The time it went to eleven

Posted October 27, 2014 by Stacee in Signings | 0 Comments

I heard about Clariel from the girls on Tea Time. They were so excited about the book being released that it made the book stick in the back of my mind. When I saw that Garth Nix was going to be at MG, Michelle and I tentatively put it on the calendar.

We met up early for a date. Michelle brought Lolita’s and we had the most delicious carne asada before heading over to Starbucks. We made it over to the store around 6 and a crowd quickly began to gather. We got front row and waited for the last hour before the event started.

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Garth came out right at 7:30 and said that he had been on tour for the past month. He started by reading something that he wrote when he was 7.  He pulled out a tiny folded book made out of notebook paper and joked that it wasn’t the original because that was in the National Library of Australia.  His little brother found it when their parents were moving after 40 years of being in the same house.


The book was 3 sentences and Garth said that it was proof that he was already thinking about the structure in stories because it clearly had a beginning, middle and ending.

Garth then started talking about Clariel and read a passage from the book.

As you can see, the maps have been redone and they’re much better than the sketches I made.  And any fantasy book with 3 maps is better than one with only 1 book. Or 30% better than a book with no maps in it.


It then opened up to the Q&A.

Do you have any casting idea for the movie?

It’s almost been made twice. I think it’s the type of movie that big stars shouldn’t be cast in. The way to make a star is to give them a great role.

What was your inspiration for Sabriel?

I get invigorated by other people’s art. When I’m feeling tired and I need to refuel my spirit, I’ll watch great movies or listen to music. It’s not a direct inspiration. I can’t look at something and say that it inspired a specific scene. So many things go into my head and they get mushed up. Wait, that doesn’t sound right. They get together beautifully.

What sort of music did you listen to?

This is hard. I don’t listen to something while I’m writing, but in between. Maybe The Eels. For some actions scenes maybe some Led Zeppelin. There’s some songs that just invoke an immediate emotional response.

How do you decide your viewpoint character?

I tried to keep this tightly focused on Clariel’s POV. It always come down to wanting something to happen and how to get there. This is Clariel’s story. For some stories, the story is bigger than one character. It’s just about storytelling.

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Out of all of your characters, which is your favorite?

You can’t have one. It’s like asking a parent who is the favorite child. I don’t have one. I’m always thinking about the next book. Whatever I’m imagining is better than whatever I’ve written down. Don’t stop buying my books because I’ve said that. I always think that next time I’ll do better, that I’ll get exactly what I’ve imagined.

It’s probably best that I don’t get the perfect book. After I typed the last words, I would probably drop dead, or burst into a column of flame. What do you do when you’ve written the best thing? It’s like you’ve gone to 11, you can’t go higher.

Are you a plotter?

Many fantastic writers do build their world first. I am more story driven. I tend to work out what I need and then go from there. If you keep doing that then you have a lot of stuff. I don’t separately work out how the magic works or how the world looks.

It’s like an iceberg. The text is the 10% of the book and then the 90% is just there. I want it to feel real. The world is real, the people are real, it’s just somewhere else. It’s all in the small details.

Any plans on publishing the story about Sabriel’s parents?

That story is 1 of 2 short stories that will probably come out next year. I’ve written about half of it, so once I’ve written half, you know it’ll be published somewhere.

{There’s another story coming out that he completely worked out while having a root canal.}

In October there’s a regency romance with magic. It’s currently an e-book, but it’ll be a paper book. Hopefully sometime in 2016 there will be another Old Kingdom book that I’m working on now.

Have you wanted to write an Old Kingdom book from a male POV?

When I’m thinking up a story, I typically start with the protagonist and then I’m stuck with them. I don’t plan for them to be male or female. It’s just who they need to be for the story.


Since Shade’s Children is technically YA, have you ever had your editor come back and say no to something?

No. It made the list of one of the 100 most challenged books and it was like a list of the best literature. I mean, number one was To Kill a Mockingbird. I very much believe that if you’re going to have difficult context it’s important to show the consequences. I’m not going to do gruesome violence just for the sake of it.

What book did you have the most pleasure writing?

They all have their moments. All of the books I’ve written I have hated about halfway through. I’ll always start complaining that I don’t know how to write. My wife is a publisher and she always reminds me that I’m that way every time.  There’s always a lot of revision and a lot of going back.

What made you decide to go back to the Old Kingdom?

For me, it wasn’t going back. I never left. For Clariel, I wrote a little question for myself. I went back and it was basically the start of Clariel. It has been in the queue since 1998. I guess there were just other books I wanted to write more.  My publisher wanted me to write a sequel to Sabriel right afterwards and I didn’t want to.

Who decided to update the cover art?

Fate decided to update the covers. The covers came from {I think he said Dylan} and he passed away two years ago. So once we were unable to have one of those covers, we had no choice but to update. {This also led to a discussion about the various covers used in different countries.}


Have you ever considered expanding the land mass?

Yes and the next book will do that to some extent. I think it’s good to keep it relatively contained. It’s like explaining too much with the magic. Some things need to stay mysterious.

Why does technology fail once you get in the wall?

The entire series is basically an advertisement for hand made paper. {This answer would make more sense if I would have gotten the earlier part about his mom making paper. }

What do you read?

I read a bit of everything. And it’s the best thing I can tell people who want to write. If you only read from the genre you want to write, when it’s time to write, you don’t have a lot in the reservoir.  The best thing is that all reading is research.  {He listed a lot of books, but the two that I remember are Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater and The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black.}

The signing started just before 8:30.  Michelle was able to get 2nd in line, so we were quick to get up to Garth.  We both thanked him for coming and he said that he liked what he had seen of San Diego, but that he was only going to be here for about 20 hours before he flew to Boston.  He saw me take a photo of him signing and asked if I wanted to be in the photo.  I said sure and he laughed saying that he didn’t know when the next time he would be in the US, so I better take advantage of it.

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Even though I haven’t read Garth’s books, I was captivated by his story telling.  He is very charismatic and quite hilarious.  I look forward to starting Clariel and I should probably thank Margot and Aubry for being so excited about it.

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