Patricia Grace: On Belonging

Last Sunday I shrugged on a heavy coat and ventured out into a grey and dismal Christchurch morning to hear two New Zealand fiction writers – Paula Morris and Patricia Grace.

The On Belonging session was advertised as exploring themes “themes of nostalgia, memory and belonging” however both women confessed very early in that neither of them had read that particular description before that morning, so things would likely veer off a bit. Writers, eh?

Patricia Grace and Paula Morris
Patricia Grace and Paula Morris. Flickr, 2015-08-30-IMG_0034

But, in fact, some of those themes did come through as Paula Morris encouraged Patricia Grace into remembrance and recollection over the course of the hour. The pair had an easy, relaxed rapport. Patricia Grace, whom I have never had the opportunity to hear speaking in public before, has a calm and softly spoken demeanour. She speaks slowly and thoughtfully.

To start with they spoke a bit about Grace’s background, and the degree to which she grew up in two worlds. That of her father’s family – rural and Māori, compared with the world of her mother’s family – urban and Pākehā. The divide between her life growing up in Wellington “hooning around the streets” with her cousins and crabbing at Mirimar Wharf, and the marae community of her father’s whānau, where she lives now. As a child she enjoyed the environment of sea and bush, with both in close proximity.

In fact, many of the memories she recalled over the course of the hour would factor in the sea, including the passage she read from her novel. I get the impression that Patricia Grace would not be comfortable living in a landlocked country or too far inland. As it is she seems to have a very strong sense of belonging in her seaside community with her brother, cousins and children all living in what Morris compared to a “family compound”.

Chappy

Cover of Chappy

Then they moved on to discussing Grace’s latest novel, Chappy which has several settings, including New Zealand, Japan, Europe and Hawaii. The novel is about Daniel, as he unpicks the story of his Māori grandmother and Japanese grandfather, the “Chappy” of the title.

Grace said “Chappy” grew out of a story she heard from her husband, who is from Ruatoria, about a Japanese shopkeeper who had lived there and was a much loved member of the community, but who was imprisoned on Somes Island during WWII, and then deported, leaving his New Zealand wife and family behind.

As an aside, due to various First World War centenaries this year, I’ve been looking at a lot of contemporary news reporting and this treatment of Kiwi Japanese during WWII is no different than that of New Zealand Germans in the earlier conflict. It seems we always repeat the same behaviours, demonising the enemy (and anything that reminds us of them sometimes, whether it’s justified or not).

Grace started wondering how this man had come to be living there and that formed the seed of what became the novel. The device of having Chappy’s story revealed by other characters was partly due to her belief that she couldn’t adequately convey the mindset and culture of a Japanese character though she felt she could “get into his heart as a human being”.

“Chappy” is Grace’s first novel in ten years, and Morris was at pains to point out this isn’t just laziness.

“People think when you’re a writer and you haven’t written a novel for ten years that you’re just lying around eating bon bons all day.”

In fact, life intervenes. Grace has seven children and a mother who lost her independence – family life does sometimes take precedence over writing novels.

Grace read from Chappy, a passage about sea journeys and stowaways.

Cover of TuThen Morris went on to ask Grace about her earlier novel, Tū (which in Morris’ opinion would make a great movie) and led to her sharing memories of being a child in Wellington during WWII. The American soldiers who gave the kids oranges and chewing gum, the ration books which she though were “cute”. Trams rattling up and down (accompanied by the sound of a tram, rattling past on Worcester Boulevard). The experience of waving her dad off on a military ship so immense she mistook it for a building.

She never intended to write a book about war but found her father’s notebooks and started researching. Her father had never talked about his war experiences (and she had got the impression that he’d never been at the front lines when, in fact, he had) and the stories she had heard from Māori Battalion men, who sang Italian songs, were mainly tales of mischief. Her research revealed otherwise.

Multi-culturalism and te reo Māori

Morris says that Grace is “subversive” and offers one of Grace’s quotes, from 1989, for comment.

New Zealand is a multi-cultural society but you wouldn’t know this from reading our literature.

Does she still feel that way?

Grace thinks that literature and the media have changed since then and technology has helped though she admits “I don’t do technology, really”.

She also has no issue with the novel as a “European form”. “You have to do your own thing,” she says “in the lens of the novel. Make it your own”. Morris believes that published literature is still fairly Pākehā dominated.

Cover of PotikiA comment from the audience led into an interesting discussion about whether Grace is “political”. The questioner says that “Potiki” and its use of te reo Māori really opened doors to the language for her without feeling educative. Was it intentional?

Potiki was published in 1986 and uses some Māori language components. At the time of its release, Māori was not yet an official language of New Zealand (this was achieved, after much campaigning, in 1987).

Accusations were made at the time that this use of te reo was “divisive” and intentionally political. Grace however thought she was just writing about ordinary people. Morris agreed in this saying that when she wrote Rangatira she used Māori words that lots of people would be familiar with, and any that weren’t would be clear from the context…but apparently not everyone agreed. Morris also pointed out that many writers do this and have to defend themselves, people like Junot Diaz who have to explain that “this is how my characters speak”.

Grace says that the only political part of “Potiki” was the absence of a te reo glossary. She’d had them before but felt that “a glossary is what you have for a foreign language”.

“Nobody did a glossary for me when I came across French in a book or anything”. Certainly my own reading experience with The Lord of the Rings novels and even The Chimes, is that it’s not necessarily an impediment to reading if occasional words are in an unfamiliar language (elvish) or specialised vocabulary (music).

It was a shame that the session had to stop just then because I felt that there was more that could have been discussed on that topic, but end it did.

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Celebrating Father’s Day

Father’s day makes us pause, remember and show love and appreciation for our dads.

Dad and Daughter
Dad and Daughter

Some of us resist the  overt commercialism of it, while others of us love to buy gifts; either way most of us find it impossible to ignore. So kids everywhere, young and old, make or buy cards and plan something special. (often with a tad of help from mums and teachers.)

Do we find it as easy to make a fuss of Dad, as we do Mum? Breakfast trays adorned with a posy in a vase may not cut it for him. Though a tray with the Sunday paper might. What do dads want from their children on Father’s Day?  A quick verbal survey of some dads I know, varying in age, came up with these answers:

  • a card with genuine expressions of why they like having me as their dad.
  • real time together on the day – something we choose to do together.
  • a day trip, somewhere we don’t often get to go.
  • a meal out together.
  • letting me show them photos of when I was a kid.
  • hugs and no hassling for the whole day.
  • the latest Lee Child and whiskey would be good
    an undisturbed sleep-in then bacon and eggs.

Not many surprises there. Dads here mostly want to hang out with their offspring and /or have some rest. Unlike the traditional German Father’s Day Hike when men hightail it into the woods, pulling a wagon laden with beer and wine. Quite a different emphasis! To be fair in Germany the day is also known simply as Men’s Day.

Father's Day Outing
Father’s Day Outing

Parenting is not something we’re taught in school. It’s a strange new land for all of us who take that journey and we can often need advice and especially encouragement. There is a wealth of resources for fathering right at the library. Not to mention BabyTimes and StoryTimes held weekly in our libraries.

Dads, however you choose to spend it have a very happy Father’s day! We wouldn’t be here without you.

Cover of Don't puke on your dadCover of Fathers who dare winCover of The night of the living dadCover of Beginning fatherhood

Undercover in North Korea with Suki Kim

Cover of Without you, there is no usNew York resident Suki Kim is a very clever essayist and novelist who wrote the award winning work The Interpreter. However, it was her impressions of life in North Korea as an undercover journalist which were the subject of her discussion On North Korea: Inventing the Truth at WORD Christchurch’s Shifting Points of View session at the Christchurch Arts Festival.

The Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK) is one of the most misleading titles for anything, ever, as they kind of forgot to add the Oppressive, Centralized, Totalitarian, Cult-like, Single Party parts to the title. Human Rights Watch refers to the DPRK as one of the most “harshly oppressive countries in the world”.

North Korea is described by Suki Kim as basically the world’s biggest cult. At the centre of this cult is the “eternal, supreme leader” Kim Jong-un, who rules with an iron fist.   The myth of the supreme leader goes on despite persecution and the millions that go hungry due to food shortages. There is no contact with the outside world as borders and lines of communication are sealed, and government agents watch everyone who might seek enlightenment.

Author and South Korean American Suki went to North Korea to teach English to the sons of the elite as part of a special international programme at a university titled “The Pyongyang University of Science and Technology” (which was quite unscientific, and devoid of technology). Without You, There Is No Us is her memoir of this experience, which beautifully infuses impressions and emotions into the issues of world politics and international relations. Political material can be achingly dry and hard to relate to; this most definitely isn’t.

Hearing her speak was timely. The entertainment industry is producing lots of young adult dystopian fiction (think The Giver, Hunger Games). Spookily, her depictions of life in the DPRK had me thinking such fictions are somehow based on these North Korean facts.

Suki Kim and Paula Morris

Suki Kim and Paula Morris, Flickr 2015-08-30-IMG_8988

Every aspect of daily life is monitored within the Institute she taught at, and everything – from the articulation to the architecture – is geared towards control. The university is intentionally designed with sterile, glazed spaces – privacy is at a premium. The idea “there is no I in team” is taken to an illogical extreme as Western notions of individualism are staunchly repressed and this was manifested in the language of her students. The words “I” or “Me” are almost never utilized by the students, who robotically state “We” and “Our” in a true spirit of collectivization and group identity. There is no place for individual ambition, it’s all servitude to the State. She did her best to teach them. And what she encountered was classes of bright, eager young men who have been lied to their whole lives, not only about the greatness of their country and its leaders, but about everything. They believe they have the internet, but it’s actually an intranet. To make it even more painful, in a show of nutty nationalism they think their “internet” is the best in the world.

Suki Kim
Suki Kim, Flickr 2015-08-30-IMG_8991

Suki developed a fondness for this innocent bunch of kids, who almost never get to see their parents (but pretend this is normal so not to incur the wrath of their overseers) and are in many ways hopelessly lost – with only the guidance of a regime which lies to them.

Over time, Suki sneakily and quietly attempted to inject the smallest of radical ideas into their naive minds. Like the idea of choice, for example, when shes is asked pointedly by the students “how many TV channels does [“wicked capitalist”] America has”!? She gingerly answers “thousands”, trying not to appear boastful in light of North Korea’s one channel which presents shows full of propaganda about the Great Leader. She endured many Q&A sessions regarding details of our lives in the West, but she could not be completely honest with her inquisitive class, as most subjects were off limits. A knowledge of the truth hurt!

I did manage to ask Suki during our own Q and A time if North Korea had any allies these days, and she said they don’t, not after the fall of the Soviet Union – “North Korea are all on their own”, much like the kids in her class whom she grieves for deeply…..

“Without you there is no us” is a beautifully written memoir detailing daily life in a closed society, and which is laced with stories of her own family history detailing the separation of loved-ones who may never meet again as they are spread across the two Koreas.

Personally, I don’t think I’ve ever read such well written personalized account of political and international relations.

Five years ago: 4 September 2010

Five years ago today, Christchurch and Canterbury were shaken awake at 4.35am by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. My neighbours and family wandered around the corner to see this on Victoria Street.

Daily Bagel and Covent Fruit Centre September 4 2010, Kete Christchurch

Knox Church, 4 September 2010.

Knox Church, 4 September 2010. Kete Christchurch.

Our first library blog post on 4 September 2010:

Christchurch experienced a major earthquake this morning 4.35am, Saturday 4 September 2010 …

Our book chat switched into Civil Defence, community information, library info, and ideas to look after the kids. (see our September 2010 posts).

Central Library : after the quake

Central Library : after the quake. Flickr CCL-CE-2010-09-08-DSC02045

WiFi users outside the Central Library

WiFi users outside the Central Library Even though the library is closed due to the earthquake customers are still happy using the free Wi Fi, 7 September 2010. Flickr CCL-CE-2010-09-07-DSC01928

Here’s some snippets of memory from 4 September 2010:

  • A few objects fell down in the house, but the kitchen was almost untouched, except for a container of oil which left a big oil slick on the floor.
  • After the initial drama of getting out of the house we made contact with their neighbours in the other three flats. When we had calmed a bit, we began to venture around the neighbourhood. Around the corner, the Daily Bagel building had collapsed on to the street.
  • We never lost power and were without water for only a short time. Our place became a gathering point for friends who came to charge phones and use the internet.
  • Our chimney came down.
  •  Dad was in Dunedin and immediately hitched a ride back on a truck – probably the only person trying to get to Christchurch!

If you feel like telling your stories, visit Quake Stories.

More photos and stories:

Our blog posts looking back:

On the website

Sarah Waters: Mistress of the agonising twist

I was so excited when I heard the highly acclaimed UK author Sarah Waters, author of such novels as Tipping the Velvet, The Fingersmith and The Night Watch, was going to attend WORD Christchurch’s Shifting Points of View “mini-festival” during the Christchurch Arts Festival.

Cover of The Paying Guest Cover of Fingersmith Cover of The night watch Cover of Tipping the velvet

I had just finished her latest novel The Paying Guests, and have also read most of her other novels.

I decided to try a talking book version of The Paying Guests for a change and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.  Except that I found myself sitting in my car; thinking, just another minute, another minute, aggghhhh, damn I have to go, but I desperately want to know what happens next.

I haven’t decided if listening to the talking book is the best idea or not? I know usually I would have been up to the wee small hours reading, but instead was stuck waiting for my next chance to get in the car and hear what was happening.

If you enjoy amazing attention to historical accuracy, multi layered characters you love, loath,  are distressed by and empathise with, some love and captivating storylines I would recommend trying a novel by Sarah Waters. But beware the always agonising twist, just when I think “huh,” with an air of authority, “I know what’s going to happen next!” I am always wrong.

Oh those twists.

I am lucky enough to be attending Sarah’s talk Crimes of Passion session on Monday 7 September and looking forward to blogging about it after. Stay tuned!

Tania
Outreach Library Assistant

Margaret Wilson and the Struggle for New Zealand Sovereignty

Cover of The Struggle for SovereigntyWORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View events at the Christchurch Arts Festival was awesome enough to have Margaret Wilson speak out of her accumulated legal and political wisdom on Sunday 30 August. Bronwyn Hawyard, author and political scientist at the University of Canterbury, ably chaired the session.

It’s not often that, in your own town, you get a highly accessible ex-Speaker of the House coming to give an intimate talk about critical political issues. And listening to someone with her background had me in awe given that she’s the Former Attorney-General, Minister of the Crown, current Professor of Law. Nothing too serious …
UBS Bookstand

Shifting points of view sessions. WORD Christchurch events at the Christchurch Arts Festival. Sunday 30 August 2015. Flickr 2015-08-30-IMG_9004

Her exposition at the festival was related to her nifty little book The Struggle for Sovereignty: New Zealand and Twenty first Century State. We have a paper copies and eBooks in the library. This short work provides a concise perspective on how – since the economic reforms of the 1980s – the core parts of the sovereign New Zealand state have been eroded and compromised by globalization and the neoliberal, free-market ideology – basically the deregulation, privatization and legislation which seems to give large business entities powers which don’t keep them accountable to citizens.

Mrs Wilson argues that the NZ State: the public service, the legal system and New Zealand’s constitution, are (often by default) providing a fertile ground for deregulation which affects society in all sorts of detrimental ways. Over recent years, Government policy has re-ordered the New Zealand economic environment in keeping with the neoliberal philosophy, and this is exemplified in insecure work and the trend towards free trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Insecure work – In another basic example of how things are going, Mrs Wilson points out that around 30% (over 600,00 humans) of the NZ work force is employed in “insecure/precarious” working conditions – meaning that such roles are “casual”, “fixed term”, “zero hours” etc. Which gives employees minimal bargaining rights for better pay and conditions and no certainty with regard to secure hours for the future. She claims this is due to the global neoliberal trend which NZ has adopted and favours “contract work” over “wages”, as keeping people on contract keeps them working more efficiently, whereas “on wages” people take too long – so the neoliberal (in)sensibility goes.

The TPPA could potentially enable large multi-national businesses the right to sue the NZ Government if our Government enacts laws which hinder their ability to make money – say if we had legislation which made plain packaging on cigarette packs mandatory – a business may have legal recourse if the courts deemed plain packaging affected their ability to make a profit.

Margaret Wilson and Bronwyn Hayward
Margaret Wilson and Bronwyn Hayward. Shifting points of view sessions. WORD Christchurch events at the Christchurch Arts Festival. Sunday 30 August 2015. Flickr 2015-08-30-IMG_8959

It seems our wonderful Pacific democracy is somewhat undermined – as policy can be rushed or hushed through Parliament without the public knowing or debating the nature of its contents. The Select Committee process can be circumvented due to the policy process being carried out “under urgency” – Parliament can rush through policy faster than normal because of some special “urgent” circumstances. All this basically means it’s very hard for the public to make submissions regarding certain policy initiatives. Which is what the Select Committee process is often for.

Margaret Wilson points out that it might be time for Kiwis to really get hold of our State and demand some changes to our Constitution, for example, which could usher in a more robust regulatory regime and pull back the neoliberal economic steam roller so as to make NZ a fairer, more equitable society – maybe resulting in some better contractual conditions and pay for workers somewhere down the line.

However, I asked her if New Zealand even has a “constitutional culture”, and she said one of the things which came out of the most recent constitutional inquiry was that Kiwis generally don’t have a basic understanding of what a constitution even is because its not taught in schools or referred to and celebrated as a crucial part of our history. Unlike the Americans, who have a very staunch constitutional culture. Just think gun control!

Maybe time to teach politics in schools.

Her book “The Struggle for Sovereignty: New Zealand and Twenty first Century State”, is a great tool – a short and to the point read about these technical political issues.

Here’s some quotes from her session:

수선화가 피기시작한 2015년 겨울…

작가와의 만남은 그 책을 이해하는데 많은 도움을 주는것 같습니다. 지난 일요일  Christchurch Arts Festival의 일부인 WORD Christchurch 에서 “평양의 영어 선생님(Without you there is no us)” 의 작가 수키 킴의 강연을 들었습니다.  작가와의 만남 자체도 신기했지만, 많은 수의 참석자들 때문에 놀라기도 했습니다. 북한에 대한 관심 때문인지, 내가 미쳐 알지 못한 작가의 명성 때문인지는 정확히 알 수 없었습니다. 작가의 말도 안돼는 상황 설명에 웃는 다른 사람들과 달리들 웃지 못하고 눈물이 났던 까닭은 무슨 까닭이었을까요… 작가의 따뜻한 용기에 박수를 보내 드림니다

Cover of Without You, There Is No Us수키 김(Suki Kim)은 한국에서 태어나 13세 때 부모를 따라 미국으로 이민을 가 뉴욕의 컬럼비아 대학에서 영문학을 전공하고 영국 런던대학원에서 동양문학을 공부했답니다. 2003년 첫 장편소설 “통역사(The Interpreter)”로 펜 헤밍웨이 문학상 후보에 올랐고 미국 내에서 민족 다양성을 뛰어나게 표현한 문학작품에 수여하는 펜 경계문학상과 창조적인 인간을 구현한 작품에 수여하는 구스타브 마이어 우수도서상을 수상하기도 했습니다. 아울러 가장 명성이 높은 구겐하임, 풀브라이트, 그리고 조지소러스 재단 오픈소사이어티의 펠로십을 휩쓸었답니다.

Korean children's books, Flickr Sept-2015-Ch.jpg
Korean children’s books, Flickr Sept-2015-Ch.jpg

2011년 7월부터 같은 해 12월까지 6개월간 평양과학기술대학에서 학생들에게 영어를 가르치며 그녀가 진실로 원하는 것은 북한의 실상을 직접 보고 느끼고 그것을 글로 쓰는 것이었답니다. 그 경험을 토대로한 “평양의 영어 선생님(Without you there is no us)” 2014년에 펴냈습니다.

이 달에 새로이 소개할 책은 이호백 작가의 그림책 “도대체 그 동안 무슨일이 일어났을까?”입니다. 이책은 뉴욕타임스 2003년 최우수 그림책으로 선정되어 미국의에서 ”While We Were Out”이란 제목으로 번역·출간되었으며,일본어,불어로 출간되기도 했답니다. 아이들의 호기심을 이끌어내기에 아주 좋은 책입니다. 작가의 허락으로 책을 읽어 보았습니다. 아이들과 함께 들어 보세요.

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Collecting as an Art Form

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as CollectorI’ll admit it … I collect:

  • cane trays (the sort made in occupational therapy classes),
  • stones (but they have to be white and smooth),
  • fabric of every colour and texture,
  • aprons,
  • cow designed themed china,
  • retro plates,
  • lace,
  • children’s books,
  • and Hanmer-Ware Pottery.

I have had to make a room in my house for my “stuff” and it gives me endless amounts of satisfaction to go and look at it all, marvel at the variety and plan how one day I will actually put it into some semblance of order.

For some this may sound like I am in need of help or at least a guest spot on a reality TV programme, but hoarding is not my problem.  No. I am a ‘Collector’, and according to a new book Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, I am in very good company.

Peter Blake is an artist renowned for his Pop Art of the 1960s.  His studio is apparently filled with his collections, one photo featuring every imaginable form of ornamental elephant known to human kind.  All are arranged beautifully, so cute, so useless … but undeniably a feast for a collector’s eyes.  Interestingly, Blake collected miniature elephants as a way of stopping himself from bigger acquisitions.

I was becoming a bit like my grandmother.  I wasn’t quite collecting 30 mincing machines, but I was heading in that direction, over collecting and collecting madly.  I thought I would put a safety valve on myself: if I go to Portobello Road and buy a miniature elephant instead of coming home with an old bicycle or a complete kitchen or something crazy, I’ll have achieved my ambition for that day

Damien Hirst (famous for his formaldehyde Shark)  has always been fascinated with collecting.  He believes that collections say as much about the person who collects them as it does about the material that is collected.  His collections reflect his interests and passions, they include the macabre, the beautiful and reflect the relationship he feels between art and science.

This title has a collecting obsession to suit every occasion from books, taxidermy, medical instruments, posters, album covers, fabric, postcards etc.  The list is endless, the photography captivating and the interviews enlightening.

Magnificent Obsessions is like a self-help book for Collectors Anonymous.  No longer will you feel alone, ridiculed by family and friends, unable to control your addiction, you are after all in the company of the artistic and creative!

A portion of my Hanmer Ware pottery collection
A portion of my Hanmer Ware pottery collection

South Canterbury All Australian Day Car Show

Cover of Australian muscle car magazineComing of (driving) age in Australia infused in me a love of Australian-built cars. Young Italian-Australians used to cruise around and around Fremantle, Western Australia in their immaculate Valiants as slow as can be so everyone would see.

My first two cars were Holden Torana’s 1974 LH (186 bored out to a 192 engine) and 1971 LC (171 engine) models which in all honestly were total rust buckets but I loved them dearly. I cried the day my LH Torana was compacted in the crusher at the wrecking yard. My LC Torana was so full of bog (car body filler) that it used to sink on sandy roads and there was no metal to attach a tow bar onto. Our first cars are often our lifetime love.

Cover of It happened in a HoldenNext I saved up and bought a 1988 VL Commodore which was only about 5 years old by then. It was a beautiful sky blue with a 3L engine. I thought I was pretty swish. Since moving back to NZ I had cheap Japanese imports but still had a hankering for the bogan vehicles. After a failed attempt at owning a VL station wagon dubbed ‘the Golden Holden’ (too much rust for W.O.F), I’ve finally got myself the ultimate Aussie car: a V8 Commodore. This time a 1995 VR with a column auto and a cool-as bench seat, and in sky blue again too!

Cover of Hey ChargerIf you too love the Australian cars get along to the South Canterbury All Australian Day at Caroline Bay, Timaru on Sunday 6th September 2015, 10am-2pm. Gold coin donation to see some great Holdens, Fords and Mopars (Valiant/Chrysler). Organised by the Timaru Holden Club and the Timaru Falcon Fairlane Club.

Enquiries to Craig Trimmings 021-511-150 or Murray Stevenson 021-223-1772. All proceeds to Westpac Helicopter Appeal.

I will be taking my V8 to the show with the Holden Club Canterbury. I thoroughly recommend joining a car club. They are great fun.

Michael Robotham – The psychology of crime

Michael Robotham is full of stories. He had a crowd enraptured at South Learning Centre last night with his tales of crime, psychology, writing, and the Ozarks.

He is now a best-selling, award-winning writer, but started out as a journalist. Later he was a successful ghost writer, working on 15 autobiographies (including Ginger Spice, Rolf Harris, and Lulu – he turned down Bryan Ferry though!)

Michael started writing his first novel The suspect when he had some time off between ghostwriting memoirs by Lulu and Rolf Harris. There was a bidding war – he had arrived with a bang. When it was published, he sent a copy to his Mum. After a while, she still hadn’t read it and told him “I had three library books to get through”.  She won a Friends of the Library Award for that commitment to libraries. Her review of his first book? “It took me a while to get into and then I did”.

Michael and author Paul Cleave
Michael Robotham and Paul Cleave. Flickr 2015-08-26-IMG_8920

Michael talked about his road to becoming a writer, and his literary parent Ray Bradbury, as told here in Ray Bradbury is my ‘Father’.

He also shared stories about his dealings with Oz’s most wanted crim Raymond John Denning, It is a ripper of a tale and was sparked his fascination with the psychology of crime.

Michael told us about time with psychologist Paul Britton (who was the basis for the fictional character Cracker played by Robbie Coltrane). This was the man who went to Fred and Rosemary West’s house and when they found bodies in the garden said “they’re in the garden because the house is full”. Very creepy stuff.

His books all have a factual basis. The spark for his latest book Close your eyes was the murder of Janet Brown in Somerset. Life and Death was inspired by a man who escaped from prison the day before he was due to be released – and was never seen again.

I try so hard to write fiction that reads like fact.

Audience
Michael Robotham talk at South Learning Centre. Wednesday 26 August 2015. Flickr 2015-08-26-IMG_8919

Michael told us about his trip to the Ozark Mountains, scouting for a location for Life or Death. The locals were less than friendly. A burly Ozarkian Sheriff sparked good lines like someone being “dumber than shit on a biscuit”.

Not only did we get most excellent anecdotes, Michael also shared some writing tips. Find your own way. Do just enough research so the premise works, don’t let your research dominate.

Michael has just gained a new gang of Christchurch fans.

Michael Robotham and Dennis
Michael Robotham and my Dad.  Flickr 2015-08-26-IMG_8922

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