Garth Nix is a bit of an Australian literary legend. I know this because when I mentioned I was conducting this interview, my kids – who read Garth’s Keys to the Kingdom series when they were young – all said, ‘OMG you’re interviewing Garth Nix?? He’s a total legend!’
And it’s true that Garth is a legend – but that makes him sound a bit intimidating, when he’s really very nice. He responded to these questions just after New Year, when he should have rightfully been on holidays with his family, which was very sporting. He’s also an incredibly clever plotter, and writes some of the most elaborate and gorgeous world-building in the business.
He’s speaking to us today about his latest release THE LEFT-HANDED BOOKSELLERS OF LONDON and a few other things (like This Is Spinal Tap and the menu at a pub in Bath)…
Garth, are you a plotter or a pantser? Or something in between? Do you even believe in that ‘plotter Vs pantser’ stuff?
Like most things in writing (and publishing) it is rarely an either/or situation, though these kind of simplistic divisions are appealing in the same way “silver bullet” approaches to writing a novel are attractive, everyone hopes there is one simple secret to it. I am a bit of both and it varies depending on what I am writing. For most short stories I am a pantser, but not always. For novels, there is always an element of planning, but I often don’t follow the plan. However, I find it useful to do the planning even when I don’t follow it.
Your book has been the basis for the development of a themed dinner. What’s on the menu?
Because this is a very English book, set in London in a somewhat alternate 1983, I think it probably would need to be English food. Though I’d prefer it to be from the current era rather than the 80s, so perhaps something like this from the current menu of The Pig near Bath, where I had a very fine lunch in 2019:
Ham Hock and parcel terrine with homemade piccalilli
West End Farm Pork Chop with Garden Greens and Somerset Cider Brandy Sauce
Apple and Blackberry Crumble with Bird’s Custard
That sounds delicious! Now, what are your perfect writing conditions?
I try not to get too hung up on achieving perfect writing conditions, because often this can be used as an excuse not to write. But somewhere quiet is always good, with a bit of space. So not inside a cupboard in a house next to a highway. Though I would still try to write there as well.
Trash Media Challenge – which fave trash movie/show would you cheerily inflict on your friends?
I have over the years quite often inflicted The Court Jester and Spinal Tap on friends, usually accompanied by alcohol. I would never call them trash, though!
Your fave line of poetry is…
“Qinquireme of Ninevah from distant Ophir…” the first line from “cargoes” by John Masefield, though it is a tie with “Busy old fool, unruly sun,” the first line of “the Sun Rising” by John Dunne.
Garth, thank you for participating in #LoveOzYAbookclub!
I hope you enjoyed this interview and THE LEFT-HANDED BOOKSELLERS OF LONDON for this month – keep an eye out for a discussion post about the novel very soon.