John Marsden was born in Melbourne, the third of four children of Eustace Cullen Hudson and Jeanne Lawler Marsden. He attended Devonport Primary School in Tasmania and Eastwood Primary School and King's School, Parramatta, in New South Wales. Marsden began teaching at All Saints College, Bathurst, New South Wales, in 1978 while studying Arts at the University of New England. He continued to teach at All Saints while completing his Diploma of Teaching from Mitchell College. In 1982 he became head of English at Geelong Grammar School, Highton, Victoria, and in 1984, rather to his own surprise, he found himself teaching at Timbertop, Geelong Grammar's 'bush' campus. Noticing a complete lack of interest in reading among his Year 9 students he tried writing a short novel that he thought they might enjoy. The novel, So Much to Tell You (1987), was immediately successful, winning the Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year: Older Readers in 1998 and other awards. Since publication, it has been translated into numerous languages and has had the largest sales for a book published in Australia for teenagers.
Marsden is regarded as Australia's most popular writer of novels for young adults, attributed to the seven-volume Tomorrow series. In 1996, Marsden's books took the top six places on the Teenage Fiction best-seller lists for Australia. Also in 1996, he was named 'Australia's most popular author today in any literary field' by the Australian newspaper. In 1997 Australian readers voted three of his books into Australia's 100 most-loved books of all time. Tomorrow When the War Began has been reprinted thirty times since its 1994 release.
Marsden has also created picture book texts, most notably The Rabbits (1999), a CBCA Picture Book of the Year, poetry, and nonfiction. Marsden is a contemplative writer and popular speaker. His works invariably feature serious themes such as sexuality, violence in society, survival at school and in a harsh world, and conflict with adult authority figures. His teaching background has added authenticity to his style, characterisation and themes.
Marsden is interested in sharing his understanding of the creative writing process itself. His Everything I Know about Writing (1993), Marsden on Marsden : The Stories Behind John Marsden's Bestselling Books (2000) and a study of his own creative process for So Much to Tell You assist in an understanding of the writing process. While many of his fictional works are controversial in terms of their content, his nonfiction work, Secret Men's Business, is aimed at assisting young men in understanding their sexuality. Marsden has sold a million and a half books world-wide, and has won awards in Europe, America and Australia. Despite his success as a writer, Marsden remains committed to the education process. He spends much of his time running writing camps at his property, the Tye Estate in Kerrie, Victoria. In 2006 he began operating a school, Candlebark, on the property. The school caters for children at primary and secondary level
AustLit does not provide all details of Marsden's foreign editions. More information about his books, particularly foreign editions, may be obtained from Kerry White Australian Children's Books: A Bibliography, Vol Two 1973-1988 and Australian Children's Books: A Bibliography, Vol Three 1989-2000.
'My name, then, is Barnaby Fletch. To the best of my knowledge I have no middle name and cannot say of whom I am the son, or of whom my father's father's father was the son. Alas, my origins are shrouded in mystery.
'Thirteen-year-old Barnaby Fletch is a bag-and-bones orphan in London in the late 1700s.
'Barnaby lives on his wits and ill-gotten gains, on streets seething with the press of the throng and shadowed by sinister figures. Life is a precarious business.
'When he hears of a paradise on the other side of the world - a place called Botany Bay - he decides to commit a crime and get himself transported to a new life, a better life.
'To succeed, he must survive the trials of Newgate Prison, the stinking hull of a prison ship and the unknown terrors of a journey across the world.
'And Botany Bay is far from the paradise Barnaby has imagined. When his past and present suddenly collide, he is soon fleeing for his life - once again.
'A riveting story of courage, hope and extraordinary adventure.' (Publication summary)
Lost and Found2011selected work picture book These three short stories focus on loss and despair to explore how we lose and find what matters most to us: a girl finds a bright spot in a dark world, a boy leads a strange, lost being home, and a group of peaceful creatures loses its home to cruel invaders.
Home and Away2008single work picture book children's Mum is a rehab counselor for people with alcohol problems. Grandma Raynor lives next door. Dad is a driver for Elgas. Then there's me, fifteen, into a lot of different stuff. Music, surfing, animals, tennis, swimming, computer games. And my sister, Claire, and brother Toby. We're a typical Australian family. Barbeques, footy, gardening, school, Holden Commodores. Then one day things change. April 26, Dad burns the toast, yells at Toby, thanks me for cleaning the cab of the truck, kisses Mum and Toby, then he's gone. April 27, the war starts. May 21, the city's in ruins, blackouts nearly all the time, food is hard to find. September 13, Dad's heard news of a boat. We might get out of here yet. September 28, it is just after dawn. A boat from their Navy has found us. We waved and cried and cheered. But then, slowly, we realised they were shouting at us, telling us to go away. September 30, we are in a huge prison, with razor wire all around us. The government says there's no room for us. The Prime Minister says that if they let us out into the community it'll just encourage other illegal immigrants. The Deputy Prime Minister says we're not genuine refugees. The Minister for Immigration says we should have gone through the proper procedures and applied to come here the prescribed way. Apparently there was a queue or a waiting list or something, and we were meant to find an Immigration Office and put our names down to be considered. I guess they're right. I feel terrible about the trouble we've caused them. (Source: Backcover)