Nick Earls
Nick Earls
28 January 2010

Celebrated Australian author Nick Earls’ debut young adult novel After January is now complete.

First published by UQP in 1996, After January – which follows high-school graduate Alex Delaney’s journey from adolescence into adulthood – has been re-released with the prequel, ‘Juliet’.

“I’m really glad that the two of them are together now because it feels like they should be. I’m surprised we didn’t do it before,” Mr Earls said.

After January was born out of ‘Juliet’ – a short story published in an anthology in 1995 and set the year before the novel.

‘Juliet’, a story in which Alex is first introduced, also represents the author’s first attempt at writing for the young adult market, a literary experiment which has well and truly paid off.

“I was asked to write a story for a young adult anthology and I said I didn’t really know how to do that,” Mr Earls said.

“I realised I shouldn’t say no because I needed to say yes to everything in the hope that something would work out for me.

“I remembered being in the school play in my last year of school and took something from there and created a fictional story, but because I was drawing on myself for the central character, I didn’t write it the way I was normally writing at that time.

“Even before that story was published people were reading it and responding in a way that I just wasn’t used to with my writing at that stage and the character kind of stuck around in my head.”

Since then, Mr Earls has had 13 books published, five of which have had teenage central characters.

“I think it’s a really interesting time of life,” he said.

“It’s a time of life when a lot of things can come sharply into focus, when you’ve got big decisions to make about where you’re going to head and who you’re going to be. It’s a time that can have its share of anguish but also its share of opportunities.”

Like many of his fictional characters, Mr Earls himself had some tough decisions to make when choosing a pathway to take after school.

While passionate about writing, he couldn’t see how to turn his stories into a job and instead enrolled in a medical degree at UQ, graduating in 1986.

“I’d heard my mother’s stories and my grandfather’s stories about working in medicine and about being a med student and that sounded like a good course of action and so that’s what I did,” he said.

“It was good. I had a really great time here on this campus, and medicine is a job that I think would have made me happy but I just happened to really love writing.

“In the mid to late 90s, at least partly because of this book, it got to move from being a part-time peripheral thing to being what I do full-time. I’m just really lucky that’s come about.”

Although unlikely to return to the wards, he said having a medical background had at times proved useful in his writing and when doing charity work for hospitals.

Mr Earls actively supports several children’s charities, work he says feels like “a natural thing”.

He was the founding chair of the Australian arm of the international aid agency War Child and is now a War Child ambassador. He is also patron of Kids Who Make a Difference and Hands on Art, and an honorary ambassador for both the Mater Foundation and the Abused Child Trust.

“In each case I’ve been approached by that organisation and I’ve often done some one-off thing for them and I’ve been impressed with the work they do, so then when they’ve asked me to take on a bigger role I’ve been enthusiastic,” he said.

A former UQ Alumnus of the Year, Mr Earls will participate in the Writers’ Hub as part of the UQ Centenary Celebration Day on April 18.

Media: Penny Robinson at UQ Communications (07 3365 9723,