Carl was born in Christchurch in 1967 and has an MA in Religious Studies from Canterbury University. He taught high school English briefly before teaching in Japan for two years. He has twice won the Sunday Star Times Short Story Contest (1997 and 1999). Carl was the 2006 Ursula Bethell/Creative New Zealand Writer-in-Residence at Canterbury University, won the prestigious Katherine Mansfield Literary Award in 2007 and the Beatson Fellowship in 2011. He was one of the writers who represented New Zealand at the Frankfurt International Book Fair in 2012. In 2018 Carl Nixon was awarded the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship in France where he worked on his novel The Tally Stick.
His stories have been published widely both here and overseas and many have been broadcast by Radio New Zealand. The radio adaptation of his play, The Raft won the Best Dramatic Production, 2009 at the NZ Radio Awards.
A collection of Carl’s short fiction was published by Random House in 2006 in Fish ‘n’ Chip Shop Song. He has published the novels: Rocking Horse Road (Random House 2007), Settler’s Creek (Random House 2010) and The Virgin and the Whale (Random House 2013) The Tally Stick (Random House 2020) and The Waters (Random House 2023). His novels have been translated into German, French and Mandarin Chinese.
Carl’s involvement with theatre began in 1986 when he started performing in Theatresports shows at The Court, something he continued to do for the next fourteen years. He was a founding member of the Court Jesters improvisors and a regular in the Scared Scriptless show for almost a decade. His work for theatre encompasses several plays for children. His adult plays include The Raft, The Birthday Boy, Two Fish ‘n’ a Scoop, The War Artist and adaptions of J. M. Coetzees' Booker Prize winning novel Disgrace and Lloyd Jones’ novel The Book of Fame for the stage. His play, Mathew, Mark, Luke and Joanne premiered at The Court in April 2016. He was awarded the 2020 Howard McNaughton South Island Play Award at the Adam NZ Play Awards for An Unlikely Season.