Today I have an interview with Garth Nix and Sean Williams, the co-authors of the Troubletwisters series!
1. What’s the inspiration behind the Troubletwisters world? How many books are going to be in the series?
Sean Williams: We wanted to write adventure fiction for children (and up) inspired by the classic novels we grew up reading as children ourselves. We both loved books by Ursula Le Guin, Susan Cooper, Alan Garner, Robert Heinlein (I’ll let Garth add more to the list below), so that’s where I turn to when looking for inspiration. As to how many books there are in the series, we’re currently aiming for five. The idea was too big for a trilogy, and five is a very good number. (There are five books in Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series.)
Garth Nix: We wanted to write something together because we thought that would be fun. Writing is a solitary occupation, you spend a lot of time alone with your thoughts and a screen. So co-writing with a friend has an appeal. We talked about writing various different things, before settling on a series of children’s books, mainly because we do both love fantasy adventure stories for children.
2. The Mystery of the Golden Card sees Jack and Jaide embark on their first Warden-related mission, and unveils some of the secrets that have been kept from them. What’s it like seeing to see your protagonists growing up, coming into their own?
SW: It’s one of the great pleasures of writing books with young protagonists. Childhood is something we all remember clearly, even as we get older, and always struggle with to a certain extent, since not of all of it was pleasant. Putting Jack and Jaide through the wringer of their experiences is a bit like watching our own kids grow up, except that in the book we have a certain amount of control over where they’ll end up. It’s probably best the real world isn’t like that, although with two teenage stepsons I sometimes can’t help wishing it was.
GN: Characters have to grow through the course of a book, whether they actually get any older chronologically or not. Experiences change people, particularly adventures, which are often actually extremely hazardous events that you’re lucky to survive. So naturally they change you, and in a story, characters who didn’t change would be far less interesting.
3. How does the writing process work in your team? Do you alternate chapters, or points of view, or does one of you write the first draft and then you both tweak it?
SW: We live in different cities (I’m in Adelaide, Garth’s in Sydney) but are often at the same events and stuck together between the events. Brainstorming is therefore a fun way to pass the time. Quite a lot of plotting takes place in various random taxis, airport lounges and coffee bars, and I often wonder what the people around us think we’re talking about. At some point we’ll start working on a synopsis, which will evolve into a very detailed chapter-by-chapter outline, at which point Garth will write the first chapter to get the ball rolling. Because I like to write quickly and don’t like to be interrupted, I then write the rest of the first draft, which then goes to Garth for rewriting, sometimes quite substantial rewriting because things always change between outline and first draft. We bounce the ms backwards and forwards a few times until we’re both happy with it. Then it goes to our editors.
GN: And comes back from the editors, with more rewriting! Sean and I don’t send the ms. away until it has already been backwards and forwards quite a few times, and even after it comes back it might still have a couple of complete beginning to end passes from each of us before it is finished, though hopefully with fewer and fewer changes in each iteration.
4. Twins are known to have a unique bond, unlike any other familial relationship. Do you think Jack and Jaide have been harder to write, as twins, than perhaps a pair of non-twin siblings?
SW: I am obsessed with twins and have written about them a lot (see my answer to question 5), so writing about twins in this series is a genuine pleasure. In the past my fictional twins have been identical, so having a boy and a girl to relate to has been fun. Sometimes I wonder if I had a twin once, who died or was adopted out or something, but my mother assures me that’s just a fantasy. I can’t really know what it’s like–until I’m cloned, or duplicated in a freak matter transmitter accident–but that’s what imagination is for.
GN: I’m not as obsessed with twins as Sean, and in fact I had forgotten how obsessed he was when we first talked about the series and I suggested the main characters might be twins. It was like putting a match to a pool of petrol. However, I am interested in twins and other multiples, there is an innate mystery about them. I know one twin who felt her sister break her leg when they were thousands of kilometres apart, her own leg hurt and then hours later a telephone call came through. I actually saw this happen. Maybe coincidence, but very interesting.
5. What are you working on individually? Garth, is there any news on Clariel’s book?
SW: I’m working on a new series called Twinmaker, the first book of which, Jump, is coming out in November. It’s set in a near future where people can go anywhere they want pretty much instantly. My main character hears a rumour that you can hack the technology so it changes you en route, but that’s never going to end well.
GN: Clariel is written and will be released September 2014. I do have some revisions to do, in response to editorial feedback, but not a huge amount. Otherwise I have been working on a number of short stories for various anthologies, including the forthcoming Rogues edited by George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois, which has one of my Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz stories in it, called “A Cargo of Ivories”.
Rapid Fire Round:
1. Vegemite or Nutella?
SW: Vegemite, Promite and Marmite.
GN: Vegemite. I don’t like Nutella.
2. Disney making the final Star Wars trilogy, yea or nay?
SW: Yea. Never say “final”.
GN: Yea. At least there’s a chance of a good film as opposed to the certainty of the awful prequels. So we might get something to wash the nasty taste out of our minds.
3. What are you reading right now?
SW: I’m between novels at the moment. The last book I finished was The Girl Who Would Be King by Kelly Thompson.
GN: I’m reading the short stories in an ARC of the forthcoming Rags and Bones edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt (I have one in there too) and a non-fiction book on the Russian war in Afghanistan called Afghantsy by Rodric Braithwaite.
About the authors:
Sean Williams (on the left) was born in the dry, flat lands of South Australia, where he still lives with his wife and family. On the sci-fi front, he is best-known internationally for award-winning space opera series and novels set in the Star Wars universe, many co-written with fellow-Adelaidean Shane Dix. These include the Astropolis, Evergence, Orphans, and Geodesica series, and the computer game tie-in The Force Unleashed – the first such adaptation ever to debut at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. His fantasy novels – inspired by the landscapes of his childhood – occupy a unique niche in Australian publishing. These include the Books of the Change and the Books of the Cataclysm. His most recent entries in this world include the Broken Land series and novellas in two anthologies, The Dragon Book and Legends of Australian Fantasy. When he’s not writing or in meetings, he likes to cook and DJ, but never at the same time.
Garth Nix (on the right) was born in 1963 in Melbourne, Australia. A full-time writer since 2001, he has worked as a literary agent, marketing consultant, book editor, book publicist, book sales representative, bookseller, and as a part-time soldier in the Australian Army Reserve. As well as the Troubletwisters series, Garth’s books include the award-winning fantasy novels Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen; and the cult favourite YA SF novel Shade’s Children. His fantasy novels for children include The Ragwitch; the six books of The Seventh Tower sequence, and The Keys to the Kingdom series. More than five million copies of his books have been sold around the world, his books have appeared on the bestseller lists of The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, The Guardian and The Australian, and his work has been translated into 37 languages. He lives in a Sydney beach suburb with his wife and two children.
The Troubletwisters series by Sean Williams and Garth Nix is published in Australia by Allen and Unwin, and the latest book, The Mystery of the Golden Card: Troubletwisters 3, is available now at all good bookstores and online. I have reviewed the series as part of my 2013 Australian Writers Reading Challenge. I thank Garth and Sean for taking the time out to answer these questions for me, they’re both heroes of mine and it’s just absolutely mind-blowing that I got to ask them a few questions and they responded.