It’s been a few months since we’ve profiled an author, but it’s been worth the wait. He’s the brains behind the Hindsight Isn’t 2020 Award and a great author, performer and artist in his own right. Let’s meet Tobias Madden!
Who are you, where are you from? What do you do?
I’m Tobias Madden, I’m 29, I’m from Melbourne. I’m a professional music theatre performer, remedial massage therapist and dance teacher. I’m incredibly lucky to have traveled a lot around Australia – and the world – for work (and sometimes for leisure). One day I’ll be a published author! (Fingers crossed!)
What inspires you to write? Why do you pursue writing, what do you know about it. What do you dislike?
I wrote my first story when I was four years old, I’m pretty sure, and that was inspired by these beautiful pictures of a unicorn. I guess a lot of my inspiration comes from the fantasy world, often from mythical creatures and places. I love maps, and I love ‘worlds’, which I think is why I liked playing Dungeons and Dragons type games so much as a kid. I was pretty obsessed with Diablo II (if anyone knows what that is, big points from me!)
The idea of creating a world like that myself is my main motivation for writing, and the reason I’m pursuing it now. I have never studied writing, but I read a lot, so I know exactly what kind of writing I like, so I guess that’s a good place to start!
I dislike that time spent writing seems to go 9000 times as fast as any other time. I finally get an hour to sit down and write and it feels like 5min.
What do you read? Who are some authors that you love? What’s the best story you read this year?
I read a lot of fantasy and a lot of young adult (and a lot of young adult fantasy haha). My favourite authors would include: JK Rowling (I’m a HUGE Harry Potter nerd), Rainbow Rowell, David Mitchell (Bone Clocks is one of my favourite books ever) and Lev Grossman (though I’ve only read his Magicians books). I was lucky enough to see Rainbow and Lev speak at the MIWF this year, and they were both amazing and inspiring and crazy and wonderful!
Best story? If that includes books, I think my favourite story I read this year was probably Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell. As I said, I’m obsessed with Harry Potter, so anything wizard related has me hooked pretty quickly. I just adored the way Rainbow chose to make magic work in her tale. In Carry On, everyday phrases that are used enough by a particular culture take on magical properties, so if you want to cast a spell to, say, clean your house in an instant, you’d say something like “All in a day’s work!” and it’d be done. I just love that she chose words themselves to be the source of magic!
Who are some of your favourite authors at NiTH?
My two favourite authors at NiTH are probably Nick Lachmund and Sophie L MacDonald. Nick’s Nine Greatest Deaths of Marsden Creek series was my favourite NiTH entry for the year, I just loved the intrigue and the dark humour! And Sophie is always brilliant. I was lucky enough to be a feedback partner for her on the Seasons of Discontent collab, which I learnt A LOT from
Musical theatre is an art form like writing, but with very different demands. Do you see and similarities or relationships between writing and musical theatre. How does one inform the other for you?
I guess it’s all just storytelling! And of course, every musical starts with an idea, the same way as any story or book does, and has writers that write what is called the ‘book’ of the show, being the script. I saw The Color Purple in New York in March (and again in September!) and it is a remarkable piece of theatre, based on Alice Walker’s novel of the same name. It has such a rich text – both the script or the lyrics to the songs – and I’d say that has a lot to do with the fact that it was based on a novel. Having said that, my favourite show in New York (and possibly ever) was Hamilton, which is an entirely original show based on American history, written by the visionary Lin-Manuel Miranda. It just goes to show that good writing is good writing, regardless of the form!
On D&D etc. Have you played any of these newer RP type games like ‘Monster Hearts’. Do you think role playing can help folks become better writers?
I haven’t played any computer games for a long time, with the exception of Diablo III (which my inner uber-geek came out of hibernation for). The best games (my favourites being Diablo II and Baldur’s Gate II) have such in-depth stories and tonnes of character development, not to mention entirely original worlds in which the games take place. It’s just like reading a fantasy book, except you’re in the world, interacting with it; so much food for the imagination. I think even the basic character attribute and skill systems (e.g. Strength, Vitality, Dexterity, Intelligence) can be useful when you’re creating characters in your stories. I have no doubt that playing good RPGs can certainly make you a better writer.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years
In five years I’d love to have a novel on the shelves, and still be performing in shows around Australia. And I’d love to own a house. And have a dog. And be living a happy and healthy life with my partner, Daniel. Ambitious, maybe, but one thing being a performer in the music theatre industry has taught me is that you have to aim for the top or you’ll go nowhere. As Mary Poppins sings (in the musical), ‘If you reach for the heavens, you’ll get the stars thrown in!’
What’s your personal favourite story that you have written at NiTh or elsewhere.
I think my favourite story that I’ve written is The Edge of Winter, for Needle in the Hay’s Seasons of Discontent collaboration. I really grew to love those characters, despite the fact that it’s only a 7000 word short story. I also really loved writing Moving Day, which won the Separation Anxiety Award on NiTH.
Stay in touch with Tobias