About John Arthur Nichol, children’s author.
About John Arthur Nichol: the Short Version
I have three grown-up children, one granddaughter, and I live in Collaroy on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Five days a week I work for a large communications organisation.
I do my writing, marketing, publishing, book design, website maintenance, and everything else to do with being an independent author, in the very small hours of the morning.
About John Arthur Nichol: the Long Version
I grew up on Collaroy Plateau, high above Sydney’s Northern Beaches, and attended Collaroy Plateau Public School and Narrabeen Boys’ High School. I studied Arts at Sydney University, then embarked on the briefest career in publishing and bookselling before a six year stint with the Commonwealth Public Service at Victoria Barracks, Paddington.
Always restless, I’ve sold office furniture, spent twenty years as a teacher in primary schools, run a website business that was successful till the day wasn’t, and wrangled farm animals on visits to schools, preschools, parties and aged care facilities.
About John Arthur Nichol: Collaroy Plateau
Our back yard was full of seashells and sandy soil. Had it been a seabed once, or a midden? We could see Long Reef from our front terrace till the willow tree grew big and blocked the view.
My sister, my mother and I spent lots of time exploring Long Reef – shale cliffs and fossils, rock pools with anemones and schools of little fish. I never saw a blue-ringed octopus, though. We went tobogganing on sand dunes and grass dunes that aren’t there any more.
At the Basin, Collaroy, there was an outcrop of dark rock that crossed the beach and reached far out into the water. It was a drawcard for kids. At least, that’s how I remember it. It seems much smaller now – the Basin itself, and the outcrop. It barely raises its head above the water.
These were great excursions, but followed inevitably by the pitiless ascent of Alexander Street. It was our route home, and the second steepest hill in NSW, as my mother was fond of saying. The three of us would collapse on the bench halfway up and rest there, gazing down at the shops on Pittwater Road and the ocean moving beyond.
About John Arthur Nichol: Childhood
Scattered memories, a few horrors.
My first cinema, the Collaroy Classic. It’s still there, just along the street from where I live now. I don’t remember my first movie there, but I do remember “Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley” playing in the background.
Catching a tram, somewhere in Sydney, before they tore up all the tracks.
Building roads for toy cars in the eroded clay of the Infants playground.
Baby Boomer kids’ crazes. The brief first coming of skateboards. Yo-yos, tumblebugs (what slinkies used to be), Schnooks (what Trolls used to be), jacks, Dutch salted liquorice, bubble gum, fly traps, and collecting cards from TV Shows like The Samurai and Combat … plus the gruesomely illustrated Civil War cards (which my mother banned outright).
Marbles were more a way of life than a craze. Kids set up stalls in the lee of buildings, and chased each other’s tombolas along the gutters with “Once, twice, fires away!” I remember a bag exploding as I swung it, the marbles flying across the playground.
Earthworms covering the bitumen playground after heavy rain. Sally P on the way home, hitting me over the head with her Globate school case (if you’ve never been hit over the head with a Globate school case, count yourself lucky).
About John Arthur Nichol: My Sister Petrina
My sister and I were five years apart. We fought a lot, and the fights inevitably ended when she locked me out of the house. She called me Compost.
But we sat up late at night together watching B grade sci fi and horror movies on Deadly Earnest’s Aweful Movies. It was one of our favourite times of the week.
My sister was very funny (still is) and would sing rude alternative versions of popular songs. Her take on the Narrabeen Girls’ High School Song was hilarious, but I can only remember one line: “Out amid the drowning flowers, proudly paddles Narrabeen …” I loved it.
I’m sure that her lyrical flights were a strong influence on my writing. I’m still automatically changing the words of songs that appear in my head, and I’m compelled to write the Sascha Martin stories (and others) in rhythmic, rhyming verse.
About John Arthur Nichol: A Mystery from the Past
When I was very young, a huge chain emerged from the sand at Collaroy Beach, and hundreds of kids and adults lent a hand to drag it out of the surf. People said it was the anchor chain from the wrecked steamship Collaroy. I don’t think it was. Weeks later the chain lay piled up inside the surf club, its dubious provenance and all the excitement forgotten.
I still wonder where it came from. And where it went. And does anyone else remember that day on the beach at Collaroy?
About John Arthur Nichol: 1965
My most vivid childhood memories are from 1965, when I was ten. Perhaps I became self-aware then, like Skynet. I can picture my teacher from that year, Mr Mahoney, and winter, brick walls and asphalt, doors with wire grids embedded in the glass. Writing lines at lunchtime with prefects on the prowl. The boys collecting and swapping cards … I have no idea what the girls did with their time, but I remember them giggling because they’d seen Shintaro’s bottom in an episode of The Samurai.
And I remember Mr Mahoney writing the NSW road toll on the blackboard, and saying that if we lost that many soldiers in Viet Nam it would be a huge disaster.
About John Arthur Nichol: 1966
Year Six was Mr Glastonbury, our teaching Principal, and a book called Friday’s Tunnel that he was reading to the class. The book starred a family named Calendar, and Friday Calendar designated everything that emerged from the tunnel an instrument of torture.
Susan P would sit complacently in her chair in the front row, closest to the teacher’s desk, raining chewed fingernails down upon the rest of us as we sat listening on the floor.
About John Arthur Nichol: High School
High School meant the 760 bus down Parkes Road, along South Creek Road and left on Pittwater Road. Tie-tagging initiations, the terror of huge kids bearing down upon you with intent. A banana fight in Year 7. The excitement of the first blue double-decker Atlantean bus turning onto Namona Street.
And two books that remain firmly in my mind. Arripay, which I borrowed from the school library,
About John Arthur Nichol: University
My first year at uni meant spectacles like huge, dark-framed windows stuck to my face, and my absolute certainty that everyone was shocked by them and staring. Leaving home. Assignments finished at the last moment. I was never meant to be an academic.
About John Arthur Nichol: The Wilderness
Brief but full-time work with Collins Publishers, and 40 years in the wilderness where I just, you know, wandered.
But I have three grown-up children and I’m immensely proud of them. I even have a granddaughter!
I get a such a shock when I look in the mirror, though. And people will keep offering me their seat on the bus.
So I’m still in the wilderness, but there’s definitely something on the horizon.
About John Arthur Nichol, Independent Author
I’ve always been a writer. I’ve written novels, poems, short stories. And school plays. It’s just that none of them has ever been published. Though I did produce the plays.
In 2016 I teamed up with illustrator Manuela Pentangelo and published Sascha Martin’s Rocket-Ship, followed by Through the Wormhole. These were my first publishing adventures, and the beginning of a learning curve whose gradient rivals Alexander Street.
And that bench half-way up? It’s not even in sight.
But the Rocket-Ship has launched, and Sascha’s journey is only just beginning. I’m working with Manuela on Sascha Martin’s Time Machine, an interactive, fully illustrated ebook that is light years ahead of what we accomplished with Sascha Martin’s Rocket-Ship.
And I have so many Sascha Martin Adventures waiting in the wings. I just can’t wait to unleash them.
Enquiries About John Arthur Nichol
Yes please, contact me here if you have any questions. Or insights. Or shared memories. Or just to say hello 🙂