Meet author Gary Lonesborough

Article | Jun 2023

GARY LONESBOROUGH is a Yuin man, who grew up on the far South Coast of NSW as part of a large Aboriginal family. He is the author of the award-winning The Boy from the Mish and the novel Ready When You Are. His latest novel We Didn’t Think It Through is a coming-of-age novel about 16-year-old Jamie Langton as he navigates the challenges of racism, family and friendship.


we-didn't-think-it-throughThe thought comes to me: This is how I die. Dally is going to lose control and crash us into a pole or a house and we will be killed on impact.

The justice system characterises Jamie Langton as a ‘danger to society’, but he’s just an Aboriginal kid, trying to find his way through adolescence.

Jamie lives in Dalton’s Bay with Aunty Dawn and Uncle Bobby. He spends his downtime hanging out with his mates, Dally and Lenny. Mark Cassidy and his white mates – the Footy Heads – take every opportunity they can to bully Jamie and his friends. On Lenny’s last night in town before moving to Sydney, after another episode of racist harassment, Jamie, Dally and Lenny decide to retaliate by vandalising Mark Cassidy’s car. And when they discover the keys are in the ignition… Dally changes the plan. Soon they are all in Mark Cassidy’s stolen car cruising through town, aiming to take it for a quick spin, then dump it.

But it’s a bad plan. And as a consequence, Jamie ends up in the youth justice system where he must find a way to mend his relationships with himself, his friends, his family and his future.


Can you tell us about your writing process and what inspired you to write We Didn’t Think It Through?

I had this character growing in my head while I was editing my first novel. Slowly over time, it was like I was getting to know the character and know his story in my head. It all started with Jamie and the stolen car.

After a few months of thinking about Jamie, I wrote down some notes to on a page and then jumped into writing a first draft about this Aboriginal kid who had been in and out of juvie and was finding himself in a crime of opportunity that would lead him back to juvie. I tried to recreate the fluid process of writing my first novel, but found I needed to jump ahead to the final act of the story, then return to the middle and fill it in.

The first draft was very messy, 80k words long and featured a very different set of circumstances, but after over a year of constantly editing and rewriting and revising, I landed a week at Varuna Writer’s House and that’s where the story began to take the shape it is now. I was inspired to write this story by a combination of young Aboriginal boys I had been working with who were in juvie, coming from broken homes and living in the out of home care system.


The relationship between Jamie and his community plays a major role in this story. How did you approach writing this, and were there any personal experiences that influenced it?

The relationship between an Aboriginal person and their community is something that is so important to me personally. It’s really difficult to put in words the meaning of community to Aboriginal people and how the lack of it can impact a young person’s identity. I grew up in Bega on the far south coast of NSW and my own relationship with both the Aboriginal community and the wider community influenced the writing of this novel.


Throughout the book Jamie is constantly navigating the challenges of racism. What do you hope readers learn from Jamie’s everyday experiences and his experiences with the justice system?

I hope through reading this book, readers will understand the prevalence of racism in the life of an Aboriginal person, especially a young Aboriginal person, and how racism is unfortunately a part of life for Aboriginal people. I hope readers can understand that there are varying levels of racism that Aboriginal people face and that we face each of these as we live our lives.


What was the significance of the setting in this story?

I love stories that begin in small country towns as it is so much the experience I had growing up. The ground is so rich for stories in small country towns, and it so happened that most of the young Aboriginal people I had encountered through my work in juvies were from small country towns all over NSW.

The setting of the juvie is very much informed by my own experiences visiting these places, as well as painted in a way to reflect the isolation, hopelessness and lack of colour that is presented to the young Aboriginal people who are locked up in these places and experiencing all levels of racism during their time incarcerated.


Jamie is an incredibly resilient character. Overall, what do you hope readers will take away from his journey?

A few things I hope readers will take away from this story are: The power of art in expressing and understanding our emotions, the importance of connection to family and culture in healing, and the sense of hope that can come from making the right decisions when moments present themselves. But mostly, I want readers to know that young Aboriginal people are resilient and strong. I’m inspired by young people now more than ever.


What messages do you hope to convey to readers?

The message I hope to convey is that young Aboriginal people are resilient, and connection to culture and family are paramount to healing. I hope readers will be inspired by the power of art as a form of expressing and understanding your own emotions.


Finally, are there any authors or books that you draw inspiration from when writing?

For this book, I drew heavily on The Outsiders by S E Hinton and The Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Both books helped me immensely in crafting the character of Jamie and the environments around him.



Gary Lonesborough is a Yuin writer, who grew up on the Far South Coast of NSW as part of a large and proud Aboriginal family. Growing up a massive Kylie Minogue and North Queensland Cowboys fan, Gary was always writing as a child, and continued his creative journey when he moved to Sydney to study at film school. Gary has experience working in Aboriginal health, the disability sector (including experience working in the youth justice system) and the film industry, including working on the feature film adaptation of Jasper Jones.

Learn more about Gary and his books HERE.

Author: Gary Lonesborough

Category: Children's, teenage & educational

Book Format: Paperback / softback

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760526931

RRP: $19.99

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