Nate Byrne is a business student and drug dealer who is looking for his weed supplier Jesse, who has recently disappeared. As Nate begins to uncover Jesse's life, he becomes embroiled in the town's seedy underbelly, a place of spiralling drug addiction, unsolved murder and amateur pornography. Growing increasingly frantic, Nate is driven to confront the darker elements around him, with dire consequences.
Set in the University of Queensland's Gatton Campus, The Student is a story about culpability. As Nate increasingly starts to dwell on his own choices – and his own dark past – he starts to see the longer arc of his life.
Broadly concerned with issues of class and regionality, through his characters, Iain Ryan explores how ambition and education doesn't always free us from the dictates of circumstance, and keenly examines how a single action can irreversibly alter a person's life.
Drawing heavily on the campus novels of The Secret History by Donna Tartt, The Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon and The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis, and influenced by hardboiled writers, James Ellroy and Jim Thompson, The Student will have you gripped to your seat until the very last page.
Iain Ryan grew up in the Brisbane suburbs. At the age of seventeen he moved to Gatton (Qld) to attend university. Following a short stint in property economics, Ryan pursued his interest in music and for a number of chaotic (and fun) years performed as a touring musician. Feeling burnt out and on the advice of his therapist, he started writing fiction. In 2015, his first novel, Four Days was published and in 2016 it was shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction. He lives in Melbourne.
Author: Iain Ryan
Interview with Iain Ryan
Question: What inspired the story of The Student?
Iain Ryan: The book was an attempt to scratch a very specific itch. I like campus novels like The Secret History by Donna Tartt, The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis and The Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon but so many of these books are about snowy settings and the humanities. I wanted what I knew, which was the Queensland summer and business degrees. So I ported that desire into a crime/mystery novel because that's what I've written in the past. I figured that staying in my lane genre-wise, might steer me clear of going too far into the terrain of memoir, which I wanted to avoid.
Question: What was the best thing about creating the character of Nate?
Iain Ryan: Nate is really stoned throughout the novel, so he's really detached at times. That was fun to write because he moves through the story in a very different way to previous characters I've had to contend with. He's also a teenager so his sense of danger and empathy aren't completely developed yet either. I didn't really know how he was going react at various points in the book, which was exciting.
Question: How did real-life motivate The Student?
Iain Ryan: I lived in the exact setting of the novel. I studied business in Gatton and I smoked a lot of weed while I was there. We all did. The period specifics are very accurate I think, especially the student culture in the residential halls. But the rest is fiction. I just made it up.
Question: What do you hope readers take from The Student?
Iain Ryan: I'm not sure there's a lesson to be learned from the book. I don't write that way. All I want is for the reader to feel the affective charge I get when reading my favourite authors, people like James Ellroy, Dennis Lehane, and Megan Abbott.
Question: Can you talk about the research that you conducted prior to writing The Student? I looked at pictures of my old share house on Google Maps and listened to tonnes of Soundgarden. That's it.
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Author: Iain Ryan