Christian White is an Australian author and screenwriter. His debut novel, The Nowhere Child, won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an
Unpublished Manuscript. He co-created the television series Carnivores, currently in development with Matchbox Pictures and Heyday TV, and co-wrote Relic, a psychological horror feature film to be produced by Carver Films (The Snowtown Murders, Partisan). Born and raised on the Mornington Peninsula, Christian had an eclectic range of ‘day jobs’ before he was ab
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When I was a kid my best friend and I spent hours debating pointless things. Who/what was better: Batman or Superman? Nintendo or Sega? The colour red or the colour blue? We’d each chose a side, argue furiously, become totally entrenched in our views and refuse to listen to reason. Most of the time choosing a side was easy. Batman is obviously more interesting than Superman, for example, and blue is inarguably better than red. But sometimes the choice was much harder. Of all our schoolyard debates, by far the toughest was Roald Dahl vs Enid Blyton. I loved Roald Dahl (The Witches still holds a special place in my heart) but part of the game was proving how much you love something by declaring you loved it more than something else. I had to choose. I chose Enid.
This might have been because one of my earliest memories is listening to my mum read me Shadow the Sheepdog. It might have been because Blyton wrote with simple passion and wonder. It might have been her obsession with scrumptious hot pies, bread and ham, cake and hot cocoa. Or it might have been because a lot of what she wrote was mundane and cosy. I wanted desperately to wander the English countryside with the Famous Five and live on the Secret Island with Peggy and Mike. Blyton told stories that were nostalgic and comfortable, warm and deep.
When I hit my teens I discovered J.D. Salinger and Chuck Palahniuk, Philip K. Dick and Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. I had long ago decided I was going to be a writer (or at least spend my life trying), so I wrote stories in their voices and did a halfway decent job of it. But it wasn’t until I discovered Stephen King that I knew his were the kinds of stories I wanted to write. Not horror necessarily (although one day I plan on dipping my toe in that ocean) but thrilling stories of suspense that felt familiar and different at the same time, that were populated by deeply flawed and complex characters, that felt nostalgic and, yes, cosy. Some may not agree with me on this, but there’s an inherent cosiness that keeps me coming back to King again and again. The few surviving members of the human race have to struggle in the wake of a devastating virus in The Stand, but they find each other and form a community. In It, the Losers’ Club have to face a primordial evil that takes the form of a killer clown, but they also get to spend their summer playing together in the Barrens.
King also taught me a valuable lesson: to read outside what others considered highbrow or classic. So, I delved into Thomas Harris and Michael Crichton, Ann Rice and Dean Koontz. Later I fell in love with Gillian Flynn and Stieg Larsson. These were my people. This is where I wanted to be. This is what I wanted to write.
My list of literary inspirations is long and constantly changing. Among that list but not mentioned so far: J. G. Ballard, Peter Benchley, Richard Bach, William Golding, Liane Moriarty, Jane Harper, Paul Jennings, Richard Matheson, Ann Rule, George R. R. Martin. There are more that will come to me later. Writing is like that. Everything I read bleeds back into my own work in one way or another.
I’ve lost touch with my best friend since those days of schoolyard debate. That’s probably a good thing, because he might have asked me to choose between my two biggies: King and Blyton. Two authors that couldn’t be more different, yet both played huge roles in forming the writer I am today.
… Oh, who am I kidding? Stephen King would win!