Analogue Men is Nick Earls’ nineteenth book, following novels and short fiction for adults and teenagers and the Word Hunters series for children. Five of his books have been adapted into stageplays and two into feature films. His novels have won awards in Australia and the UK and appeared on bestseller lists in both countries, as well as the Amazon Kindle Store.
How would you describe your book Analogue Men to someone at a party?
It’s flattering that you think I have a social life, and can stay awake well into the evening. Describing my work is one of the things I’m least good at. Maybe if I could sum a novel up in 30 seconds, I wouldn’t have needed many of those 93,000 words. And, on the rare occasions I find myself in a social situation, I try to remember my mother’s advice and do more listening than talking.
But, if someone forced me to talk about myself and more specifically Analogue Men, if they’d read books like Zigzag Street, Bachelor Kisses and Perfect Skin, I’d say it was that kind of thing, but with a 40-something central character and a lot of new material and new dilemmas. If it was clear they were asking out of the blue, I guess I’d say it’s about a guy in his late 40s arriving home and dealing with parenting teenagers, an ageing parent and the 21st century. If that started to sound wordy and dull, I’d tell them it’s a comedy (while at the same time being, you know, about stuff).
Why was the character Andrew Van Fleet fun to write?
He let me give free reign to some of my own insecurities (or should I say, ‘insecurities people have told me about’), but in the safe environment of fiction. He also re-found a comic voice for me that I haven’t found for a while. Like a few of my central characters, but particularly the early ones, comedy is one of his survival tactics. If he can laugh at something, it’s probably not going to kill him. And through him and even more through Brian Brightman, I got to have characters saying some dodgy things I would never dare say about waxing, body hair, bleaching of certain body parts and plenty more. It was fun seeing how far I could push that. My publisher’s slightly scared about some of it, I think, but I made a big thing of it being in context, in character, etc – all those things you say when something’s borderline indefensible but it made you laugh too much to edit it out.
What piece of advice do you wish you’d been given when you were starting out as a writer?
Don’t outsmart yourself. Work out what the basics are, and try to keep getting better at them.
What is the next book on your must read list?
Darren Groth’s Are You Seeing Me?,I’ve started reading it – I’ve been asked to write a blurb quote – and I’m going to embargo-bust a little here because it’s too good a book not to. It’s letting me into Autism Spectrum Disorders in a way I’ve never been let in before. It’s written with the heart and the head, it’s funny and moving, and it’s changing the way I think. It’s a rare book that does that.
Your previous novels, such as ZigZag Street, The Fix, and The True Story of Butterfish, centre on a main protagonist aged in their twenties or thirties; what got you interested in writing about an older protagonist in Analogue Men?
The inevitability of getting there myself. I’ve recently had the chance to learn a great deal about being late 40s, so why not use it? Plus, analogue men – and maybe I’m one of them, to some extent – are there for the taking. We haven’t seen enough of men this age coming to grips with parenting teenagers who are living lives they barely understand, while facing the threat of their own obsolescence and trying to stay slightly on top of how this century and its gadgets work. There are a few heads spinning out there, and it seemed time to get inside one and write my way out.
Georgia Lejeune is currently studying a Masters of Arts in Writing, Editing and Publishing at the University of Queensland, she previously obtained a Bachelor of Creative Industries majoring in Drama from the Queensland University of Technology. Georgia is a freelance writer/blogger, actor, and circus teacher who likes Jane Austen novels and dislikes ironing, sultanas, and writing in the third person.