Nick Earls has written numerous critically and commercially successful adult novels, including Zigzag Street, Bachelor Kisses, Perfect Skin and World of Chickens, as well as bestselling young adult novels.
Zigzag Street won a Betty Trask Award in the UK and 48 Shades of Brown won the 2000 Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Award for Older Readers. The film adaptation of the book was released in 2006. A number of Nick’s other novels are being adapted for film or television and three have been adapted for theater.
Why I write
(i) Because I can’t stop. In the early ’90s, after three failed attempts at the Vogel and a fair bit of rejection, I found I couldn’t talk myself out of writing the next story, however much the odds seemed stacked against me.
(ii) Because I burned all the other bridges. Three hundred new drugs have been released since I last practiced medicine, so a return would require a pretty serious refresher course.
(iii) Because it hasn’t got easy yet. If it felt easy – if it felt as if I was painting by numbers, and discovering nothing – I think I’d be less inclined to do it.
(iv) Because every new story is a new puzzle I have to work out how to solve.
Do you write every day? If so, how many hours?
Yes and no to writing every day. If writing is sitting here typing or writing in a journal, then no. I’ve never been convinced that that’d be a good thing. There’s more to writing than that bit. Writers also need to stand up, look around, pause.
But do I think like a writer every day? Yes. It’s hard to turn that bit of my brain off, so I’ve stopped trying. I notice things and I write them down. Something I’m working on is usually in my head. There’s usually something I need to work out. That’s writing too, so in that sense, yes, I write every day. Compulsively. I’m not saying that’s great either.
Worst source of distraction?
Incoming emails. Unfinished business. Obscure factoids needing chasing down online.
Best source of inspiration?
If I started trying to work that out, I’d be afraid I’d lose it.
I’m better at recognizing the storyworthiness of ideas now than I was 20 years ago, so I tend to have more things to write about than I have time to write. Some years I feel I’d like to catch up with my ideas pile for once and take a break. But I don’t think a break would really suit me.
How often do you get writers’ block/doubt your own ability?
I don’t get writers’ block and I doubt my ability every day.
I do a lot of thinking and note making and planning before I write anything, so I don’t get stuck mid-story waiting for the next necessary idea. Sure, there are sludgy days from time to time, but I know what I’m writing next and I can usually push through. I worked out a while ago that it’s okay to let a first draft be a first draft. No one’s going to see it until I’m ready to show them. I can go back and mostly de-sludge the sludgy bits once I’ve got some kind of perspective.
Every time I set out to write a story, I set out with, I think, just the right amount of fear that I’ll botch it. Not so much that it paralyses me, not so little that I’m anything like complacent. The right amount of fear to make me work hard and occasionally break a sweat.
Contemporary writer who you never miss?
The American novelist Richard Ford.
I’m honestly terrible at this question. As you’d imagine, it’s not the first time it’s come up. I just Googled my name plus ‘favorite book’ and got 1,630 hits, not all of which are me stumbling through the favorite book question, but quite a few are. On the first screen alone I name about five different books. My answer to this question is not to be trusted.
Aargh. Here’s that other favorite question…
The book you should have read but haven’t?
The list goes on and on. Or it would, if I believed in ‘shoulds’ when it came to books. I should exercise regularly. I should consume a healthy amount of fiber. I should read or not read whatever takes my fancy. So, I don’t have to answer to anyone for not reading more than a page of Patrick White.
You look back at the first thing you had published and think…
I’m never going to let you read it.
How did you get started writing?
With my girlfriend of the time – and then songwriting partner – I was a joint winner of the Shell Warana Young Performer’s Award, when Warana was Brisbane’s spring festival. I got to be a storytelling armchair, but I also had the chance to appear at the writers’ part of the festival. That allowed me to meet a publisher, and ultimately lead to my first book, three years later.
Does writing change anything?
It can. It can change almost everything, depending on what it says, when and where it says it and who reads it. I’m not saying my writing does that. Ultimately, it’s the reading of writing that’s the powerful act. Reading can change our perspective and decisions, and our view of anything, even ourselves.
What are you working on now and when is it out?
I’ve just sent back the page proofs for volume three of my children’s trilogy, Word Hunters. Book two is out this month and book three in July. Yesterday, I opened the 25,000 word outline for my next novel for adults and started to turn it into a novel.
Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013