D'Ath, Justin 1953-
D'ATH, Justin 1953-
PERSONAL: Surname is pronounced "Darth;" born October 4, 1953, in Otaki, New Zealand; son of Ossian William (a farmer) and Noellie Claire (Caldwell) D'Ath; children: Fiona Piminni, Timothy Christopher. Education: Attended St. Columbans College, 1971–73. Hobbies and other interests: "Mountain bike riding, movies, reading, watching television sports, walking my dog."
CAREER: Writer. Bendigo Regional Institute, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia, TAFE teacher of professional writing. Worked as club manager at an Aborigine mission, as forklift driver, car builder, ranch worker, fruit picker, iron miner, sugar mill worker, store clerk, laboratory technician, and electrical worker.
MEMBER: Australian Society of Authors, Fellowship of Australian Writers, Children's Book Council.
AWARDS, HONORS: More than fifty prizes for short stories; Alan Marshall Award, Fellowship of Australia Writers, Jessie Litchfield Award, and Caltex-Bendigo Advertiser Award, all for The Initiate; "notable book" citations, young adult fiction category, Children's Book Council, 2002, for Hunters and Warriors, and 2004, for Shaedow Master.
Infamous, Holy Angels (North Fitzroy, Australia), 1996.
Humungous, Holy Angels (North Fitzroy, Australia), 1997.
Fantabulous, Holy Angels (North Fitzroy, Australia), 1998.
Why Did the Chykkan Cross the Galaxy?, illustrated by Geoff Kelly, Allen & Unwin (Sydney, Australia), 1998.
SNIWT, Allen & Unwin (Sydney, Australia), 1999.
The Upside-Down Girl, Allen & Unwin (Sydney, Australia), 2000.
Koala Fever, Allen & Unwin (Sydney, Australia), 2000.
Topsy and Turvy, Penguin Australia (Camberwell, Victoria, Australia), 2001.
Goldfever, Penguin Australia (Camberwell, Victoria, Australia), 2001.
Hunters and Warriors, Allen & Unwin (Sydney, Australia), 2001.
Echnidna Mania, Allen & Unwin (Sydney, Australia), 2001.
Snowman Magic, Allen & Unwin (Sydney, Australia), 2002.
Astrid Spark, Fixologist, Allen & Unwin (Sydney, Australia), 2003.
Shaedow Master (fantasy novel), Allen & Unwin (Sydney, Australia), 2004.
Extreme Adventures: Crocodile Attack, Penguin Australia (Camberwell, Victoria, Australia), 2005.
Extreme Adventures: Bushfire Rescue, Penguin Australia (Camberwell, Victoria, Australia), 2005.
Extreme Adventures: Shark Bait, Penguin Australia (Camberwell, Victoria, Australia), 2006
Extreme Adventures: Scorpion Sting, Penguin Australia (Camberwell, Victoria, Australia), in press.
The Initiate (novel), Collins Australia (Sydney, Australia), 1989.
Contributor of short stories and articles to magazines.
SIDELIGHTS: Justin D'Ath once told CA: "I've always loved stories. When I was eight years old, I shared a room with two of my older brothers. The eldest, Billy, used to tell Philip and me a story every night after lights-out. Mostly they were stories he had read or the plots from movies, but when these ran out, we began inventing stories, each contributing characters and story lines. Ever since, I have been making up stories. I began my first novel when I was nine. My first published works were travel stories in magazines, but soon I was embellishing them so creatively that they became mostly fiction.
"For twenty years I wrote only for adults. It was only as my children grew up that I began thinking about children's stories. For several years I would tell bedtime stories almost every night, making them up as I went along. My daughter Fiona introduced me to contemporary children's writing, and I was hooked. Mind you, it took me another ten years to try my hand at it.
"I find writing for children is great fun. It's an escape. I laugh a lot at the unexpected things my characters say and do. I don't plan. I simply invent a character, usually ten or twelve years old, put her in an unusual situation, and start speaking in her voice. For me it's a natural process—part of me doesn't seem to have grown up.
"I've always been interested in nature and now, more than ever before, it is important to pass along a message [about nature]. Most of my books have a message, though it is buried way underneath the plot. Children pick it up, but mostly they have fun. My main message is: enjoy reading."
D'Ath's humorous tales, with their concealed environmental and various other social themes, have been well received. Neville Barnard, writing in Magpies, said of Why Did the Chykkan Cross the Galaxy?, "It is tempting to describe this text as a modern fable dealing with the importance of humour and enjoying life. But it probably isn't. It is just a funny story with masses of child appeal."
Recently D'Ath told CA: "I like playing games with my readers. My novel SNIWT (read that backwards) has the shortest chapter ever published. The books which have most influenced my early work are the Coles Funny Picture Books and the works of Roald Dahl. Lately my writing has tended more toward outdoor action adventure, and for this I owe a debt to the 'Adventure' series by Willard Price, which I still remember vividly from my childhood, and the more contemporary novel Hatchet by Gary Paulsen."
D'Ath continued: "Children are the most rewarding audience any writer can have. Read your work to an adult audience, and they will clap politely at the end. Read to children, and they will stick up their hands right in the middle of a passage and say, 'We've got a dog and his name is Robbie." That's who I'm writing for when I sit down each morning at eight o'clock in front of my computer. All children should have books and dogs."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Australian Book Review, August, 1997, review of Infamous, p. 61; July, 2001, review of Hunters and Warriors, p. 62; May, 2004, Elizabeth Braithwaite, review of Shaedow Master p. 59.
Magpies, July, 1998, Neville Barnard, review of Why Did the Chykkan Cross the Galaxy?, p. 33; May, 1999, review of SNIWT, p. 33; March, 2000, review of The Upside-Down Girl, p. 33; November, 2000, review of Koala Fever,, p. 33; July, 2001, review of Goldfever, p. 29; July, 2001, review of Hunters and Warriors, p. 39; November, 2001, review of Echidna Mania, p. 33; September, 2002, review of Astrid Spark, Fixologist, p. 34; July, 2003, review of Infamous, p. 33; November, 2003, review of Shaedow Master, p. 40.
Reading Time, May, 1998.
School Librarian, spring, 2002, review of Hunters and Warriors, p. 43.
Justin Dath Home Page, http://www.justindath.com (October 10, 2005).