Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Write now! with Nick Earls

To celebrate the Beaconsfield Festival of Gold Words, which is on in Tasmania (near Launceston) next week, I'm running a series of short blog posts featuring Q&As with some of the writers who will be there.

First up is Nick Earls, whose books have long been on my favourites list.

1. What is your latest book? Tell us a bit about it.

 My latest book for children is the final part of the Word Hunters trilogy. It’s called War of the Word Hunters, and we aimed to create the massive finale every trilogy deserves. In this case, it needed an epic-scale reckoning between our heroes and their enemy, and  it needed to be etymologically satisfying as well. Word Hunters is a time-travel adventure trilogy, with the leaps back in time dictated by the evolution of a particular word, so to finish with we needed a word that would take us to the right place at the right time, in an interesting way. A big ask, but I think we got there.

My latest book for adults is Welcome to Normal, a collection of stories and novellas, each of which look at the idea of ‘normal’ in some way, and at what might lie beneath the surface. My next book for adults, a novel called Analogue Men, will come out in July.

2. What research did you have to do for this book?

The research for Word Hunters was huge, and one of the best bits. I had to test out the etymological paths of literally hundreds of words to see which had interesting stories, or stories that could take the characters to interesting places. Then I had to find out what they’d wear in each place, what it looked like how it smelt, etc.

For Welcome to Normal, a few of the stories involve travel or happen a long way from here, so I took to Google Earth and Google Street View and spent days driving the roads to see precisely what my characters would see (or at least what they would have seen, had they been in the Google car that day).

3. What is your best time of day for writing? Why is that?

My best writing time is after I’ve dropped my son at childcare, bought the groceries and despatched any urgent emails. The decks are close to clear then, and they’re not clear often. Lately, my best shot at writing has come on planes and in hotel rooms, with the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door.

To write a first draft of a novel, though, it’s more about best time of year than best time of day. I have to block out a slab of my diary, say no to events and other requests, and write. I only get a few months a year like that, and those few months need to yield a draft of something.

4. What is the strangest question you've been asked by a reader?

Quite a few of the strange questions are about the writing of He Died With a Felafel in his hand, made extra strange because John Birmingham wrote it, not me. But people talk to him about Zigzag Street regularly, so honours are even.

5. What do you like most about literary festivals?

 They make me lift my eyes from this keyboard and screen. They bring me back into face-to-face contact with writers and readers, and into conversations.

Thanks, Nick. You will also see on his website that he gives away some of his stories for free, so if you haven't read his work before, here's your chance!

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