Brisbane based author Nick Earls joined The Footpath Library as an Ambassador back in 2013. A versatile writer, Nick established his credentials as a children’s writer with the successful trilogy The Word Hunters. He has written for magazines and newspapers, and his adult fiction has been turned into plays and film (well, one so far—but you never know!)
Born in Northern Ireland Nick has spent most of his life in Australia. We must love him because in 2012, The Age newspaper nominated Nick Earls as one of the greatest living Australians alongside Bob Hawke, Warwick Capper and Shane Warne and in a 2013 poll of Australia’s all-time favourite 100 novelists, Nick came in at number 12.
Our Ambassador Program Coordinator, Meredith Jaffé caught up with the living legend that is Nick Earls to chat about his soon to be released new novel and life as an iconic writer.
Your new novel is due out in July. What’s it called and what’s it about?
It’s called Analogue Men, and it’s about the way some of us can be left feeling a bit analogue as the digital era races on ahead and perhaps away from us. In the book, we see this specifically through the eyes of the central character, Andrew Van Fleet, who’s in his forties and trying to stay relevant, stay on top of things and make some sense of the lives of his teenage twins. He’s left private equity to run a radio station in the hope that it’ll keep him home more but, with a rogue announcer at the station, his kids’ complicated lives and their schemes, his ailing father, a scrappy bulldog and a neglected partner, misunderstandings are likely and chaos might well ensue.
It takes some of the style of my early comedies, updates it and shifts the central character up a demographic.
What’s the difference between writing for adults and writing for children? Who are the harsher critics?
People say children are harsher critics. Actually, they said that before the internet. What they meant was that children were blunter critics—they’d tell you to your face, back when adults who didn’t like your work would just talk among their friends. The internet has levelled all that, and now many grown-ups have changed their bluntness settings to ‘age 8-10’, but with a more forceful vocab.
For instance, one person, on reading part of one of my 19 books, wrote about my characters online saying “I loathe his characters for their hedonistic empty-headed conservatism.”
Loathe? Really? All of them? Based on reading <2% of my work? I’d be the first to admit that the central character of that book had his flaws, but that’s what made him interesting (and maybe what had made that reader’s daughter a big fan). To write a character is not to endorse everything they say or do. It’s such a poisonous line, I later adapted it into dialogue for a vile character in a story.
The internet lets adults lash out in a way they wouldn’t face to face. The harshest critics are people in the 21st century with internet access.
Writers are famous for having routines. What does a typical writing day for you look like?
If I’m writing a first draft, between the childcare drop-off and pick-up it’s all about the writing, dragging myself away from the keyboard every few hours to make sure my joints haven’t fused. At some point, there’ll be a run. And dinner contemplation and perhaps sous-chefing, though more likely it’ll be takeaway on a big writing day.
I used to adhere to routines rigidly, but having a four-year-old in my life means that can’t work the way it once did. I write in a way that accommodates that though—a huge part of it is about accumulating ideas, then marshalling them into an outline, then writing the novel into the outline document. That means I can still write a novel in an interrupted life.
Everybody needs a hero. Who is your literary hero?
My friend Jessica Adams, who had the big dream of using books to raise a million pounds for War Child, and did it.
You are one of our Ambassadors in Brisbane, what inspired you to become a Footpath Library Ambassador?
Books remain one of the great forms of entertainment and ways of accessing ideas and a wider world, and everyone should have the right to them regardless of circumstances. The Footpath Library brings books to a group of people who otherwise often miss out.
Interview by Meredith Jaffé
Editor, Books thehoopla.com.au &
Ambassador Program Coordinator
The Footpath Library