Working with the dead

PREPARING the dead for funerals was essential to a Yinnar South author’s research for his award-winning novel, The Dead I Know.

Scott Gardner completed some hands-on work at his godparents’ Portland funeral parlour when preparing his latest novel.

“In doing research for The Dead I Know I spent some time with them handling other people’s dead relatives and preparing them for funerals,” Mr Gardner said.

The research paid off, with the novel winning the Children’s Book Council of Australia book of the year award in the older readers section.

The novel focuses on teenager Aaron who undertakes an apprenticeship as a funeral director.

Mr Gardner said he did not expect to win the industry-based award because he faced tough competition.

“I didn’t feel like I had much of a chance against that crew because they are guys that are at the top of their game,” he said.

When asked if he thought The Dead I Know was the best novel he had written, Mr Gardner said, “I tend to fall in love with the book that I’ve most recently written”.

“I hope that it’s at the peak of my capacity and then I hope I can step on from there next year,” he said.

Mr Gardner said the award was the highest accolade he had received and it had encouraged him to resume touring with a “renewed sense of enthusiasm”.

He has written 13 novels, with his debut, One Dead Seagull, published in 2001.

He began writing after attending a conference which featured guest speaker, Australian author John Marsden.

They soon became friends and Mr Marsden’s endorsement appears on the front cover of The Dead I Know.

Mr Gardner was well underway with his next novel, which may contain a few surprises for Kurnai College Churchill students.

Mr Gardner, who also teaches at the college, has drawn on his students for inspiration in his work-in-progress, Trolley Boy.

“It (the novel) is driven by people that I’ve met in the two years that I’ve been here,” he said.

“It’s about a kid who pushes trolleys in a supermarket who has a secret that could topple a state government.”

He said characters in his novel were based on different characteristics from his students.