Posted by: Lisa Hill | May 17, 2022

Meet an Aussie Author: Nathan Hobby

With the online launch of The Red Witch, a Biography of Katharine Susannah Prichard, later today, (see the link below) this is a good time to introduce the author!

Nathan Hobby is an author, academic librarian, and honorary research fellow in the School of Humanities at the University of Western Australia. He grew up writing science fiction and then literary fiction, culminating in his post-apocalyptic novel, The Fur (Fremantle Press, 2004), winner of the TAG Hungerford Award.  (It’s on my TBR).

After writing an unpublished novel about a biographer for his Master of Arts in creative writing, Nathan turned to biography. He wrote about the early life of Katharine Susannah Prichard for his PhD thesis, before extending it to the full length Red Witch: A Biography of Katharine Susannah Prichard celebrating its official publication date today.  It’s published by Melbourne University Press under its prestigious imprint Miegunyah Press.

As you know from my review, this literary biography is an outstanding example of its kind.  Nathan says that he is an admirer of the late Hazel Rowley’s biographies and with the publication of The Red Witch he is IMO in company with Australia’s most preeminent practitioners of the art.  I (a-hem) just happened to mention this today when visiting my library and they were hunting through the catalogue to check that they had it on order as I left…

What made Nathan choose KSP as his subject? He says that he was drawn to her by the drama and tragedy of her life. She seemed the sort of person he could live with for years, and that turned out to be true.

Does he have a favourite novel or short story?  I’ve read and reviewed most of KSP’s novels now, but he’s chosen one I haven’t yet read.

Wild Oats of Han (1928) is at least my pick for her most underrated book. I think it’s so charming, a wistful portrait of childhood with some of her most beautiful writing.

Nathan lives in Perth with his wife Nicole and young children Thomas and Sarah.  Here are his answers to my questions:

  1. I was born… in Port Hedland, an iron ore town in the north of WA. We left when I was two.
  2. When I was a child… I loved the bush around where I grew up in Allanson near the WA coal mining town of Collie.
  3. The person who encouraged / inspired / mentored me… there were so many amazing teachers, including my year 7 PEAC teacher Jill van de Ruit and my year 9-10 English teacher, Stewart Douglas. Also, my childhood church pastor, Andrew Lansdown, an accomplished poet and the first writer I knew.
  4. I write in… university libraries, before Covid – now, at home or even in the car parked by the river.
  5. I write when… there’s a free moment.
  6. Research is… central! Sometimes a thrilling quest, sometimes a hard and necessary slog.
  7. I keep my published works in… a little row near my desk.
  8. On the day my first book was published, I … had a memorable launch at Clancy’s Fish Pub in Fremantle in July 2004, filled with family, friends, and colleagues.
  9. At the moment, I’m writing… an essay about my great-grandfather, who shot a man in the leg on an outback station to defend a woman and was let off, only to die of cancer weeks later.
  10. When I‘m stuck for an idea / word / phrase, I… skip ahead, usually.

To give Nathan the last word, here’s his advice for aspiring biographers:

There’s a tension between wanting to record everything about your subject and needing to create a book which will have a readership. I recommend choosing the latter and leaving the excess information for the archive.

To join us at the online launch – just set a reminder on your phone and click the link below.  No need to register or install anything.
Tuesday, 17 May 8:00pm AEST (6:00pm AWST)
Video call link:


  1. Great responses. I love no. 10. Good advice.

    I wish this event was 6pm our time not WA time. Is it being recorded do you know?


    • Ah yes, I have a reminder in my running sheet to remind Nathan to turn recording on!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Really looking forward to this tonight


    • Looking forward to seeing you tonight too!


  3. I have heard of this book . It looks really interesting. It is really pleasant to read a well written biography. But I’ve had bad luck with a few. His advice sounds really sound.


    • What’s that they say? The secret of being a bore is to tell everything. A good biographer knows what to put in and more importantly what to leave out.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My copy turned up today at work – wahoo! Looking forward to tonight a lot.

    And thanks to Nathan’s post a couple of years ago for a KSP event at the NSW Writer’s Centre, I read the online version of The Wild Oats of Han and totally agree. It’s charming and unforgetable and worth the effort of reading it in serialised form on Trove.


    • Looking forward to seeing you too.
      I’ll hunt out Wild Oats at Trove too, but I’d really like to have a proper copy to add to my little KSP collection.


  5. Is this still going ahead? Or are you having technical difficulties? I have been waiting to be let into the meeting for 10 minutes…


    • Urgh. Ignore me, I have the wrong date! My stupid work schedule has thrown me out and I’m behind by a day! Hope it went well… and I hope it was recorded so I can view online at some point.


      • Oh, what a shame! I’m sorry you missed it, but do not worry, it was recorded and (when he figures out how to share it, ha ha!) Nathan will let us know how to access it.


        • I’m such a plonker… I was working on a video shoot yesterday and my brain has somehow skipped that and thought today was Tuesday.

          Liked by 1 person

          • LOL wait till you’re retired, and every day seems the same!


            • Retired? I don’t think my generation will be able to do that 🤷🏻‍♀️


              • Maybe not at the same age, but you’ll get there.


  6. Sorry I managed to miss both launches. I hope the book does well, it deserves to.


    • We missed you!
      Never mind, Nathan recorded it so you’ll be able to watch it in due course.


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