Gareth Ward, AKA The Great Wardini, is a magician, hypnotist, storyteller, bookseller and author. He has worked as a Royal Marine Commando, Police Officer, Evil Magician and Zombie. He basically likes jobs where you get to wear really cool hats – as writer and compere of Napier City’s inaugural Steampunk murder mystery evening he wore a rather splendid bowler.
Born in the town of Banbury in the UK, he attended the University of York where he gained a joint honours degree in Biology and Computer Science. If you want your cat reprogrammed, he’s your man.
He currently resides in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand where he runs two independent bookshops, Wardini Books and Wardini Books Napier with his wife Louise and son Max. With his daughter Alex he has developed a zombie apocalypse survival plan and is regularly disappointed when powercuts prove not to foreshadow the end of the world. He has a goldfish called Luna, a dog called Tonks and is certain his letter from Hogwarts has been lost in the post.
His first novel, The Traitor and the Thief, a rip-roaring young adult Steampunk adventure, won the 2016 Storylines Tessa Duder Award, the 2018 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Youth Novel, a 2018 Storylines Notable Book Award and was a finalist in two categories at The New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m a magician, hypnotist, storyteller, bookseller and author. I’ve worked as a Royal Marine Commando, Police Officer, Evil Magician and Zombie. Basically, I like jobs where you get to wear really cool hats. I live in Havelock North in Hawke’s Bay where I write YA Steampunk novels. I am a massive D&D nerd and I am currently looking for a home for a fantasy novel based on my wizard character “Tarquin The Honest”.
What drew you to that particular genre and age group?
When my children were in their teens I would read the books they were reading and I found that many of them were far superior to the adult books I was reading. I think good YA fiction throws you into the story, gets it told and gets you back out again without any fluffing about. When I wrote The Traitor and the Thief I knew I wanted a Victorian era setting and then when I started adding in fantastical technology it became Steampunk by default.
What’s your best known work?
The Traitor and the Thief is my best known work. It won quite a few awards including the Sir Julius Vogel award for Best Youth Novel. It was also a finalist in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
[Gareth's Traitor series novels The Traitor and the Thief and The Clockill and the Thief have earned him two Sir Jules Vogul Awards.]
What inspired you to write it?
I was sitting at my writing desk and the thought wouldn’t Sin be an interesting name for a character popped into my head. I started thinking about why the character was called Sin and the story grew from there.
Tell us about your writing process. Are you a plotter, panster or somewhere in between?
I’m more of a pantser than a plotter. I do normally know the beginning, the end and the key turning points, although I’m happy to change any of those as I write. I generally research as I go unless there are aspects I need to understand to ensure the story will work.
What’s the strangest or most interesting thing you’ve researched for your writing?
I enjoy taking modern or futuristic technology then giving them a Steampunk twist so that with a stretch of the imagination they might work. In The Clockill and the Thief the characters are given a new type of body-armour which is based on non-Newtonian Fluids. That was fascinating to research.
What’s the most personal story/scene you’ve written and why?
In the Traitor series, part of Sin’s backstory is the search to find out what happened to his mother who was murdered when he was a baby. I think this whole storyline is me dealing with unresolved issues about my own mother passing too early.
Who are your literary influences? In what way?
In my youth I loved Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. I wouldn’t suggest I come anywhere near these masters but I do like to include humour in my stories. Something I think I am still coming to terms with is that I can only write like Gareth Ward and that should be enough. I can use other authors’ writing as a way to improve my craft but I don’t need to try and emulate them.
What books are on your bedside table right now?
I have just finished reading Books 1 to 3 in the Murderbot Diaries series by Martha Wells. I am totally hooked; they are the best books I’ve read in a long time. I tried really hard to analyse why they worked so well and hooked me so much but I’m not sure I have worked it out yet. It’s like bottled lightning.
Last and most important, where can we find your books/stories?
My books should be available/available to order from most bookshops in New Zealand and Australia. I feel it is so important to support local bookshops where possible. Alternatively, they are available from the normal online places. I have links on my website here.
I would also like to mention my brand new series—Rise of the Remarkables. The first book, Brasswitch and Bot, is releasing on the 5th of August. We are holding a Steampunk Ball to launch the book on the 8th of August in Havelock North. Tickets available here.
I am super proud of Brasswitch and Bot—at one level the novel is about a young female engineer who discovers she has the power to control machines and her kick ass, maverick mechanical mentor, but at a much deeper level the story is about prejudice in all of its forms. I am a great believer that stories can educate and create empathy.
Follow Gareth on these platforms!
Like this interview? Sign up to Nikky's newsletter for more updates, articles and author interviews!