Justin D’Ath is the author of 30 books for children and young adults, including the bestselling Extreme Adventure series.
One of twelve children, Justin grew up on a farm in Otaki, New Zealand. He wrote his first book, a ten-page cartoon about his pet turtle, Bubble, when he was nine years old. His next cartoon was about Moriarty, his guinea pig, and filled a complete exercise book. When he was eleven, Justin began writing his first novel, but conked out after 35 pages.
Justin’s first publication was a monthly cartoon strip in a magazine, which he used to draw in his tent while he travelled around Australia on a motorbike. His first book, a novel for adults called The Initiate, was published in 1989 and won three awards. His adult short stories have been published in 18 countries and have won 54 literary prizes.
For twenty years Justin wrote only for adults — in addition to his other jobs: driving forklifts, building cars, picking fruit, mustering cattle, mining for iron, working in a laboratory, being a club manager in an Aboriginal settlement, working in a sugar mill and teaching professional writing at TAFE.
It was his daughter, Fiona, who introduced him to contemporary children’s books. Despite his writing background, it took Justin another ten years to try his hand at it.
Of his books for children, Justin says, ‘I laugh aloud at the unexpected things my characters say and do. I don’t plan. I simply invent a character, usually between ten and fourteen years old, put her or him in an unusual (or scary!) situation, and start speaking in her, or his, voice. For me it’s a natural process. Part of me doesn’t seem to have grown up!’
And of his audience, Justin says, ‘My main message is, Enjoy reading. I want children to become lost in my books; to experience the magic of the written word; to see that reading is not a chore, it’s one of the most exciting, imaginative and enjoyable things they can do.’