The Seventh Tower
The Seventh Tower Q & A The Seventh Tower
The Seventh Tower
The Books The Characters Garth Nix Q & A About the Author
  • What other things help define who you are (foods, TV shows, etc.)?

    I cook certain things pretty well, and I like doing it and eating the result. Roast beef, for instance, and lamb or fish dishes with cous cous. Unlike the stereotypical author I've never had a job as a short-order cook, but I love cooking hot breakfasts for lots of people, juggling the eggs and the bacon and the tomatoes and the fried potatoes and so on.

    I don't watch a lot of TV and I hardly ever have time to keep up with series, though I do love reruns of old favorites from my childhood like Dr. Who, The Goodies, and Get Smart.

    I like movies in particular, on video or TV. I have lots of old favorites, like Danny Kaye in The Court Jester or The Secret Life of Walter Mitty or James Stewart in Winchester'73. But I also like a lot of modern films. I laughed myself stupid watching Galaxy Quest the other day, and I tend to see about half of the big films of any year, either on first release in the cinema or on video.

  • You live in Australia, but what other countries have you visited? Which are you favorites? I you were to move, where would you choose?

    I live in Australia, but I have traveled (sometimes very briefly) in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Pakistan and India.

    Every country has its attractions. I'm very interested in history, so I often find places of historical importance fascinating. People are also fascinating and I have met great people in every country I've visited.

    If I were to move anywhere, it would probably be to the USA. I'd love to see more of the USA, because while I've been there three times, I've only had one actual holiday where I drove around Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. so there’s a lot more to see. The USA is also the most important market for books in English, so in terms of being a writer it’s the best place to be.

  • Any other plans in the works? Upcoming books?

    Writing The Seventh Tower series is keeping me pretty busy at the moment. But I do have a new young adult fantasy out in October 2000, called Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr. It’s sort of a sequel to my book Sabriel, and there are lots of fans of the latter book who've been patiently waiting for the follow-up since 1997.

    I'm not sure what I will be writing after The Seventh Tower. I have quite a few deals in the works, and I am still fine-tuning the sequel to Lirael, which is a 2001 release called Abhorsen.

    EDITORS NOTE: Abhorsen was released in 2003 in the Unites States and was
    a New York Times Bestseller. Garth is currently writing The Keys to the Kingdom series.

  • What do you like best about writing a book for children?

    I think what I like best is being able to use my imagination as a sort of starter motor for readers. I like to write books that I would have liked as a child, that would have got me thinking and imagining beyond the words on the page. In a way, my audience is always how I remember myself as a child.

  • If you were not writing, what might you be doing instead?

    I might be bodysurfing down at the beach, or fishing from the rocks down at Brawley Point where my parents have a holiday house, or going out to the theater or a film with my wife, or lying on the couch reading a book, or making homemade pasta and trying to get the machine to roll it right, or walking up the hill from the beach reading a paper and trying not to run into anything, or checking in two hours earlier than I should for a flight because I always do...

  • What are your hobbies?

    I'm a keen fisherman, something I learned form my father, who I still fish with a lot. I mostly fish off the rocks or the beach, in the sea, but I also occasionally go freshwater fishing for trout. I used to cross-country ski quite a bit, but as my knees have deteriorated and I live further away from the Australian snowfields I haven't been skiing for quite a few years. I collects books as well as read them, so I buy books with interesting covers or bindings or that are limited editions. I watch films and videos and go to the theater, though never as much as I would like.

  • What books and authors did you read as a kid? Which are your biggest influences?

    I read very widely as a child (I still do). My favorites tended to be science fiction and fantasy and historical novels. In no particular order, here are just some of my all-time childhood favorites. Nearly all of them are still around, even the ones which were pretty old when I was a kid, which I think shows just how great these books are:

    Robert Heinlein: Have Spacesuit Will Travel, Citizen of the Galaxy, Starman Jones, Tunnel in the Sky, Space Cadet, Between Planets, Farmer in the Sky.

    Rosemary Sutcliff: The Eagle of the Ninth, The Silver Branch, The Lantern Bearers, Knight’s Fee, Warrior Scarlet.

    Andre Norton: Sargasso of Space, Plague Ship, Postmarked the Stars, Witch World, Star Man’s Son.

    J.R.R. Tolkein: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings.

    Diana Wynne Jones: Charmed Life, The Nine Lives of Christopher Chant, Fire and Hemlock, Power of Three, Eight Days of Luke.

    Ursula Le Guin: Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, Tehanu, Very Far Away From Anywhere Else, and her adult science fiction novels, particularly The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed..

    Lloyd Alexander: The Prydain Chronicles.

    C.S. Lewis: The Narnia Chronicles.

    Alan Garner: The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, Moon of Gomrath, Elidor, The Owl Service, Red Shift.

    John Christopher: The Tripods Trilogy, The Prince in Waiting Trilogy.

    Peter Dickinson: The Blue Hawk, The Changes Trilogy, The Dancing Bear.

    Robin McKinley: The Blue Sword, The Hero and the Crown.

    Patricia McKillip: The Riddlemaster of Hed Trilogy.

  • What are you reading now?

    Right at this moment, I have a whole stack of books I'm working through. I read very quickly, so I get through three or four books a week usually, even when I don't have much time to read. Here’s a few:

    Nathaniel’s Nutmeg by Giles Morton. Popular history about he spice trade and nutmeg, mostly in the 17th and 18th century.

    Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty. A very funny story about a teenager’s life, written entirely in letters, fridge notes and so on. Half the letters come from imaginary organizations, like "The Association of People Who Will Fail High School."

    The High House by James Stoddart. A very interesting fantasy, about the young heir to a house that actually contains entire worlds.

    The Vintner’s Luck by Elizabeth Knox. A literary novel, concerning the relationship between a young French winegrower and an angel, set in Napoleanic times.

  • What advice would you give to young writers today?

    I think the best advice is quite simple. Read a lot, write a lot, revise a lot, and send your work out.

    Reading is essential because it helps you learn how to put words together, how to create characters, how to tell stories and all the other parts of the craft of writing. The best thing is that if you read all the time you learn all this stuff without even really trying.

    Writing is also something you need to practice. the more you write, the better you will get. Even if you have a lot of natural talent, you still need practice. If you write a chapter every week for a year, you'll have a novel, or maybe even two. Maybe it won't get published, but you still have written one and that’s more than most would-be writers manage. Then you can start on another one, and maybe that will get published.

    Revision is also important. You can nearly always fine tune a story or a chapter. If possible, I think it’s best to write quickly, leave the piece for a few days or even a week, and then look at it again. Read it aloud, because that shows up weaknesses and language that doesn't work. Fix up the things that don't work.

    Finally, when you've done your revision, send the story or the book to a magazine or a publisher. That’s the only real way you can find out if it’s any good. It’s nice if your family and friends like it, but then they will probably always say they do. Find out magazines or book publishers or even websites that publish the sort of thing you've written and find out how they like to have material sent to them. There are lots of books and sources of information on the Web for sending material out.

    Never give up. Keep on reading, keep on writing, keep on revising, keep on submitting.

  • What is the first book/story you ever wrote?

    My first ever published story I wrote when I was 19 and was published before my 20th birthday. It was set in the near future, in a sort of Mad Max-like world though not as bad. I thought then that I would write and sell lots of short stories, but I was wrong. I didn't get another story published for years, though I kept on writing them.

    My first published book was The Ragwitch, which is still available from Tor Books. It’s about a boy and a girl who discover a rag doll which grows to be seven foot tall, with shark teeth and evil green eyes. This is the Ragwitch, and she takes them back to the world she came from. The girl is imprisoned inside the Ragwitch’s head and her brother has to try and rescue her. It’s kind of a C. S. Lewis story but with a harder edge...

    I started writing the book when I was 20 and finished it when I was 25, it was published when I was 26.

  • Did you always want to be a writer?

    I'd always written stories and I liked telling them as well. But I didn't really decide to be a writer until after I left high school. I was traveling around England and Europe, re-reading lots of books and I also started to write one. When I went home to Australia I decided that the book I was writing was a load of rubbish, but I still decided that I wanted to keep trying. So I went and studied writing at the University of Canberra. Because I knew it was hard to make a living from writing books, I majored in screenwriting. But after I left university, I decided to try and work in book publishing and keep writing books as well. I did get a job in book publishing, and I kept writing away at nights and on the weekend. After quite a few years, and a few published books, I realized that I had actually become a writer!

  • Where, when and how do you write?

    I often write longhand with a fountain pen in a small hardbound notebook, so I can write anywhere. My novel Sabriel, for instance, was partly written on the walls of a Crusader castle in Syria, above the tombs of the ancient Persian Kings in Iran and on a rocky headland on the south-eastern coast of Australia.

    But most often I write in my home office, in an apartment just up the hill from Coggee Beach, in Sydney, Australia. I usually write for three or four hours a day, sometimes for much longer. I work two days a week for a literary agency (because I like to get out and talk to people), but even on those days I usually write at night as well.

    So I either write longhand in my office, or I type on either my old Power Macintosh or my new Macintosh iBook so I can type and email when I'm away.

  • How do you think your view of the world has changed compared to when you were a child?

    I'm much more aware now of the complexity of the world. As a child, I think I used to have a more straightforward view of everything. Then I could see things in black and white, and not shades of grey.

    However, I think I have managed to keep most of my childhood sense of wonder and the ease of imagination. As an adult, I know when I need to switch off that sense of wonder and curb the imagination, but it’s still there. I can use it to daydream and lose myself in stories, either writing them or reading them. Then I can turn it off and talk about politics, or business or do any of the things that the real world demands.

  • How did you get the idea for The Seventh Tower series?

    Unlike my other books, editors at Scholastic and Lucasfilm had already made a sort of list of "influences and ideas" that they thought would be a good basis for the series. Influences like the bizarre buildings of the Spanish architect Gaudi, and ideas like a world where it is always night for some reason. So I had that list and then I had to work out a world, a story and characters that would use most of these ideas and influences.

    To explain the fact that it was always night, I thought up the Veil. Then I thought of different means of providing light, and from that came the Sunstones. Then I had to work out where the Sunstones came from, and that made me think of the towers which stuck up through the Veil into the sun.

    In a way, each of the ideas and influences on the original list was like a seed. The seeds were planted in my imagination and things have grown from them, and I have helped them grow and shaped them to fit into the story. Also, like any book, as I write it, lots of other ideas creep in. Sometimes I feel like the original ideas are tiny people in another world, and as I write more and more, I am expanding the peephole into a wider and wider window. So I can see more of the world, and see more of the story as it’s happening, and I can then write about it so readers can see and experience more too.

  • How long did it take to write the first book?

    That’s quite a hard question. I was thinking about the series and the first book for quite a few months, and I wrote and revised the outline for it three or four times before I sat down to write the actual book. It was probably six months of thinking and revising time and then two months of writing every single day.

  • Did you approach writing The Seventh Tower differently than your other books?

    It was a bit different because the initial "ideas and influences" came from Scholastic and Lucasfilm, which was strange at first. But as the story and characters were all out of my head after the initial kickstart, I found that writing The Seventh Tower was pretty much the same as writing anything else. However, unlike my other books (which are much longer and usually take a year or two to write), I haven't written the The Seventh Tower books in longhand first. For those longer books, I write with a fountain pen in a notebook and then type it on my Macintosh. For The Seventh Tower I make notes in pen, but then write it straight out on the Mac, usually a chapter at a time. Strangely, there’s not much difference, except that I probably have to revise more carefully.

  • How is this series different from other books you have written?

    Most of my other books are for an older audience, what is known as "young adult crossovers," which means that they appeal to teenagers and also crossover into the adult fantasy audience. So they're longer, and there are some differences in the complexity of the language and the plot. But to be honest, there is not much difference at the heart of the books. In all my writing I try and make a fantasy world as real as possible, the stories as exciting and enthralling as I can, and the characters as real as the people reading the books.

  • How did you come up with the characters in the book? Are any of them based on people you know in real life? Who is your favorite character?

    I'm never really sure how I come up with the characters in any book. I tend to think of the basic sort of person I want to have and put them somewhere where I can develop their character through the story. Like Tal, who is nearly fourteen and stuck in a very bad situation with his family and everything else. Then when I start to write about them the story picks them up and I kind of know what they'll do and what they're like without really having to think about it. I never base characters completely on real people, at least not consciously. Often I realize that I have taken a little characteristic from someone and put it together with a characteristic from someone else. So I might take someone’s fear of spiders for example and put it with someone else’s funny way of speaking and someone else’s obvious curiosity. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite character. I like them all. They are all fun to write at different times. Great-Uncle Ebbitt I enjoy writing, and I would like to have a slightly crazy unpredictable great-uncle like him. But I'd also like to have a son like Tal, knowing that he would always do his best for his family, and I'd like Milla at my side if I walked into a dangerous place. I wouldn't mind Tal’s shadowguard either. I have always liked the idea of useful magical companions.

  • Did you make up the plot in every aspect first by charting the characters and knowing exactly what you would do with them, or did you just piece a lot of it together as you wrote?

    I do write quite detailed story outlines for each book, which go back and forth between me and the editors for a while until we're all happy. But when it comes to actually writing, the story often changes a but, because the characters do different things, or I decide the story would work better in some way. Often, I get the feeling that the story is really happening somewhere and all I'm doing is trying to work out the best way to tell it.