of young adult classics
. He was a truck driver
, then an English teacher
, and now a very rich
. He lives on a property in Victoria
, where he teaches writing workshops
. He is in early middle age, has a beard
and speaks with a lisp
. He has won lots of awards, including awards voted for by children
. At school
I studied "So Much to Tell You
" and "Tomorrow, When the War Began
", and these two are now officially part of the list of school books in Canberra
Long before Harry Potter hit the shelves, Australian kids and adults were queueing in droves to have books signed. The release of the final book in the Tomorrow series was such an event that it didn't even have the title on the cover.
Marsden is a best-seller for a few reasons. The first that springs to mind is the honesty of his books. He is happy to write about sex, periods, bullying, depression and all the other bits of growing up that are usually glorified or glossed over in literature. Whether he writes about a troubled girl at boarding school or teenage guerilla fighters in the bush, he does it by telling the truth.
Marsden's books are usually written in the first person or in diary and letter form, and his narrators are often female. The strange thing is, he seems to know what he's doing. His female characters are very real, they have cramps and think men have "all the personality of a coathanger". Reading some of Marsden's books, one thinks, "yeah, right on, womanhood, what a bitch!" and then feels embarassed because it's a man writing all this stuff.
Marsden is very good at hooks for the reader. In his first ever book, the name of the main character and narrator is revealed only on the last page. In another the name is never revealed. In other books, the reader is hanging on to find out "is he expelled?" or "will he score?" and suddenly the book is over. He doesn't feel compelled to tell every little detail. A lot of his fan mail is from desperate readers pleading with him to write a sequel. (If you read this, John, PLEASE write more about Tracy and Mandy!)
The list of John Marsden's books is as follows:
The Tomorrow series
Tomorrow, When the War began
The Dead of the Night
The Third Day, the Frost
Darkness, Be My Friend
In the Dead of the Night
The Night is for Hunting
The Other Side of Dawn
The girl's boarding school books
So Much To Tell You
Take My Word for It
Letters from the Inside
The Great Gattenby
Staying Alive in Year 5
Everything I Know About Writing
This list is by no means complete. Marsden has also written a few choose-your-own-adventure books, and recently I think he wrote a picture book. These are the books that affected me strongly.
Update 29 September 2018
Not very long after I wrote this, and barely out of my teens, I spent a glorious weekend at a writing workshop at John's rural property down in Victoria. He was a fantastic host and one of the best teachers I ever had. I never wrote about it because it seemed to big, too meaningful, to commit to paper, a moment of huge significance in my journey into adulthood. Nothing particularly interesting happened, except in my own head.
Looking back though, there were a couple of things that still stand out and are worth sharing, I think, with anyone who wanders past to read it. The first was that John writes so well because he listens so well. He really, deeply listens to people. I've tried to do that in my own life. I don't know if it has made me a better writer, but it has certainly made me a better person.
The second which I share here purely for any like minded Marsden fans. I begged him to tell me what happened to Mandy and Tracy. I may have had tears in my eyes. If you read it you'll know why. "Nemosyn," he said, "you already know what happened."