Sadly, the refrain when I said that we were meeting with Wayne Macauley was – “who”? Four weeks ago I fell into the same category, but two books later and with a signed copy of his short story collection Other Stories I am a convert.
Robyn and I made our way to the rather flash Langham Hotel and waited somewhat nervously in the lobby for our allotted half hour of his time. I was busy looking at the restaurant beside us, full of people gainfully making their way through tiered plates full of gorgeous morsels when we spotted Wayne Macaulay coming out of the lift and pounced! I hope he wasn’t too taken aback.
Robyn launched in with a question about his unique writing style. There are few if any commas, no speech marks and a rollicking sense of wanting to keep reading – fast. She was curious as to how this style developed. It turns out that Wayne is a true craftsman. His writing gets worked and then reworked, he hones it down gradually until you get the sense he is completely satisfied. Two and a half years seemed to be the average time to produce a book and he makes use of copious notes and journals that he has compiled while working on the outlines of the story.
I asked Wayne if he knew the ending of his book The Cook before he started. I was quite taken aback when he said he did, probably because the ending came as such a surprise that I couldn’t imagine how he could have just dreamed it up. However having already decided on the endings to his books Wayne feels that this gives him the impetus to keep the story moving forward. His other skill is to stretch believability.
He was happy to hear that I had read Caravan story feeling quite comfortable with the premise that a group of artists, writers and actors could all be uplifted from their homes and transported to the country. It wasn’t until I was half way through the book that I suddenly thought – wait a minute – people wouldn’t really let that happen? It turned out that this was just the reaction he was wanting, as her termed it the “unreality in reality”. I felt quite proud that I was the ideal reader!
The half hour was over before we knew it, which was a shame because you get the sense that Wayne Macauley has a lot to say. We had touched on Arts funding, urban sprawl, the foodie culture and pop idol reality TV. Wayne talked about aiming high and having a low boredom threshold and that to be a good writer he, as well as the reader need to be stimulated by what he is writing about.
I wanted to discuss how New Zealanders seem to have little knowledge of Australian writers, and if it was the same in reverse for Australians, but our time was up, so that will just have to wait until next time!
Yes, that strange thing of our missing out on Australian writing: the festival had another Aussie author whose books are fascinating for many of us Kiwis who’d never previously heard of him: Gideon Haigh. His non-fiction work about the illegal abortion trade and James Hardie Industries (separate books! the latter looks into asbestos) will have particular resonance here.
Yes I hadn’t heard of Godeon Haigh either but I agree, his books sound really interesting. I was going to ask Wayne Macauley if NZ authors were read in Australia but we ran out of time. I expect it is similar on both sides of the Tasman. I am going to try and buck the trend!