I’m so glad to have Gary Taaffe on my blog today! He’s written the Urban Hunters series about an Aboriginal boy who leaves the Australian bush. I asked Gary a few questions.
What were your favorite books as a teen?
The first novels I ever got into were the Wilbur Smith books. The outdoor hunting adventures spoke to me as a boy on a level I’d never imagined. I didn’t know books could do that, make you feel that way, take you to another place. I’ve been hooked ever since. Not that I read a lot of novels. Certainly a lot less than some say I should as an author. The next big reading influence for me some twenty years later were the Harry Potter books. Anyone who reads my books can see those two influences directly. I think I should add Dr Seuss to the mix. He freed up my imagination in ways only Dr Seuss fans could possibly understand. Now, when I write, anything is possible; all I have to do is make it believable.
Do you read young adult books now? If you do, what are some of your favorites?
To be honest, I hardly ever read any young adult books. It’s not that I don’t like them, Harry Potter being a case in point, but people say my books are unlike anything they’ve ever read and I think the reason for that is I’m not trying to emulate other writers. I think that’s the mistake of many new writers. Everyone tells you to read successful books in your genre and learn from that. Well all that does is bring out Twilight knock-offs. A gazillion vampire stories. The next big thing is never going to be a knock-off. I set out to write something new and exciting which is the only thing I could ever do, or else I’d be bored, along with my readers. So how does an author come up with something new and exciting? Read a Dr Seuss book.
Do you have any other projects or ideas for the future besides Urban Hunters?
No. I’m up to book 6 in the Urban Hunters series for which I have 13 planned. Actually they’re already written for the most part. After that I could spin it off in all sorts of directions with so many cool characters to play with. To me, the possibilities are endless. Plus I’ve had directors knocking on my door wanting to turn the series into movies. That’s going to happen and it’s going to take up lots of my time. So for the foreseeable future, it’s Urban Hunters full steam ahead.
What is the most interesting or bizarre thing you’ve googled while writing your books?
How Aboriginal boys get circumcised, in detail, to become initiated into manhood. Or how and why Aborigines perform Tribal Scarring. Nothing on the net describes it in the gruesome detail that I’ve managed to squeeze out of it. But as you can imagine, the event was gruesome, it had to be to attain Warrior status, so I had to do it justice out of respect for the culture.
Aboriginal relationships was interesting. Most of them were arranged. Often before a child was even born by whatever uncle or great uncle was assigned to the kid. It had very little to do with the parents, least of all the mother. Totems guided who could marry who, and an Aboriginal man could have as many wives as his status allowed, or as many as he could feed. Women and their opinions garnered very little respect from ancient Aboriginal man. So bringing my main character Billy crashing out of the Stone Age into the modern world looking for girls, six for his brother Mallee, a fat one for his dad to keep him warm in winter and no one knows what Pindaari wanted, was always going to be an adventure. Especially as he’s never even seen a girl before. He sure sees Amber.
Something I did find fascinating was proven evidence that Aborigines were farming eels for trade 60,000 years ago. Let that sink in and mess up your mind for a while. Every culture is messed up in one way or another, like ours, but you’ve got to pay respect to the Aboriginal culture, they’ve been around for a very long time.
What inspired you to write the Urban Hunters?
Friends told me I should write a book. I always write up my hunts in a journal (free-ranging venison for the freezer!), which I started expanding into short stories. When I read my exaggerated tales to my hunting buddies they said I should write a book. I was out of work and needed the money so I thought OK, I’ll give it a go. That was one of my life’s more ridiculous inspirations. Little did I know that it would turn out to be the hardest thing I’d ever attempted to do. Not only did I have to learn how to write on a professional level, I had to learn how to become a self-publisher as well. Looking back now, I am loving it. It’s a great life. I like to say that I write from 8 to 5 everyday but I don’t, much of my time is spent formatting, marketing, editing, scheming, planning, rewriting etc, etc, etc. It’s a business and writing is less than half of it. So if you think writing your first book is hard, you ain’t seen nothing yet. And then you’ve got to write another ten to make a career out of it. Hehehe. That’s life.
“Gruesome detail” is a good phrase to describe your books! I know the graphic details of hunts and tribal rituals aren’t for everyone, but I did enjoy learning about Aboriginal and Australian culture from your books. Thanks so much for the great interview!
Check out Gary’s books on Amazon.
You can also read them for FREE at Bunya Publishing.