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Sunday, 12 June 2011

Author Interview: Sean Williams and Garth Nix

I interviewed not one but two authors! Please welcome Sean Williams and Garth Nix to The Bookette. Welcome to England chaps!

The Bookette: I guess the first question I need to ask is: How does it work writing in a team? Who came up with the idea? What have you learnt from the experience?

SW: Garth and I have been friends a long time and bouncing ideas off each other almost from the beginning. It quickly becomes hard to remember who came up with what, and when--although I do seem to recall that it was Garth who suggested the title about two years ago, and that we should write about twins. From there, the ideas came thick and fast.

GN:  As with all books, there are lots and lots of small ideas that get moulded together into the story. We spent quite a long time (over various sessions in various places) just kicking different ideas around, choosing some and throwing others back, and at the same time began to work out the story that would use those ideas. From there, we worked together to develop a very detailed chapter outline for the first book, and a somewhat less detailed outline for the other books.

The Bookette: TroubleTwisters is the first in a series. How many books will there be in total? Have you mapped out the whole series or are you both more organic in style?

SW: We have mapped out (and sold) five Troubletwisters books and are currently working on book three. I like to know where we’re heading before starting out on the journey. We have a definite shape to the series and, while the details might change along the way, we know where Jack and Jaide will be at the end of book five.

GN: Things always change in the execution, but the skeleton remains the same. That sounds rather grim doesn’t it? But what I mean is that while many of the details may change, events may be re-arranged, new characters arrive or whatever, the final manuscript bears a close family resemblance to the original outline.

The Bookette: I get the sense that the idea of twins is going to be particularly important to the series. Do either of you have twins in the family? Are there any specific writing challenges when characterising twins?

SW: I am not a twin and don’t have any blood relatives who are twins, but I knew twins at school and have a couple of pairs in my extended family. They are a constant source of fascination for me: my Books of the Cataclysm series revolves around the fate of mirror twins--twins who are identical but reversed, right down to their internal organs--and many of my science fiction novels deal with duplication in various ways.

GN: I’m not as fascinated by twins as Sean! But I do have twin nephews, and I have friends who are twins. I think twins are very interesting for the way that they are incredibly close but also want to differentiate themselves, so they attract and repel at the same time.

The Bookette: TroubleTwisters is set in the coastal town of Portland. The setting plays a really significant role in the book. But I never really understood if it was an imaginary town in Australia. You are, I think, purposely vague about the actual location. Why did you make that choice?

SW: There is at least one real Portland in Australia, and I spent a lot of time there when I was growing up, but this Portland isn’t based on that one, and isn’t intended to be anywhere in Australia, specifically. There are Portlands all over the world, famous and not so famous, but none of them as strange and dangerous as the one Grandma X watches over.

GN:  The town is intentionally a little coastal town that could be anywhere. It has the features of a number of different coastal towns we know, both in Australia, the UK and the USA. The intention is that it should feel like a real town, that could be in the same country as the reader – wherever they are – but not any one recognisable town.

The Bookette: Sean, am I right in thinking you usually write adult sci-fi novels? Why the change to children’s fiction? Do you approach writing for differently for a younger audience?

SW: It’s true that prior to TT my publications in the UK have been entirely adult SF--my first novel Metal Fatigue, the Evergence and Astropolis space opera series, and some of my recent Star Wars tie-ins. But in Australia I’ve published two series for children (The Fixers and The Broken Land) and another for young adults (The Books of the Change) so I see this as a continuation of something I already do than branching out in a new direction. And it’s something I enjoy doing very much. Instead of writing differently, I write for a different version of me--the one who grew up reading Alan Garner, Susan Cooper, Ursula le Guin, etc, and has never stopped loving that kind of book.

The Bookette: Garth, I am very excited to see on Goodreads that you’re writing another book in the Old Kingdom series. Can you give me any hints about what we can expect to see in Clariel?

GN: Clariel is set about 600 years before the events of SABRIEL, when the Old Kingdom is very peaceful and quiet. It tells the story of a young woman, Clariel, who we eventually meet again in LIRAEL as the ancient necromancer Chlorr of the Mask.

My next book, however, which will be out in 2012, is A CONFUSION OF PRINCES. This is a Young Adult science fiction adventure, a coming of age and a “becoming human” story about a prince in a galactic empire.

The Bookette: I am participating in a reading challenge to read more fiction written by Australian authors. So far, I have been reading lots of Jaclyn Moriarty and John Marsden. Could you both recommend some other titles for me to try? I’d like to try an Aussie coming-of-age story if you have any ideas.

GN: I was Jaclyn Moriarty’s agent, back in the day when I was at Curtis Brown Australia, so I approve of your choice there! Other YA authors to look for would include Markus Zusak (his Fighting Reuben Wolf books and The Messenger as well as the international megahit The Book Thief), Michael Gerard Bauer’s Ishmael books, the Pagan books by Catherine Jinks, Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn series, Justine Larbalestier’s Liar . . . there are lots and lots of good Australian authors to look out for.

SW: And we like to claim Scott Westerfeld, too, since he lives here half the time!

The Bookette: And finally, I like to ask this of all the authors that I have the privilege of interviewing. Do you have a favourite type of biscuit? We Brits do love the good old cup of tea with a biscuit to dunk.

SW: So do Australians! And without seeming too parochial, I hope, I would have to pick Tim Tams as my favourite biscuit, with Arnott’s Lemon Crisp coming second.

GN: I am aware of how much Brits like their biscuits ever since my packet of biscuits was stealthily taken from me on a train by an editor who shall remain nameless (initials SP, works for Egmont). Funnily enough, I don’t like Tim Tams or chocolate biscuits in general. In terms of British biscuits, the Hobnob would be my favourite. My favourite Australian biscuit would probably be a tie between a Monte Carlo and a Gingernut.
The Bookette: Thanks so much for answering my questions. Best of luck for your UK tour!
TroubleTwisters is out in the UK now!


Hannah Mariska said...

I can't imagine being able to write a series with some one else (and still be friends!). Sounds like they've got it sorted though.

TroubleTwisters sounds exciting, I can't wait to find out more. But I also want to know what a Tim Tam is...!?

MC Rogerson said...

Brilliant interview! Loved all the book recommendations and A Confusion of Princes sounds mighty exciting!