Julie's Garth Nix bookshelf

This month, Julie Pike shares with Words & Pictures how she's found inspiration for her own writing in the worlds of Garth Nix.

I realise picking one favourite author is almost impossible – but who would you pick off the shelf today?

You’re right, it is totally impossible to pick just one favourite author. I have so many! Authors who pull me into exciting adventures, make me cry and make me fall in love. But if you force my hand, if you make me choose just one, then I’ll point to the author whose books lit fireworks in my head and made me believe I could be a writer. The name of this wondrous word mage is Garth Nix, and he’s an Australian writer of science-fiction and fantasy for children, YA, and adults.

When did you first come across this author – and how?

I first came across Garth’s books way back in 2000. One of my friends, with whom I’d shared my dream of being a writer, started putting books in my hand. After a few different stories, she lent me her a copy of Sabriel by Garth Nix. She said, "If you like fantasy, you’ll love this." And she was right. I fell down the rabbit hole into its world and didn’t come up for air until I’d devoured the story. I remember reading with breathless excitement, page 79 where Sabriel is chased up a mountain by a nefarious ‘mordicant’, spewing fire from its mouth. I was desperate for her to escape. Not since I was a child had I felt that way when reading. I was on the edge of my seat, frantically reading her to (short-lived) safety.

After I finished the book, I immediately read the sequels. And then I knew. I knew exactly what sort of writer I wanted to be.

What attracted you then?

Many things. I was attracted to Garth’s detailed and immersive world building. I’d never before come across a cast of creatures and characters – both ancient and modern – perfectly set within their own myths and magic systems. Ha! Listen to me. I’m describing my thoughts through the eyes of someone who’s spent years noticing how to write stories. Back then, I was simply stunned by his fantastic settings and desperate plight of his characters. It was like his stories filled my eyes, and ears, and heart with sparkling gems.

How has that initial reaction changed over time?

I’ve since read nearly all of Garth’s stories, and every one captures my imagination. His stories take me to places I’ve never seen before, never even dreamed of. His settings encourage me to think big when it comes to my own world building. Many wonderful authors write beautifully nuanced characters. Characters I fall in love with. But Garth Nix made me realise that stories narrowly focused on characters are not what attracts me to want to write myself. I don’t mean to imply his stories aren’t filled with great characters - they are - but it’s the synthesis of the worlds those characters are placed into that lights up my sense of wonder like a starlit sky. 

How did he influence you – as a person and as a writer?

Once I’d made the decision to start writing, I searched him out online. I watched his interviews and read his blogs, both of which are rich with writing advice. A few years ago, Garth (along with other wondrous word mages, like Neil Gaiman), wrote some great writing advice on his hand. I downloaded it and pinned it above my desk.

Garth Nix's advice to writers
I started attending festivals to hear him speak and stood in long signing queues for the pleasure of having all his books signed. I’ll stop there before I start coming across like a stalker! But hand on heart, without my friend putting Sabriel into my hand nineteen years ago, I wouldn’t be the writer I am today. I’m not sure I would even be a writer. I’d just be dreaming about it.

If someone hasn’t come across Garth Nix before, where should they start? 

Where indeed!? Garth has written worlds upon worlds of short stories, novellas, and full-length novels for all ages. All I can do is point you to the place I started: Sabriel, and if you like the adventure, read on to Lirael, Abhorsen, The Creature in the Case, Clariel and Goldenhand.


Julie's first book, which comes out in July, has been described as "a stunning fantasy debut" 

Julie Pike grew up on a council estate, nestled between the forests and foothills of the Welsh Valleys. She is passionate about adventure stories, and volunteers in local schools and libraries, helping children find stories that excite them. She loves real-life adventures too, and has travelled to the peak of Kilimanjaro and across the Tibetan plains to Mount Everest, and skydived over New Zealand. Her debut novel The Last Spell Breather publishes July 4th with Oxford University Press … and should you read it, you’ll find a little homage to Garth Nix’s Sabriel nestled inside the beginning of Act Two.
Find Julie on Twitter


  1. Ooh, Julie, as a veteran volunteer, I was lucky enough to spend a dinner with him at the Vancouver Writers and Readers Festival many years ago. He was very encouraging and super nice, and I ended up reading all of his books after that event! I agree that his world building and characters are top notch, and he's a wonderful human being to boot!

    1. I'm so very glad to hear he's as wonderful in real life as I imagine! I've only ever met him in a signing queue. Maybe I'll check out some volunteering gigs when he's over to promote his new book this autumn. Thanks for the tip!

  2. His books sound amazing and something I’d really like, will definitely look him up.
    Really looking forward to reading the last spell breather too

    1. Thanks so much, Sarah! I hope you enjoy the adventures x


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