Author Garry Disher doesn’t think kids are easy to write for

Posted on June 1, 2012

I am not the life of the party.

If you weren’t an author, what would you be?

I’d be a sculptor or a painter.  Georges Simenon, author of the Maigret novels, said he’d like to carve each novel in a block of wood – meaning, I think, he’d like to work with his hands and be able to step back and see where the shape was satisfying or not.  You get lost in the mess of words when you write.

As a reader, what was a classic novel you didn’t enjoy? Why not?

Moby Dick: too long, too wordy, too ponderous.  Didn’t finish.

With modern classics such as The Bamboo Flute to your name, you’ve proved especially adept at writing for adolescents and children. What shouldn’t aspiring authors do when writing for younger readers?

They shouldn’t assume that because they’re writing for children the crafting will be easy and the style simple.  You can’t take shortcuts but should treat the writing and the readers seriously – kids are quick to realise when and author is being slapdash, preachy or condescending.

Why aren’t today’s kids reading as much as previous generations?

I don’t know if they are or not.  There have always been keen readers, occasional readers and reluctant readers.  It’s possible that advances in information technology will alter the way we read, but I don’t know how that will play out in the long term.

Of late, you’ve been writing a lot of crime novels. What sorts of crime won’t you write about?

I’ll write about all kinds of crimes but there are some I can’t write about in any kind of detail: rape, incest and child abuse.  If they are central to the story I will allude to them or reveal them through the emotions of those investigating the crime.  My fourth Challis and Destroy novel, Chain of Evidence, deals with a paedophile network, but I don’t describe anything the paedophiles do to their victims.

Finally, if you had to be a character from one of your novels, who wouldn’t you be?

I wouldn’t be Constable John Tankard.  He’s beefy, sexist, a bully, ignorant and ultimately rather pathetic – yet I hope I don’t portray him as totally loathsome.  He’s a man who struggles to do his best but just doesn’t get it.  He’ll always do the wrong thing, put his foot in it, offend the women he works with, be unappreciated.