Nick Earls (1963-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights
Born 1963, in Newtownards, Northern Ireland; immigrated to Australia, 1972; Education: University of Queensland, M.B.B.S. (second-class honours), 1986. Hobbies and other interests: Tennis, travel.
Agent—Curtis Brown, P.O. Box 19, Paddington, New South Wales 2021, Australia.
Physician working in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 1987-94; freelance writer, 1988—. Medical Observer, Queensland, continuing medical education editor, beginning 1994. Has worked variously as a heath insurance fund senior medical officer, actor, blood collector, and record album executive producer. Mater Hospitals Trust, ambassador; Kids Who Make a Difference, patron; War Child U.K., Australian founding chair. Has appeared in television commercials promoting Brisbane.
Steele Rudd Award runner-up, 1993, for Passion; 3M Talking Book of the Year Award, Young People's category, 1996, and CBE/International Youth Library (Munich) Notable Book, 1997, both for After January; Talking Book of the Year Award shortlist, 1997, and Betty Trask Award (United Kingdom), 1998, both for Zigzag Street; Queensland Premier's Export Award finalist, 1999; Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Older Readers, 2000, for Forty-eight Shades of Brown.
FOR YOUNG ADULTS
After January (young adult novel), University of Queensland Press (St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia), 1996, published as After Summer, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2005.
Forty-eight Shades of Brown, Penguin (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1999, Graphia (Boston, MA), 2004.
Making Laws for Clouds, Penguin (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 2002.
Passion (short stories), University of Queensland Press (St. Lucia, Australia), 1992.
Zigzag Street, Anchor (New York, NY), 1996.
Bachelor Kisses (also see below), Penguin (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1998.
Headgames (short stories), Viking (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1999.
Perfect Skin (also see below), Viking (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 2000, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2001.
Solid Gold (includes Bachelor Kisses and Perfect Skin), 2001.
World of Chickens, Viking (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 2001, published as Two to Go, St. Martin's Griffin (New York, NY), 2003.
The Thompson Gunner, Viking (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 2004.
Contributor of short fiction to anthologies, including Nightmares in Paradise, University of Queensland Press, 1995.
After January and Forty-eight Shades of Brown were adapted as plays by Philip Dean and published by Currency Press. Zigzag Street was adapted as a feature film; Forty-eight Shades of Brown was optioned for film; Bachelor Kisses was adapted as a television pilot in Australia. Several of Earls' books have been adapted as audiobooks, read by the author.
Australian novelist Nick Earls broadened his focus to write for a teen audience with After January, which was hailed by both critics and readers after its publication in 1996. Praising Earls' book as "the sort of teenage novel I believe needs to be published," Robyn Sheahan remarked in a Viewpoint review that After January is "the beginning of a new kind of Australian teenage novel, one which recognises that adolescence does not end at seventeen, that there are still crucial paths to be negotiated between childhood and adulthood." Earls has continued to produce books for teen readers that focus on high schoolers working to make the transition from childhood to adulthood while also negotiating a new romance with a strong and independent young woman, and has been interspersing such novels as Forty-eight Shades of Brown and Making Laws for Clouds in between his growing list of popular adult fiction.
Born in Northern Ireland, Earls moved to Australia with his parents in 1972, and graduated with a medical degree from the University of Queensland in 1986. After working as a general practitioner for several years, he moved into writing, penning short fiction and advertising copy as a freelancer while also editing a medical journal. Then, "late in 1993, I was asked to write a short story for the fifteen-to-eighteen age group," he once explained to Something about the Author (SATA). "I was reluctant to try, because I didn't know the market, but the editor persuaded me. She suggested I come up with a central character in this age group, and approach the story simply as a piece of fiction. 'Remember what you were like when you were that age,' she told me, and I could. Sometimes far too easily." Earls' trip down memory land allowed him to remember "all kinds of insecurities and perceived inadequacies and routine moments of desperation. In fact," he added, "the recollections were so vivid the character wouldn't leave me alone after I'd written the story." As a freelancer, he cast about for other ways of using his new character, and decided to cast him in a novel.
"I couldn't recall anything quite like what I had in mind," Earls noted of his time plotting out After January. "I couldn't recall anything that seemed particularly real or relevant to me.… So I wondered if I could write the sort of book that I would desperately have wanted to have read at that age, a book that gets inside the head of its central character, and ends up saying 'It's okay. You might feel very undesirable. You might have all these insecurities and improbable dreams. But you're okay. You're normal. You'll be fine. Look at this.… '"
After January is the story of seventeen-year-old Alex Delaney, who is poised on the brink of adulthood, still unsure of who he is, and what he needs to do with his life. Having completed his secondary-school education and waiting for notification of acceptance into law school—the Australian school year ends in December, rather than in June as in the United States—Alex spends the month of January in a kind of emotional flux. Smart but shy and timid, he has an introspective nature, and his tall, lanky appearance has always made him feel gawky around girls. Now, as he kills time surfing at the beach or talking to neighbors, he has the sense that his life is about to change, and it does when Alex meets and falls in love with a young woman named Fortuna. The daughter of a Bohemian potter, she is a worldly free spirit, in contrast to Alex's restrained, middle-class self. Calling After January "a genuinely witty book," Pam Macintyre wrote in the Australian Book Review that Earls' young adult novel "has many of those moments of insight when first love opens new ways of looking at the world." Gillian Swan agreed in Fiction Focus, maintaining that in the novel, which is narrated, like all Earls' novels, in the first person by its teen protagonist, "Earls has captured the 'nowhere' feeling that exists when people have finished with one part of life but not yet started on the next; the waiting, the reflection, the looking forward, the not knowing." "In writing After January, I wanted to explore contemporary issues, but in a different context," the author explained. "There are no heavy messages, and humour and irony are of great importance. It is a story of the strong feelings and small happenings that, at seventeen, mean a great deal."
Earls has continued to return to the universal feelings and events of the transition time between teen-and adulthood in his other YA novels. In Forty-eight Shades of Brown he introduces almost-seventeen-year-old Dan, who is finishing his final year of high school while rooming with his twenty-something, university-going Aunt Jacq and Jacq's housemate, psychology major Naomi. When he begins to crush on the beautiful Naomi, Dan's attentions wander from calculus, and his first year of independence finds his actions dictated more by hormones than free intellectual choice. Praising the novel, a Publishers Weekly critic cited Earls' protagonist for his "dry sense of humor and [his] intellectual bent," and wrote that the author "perfectly captures the obsessive, self-conscious, confused state of mind that goes along with adolescence." A Kirkus Reviews contributor dubbed the first-person narration in Forty-eight Shades of Brown "wickedly funny," while in School Library Journal Miranda Doyle praised Dan as a "wonderful, complex character" and the novel as "insightful, appealing, and very funny."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Australian, January 27, 1996.
Australian Book Review, February-March, 1996, Pam Macintyre, review of After January, p. 56.
Booklist, July, 2004, Gillian Engberg, review of Forty-eight Shades of Brown, p. 1833.
Fiction Focus, Volume 10, number 2, Gillian Swan, review of After January, 1996.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2004, review of Forty-eight Shades of Brown, p. 535.
Magpies, May, 1996, p. 47.
Publishers Weekly, June 28, 2004, review of Forty-eight Shades of Brown, p. 51.
School Library Journal, June, 2004, Miranda Doyle, review of Forty-eight Shades of Brown, p. 138.
Sydney Morning Herald, February 24, 1996.
Viewpoint, autumn, 1996, pp. 37-38; winter, 1996, Robyn Sheahan, review of After January and interview with Earls, pp. 31-33.
Age Online, http://www.theage.com/ (August 14, 2004), Nicola Walker, review of The Thompson Gunner.
Nick Earls Web site, http://www.nickearls.com/ (January 17, 2005).*
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