Saturday, March 7, 2015

0 Scot Gardner, author of THE DEAD I KNOW, on being robust to survive in the arts

Australian author Scot Gardner is joining us to talk about THE DEAD I KNOW, his first book published in the U.S.

Scot, what was your inspiration for writing THE DEAD I KNOW?

In a life before writing I worked as a counselor and youth worker with disadvantaged teens. I ran programs in secondary schools and met kids who were just holding their lives together, who'd experienced more pain and loss in their short lives than a village might in a whole generation. They
inspired me.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

Writing the book was a long, dark tunnel at times. I had to stop and come up for air and write something else. There are scenes in the book that describe (quite graphically) death and decay - writing about a funeral home, it's hard to avoid that stuff and retain credibility, but those scenes weren't the most difficult to write. I think the most challenging scene was one where Mam (who lives with Aaron) appears with a broken arm and she can't remember how it happened. The challenge was in keeping her dignity while portraying her madness.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

Hmmm. Dark realism. Think John Green with multiple coffins. Dan Wells' Serial Killer without the monster.

How long did you work on THE DEAD I KNOW?

Eight months of writing, with several rounds over several months of editing. All up, a little over a year from picking up the pen to putting it to bed.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

The book taught me that the darker my writing gets, the more international appeal it has. It also taught me that I write two very distinct styles of books - one for the market (bleak, but ultimately redemptive) and one for me (silly, but ultimately redemptive).

What do you hope readers will take away from THE DEAD I KNOW?

The same thing I hope they get from any of my books - an unusual, and hopefully pleasing, slant on the oddball world we inhabit.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

The Dead I Know is my fifteenth novel, but my first published in the US. My work has been primarily published in my native Australia. In the beginning, I met the right person (YA author John Marsden) at the right time (one of his writing conferences where he introduced me to a publisher). I've had rejection slips, but not until I'd had books published. I still haven't managed to pen a picture book. I'd like to.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

The thing that John Marsden said to me that felt like taking the chocks off my rocket was, 'You should try writing that in the first-person perspective'. As soon as I could fully inhabit the character, I felt like writing fit me like my best walking boots.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I treat it like a job in that I work seven hour days when I'm in the construction phase, but I've set about dismantling everything that has felt like a ritual associated with the process. I write in libraries, my office, on aircraft and trains, coffee shops, shopping centers and camping chairs. Sometimes I listen to music, sometimes nature, sometimes there are people all around, sometimes people are days away. Sometimes I type on a laptop but mostly I write longhand in notebooks.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Being commercially published is a good goal, but shouldn't be a core goal. It can bring a lot of unwanted baggage into your writing world.  I think writers who've written thousands and thousands of free-hearted and unpublished words before they are seduced by the mighty dollar better know their center and develop artistic resilience. You need to be robust to survive in the arts.

What are you working on now?

At the moment I'm writing about a young man who escapes juvenile detention to live in the wilderness in north western Australia. Sharks, crocodiles, the world's most venomous snakes are nothing compared to the monster that lives inside him. Think of Louis Sachar's 'Holes' meets 'My Side of the Mountain'. Working title is 'The Devil You Don't'.


The Dead I Know
by Scot Gardner
HMH Books for Young Readers
Released 3/3/2015

Aaron Rowe walks in his sleep and haunted by dreams he can’t explain and memories he can’t recover. Death doesn’t scare him—his new job with a funeral director may even be his salvation. But if he doesn’t discover the truth about his hidden past soon, he may fall asleep one night and never wake up. In this dark and witty psychological drama about survival, Aaron finds that making peace with the dead may be easier than coming to terms with the living.

"I have never read a book more gripping, nor a book more triumphantly alive. I love how it haunts me still. I swear, I will never forget The Dead I Know." -- John Marsden, author of Tomorrow When the War Began.

Purchase The Dead I Know at Amazon
Purchase The Dead I Know at IndieBound
View The Dead I Know on Goodreads


Scot Gardner
Scot wasn't born reading and writing; in fact he left school in year eleven to undertake an apprenticeship in gardening with the local council. His first fiction for young readers, One Dead Seagull, was published after he attended a writing conference with John Marsden. His many books since include Burning Eddy, which was short-listed for both the CBCA and NSW Premier's Literary awards.

Scot lives with his wife and three children, two dogs and some chooks in the bush in Eastern Victoria. He spends half the year writing and half the year on the road talking to mostly young people about his books and the craft of writing.

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