• Armistice
  • My Gallipoli
  • An Anzac Tale
  • Captain Congo and the Crocodile King
  • Captain Congo and the Maharajah's Monkey
  • Captain Congo and the Klondike Gold
  • Fill Out This Application and Wait Over There
  • Captain Stella
  • Thorpey
  • Noodle Pie
  • Catland
  • Orphans of the Queen
  • Stella by the Sea
  • Muck-Up Day
  • NIPS Go National

About Ruth

Dr Ruth Starke

b. 15 May, 1946

d. 5 September, 2022

Ruth Starke lived in Adelaide, South Australia, and published more than 25 novels for young people including the award-winning My Gallipoli (Winner of the 2015 NSW Premier's Young People's History Prize, Shortlisted for the 2015 Asher Literary Award and the 2016 Children's Book Council of Australia Crichton Award, and a 2016 Children's Book Council of Australia Notable Book); NIPS XI, which was named Honour Book (Younger Readers) in the 2001 CBC Awards and was on the Fiction for Young Readers curriculum; Noodle Pie and the Captain Congo series of graphic novels among many others.

She was awarded the Carclew Fellowship in 2002, and served as a judge for both the Colin Thiele Writing Fellowship and the Independent Arts Fellowship. She was a regular and longtime book reviewer for Australian Book Review, Viewpoint, and Radio Adelaide, an an editorial adviser for ABR, and a past Chair of the SA Writers Centre.

Before becoming an author, Ruth worked in public relations and travel marketing, and at a great variety of other jobs - of which the most interesting, she said, were selling French perfume in Harrods, cooking on the radio, taking tourists to Kashmir, and interviewing Grand Prix drivers.

She turned to fiction writing in 1992, and became one of Australia's best-loved authors for children and young adults. For a complete list of titles visit the Books section of this website.

Ruth died in September 2022 as a result of a rare, vulval cancer diagnosed in late 2020. To read her obituary, click here.



Ruth takes a selfie!
Where were you born? Where do you live now?
Adelaide to both questions

Where did you go to school?
Ascot Park Primary, Marion High, Adelaide and Flinders Universities

Did you have a nickname?
Not at school, at least not that I was aware of. “Rufus” later, sometimes.

What were you like in school?
Anxious a lot of the time as I had a stammer.

What is the naughtiest thing you've ever done?
Accidentally swallowed my best friend's brother's prize goldfish during a “dare”.

What was your favourite book growing up?
Possibly 'Winnie-the-Pooh', possibly 'Anne of Green Gables' (I still have both originals); I had a lot of favourite books. At an early age I joined the Children's Library of the State Library of SA. My dad used to change my books for me every Friday and he knew exactly which books I'd enjoy most.

Who is your favourite children’s author?
I couldn't possibly comment, I have too many who are friends!

Ruth in Verona, Italy, 2013.

What is your favourite food/colour/movie?
I can combine those three things into one answer: buttered yellow popcorn while watching 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off'!

Who inspired you to write?
Nobody really. When I was at school I thought all authors were English and dead. I never met a living author, much less an Australian one. Plenty of teachers encouraged me to write, but that didn't seem to have any connection to the books I read and enjoyed.

How did you get started?
I went back to uni to finish a degree I'd abandoned long ago, and reading English literature showed me how books were structured and plotted, and how characters were created. I thought: "I might be able to do this". And I did. I published my first four books while doing a BA degree.

How old were you?
Too old, really. I should have started 10 years earlier. But you don't really have the life experience and the know-how to write novels until you've lived in the world a bit.

Why did you want to be a writer?
Because it was something I was good at, unlike maths or science. And because I rather liked the idea of a job where you could work from bed and wear your pyjamas all day if you wanted to.
Ruth with famous Greek-Aussie TV gardener Costa Georgiadis.

How do you think up ideas?
I read a lot - books, magazines, journals, online - and often pick up good ideas that way. But it's not the ideas that are tricky, it's the knowing which ideas will translate into a story or novel, and then the working out of a plot from that idea.

Do you have a special place where you write?
I'd like to say a suite at London's Savoy Hotel (I believe they do have a writer-in-residence program) and I've enjoyed terrific residences at the May Gibbs studio in Brisbane (I'd go back there in a flash) and Varuna in the Blue Mountains (ditto) but sadly, it's most often a room in my house that has a lot of distractions, eg. A small dog that requires walking, a fridge, a washing machine, a front door bell, etc etc.

What is the best thing about being a writer?
See what I said about bed and pyjamas above.

In one of the many beautiful parks of Savannah, Georgia, USA in 2012.
Have you had any funny or embarrassing moments as a writer?

What do you do when you are not writing?
Worry about not writing. Or read. Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.That said, I could certainly exercise more.

What would you have chosen to be if you were not a writer?
I've been a shop assistant, a radio broadcaster, a photojournalist, a tour guide, a public servant, a travel marketer, a university lecturer, and a writing mentor, but mostly those jobs chose me, not the other way round.

Which famous person from the past would you like to talk to?
I'd like to ask Shakespeare who the fair Young Man and the Dark Lady were and Amelia Earhart where on earth she disappeared to.
With a statue of songwriter Johnny Mercer in Savannah, Georgia, USA in 2012.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?
I'm a bad procrastinator, but sometimes that's been a positive. I think everybody has a book in them but very often it's just that one book. I like going to movies on my own. If anyone wants to buy me a present, you really can't go wrong with Haigh's Shiraz Truffles.

Ruth went all over the world and met some interesting and famous people. Here are a few photos from her fascinating life!

In Avignon, France.

In Paris with Australian writers Elizabeth Hutchins and Sophie Masson, enjoying a get-together over lunch.

This is Ruth's personal motto! She looooooves coffee. Do you have a motto?
Ruth as a blonde, aged two.

Ruth researching NIPS XI at the Adelaide Cricket Ground in 2001.

Ruth was once a journalist for Prix Editions, a magazine about Formula One racing. Here she is with British Formula One driver James Hunt (left) and Niki Lauda (right), the greatest of them all, at the Austrian Grand Prix in 1985.

Ruth at the site of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London, 1993. The theatre has now been rebuilt.

With illustrator Tom Jellett, who illustrated Ruth's book The Twist in the Tale.

Here's Ruth in London, aged about 20. It was the swinging sixties and "fun furs" were very trendy.

Ruth on her first day of school in Unley, South Australia. She still has the brown Globite school case.