

I tend to branch out a bit in my short fiction, and I have managed to sneak a Regency Romance novel (Newt’s Emerald) among my fantasy and SF books, but I still would quite like to write a contemporary thriller and a straight historical, without fantasy.

What are the best conditions for you to write in?

I think writers should avoid thinking they need particular conditions or a special environment to write, because if you don’t have them it provides an excuse not to work. So I will try to write anywhere. I prefer writing in my office, which is a room with good natural light, a standing desk and relative quiet; or in my study at home, which is similar.

Who is your favorite character that you’ve written?

I couldn’t choose a favourite.

What are the last three books you read?

Goldwyn: A Biography by A. Scott Berg

Escape to the Moon Islands by Mardi McConnochie

Hard Times by Charles Dickens (a re-read)

What is a quality you prize most in a character?

Hmmm, not sure I think about characters in this way. I guess “believability” that they do in fact seem like a real person.

Would you describe yourself as a diligent writer or a do you work best under pressure pushing the limits of your deadline? Why?

I have been both, at different times, for different projects.

Is there a character that you have created that you simply cannot stand?


What pushes you to be a better writer?

The stories are always better in my imagination, I am always trying to write them to the same level, and I always fall short and hope I will do better next time.

What author’s work speaks to you?

Too many to list. There’s a kind of representative sample here http://oldkingdom.com.au/author_books.html though many, many more could be added.

What are your least favorite words?

All words have their uses. I’m not fond of words or phrases which are used in an attempt to actually disguise the real meaning. Like “downsizing” for firing employees.

Is there one trait that all of your main characters have in common? If so, why?

Perhaps a certain responsibility for the lives, happiness, and security of others, no matter the personal cost this may entail.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Usually, the virtue that a person thinks they have more of than anyone else.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

These come and go. I might find myself using a particular word in a manuscript too many times (and will go back and change it) but that same word won’t crop up in the next book, or perhaps ever again.

If you could sum up the reason you became a writer in five words or less, what would it be?

I like telling stories.

What is next?

GOLDENHAND, the fifth book in the Old Kingdom series, is out October 2016. Then a children’s book for all ages called FROGKISSER! in late February 2017, and another children’s book co-written with Sean Williams called HAVE SWORD WILL TRAVEL out late 2017 and after that, I think the next book will be a High Fantasy in a whole new setting.


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