Tag Archives: Garth Nix

Some EIBF thoughts at the end

It might not be the end, of course. For me and the book festival, I mean. There are events galore that I want to see, so will carry on when I can. I just didn’t feel up to more consorting with strangers on trains. That situation may well improve at some point.

Some people have been negative about the new ways. But in this instance ‘we’ have to try new ways to survive. One day they might feel like the old ways.

All the photos I’ve since seen from the Art College suggest that people came and they sat and they enjoyed. Maybe on a smaller scale. But they came. Some authors also came. It would have been nice to see more of them actually there, but the way it was done, the ‘menu’ had scope to be more exotic.

Perhaps the days of seeing Garth Nix in the flesh are over. (Just picking an Oz author at random here.) And if they are, then so be it. I had the opportunity of seeing him live live, and will be able to live on memories. Soon people will not have this kind of expectation when the new becomes the norm. A Garth on a screen is still a Garth.

The authors – and the audiences – have not been not travelling just because of Covid. It is also a greener thing to not travel, and the planet might last a little longer if we refrain from frying it too much. I’m sure some authors have enjoyed traversing the globe for events, but am equally sure some have hated it, or at least the accompanying exhaustion.

So here’s to a few more years of trialling the next ‘old ways’ of bookfesting. Garth on a screen, and Bookwitch at her desk. Both of us dreaming of the olden days. Or not.

‘Fantasy readers are much better people’

I have to agree with Garth Nix there. Maybe. It’s not every day someone ushers a writer like Garth from the room, so I can have some peace and quiet, but this happened yesterday at Seven Stories in Newcastle. I was there to interview Cornelia Funke. Garth’s presence was an added bonus, and it was lovely to see him.

War Horse at Seven Stories

Newcastle wasn’t quite as complicated as it was when I was last there. The train was on time. The taxis behaved – sort of – normally. Seven Stories was just as nice, and they had several exhibitions on, including one about Michael Morpurgo, and as I waited for Cornelia, I visited all seven floors for a quick look. So did the woman with the pram, who was trying to locate her husband. I hope there was a happy ending for them.

Chris Riddell at Seven Stories

Cornelia arrived with her publicist Vicki, and along with Garth we were conveyed to a quiet room, with only one Tiger [who came to tea] in it. And then Garth was conveyed somewhere else. Cornelia and I had our chat, which I had ended up re-planning in the middle of the night when I came up with a more important question for her.

Cornelia Funke Blog Tour

Afterwards I climbed up to the seventh floor where I waited for Garth’s and Cornelia’s event to start, along with a few early fans, and I suffered only mild vertigo. In more than one direction, but I survived.

Cornelia Funke and Garth Nix at Seven Stories

I do love that room at the top, though! All those beams with fairy lights strung all over! And I reached the purple sofa first.

Garth talked about his premature idea of writing postapocalyptic dystopia, and he and Cornelia both agreed that writers write what they want to write. He works  towards the iceberg idea, where the story in the book is 10% with the other 90% existing in the writer’s mind. With fantasy you dig deeper, and it is more realistic than realism…

Cornelia Funke and Garth Nix at Seven Stories

A lot of fantasy is about boundaries; crossing them, or not crossing them. Cornelia who is now thinking six books for her Reckless series, is working on the fourth, which is exclusively Japanese fairy tales. Her plans for writing is to continue her three different series (which sounds like something her fans will approve of), taking them further.

There was some advice on what to do when meeting bears, but if it’s a grizzly I believe this will mostly mean the bears eating [you]. Garth grew up in Canberra where you are never far from the wilderness, and he had some tale about his father, who sounds as if he was the one who taught little Garth to lie so fluently.

Just as well, since he is monolingual, and quite jealous of Cornelia and her several languages. (She helpfully pointed out that speaking two languages protects you against Alzheimer’s.) In the US they believe Garth is English on account of how he speaks…

Cornelia Funke

After the Q&A session, Garth and Cornelia did a signing, and this was very much the kind of place where diehard fans had arrived carrying piles and piles of books, and much time was spent talking about whatever you talk about with your favourite author. Photos were taken, and even I had an offer of being photographed with Cornelia. But you know me; that’s not how I operate if I can help it.

Garth Nix

The first signing was followed by a second signing downstairs in the bookshop, where I carefully studied what they had for sale. A lot of good books.

Cornelia Funke

And then I went to check on my earlier booking for a taxi, joining other hopefuls on the pavement outside. Eventually I managed to persuade one driver that I probably was the Annie who had booked a taxi to the railway station.

(My apologies to any Annies left behind in Lime Street…)

Seven Stories

Garth Nix and Terry Pratchett

Right now I could really do with Terry Pratchett’s voice recognition writing slave apparatus. I simply can’t write for more than a few minutes at a time. So that rather lengthy interview with Lars Kepler that was on the menu for today, will be delayed. It has been transcribed, translated and ‘only’ wants editing. And photos. Some finishing touches.

So, as I’m off for a few days, I will leave you with some Blue Peter style posts for the weekend. And for today you can have Terry Pratchett and Garth Nix in conversation at the Sydney Opera House.

I’ve not even had time to listen to the whole thing myself yet. Which means that if something really untoward were to happen halfway through, it’s not my fault.


The Nix chap

Garth Nix

I feel the need to return to Garth Nix, seeing as I left him almost totally high and dry a few weeks ago. Which was a shame as his was such a great event on the opening morning of the EIBF.

I used to see his books around Offspring’s school library, but never got round to reading any. And then I have a niggling suspicion someone made some less complimentary comment about the books, and that was that.

His talk was based on lies. It was also based on four questions he’d like to ask himself. The first one was whether Garth Nix is his real name. It is. He is very satisfied with it, as the middle of the alphabet is good. Means his name will be at eye height on some imaginary list of authors’ names. He has looked up the meaning of Garth and Nix. Basically he is a walled garden, a merman or a watersprite, half human/half fish (?) and he’s malevolent.

Right. (I just took notes. Nothing to do with me.)

Those same notes say ‘small muscles, large head’. Was he describing himself? He writes by hand in black and red notebooks. A new one for each novel. He tends to have several books on the go at any one time, leapfrogging between them. Garth doesn’t believe in magic, but he does believe in the supernatural. He’s not a fan of zombies, however.

Garth Nix

Like Tim Bowler, Garth wrote his first book really early. Tim’s book was awfully short, and I have to say that Garth’s was even shorter. He read it to us and that didn’t take long. Having reached the conclusion he didn’t want to become a soldier after years of thinking he did, he came to the UK at the age of 19 and travelled round the country in an Austin 1600 with a gold flame stripe, whatever that is. He read a lot, and learned that the difference between professional writers and amateurs is that the professionals finish things.

His first professionally finished book was Freddie the Fish, a book for very clever babies. By now Garth has written quite a lot of books, and to prove it he had personally stuck together all the cover images from his books into one long strip of… yes, of what? A strip, let’s say. He showed it to us. Not all covers were the right way up, but he was jetlagged.

The supernatural. Hmm. Garth told us the story of the one time he found it could happen. In great detail. It was nine years ago, to the day, and he had been given a lucky ring. He gave away this lucky ring to a young boy in the front row. That’s when I smelled a rat, and Garth admitted almost immediately that he’d made it all up.

Garth Nix

Then it was back to the Austin 1600 with the gold flame stripe. Garth had toured the Scottish Highlands in this car. He had discovered a wonderful author and had read all the books by this man. Then by pure chance he discovered the author lived in the village he was visiting, and he went to see this very old man. The man gave Garth his fountain pen when he left. He was saddened to learn shortly afterwards that the author had died.

Garth had made it all up. Again.

There never was an old Pole by the name Irskine Henry. (He even claimed to have looked Irskine up on Wikipedia.) But if we make him real here, maybe one day Irskine (Garth’s spelling; not mine) will be googlable.

Garth thinks he may lie a space adventure next. Pardon me; write.

Last day of EIBF 2010

Entrance tent to the EIBF

Some late thoughts on the last day of the book festival.

It’s actually been quite good listening to some authors talk about their books, when I haven’t read them. I tend to think that I want to reinforce my love for a book by hearing the author speak about it, but it can be refreshing to listen with no previous knowledge at all.

Press yurt coffee, EIBF

Gillian Philip booksigning

Poster at EIBF

Chris Close and Martin Bell at the EIBF

Yesterday's crop of photos by Chris Close

Philip Pullman in Charlotte Square

The photography guys at the EIBF

A C Grayling and the Swedes

VTB at the EIBF

Queue in Charlotte Square

Book festival mud

Garth Nix was one such writer, and Barry Hutchison and his Invisible Fiends was another. Tohby Riddle. Katie Davies.

Daughter has been inspired to think about which accent she’d rather speak. A Scottish one came high on her list. At least until she heard an Aussie accent from the ‘arse end of the world’, and I have to point out – very strongly – that it’s a direct quote from Simmone Howell.

I don’t often go round photographing posters, but in the London Review tent the one with the name Gilsenan on it caught my eye. Any ideas why?

As Daughter got excited about one Alan Davies, I realised I’d been to an event with another Alan Davies.

It’s been fun witnessing Chris Close taking his own brand of photographs of visiting authors, and then the next day to see the result printed out on canvas and hung somewhere in Charlotte Square. There was a sex discussion one evening, where Chris received complaints that he mainly takes pictures of men. His retort was that more women than men turn him down… And to be fair, they aren’t exactly beauty shots. Good, but more fun than pretty.

Having stood about hearing the press photographers addressed as ‘gentlemen’ for the last fortnight, and thinking of the female ones, I have hit on the prefect one-word solution. Guys. It seems to be acceptable to be addressed as guys by waiting staff in restaurants, so might work on both sexes of the press, too. Because there are two.

Unless you’re A C Grayling, who only got the ladies. We had this freelance Swedish photographer who turned up one evening, getting quite vociferous on sexism in general. And then we never saw her again. Couldn’t decide who had the best hair.

Best beard goes to Philip Ardagh (below), as always. He appeared to have ditched his towel, but I forgot to ask Philip about it.

There was the initial problem facing your VTB, when her Stirling broadband failed, but the spotty table in the tent was an OK place to work from, until the timely dongle saved the blogging industry.

The queues can’t be avoided if you pick a popular event. The hardest thing is to ascertain you are joining the correct one.

Mud failed to be a problem, because the sun shone far too frequently. Not grumbling. The ducks did, but maybe they never saw this little wet paradise in the corner.

Not getting up and going on the train every day will feel good. For a while. It will also be a relief not waking up to the nearby Stirling High School’s bell, which sounds much more like a warning that they are about to use explosives, than that they want the students to go to their classrooms.

Philip Ardagh at the EIBF

Beginnings and ends

Philip Pullman

It was a case of the incredible shrinking camera syndrome. The press photographers’ cameras were bigger than ever. My photographer was off building rockets in Leicestershire. Why? My replacement photographer did a sterling job with his smaller toy, and when he went off to hear the bishops speak (and Philip Pullman, it has to be admitted) all that was left was me and my teeny weeny camera. So, some photos are not nearly as good as the subjects deserve. And the photocall session with Sophia Jansson didn’t run late and it wasn’t cancelled, as sometimes happens, and is understandable. It ran early, so ran without us.

Introductory singing

Carol Ann Duffy

Jason Bradbury

Shock horror. Edinburgh is not being dug up. Last year’s dust and large wholes in the ground have moved elsewhere. There are tramlines in the streets. Didn’t see any trams, but tramlines are a wonderful thing on their own. Really.

Due to technical problems, this blog post is delayed. It is also going to be too short. And you, at the back, I heard you when you shouted ‘YES!’. It should be longer, and I may add things later when I’ve worked out how to write round a nonexistent internet supply. If I shout loudly enough, can you hear me?

Garth Nix

I started off with that Australian ‘walled garden-cum-watersprite’ author, otherwise known by his real name of Garth Nix. I know nothing about Garth, nor have I read any of his books (although the first one called Ragwitch, has a certain ring to it), and it was quite refreshing to sit down and listen to someone from scratch. I’ll only say here that the man is a liar of such proportions that even I am astounded. But charming, nevertheless.

Then Penelope had me foxed. I can’t cope with people who change their hair. And Penelope (Eleanor Updale to you) had not only done that but changed all the rest of her, too. So when she hugged Nicola Morgan I could only recognise Nicola.

Meg Rosoff

Later in the day it was time to listen to Penelope interview the Dukakis presidential campaign press release writer, aka Meg Rosoff. (I wish she hadn’t admitted to that!) She thinks about her funeral too much, and she also said a very dubious thing about the younger generation, which I will not repeat here. This ‘deeply immature adult’ finds ‘America such a weird place’, and she kept going on about dogs that weren’t there. Of course they weren’t. (She also had the nerve to ask me for a cut of 10%. Of what, I ask you?)

Julia Eccleshare of the Guardian got a lesson from Tove Jansson’s niece Sophia on how to pronounce Tove. She did remarkably well for someone her age. This adult event was full of adults. They all knew about Moomin and Tove. Real Jansson nerds, I’d say. Lots of good, although sometimes long, questions. The answers were also good.

Sophia Jansson

Afterwards replacement photographer and I had our interview with Sophia, but not until we’d been thrown out of a yurt. And that was not my fault. It was my very first interview in Swedish, so we shall have to see how that went. I think Sophia must have had a curse on things connected with her, since not only the photocall session disappeared for us, but the much admired recorder thingy I use was not performing as well as it should have. (But that was my fault.)

It may have been the first day in business for the Edinburgh International Book Festival, but it was also the last day for Fascinating Aïda on the fringe. Before I went home to my lonely garret, I went to see them sing rude songs again. Heard them, too, obviously. Dillie Keane had promised me they’d stand up for me at the end, and they did.

But at least it was a nice day. The weather did its best to prove it doesn’t have to rain, just because it’s the Edinburgh Festival. That’s all down to Meg Rosoff’s clothes. She dressed for rain. And my umbrella might have helped, too.

Bookwitch bites #19

I just have to point out the wonderful Mythic Friday Interview with Anne Rooney over at Scribble City Central. They have all been good up to now, with the possible exception of the witchy one in mid-May. But how to follow this one?

We have a Garth Nix alert. He’s coming. Garth will be in the UK for a short tour in August, starting with Seven Stories in Newcastle, and then going on to the Edinburgh BookFest and then to Bath and Norwich. I know very little about Garth, other than that he seems to have really keen fans. I’ll know more after his Edinburgh event. I hope.

Children’s Laureate Anthony Browne has been persuading the great and the good among his colleagues and other famous people to be creative with crayons and things. In other words, they appear to have gone all arty and the fruits of this artiness is offered in an auction which ends tomorrow. Check the piggybank and put in a bid before it’s too late. I’m afraid I have already missed the boat, so to speak.

To finish, a photo especially for Sara O’Leary. I’m ashamed to say that the mirror smoothness of the sea has been in shorter supply than previously. But the scene below was exciting, at least. And it did have the distinct advantage of getting us thoroughly wet without us going into the water. One has to be grateful for small things.

Surfing in the sand dunes

Caroline’s bath

As Daughter left the house yesterday morning she realised she was under-equipped, so came back for the forgotten mobile. Good thing she did, or she couldn’t have texted me during lessons. (Ahem, you didn’t read that here.) The glad tidings was that Caroline Lawrence, our favourite Roman is coming to Daughter’s college today. Some quick Facebooking on my part and the message from Caroline was that her train was just pulling into Stockport that very minute.

Caroline Lawrence

As I was getting ready to dig into my lunchtime porridge (no need to feel sorry for me) the phone rang. ‘Caroline Lawrence for you’, said the Resident IT Consultant. Oh. ‘Would we like to have tea with her?’ Yes, we would. More texting to Daughter. (Sorry, Aquinas!) Hot on the heels of all this came the very timely press release from Orion with the news that they have bought Caroline’s new book series. The Western Mysteries: The Case of the Counterfeit Injuns will be published next year (that’s a long time to wait…) and there will be four books altogether. We can’t wait.

Henna tattoo and lemon tea

Anyway, we took ourselves off to Caroline’s hotel for when she had finished her school event, and got there just as Caroline emerged from her taxi, looking as fresh as anything. Daughter went along to inspect Caroline’s room and both came back in raptures, which is why we all trouped up for a look after finishing two large pots of tea between us.

Caroline Lawrence at Eleven Didsbury Park

Two baths. One in the room and the other on the deck outside, but we felt it was a little too cold for the al fresco one.

Caroline Lawrence and Stockport hats

I don’t think the hotel knew what had hit them, with requests for more tea, lemon slices and cake. We only stopped short at licking the plate clean. The tea was so good even Daughter liked it, and the lounge was very nice and did all right for photos.

Halo there, Caroline

We talked Westerns, obviously, with lots of info from Caroline’s many research trips. I really feel for her with all that tiresome travelling. I had another look at her Western blog, full of gun powder and other stuff on how to kill people. Can’t wait. I know I already said so, but repetition is good.

Nice gossip from the Dubai literary festival, which Caroline had just returned from, hobnobbing with Jacqueline Wilson, Garth Nix, Darren Shan and Martin Amis. That’s the life.

Her trip up north is for a couple of events at Manchester Grammar School, one yesterday and one today. And as a bonus Caroline’s number one fan James has arranged for this morning’s talk at Aquinas College, where by pure coincidence another number one fan, Daughter, can also be found. We have actually already met James at another event, which goes to show how fans keep bumping into each other. The teacher involved is so popular that he has a fan page on Facebook, or so I understand. It’s the English department who are hosting this talk on how to write novels and getting published. Daughter will leave Physics and venture into foreign lands to hear what Caroline has to say, and to take photos. So there will be an update later.

Make sure you come back.

Monday was going to be the day when I recovered from a very busy week. But then it’s not every day a real American cowgirl steps off the noon train as it draws into our little town.


Later, as promised. I gather from Daughter that Caroline’s talk was interesting and that a good number of students had turned up for this first period of the day. Judging from the slides I’ve seen in the photos, Caroline covered some of the Roman Mysteries as well as things on writing in general. I’m hoping for some inspired future novelists, here.

Caroline Lawrence at Aquinas College

(Photos by Helen Giles)