First Chapters Q&A with Nick Gadd

Nick Gadd is a novelist and essayist.  His first novel Ghostlines won a Victoria Premier's Literary Award and a Ned Kelly Award.  Nick's essays and articles have apeared in Meanjin, Griffith Review, Kill Your Darlings, Elsewhere: A Journal of Place, The Guardian and in several anthologies.


Nick will be reading at First Chapters on Friday 6 March from his new novel Death of a Typographer.


1. Brunswick Bound has asked you to read a piece from your published work.  Tell us what we can expect from the piece you have chosen?


I’m reading part of the opening chapter of Death of a Typographer, in which the reader first encounters my co-investigators when they meet each other at a murder scene. Martin Kern has a special sensitivity to fonts, a skill that he uses to solve typographical crimes. Lucy Tan is a hard-working journalist with a punctuation fetish and eyebrows like swung dashes. In this chapter you will hear the first of many references to fonts, and be drawn into the nefarious world of type crime.

2. How would you describe your writing?
I’ve tried to throw a bit of everything into this novel: murders, ghosts, high speed tram chases, exotic locations, prog rock, Dutch type designers and lots of font jokes. It’s packed with eccentric characters human and typographical. It roams the world and ranges between genres. Several publishers, in rejecting it, described it as “too clever” which I would never say myself but of course am secretly pleased about.

3. What was the first book that you read (or had read to you) that left an impression on you?
My Family and Other Animals was my ideal book when I was a kid. Funny, full of oddball characters and unfamiliar landscapes, it took me out of my humdrum ordinary life into somewhere more interesting. Another was a collection of supposedly true ghost stories called Stranger Than Science which scared the bejeezus out of me.

4. Do you believe that books should answer life’s big questions?
Unfortunately I don’t know the answers to any of the big questions. And the poet Rilke says in Letters to a Young Poet that books should ask questions, not answer them. But I would like my writing to encourage readers to view the world a slightly different way.

5. Do you have any writing quirks?
In writing Death of a Typographer I found that it helped to sit at a particular desk in a particular spot in the State Library, close to the typography books, so that I could commune with them as I wrote. Font wise, my manuscript had to be in Times, although my laptop kept trying to convert it to Helvetica. I suspect foul play.

6.  What is your favourite word or phrase?
They’ll never kill Floogenkool.

7. What have you found most surprising or interesting about publishing a book?
If you have written a book that is in some way original or unusual, many publishers will be reluctant because they don’t know how to market it. They would rather publish a book that is similar to another book - the next Rosie Project, the next The Dry - and they’ll try to push you towards doing that. But it’s all a crapshoot and the next big thing will probably be something completely unexpected, so why not just write what you really want to write?

8. What is the question that you hope never to be asked in an author Q&A?
A fellow writer told me that they once held a signing session at which nobody at all came up to the table, except for one person who asked “Can I borrow your pen?” So I hope no one asks me that.

9. What question do you hope you will be asked and why?
What is so interesting about fonts anyway?
I want to be asked this because I during my research I came across many great stories that didn’t make it into the book and this is a chance to use them.

10. Which author or book do you think should be better known or more widely read?
B.S. Johnson, an experimental English novelist whose novels include The Unfortunates, which was printed on loose pages so it could be read in any order. He’s also a very funny writer. He wrote half a dozen books, all quite different, and died too young. Jonathan Coe, another writer I like, wrote a great biography of Johnson called Like a Fiery Elephant.

Find out more about the First Chapters event series on the Brunswick Bound website.

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