I am looking forward to catching up with a number of New Zealand authors I admire: Tina Makereti, Charlotte Randall, Carl Nixon, Breton Dukes, Liam McIlvanney and Owen Marshall. I am always interested to hear authors speak about their craft – rather than simply hearing about their latest book, or their subject matter. Charlotte Randall has a fantastic ear for spoken language and is extremely skilled in her handling of pace – which I think must be difficult when dealing with characters who are restricted (captive) in some way. Tina Makereti’s novel impresses me for its handling of voice and time-scale – that she creates a circular type conversation between characters rather than a fragmentary leap from one time and location to another. Breton’s stories are interesting for the way he handles contrast – the mix of the tightly controlled and the open ended which comes through in structure, plot and character. I like the way Liam McIlvanney plays with atmosphere and mood, using a combination of city-scape and character to build tension. And Carl Nixon and Owen Marshall are both just wonderfully skilled authors – understated and subtle, able to get beneath the skin of their characters, brilliant at capturing the ‘ordinary’.
What do you think about libraries?
I grew up in Christchurch and from an very early age went to the city library on the corner of Worcester Street and Oxford Terrace. I remember the wonderful issues desk, the smell of books and the joy of being allowed in the adults section to browse the art books. My parents used to hire paintings from the library – a favourite was by Trevor Moffitt. The thing I still love about any library is being able to get lost amongst the shelves. There are such treasures to be found in the open stacks…all the weird and wonderful books, books that people have laboured over both in the writing and the reading. There is always a great sense of anticipation when entering a library.
Share a surprising fact about yourself.
When I was a kid I wanted to be an actor and I went to drama classes run by Neta Neale at the old malthouse in Sydenham for eight years. I would have continued going but when I was 13 one of the (very nice) boys asked me out and I was so rattled that I figured it was easier to stop going to drama than deal with him. I think writing has been my compensation – as it allows me to get into character, make up stories, and, in a way, perform. I think acting and novel-writing have a great deal in common and I’m always interested by people who have crossed over from one to the other.